Mountain West Conference Verging On 3 NCAA Tourney Berths

Tue Mar 03, 2015 16:59:12PM
Josh Davis playing for the San Diego State Aztecs 2/25/14, before he entered the NBA.By: SD Dirk
For the Mountain West Conference's lack of teams with superpower school status (like Kentucky, Duke or Michigan to name a few), the collective certainly does a fantastic job finding itself represented well every year in the NCAA Tournament. No doubt you will recognize several, if not all, of these teams if you have been paying attention to NCAA brackets over the last few years, even if you don't pay attention whatever during the regular season:

Boise State
San Diego St
Colorado St
Utah State
Fresno St
New Mexico
Air Force
San Jose St

Incidentally, that's how the conference currently ranks as I write this. And that's more or less how the conference is expected to finish before Selection Sunday, give or take a few shuffles.

Question then becomes, which of these teams, and how many, are going to make it into the NCAA tournament? Well, all conferences are guaranteed at least one entry; whichever team wins the Conference title. For the Mountain West Conference, their tournament will be happening March 11th-14th. As for the rest, for all the teams that aren't crowned conference champions, they have to be invited via an at-large berth invitation.

Determining off hand which teams across the country that will receive an at-large berth is no an exact science. And of course the season isn't quite finished just yet. But it appears that the top three in the Mtn. West all have a solid chance during Selection Sunday. So, sans one of these three teams getting an automatic bid based on winning the conference title, here's breaking down their respective at-large bid chances:

That makes it Boise State, San Diego St, and CSU for bid consideration. In what order do they currently rank you ask? Well, the main determining metric the NCAA selection committee uses is the team's RPI. And if you are like me and didn't already know exactly what that RPI is or how it works, here's a quick breakdown:

RPI stands for the Rating Percentage Index, and is a quantity used to rank sport's teams based upon a team's wins and losses and its strength of schedule. For college basketball, the general mathematical formula (if interested) to get that magic number goes like this, courtesy of Wikipedia:

The current and commonly used formula for determining the RPI of a college basketball team at any given time is as follows.

RPI = (WP * 0.25) + (OWP * 0.50) + (OOWP * 0.25)

where WP is Winning Percentage, OWP is Opponents' Winning Percentage and OOWP is Opponents' Opponents' Winning Percentage.

The WP is calculated by taking a team's wins divided by the number of games it has played (i.e. wins plus losses).

Okay. So it plays out like this. It's very rare that a team with an RPI lower than 30 ever misses the tournament. In fact since 2011, no team with an RPI of 30 or lower has missed out. And right now, here's how all the top three teams are ranked with this metric:

San Diego State Aztecs - 25
Colorado State Rams - 26
Boise State Broncos - 28

RPI isn't the only determining factor for the committee. But it is the primary one. Interestingly though, the Mountain West Conference as a whole only ranks 12th out of all conferences for a collective RPI, so it is likely that this year, the 30 RPI rule might get challenged. Boise and CSU are still on the chopping block. They must win out to secure their RPI numbers. And even then, other factors when considered in and of themselves like total loses or strength of schedule might have one or even both teams missing out, especially depending upon how well they fair in their conference tournament.

Will be quite interesting this year to see how it all goes down for one of my favorite conferences, in regards to the Big Dance selection committee decisions. My gut says that Boise misses a berth, and SDSU automatically makes it, having CSU also squeak in with an at-large bid. But I'm hoping all three join in on the fun. Will be an upset if they all win out in the regular season, and somehow one or two find themselves on the outside looking in.

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DallasiteNext man up.

1556 days ago
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Quick update on this conference: Boise St made it for the first round; will play Dayton and then if they win, will play #6 Providence in the 2nd round. San Diego St. caught a #8 seed, will play #9 St. Johns in the 2nd. And Colorado State bubbled out, and did not make it. Wyoming won the conference title, landing a #12 seeding, and will play #5 Northern Iowa in the 2nd. So the Mountain West will be sending 3 teams in after all. Good luck guys!