Monday, March 9, 2009

Where Do Top Teams Go Now?

ALBANY, N.Y. - We know Siena is going to the NCAA tournament, but their destination, seeding and opponent won't be decided until that tournament's field is revealed Sunday evening.

And, we can expect that Niagara will be going someplace.

But, that's as definite as we can get right now.

So, let the speculation begin ...

Siena was a 13 seed in a 16-team NCAA bracket a year ago with a 22-10 record after winning the 2008 MAAC tournament crown. Once there, it earned a first-round victory with an 83-62 upset over Vanderbilt.

"I'm no bracketologist, but I think we'll get a higher seed than last year," said Saints' coach Fran McCaffery.

Siena, currently 26-7 (its most victories in a season since it became a Division I program) entered Monday's game as No. 24 nationally (of 343 Division I teams) in the NCAA's Ratings Percentage Index.

At worst, that should translate into a No. 12 seeding position and, more probably a No. 11.

One "bracketologist," Joe Lunardi of ESPN, believes Siena could be a No. 10 seed.

"I feel good about our chances (to win a first-round game)," said McCaffery late Monday night. "It's not like we snuck in. We've proven over a period of time that we're a real good team.

"That said, what we get (in a first-round game) will be another very good team. But, at least we'll go into the game believing that we have a legitimate shot if we have a good seed.

"We went into this season with the idea of playing a difficult non-league schedule so that if we did get in it would help us get a good seed and have a win-able game.

"I feel good about going in. Having been through everything involved, from the media attention and everything else ... it can only help."

And, what about Niagara?

With a 26-8 overall record, Niagara appears to be a lock for an NIT berth.

But Purple Eagles' coach Joe Mihalich was hoping for more.

"I would hope that we still have a chance for the NCAA's (with an at-large berth)," said the Niagara coach. "We won 26 games ... we should at least be on the board."

That, though, might a longshot wish.

Niagara entered Monday's championship game with Siena ranked No. 51 in the RPI's, territory that traditionally doesn't get mid-major level teams an at-large berth.

Still, by losing to a higher-rated team on the opponent's home court might move the Purple Eagles up a few notches on the RPI ladder.

Whether that's good enough for them to get serious consideration for the NCAA's ....

Well, this humble blogger will echo McCaffery's sentiments about NCAA tournament expertise. I'm no bracketologist, either.

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