DAYTON, OH - MARCH 16: The Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners warm up before their game against the Alabama State Hornets during the first round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at UD Arena on March 16, 2011 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Harvard continues to be a sure thing, while UConn and UMass both need some big wins to help shore up their resumes for different reasons. Boston University's win streak has reached seven and gives Boston hope of a fourth team playing deep into March.
Welcome to our second edition of New England College Basketball Bracketology. From last week until the NCAA Tournament, NIT, CBI and CIT brackets are revealed in March, I will bring you a weekly look at where each of the seven teams we cover here at SBNation Boston stand in their quest for postseason play. Occasionally we will give shout outs to other teams from New England but the focus will be on UConn, Boston College, Harvard, UMass, Boston University, Northeastern and Holy Cross. With three teams hanging around the 10+ games over .500 mark and Boston University on fire, we could easily match last season's four postseason bids (2 NCAA: UConn and Boston University, 2 NIT: Harvard and Boston College). This week we take a look at Chris Dobbertean's (SBNation.com), Joe Lunardi's (ESPN.com) and Andy Glockner's (CBS.com) projections at where local teams could end up in the brackets.
1. UConn Huskies (14-5, 4-3 Big East/RPI (Real Time RPI.com): 19)
Best Wins: 64-57 vs. West Virginia (Jan. 9), 67-53 vs. #24 Harvard (Dec. 8), 67-53 @ Notre Dame (Jan. 14), 78-76 vs. Florida St (Nov. 26 neutral court),
Worst Losses: 67-60 @ Rutgers (Jan. 7), 60-57 @ Tennessee (Jan 21)
Record Vs. Teams in The Field (All 3 Websites): 5-3 4-3, 4-2
It was not a good week for the Huskies who dropped both of their games and dropped 14 spots in the RPI rankings and at least two seeds in all three projections. Wednesday's home loss at Cincinnati was a hard-fought close affair against a top-flight opponent but Saturday's game is harder to explain to the panel. The Volunteers have been playing better recently but are not a vaunted opponent, and once again UConn found themselves out-hustled and outplayed. UConn doesn't play again till Sunday (home against Notre Dame) but they'll need to turn it around fast if they want to avoid a huge plummet in seeding. After they take on the Fighting Irish, they play three ranked teams on the road in 10 days, with Seton Hall at home as the only break, yes the same Seton Hall team who demolished the Huskies on the road.
Projection: 100% Chance Of Postseason Play (94% NCAA, 100% NIT): The absence of Ryan Boatright potentially cost the Huskies two wins last week and dropped them to a 5/6 seed, if the NCAA continues his suspension, the team could continue to plummet.
2. Harvard Crimson (16-2, 2-0 Ivy League/RPI: 47)
Best Wins: 46-41 vs. Florida State (Nov. 25 neutral court), 74-69 vs. St. Joseph's (Dec. 31), 59-49 vs. Central Florida (Nov. 26 neutral court)
Worst Losses: 60-54 @ Fordham (Jan. 3)
Record Vs. Teams In The Field: 2-1, 3-1, 2-1
Harvard is solidly in the field but they seem to be a team that's very hard for bracketologists to place. The Crimson earned a nine seed (ESPN), 10 seed (CBS) and 11 seed (SBNation) from the three different sites despite their impressive record. The problem with Harvard is that they haven't played the most impressive schedule and they won't have many, if any, chances to improve their resume the rest of the way. Four Ivy League team including the Crimson stand in the top 112 of the RPI Rankings, but the next closest team in the rankings is Yale (number 96); in comparison, the Atlantic 10 (UMass' conference) has seven teams in the top 95. What does it all mean? It means that Harvard can ill afford many slip ups in conference play and could use help if they're to have a chance to make more than just an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Two teams that could help Harvard's resume are Florida State and St. Joseph's, both teams fell to the Crimson and have a chance to make the postseason.
Projection: 100% Chance of Postseason Play (93% NCAA, 100% NIT): Harvard will face their first test of Ivy League play when they travel to New Haven to take on Yale Friday night, they can ill afford to lose to the Bulldogs for a second straight season with Princeton and UPenn lurking.
3. UMass Minutemen (15-5, 4-2 Atlantic 10/RPI: 65)
Best Wins: 73-65 vs. Davidson (Dec. 23), 71-62 vs. St. Joseph's (Jan. 14),
Worst Losses: 85-61 vs. College of Charleston (Nov. 26 neutral court), 82-75 @ LaSalle (Jan. 8)
Record Vs. Teams In The Field: 1-1, 1-1, 1-1
UMass took a bit of a hit this week when they split a pair of road contests with Duquesne and Richmond. Despite earning their first road win against a team within the top 110 of the RPI Rankings, the Minutemen fell five spots in the RPI and dropped a key contest in the Atlantic 10. The one thing that seems consistent in all three projections is that the Atlantic 10 will likely be capped at four spots, which is an improvement over their three bids the past four years. If there are only four spots up for grabs the Minutemen have their work cut out for them, with four teams (Temple, Xavier, Dayton, St. Louis) clearly in front of them and several other squads fighting for fifth. The Minutemen will get their first chance to take out one of those squads Saturday when they put their perfect home record on the line against St. Louis (the weakest of the four top teams). UMass needs to win this one, because they only get one crack at each of those four teams (due to scheduling) and will have to face the other three in back-to-back games at the end of February.
Projection: 75% Chance of Postseason Play (20% NCAA Tournament, 63% NIT, 60% CBI/CIT)
Derek Kellogg's young team has played loose and as an underdog for much of the season, it'll be interesting how Chaz Williams and company handle the pressure as the games begin to mean more.
4. Boston University Terriers (11-11, 7-1 America East/RPI: 175)
Best Wins: 61-55 vs. Stony Brook (Jan. 14), 75-61 @ Boston College (Dec. 3)
Worst Losses: 71-66 @ Cornell (Nov. 20), 83-69 @ Vermont (Jan. 5)
Record Vs. Teams In The Field: 1-3, 0-3, 0-3
Nobody in New England is hotter than the Terriers who have won seven in a row and sit all alone atop the America East Conference. The brutal non-conference schedule that left the team at 4-10 entering the conference season seems to have worked, as Boston University is already 3-1 in road contests in conference. This is the crucial week for the Terriers; they play at Stony Brook (6-1 AE) on Friday and then host the lone team that has defeated them in conference play, Vermont (6-2), on Tuesday. If the Terriers win both games, they'll essentially have a two-game lead over the rest of the conference with six games to play; a loss in either game will mean that the conference champion might not be crowned till the final weekend of the season. It's not surprising that Vermont and Stony Brook are the two teams in the Terriers way; they were Boston University's opponents in the past two conference title games.
Projection: 35% Chance of Postseason Play (32% NCAA Tournament, 40% NIT): Boston University has avoided slipups in a way they couldn't last season and have proved they can win any type of game; it all bodes well for the Terriers' chances in their next two games.
5. Northeastern University (9-10, 5-4 Colonial Athletic Association/RPI: 155)
Best Wins: 60-57 vs. Georgia St (Jan. 18) 78-64 @ St. Johns (Nov. 26), 82-74 OT @ Boston University (Nov. 11)
Worst Losses: 56-53 @ Louisiana Tech (Dec. 20), 79-68 @ Bradley (Dec. 6)
Record Vs. Teams In The Field: 0-0, 0-1, 0-1
One step forward, two steps back for the Huskies who now are firmly entrenched in the middle of the CAA. To make matters worse, a season after getting three bids and having VCU make a miracle run to the Final Four, the CAA is being projected as a one-bid conference with George Mason as low as a 15 seed in ESPN's bracket. Unfortunately for Northeastern their chances to make the NCAA Tournament now completely rely on the CAA Tournament, as the young group continues to show they can't defeat good competition on the road. They've got two winnable games at home this week to break their two game skid, but I think that we're likely to continue to see the Huskies slide as we enter February.
Projection: 3% Chance of Postseason Play (2% NCAA Tournament, 0% NIT, 10% CBI/CIT): I still think a CBI or CIT berth isn't out of the question but the Huskies won't get the chance to play in either, if they don't accrue a winning record and finish the season strong.
6. Holy Cross Crusaders (8-11, 2-3 Patriot League/RPI: 197)
Best Wins: 84-78 vs. Lehigh (Jan. 7), 88-83 vs. San Francisco (Dec. 22)
Worst Losses: 72-60 @ Maine (Nov. 27), 54-43 vs. Lafayette (Jan. 19)
Record Vs. Teams In the Field: 0-3, 0-3, 0-3
Holy Cross sits in a tie for fifth in the Patriot League with three straight losses in league play, which leaves me with little optimism about their postseason chances. League leader Bucknell handed the Crusaders a 75-41 defeat in Pennsylvania on Saturday and held Holy Cross to a season low 24.6 percent from the field. At this point the Crusaders need a quick turnaround to get back into the conference race, they'll get two great chances this week with a road tilt at Army and a home contest against Colgate. If the Crusaders can't win both games, they'll need a miracle run, as a four of five seed in the conference tournament, to make it back to the postseason.
Projection 2% Chance of Postseason Play (2% NCAA Tournament): Holy Cross has several nice pieces but has struggled to get all of them going at the same time, if they can't figure it out soon senior Devin Brown could be playing his final 10 games in a Crusader uniform.
7. Boston College Eagles (7-12, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference/RPI: 218)
Best Wins: 61-59 vs. Virginia Tech (Jan. 14), 59-57 vs. Clemson (Jan. 12)
Worst Losses: 78-72 2OT vs. Rhode Island (Jan. 2), 75-61 vs. Boston University (Dec. 3)
Record Vs. Teams In The Field: 1-4, 0-6, 0-5
Despite a purposefully weak non-conference schedule, the Eagles have already played at least five tournament teams and they haven't even faced ACC lock (Duke) and probable dancers (Virginia and Florida State). The Eagles struggled last week in losses on the road to N.C. State (a new member of the field in two brackets) and a home tilt against Wake Forest. Life doesn't get easier this week when they play at Virginia Thursday night and then host Miami. If the Eagles lose to the Hurricanes Sunday the likelihood they win 10 or more games drops to about 15 percent.
Prediction: 0.1% Chance of Postseason (0% NCAA Tournament/NIT, .1% CBI/CIT): At least there's Utah, the Utes are ranked 255 in the RPI and decided to let go of their leading scorer recently...
Special Shout out: Central Connecticut State (9-9, 6-2 Northeast Conference): The Blue Devils are tied for second in the Northeast Conference and stand right up there with Vermont,for the team most likely to appear in the NCAA Tournament that we don't regularly cover.