Buffaloes or Rams?
Comparing Colorado and Colorado St. for a potentially at-large Tournament bid.
by Jon Jaques / @JJaques25
It’s been a rough couple of months for basketball fans in the state of Colorado. Its good name has been dragged through the mud during the embarrassing and mind-numbing Carmelo Anthony trade sweepstakes. Now that Melo is out of Denver, though, hoops fans in The Centennial State have two NCAA Tournament hopefuls to support. Colorado and Colorado State both enter the final regular-season weekend in position to make the NCAA Tournament with a solid conference tournament run.
Both have been more disappointing than impressive as of late, and neither is playing like it wants to be in field of 68. But for a state that has seen its two biggest athletic programs down for quite some time in hoops, it would be quite an accomplishment for Colorado to produce two tournament teams. Only problem with that mushy gushy scenario? There likely won’t be enough room for both schools (unless, of course, one wins their conference tournament), and the last at-large spot could come down to a Buffalo-Ram faceoff. Whether this situation is actually realized depends almost entirely on conference tournament results, but for a fun argument’s sake, which do you take?
|RECORD||19-10, 9-6 MWC||18-12, 7-8 Big 12||N/A|
|STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE||37th hardest schedule statistically in the country. An obvious effort was made to challenge this team (games at Kansas, vs Ole Miss, vs Southern Miss., and at Colorado).||74th hardest schedule statistically – not too impressive for a potential tournament entrant. Buffs lost to their two toughest non-conference opponents, Georgia and Harvard.||Colorado State|
|QUALITY OF WINS||The Rams are 0-4 vs the RPI top 25. Easily the team’s best win overall is its victory in Vegas over UNLV. There is one last chance to make a splash: in the regular-season finale at San Diego State.||Colorado has done serious work versus the RPI top 25, with three wins over that group. Their win over Texas, while losing some luster with every sluggish Longhorn performance, is still impressive.||Colorado|
|BAD LOSSES||Non-conference losses to Sam Houston State, Hampton, and a conference defeat at Air Force will damage the Rams’ chances.||Colorado clearly plays to the competition. Bad conference losses to Iowa State and Oklahoma will drag down its resume.||Draw|
|RPI||Whether you agree with its ability to tell two otherwise undistinguishable teams apart, RPI exists on Selection Sunday so it exists in this table: CSU comes in at 45th.||79th||Colorado State|
|EYE TEST/HEAD TO HEAD||December 8: Colorado State 83- Colorado 90 (OT)||December 8: Colorado 90 – Colorado State 83 (OT)||Colorado|
To summarize, I’m going with Colorado for the final at-large spot in my hypothetical tournament selection room. These teams are clearly evenly matched (both winning two categories and tying in one, needing overtime to decide their early season showdown), so if this scenario did play out, it would normally be an excruciating decision for the committee.
Thankfully, the always-useful head-to-head tiebreaker makes the decision easier. Even though Colorado State probably has the better overall resume, the two teams’ profiles are so even that a head-to-head edge is hard for the Rams to overcome.
I’m not a huge fan of letting a single game in early December decide the tournament fates of two teams, but there are only so many head-to-head match-ups the committee is given to work with. Without pretending to know what the committee thinks on Selection Sunday (OK, maybe I am), the Colorado State-Colorado game would be too perfect a differentiator and the teams are too similar otherwise to ignore.
Jon Jaques is a former starter for the Cornell Big Red and current forward for Israel’s Ironi Ashkelon club.