O26 Storylines: On Harvard, Atlantic 10, #dunkcity Again…Posted by Adam Stillman on February 14th, 2014
We are a little more than four weeks away from Selection Sunday. And the bubble picture is as muddled as ever. Let’s check out this week’s O26 storylines:
Is Harvard in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament?
Harvard was basically penciled into the NCAA Tournament before the season began. If the Crimson weren’t able to secure an at-large bid, certainly they’d run away with the Ivy League. Right? Well, all of the sudden Harvard isn’t looking like such a sure thing. You can thank Yale and its shocking 74-67 win AT Harvard last Saturday for that. Now those two sit atop the Ivy League standings with a 5-1 conference record. Furthermore, Yale boasts a more favorable schedule the rest of the way. The Bulldogs close out the season with a combination of four home games and four road games, including the return home game with Harvard. The Crimson, on the other hand, hit the road for six of their final eight contests. Is it time to hit the panic button for Harvard? Not quite yet, but the Ivy favorite is making things much harder than they should be. It still wouldn’t be a surprise to see Harvard win the league by a few games and earn the conference’s automatic bid without much trouble. But this storyline definitely can’t be overlooked for now. Ken Pomeroy projects Harvard as the favorite in all eight of its games, and predicts the Crimson will win the league with a 9-3 final record. Pomeroy projects Yale as the favorite in five of its last eight games, predicting the Bulldogs will finish with a 10-4 conference mark. It would be a travesty to see such a talented team miss the Big Dance, but the possibility of that happening isn’t all that far-fetched.
Can VCU keep pace in the Atlantic 10 race?
Saint Louis is on the verge of running away with the A-10 regular-season title. The Billikens (9-0 in league play) host VCU (7-2 in league play) on Saturday with a chance to move three games ahead of the second-place Rams. That would be a lot of ground to make up with just six games left on the docket. SLU, the defending regular season and tournament champions, can go a long way toward a repeat with a win Saturday at a sold-out Chaifetz Arena. Sure, there’s a return game at VCU on March 1, the only game the Billikens aren’t favored to win the rest of the way, per Ken Pomeroy. And that includes a season-ending trip to Massachusetts. Pomeroy projects the Billikens to finish 14-2 to take the title, with VCU coming in second at 12-4. The Rams need to steal a win Saturday, otherwise it’s looking like two straight A-10 titles for SLU. For more insight on Saturday’s game, read Tommy Lemoine’s excellent preview.
How many bids can the Atlantic 10 get?
The Atlantic 10 had one of its best seasons in recent memory last year, sending three teams to the NCAA Tournament. The league didn’t make a whole lot of noise. SLU, VCU and La Salle all fell in the second round — sorry I refuse to call it the third round. La Salle did escape the First Four before upsetting Ole Miss in the first round. Yet it was still a banner year for the league. Is it possible this year could be even better? I think so. SLU, VCU and UMass are all safe bets to earn at-large bids. It would be a shocking development should any of those teams tank down the stretch and miss the Big Dance. George Washington and its #32 RPI also seem like a pretty good bet to earn an at-large bid. Both ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS’ Jerry Palm have that quartet safely in the field. Then you have to consider a trio of teams — Saint Joseph’s, Richmond and Dayton — are all in the NCAA Tournament conversation. Palm places Richmond in the First Four while putting Dayton in the First Four Out category. Lunardi puts Richmond and Saint Joseph’s in the First Four Out while placing Dayton in the Next Four Out. Although so-called middling majors will continue to eat themselves alive, there’s inevitable going to be at least one or two surprise conference tournament winners. But a four-bid year for the A-10 is nothing to sneeze at.
Is Florida Gulf Coast’s 15 minutes of fame up?
First let me state that there’s no way to top what FGCU did last season. The Eagles became the first #15 seed in NCAA Tournament history to reach the Sweet Sixteen. They even gave Florida a battle once they got there. Fast forward to 2013-14. No Andy Enfield, no Sherwood Brown. FGCU is done right? It might be easy to say that by glancing at its record. The Eagles are 16-10 overall and 10-3 in the Atlantic Sun after an 89-81 loss to East Tennessee State on Thursday night. But that’s actually not far off what FGCU did last year in regular-season play. In fact, this year’s team is on pace to finish with a better conference record than last year’s Cinderella squad. FGCU finished the regular season at 21-10 and 13-5 in Atlantic Sun play. With five games remaining, including a home game with league leader Mercer (10-2 A-Sun), it’s not out of the question for FGCU to win the league. Even if they don’t, history is on their side. The Eagles won the A-Sun Tournament last season as the #2 seed, defeating none other than Mercer on its home floor to win the league’s automatic bid. While it’s the longest of long shots for FGCU to do what it did last year, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Dunk City. Even though Ken Pomeroy projects FGCU to finish 13-5 in the league, with Mercer winning it at 15-3.
Can Delaware win a game in the NCAA Tournament?
There’s no doubt that Delaware can light up the scoreboard. The Blue Hens score 80.3 points per game, good for 25th in the nation. Devon Saddler leads a whopping five players in double figures at 20.4 ppg. Davon Usher (19.4 ppg), Jarvis Threatet when he returns from suspension (17.9 ppg), Kyle Anderson (11.1 ppg) and Carl Baptiste (10.7 ppg) all can fill up the scoring column. Delaware hasn’t been able to knock off any big boys quite yet, although it was competitive in losses to Villanova (84-80) and Ohio State (76-64). We’ve seen it plenty of times before. A mid-major gets hot, scores a bunch and pulls a huge upset. With the offensive firepower the Blue Hens possess, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Delaware as one of those teams. The Blue Hens are riding a 13-game winning streak and lead the Colonial Athletic Association by three games with five to play. Granted Delaware wins the CAA Tournament, which is no easy task with Towson, Drexel and William and Mary providing legitimate challenges, the Blue Hens could be a name to know in March.