Monday, February 19, 2007

Tough Noogies

The minute this season's schedule was released, I knew we would start hearing about things like this post on Marquette's Scout site. I'm reproducing the key paragraphs here only because I'm pretty sure I'm the ND fan he's talking about -- he and I met at the ND club luncheon the last time the Irish and Warriors faced off in Milwaukee -- and I feel welcome to repeat my own thoughts:

A few yrs ago, a ND fan complained to me that ND was on the bubble and went to the NIT...he said that NCAA Tourney Committee did not take into account that ND had played tough opponents like BC, Sir and Pitt in their home and home games while another team that went to the dance had played Prov, Mia and SJ

I thought of this today while listening to ND beat Cinn by 10

Putting a finer point on the SOS discussion, ND's Big East slate this season didn't seem arduous in the preseason analysis and has proven not to be. While ND had no games against UConn, which is struggling to make the EWSNBN, it also did not play league front-runner Pittsburgh. Their two-fer games were against the current 8th, 9th, and 14th place teams in the conference. Of the current top five non-ND teams in the conference, the Irish will have played four games against them by season's end, with three of those four at home.

Yes, that's not the most arduous slate. Yes, ND will benefit from it. Yes, another team that might be on the bubble like Villanova (two-fers vs. 2nd, 4th and 7th, no game vs. 11th or 14th) will probably be hurt by the unbalanced slate especially compared to ND.

My response? Tough noogies.

With all due respect to John Dodds and Jim Ganzer, both of whom I've met and like and respect a lot, I don't want to hear the whining. With all due respect to the Wildcats, whose program I like and respect a lot, I hope they are hurt by the unbalanced schedule. Then they'll all know exactly how ND felt the last three years. Don't talk to me about strength of schedule, because the Irish had that in spades and got screwed twice.

Let's go back in time to 2003-04, with ND coming off their Sweet 16 appearance. In the Big East that season, Notre Dame played eight games against the top five teams in the conference, evenly split home and road. The Fighting Irish finished in seventh place, 9-7 overall, 2-6 against those top-5 teams. For a team whose starting point guard played hurt all year and whose starting center was lost for the year in February, they did pretty well, winning seven of their last 10 games, including a good win against WVU in the EWSNBN. But no bid for the Irish -- bad loss against Central Michigan at home (way back in December with only seven healthy players) said the committee. They were, according to conventional wisdom, the last team left out of the tournament. Sorry for that tough conference slate, ND, but tough noogies.

Now 2004-05, coming off that near-miss for an NCAA bid. This time, nine games for ND against the top five teams (5H, 4R). They finished in sixth place, 9-7 overall, 3-6 against those top-5 teams, with three of the losses being by 5 points or less on the road (65-60 @ Nova, 60-57 @ Cuse, 68-66 @ Pitt). Not only did they not make the tournament, a conference team who finished two places behind them in the standings, played a much easier conference schedule, and lost to ND by 13 at home that season, was given a tournament bid in their place. Granted, that ND team was in meltdown mode down the stretch that season, and an argument can be made if they'd done better in their last 10 games the question would have been moot. The bottom line, though, is ND got the toughest BE slate by a two-game margin. The Big East got the exposure and TV screens a Fighting Irish team always brings. ND got the shaft. Tough noogies for us once again.

So I really don't want to hear about ND's schedule this year. Yes, it could have been tougher, and if the Big East had decided on the number of conference games for next year a little earlier, they might have been able to put together a better slate. If the team didn't have eight freshmen and sophomores, some in key roles, they might have been more aggressive out of conference to start the season instead of wanting a young team to get its legs under them before the conference started. And if the game against Butler had turned out differently, we could replace Lafayette with Indiana on the schedule (and possibly pick up two games in NYC), and the number would be a little higher.

But for two straight years, ND had their hopes dashed on Selection Sunday while not getting an ounce of credit for taking one for the conference team with their schedule. No one on the selection committee said a word about ND's strength of schedule those two years while relegating the Irish to the Not Invited Tournament and putting Mike Brey's job status in question.

So if they decide this year to worship at the SOS altar, it'll be yet another brick in the ND discrimination wall. And I'll address that topic after the bids come out.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a post of some interest over at Big East Basketball report that did an RPI and SOS for just BE games.

Marquette has certainly played a tough schedule but the biggest surprise, I thought, was how tough DePaul's slate has been. Our loss to them on the road isn't as bad as some make it out to be, as they've played pretty good basketball in conference.

We can really rocket up the standings with a great week!

2/19/2007 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger barranda said...

Nova has to win out to be compatible with ND of 2003/4 or 2004/5. If they do, the committee will justify their bid somehow.

2/20/2007 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Realistically, ND is a one and done in the tournament regardless. They will get in based on their overall record and 20 wins, however there "pre-conference" schedule was like Michigan scheduling Appalachian State for their first four football games. It's frustrating to see those teams on the schedule as it does not fully prepare them for Big East play (even with NDs Big East wins this year one can argue that the league is having a down year anyway). I'm begging Kevin White to please schedule some better teams out of conference or this team and program is doomed to mediocrity.

2/20/2007 05:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

El Kabong - you are right on. We are in and should be without apology. Pat Forde's article on ESPN yesterday( broke down ND's record and gets past the horrible non-conference SOS. He shows we should be a lock based on conference record, road/neutral record, record vs top 50rpi and top100 rpi, three signature wins (vs top 25 rpi) and no bad losses. A win vs Marq on Sat would be a nice addition too.

2/22/2007 12:20:00 PM  

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