FanPost

Mississippi Valley State - Intro

Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N

Well, the tournament selection show has aired; and with that, the NCAA's selection committee has handed down its bracket seedings. As easy as it is to look ahead at the possible matchups that the Bruins may face in the upcoming weeks, let us not overlook our first challenge in this three-week final exam of the season that is the NCAA tournament.

For those that missed the unveiling of the brackets, or the ensuing analysis on ESPN, UCLA has drawn as its first-round opponent Mississippi Valley State - best known for having produced perhaps the greatest football player of them all in Jerry Rice. The basics:

MVSU has an overall record of 18-15 (15-15 against D-1 opponents). The team finished second in the Southwestern Conference (SWAC)'s regular season with a 12-6 record, gaining the league's automatic bid by winning the conference tournament. UCLA and MVSU faced one common opponent this season - Washington State. WSU won that meeting by a score of 71-26 (yes, you are reading that score right) in Spokane. In sum, MVSU has faced three teams in the field of 65; losing road games against Pitt (45-78) and Baylor (50-82) in addition to WSU.

Now, for more of a statistical look at this matchup:

RPI: UCLA: #4; MVSU: #224
Pomeroy Rating: UCLA #2; MVSU #318
Sagarin Rating: UCLA #3; MVSU #302

Notes:

  • There are 341 teams playing Division 1 basketball in the 2007-08 season, 10 of which are not eligible to participate in the tournament.
  • While many here question the validity of conference rankings, it should be noted that all of the rating systems that I have cited (RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin) consider the SWAC to be the weakest conference in Division 1 this season.
Under all of these ranking systems, Mississippi Valley State is the weakest team to make this year's tournament, moreso even than the two teams participating in the opening round (play-in game) on Tuesday night. While MVSU is the worst of this year's tournament teams, they are not the lowest-rated UCLA opponent: UCLA played five opponents, over six games, with a lower RPI; and one opponent (UC Davis) with a lower Pomeroy rating and Sagarin rating.

Delving deeper into MVSU, I refer to the statistical work done by Ken Pomeroy, which Nestor used to examine UCLA's defense here, and I have previously used to compare this year's squad to the last two UCLA Final Four teams.

For the season, MVSU's Offensive and Defensive efficiency was as follows (see here for a further explanation of efficiency, and the method of adjustment for strength of schedule that is applied:

  • Offense: 87.6 points/100 possessions (#325 in D-1).
  • Defense: 107.8 points/100 possessions (#257 in D-1).
  • Pace: 64.7 possessions/40 minutes.
While MVSU's pace of play is similar to UCLA's, little else related to their play does. UCLA's efficiency and pace:
  • Offense: 120.7 points/100 possessions (#5)
  • Defense: 84.5 points/100 possessions (#4)
  • Pace: 65.6 possessions/40 minutes.
Using the above efficiency measures, together with the average pace of the two teams' play, the average game score of each team, based upon an equal schedule composed of average Division 1 teams would be:
  • UCLA: 79-55
  • MVSU: 57-70
While I don't quite have the handle of the methodology to predict a score, or a margin for Thursday's game, I would not predict an extremely high scoring game of the sort that UNC or Kansas typically has in the opening round. after looking at last year's opening round opponent, Weber State, and the result of that game (70-42 UCLA), I might expect a somewhat higher scoring effort against the Delta Devils, though the absence of Luc and uncertain health of Kevin Love does complicate such projections somewhat.

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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