Friday, March 6, 2009

Bubble Watch: Lunardi Says PC In, URI Out...For Now

ESPN Bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, spoke to ProJo about PC's and URI's chance of making the NCAA tournament:

A lot of press people around the country are picking the NCAA field at this point but none is higher profile than ESPN's Joe Lunardi.

ESPN just held a national conference call with Lunardi and was asked by The Journal to give his spin on both PC and URI's chances of getting in the field. His answers won't make many fans around here happy.

Lunardi has the Friars as a 12 seed and one of the final teams in his current bracket. He does not consider URI as all that close to getting in.

"The Pitt win is what is giving (Providence) credibility at the moment," said Lunardi. The unbalanced schedule in the Big East will ultimately keep them out. They played a softer schedule than some other bubble teams and the committee will see that. In my current bracket, Providence and Penn State are the most likely to play their way out."

PC can alter its perception with another major win, such at Villanova Thursday. It's certainly unclear that a 1st round Big East tourney win over Cincinnati or Notre Dame will be enough to not make palms very sweaty for the Friars on Selection Sunday.

Lunardi, who is the radio color man for Saint Joseph's and usually gives serious props to the Atlantic 10, is not hot on the Rams even though Rhody is one of the hottest teams in the country.

"To continue my lack of love for the basketball fans of Rhode Island, I think this talk for URI is a little bit over-blown," he said. "I'm not seeing a team that with their RPI and schedule strength and with best wins being Dayton at home and Penn State on a neutral court. I think they're an NIT team unless they get really, really deep in the A-10 tournament. Rhode Island has done a good job of coming really, really close against tournament teams and I don't think it's a good year for the Atlantic 10 or URI."

Even so, Lunardi is leaving the possibility open for the Rams to win the A-10 tournament and join Xavier and Dayton in the field. "Dayton isn't very good away from home and Xavier is not playing its best basketball so the possibility of Rhode Island, Temple or Saint Joseph's to win is very real," he said.
Comments: Seems like the Rams are not going to get an at-large bid unless they reach the finals of the A-10 tournament. That is not a surprise since I have been saying that for a few weeks now. They just didn't play a good enough schedule and have enough big wins to beat out some other teams. It's not entirely impossible that URI could win the A-10 tournament, but I don't think it will be easy. I could see them losing to a St. Joe's or Temple team before they even get to Dayton & Xavier.

For PC, it seems like they have a better chance to make the tournament, but will have to win at least two games in the Big East tournament at this point, which means most likely they will have to beat one of the top 4 teams in their second game, which won't be an easy task.

Also, check out the updated Bubble Watch, via ESPN, that was updated before PC's loss to Villanova last night:

Providence [18-11 (10-7), RPI: 69, SOS: 56] The Friars haven't played since winning 73-66 at Rutgers on Sunday, but they've still won big this week. With Georgetown, Cincinnati and Notre Dame losing, Providence has the best chance of becoming the Big East's eighth participant in the NCAA tournament. It has won four of its past six games, including a stunning 81-73 upset of then No. 1-ranked Pittsburgh on Feb. 24. The Friars are 3-7 against RPI top-50 opponents, 5-11 against the top 100 and 4-5 in road games. Providence closes the regular season at Villanova on Thursday night, but it already is guaranteed of finishing at least 10-8 in Big East play. An upset of Villanova would go a long way toward locking up an NCAA at-large bid. Even if Providence loses in Philadelphia, it probably could earn an at-large bid by winning one or two games in the upcoming Big East tournament in New York. The Friars swept two games against Cincinnati, plus beat Syracuse and Rhode Island at home.

Rhode Island [22-8 (11-4), RPI: 48, SOS: 132] The Rams have won six games in a row and 10 of their past 12 to climb into the bubble discussion. Rhode Island has two home victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Dayton 93-91 in overtime on Feb. 25 and Temple 67-59 on Jan. 28. It also beat Virginia Commonwealth at home and Penn State on a neutral court. The Rams probably need to beat Massachusetts at home Saturday, and maybe win one or two games in the upcoming Atlantic 10 tournament. Rhode Island is 2-5 against RPI top-50 opponents and 6-6 against the top 100. It will get help from its stellar 9-5 record in road games.

More: Providence College & URI

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