Five Days until Selection Sunday.  Exams are underway for teams that hope a semester of underperforming can be wiped out with an A+ on the Final.  Let me start by saying the selection process is less than scientific and an imperfect system.  Most conferences (due to 12+ members) have unbalanced schedules-the committee is somehow supposed to separate the wheat from the chaff among 351 schools and to figure out to the third decimal point who the 36 best at-large teams are?  There will be surprises Sunday night…and the committee will always justify the seeds and snubs on slippery slopes of reasoning that resembles the famed “there’s a hole in the bucket” thought process.

First to the in-crowd:

Virginia– ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi has the Cavaliers as a #1 in the South facing Texas Southern, while CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm has them a #2 in the South playing Weber State.  Either way, they’re ticketed to Raleigh.  Even in a year when the ACC Tournament is in DC, UVa faithful can’t avoid the Tar Heel state.

Maryland– the Terps recent slide (four losses in six games) drops them down the pecking order placement-wise:  instead of Brooklyn or Providence both ESPN and CBS have them playing in Denver as a #4 seed.  ESPN sets them up with Stephen F. Austin and CBS matches them with Akron.

VCU– is that a thread I see above the Rams?  Both models have the Rams playing Texas Tech in Raleigh:  ESPN has the Rams as the West’s 9th seed while CBS has Will Wade’s team #10 South.  Just like last year, there are more than a few qualified Atlantic 10 at-large candidates.  If VCU stumbles early in Brooklyn this week, prepare for several sleepless nights before Sunday.

 

On the Outside Looking In-

George Washington (22-9, 11-7 Atlantic 10) after losing its regular season finale to Davidson needs a deep run in the A-10 Tournament.  Preferably the finals.  They have one really good win (Virginia in November) and their best victory in conference play came at VCU (three weeks before losing at home to the Rams). Losses to Dayton, Saint Joseph’s and St. Bonaventure make it difficult for GW to seem more deserving than those three schools–unless they get to Sunday after winning three straight days.

Virginia Tech (18-13, 10-8 ACC).  HOW DID THE HOKIES GET ON THIS LIST?  Five straight wins gives Buzz Williams and company their first winning conference and overall record since 2011.  If for some reason they’re able to reach the semifinals (it would mean they would have beaten #11 Miami twice in less than a week), they’d be right back where Seth Greenberg had them for four straight years:  the wrong side of the bubble.

 

On the Outside Not Knowing Where to Look-

Georgetown (14-17, 7-11 Big East) tries to mount a miraculous run at Madison Square Garden:  the Hoyas need four wins in four nights…and they’ve won a total of five games over the last two months.  One thing we’ve learned about the Big East Tournament is that every so often a player can take over…(think Gerry McNamara 2006)…and DVauntes Smith-Rivera could very well be that guy.  If they want to keep this season alive, he’ll need to be…

George Mason (11-20, 5-13 Atlantic 10) needs to match its regular season win total over five days to advance to the NCAA Tournament.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pull an upset of George Washington as they’ve topped the likes of Davidson and VCU this winter, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if they lost to Saint Louis for the second time this season in the first round.

Howard (12-19, 6-10 MEAC). If last winter was a dream season for the James Gang, this season has turned into a nightmare for coach Kevin Nickelberry’s team.  Injuries, snowstorms, malfunctioning clocks…the Bison have seen just about everything.

 

Bids Claimed Monday–

CAA– UNC-Wilmington beats Hofstra 80-73 in overtime behind 20 points from senior guard Craig Ponder.  The league also concludes its three year stay in Baltimore-heading to Charleston, SC next year.  Quite a contrast…

MAAC– Iona bounces Monmouth and their spontaneous bench players 79-76…as the Hawks remain in the at-large mix thanks to early-season wins over UCLA, USC and Notre Dame.  Their win over Georgetown?  Perhaps not the boost they were hoping for…

Southern– Chattanooga tops East Tennessee State 73-67 as alum Dennis Haskins hopes to get Zack, Kelly, Slater, Jessie, Lisa and Screech back together at The Max for an NCAA Tournament gamewatch.  Was it more encouraging or disturbing that a high school principal was that invested in his students?

 

On Tap Tonight–

8PM–MEAC First Round–Howard plays North Carolina Central.  The Bison won the regular season meeting 71-69 on December 7th.  That victory improved James Daniel III and company to 6-3…and they’ve won six games since.  The Eagles closed the regular season with five wins in their last nine games…and are the league’s second best three-point shooting team.  The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference holds its Men and Womens’ tournaments concurrently, creating multiple off days for teams:  the Howard women after upsetting Maryland-Eastern Shore Monday won’t play until Thursday.  Who needs to stay in Norfolk when you can go home for two days?

 

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