Colorado eyes hoops tourney

Feb 21, 2006 12:32 AM

Forget the rankings. The most important stat for gaining one of the 65 entries to the NCAA Tournament is RPI — Ratings Percentage Index. That’s good news now for Colorado and Air Force.

With roughly two weeks left before conference tournaments play, the Buffaloes have a 43 RPI ranking and the Falcons close behind at 49. Each school is on pace to exceed 20 wins and a plus-.500 record in league play — the other major requirements for securing a bid to the Big Dance. Air Force, in fact, has reached 20 wins.

Colorado State and Denver are in weak leagues that don’t figure to land many at-large bids, so their only hope for making the NCAAs is winning their conference tourneys.

Ken White, top oddsmaker at Las Vegas Sports Consultants and one of the nation’s most respected handicappers, believes Colorado has the best chance of making the 64-team field that begins play Mar. 16.

"Colorado is in the top half of the Big 12 and should win three more games," White said. Their best player, Richard Roby, has pro potential. They would have to lose their final five games not to get in.

"Air Force had a fairly weak schedule and the 49 RPI will go up. I don’t think the Falcons are the 49th best in the country. The Mountain West is just too average. I only see the conference tourney winner going, probably San Diego State. A likely NIT team.

"Colorado State had a great start, beating Colorado, Denver and Auburn. The Rams beat Utah twice, but haven’t been the same since losing to TCU. They have talent and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them win the Mountain West tourney in Denver."

"Denver is much tougher at home, where the altitude is a big advantage. Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State are the top two teams in the Sun Belt. Denver would be a 10-12-point underdog to Western Kentucky if they met in the semis.

If the NCAAs were to begin today, White would make Duke, Connecticut, Texas and Villanova the four No. 1 seeds.

"I’d probably move Villanova out West, but it’s possible they could overtake UConn if they win the Big East tourney," he said. "George Washington, Memphis and Gonzaga are all No. 1 seed possibilities, but more likely 2s."

According to the latest odds at Caesars Palace, Air Force is listed at 100-1 to win the national championship. Colorado State, Colorado and Denver are each part of the "field" — currently going at 35-1.