Chat with Joe Lunardi
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN college basketball Bracketology expert Joe Lunardi will drop by to chat as this year's tournament bracket has fully played out.
Lunardi is the resident bracketologist for ESPN. In fact, he invented Bracketology and has been projecting the NCAA Tournament field for ESPN.com since its inception.
Send your questions now and join Lunardi Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
Joe Lunardi (3:02 PM)
Hello, everyone. Happy Spring!
Bill (Washington, DC)
Joe, what's your guess as to the bigger winner in terms of increased bids from tournament expansion: strong mid-major teams or average power conference teams?
Joe Lunardi (3:05 PM)
Definitely the latter, Bill. For instance, my mock 96-team field for the season just ended had 13 Big East teams. And the actual combination of the two tournaments -- NCAA plus NIT -- also had 13 Big East teams (along with marked increases from the other power conferences). I'm also hearing that there will not be automatic bids for regular season champions, which would further tilt the answer.
So are you waiting until after underclassmen declare to do your 2011 bracketology?
Joe Lunardi (3:06 PM)
We will post a 2011 bracket next week. It's not clear if we're doing 65 or 96 teams (or both).
Nick (Madison, WI)
I know Bo Ryan has his system, and likes to recruit players who will buy into that system and not give him trouble. Do you think he should be trying to get more upper-echelon players, in order to start making deeper runs in the tournament?
Joe Lunardi (3:07 PM)
I think Bo Ryan is a lot smarter than anyone else about what can work in Madison. He has also been plenty successful in the NCAA tournament as far as I'm concerned.
What do you think of Missouri's NCAA tourney chances next season?
Joe Lunardi (3:08 PM)
Mizzou has recruited well enough to remain in the NCAA tournament picture (at 65 teams). At 96 teams, it's not even a question.
The bracketing rule that teams from the same conference should not meet before the elite eight was broken this year. Do you think this will continue next year also, perhaps even changing "elite eight" to "sweet sixteen"? Also, if you had known the committee would disregard this rule would your final bracket have looked any different this year?
Joe Lunardi (3:11 PM)
All good questions, A.J. The Committee didn't actually break any rules with this year's bracket, they simply utilized (for the first time) a provision that's been in place since the Big East expanded. Whether we think that's good or bad is a different question. I'm concerned more about what new bracketing rules may be coming if/when the field expands. It will be impossible to keep teams from the same leagues apart much beyond the first weekend.
Joe, will the committee lowball Tennessee for a 4th consecutive year in 2011 or did the Vols "prove" something this year?
Joe Lunardi (3:13 PM)
If memory serves, Tennessee was the beneficiary of a huge Committee error in 2006 (as a No. 2 seed). Florida, the eventual national champion and obviously better team, was a No. 3 seed. This directly impacted the ability of Villanova (the No. 1 seed in Florida's region) to reach the Final Four. The Vols, meanwhile, were upset in the second round.
Joe, do you see Xavier in the top 25 next year if Jordan Crawford stays. They have a killer recruiting class coming in with Justin Martin, Jay Canty, and Jordan Latham. Could this be the year Xavier finally makes it to a final four?
Joe Lunardi (3:14 PM)
Yes, Matt, Xavier absolutely would be ranked in the preseason Top 25 if Crawford returns. I also think they'd be pretty good without him. He hogs the ball in my opinion.
Who will be the best in the Big East next year? I'm a G'Town alum... I think it will come down to us and Nova. Thoughts?
Joe Lunardi (3:15 PM)
If Greg Monroe returns, Georgetown is the team to beat in the Big East and a Final Four favorite.
Russ (Louisville, KY)
Throw out all the talk of expansion ... even if there is no other change, won't the new Great West conference qualify for an automatic bid next year, forcing a second opening-round game on the Tuesday after Selection Sunday?
Joe Lunardi (3:16 PM)
I don't believe so, Russ. The Great West would not yet meet the continuous membership criteria for an automatic qualifier.
can unc actually make the tourney next year now that they have 25 mcdonalds all americans?
Joe Lunardi (3:18 PM)
Good one, Kenny. And, yes, one would have to think North Carolina will be an NCAA team next year (regardless of the size of the field).
Joe, I'm calling it right now UNLV is a contender for the Final Four. They return EVERYONE from a team that won 25 games, got to the MWC final, and lost to UNI in the closing seconds. They have plenty of size and good back court depth, plus a NBA guard in Tre'Von Willis. They are a team that has grown up together. Don't be surprised if UNLV is in San Antonio.
Joe Lunardi (3:19 PM)
I like your optimism, Brian. UNLV is indeed looking at a very good seed in our first bracket for next season.
Bert (Spokane, WA)
Where will the new "opening round" be played? At subregional sites where Rounds 1 and 2 will be?
Joe Lunardi (3:20 PM)
The new "first round" will be an sub-regional sites. The existing second round will move to the regional sites in advance (Tuesday/Wednesday) of the Sweet 16. That is my understanding, anyway.
Although the loss crushed me, you can't say enough about what Butler did not only in March but throughout the season. I know each season is supposed to be treated on its own, but how much does a performance like Butler's play into next year when it comes to potential seeding? It appears Butler's #5 seed was the ceiling for Butler going into Selection Sunday (even though us in Bulldog Nation though they deserved better) -- Butler still has to play in the Horizon League and winning all the games again is probably unlikely so will Butler ever have a shot at a #2 or #3 seed or will they always be playing for a max out at #5?
Joe Lunardi (3:22 PM)
I do not see a "seed ceiling" for programs such as Butler. In recent years, we have seen Saint Joseph's get a No. 1 and Xavier both a No. 3 and No. 4. Gonzaga has also been as high a No. 2 seed from a more comparable conference. It can happen if you schedule and win the right non-conference games.
Pretty much everyone has doubted Duke all year and been proven wrong. What do you think their prospects are for next season as defending champs?
Joe Lunardi (3:23 PM)
Duke is most likely the preseason No. 1 team for 2010-11. It may be this national title came a year early.
Fun or no fun when thinking about a 96 team Bracketology?
Joe Lunardi (3:24 PM)
I'm not especially liking the idea, Kyle, but am open to some positive outcomes we don't know yet (because I'm pretty sure we know the negative ones).
Katelyn (Syracuse, NY)
How epic would it have been if that shot went in last night?
Joe Lunardi (3:25 PM)
Said to my wife it would have been the greatest shot in the history of basketball.
NCAA (Our own colons)
so we have the most successful playoff in sports, people take days off from work just to watch out first rounders...Let's completely change both the amount of teams and the formula for success...But remember, no football playoff...Why do we hate our fans?
Joe Lunardi (3:26 PM)
In fairness, there will now be four of those days instead of two. And the third and fourth days will be a weekend with presumably even more viewers. Not saying I like the idea; just pointing out that not everything is negative.
Tyler (St. Louis, MO)
Joe, where did you watch the game last night?
Joe Lunardi (3:27 PM)
In front of my brand new HDTV!!
So how many people are taking Thursday and Friday off next week to watch a 6-10 Big East team battle a 7-9 Big ten team?
Joe Lunardi (3:29 PM)
Probably the same number as took off to watch Kansas play Lehigh. We have to remember that not all the matchups are compelling as is. Again, I'd rather not expand; I'm just trying to be fair in my evaluation of what's likely to come.
Joe - what can an average chap like myself do to prevent the abomination that is the 96-team field?
Joe Lunardi (3:29 PM)
Move overseas, Matt, because change is coming.
Erick (Princeton, NJ)
I hear a lot of people stating that Duke won the national championship because they were given the easiest path. Any opinion?
Joe Lunardi (3:31 PM)
I don't agree, Erick. While the South may have been the weakest region at the start of the tournament, it was not by the time we reached the Sweet 16. And, if the path was so easy and Duke so weak, then why didn't someone else emerge from the South? I was convinced of Duke's legitimacy after the Baylor game.
Tom D. (Austin, TX)
Joe, looks like the committee got it right with Duke instead of WVU as a #1 seed eh?
Joe Lunardi (3:32 PM)
I was not among those questioning Duke as a No. 1 seed.
Do you think power conference bias got UNC and NC State into the NIT over teams like Saint Louis and Charlotte?
Joe Lunardi (3:33 PM)
I don't know about NC State, Charles, but UNC was clearly better than both Saint Louis and Charlotte. The 49ers fired their coach, for heaven's sake.
In retrospect, how did the Committee do in the seeding this year?
Joe Lunardi (3:35 PM)
My biggest issue was Villanova as a No. 2 (proven right) in lieu of Georgetown (proven wrong in a big way). Further down the bracket, Butler and Cornell were obviously undervalued. I get confused when the "eye test" is applied selectively. Anyone watching Butler and Cornell a lot knew them to be awfully good.
Bubba (Kansas City)
Other than screwing up something that is not broken, the main problem I see with a 96 team field is the huge difference in being a 7 or 8 seed versus a 9 or 10. Presently, there really is not much difference in a 7, 8, 9 or 10 seed and no one really complains, but all of that changes if 1 - 8 get a bye and 9-24 have to play an extra game. This year, Missouri was a 10 and played (and defeated) Clemson, a 7 seed but those two teams were basically the same. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State was a 7 and Texas was an 8 despite MU defeating each team and finishing higher in the Big 12 standings. Again, no big deal as the teams were even and their path in the tournament was fairly seeded. But now, Missouri would have to play an extra game on short notice against someone like Northwestern and then, if they win, turn around 2 days later and play a team they may well have been better than throughout the season. This is not warranted nor needed and the Golden Goose needs to pucker up.
Joe Lunardi (3:38 PM)
Bubba, you bring to light much of what will be the new "talking points" surrounding NCAA selections. Getting a bye will be a huge advantage, as those teams will only need to win one game to advance to the regional sites. In fact, I predict we will spend almost as much time debating the "bye bubble" as the traditional Last Four In/First First Out. The flip side is that the one game the bye teams have to win will be much more difficult, especially for the very top seeds. Kansas will no longer open with a Lehigh, as those teams will be gone before the superpowers even take the court.
Paul (Madison, WI)
How do you see the Big East shaking out next year? Will Marquette haev the talent to go to a 6th consecutive Tournament
Joe Lunardi (3:39 PM)
For sure, Paul.
Joey (Greenville, SC)
Joe, it seems to me as though expansion will benefit the average teams at the expense of the elite teams- adding more obstacles for the teams who have earned their status as top seeds in the tournament. Even if the top 32 get byes, it looks like they would all still have to play up to 4 games in the first week-ten days in order to make the final four!If you have to expand, why not make the "play-in" round be played on the first Tuesday/Wednesday... then start the opening round on the same day that it has started for as long as I can remember.
Joe Lunardi (3:41 PM)
Agree on your first point, Joey (regarding certain obstacles for the top teams). Don't think it's realistic, though, to move 64 teams into position for 16 games each on the preceding Tuesday and Wednesday. That's an awful lot of logistics.
If Monroe returns G'Town is the favorite? What if Wesley Johnson returns to Syracuse? Wouldn't Syracuse be at least co-favorites in the Big East?
Joe Lunardi (3:42 PM)
Syracuse loses much more, Scott.
Dave F (Washington DC)
Any objection to a rule that bans all sub .500 from the 96 team field unless there are no eligible teams? That will prevent BCS schools at 7-9 from getting in over 11-5 mid majors. Afterall UNC and UConn at sub-500 would have gotten in this year (if you assume the 32 new teams are to come from the NIT field.
Joe Lunardi (3:43 PM)
No objection, Dave, but I also have no objection to dating supermodels or shooting under par. None are happening in my lifetime.
John (Oxford, MS)
Joe of your last 4 out and next 4 out in your final bracket this year that were ultimately left out, which ones do you expect to make a jump forward next year if expansion doesn't happen?
Joe Lunardi (3:44 PM)
I think Illinois has a chance to be really good next year, John.
Joe, do you think the NCAA is completely underestimating the potential loss of interest in the tournament due to expansion? I can't think of many sports (NBA maybe) where fans just 'turn it on' after the first round(s), and they are really expecting just that.
Joe Lunardi (3:46 PM)
Mark, I think the NCAA is weighing a host of factors. The greatest loss of interest will probably be the major conference tournaments. Four days of build up should allow for the "new" first round to be reasonably compelling.
As much as I hate expansion, I hate the way they are laying it out even more. So we're going to inconvenience the top 32 teams at the expense of the teams-formerly-known-as-NIT? Make the favorites play second, third and fourth round games all in one week?Why not make the "play-in" round on the first Tuesday/Wednesday, and open the real tournament on Thursday like they've always done? That way you still minimize the amount of class kids have to miss, and you give teams a rest between each weekend.Right now, a team would have to win on: Saturday/Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday... or Sunday/Wednesday/Friday/Sunday... to make the Final Four.Can I be the first to cry: "FOUL!" on this one??
Joe Lunardi (3:50 PM)
Here's what I would do: Have 16 games per day (9-24, then 1-16) on the first Thursday-Sunday, then play the existing second round on Monday-Tuesday. Jump to the Sweet 16 on the next Saturday-Sunday, following by prime time regional championship games on the Monday-Tuesday preceding the Final Four. Seems like better spacing and build-up to the respective rounds.
If expansion really is profitable, how come the women's tournament stays at 64? That's more a burning question for the NCAA than you, but still.
Joe Lunardi (3:51 PM)
Unless more people suddenly start attending/watching the early rounds of the women's tournament, where is the profit? If anything (and I'll get killed for this), the women's championship should contract.
Colin (Northern Virginia)
Will we ever see a situation where College Basketball does away with using a Selection Committee and adopt a system where they use a ranking system (similar to the BCS) to determine who makes the tournament. Anything that involves a committee leaves open the discussion of any personal bias.
Joe Lunardi (3:53 PM)
I think data will have to play a bigger part in selection/seeding for an expanded field. But no, Colin, I do not see the Committee being disbanded.
El Jefe (NYC)
I am not a shill for the NCAA, but they are beefing up the round of 64. When people see how there will be far more competitive games in the round of 64, I think people will come around. The tournament used to have regional limitations, 32 teams, and only conference champions (Maryland didn't make the tournament in 1974). Each expansion has helped. The #1 seeds basically have a live scrimmage for Round 1. This will make the round of 64 really worthwhile. Why am I alone on this?
Joe Lunardi (3:55 PM)
Thanks for the opposite (and not unreasonable) point of view. We may be looking at that first Saturday-Sunday as improving the "unimprovable." I just don't like the idea of the 1-32 teams sitting around for a week, traveling to play one game, then traveling again.
Joe Lunardi (3:58 PM)
Gang, I'm outta' here. Am sure we'll have more chats after the first 2011 brackets are released. Thanks for a great season!