Yesterday, Clement had a chance to collect questions relevant to the NCAA Tournament from numerous PHSports stakeholders. Today, I answer those questions. Simple enough.
Q: With FSU enjoying plenty of recent success, who has a tougher road to an at-large berth in the crowded ACC: Virginia Tech or Boston College?
A: In short, Virginia Tech has the tougher road to an at-large berth because BC's signature win (@ UNC) grows stronger by the day. The Hokies also have a tougher schedule with 5 of their last 6 against teams with a .600 winning percentage in % or better. That said, there is never a day off in the ACC and both teams are capable of defeating top teams or playing to the level of lesser competition.
UPDATE: This question was answered for us.
Q: Is Maryland only a miracle run in the ACC Tourney away from returning to the Big Dance?
A: Since a home loss against BC, Maryland has been playing its best string of games this year. To garner consideration, they need to win a game or two that they are not expected to (@ Clemson, v. Duke, v. UNC, v. Wake) and take care of weaker teams away from the Comcast Center. Mind you, this is the same team that trounced Michigan State early in the season. If the Selection Committee sees anything like that result, then watch out. To answer your question, it depends on seeding. Likely, Maryland will need two wins in the ACC Tournament and a collapse by one of the teams ahead of them.
Big East Talk
Q: Cincinnati appears to be on the upswing while Georgetown remains stuck in the abyss after a tough loss at the Carrier Dome. Meanwhile, Notre Dame shakes off 7-straight losses - many of them ugly ones - to destroy Louisville. Last night, West Virginia pounds Villanova and reminds us about their dangerous talent. Assuming UCONN, Pitt, Marquette, Louisville, Villanova, and (maybe) even the Cuse are locks for March Madness...what happens to the "rest of the field", including the aformentioneds (Georgetown, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, West Virginia) as well as Providence.
A: First, let's take WVU out of this discussion. They have a stronger resume, have a real chance at 10 wins in conference and have Pitt and Louisville scheduled twice each. After them, I'd put the Bearcats into the field of 65, who are not the prettiest team to watch, but grind it out for 40 minutes. They also have two extremely winnable games in addition to three chances to pad the resume against Louisville, WVU and the Cuse. On the outside looking in, I'd put Notre Dame and Georgetown. The Irish earned their first signature win of the year, but can they keep it going? Realistically speaking, can they play strong defense again? As for the Hoyas, they have the best wins among this group and can return to the fold with a 8-10 conference record plus two wins in the Big East Tournament, including 1-2 games against teams that they are not expected to beat given their current form.
Q: Do you think a darkhorse can emerge come CAA Tournament time, or do you believe VCU/Mason are the odds on favorites - even with a talented Northeastern team tied atop the standings - to cut down the nets in Richmond?
A: Absolutely. Any of the top seven teams (VCU, Mason, Nor'Easter, Drexel, Hofstra, Old Dominion, James Madison) in this conference have a 'good' chance to make the finals. I still think VCU is the favorite because all they need is Maynor plus two for three games. Rams fans know that's easier said than done this season, but that's asking less than what other teams demand.
Big Ten Bias
Q: Will Penn State right the ship, or are they looking more and more like an early bloomer who will fade well before Selection Sunday?
A: The Nittany Lions stole a must-win game from Minnesota with dominating play in the final four minutes (thanks to a guy named Battle), which killed the assertion that they fade in the face of urgency. Unless they win 10 games in conference, they will need to advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
Missouri Valley Time
Q: With an impressive showing Bracketbuster weekend (more below), can Northern Iowa and Creighton secure bids, assuming one of them wins the conference championship over the other?
A: No. Creighton had plenty of missed opportunities in non-conference play. Northern Iowa has no chance to secure a berth other than winning the automatic bid.
Q: I can't figure out this conference one bit. Can we get a sentence or two on the postseason "likelihoods" for Arizona, USC, and Cal?
A: USC has the weakest resume of the three but has the best adjusted defensive efficiency, which is conducive to winning. Arizona has the strongest win and the hottest, but Cal has the strongest non-conference resume. It's a web confusion and trend data is useless in the PAC 10.
Q: What's the best case (realistic) scenario for St. Mary's - sans Patty Mills - right now? If he can return before tournament time, how much can the Selection Committee take into account his injury and their play before it? Is that fair to do so?
A: There is more conditional speak here than in a legal document. Mills is scheduled to return right before the WCC Tournament; therefore, the Selection Committee will pay special attention to the Gaels form and Mills's effectiveness. Nothing short of a trip to the finals (and losing to Gonzaga) will garner consideration for an at-large bid. Also the Gaels would need plenty of help from bubble teams who would play the role of choke artist.
Q: Who is this year's San Diego (winning their conference tournament unexpectedly and then making noise opening weekend of the tournament)? Maybe Portland/Nevada/Niagara/Belmont? Okay, probably not Belmont.
A: If Butler does not win the Horizon League Tournament, then Wisconsin-Green Bay and Cleveland State have a real chance to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament should they face a low-grade protected seed (#11-16 overall).
Q: What are your favorite Bracketbuster matchups? Who has the most to gain from the weekend's matchups? Who has the most to lose? Individual team or conferences may apply.
A: Butler/Davidson and Utah State/St. Mary's are diluted by injuries to Stephen Curry and Patty Mills. Davidson and Utah State have the most to gain if their star players do not play and they either impress or win. Consequently, Butler and Utah State have the most to lose if they do not take care of business. By process of elimination and admitting my CAA/George Mason bias, I have three matchups.
VCU @ Nevada -- Can the Nevada guards rattle Eric Maynor? Who will cover Luke Babbitt? Will Larry Sanders be good to go?
George Mason @ Creighton -- Bias aside, this is going to be a beautiful battle of quality guards.
Buffalo @ Vermont -- Oh, those pesky Catamounts! I really want to see how good Buffalo is. Is Turner Gill also coaching the basketball team?
All of this said, none of the mid-majors involved in the BracketBusters are bona fide two-bid conferences (assuming the top teams from these one-bids win their conference tournaments). A TV sweep for the Horizon and MVC *may* garner consideration for a second bid, but I would not bet the bank account.