If you've been watching ESPN this week, you are no doubt aware that this is "Judgment Week". What the hell does that mean? I have no idea. But I do know that there are only a few games left in the college basketball regular season. That means, if you're a fan of a team that is concerned about its tournament future, now is a good time to start paying attention to Joe Lunardi and people of his ilk. It also might be a good time for you to become reacquainted to whatever deity it is you go to when you have a favor to ask.
Mercifully, Marquette is sitting pretty this year. Pretty much every person who claims to know things about these matters has the Golden Eagles as a "lock" to make the 2012 NCAA Tournament. So, no negotiating with the Almighty for us this year. That's a nice change of pace after sweating out last season, down to the final minute. But not all of our Big East brethren are so lucky. The greatest conference in the history of history isn't what it has been the past few years, but it still sits poised to send 8 or 9 teams to the NCAA Tournament. There is still a lot of work to be done for a number teams hoping to punch their ticket yet this year. Let's take a look at where our friends (and I use that term loosely) are situated relative to the bubble today.
After the jump, Mr. K gets into the bubbly.
Notre Dame - Dude, the Irish are so IN. Wins over Syracuse and Marquette in the league are enough to make up for the struggles they had in the non-conference, post-Abro injury, portion of the schedule. Even if they lost to Providence AND St. John's down the stretch, ND is still dancing. As much as I would love to watch the Irish fall on their face, and somehow miss out, it's just not happening.
Connecticut - UConn halted their tailspin (for the moment) with Shabazz Napier's ridiculous 40-footer against an inexplicably horrendous Villanova team Monday night. After looking like a team full of guys that weren't aware that they're NOT in the NBA yet against Marquette, the Huskies managed to pull that game (and maybe their season) out of the fire. This team is so talented that I would not be stunned if they beat Syracuse on Saturday. However, if they lost by 35, that wouldn't shock me either. Despite their record (17-10, 7-8) the Huskies have the benefit of lofty computer numbers (#1 strength of schedule. #23 RPI), and a pretty favorable schedule after the Orange (at Providence and home against Pitt). I feel confident they will be in the field of 68 (that still feels unnatural).
West Virginia - Of all the Big East bubble teams, the team I least fear shitting the bed down the stretch is West Virginia. The Mountaineers are already at .500, have solid computer numbers (#41 RPI, #6 SOS), the likely conference POTY in Kevin Jones, and several winnable games to close out their schedule. I fully expect them to kick Marquette's ass this Friday (hey, just being realistic - we always play like crap in Morgantown), so that will give them a resume boost. Then as long as they don't lose to DePaul AND South Florida, they should be in business.
Seton Hall - If you've been with us over the course of the season, you know that I am of the opinion that Seton Hall is NOT good. Yet in this strangest of seasons, the Pirates sit on the verge of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 6 seasons. I cannot understand it, but apparently people just have a thing for Seton Hall. Even before Tuesday's win over Georgetown (when their only "good" win was over UConn), the pundits had them in field. After this victory I have to think they'll be projected as about a 4 seed.
South Florida - Excuse me South Florida... are you lost? This is a conversation about teams potentially making the NCAA Tournament. Clearly you mad a wrong turn somewhere. Wait... what? The Bulls are 10 and freaking 4 in conference??? Welcome to the discussion USF. The 10-4 does look nice, but the reality is the Bulls have yet to beat a good team (remember, I don't count Seton Hall as a "good" team), and have lost to a few crappy ones. However, they will have plenty of chances down the stretch. Syracuse and Louisville, as well as fellow bubble dwellers West Virginia and Cincinnati, all await USF over the last 4 games. A win or two against the big boys could put our friends from Tampa in position to dance for the first time since 1992!
Cincinnati - Cincy is an enigma, wrapped inside of a conundrum. Even people who spent years taking online classes to get their bracketology degree aren't sure what to make of the Bearcats. When you watch them play, they look like a team that is good enough to play in the NCAA Tourney. But then you look at their schedule and their numbers and you see there are some serious holes in that resume. They sport a non-conference SOS of 323(!) and a home loss to Presbyterian (RPI: 264)?!?!? AND they lost both of their non-conference games against semi-respectable competition (Marshall and at Xavier)?!?! Yet they're 9-5 in the league and have managed wins against Notre Dame and at Georgetown. It's no wonder people don't know what to do with this team. They have Louisville and Marquette at home still this year. I think they have to have one of those to feel anywhere near comfortable for Selection Sunday.
The good news for all of these teams is that mediocrity abounds in college basketball this season (Hell, Lunardi even has 3 teams from the hideous Pac-12 in his bracket). There will be a lot of chances for teams to play themselves off of that bubble yet this season. Even in an "off" year, the Big East still presents teams with plenty of opportunities to notch a statement victory.
*Note Mr. Kensington is not an accredited bracketologist and any opinions expressed are for entertainment and discussion purposes only.