Two years ago, an unheralded Atlantic 10 team stormed through an undefeated regular season, and had but one loss by the time the NCAA tournament rolled around. They were given a widely disputed #1 seed and proceeded to March to the regional final where they were bested on a last second shot by #2 seed Oklahoma St. This year another Atlantic 10 team has a chance to enter the NCAA tournament with but one defeat. Do they have the ability to make a simlar tournament run? Let's examine St. Joseph's circa 2004 and this year's incarnation of George Washington.
The number of NCAA tournament teams that a squad has beaten is a pretty decent indicator of their abilities. Here are the records of St. Joe's and George Washington against tournament bound teams and those teams respective RPIs and tournament seeds. For George Washington, I used teams that are projected to be in the NCAA tournament from ESPN.
St. Joe's: 6-1
defeated Gonzaga (RPI 9, NCAA seed 2) on neutral court in New York
defeated Boston College (22, 6) at home
defeated Pacific (65, 12) at home
defeated Richmond (47, 11) away
defeated Dayton (40, 10) at home
defeated Xavier (35, 7) away
lost to Xavier (35, 7) on neutral court in Dayton
George Washington: 0-1
lost to NC St (RPI 40, projected seed 6) away
St. Joe's wins this round in a romp. Gonzaga, Boston College, Pacific, and Xavier all won games in the NCAA tournament, and the X-men advanced all the way to the Elite 8. In their only game against probable NCAA tournament competition, George Washington lost. Their best win was over Maryland (RPI 47), a team that projects to be one of the last teams left out. If George Washington is upset in the Atlantic 10 tournament, then they can add at least one more victory over a tournament team to their resume, as they have beaten every team in the conference once.
Did both teams pad their resumes with cupcakes? Here are the victories for both squads over the dregs of the NCAA based on their RPI.
wins over RPI 100+ teams: 15
wins over RPI 200+ teams: 2
wins over RPI 300+ teams: 0
wins over RPI 100+ teams: 19
wins over RPI 200+ teams: 11
wins over RPI 300+ teams: 4
Again, St. Joe's wins. Before the NCAA tournament started in 2004, St. Joe's had 27 wins. More than half came against teams with RPIs over 100. However, only 2 came against teams with RPIs greater than 200, and none against teams with RPIs over 300. George Washington currently has 26 victories. More thna half have come against teams with RPIs over 100. In addidtion to this, more than 40% of their total victories have come against teams rated 200 or higher by the RPI.
We've examined the schedule, now let's look at how the teams rate according to RPI.
St. Joe's: pre-NCAA RPI 3
George Washington: pre-NCAA RPI 22
Finally let's look at both teams adjusted Pythagorean rank. The adjusted pythagorean rank is the team's winning percentage based on their points scored and points allowed, and also adjusted for competition. This is a little stat compiled by Ken Pomeroy.
St. Joe's: Pythagorean winning percentage .949 (ranked 6th in the country)
George Washington: Pythagorean winning percentage .814 (ranked 52nd in the country)
I think it's safe to say that this year's George Washington team is nowhere near as good as the 2004 St. Joseph's Hawks. St. Joe's played a more difficult schedule and was much more dominant over their opposition than George Washington. George Washington has parlayed a ridiculously easy schedule into a top 10 poll ranking, and a likely top 4 NCAA tournament seed. However, their bloated won/loss mark will not do them any good when they are engaged in a second round tussle against a talented #5 seed in 11 days. Expect them to make an early departure from Bracketville and come nowhere close to achieving the success St. Joe's enjoyed.