Flunking the Eye Test ... For Now
Sorry Joe, but I just don't see it. Not now. Not at 17-13, 7-10 in the Big East. Not after whatever that was Wednesday night against the Irish.
Now, granted, I didn't major in Bracketology while at URI. More like Astronomy -- as in, I took up a lot of space in class. Joey Brackets apparently remains impressed with the Huskies' RPI (49) and strength of schedule (2), and that's all well and good. But Lunardi seems to be too much of a prisoner of the numbers, and not taking into account the human element. He's like one of those sabermetricians in baseball, who think a guy should get into the Hall of Fame because he's got a great career OBP, without taking into account if the guy was a dominant player over his career.
Please. Hate to trot out the term "eye test," but did your eyes see Wednesday night's ugliness?
UConn has a great win at Villanova, a very good win over West Virginia and a pretty good win over faltering Texas.
But the Huskies are hardly surging into the postseason (4-6 in last 10, two straight losses). They're 3-9 away from home (2-7 on the road, 1-2 neutral). They're in 12th place in the Big East, and they've lost to 11th-place Cincinnati twice.
They've lost to Providence and Michigan, both on the road. There aren't a whole lot of bad road losses, in my book -- especially in the Big East. Winning on the road in this conference isn't easy, no matter who you play. Except DePaul. And Providence.
It's all well and good that the Huskies have played a tough schedule, but you've got to do more than just play good teams. Gotta win some. They did beat Villanova and West Virginia, and they deserve all the credit in the world for it. But those big wins are somewhat cancelled out by the Providence/Michigan/Cincy losses. Almost beating Kentucky, Syracuse, Georgetown and Duke doesn't mean a whole lot.
The tournament selection committee may not take all of the above factors into consideration, but the bottom line is, it's hard to agree with Lunardi right now. And a win Saturday at South Florida won't change that, either.
The Huskies really need to do A LOT of damage in the Big East tourney next week. Win at USF and I'd say UConn needs to at least get to Saturday nignt's championship game to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday. Getting to Friday's semifinals might do the trick. And here's the kicker: THEY CAN DO IT!
Nothing you saw Wednesday night would convince you that the Huskies can make a conference tourney run. Nothing they've done in the past four seasons (in which they've been one-and-done in New York all four times, stunningly) would make you believe that, either. But it's hardly impossible.
As it stands right now, UConn would play Rutgers in their opening game. They've already handled the Scarlet Knights on the road this year, and it's hard to believe they couldn't do it again. Next would be Marquette. Wouldn't bet the house on that one, but not impossible, by any stretch.
Then would come Pitt. Again, a tough challenge. But remember this: in recent years, teams that have already locked up an NCAA bid don't always play as well in the Big East tourney. Last year, three of the Big East's top four seeds (including UConn) lost their conference tourney openers. UConn and Villanova, of course, wound up going to the Final Four.
Not saying that hard-nosed Pitt, under the terrific tutelage of Jamie Dixon, would fall into that same trap. But again, it's possible.
And while we're at it, if UConn somehow gets to the semifinals and finals, it's already proven it can beat Villanova, West Virginia and (almost) Syracuse.
So, there you have it. Can't agree that UConn is in the Big Dance right now, but I'm predicting a decent run at Madison Square Garden. Get to the finals, and they're in.
Provided, of course, they beat USF on Saturday ...