One of the big issues in my mailbox is how consistency impacts a team’s prospects in The Tournament. More specifically: how can we expect Southern Illinois (Pythagorean rating: 34, Consistency: 1) and Nevada (Pythag: 63, Consistency: 2), teams that have dominated their respective conferences without piling up big margins of victory, to perform in The Tournament? Keep in mind, with just three prior years of data, we don’t have a whole lot to go on statistically. But here are the teams that had some things in common with the canines hoping for a deep run this season:
2004 Northern Iowa (Pythag: 71, Consistency: 11) Result: First round loss to eventual Final Four participant Georgia Tech. Close game that wasn’t decided until the final minute. (Note: UNI didn’t win the MVC that season, but was the closest thing fitting my criteria in 2004.)
2005 Gonzaga (Pythag: 32, Consistency: 12) Result: As a 3-seed, lost to 6-seed Texas Tech in the second round.
2005 Southern Illinois (Pythag: 29, Consistency: 19) Result: As a 7-seed, lost to Oklahoma State in the second round, 85-77.
2005 Nevada (Pythag: 52, Consistency: 29) Result: As a 9-seed, lost to eventual runner-up Illinois, 71-59, in the second round.
2006 Gonzaga (Pythag: 41, Consistency: 1) Result: As a 3-seed, lost to eventual runner-up UCLA, 73-71 in the sweet sixteen.
2006 Northwestern State (Pythag: 105, Consistency: 2) Result: As a 14-seed, lost to 6-seed West Virginia, 67-54, in the second round.
Sensibly, one would think that consistent conference-dominators would be underrated by a system based on points for/against. And the evidence points that way, although last season’s cases are the most clear-cut examples. Another possibility for this season that nobody is really talking about is Vermont (Pythag: 153, Consistency 18, 15-1 in America East). They could be an intriguing 14-seed if they qualify.