HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 04: Head coach Jim Calhoun of the Connecticut Huskies celebrate with his team and the trophy after defeating the Butler Bulldogs to win the National Championship Game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament by a score of 53-41 at Reliant Stadium on April 4, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
UMass put themselves solidly on the bubble with a huge win over St. Louis, while Harvard continued to take care of business and slowly improve their seeding possibilities. UConn, the one team we thought would be a sure thing, is becoming a bigger and bigger disappointment as they fall down in our projections.
Welcome to our second edition of New England College Basketball Bracketology. From the middle of January 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're using another approach; we're dissecting the Bracket Project's 2012 Matrix, which is an aggregation of 55 different bracket projections, with the seeds each team is given in each projection (the list includes all three sets of brackets we looked at last week).
1. Harvard Crimson (18-2, 4-0 Ivy League/RPI (RealtimeRPI.com) 44)
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 (within top 68 of the Matrix): 1-1
The Crimson have now won six in a row after their slipup against Fordham and continue to be the odds on favorite for Ivy League champion. Despite a difficult non-conference schedule that included nine road games and several impressive wins, most experts think Harvard once again can't expect to receive an at-large bid, if they were to be tripped up during conference play. The explanation is simple and makes a lot of sense: most of the teams in the Ivy League are bad enough where a loss would be a huge blemish on Harvard's resume and even the Pennsylvania's and Princeton's of the conference aren't exactly powerhouses this year. Now for the good news, Harvard has handled their business thus far in league play, including a blowout at Yale, a game the Crimson couldn't win last season. They've got a manageable weekend ahead with two home games against Cornell and Columbia before their biggest weekend of the year (at Pennsylvania and Princeton-more on this next week).
Projection: 100% Chance Of Postseason Play (95% NCAA, 100% NIT): According to the Bracket Matrix, Harvard averages out to a 10 seed, though they fall anywhere between a seven and a 13 seed. If they can keep winning, I expect them to grab at least an eight seed, if not a seven.
2. UConn Huskies (14-6, 4-4 Big East/RPI (RealTime RPI.com): 28)
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
Earth to UConn! It's time to wake up and get out of this funk, before you slide right out of the bracket, off the bubble and into mediocrity. In the two weeks since we started tracking these teams chances, the Huskies have lost three in a row, fell 24 spots in the RealTimeRPI.com rankings and fell from a consensus three seed, to a seven seed at best. Even with Ryan Boatright back Sunday, UConn was outcoached, outhustled and outplayed by Notre Dame in a 50-48 Fighting Irish victory. In five of the team's six losses, UConn has fallen by single-digits, including by three or less in each of the past three games. What's the problem? Chemistry is a start, as the Huskies can't find any kind of consistency with Boatright in and out of the lineup, and Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier trading the roles of offensive hero and offensive zero. More importantly the team has struggled mightily in the frontcourt, with Alex Oriakhi and Tyler Olander all but disappearing in some games. The scary part is the Huskies haven't even started their hardest stretch in Big East play- that begins tonight against Georgetown.
Projection: 97% Chance of Postseason Play (90% NCAA Tournament, 100% NIT) The Huskies average out to a seven seed according to the Bracket Matrix but it looks like they should be lower. Several projections were out-of-date including Rivals.com (three seed) and the consensus seemed to be a six or a seven seed, with one site giving UConn a 10 seed. That 10 seed isn't outlandish if the Huskies continue to slide.
3. UMass Minutemen (16-5, 5-2 Atlantic 10/RPI: 57)
Best Wins: 72-59 vs. St. Louis (Jan. 28) 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: 2-1
No team had a better week in New England than UMass, and it wasn't even close. With an entire week to prepare for the Atlantic 10's best defense and one of the conference's most dangerous teams, the Minutemen came out on fire and earned a decisive 72-59 victory over St. Louis to earn at least a spot on the bubble. While the Minutemen earned a spot on 20 of the 55 brackets this week, almost every site cited the fact that UMass would currently be the automatic qualifier for the Atlantic 10 because of their record and RPI. UMass currently sits in first place in the conference at 5-2 and earns the tiebreaker with LaSalle and St. Bonaventure because of a superior RPI. With the Atlantic 10 being ultra-competitive and wacky as well this year, UMass could be a legitimate contender to win the conference, but they're much more likely to make a bid at an at-large bid. How can they do it? Avoid bad losses (and they've got three opportunities coming up) and then beat the teams ahead of them in the polls, especially on the road.
Projection: 83% Chance of Postseason Play (28% NCAA Tournament, 90% NIT, 60% CBI/CIT) They only made it onto to 20 brackets but UMass averaged a 13 seed (range was from 11 to 14). At this point UMass is very much on the bubble, sitting anywhere between six to 14 spots out of the tournament, still a ton of work left to do for Derek Kellogg's squad.
4. Boston University Terriers (11-12, 7-2 America East/RPI: 176)
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: 1-4
Well the Terriers NCAA Tournament and NIT odds both took a hit Friday night in a road loss to Stony Brook. With seven games left in America East play, the Terriers sit in a tie for second place in the one-bid league, a game behind Stony Brook. I think the Seawolves are pretty much a lock to lose at least once more, but it won't matter if Boston University doesn't take care of business tonight against rival Vermont. The Catamounts and Terriers are in a tie for second place at 7-2, with both teams having lost to Stony Brook, and the Terriers dropping a road contest at Vermont and the Catamounts falling on the road to a struggling New Hampshire squad. A Vermont win would put the Terriers in third place and all but out of contention for the top spot, which includes the perks of home-court advantage in the conference tournament final or an automatic bid to the NIT. If the Terriers win though, they have a great chance of both of those things, with a relatively easy final six games.
Projection: 25% Chance of Postseason Play (27% NCAA Tournament, 23% NIT): Not surprisingly the Terriers made an appearance on the Bracket Matrix on six (outdated) projections as a 16 seed. Tonight's game and a road contest at Albany could decide the Terriers NIT fate and foreshadow how they fare in the AE Tournament.
5. Northeastern University (11-10, 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
Northeastern's back above .500 for the first time since November and yet their slim-to-none postseason chances continue to dip. Even with a 2-1 effort last week, the Huskies continue to show they're a tier below the top four teams in the Colonial, who continue to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. The Huskies barely survived Delaware's visit to Matthews Arena last Wednesday, as it took a frantic five-point comeback in the final minute to overcome the 9-12 Blue Hens. Husky fans received some good news this week, when Northeastern found out it would host America East leading Stony Brook in their BracketBuster matchup. It's a return to the program's routes, as Northeastern was a former member of America East, and the Seawolves will provide a good challenge for the Huskies as they prepare for the CAA Tournament.
Projection: 3% Chance of Postseason Play (1% NCAA Tournament, 0% NIT, 15% CBI/CIT): I just can't see Northeastern winning one, much less two or three games against the elite teams in the CAA Tournament, especially so far from home (Richmond, VA). The good news is the team's playing well enough to potentially warrant a CBI or CIT bid.
6. Holy Cross Crusaders (9-12, 3-4 Patriot League/RPI: 228)
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
Milan Brown's squad's conference season is playing out in a pretty similar way to last year's 7-7 finish, as the Crusaders jumped out to a 2-0 start, and then went through a rough patch (identical four-game losing streaks). The only question is if the Crusaders can turn it around and recreate last season's 4-2 finish, to at least give them a chance to get back towards the top of the Patriot League standings. At 3-4, Holy Cross sits in sixth of out eight teams and have almost zero chance of making the NCAA Tournament. Holy Cross has been abysmal on the road and would have to win three games on the road to win the conference tournament, which seems improbable at this point. Three road games in the next four, broken up by a home tilt against 5-2 American, could officially start the turnaround, or sink the Crusaders before March even begins.
Projection .5% Chance of Postseason Play (.5% NCAA Tournament): Counter the Crusaders' struggles, with a few pretty balanced and talented teams atop the Patriot League, and the odds of a tournament berth become slimmer every day.
7. Boston College Eagles (7-14, 2-5 Atlantic Coast Conference/RPI: 230)
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: 1-6
I'm starting to run out of positives to bring up with the Eagles right now. Boston College is riding a four-game losing streak and are a still a week away from what is arguably their most difficult stretch in conference play (Florida State, @ Virginia Tech, @ Maryland, Duke). To make matters worse Steve Donahue has ruled freshmen forward Patrick Heckmann out for at least a month with mononucleosis. At this point Donahue's sole goal is to continue the maturation process of his freshmen and that's a very difficult task playing against Top-25 teams that can easily run the Eagles out of the building. At least there's Utah, the Utes remain the only team from a BCS conference with a lower RPI than the Eagles.
Projection: .1% Chance of Postseason (0% NCAA Tournament/NIT, .1% CBI/CIT): Maybe the Eagles have an alum or former administrator on the board of the CBI or CIT...it could happen right?
Check out the Bracket Matrix Project yourself: http://bracketproject.50webs.com/matrix.htm