Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mock Committee Says Siena is Worthy

In the MAAC's history only one team, the 1994-95 Manhattan squad, has ever been awarded an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.

Could there be another one this season?

There's at least a chance for that, according to a mock selection committee of 20 national media members and sports information/media directors who recently participated in process, similar to what will actually be conducted by the NCAA's selection committee, to hypothetically select the NCAA tournament field.

The mock committee, provided with a series of hypothetical scenarios, awarded Siena an at-large bid should the Saints finish regular-season play with just one regular-season conference loss and, then, lose in the MAAC tournament's championship game.

The mock committee awarded the Saints the final of 34 at-large bids, gave Siena a No. 12 seeding position in a 16-team bracket and matched the Saints up with UCLA in a first-round contest.

The 20 media members debated for 12 hours and, then, were paired into 10 teams of two. Each two-man team represented one member of the NCAA's actual 10-member selection committee and casted secret ballots throughout the process after considering a variety of scenarios.

According to the blog the mock selection was not meant to predict the NCAA field if selections were made today, but rather what could happen in March.

"The automatic qualifiers have some random upsets involved and so forth," the blog reported. "The committee is throwing wild cards and wrenches into things to prove points and make things interesting."

Siena is currently 20-6 overall and 14-1 in MAAC play. The Saints are ranked 27th nationally in the most-recent Ratings Percentage Index report. Only one team with an RPI in the top-30 (Missouri State in 2006) has ever failed to receive an at-large berth.

Several mock committee members spoke about their reasons for giving the Saints the hypothetical at-large berth.

"Siena has three things that you need to be successful in March: athleticism, toughness and experience," said CBS college basketball analyst Seth Davis. "They actually have a similar profile to Davidson's last year -- a tough non-conference schedule that included a lot of losses, but which served as great prepration for the post season. The fact that they returned all their starters from a team that won a first-round game last year is also critical. These guys have played together a long time, and they have confidence knowing they have succeeded in the tournament before. Believe me, any coach who sees their name pop up next to Siena's on the Selection Show is going to have a fitful night's sleep."

ESPN senior writer Andy Katz also spoke favorably about the Saints, saying "Siena struggled early but didn't fade. Ultimately Siena did the right thing - the Saints scheduled well, built up their RPI and coasted in the MAAC toward the league title. That's the recipe for a potential bid and a decent seed once again."

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