What looked like a week dominated by the Baseball teams rise to #1 in all 4 major polls has to take a back seat for a day.
Earlier today, the four-letter network’s Joe Lunardi decided to do the impossible: pick the field of 68 for next year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. And while it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Kentucky, UNC, Ohio St., and Texas on the top line, it was shocking to see that Virginia, yes The University, in the field. Albeit that they are one of the ‘Last Four In’ and will be a #12 seed playing in Dayton against UAB, Lunardi believes that this is the season that Virginia (and Indiana) start to return to the bracket for years to come.
Now, to get wrapped up in hype for the 2012 New Orleans Final Four weeks after the last championship is extremely premature, but why can we dream? What he has done is give a road map that the Hoos can follow so that they return to the big dance for the first time since 2007. Let’s look at what we can take away from his bracket:
1. It helps Virginia’s cause that the ACC will “be back” this year, meaning the overall conference will be one of the strongest in the nation. The projections still have the Big East getting 9 teams in, followed by the Big Ten and ACC with 7 teams, and the SEC, Pac-10, and Big 12 get 5 in. By this theory, the Atlantic Coast Conference would be no worse than 3rd in the RPI, a great improvement from a league worse of 7th this season. That should translate into more teams in the tournament, even if that means it is 6 or 7.
2. By looking at the seedings of the ACC teams, you can tell that Joe believes that the conference will go as such:
(1) North Carolina (1 seed)
(2) Duke (2 seed)
(3) Virginia Tech (6 seed)
(4) Clemson (8 seed)
(5) Florida State (10 seed)
(6) Miami (11 seed)
(7) Virginia (12 seed, Last Four In)
(8) Maryland (Next Four Out)
3. Now lets take a look the two major teams that were in the First Four last year, Clemson and USC. Clemson was 21-11 with an RPI 87, 1-5 vs. the Top 50, 4-1 vs. the 51-100, and 11-4 vs the 150+. USC was 19-14 with an RPI of 133, 2-3 vs. the Top 50, 3-3 vs. 51-100, and 12-6 vs. the 150+. What does this mean? First off, the parity in all of college basketball was down this year. But it shows that it will take at least 20 wins to make it as an at-large team from a major conference, at least 2 or 3 wins over Top 50 competition (with the ACC up, that should not be a problem), and keeping those “bad losses” to around 4 or 5.
If everyone around The Hook believes that this year the Cavs are poised for a big season, this should help jump start the momentum during the off season.