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Top of the Arc - February 28, 2009

Feb. 28, 8:15 p.m.: With two weeks remaining until the NCAA tournament selection committee unveils the 65-team bracket, several teams are making frantic attempts to secure one of the 34 at-large berths by addressing blemishes in their respective postseason resumes.

The number of prominent yet inconsistent teams still in contention for the final few at-large berths is large because it has been a down year for mid-majors and because many teams possesses profiles that are either particularly bland or mediocre.

That’s good news for a team such as Georgetown, which crept back into the tournament discussion Saturday by earning a must-have victory at Villanova. The Hoyas need to close the regular season with wins against St. John’s and DePaul. Problem is, those wins won’t do much to impress committee members.

Georgetown has played the nation’s toughest schedule and can hang its hat on a road win at Connecticut and a home victory against Memphis. But the Hoyas are just 7-11 against the top 100 in the Ratings Percentage Index. In addition to finishing 8-10 in the Big East, they will need to win two or three games in the Big East tournament.

Virginia Tech, meantime, is just one win away from securing at least a .500 record in the ACC. But the Hokies’s late-season schedule has been brutal, and they finish against North Carolina and at Florida State.

The Hokies, which squandered a chance to solidify their position Saturday against Duke, are 8-7 in road and neutral court games, and all three of their top 50 victories have come on the road. It’s hard not to wonder how the Hokies would be viewed had Xavier not beaten them with a half-court buzzer-beating shot.

One team that is playing its way out of the field is Kentucky, whose low-sixties RPI is in the danger zone. To stay in the hunt, the Wildcats, who are 4-5 against the top 50, will need to beat Georgia and Florida to close the regular season. A poor RPI does not guarantee tournament exclusion, but no team with an RPI worse than 63 has earned an at-large bid in recent years.

A losing conference record also does not guarantee exclusion. The best Notre Dame can do is finish 8-10 in the Big East, and that can occur only if the Irish beat Villanova and St. John’s. An RPI in the low 70s will not cut it; neither will a 4-12 record against the RPI’s top 100. If the Irish don’t make serious noise in the Big East tournament, they are destined for the NIT.

By beating Indiana on Saturday, Penn State avoided what would have been a damaging loss. The Nittany Lions have secured at least a .500 record in the Big Ten. But they have a poor RPI and a less-than-impressive strength of schedule rating. Which means, like many teams clinging to hope this late in the season, they still have work to do.

By Eric Prisbell  |  February 28, 2009; 8:12 PM ET
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