Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 1:28 AM
No time to rest…and the floodgates aren’t even open yet! Today in the NOTEBOOK we’ll preview the Atlantic 10 and Conference USA postseason tournaments (both have 12 team fields). Our Wednesday and Thursday reports will clear the deck with four conferences per day during the most exciting basketball week on the calendar.
Both of today’s mid-major conferences definitely have a chance to make headlines in the Big Dance. Temple and Memphis are top seeds, and can play with anybody over a 40-minute war. The computers we respect currently rate Memphis much hire than Joe Lunardi does in his Bracketology, making them a definite darkhorse you need to keep an eye on. Temple is projected to be a 5th seed, which means Lunardi sees them as a top 20 caliber squad.
The depth isn’t quite what each league had hoped. Breakdowns we wrote several weeks ago were showing at the time that each league had a real shot at getting FOUR teams PER CONFERENCE into the Dance. That isn’t going to happen now. We’re probably looking at three for the Atlantic 10 (maybe four), and only two for Conference USA. But, you’ll see in the previews that the depth really is there in terms of making these very exciting tournaments. Each league has several legitimate teams who could get hot and go the distance, which really hasn’t been the case in the preliminaries we’ve enjoyed to this point.
We start with the Atlantic 10 because they play TONIGHT with four first round games at campus sites. The tournament resumes Friday in Atlantic City with tonight’s four survivors and the four teams who earned byes into the quarterfinals. The championship game is set for Sunday on national TV, starting off the annual Grand Slam that leads into the selection TV show.
ATLANTIC 10 BRACKETOLOGY
Temple: 5th seed
Saint Louis: 10th seed
Xavier: 12th seed (one of last four in)
St. Joseph’s: far side of the bubble (8th team out)
Saint Louis is a fascinating team because some people think they’re fantastic (like the computer programmers you’ll read about in a moment), while others think they don’t even deserve a top 8-9 seed. They’re probably safely in because of their resume even if they stumble this weekend. Xavier is not. They’re one of the last teams in right now…and there’s not much margin for error (yet) with so many teams clamoring for so few spots. St. Joseph’s would really have to impress this weekend to earn an invitation. That could happen the way the brackets are set up. If they can get the finals…well, it never hurts to be playing on that final Sunday with one last chance to impress even if you don’t earn the automatic bid with a tournament title.
For you newcomers, we run the teams in bracket order, so you can have the numbers conveniently in your hands for the full event after you’ve printed out this report. We use computer rankings from Jeff Sagarin at USA Today and Ken Pomeroy, along with the offensive and defensive efficiency rankings (points per possession adjusted for competition) from Pomeroy.
ATLANTIC 10 TOURNAMENT
Duquesne (9): 118 in Sagarin, 135 in Pomeroy, 112 on offense, 162 on defense
UMASS (8): 89 in Sagarin, 96 in Pomeroy, 155 on offense, 54 on defense
Temple (1): 34 in Sagarin, 33 in Pomeroy, 18 on offense, 94 on defense
Temple is the clear class of the conference, but UMASS cracks the top 100 in both computers, which isn’t something we’ve seen from many #8 seeds. The A10 compares very favorably to a lot of major conferences this year. We’d take them over the Pac 10 without blinking an eye. The Owls have to guard against complacency since they’re already assured of a berth. That right there leads us to believe somebody else with a greater sense of urgency is more likely to run the table. Also, we need to remind you again that Temple’s defense ISN’T as good as it used to be. They’re barely in the top 100 now, which is going to be a problem in the Dance.
Charlotte (12): 148 in Sagarin, 157 in Pomeroy, 215 on offense, 100 on defense
St. Joe’s (5): 63 in Sagarin, 65 in Pomeroy, 54 on offense, 95 on defense
St. Bonny (4): 74 in Sagarin, 61 in Pomeroy, 60 on offense, 77 on defense
Tight call when deciding between who’s better in the 4-5 slot. St. Bonny earned the bye, but those teams are obviously very similar. Good sign for St. Joe’s that they have a chance to win easily Tuesday, draw St. Bonny in the quarters, and then probably a less than fired up Temple in the semi’s. That at least gives them hope for a run to the Dance. Best defense in the hunk belongs to St. Bonny though…and they may be mad that nobody’s talking about them!
Richmond (10): 109 in Sagarin, 104 in Pomeroy, 69 on offense, 158 on defense
LaSalle (7): 67 in Sagarin, 55 in Pomeroy, 78 on offense, 47 on defense
Saint Louis (2): 17 in Sagarin, 12 in Pomeroy, 37 on offense, 11 on defense
Here’s what we mean about Saint Louis. Pomeroy would have them as a #3 seed, while Sagarin would have them as a 4-5 seed. That’s way off what Lunardi has been thinking. The Billikens have some impressive recent wins. We’re very interested to see if they help solve the rankings mystery this weekend. They definitely have a chance to rise up and grab Temple’s projected #5 seed in our view.
G. Washington (11): 174 in Sagarin, 170 in Pomeroy, 168 on offense, 179 on defense
Dayton (6): 68 in Sagarin, 66 in Pomeroy, 27 on offense, 51 on defense
Xavier (3): 59 in Sagarin, 60 in Pomeroy, 74 on offense, 60 on defense
Not much separates Dayton and Xavier, which is one reason Xavier is desperately hanging on to a third A10 bid. They’re just not that much better than the field. We think this league is good enough to deserve three bids. Xavier may mess that up if they can’t get past Dayton. A lot of drama this week!
Hopefully the A10 doesn’t get too overshadowed later in the week by all the other tournaments going on. This is going to be a very intense event…and could showcase a team or two that will go deep in the NIT if not the NCAA. And, if Saint Louis really is as good as the computers say…you may get your first really good look at them this weekend. Pay attention!
We move now to Conference USA, where the tourney is being held at Memphis (coincidentally home of the #1 seed). They begin their quarterfinals early Wednesday. Because that first tip is at 1 p.m. ET, we wanted to get these to you a day in advance. The Big East also starts Wednesday. We ran those numbers in the Monday NOTEBOOK. Please check the archives if you missed the numbers.
CONFERENCE USA BRACKETOLOGY
Memphis: 7th seed
Southern Miss: 9th seed
That’s it. Two teams in, and nobody on the bubble. There was a time when Central Florida and Marshall were both on the Dance card, suggesting we may see four teams from CUSA in the brackets. That would have been something. Neither could live up to Joe Lunardi’s enthusiasm. And, their resume’s are now so soft that there really isn’t a case to be made. Heck, the computers aren’t even that fond of Southern Miss any more. They wouldn’t receive an at-large bid if Sagarin/Pomeroy ruled the day.
CUSA TOURNAMENT (Memphis, TN)
E. Carolina (10): 146 in Sagarin, 132 in Pomeroy, 142 on offense, 131 on defense
Rice (7): 150 in Sagarin, 149 in Pomeroy, 201 on offense, 101 on defense
So. Miss (2): 55 in Sagarin, 68 in Pomeroy, 38 on offense, 126 on defense
Already you’re seeing the big drop off from the A10 to these guys. Remember when UMASS was in the top 100 as a #8 seed? Rice is a #7 seed around the 150 mark. Southern Miss is surprisingly soft in the numbers considering the run they’ve been getting much of the year. Obviously Southern is the class of this group…and that high powered offense is going to scare whoever they face each and every day. If you’re still uncertain of our format, East Carolina plays Rice Wednesday in the first round. The winner plays Southern Miss Thursday in the quarterfinals.
SMU (11): 189 in Sagarin, 185 in Pomeroy, 257 on offense, 115 on defense
Marshall (6): 81 in Sagarin, 80 in Pomeroy, 68 on offense, 114 on defense
Tulsa (3): 96 in Sagarin, 82 in Pomeroy, 102 on offense, 78 on defense
See what we mean about the lack of bubble teams. Tulsa’s the #3 team in the CUSA brackets, yet grades out as about the 90th best team nationally. Marshall actually has better numbers, and has a real shot to sneak through to the semifinals. It’s going to be tough for anyone to take out the top seed on their home floor this weekend. The winner of this quadrant has plenty of motivation to keep winning though. If you’re looking for surprise teams…Marshall and Tulsa should be on the short list.
Houston (9): 173 in Sagarin, 181 in Pomeroy, 120 on offense, 259 on defense
UTEP (8): 142 in Sagarin, 142 in Pomeroy, 164 on offense, 119 on defense
Memphis (1): 15 in Sagarin, 11 in Pomeroy, 20 on offense, 17 on defense
Memphis is like Saint Louis in that the computers rate them much higher than Joe Lunardi does. Sagarin would have Memphis as a #4 seed, Pomeroy a #3. We actually think the computers are overshooting the mark there. But, in terms of this tournament…we’re talking about the best team in the conference AND home court advantage. Oh, we might as well throw in an easy pathway to the finals too given the computer/stat rankings of everyone else in this half of the brackets.
Tulane (12): 172 in Sagarin, 184 in Pomeroy, 247 on offense, 125 on defense
Alab-Birm (5): 130 in Sagarin, 127 in Pomeroy, 198 on offense, 68 on defense
C. Florida (4): 94 in Sagarin, 91 in Pomeroy, 88 on offense, 102 on defense
Like Tulsa, Central Florida’s numbers are so bad that they don’t have a case to make for the Dance. They don’t have a case to make for upsetting Memphis either, unless the Tigers come out flat as a pancake should that projected semifinal occur.
What a week!
In addition to tonight’s opening round of the A10, the Tuesday schedule also features Penn/Princeton in a very important Ivy league game, the Horizon championship, the Sun Belt championship, and the semifinals of the Big Sky (those numbers ran in the NOTEBOOK over the weekend). Let’s not forget the NBA…where Jeremy Lin and New York visit Dallas in a game to be nationally televised on the NBA Network.
Game day releases in the colleges and pro’s go up a few hours before first tip every day right here at the website. You can also sign up for the rest of the season with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK by calling 1-800-323-4453. The hoops hurricane is about to start, so take care of business now!
Championships are on the line all through the week…which means YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!