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College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 15

March 5, 2012  |  By Benjamin Miraski

This week's rankings always look a little strange.

Over the past seven days, many of the mid-major and low-major conferences have stacked the deck with their conference tournaments. Teams have played -- and in some cases won -- several more games than the high-major teams.

The result is a surge by those teams in the rankings.

The side effect is that many of them will experience a backslide this week as the top tournaments start.

For example, Wichita State, which bowed out in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley tournament, is still ranked No. 6 in the MRI. But Kansas has yet to start its conference tournament, where most likely, it will play two more games this week.

Win those and the Shockers are dropping.

Other teams whose seasons are over will see the same thing happen to them. Teams like Belmont, Iona and Middle Tennessee State will likely be passed by "bubble" teams making a last push for tournament inclusion this week.

As for the Gaels and Blue Raiders, they have a tough week ahead of them. Both teams availed themselves well in the regular season, each winning 25 games overall and their regular season conference crowns.

Both teams took difficult losses in their conference tournaments though and now are looking at NIT bids.

This is despite high rankings in the MRI that have both teams in the 26-35 range. Getting to that level in the rankings is nothing to sneeze at. You have to have a good season to get that far.

The thing is that usually those teams win their conference tournaments, or have made such a regular season case for themselves, they are considered locks for the NCAA tournament.

Neither is the case with these two. As much as the numbers are king at the MRI, the committee will not believe that wins by Middle Tennessee State over Belmont, Akron, UCLA and Mississippi will be enough. The same with Iona's scalps of Western Michigan, St. Joe's, Maryland, Nevada, Denver and Vermont.

It is a tough sell. It is why tonight's game between Virginia Commonwealth and Drexel will means so much. The loser will likely be in the NIT, although current projections have VCU hanging on to a glimmer of hope should they lose.

It is too bad that 25 wins, no matter who those 25 wins come against, means so little. That Murray State's 27 Division 1 wins mean more to the committee just because they were the final team to lose this season is sad. Both the Atlantic Sun and MAAC were better conferences than the OVC.

The Racers didn't beat Goliaths. They handled St. Mary's, Memphis, Dayton and Southern Mississippi. Two of those four teams are very good. But the depth and breadth of the resume is no better than what Drexel, VCU, Middle Tennessee and Iona bring to the table.

Murray State did the important thing. They removed doubt. They won the Ohio Valley tournament, even though Tennessee State provides them a tough matchup and almost pulled it out.

This is the year for the committee to make a statement though. It can state that WINNING is important over all things. Leave Northwestern, or a few of the gagging 10 Big East teams that Joe Lunardi has dancing in his latest projection at home.

Give a small school with a decent overall resume and a gaudy 25 wins a shot.

You might be surprised how good a team like that actually is, and how well they perform on the big stage.

And on to the rankings.

MRI Top 25 Rankings

2North Carolina27-4208.423
3Ohio State25-6199.871
5Michigan State23-7169.025
6Wichita State26-5162.606
8New Mexico23-6148.5910
9Saint Louis23-6143.9012
18St. Mary's24-5134.3813
25Florida State21-9124.7923

Teams Dropped From The Top 25: Murray State (LW #25, TW #26).
On the Bubble: Murray State, New Mexico State, Belmont, Iona, Davidson, Virginia, Kansas State, Virginia Commonwealth, Vanderbilt, Harvard.
Wofford Watch: Wofford (17-13) is currently 164th in the MRI, with a score of 32.86. Its season is likely over.
Most Average Team: Rice (14-14), with a score of 29.87.
Last Place this week: Grambling (4-24) at -131.27. 15th week in a row.
Biggest Gain this week: UNC-Asheville gained 18.68 points. (Beat High Point 86-61, Charleston Southern 91-64 and VMI 80-64 to win the Big South tournament.)
Biggest Loss this week: Tulane lost 16.27 points. (Lost to Houston 82-53 and East Carolina 66-49)
Conference rankings this week: Big Ten, SEC, Big East, Big 12, ACC, Mountain West, Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley, Conference USA, PAC-12.

Posted March 5, 2012 12:21 PM

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