PH -Both La Salle and St. Joseph’s lost yesterday. For the Explorers, it was their second straight loss against bubble or near-bubble squads. Does this missed opportunity spell the end of La Salle’s at-large chances?
LC - It is safe to say that the Explorers threw their chance away to make a run towards a NCAA tournament at-large bid. La Salle only has three high quality games left on the schedule against St. Louis, UMASS and GW. The likelihood they win all three games is low. Moreover, I think Explorer fans need to be concerned about La Salle even making it to the NIT. I think the magic number for a NIT bid is 18 and I see La Salle getting 17 wins. It’s going to be close.
On a side and more commentary note, La Salle’s future results will be a reflection of their character. The loss against VCU is the kind of loss that throws teams into a downward spiral. How will La Salle react? Will they respond to the adversity by going on the road and sweeping George Washington? Another question La Salle supporters must be asking is would La Salle win these close games if Ramon Galloway was still on the roster? I think by the end of the season, Explorer fans will have a true appreciation for what kind of iconic figure Ramon Galloway will represent to the program and the historic run.
PH – Speaking of the Hawks, the Richmond game was just the start of a murderer’s row that features Dayton, UMASS, Saint Louis, VCU and La Salle in their next five. How many of these games will the Hawks need to win to be considered on or near the bubble.
LC – St. Joe’s is facing a daunting task in regards to the bubble. There are marquee programs like UNC, Baylor and Mizzou that are on the outside looking in; those teams have high quality teams left on their schedules. In essence, St. Joseph’s is somewhat buried within the competition for the bubble and it will be tough for them to make a move this late. St. Joseph’s will need at least 21 wins to start talking about the bubble and I see them having 19 wins at the end of the regular season conference schedule. Even with 21 wins, the Hawks don’t have a resume to speak of. The games against UMASS, St. Louis and VCU will be critical. I think the Hawks will finish the year with a solid seed in the NIT.
PH – Much talk has been made as to how many bids the Atlantic 10 would get. Jon Rothstein, of CBS Sports, recently said that the league would get four minimum, with the possibility for five or six. What do you have to say on the subject?
LC – As we currently stand, the Atlantic-10 will get four teams into the NCAA tournament. Dayton’s bubble may have burst in January as they only have three resume building games left on the schedule. There is also pretty good separation between Richmond and St. Joseph’s within their resumes. Between the two teams, Richmond has the better chance of being that fourth team in. Richmond can make a statement if they manage one win between St. Louis and VCU.
PH – Villanova won an overtime game against Marquette yesterday, a team hovering around 85-90 in RPI. Had the ‘Cats lost that game, how far would they have fallen? Should they finish with an average record here on out, where do you see them being placed?
LC – It is important to make clear that in college basketball margin of victory is meaningless. When it comes to selection time, wins and losses are just that–wins and losses. If the Wildcats had lost to a struggling Marquette team it would have been two losses in one week and critics would have questioned their strength within the Big East. The loss though would not have been in reality a terrible loss as they would have dropped to a lower three seed. Here on out, Villanova should be able to rattle off 9 or 10 more wins and earn a second seed in the bracket.
PH – Can you spell out for us who your top seeds are, last four in and first four out?
LC – Arizona and Syracuse are clearly the best two in the country with Arizona being the better out of the two. Arizona’s win against Michigan on the road looks very good right now. Wichita St. with their undefeated record is a #1 seed with Florida rounding out the top seeds. Although Florida’s schedule is not as difficult as Kansas’s, Florida beat Kansas head to head and may not lose again until mid-February where they will be sitting at 21-2. By the end of regular season conference play, Florida just may be a 27 win team. What Kansas has done the last two weeks is impressive. I don’t think they can keep it up though and I think they’ll begin to hit some turbulence as they face two revenge games in Iowa St. and Baylor.
Tennessee, Stanford, Providence and Arkansas are the last four teams in the NCAA tournament at press time. Providence took care of business against a very good Xavier team. Arkansas should be able to keep their winning ways. The Kentucky win on January 14 is carrying them. Tennessee needs to start winning consecutive games again and I think they will, starting with Ole Miss. Finally, Stanford is part of the bottleneck that is happening in the PAC-12. I have five Pac-12 teams seeded 10 or below. Stanford needs to beat USC and then defeat Arizona St. I don’t expect them to upset Arizona.
Richmond, Indiana St., Boise St., and Louisiana Tech are the first four teams out of the tournament. Richmond has to beat VCU or St. Louis to make a move up. Indiana St.’s entry into the tournament comes down to one simple feat–beat Wichita St. Boise St. needs to string some consecutive wins together. Their stretch starting February 1 against UNLV will be important. In addition to UNLV, they will face San Diego St. and New Mexico. Finally, I’m not a believer in a two seed Conference-USA. I think Louisiana Tech has to win the conference tournament to have a chance.
You can see Caruso’s updated bracket here.