RPI Expert: WVU is in NCAAs
Says 9 Big East teams should make tourney
Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 21:03
It's the point in the college basketball season when fans begin to think about filling out NCAA Tournament brackets. Others begin to judge which teams warrant higher seeds and which bubble teams deserve to be in the tournament.
CollegeRPI.com's Jerry Palm has the daunting task of doing that on a weekly basis for CBSSports.com.
He said it's not easy to do this season, especially considering the fact no teams have separated themselves from the pack just yet.
"This year, we're going to have a much more wide-open tournament than usual, because there doesn't seem to be that big a gap between No. 1 and No. 10 or No. 12 this year," Palm said. "The Mountain West teams are just as capable as teams like Purdue, Notre Dame and even Duke and Kansas."
Another rough aspect that Palm or any other bracketologist has to deal with at this time of year is deciding which teams on the bubble should get in and which ones haven't done enough work and should play in the NIT.
This year, it's much different than in the past because of a much weaker bubble and not as many teams that are clear locks into the tournament yet, he said.
"I'm putting teams in a bracket this year that really are surprising. It's like, ‘Oh my God, I'm left with this pile for my last few spots,'" Palm said. "Part of that is because there are three more spots, but I think even if we had a 34-team pool this year, it wouldn't be much better."
As for the Big East Conference, Palm said the nation's best league has nine teams that should be locks for the tournament.
That list of teams includes West Virginia.
The Mountaineers hit nearly every category Palm said he looks at when determining which teams should be in the tournament. They have no losses to teams ranked lower than No. 100 in the RPI and quality wins over teams like Purdue and Notre Dame.
Even WVU's loss to Marshall doesn't look that bad anymore, considering the Herd are ranked No. 52 in the RPI.
"I see (West Virginia) as kind of a borderline top-25 team," Palm said. "I realize they've got a lot of losses, but they've beaten a lot of good teams, too. They don't have a bad loss. It has generally taken a pretty good team to beat them."
Palm has the Mountaineers as a No. 7 seed facing UCLA in the first round with possible matchups against Texas and Syracuse if WVU can advance.
The two Big East teams that could still have some work to do to solidify a spot in the NCAA Tournament in Palm's eyes are Cincinnati and Marquette.
"The most likely one to miss will be Marquette, just because they've been such a home-court hero," Palm said. "They did win at Connecticut the other day, which was big for them. But, they've got a tough schedule left, and I don't know how much of a margin for error they really have.
"I don't think Cincinnati can afford to lose out, but they're a lot closer than Marquette is."
The one thing that holds Cincinnati back from being a solid lock is its weak nonconference strength of schedule. Unlike the Bearcats, Marquette played a lot of competitive teams in the nonconference schedule, but just didn't win those games.
Palm is struggling equally with deciding on his four No. 1 seeds for the tournament.
Last Friday, when he last updated his bracket on CBS, Palm had Pitt, Ohio State, Kansas and San Diego State as his top seeds.
Since then, two of them have lost.
"I don't know," Palm said when asked about what teams he was give a No. 1 seed. "I guess Duke could get one, maybe, by default. I don't really think much of them in terms of being a one-seed, though. I'll have to look at BYU."
"It's going to be a wide open tournament this year."