Monthly Archives: September 2014

NCAA – Bare Bones Bubble Watch – Week One

Welcome to the first edition of Bubble Watch. Or really, the first of two no-frills editions of Bubble Watch. These classifications are based on Chris Thomas’ study of the RPI and field selection for the NCAA Tournament in recent years. Every week, the prospective at-large field is going to shrink according to past precedent and who really has a shot at getting an at-large bid.

Teams noted as “locks” right now are in position from which nobody’s missed an NCAA Tournament in the past. Teams on the “bubble” could go either way. Teams in “danger” status will be eliminated from the Bubble Watch if in their current position come next week.

There are going to be a LOT of teams on this watch for the next few weeks, so until the third update, I’m just going to be providing the list before breaking things down further with the first big cut of the season.

AAC

Bubble – UCF, UConn, Tulsa, Temple, South Florida, Memphis, East Carolina, Cincinnati
Bubble (Danger) – SMU

America East

Bubble (Danger) – UMBC, Hartford

Atlantic 10

Bubble – Rhode Island, La Salle, George Washington, Saint Joseph’s, VCU, Dayton
Bubble (Danger) – Richmond

ACC

Lock – North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech
Bubble – Notre Dame, Virginia, Clemson, Boston College, Duke, Louisville, Wake Forest, Syracuse
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NCAA – Weighted Total Shot Ratio – Week 3

Since the last update, I came up with a little bit of a brainstorm and decided to combine the Total Shot Ratio and “True” Total Shot Ratio numbers to come up with a single number: Weighted Total Shot Ratio, which essentially counts the on-target shot ratio twice. It’s got a minimum of 0.00 and a maximum of 2.00.

I’d argue that the only numbers that are really representative at the moment are the Big Ten’s, just because the sample size for the other leagues isn’t that big right now. I’ve excluded the Pac-12 for this week, since they’ve played just one league game. As always though, take this with a grain of salt, as until more matches are played, strength of schedule factors may skew things a bit.

AAC

1.30 – UCF
1.23 – Cincinnati
1.07 – Houston
1.07 – Memphis
1.03 – East Carolina
1.00 – UConn
0.93 – SMU
0.92 – South Florida
0.71 – Temple
0.68 – Tulsa

No surprise that UCF is top at the moment, but Cincinnati being #2 is a bit of a surprise, thought perhaps not so with their destruction of UConn. The Huskies, USF, and Tulsa, all at-large contenders had bad Sundays, which is reflected in these numbers.

ACC

1.56 – Virginia
1.51 – Florida State
1.47 – Duke
1.28 – North Carolina
1.15 – Clemson
1.11 – Virginia Tech
0.91 – Notre Dame
0.90 – Miami (FL)
0.83 – Syracuse
0.75 – Pittsburgh
0.71 – Louisville
0.70 – Wake Forest
0.67 – Boston College
0.48 – NC State

Strength of schedule factors have the top three so highly rated, and I’d expect things to normalize a bit when some more matches get played. Wake Forest and Boston College, so impressive for so long, have both struggled thus far. It’ll be interesting to see if they can improve in the final month of the regular season.
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NCAA – RPI Bracket, Bubble Ladder, Seed Projections v2.0

Seeded Teams

1 – Stanford – Pac-12*
2 – North Carolina – ACC*
3 – UCLA – Pac-12
4 – Texas A&M – SEC*
5 – Florida State – ACC
6 – Florida – SEC
7 – Penn State – Big Ten*
8 – Pepperdine – WCC*
9 – Texas Tech – Big XII*
10 – Virginia Tech – ACC
11 – Notre Dame – ACC
12 – Wisconsin – Big Ten
13 – South Carolina – SEC
14 – Cal – Pac-12
15 – Kansas – Big XII
16 – Georgia – SEC
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NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 09/28/14 – (8) Florida State vs (17) Virginia

(8) Florida State vs (17) Virginia – 4:00 PM

Finally, at long last, we’ll be able to get a true test of Virginia’s mettle after weeks and weeks of wondering with the Cavs rolling over overmatched opposition. It speaks volumes that the visitors on Sunday are the sole remaining side with a 100% record but are languishing at #15 in the RPI. The Cavs haven’t beaten a team in the RPI Top 30, something they’ll be able to rectify in the next few weeks, as all three of the defending league champs’ next opponents are currently ranked #28 or above in the RPI. Steve Swanson’s side have made a fast start to their ACC title defense, having beaten Miami (FL) and Wake Forest by a combined 8-1 margin. The Demon Deacons were brushed aside on Thursday, 5-0, with the club not conceding a shut on goal and Morgan Brian scoring twice and assisting on a third for UVA. Brian’s been a bit more muted than you might expect, with just three goals and five assists thus far, though she also has missed three games on USWNT duty. It’s hardly meant Virginia’s missed a beat though, as Danielle Colaprico has been pulling the strings from all over the midfield with seven assists to her name. The forward duo of Makenzy Doniak and Brittany Ratcliffe haven’t lit opposing teams up, combining for eleven goals, but they haven’t really had to considering just about everybody on this side can knock them in with frightening efficiency. A win on the road would all but erase doubts about UVA’s national title credentials. It’d also give the club a much needed big win as it pursues a #1 seed.

Florida State are also in pursuit of that coveted #1 seed and will themselves be looking for the biggest win of their season after they’ve won five on the trot following the early September loss to Florida. In most cases, the wins have been by devastating margins, including Thursday’s 6-0 destruction of Louisville that was domination in every sense of the word. The defense, which has looked wobbly in defeats to Florida and UConn, didn’t budge an inch against a toothless Louisville side, holding them to just one off-target shot on the night. The Florida State attack just mowed over the Cardinals, with Cheyna Williams scoring a brace form short range in the first three minutes of the second half, when FSU ran riot over their new ACC brethren. Additionally, Berglind Thorvaldsdottir stayed in strong form, netting her seventh of the season that made it 5-0 to the home side. While there are few doubts about the offense, which has scored twenty-two goals in the past five matches, one wonders if FSU will be able to corral the Virginia attack and all of its highly rated weapons. A win here though would be huge for FSU’s odds of a #1 seed and would likely guarantee a 12-1-0 record before Virginia Tech comes to town in mid-October.
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NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 09/27/14 – (62) Colorado vs (29) Cal

(62) Colorado vs (29) Cal – 3:00 PM

The bubble tends to help those who help themselves, so both of these sides will be looking to take matters into their own hands on Saturday afternoon in Boulder. The pressure on both is mounting, after some of their potential bubble brethren in the league notched some huge results on Friday, only increasing the onus on both to start putting together wins as the season really kicks into gear. The home Buffs come into Pac-12 play still trying to shake off a reputation this year as flat-track bullies, having failed to beat a team higher than RPI #96 thus far. The Buffs had one chance to do so and lost to Kansas, leaving their NCAA Tournament hopes very much in the balance at the end of September. Still, CU comes into Saturday on a four match winning streak, having last put San Francisco to the sword in a 3-0 win last weekend. The club’s earlier scoring problems seem to have been fixed for the moment, with the duo of Brie Hooks and Darcy Jerman battering teams for three goals and three assists each. The latter’s three goals have all been match winners, and head coach Danny Sanchez will be hoping she can show more of that clutch touch on Saturday. With USC and UCLA away next weekend, the club could be staring an 0-3-0 start in the league if they can’t defend their turf on Saturday.

Normally, two wins against Santa Clara would be enough to stamp and NCAA Tournament place for any team, but Cal has unfortunately caught them in a down year, and the Golden Bears go into league play having not beaten a team higher than #71 in the RPI. They also have had just one shot at that big win and came close to sealing a draw but fell in the last minutes of extra time to Texas Tech a few weeks back in a crushing defeat. They recovered to top Santa Clara for a second time and beat Pacific last week in a resounding 3-0 result but are still very much teetering near the bubble as league play begins. The defense has been generally strong, and while keeping just five clean sheets from nine matches, they’ve also not conceded multiple goals once this season. With Ifeoma Onumonu out for the season, Cal’s needed new faces on offense to step up, and that face thus far has been Taylor Comeau, who leads the club with six goals and three assists to her name, including three game winning goals thus far. The senior’s going to be even under more pressure to deliver the goods in league play, with Cal needing some wins to stay on the right side of the bubble. A win over Colorado wouldn’t be decisive by any means, but it would be another boost to the Golden Bears’ NCAA Tournament hopes.

NCAA – RPI Bracket, Bubble Ladder, Seed Projections v1.5

Seeded

1 – North Carolina – ACC*
2 – UCLA – Pac-12*
3 – Stanford – Pac-12
4 – Texas A&M – SEC*
5 – Pepperdine – WCC*
6 – Penn State – Big Ten*
7 – South Carolina – SEC
8 – Virginia Tech – ACC
9 – Florida State – ACC
10 – Florida – SEC
11 – Texas Tech – Big XII*
12 – Notre Dame – ACC
13 – Wisconsin – Big Ten
14 – Utah – Pac-12
15 – Virginia – ACC
16 – West Virginia – Big XII
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NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 09/26/14 – (18) Utah vs (3) Stanford

(18) Utah vs (3) Stanford – 5:00 PM

Somebody’s “0” has got to go in Salt Lake City on Friday afternoon. Stanford has been the Pac-12 team everyone’s been talking about (besides UCLA) and will be looking to extend their nine match shutout streak on the road against the Utes. The home side themselves have six shutouts on the season and, more importantly, have a zero in the loss column despite having not played an elite team yet. And that’s why Friday afternoon’s match represents such a big opportunity for the Utes. Their non-conference resume is OK, but OK may not be good enough to get them into the NCAA Tournament if they end up on a strong bubble. All those concerns would be washed away if Rich Manning’s side can overcome the Cardinal. The Utes were lethal with their finishing against a better-than-they-seem Utah Valley side en route to a 4-0 win last weekend. It’s still largely scorer-by-committee on offense, with four players netting in that win over UVU, with Katie Taylor, scorer of three goals and four assists, still the focal point if the club has one in the attack. While they won’t be odds on to extend their three match clean sheet streak, Utah still is plenty good on defense and could frustrate Stanford, who they’ve held to one goal the past two seasons. The question is if the Utes can score against this Stanford side: they’ve also been shut out in those past two meetings.

Stanford continued to rumble past opposition with their fourth straight win, ninth straight clean sheet, ninth straight match unbeaten, and third straight win by multiple goals after downing Cal Poly on Sunday. That was two days after an impressive 3-0 demolition of Santa Clara, the Card making their rivals look distinctly mediocre in the confident win. At this point, many eyes are focused on the October 9 showdown in Westwood against title rivals UCLA, but Stanford can’t take their eyes off their next three matches, with a trio of opponents that likely see the Card as their ticket into the Big Dance. The Utes are first and are a club that have played Stanford very stubbornly over the past few seasons en route to 1-0 defeats. The Card will probably fancy their chances of prying the Utes defense open a little more this time around with the recent emergence of Ryan Walker-Hartshorn in the attack. The towering sophomore has been one of the breakout players of the season for the club and leads the team in scoring with five goals on an economical fourteen shots. Most of the defensive attention is still likely to come down on Chioma Ubogagu (and with good reason), but the difference this season may be that Stanford has other weapons to punish foes with. Given the nature of both sides, this could be a defensive war, and you wouldn’t bet against another game decided by a single moment of inspiration.
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NCAA – Non-Conference Review – America East

America East

145 – UMBC
158 – Hartford
205 – Stony Brook
216 – Maine
219 – Binghamton
220 – New Hampshire
232 – Albany (NY)
253 – UMass-Lowell
264 – Vermont

Nothing really unexpected here. Just about everyone expected UMBC and Hartford to be the class of the league, and through non-conference play, it’s been exactly as planned. UMBC doesn’t appear to be anything like a one-hit wonder, with wins over Patriot League sides Navy and Loyola (MD) on their record. Hartford’s only defeat is to regional frontrunners Fairfield, though they should theoretically be higher if not for some poor draws with Siena and Wagner. The rest of the league is mostly a muddle, though with nobody close to falling out of the RPI Top 300, you’d have to consider that a mild success. The league’s biggest disappointment at the moment is probably Vermont, who’s now winless in seven after winning their first two games this season.

NCAA – Non-Conference Review – WAC

WAC

71 – Utah Valley
148 – UMKC
183 – Seattle
282 – Grand Canyon
297 – Cal State Bakersfield
312 – New Mexico State
319 – Texas-Pan American
329 – Chicago State

Looking at the bottom of this league is like staring into the abyss, so it’s perhaps a little pleasing to see a side like Utah Valley in the uncommon waters of the RPI Top 75 at this point of the season. UVU is a legit 5-3-2 also, with wins over Baylor and UNLV and a further draw with Boise State. They’ll still be underdogs to Seattle in the league though, who are perhaps suffering for a lack of quality wins, with the victory over Saint Mary’s (CA) the only one they have against a team in the RPI Top 300! The other somewhat decent team in the WAC right now is UMKC, who last beat Big East side Creighton, which likely explains much of their lofty ranking. The gap between #3 and #4 is enormous though. The bottom half of the league is the land of new coaches, new programs, and clubs stepping up from lower divisions, which could equal some ugly, ugly soccer in the next month and a half.

NCAA – Non-Conference Review – Mid-Majors Beginning League Play on Friday

Atlantic 10

48 – Rhode Island
51 – La Salle
95 – George Washington
97 – Dayton
98 – VCU
138 – Saint Joseph’s
140 – Richmond
176 – Fordham
179 – Duquesne
186 – Davidson
211 – UMass
214 – Saint Louis
245 – George Mason
247 – Saint Bonaventure

Who expected this league to have five teams in the RPI Top 100 at this point? Rhode Island might be a bit of an outlier, with their only loss right now being to a good Harvard team, with most of their wins not being against great clubs either. But the draw at Providence in the opener was an immediate sign this year wasn’t going to be like last year. Everyone expected La Salle to be here or thereabouts, but they also will fall short on any at-large bid hopes after striking out on their few chances at a trademark win. It could be worse: They could have gotten clubbed like Dayton did against Stanford. The Flyers also came up painfully short in their hopes of making a mark for an at-large bid. George Washington and VCU are also among the RPI Top 100 right now, with latter having beaten ACC side Pittsburgh. Fordham and Davidson have perhaps outperformed expectations among those of the middle of the RPI pack in the A10. UMass and Saint Louis both have to be massively disappointed to be out of the RPI Top 200 right now. Trailing the pack are George Mason, seemingly likely to decline in the RPI for the fifth straight season, and a Saint Bonaventure side blighted by a draw with Robert Morris and loss to UMass-Lowell.

Atlantic Sun

50 – Florida Gulf Coast
112 – Jacksonville
188 – Kennesaw State
201 – Lipscomb
269 – Northern Kentucky
276 – Stetson
303 – North Florida
322 – USC Upstate

The very top isn’t that bad. The bottom half is pretty bad. Really, there’s not much of a middle ground here. Florida Gulf Coast got a great (and controversial) win against Arizona and beat an ACC side in Miami (FL), but that’s probably not going to be enough for the club to get an at-large bid with nothing but downside in the league for their RPI. As expected, Jacksonville is also in a decent RPI spot despite a lack of truly overwhelming wins. Kennesaw State would appear to be better than their record after a trying non-conference slate, while Lipscomb drawing with Memphis is a fine indicator of progress in Nashville. The bottom half of the league hasn’t been pulling up any trees. It’ll likely be a fight to the finish for the final two spots in the A-Sun Tournament between the strugglers of the league.
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