Friday, March 12, 2010

Siena, Marist Await NCAA Seeding Spots

The blood-shot eyes have recovered from watching approximately 45 hours of basketball over the five days of this past weekend's MAAC tournament. So, hopefully, the look ahead is done with the clear vision renewed by three days of little more than rest.

What's next for still-active MAAC teams is to learn how they'll fall in the NCAA tournament brackets, and whether a couple of the conference's also-rans will continue their respective seasons.

Here's what we know about the men's and women's representatives to the NCAA's:

- The Siena men checked in this morning with a No. 31 RPI which, at best, would theoretically give them a No. 8 seeding position in a 16 team bracket.

But, not so fast ... last year the Saints were No. 18 in the RPI, a number that mathematically might have earned a No. 5 seed. Instead, Siena was slotted in as a No. 9.

This blogger's best guess is that this year's Siena team will get a No. 13 seed based on failing to get a single real "quality" victory. Its best win was over Northeastern in an early season non-league contest. Northeastern's RPI is in the 70 range.

Your blogger surveyed six fairly reputable bracket-predicting sites. Four have Siena getting a No. 12 seed, while two has the Saints at No. 13.

The two best at bracket predictions, Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Jerry Palm of, split on the issue. Lunardi projects Siena as a 12, Palm picks the Saints as a 13.

- The Marist women seem likely to get a similar slot. Probably the most-reputable women's bracket prediction, one done by ESPN, projects the Red Foxes as a No. 12.

Regular readers know this blogger's thoughts on the issue of seeding position, that better isn't necessarily better.

I wrote at this time a year ago that if a MAAC representative wants a legitimate chance of any real advancement in the NCAA event, i.e. getting to the Sweet 16 round, the odds are greatly increased by getting a 12 or a 13 seed over Siena's situation of a year ago when it was a No. 9 seed.

The reason is simple. While a No. 9 might have a decent first-round draw (like Siena getting a good matchup with Ohio State last season), its second-round contest becomes an all-but-certain loss to a No. 1 seed.

The Marist women proved that in 2007, getting a No. 13 seed and winning two NCAA tournament games before falling in the Sweet 16 round. That advancement remains the furthest by any MAAC team, men or women, in the conference's 29-year history.

Teams seeded No. 13 get a No. 4 in the first round and, if they advance, a No. 5 in the second round.

This year's first-round No. 1's coule be Kansas, Duke, Kentucy and Syracuse, teams Siena has almost no chance to beat, which is what it would face in a second-round game as a No. 9 seed.

But this year's No. 4's and No. 5's project to be Temple, Georgetown, Maryland, Butler, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt and Villanova. Very good teams all, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that Siena could beat one from that group (or a team of similar abilities) in the first round and another one in the second round to get to the Sweet 16.

The question then becomes is it more desireable for a MAAC team to have a better chance for a first-round victory, or a more-reasonable opportunity for a chance at the Sweet 16 round.

Your blogger remembers when the mere goal was just to get to the NCAA's. But, the evolution of the conference and the strength of its better teams in recent years has made first-round victories significantly more realistic.

The desire is always for more, and the possibility seems to be there that the more, in this case a trip to the Sweet 16 round, is attainable. But, the best way to get there is as a No. 12 or No. 13 seed and not as a No. 9.

What are the post-season's possibilities for the conference's non-NCAA teams?

The only certainty is that the Iona women, by virtue of their second-place finish in the regular season, will play in the women's NIT. It's an automatic qualifier for a conference's second-place team to go there, provided its regular-season champion (in this case, Marist) secures the league's berth in the NCAA's.

On the men's side, there isn't any certainty for the 32-team NIT field.

Fairfield, which finished second in the regular-season standings and, then, advanced to the MAAC tournament's championship game before losing there to Siena, appears to have the best chance for an NIT berth. Iona, the conference's third-place team in regular-season play, also appears to be on the board, according to one web site that attempts to predict the NIT field (yes, such a site exists).

However, the prediction is that both Fairfield and Iona are on the proverbial bubble for the NIT and appear more likely destined for lesser post-season events, either the CBI or the College Insider post-season tournaments.

For the men, it all gets decided on Sunday evening with the NCAA selections being announced starting at 6 p.m. Afterwards the fields for the NIT, the CBI and the College Insider events will be finalized later Sunday night or on Monday.

The NCAA selections for women take place on Monday evening.

Until then, everything is just speculation, but enjoyable speculation.

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