Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Works is worth a thousand words

Here's your nutshell. If you've ever wanted to see the one-way street of Blogger-v.-Athlete adoration summed up in one nice tidy picture, JCCW buddy Stephen of Razorback Expats has got you covered:

That's Stephen and Razorback hoops hero Dwight Stewart--I'll let you figure out which is which--in a post titled "Now I Can Die Happy." And I think it's probably the best visual expression of how I feel about, say, Ronnie Brown and how he "feels" about me I've ever found. Thanks for sharing, Stephen!

Bubblicious. So I've been saying for a while now, despite some vocal opposition in the comments section, that the SEC automatic bid is the only way for Auburn to make the Big Dance. That the likes of Jerry Palm and Joe Lunardi hadn't even felt the need to address Auburn before today is kind of all they needed to uh, not say about it, but thanks to some well-meaning Auburn reporters we got their reaction today. Palm:
I can't answer my phone or check my e-mail without getting a question about Auburn, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why. The Tigers are a slightly above average team in the weaker division of a below average major conference. They have a one-point win at home over Tennessee, and that's it. Yes, the Tigers have won seven of eight, but other than Tennessee, the wins have come over the other league punching bags. There's nothing to see here, folks. Move along, please.
I’m not looking seriously at Auburn ... I don’t think anybody who has watched the bulk of the SEC this year, particularly the West, could really make a quantitative or a qualitative argument for that (based on a 10-6 SEC record).
I'll break down the bubble as it unhappily relates to Auburn if they beat LSU this weekend, because it's not like I've got a lot else to do, but Palm and Lunardi are experts for a reason. Auburn has nothing outside of SEC play and even in the league, they've got a 1-4 record vs. the other SEC bubblers with the win coming by a single point at home. Sure, they didn't have the benefit of playing South Carolina or Kentucky at home ... but against the two other (non-Vol) SEC East teams Auburn did have the luxury of hosting, Florida and Vandy, the Tigers gagged. It's not happening via the at-large route. It's just not.

And frankly, now that the talk has hit the kind of pitch that guys like Goldberg feel the need to get guys like Palm on the line, the talk bugs me. If the players are reading the chatter (and you know they are ... wouldn't you?), it's possible they'll get suckered into thinking--even if only in the very, very back of their minds--that it could happen. It can't. They've got to know that there's no hope past the automatic bid. They have to win Tampa. They have to win those three games. They have to focus on those games and those games alone--a win against LSU would be nice, but it wouldn't mean a thing other than NIT seeding. There is no other option. Auburn's good, but if their desperation loses even the slightest bit of its edge, they will not win three straight games against the kind of competition they're going to face in Tampa.

But hey, you'll never guess who's willing to disagree with me. I *heart* Marshall like every devoted Auburn fan, bit I violently disagree with huge swaths of what he's saying here (For starters, the idea that because Auburn won at Alabama--something Mercer, Texas A&M, Kentucky, and South Carolina have all already done this year--they've automatically proven their worthiness). But this is the topper for me:
The worst part about the whole (RPI) formula is the unreasonable weight given to the weaker teams on a school’s schedule. If you play a team whose RPI is, say, 180, you’re not going to lose. If you play a team whose RPI is 300, you’re not going to lose. So why should one count more than the other? Got me.
1. Not going to lose to a team whose RPI is 180, huh? I wonder what Mercer--RPI team No. 181--would have to say about that. 2. It's true, the system perhaps unfairly punishes teams who schedule opponents in the 300's of the RPI. You know how to work around that? DON'T SCHEDULE TEAMS IN THE 300'S OF THE RPI.

More hoopslinks. The other thing that irritates me about the Auburn bubble talk is that it's obscuring the fact that even if there's no shot at an at-large, Auburn's chances for a bid are still miles, miles higher than they've been in six years, because they're easily good enough to win the SEC tourney if they're on their game. And people who pay attention, like Basketball Prospectus stats wizard John Gasaway, have noticed:
I know we writers are contractually prohibited from talking about any SEC West team this year besides LSU (and even the talk of Trent Johnson's team started up only in the last seven days), but I'm here to break that rule and talk about Auburn. Admit it: you can't name a single Auburn player this year, can you? I'll cover for you. DeWayne Reed, Korvotney Barber, Tay Waller and company have played oddly good defense this year. I say "oddly" because this is a team that last year allowed conference opponents to score 1.14 points per trip. How times have changed at Beard-Eaves Coliseum. Impress your friends: Auburn is good.
Auburn's moved up to fourth in the SEC by Gasaway's efficiency margin numbers, tied with Tennessee and well clear of sixth-place South Carolina.

Enjoyable BlAUgosphere reaction to last night's triumph is available from Guaranteed to Satisfy and the Pigskin Pathos. Click over.

On the women's side, congratulations are due to DeWanna Bonner, your 2008-2009 SEC Player of the Year, and Nell Fortner, your 2008-2009 SEC Coach of the Year. Whitney Boddie also made first-team All-SEC. As snubs in any of these three categories would have had me trying desperately to organize a torch-and-pitchfork raid of the SEC offices, these are good developments.

The Auburn women are, of course, not so much watching the Selection Committee for bubble-related reasons as for No. 1 seed-related reasons, hell to the yeah. In this week's edition of the Charlie Creme Watch, Auburn's back up to a No. 1 seed on the strength of the outright SEC title, but Charlie wanrs they won't keep it if they don't win the SEC tourney. Hey, fine, we knew that already.

Advertiser sports editor Brad Zimanek's not high on their chances, though:
The odds of the Tigers winning the tournament title are not good.

The last time the top-seeded women's team won the conference tournament came in 1999 when Tennessee defeated Georgia. The last four championship game matchups that featured the top two seeds (2003, 2005 2006 and 2008) all were won by No. 2.

Vanderbilt, this year's No. 2, defeated Auburn 73-70 Feb. 19 in Nashville.
I wouldn't call that piece of information insignificant, but I do think this year's SEC dilutes its meaning more than a bit. Usually the SEC is loaded with several of the country's top-15 or so teams. This year, you've got Auburn and ... no one. That it took the conference's best home team playing a phenomenal game at home to win by all of three points to take Auburn down (aside from the flukish Georgia loss) suggests that the gap between Auburn and the rest of the league is probably wider than the gape between previous No. 1 seeds and their chasers. We'll see, but Auburn can't be worse than 50-50.

Hey, remember last summer when all those idiot Tide fans were trying to say Tubby had gone to visit the troops overseas for publicity and recruiting purposes? Funny, he's going again, even though he's retired.

You already knew this, but ... Bo Jackson is awesome:
Bo Jackson, a celebrated Auburn athlete in football and baseball, sent head coach Nell Fortner a bouquet of flowers this morning (on her 50th birthday). He also sent red roses to each of the players on the women's basketball team. The accompanying note wished them good luck in the post-season and offered his ring size for when they win it all.
Seriously: how lucky are we that this guy decided to attend Auburn?

Yet more foobaw-related links. You've seen this by now, no doubt, but it really is true that Californians don't know much about football, or the South ... Antonio Coleman is on the Lombardi Award watch list, 'cause he's good like that ... CFN Auburn blogger Barrett Sallee sagely notes that for the first time in forever, there's not a single SEC coach in any danger of losing his job ... Tracy Rocker gets profiled by K-Scar, though it doesn't end up as interesting as you'd like.

Well played, sir. So, about the coachbot's "many years to come" comment upon accepting the Iron Bowl trophy last night ... that's some finely tuned, subtle-yet-unmistakable bona fide smack talk. Frankly, we don't get enough smack these days, because usually the people doing it are clods like Kiffykins who feel they need to scream it and ruin the fun for the rest of us. So yeah, I'm glad Saban feels confident enough to let his inner Spurrier out. Spice it up, coach.

Oh yeah, baseball. They beat Davidson yesterday. Plainsman Parking Lot doesn't sound overly excited.


jd said...

When we're talking about Auburn, logic doesn't set in for me. If any other SEC team had the resume that Auburn has this year, I'd say "No way, Jose." Not sure why I wouldn't just call you Jerry, but that's beside the point. I keep envisioning these wild scenarios where Auburn somehow swoops in and snags an at-large bid.

I will say, though, that a dominant, statement performance against LSU on Saturday would go a long ways in possibly getting us in the conversation.

You're right, though. Gotta win 3 in Tampa.

jd said...

......aaaaaand LSU just lost at home to Vanderbilt. That takes a little luster off a possible LSU win on Saturday.

tiger7_88 said...

The thing is, Jerry, that both Florida and Kentucky are "bubble" teams. And for whoever loses the UF-UK game this weekend, that team will be ending the season on a four game losing streak. If Auburn can beat LSU this weekend, win a couple of games in Tampa (even without winning the whole thing), and both UF and UK leave early in the tourney (with Auburn eliminating one of them), the why the hell not?

Yeah... yeah... SOS... RPI.

But sometimes SOS and RPI aren't the be all and end all of selection committee thought processes. Sometimes (and let us hope) the thought process might be "well, we've got three SEC teams, we really need one more... how about the hottest team in the SEC right now?"

That is my hope. That is my dream.

Jerry Hinnen said...

tiger, it's not Auburn's RPI that's really the problem (though it doesn't help). It's the RPIs of those teams we've beaten. One win vs. the RPI top 50, a 1-5 record vs. those teams, doesn't cut it at this stage of the game. Neither does going 1-7 in road+neutral games vs. the top 100. I would agree that with the LSU win, Auburn _might_ move in front of Florida and _might_ slip past UK in the pecking order, too, if the 'Cats lose in Gainesville. But I think that would just mean all three teams would miss--none are in the field right now, and the bubble's only going to shrink between now and then.