Thursday, February 23, 2012

Iona Seems To Have Case for NCAA At-Large Bid

The Iona men's basketball team has a 22-6 record, entering play this weekend, with two remaining games, both at home. If it can win both and, then, win all the way to the MAAC's post-season tournament's championship game, it would have 26 victories.

It has the highest scoring average (83.1 points) of any team nationally, the national assist leader in Scott Machado (10.1 per game) and quality non-conference victories over Nevada (No. 58 nationally in the Ratings Percentage Index), Denver (No. 74), Maryland (16-11 overall), Vermont (19-11), St. Joseph's (18-11), LIU (21-7) and Richmond (15-14).

Is it all enough for the Gaels to get an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament, provided it doesn't win the conference's post-season event and the MAAC's automatic qualifying berth to the national championship tournament?

At the very least, Iona is currently very strongly on the proverbial tournament bubble.

In all, 68 teams either earn automatic berths or are picked as at-large entrants to the so-called "Big Dance."

The Gaels are currently rated No. 44 nationally in the RPI's, and 52nd in the KenPom and Sagarin ratings.

Those numbers would indicate that Iona is a probable at-large team for the NCAA's, should it not capture the MAAC's automatic berth.

The Gaels would likely need to win their final two regular-season games (over Fairfield and Saint Peter's) and, then, their first two MAAC tournament games to do so. But in winning those games Iona's rating would likely move up at least a few spots in the national polls.

And, currently, two of the top "bracketologists" who operate internet sites, Joe Linardi for ESPN, and Shawn Siegel for collegehoopnets, both currently project Iona to be a No. 13 seed in a 16-team bracket. Both those projections, though, are made based on the Gaels capturing the MAAC's post-season event and the conference's automatic bid.

Working against Iona is history. In the MAAC's previous 30 years only the 1995 Manhattan team has been at large berth to the NCAA event.

And, the Gaels' current relatively high rating , or one slightly higher, isn't a guarantee that they will get in.

A year ago Harvard was rated 36th nationally in the RPI's, and did not get an at-large berth. And, there are several teams every year rated in the top 50 nationally in the RPI's that don't get into the NCAA event.

But Iona certainly ranks favorably with more than a half-dozen teams getting mentioned prominently as tournament teams in the bracketology projects.

Let's take a look at some:

- Seton Hall (picked as high as a 12th seed) has a 19-9 record, is in eighth place in the Big East standings and has lost seven of its last 11 games.

- Xavier (picked as high as a 12th seed) has a 17-10 record and is in fourth place in the Atlantic 10.

- Northwestern (picked as high as a 12th seed) has a 16-11 record and stands eighth in the Big 10.

- Miami (picked as high as a 12th seed) has a 16-10 record and is sixth in the ACC.

- North Carolina Statge (picked as high as a 13th seed) has an 18-10 record and is fifth in the ACC.

All five of the teams mentioned above aren't likely to win conference tournaments, so they're picked in the bracket predictions as at-large teams.

It would seem that Iona has a better case than those five, and several other potential at-large teams.

And, it would seem, that the Gaels have a legitimate case to be the MAAC's second-ever at-large team should it not decide the issue on its own by capturing the conference's post-season tournament and an automatic bid to the Big Dance.


Guy Falotico said...

Love your optimism. I just have a hard time believing the committee would give a MAAC team that would have lost 4 games to MAAC teams an at-large bid. But as you said, the bubble's pretty weak, so...

Steve Amedio said...

Guy --

Thanks for reading.
And, thanks for the very objective view of this issue ... one that comes from one of the best, as well as best-informed Iona fans.
I do honestly think Iona has at least a 50-50 chance for an at-large, provided it wins out in the regular season and gets to the MAAC tournament's final.
Those non-league victories will help.
It would be nicer, though, for the Gaels to decide things on their own.