Chat with Joe Lunardi
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN college basketball Bracketology expert Joe Lunardi will drop by to chat about tournament projections as well as more teams that he feels need to schedule tougher.
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. Check out his lastest bracket.
Send your questions now and join Lunardi Monday at 3 p.m. ET!
Joe Lunardi (3:01 PM)
Happy summer, everyone! Hope you enjoyed the recent blog posts on non-conference scheduling. Today we can cover that and anything else on your mind in college hoops.
timmy c (lancaster,pa)
Who you got? UNC/UK or the field?
Joe Lunardi (3:03 PM)
Great question, Timmy. Given the unpredictability of the college game, I'd have to take the field. This time last year, everyone was asking the same question about Duke (which didn't even reach the Final Four in its title defense). While Carolina and Kentucky are clearly favorites for the 2012 title, many others -- Ohio State, for instance -- will have something to say about the outcome next season.
Joe, do you think the ACC should move to an 18-game schedule to achieve balanced scheduling? Krzyzewski seems to think flexible out-of-conference scheduling trumps balanced in-conference scheduling and is not in favor.
Joe Lunardi (3:09 PM)
Theo, the cynic in me wants to say that any increase in the number of conference games will result in unwanted true road games for Coach K. Although Duke has outstanding non-conference strength of schedule numbers over the years, the Blue Devils are in a position to pretty much name their opponents and sites. So, other than the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Duke only goes to another school's court on its terms. A compromise would a divisional format much like the SEC is abandoning, in which teams play their own division twice (10 games) and the six teams in the opposite division once each (6 games). A 16-game schedule is preserved, but is less random than the current ACC model.
For those of us who aren't insiders, who were the worst programs in terms of scheduling? I imagine Duke and Syracuse have to be in the mix.
Joe Lunardi (3:11 PM)
Believe it or not, Dante, both Syracuse and Duke were among the Top 10 toughest non-conference schools over the past four years. Both are very good, though, at playing those schedules either at home or in neutral site events.
Joe (Storrs, CT)
Joe is it fair to say UCONN is a contender this year, and one of 8 teams or so that have a chance of winning a national championship, with Lamb, Orkiahi, and Napier.
Joe Lunardi (3:12 PM)
A contender, yes, but eight potential champions is probably on the low side. Would Butler have made the short list in either of the past two summers? VCU last year? You get the idea...
Buzz King (The Barn, Minnesota)
Joe,Since you've been doing this schtick, who's the single worst at-large selection you've ever seen?
Joe Lunardi (3:14 PM)
Either UAB selection, especially last year, could be a candidate. Air Force and Seton Hall (2006) were also head-scratchers.
Demetri Goodson was a solid ball handler but didn't do much else very well to be honest. With lots of new top tier talent at the guard position coming in, will Gonzaga actually improve after loosing demetri?
Joe Lunardi (3:15 PM)
I'm "high" on Gonzaga for next season because of the overall talent level. Hard to say whether Goodson's departure is addition by subtraction, but I don't think his loss will hold the Zags back in any significant way.
How many bids should MVC fans reasonably expect? Are the years of being a multi-bid league finally back?
Joe Lunardi (3:18 PM)
Creighton and Indiana State should join favorite Wichita State as legitimate NCAA tournament candidates. I'd say the odds are 50/50 that the Valley gets a second team in the field. However, I am not quite ready to declare the start of another multi-bid era (at least not until MVC teams once again start beating major non-league opponents on the road).
One of the knocks on Syracuse is that it doesn't "like" to leave the tri-state area until conference play. But I noticed that Syracuse has one of the toughest OOC schedules over the last few years. How does this play into the selection committee's calculations? Do all the games in the NY/NJ area cancel out the credit we'd otherwise get for playing such tough competition, or does Syracuse still come out ahead, looking like a strong candidate vis-a-vis the rest of the field?
Joe Lunardi (3:20 PM)
Syracuse got the message with its 2006-2007 NCAA "misses" and has scheduled just fine ever since. The Selection Committee gives the Orange full credit for the quality of its non-conference opponents regardless of site.
Mark (Brighton, MI)
Has a #1 ranked team ever started the season (0-1)? North Carolina will lose its first game of the season to MSU. Remember you heard it here first.
Joe Lunardi (3:21 PM)
Maybe we should vote for Kentucky, then.
Here's a better question than the one Timmy posed: Predict the title game, Butler vs. UNC, Butler vs. UK, or Butler vs. The Field?
Joe Lunardi (3:21 PM)
Good one, Matt!
joe,the past 5 years of rebuilding have been very difficult for us Bearcat fans. In my opinion, cincy basketball is really close to being "back." Even with most having UC in the preseason top 25 this year, the city is has still yet to completely embrace Mick Cronin as our coach. I think Mick is a fantastic coach and has gone through more than most people know. Realistically and in your opinion, is Mick the real deal or can the Cincinnati program find/land a better coach to bring us back?
Joe Lunardi (3:27 PM)
It seems to me that both Cincinnati basketball and its coach have to be evaluated in the new context of the Big East. What is realistic? A top 2-3 finish in the conference every year? Probably not given the annual strength of UConn and Syracuse, for instance. A top 4-6 finish in the conference every year? Again probably not when you throw in the likes of Pitt, WVU, Villanova and Georgetown. So we're looking at trying to make the top half of a soon-to-be 17-team mega-conference every year and, with that, garner an NCAA bid. To me, that should be Cincy's goal with the occasional upper tier finish thrown into the mix. If the Bearcats wanted to dominate, they needed to retain the Memphis model (and their own) in Conference USA. They are now in the deep end of the pool, with far greater conference revenue, but have to be realistic about the competition.
What's the latest predictions for the PAC 12, who's on top and who's going to the tourney? You had 5 in there from your May bracket.
Joe Lunardi (3:29 PM)
Haven't worked on a new bracket since May, Steve, and probably won't until players return officially to their campuses in August or September. My Pac-12 pecking order is unchanged: Arizona, UCLA, Cal and Washington as the most likely NCAA participants (without a true national title contender in the bunch).
Who do you think on Louisville is prime for a big season?
Joe Lunardi (3:30 PM)
Yes, Ethan, I think Louisville is a true Final Four threat.
Joe,What do you think of Xavier's schedule next year and how good they can be? georgia, gonzaga, cincinnati, purdue, @butler, @memphis, @vandy seems to me that X should be greatly tested by conference play
Joe Lunardi (3:34 PM)
Xavier has done the right thing with its schedule, especially given Tu Holloway's return. This should be the Musketeers best chance to get over the hump and reach the Final Four. Their aggressive scheduling over the years has given X the kind of "brand recognition" to build home-and-home series with good opponents. It's no surprise to me that A.D. Mike Bobinski and Coach Chris Mack are on this path. They are a classy and smart pair heading a BCS-level program in every respect.
As a rule should mid to high majors schedule up (Gonzaga) or down?It almost ruined the Zags last year.
Joe Lunardi (3:35 PM)
Almost always "up," Matt. Gonzaga and others like them have little or nothing to gain by scheduling "down." The number of times that will help them is dwarfed by the many, many years it has made them stand out.
your list of weakest schedules could also be called "BCS schools at the bottom of their conference who are unable to attract home-homes because the loss would look bad to the opponent/fans'"
Joe Lunardi (3:39 PM)
Correct, Johnny, and it could also be called "BCS coaches trying to save their jobs by making the N.I.T." But what does that ever get them in the long run? The only things that will give a coach long-term security are multiple NCAA bids. If that means home-and-home series with good non-BCS opponents, then do that. The computer doesn't make the BCS distinction, so Auburn should play UAB and Virginia Tech should play VCU. It's the right thing for the sport AND the right thing for their programs. Nebraska hasn't missed the NCAAs by playing home-and-home with Creighton. It missed the NCAAs by not being good enough, plain and simple.
Has the recent controversy around Indiana change your opinion of their chances this year?
Joe Lunardi (3:40 PM)
Will factor that into the next bracket, Jamie, as the situation unfolds. The Hoosiers were and are a bit of a reach for the NCAAs regardless.
How many years will it take Rutgers to get to the tourney? Seems like they're in the right direction with a good coach and a good class coming in.
Joe Lunardi (3:42 PM)
Won't be this year, Dave, but I could see Rutgers "in the conversation" beginning in 2012-13. And that would be quite an achievement given the hole the Knights were in and the number of strong Big East programs ahead of them on an annual basis.
Joe. Who are your top 3 in the Big East this year?
Joe Lunardi (3:43 PM)
Kyle, I would go Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville in whatever order you like. They are pretty tough to separate at this point (keeping in mind that it's June, of course).
Matthew (Madison, WI)
Hey Joe, Does it make more sense to schedule games like Duke does, scheduling non-conference games on neutral courts so it can feel more like a tourney game? Everyone hates on them for not playing a lot of true road games but those do not help them as much. I say it is about the big picture! Thoughts?
Joe Lunardi (3:44 PM)
I highly doubt Duke does it to simulate the NCAA tourney, Matthew. They do it because they can.
How is Michigan State not higher as far as toughest schedule. It seems that year in and year out, Tom Izzo is schedules at least 4 to 5 out of conference games against Top 10 to 15 teams and that doesnt include the pre-season tourneys such as Maui, etc. Thanks.
Joe Lunardi (3:47 PM)
I was a little surprised, as well, Reid (State was "only" 5th in the aggregate non-conference schedule averages for the past four years). Two years ago (2010) was an anomaly for the Spartans at No. 105. If we extended the sample for 5-10 years, I'm fairly certain Michigan State would move up.
Joe Lunardi (3:47 PM)
Three more, gang, before we yield the floor.
Do you think Memphis has a real shot @ the Final Four this year, cause they are deep
Joe Lunardi (3:48 PM)
I'm not quite as high on Memphis as maybe some others area. To me, the Tigers are more of a Sweet 16 than Final Four team. I'd prefer a little more experience to go along with their depth.
Sarah (Dallas, Texas)
What is the best quanatative indicator for makoing the NCAA tourney? I say RPI and you say...?
Joe Lunardi (3:50 PM)
I would build some kind of metric combining RPI, my Adjusted Scoring Margin and the Pomeroy ratings. Come to think of it...
Where do you see Creighton's three Big 10 opponents (vs. Nebraska, vs. Northwestern, NS vs. Iowa) finishing in that conference, and how many of those three games does CU need to win in order to be in the at-large conversation (assuming beating everyone else they "should" and a top 4 conference finish).
Joe Lunardi (3:52 PM)
Creighton is going to have to be better than top four in the Valley to be a realistic at-large candidate. I'd say "top two" is what the Blue Jays should shoot for; that and two wins against the three Big Ten teams (none of which will be much better than middle-of-the-pack).
Joe Lunardi (3:52 PM)
Got to run, everybody. I'm sure will do this another time or two before the summer is out. Happy hoops!!