Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Who Will MAAC Teams Meet In NCAA Event?

We know one thing for certain as college basketball sorts out the contenders and the pretenders for national post-season tournaments: Two MAAC teams will play in the biggest dance of them all, the NCAA tournament.

Make that one men's team and one women's team.

Loyola advances to the men's event and Marist moves on to the women's tournament, both getting there by virtue of winning the MAAC's own post-season tournament.

And, now, the question becomes seeding position. Make that the all-important seeding position.

Get seeded 16th and you face a No. 1 seed, one of the top four teams in the country, and almost certain first-round elimination. Get a No. 15 and face a No. 2, again an almost certain early trip home.

Things get a little better after that. Then again, don't move up too high. Marist, if memory serves, was a No. 10 seed last season, which put it in a semi-favorable draw against a No. 7, in Iowa State. Marist won that contest, 74-64, but moved on to face a No. 2, Duke.

The Red Foxes nearly upset the Blue Devils in the tournament's second round before Duke rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to win, 71-66, and end Marist's season.

Barring a near-perfect season, no MAAC team will ever be seeded in the top four or five positions in a 16-team bracket. And, even an unblemished record might not be good enough for that.

The best a MAAC team can hope for if it aspires to advance in the national championship event is, probably, a No. 12 or No. 13 seed.

A No. 12 draws a No. 5 in the opening round, surely not an insurmountable task. Same for a No. 13, which draws a No. 4. If a No. 12 seed gets a first-round upset, it gets a No. 4 seed in the second round; or, a No. 5 seed if it wins as a fifth-seeded team.

The potential for winning two tournament games is probably as good as it gets for MAAC teams, and in the 31-year history of the conference only one team has ever won two NCAA tournament games in the seame season.

That was in 2007 when the Marist women, as the No. 13 seed (they were vastly underrated by the selection committee) upset fourth-seeded Ohio State in the first round and, then, No. 5 seed Middle Tennessee in the second round. That run ended when Tennesee handed Marist a 65-46 loss in the round of 16.

So, how are MAAC teams likely to be bracketed this season? We won't know for sure until seeds and match-ups are revealed in the respective selection shows Sunday night.

But, we can make some guesses. Or, at least, the so-called experts who predict brackets for national internet sites, can make the guesses for us.

Joe Lunardi, ESPN's bracketologist, rates the Loyola men as a No. 15 seed, which means they'll go up against a No. 2 seed. Certainly an unenviable position. And, particularly, if the rest of Lunardi's prediction comes true.

He projects that Loyola will be sent to play its first-round game in Greensboro, N.C., and play Duke in the Blue Devils' backyard.

The CBS internet bracket guru is Jerry Palm, and he also figures Loyola to be a 15th seed. He projects the Greyhounds will be playing Michigan State in Louisville.

On the women's side ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme places Marist as a No. 13 seed to meet No. 4 Georgia Tech. It's certainly not a certain loss for the Red Foxes, if it comes to pass.

But, Creme's prediction is that Marist will be playing in Baton Rouge, on LSU's home court and, potentially, facing a second-round game against site host No. 5 seeded LSU.

Another site, "College Sports Madness," puts Marist one spot higher, as a No. 12 seed and has the same opponent for the Red Foxes, Georgia Tech (which it rates as a No. 5 seed). But, that site does not predict what site would host the game.

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