The DePaul Blue Demons are 5-2 in Big East play, tied for atop the standings with #4 Villanova and Georgetown, who sports an RPI of 16. And this is exactly the problem the Big East faces.
It should be a positive to be so deep a league that a ‘bottom-feeder’ can jump up and compete in a league that features ten teams that can all win games. But the truth is, this kind of internal league cannibalization is rarely rewarded by the selection committee. Instead of marveling at the improvement of DePaul, teams that fall to them like Xavier and Seton Hall are downgraded for losing to a team that endured a six-game preconference losing streak that included a 29-point loss to Oregon State, a double-digit loss to Ohio, and losses to Loyola Marymount, Colorado and Illinois State.
The result is a league that appears to deserve six to eight bids (yes, I am keeping DePaul alive. If they go 11-5 in this league, and finish 17-12, I’m saying they will have earned a spot. BUT, their RPI will be dogged by their dreadful December, and consequently, teams like Seton Hall, Xavier and St. Johns RPI’s suffer from the loss to an obviously improved and legitimate DePaul team.
It’s an interesting cocktail to create a college hoops profile, but unfortunately for the second-best league in the country right now (top to bottom – yes the Big Ten and ACC have more legit power at the top), their depth and quality will likely cost them a few Dance cards…
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Today’s Free Pick:
Valparaiso Crusaders at Green Bay Phoenix -6
It’s Friday night, so that means two things; it’s a really baron college hoops slate and that it is time to once again check in on my favorite Horizon League bunch, the Green Bay Phoenix!
Green Bay is a good ballclub. A legitimately good ball club and has the best non-major conference player in the country in Keifer Sykes. He’s not Damian Lillard or even Elfrid Payton from an NBA projection standpoint, but the Phoenix guard is a legitimate All American candidate and should be the Horizon League Player of the Year. The problem is this league is lightly regarded, so despite a 15-4 record, their RPI is just 77.
Similar things can be said about Valpo. They enter tonight at 18-3 and with NCAA dreams, but in all reality, neither they nor Green Bay has a strong a profile as the Phoenix last season, and they were left begging on the altar. That makes a game like tonight absolutely enormous. Valpo, despite a gaudy record, has an RPI of 88. That’s because their losses; New Mexico and Missouri, aren’t great (Oakland in conference hurts as well) but there just aren’t many quality wins to offset it. Their best wins are Murray State, Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Tennessee State. Not too good.
But let’s leave the larger picture alone for a moment and instead focus on the small picture. And in that picture, tonight is an absolute gem of why college hoops is awesome – two mid major rivals with everything on the line going head-to-head. Both teams need to win tonight to have a legit shot at winning the league outright and both HAVE to run the table to entertain any notion of an at-large bid.
I think the defensive pressure of Bryce Drew’s Crusaders gets it done tonight. They are allowing just 35.2% shooting from the floor in league play. Green Bay is the conference’s most efficient offense, shooting 48.2% from the floor, but even on the road, I like good defense to travel well.
This has tight, tense, close ballgame written all over it as two very good mid-major teams put it all on the line. Enjoy a good ballgame, and take Valpo with a healthy half dozen point cushion.