NCAA Tourney: Hoyas playing for No.1; MD vs. UVA

NCAA Tourney: Hoyas playing for No.1; MD vs. UVA
February 25, 2013, 9:45 pm
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We are 20 days away from Selection Sunday. Now that potential seeding and the NCAA Tournament at-large pool is beginning to take shape, now that the impact of each possible upcoming result is measurable, it's now a good time to start analyzing where the locals fit into the potential field of 68. Georgetown and VCU are playing for seeding while Virginia and Maryland are playing to keep on playing. Plus the CAA field is wide open and those teams near and far on both sides of that nasty bubble.

* Georgetown (21-4,11-3 Big East, first place, AP No. 7)

Advanced stats: RPI (13), SOS (35)

Last 10: 9-1, current nine-game winning streak

Notable results: Wins - Louisville, at Syracuse, Marquette at Notre Dame, UCLA; Loss - at South Florida

Postseason status: The streaking Hoyas not only lead the Big East pack, but also are legitimately in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Climbing that mountain is another story, but who dares believe Otto Porter and the Miracles cannot get there (I was ready to pilfer that nickname/ comparison from the 1986-87 Reggie Williams-led Hoyas a ways back, but got talked out of it. Porter's unreal 33-point performance against Syracuse set me straight).

In terms of momentum, only Gonzaga's 10-game winning streak is longer than Georgetown's among teams likely seeded one, two or three. My spidey sense says the Hoyas reach the 2-seed line, eventually. Just not maybe not at this exact moment.

It's blind taste test time.

 W-LRPISOSNC-SOSvs. Top-50RoadLast 10
Team A22-44 2255-37-48-2
Team B22-58930 6-46-36-4
Team C21-413351966-35-29-1

Seeing as I provided the Hoyas information earlier, you probably guessed they are Team C. By looking at the various numbers, you also notice either Georgetown is even or behind the other two teams across the board except over the last 10 games. That winning trend is rather pretty, while the non-conference strength of schedule is particularly ugly for the Hoyas. Bummer that game with Florida never really happened.

Speaking of the Gators, they are mystery Team A and part of the top seed discussion, but not of that elite group right now. Team B is Louisville, one of the vanquished opponents during Georgetown's current winning streak. Head-to-head is a factor, but not the only one and the Cardinals have the edge in other areas. For now, let's say the Hoyas are three-seed, but closer to the two's then the four's.

With three of their four remaining regular season games against Connecticut (RPI 28), Villanova (54) and Syracuse (12) with the Big East Tournament to follow, the Hoyas have opportunity for seeding advancement. Unless there is a sudden skid, Georgetown looks good for a top-4 seed, which has potential geographic implications. The closest early round venue is in Philadelphia and likely where the top east coast Big East team is sent. Because the Verizon Center is hosting the East Regional, Georgetown will be shipped to either Indianapolis, Arlington (Tx.) or Los Angeles should it advance to the second weekend.

* VCU (22-6, 10-3 Atlantic 10. second place, unranked)

The havoc causing Rams are looking the 8/9 seed no No.1 wants any part of it. However, based on its final three regular season games plus the competitive Atlantic 10 Tournament, VCU's seed could significantly rise or perhaps tumble, at least some. On Saturday, Shaka Smart's crew can improve on their 2-5 record vs. the RPI top-50 when they host Brad Stevens and Butler. After that, the Rams face cross-town rivals Richmond, one of the teams to beat VCU this season. Finally, they play at Temple, another team projected into the Field of 68, but VCU's best at-large resume note is its 8-2 road record.

* Virginia (19-8, 9-5 ACC; tied for third place)

* Maryland (19-8, 7-7 ACC; sixth place)

I'm putting the two ACC rivals - and possible future Big Ten opponents - together because their differing résumés encapsulate the questions that will come for selection committee.

If head-to-head results matter most, the Cavaliers have already defeated the Terps and host the regular season-finale rematch. Virginia owns a superior record in conference play and against Top-100 RPI opponents (6-2 vs. Maryland's 3-7). However...

The Cavaliers also have three unsightly losses to CAA teams, especially the inexplicable setback against a then one-win Old Dominion squad on a neutral court. The Terps recently suffered a blemish at Boston College, but their win against Duke stands as the best victory between the two.

However...since both teams beat NC State, Maryland's next notable win of the season came against Stonybrook (RPI 89). The Terps non-conference SOS is a nasty 299, yet better than the Cavaliers (305).

Should Virginia defeat Duke at home on Thursday, the Cavaliers will be part of the bubble talk no more. Maryland does not have a single game that can change its at-large status, but a 3-1 close to the regular season --assuming wins over North Carolina and Virginia - might do the trick with the ACC Tourney serving as another helping opportunity.

*As for other potential NCAA Tournament teams in the DMV

- Norfolk State (16-10, 11-0 MEAC) remains undefeated in conference play and thus the favorite for the league's auto bid. Should the first place Spartans win the regular season title, they at least qualify for the NIT, which by itself is rather impressive seeing as last year's NCAA Tourney hero Kyle O'Quinn is playing for the Orlando Magic.

- Suggesting George Mason (17-11, 10-6 CAA), James Madison (16-14, 10-7) or William & Mary (12-15, 6-10) is a favorite to win the CAA conference tournament does not pass the smell test. Then again, with only seven teams eligible to compete, the conference suffering through a down season and the event still be played in relatively friendly territory (Richmond), they all have a legitimate puncher's chance. Boston-based Northeastern has been the wire-to-wire leader, though the Huskies have lost two of three.  As for the three Commonwealth programs, the Patriots have the depth to survive three games in three days; the Dukes commit the fewest turnovers in the CAA; the Tribe have starry sophomore Marcus Thornton and the top shooting team in the conference. No matter the CAA representative, expect a No. 15 seed.

- Looking for back-to-back NCAA appearances, Loyola (20-9, 11-5 MAAC) sits one game behind first place Niagara, though only have two conference games remaining (March 1 and 3). The Greyhounds split with the Purple Eagles, as they did with third place Canisius and fourth place Rider.

*The top seeds: Indiana, Duke, Miami, Kansas - This is the rare year where with three weeks remaining before Selection Sunday no team feels like a lock for a No. 1 seed. The Jayhawks faded away from this discussion after inexplicably losing three straight games earlier this month, but have since won five in a row including Monday's overtime thriller over Iowa State. Miami leads the nation with 10 road wins, but has two losses to teams in the 101-200 RPI range and the Canes will not receive benefit of the doubt with another victory to anyone besides Duke. Michigan, Gonzaga and Florida are next up in the No. 1 discussion.

* Last four in: Cincinnati, Villanova, Virginia, St. Mary's - How did the Bearcats land on this list after starting the season 18-4 and owning wins over Pittsburgh, Marquette and Villanova? Because they have lost five of six, though four of the defeats have come against projected tourney teams. The trend is not Cincy's friend right now.

* First four out: Ole Miss, Kentucky, Maryland, Arizona State - Perhaps the single most impressive aspect from these four teams, the Sun Devils own four wins over teams in the RPI top-50. Losing to DePaul, less impressive.

* Next four out: St. John's, Southern Miss, Boise State, LaSalle