PH: Villanova sits at #9 in the country and is 24-3, their lone losses being to former #1 Syracuse and Creighton (twice!). They do not, however, have any high profile games left on their regular season schedule. How high can Villanova go on the board? Do they have to win the Big East tourney to get there?
LC: Villanova can be a 27-win team by the conclusion of their conference schedule. What’s going to separate teams like Creighton and Syracuse from the Wildcats is their ability to win their conference tournament championship. If Villanova wins the Big East tournament, there’s a good chance they will be a #1 seed. In that scenario, the Wildcats would also need Syracuse to lose within their conference tournament. I think it’s clear that the fourth #1 seed is wide open.
PH: St. Joseph’s has won four in a row including a W against VCU. Where do they fall on your bracket? How high can they go? What is the least they can do with their remaining games left to stay as an at large?
LC: The Hawks are on solid ground as they are a #10 seed in my bracket projection. To maintain that seeding they have to beat Dayton and La Salle. If they win those games and also beat GW or St. Bonaventure, there’s a chance they can get a #9 seed. If I had to pick a seed today, it’s safe to say St. Joseph’s will be a #10 seed by Selection Sunday unless St. Joseph’s wins their conference tournament. If St. Joe’s loses their next four games but wins one game in the conference tournament then they will be squarely on the bubble. They may get in as a #12 seed. Overall, they are in good shape.
PH: Drexel just beat Delaware, who was tops in the CAA. The conference looks wide open and Drexel has the same shot as any other team to win their league’s tournament. If they do, where would you have them as a seed?
LC: The notion that the Colonial Athletic is wide open is correct. The assumption that Drexel is the next team up isn’t. I think that Towson and William & Mary are the next best options if Delaware can’t get over the latest suspensions. If Drexel won their conference tournament they would be a #15 or #16 seed.
PH: Can you name your #1 seeds?
LC: At press time, my #1 seeds are Florida, Wichita St., Arizona and Villanova. I’ve received a lot of feedback on my ranking of Villanova as a #1 seed. First, I don’t think Syracuse is going to hold up leading up to the tournament. With a RPI of a 9, Villanova will beat them out with a RPI of a 4. I’m also anticipating that Villanova will win their conference tournament. It’s very difficult to beat any team three times in a season and that’s what the Blue Jays have to do. We’ll see how I fare with my bet.
PH: Who are your last four in? First four out? Finally, which conferences are bubble-busters this year?
LC: Oklahoma St., Dayton, Xavier and Cal are my last four teams in the projected bracket. I absolutely love Dayton’s remaining conference schedule with games against St. Joe’s, UMASS, St. Louis and Richmond. If the Flyers can beat Richmond and one of those teams, they’ll be in great shape heading into the conference tournament. My first four out includes Richmond, Minnesota, Boise St and Nebraska.
The team that Jay Bilas is going to laud as being the first to get shafted is once again Tennessee. Right now, they’re out of my bracket. Their last game against Missouri will be a must win game. They also cannot lose their next three against Mississippi St., Vanderbilt and Auburn. They will also have to win at least two games in their conference tournament to make it in. The Vols have four bad losses this year. They have also only beaten two teams that appear in my current projected bracket in Virginia and Xavier. Their road into the bracket is going to be a tough one.