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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 12:13 AM

The Colonial Conference has done some amazing things in recent years in the Big Dance. Yet, here on Valentine’s Day, recent final four entrants VCU and George Mason are clearly in need of more love from the selection process for this year’s tournament.

They play each other tonight in a HUGE conference showdown with the knowledge that one or neither will earn a bid to the Dance this season despite amazing conference records.


Virginia Commonwealth 13-2

George Mason 13-2

Drexel 13-2

Those are obviously the three dominant teams in the league…and nobody else really matters this year except pas possible spoilers when one of these powers has a flat game. All three are obviously on fire. And given the recent success of the Colonial Conference in the Dance, you’d think that there was a good chance that at least TWO of those teams would earn invitations.

That’s probably not how it’s going to work out unless the selection committee completely ignores Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology over at ESPN.


Drexel: projected CAA representative as a 14th seed

VCU: not within eight spots of sneaking in

George Mason: not within eight spots of sneaking in

Not only is just one team getting a bid…but it’s projected as a 14th seed…which isn’t even the best spot for mid major automatics! Lunardi currently has Drexel ranked below Middle Tennessee, Akron, and Oral Roberts.

Is that fair? Should you just a conference on what’s happened this year…or on what they’ve established they can do when playing with the big boys? Normally, we’d focus on this season. But, because the best mid-majors are basically BANNED from playing top teams in the regular season because everyone’s scared to death of them…some additional consideration is in order.

*Nobody thought VCU has the resume of a Final Four team last year. There was outrage from guys like Jay Bilas that they made the tournament in the first place!

*Nobody thought George Mason had the resume of a Final Four team the year they killed a few giants on the way to a dome performance.

*Nobody thought mid-major Butler was a Final Four team two years ago…and then everyone assumed it was a fluke that wouldn’t happen a second time. IN A ROW!

Let’s see what the respected computer ratings we’ve been following say about these teams. If you’ve been a regular visitor to the NOTEBOOK this year, you know that we’ve been using Ken Pomeroy’s numbers from his great college website, and Jeff Sagarin’s numbers from USA Today

VCU: 49th in Pomeroy, 59th in Sagarin

Drexel: 51st in Pomeroy, 70th in Sagarin

George Mason: 106th in both

No breaks from the computers. If you’re banned from playing a competitive schedule, the strength of schedule data kills you in the computers. Just remember that VCU and George Mason played tough schedules within the Dance and proved themselves when given the opportunity.

It’s true that more than 60 teams are invited to the Big Dance every season. But, you need to be in the top 40 to be comfortable about receiving an at-large bid…and the top 50 to have a chance because so many of the spots go to lesser teams from very small conferences. In other words, the computers aren’t out of line with Lunardi about whether or not more than one CAA team should go Dancing. Of course, the computers didn’t see Butler and VCU coming last year either.

What about the battle with Middle Tennessee, Akron, and Oral Roberts for seeding respect? Let’s see what the computers say about those projected mid-major representatives:

Middle Tennessee: 52nd in Pomeroy, 43rd in Sagarin

Akron: 62nd in Pomeroy, 62nd in Sagarin

Oral Roberts: 78th in Pomeroy, 65th in Sagarin

Sorry Mr. Lunardi, we’ll grant you Middle Tennessee in the top rung of mid-majors given the season their having and their computer ratings. But, BOTH VCU and Drexel have better averages than BOTH Akron and Oral Roberts. Please stick the CAA representative up higher where they belong! Does anybody in Vegas think VCU or Drexel would be a neutral site underdog to Oral Roberts?

We had originally planned to run preview numbers for tonight’s VCU-George Mason game because it was so important to both teams. Perhaps this game isn’t important at all in the big picture. If the current indicators are correct, only the CAA tournament champion is going to get a bid. Tonight’s game will probably impact seeding barring upsets because it will help break the current logjam at 13-2. The loser will be in very tough shape for earning an at-large bid. George Mason’s computer ratings are so poor they have no chance at an at-large anyway.

Some quick notes about these teams, and the Bracket Buster games they’ll be dealing with this weekend:

*This is the first of two meetings in the last four games for VCU and George Mason. Yes, only two weeks are left in CAA action…and that represents only three conference games per team because of the Bracket Busters. The current leaders are knotted up at 13-2…and everyone plays 18 games in the league.

*VCU and Drexel only had one regular season meeting on the card. Drexel won that game 64-58 at home.

*VCU has a road win at Akron…the team currently seeded ahead of the CAA in Lunardi’s Bracketology!

*VCU’s Bracket Buster is Friday Night against Northern Iowa. That may not serve as a quality win if they get it because Northern Iowa is 73rd in Pomeroy and 64th in Sagarin. A loss would be brutal in terms of at-large hopes.

*Drexel also won its only regular season meeting this year with George Mason. And, that was also at home. Too many toe-stubbings in other places for Drexel this year because they’re undefeated against the CAA powers.

*Drexel’s Bracket Buster is early Saturday on the road against Cleveland State, the current Power Ratings leader of the Horizon Conference. That will be one of the showcase games of the weekend, and should have a March Madness feel to it. A win for Drexel could greatly help their chance for an at-large bid because it would be coming on the road against the team leading Butler’s conference. A loss would be a killer though, because Cleveland State’s computer ratings are about the same as Northern Iowa.

*George Mason’s Bracket Buster is Saturday afternoon at home against Lamar, a contender in the much-weaker Southland Conference. This scheduling is basically the powers that be telling George Mason they’re not considered amongst the elite this season.

We’ll talk more about the Bracket Busters this weekend…though there frankly aren’t going to be many games that matter much this time around. The system is rigged against mid-majors anyway. In some seasons, it’s like the Bracket Busters is just an additional practical joke the power structure plays on danger teams from non-BCS conferences.

We can tell you that VCU-George Mason is one of the games JIM HURLEY is looking at on the Valentine’s Night card. Other possibilities for big play releases are Florida-Alabama on ESPN, Ohio State-Minnesota on ESPN, Manhattan-Siena from the “added” slate, and NBA matchups like Miami-Indiana, Utah-Oklahoma City, and Atlanta-LA Lakers. Will NETWORK be part of “Linsanity” tonight in Toronto when the Knicks visit the Raptors? You’ll have to sign up to find out!

We have great rates for seasonal packages here at the website and in the office at 1-800-323-4453. You can try things out on a day-by-day basis with your credit card online. Selections go up a few hours before first tip each and every day.

Back tomorrow to talk about a few more teams that may deserve more love in the NCAA selection process. We hope you have a GREAT Valentine’s Day with your special person. IF YOU LOVE WINNING, IT’S THE PERFECT DAY TO LINK UP WITH JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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