Thursday, March 1, 2012

UConn Could Finish As No. 8-11 Seed for BE Tourney

Jim Calhoun won't be at UConn's practice today. Still possible he'll return Friday and be on sidelines for Saturday's bout with Pitt, but far from certain at this point.

*** UConn desperately needs a win Saturday against Pitt to keep its flickering hopes for an NCAA tournament bid alive. There's another reason it would behoove the Huskies to beat the Panthers, however: there's still a chance (however small) for UConn to earn the No. 8 seed in next week's Big East tournament and get a first-round bye.

This is hardly as important as keeping Big Dance hopes alive, but it matters to writers like me (and fans like you) who'd like to have an idea when we need to get to New York City for the conference tourney.

If the season ended today, UConn would be the tournament’s No. 10 seed and play No. 15 seed Providence at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Of course, the season doesn’t end today. It will end on Saturday, and the Huskies could finish as anywhere from the No. 8 to No. 11 seed.

For UConn to get the eighth seed, a lot of things would have to go its way. But it’s possible.

In a nutshell: UConn must beat Pitt on Saturday, Seton Hall must lose at DePaul (unlikely, but certainly possible) and West Virginia must lose at USF (fairly likely).

If that all happens, there’ll be a three-way tie for eighth between UConn, Seton Hall and WVU, all at 8-10. In the three-team “mini-conference” between the teams, Seton Hall and UConn would be 2-1, and WVU would be eliminated at 0-2.

Since Seton Hall and UConn split their two games, the next tiebreak would be each team’s record against teams occupying the highest position in the conference standings. Both teams lost to both Syracuse and Marquette. If Georgetown finishes in sole possession of third, Seton Hall gets the No. 8 seed since it beat the Hoyas on Feb. 21. If South Florida finishes alone in third, UConn is the eighth seed since it beat the Bulls on Dec. 28.

If Notre Dame finishes alone in third, nothing is determined because UConn went 1-1 and Seton Hall went 0-1, an unequal amount of games played.

With Marquette at 13-4, Gerogetown, Notre Dame and USF all at 12-5 and Cincinnati at 11-6, however, it seems rather certain that there will be a multiple-team tie for third. At that point, the records of both UConn and Seton Hall against those multiple teams are compared. Far too many possibilities to detail right now, however.

Oh, and the Huskies could still finish as the 11th seed, if Rutgers (5-11) beats Villanova at home tonight and St. John’s at home on Saturday and UConn loses to Pitt. Both Rutgers and UConn would finish 7-11, and Rutgers would get the higher seed since it beat the Huskies in their lone head-to-head battle.

Bottom line: UConn needs to beat Pitt on Saturday – for reasons far beyond Big East tournament seed. If the Huskies lose to Pitt, they pretty much need to win the Big East tournament (or at least get to the finals) to get the NCAA bid. If they beat Pitt, they may only need to win two, maybe three games in New York next week to earn a bid.

*** I’ve heard a lot of comparisons between this year’s UConn team and the underachieving 2009-10 squad that lost to Virginia Tech in the NIT.

While both teams have fallen far short of expectations, there are some marked differences. The ’09-10 team had talent (Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson, Gavin Edwards and a sophomore named Kemba Walker), but this year’s squad boasts two likely 2012 lottery picks (Andre Drummond, Jeremy Lamb) and plenty of other good players.

There is one glaring similarity between the two teams, however: an inability to win close games. The ’09-10 team was a wretched 1-8 in games decided by five points or less. This year’s team isn’t quite as bad – 3-6 – but that’s still a far cry from last season. A year ago, the Huskies were 6-3 in such games during the regular season, then 5-0 in the postseason, adding up to 11-3 overall.

Miss Kemba much?

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