Monday, February 25, 2013

The Case for Duke

In today's bracketology update, Charlie Creme says that the idea of Duke losing its 2-seed will have to be put on hold for now.  I'm going to go one further: why not a 1-seed?

The S-Factor was impressed by Duke's wins over Maryland and Florida State, enough that they are now slotted as the third #1, ahead of Connecticut, the only team to beat the Blue Devils this year.  The S-Factor knows nothing about Chelsea Gray's injury, of course; it only sees a one-loss team, undefeated in the ACC, with five wins over top 25 teams.

Since Chelsea Gray went down, Duke has gone 2-0 against top 25 teams (Florida State and Maryland, on the road, by 16).  This should show the selection committee that Duke is a robust team capable of top-level basketball even without their star point guard. 

Ordinarily this sort of resum√© would be strong enough to pencil Duke into the #1 seed, barring a slip-up in the ACC tournament.  But most every source (Creme, the AP poll, RPI, RealtimeRPI's power rankings, pilight's incredible Field of 64 model) puts Stanford ahead of Duke.  Stanford, the most reliable team in past ten years, is once again the odds-on favorite to win the Pac-12. They also deserve accolades for managing to knock off Baylor this year, a feat achieved by no other team since 2011.  Basically their one big knock is that they have now lost twice at the formerly impregnable Maples Pavilion since then (Connecticut and Cal), whereas Duke has only lost once, albeit spectacularly, to Connecticut on the road.  

If the S curve holds out (still a big if), Stanford and Duke will be the #4 and #5 teams and will probably meet in the same regional, which will probably be Spokane.  I don't think there would be a geographic-proximity reward for Stanford.  First, Spokane is 900 miles from Stanford, farther away than Chicago is from New York, though it is true that eastern Washington is probably more familiar with Pac-12 teams.  Second and more importantly, the selection committee hasn't shown a history of artificially boosting Stanford's seed although Stanford usually plays somewhere in the west.  There's no need for that.  Stanford and Duke were 1-2 in the Fresno regional last year, but they were reversed for the much-closer-to-Stanford Berkeley regional in 2009. In the 2008 Spokane regional, an ACC team was number 1, and Stanford was number 2. 



Now in:
LSU
Vanderbilt

Now out:
Iowa
St. Mary's


Conferences with multiple bids:
Big 12: 6
Big 10: 6
Big East: 7
SEC: 7
ACC: 5
Pac 12: 4
Atlantic 10: 4
Missouri Valley: 2
 

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