Chat with Joe Lunardi
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 in The Show on Friday at 3 p.m. ET!
Joe Lunardi (3:00 PM)
Happy hoops everyone! Let's get straight to business...
Brian Burke (Winston-Salem, NC)
Who's had the better January, Louisville or Wake Forest?
Joe Lunardi (3:02 PM)
Great question, Brian. I have to go with Louisville, because the Cardinals had more ground to cover. But it's hard to discount any team that can claim wins over both UNC and Duke. So, it's a light edge to L'ville, but very slight.
What seed do you think Minnesota has after a big win last night?
Joe Lunardi (3:03 PM)
If we were doing a new bracket today, the Gophers would be right around a 5 seed. Minnesota's really good wins still outweigh a couple of so-so losses. I remain high on this team.
Eric: (Boston, MA)
For once Syracuse's OOC schedule will help them come Selection Sunday with a true road top 25 win and 2 top 50 neutral wins. With that in mind would a 10-8 Big East record make Syracuse a lock regardless of the BET?
Joe Lunardi (3:06 PM)
You never say "lock" when it's still January, Eric, but it's hard to imagine 10-8 not being enough in this year's Big East. It would be almost impossible to get 10 Big East wins without adding two or three more significant scalps. Syracuse would be fine, in my opinion, under this scenario.
Seth (Mound, MN)
Hey Joe, how many does the Big Ten get into the dance as of now? I think Penn State should get some serious consideration.
Joe Lunardi (3:08 PM)
The Big Ten is headed for a big number, at least relative to preseason expectations. But for Penn State to make it, they need 2 or 3 wins against the top half of the league because there's not much out of conference to recommend them.
I'm a huge Big 5 guy and things seems to be looking better for Villanova this week with the win over Pitt. Saint Joseph's is also doing some damage in the A-10. What are the chances of either one playing their first two rounds of games at the Wachovia Center, assuming they make it?
Joe Lunardi (3:10 PM)
I love your optimism, Antonio, but it's still unlikely that a Big 5 school will play any NCAA tournament games in their hometown. For one, as a host school, Saint Joseph's is prohibited from playing at the Wachovia Center. And Villanova would have to be at least a top-3 seed to get the kind of geographic priority required. Keep your travel agent's number handy.
What are your thoughts about Kentucky and what kind of a seed would you put them at with anywhere from a 12-4, 13-3, 14-2 SEC Record?
Joe Lunardi (3:12 PM)
I seem to be higher on the Wildcats than most, Jordan. But this week's sizzle at Ole Miss was pretty ugly. I think Kentucky is looking at no better than a 4 or 5 seed with an outright SEC regular season championship. The league and their own profile are not going to compare well to the other power conference winners.
Jeff (LA, CA)
Thoughts on USC? A win tomorrow and they are 6-3 in the Pac 10.
Joe Lunardi (3:14 PM)
I believe Southern Cal will win tomorrow to complete a home-court sweep of the Bay Area schools. That should put the Trojans into next week's bracket as a double-digit seed.
John (Hamden, CT)
What type of seed does Davidson get if they run the table? How about if they lose a game in conference or in their Bracket Buster game?
Joe Lunardi (3:17 PM)
These situations are always difficult, like Princeton in 1998 or George Washington in 2006. Davidson has done more out of conference than those two teams, but is obviously not been helped by its own league. I'd put them in the 7-to-9 range while we await their Bracket Buster matchup and outcome. It looks like the Wildcats could end up hosting Butler, and a win then would be huge.
Michael (Evansville, IN)
Would you agree that the pool of teams competing for a #1 seed is probably now down to: Louisville, UCONN, PITT, Marquette, Duke, UNC, Wake, Michigan St. and Oklahoma? If Xavier were to run the table and finish 31-2, would they be in consideration for a #1 seed?
Joe Lunardi (3:20 PM)
The list sounds right on target, Michael, and it's actually a fairly long list for this late in the season. As for Xavier, I don't think the A-10 is strong enough this year to lift its champion that high. The last #1 seed from the A-10 (Saint Joseph's in 2004) ran the table in a four-bid conference. There's no way this year's A-10 is going that deep.
If the Zags run the table with a win over Memphis how high a seed could they get?
Joe Lunardi (3:21 PM)
Like Kentucky, I also seem to be higher on Gonzaga than most others. If Gonzaga doesn't lose again, they should be no worse than a 4 or 5 seed playing in Portland or Boise.
how does the comittee look at injuries on a team, ie Mills from St. Mary's?
Joe Lunardi (3:23 PM)
With injuries or other player absences, it always comes down to whether or not the team in question returns to the high level it had presumably achieved with that player in the lineup. The jury is still out on the Gales.
John (Hamden, CT)
Which of the North Carolina schools gets the shaft and has to play away from Greensboro?
Joe Lunardi (3:24 PM)
This is where the S-curve really comes into play. The two higher-ranked teams among these three (Duke, Wake and UNC) are going to play in Greensboro. The third is most likely headed to Philadelphia.
How crippling a loss was it for the Mizzou Tigers Wed and will a win on Baylor keep them around the projected 8 seed you have them?
Joe Lunardi (3:25 PM)
It was a medium-bad loss, but not fatal. Tomorrow's game is going to keep the winner as a single-digit seed and drop the loser to double-digit position. First team to 95 points wins tomorrow night.
Marcus (Peru, IN)
Joe, Why are you so high on Memphis?Outside of the Tennessee win they really have not played anybody and there conference is way weaker than it was last year.
Joe Lunardi (3:27 PM)
I disagree that Conference USA is weaker, Marcus, than it has been, and I agree that Memphis isn't near the level of the past two seasons. We're talking about recent Final Four and Elite Eight teams. To suggest the Tigers have fallen to the middle of the bracket just doesn't add up for me.
With the likes of SU, ND, and GTown all struggling is this shaping up to be the best NIT ever?
Joe Lunardi (3:29 PM)
While we're at it, let's not forget Wisconsin, Michigan, Boston College, Maryland, and any number of teams from the SEC West.
Timmy C. (Lancaster, PA)
we all know the third ranked ACC team goes to philly. The question is, who do you think it will be?
Joe Lunardi (3:30 PM)
Now you're asking me to be Kreskin. It's going to come down to the two or three games between Duke and UNC, because the worst Wake Forest can do is go 2-1 or 2-2 within that stellar group.
Craig (Denver, CO)
Now that another #1 seed went down, who are your four #1 seeds now?
Joe Lunardi (3:32 PM)
In order, and this could change by late afternoon Saturday: UConn, Wake, Duke and Oklahoma. Before the weekend is out, we might see the presumed return to the top line of North Carolina.
John (Hamden, CT)
Who is your favorite ESPN co-worker? And please don't give us the company line about everyone being great... in any job (even one where communication is not everyday) there are bound to be people you like more than others or people you dislike.
Joe Lunardi (3:33 PM)
Digger, of course!
John (Hamden, CT)
Can we not just scrap the play-in game? It's demeaning to the participating schools, it screws up logistics, and all because for whatever reason people don't realize that the loss of one more double-digit loss major conference at-large team really doesn't hurt the tournament at all. Thoughts?
Joe Lunardi (3:35 PM)
Agree on all counts, John, but the person in charge of revenue at that major conference school will obviously have a different opinion.
UCONN/Louisville on Monday in Louisville... who you got?
Joe Lunardi (3:36 PM)
UConn has the best road-neutral RPI in the country, so, of course, I'm taking Louisville.
Timmy C. (Lancaster, PA)
Joe, If the selection committee considers everyone an independent, why do people care how many each conference gets?
Joe Lunardi (3:39 PM)
I don't think "independent" is how teams are considered, as opposed to "regardless of conference affiliation." This is probably splitting hairs, but splitting hairs is what the committee does. It matters because conferences have conference schedules and independents don't. So a pecking order of teams within a conference must be established at the same time these teams are compared nationally. All of that is a roundabout way of saying "it's about bragging right." People care because they're fans.
I know it is technically possible, but is it realistically possible to have 3 #1 seeds come from the same conference?
Joe Lunardi (3:42 PM)
While we could see a Monday bracket with three ACC teams (Wake, Duke and UNC) on the top line, the reality is that this situation should more than sort itself out by Selection Sunday.
Nate, Cedar Falls IA
Northern Iowa has won 9 in a row but was bad in the non-conference. What is their margin for error if they don't win the conference tourney? Also, who do you see them matching up with in the bracket buster?
Joe Lunardi (3:44 PM)
I don't think any Missouri Valley Conference teams has a margin for error. It's possible a dominant regular season champion could get in at-large. I just don't see it happening this year. As for Bracket Busters, St. Mary's is a possibility.
Will Providence be in your new Bracketology come Monday provided they don't get blown out at UCONN tomorrow?
Joe Lunardi (3:45 PM)
It's going to be awfully close for the Friars. My guess is they would just miss. They are sitting right at the cut line as of this moment.
Joe, how are the bracket buster match-ups determined? Any chance we will get Butler/Davidson and USU/St Mary's. That would be some great basketball!
Joe Lunardi (3:48 PM)
The home and road teams are pre-determined, so the next step is to pair up the best available home teams with the best available road teams. These two matchups that you mention seem to be getting the most discussion in advance of Monday's pairings, and it forces me to correct the earlier comment involving a possible St. Mary's-Northern Iowa game.
How in trouble are my Wolverines at this point? They've hit a bit of a rough patch and still have tough games to play (MSU, at UCONN). What's the bare minimum it's gonna take to get them into the big dance? 8-10 Big10 record and one conference tourney win?
Joe Lunardi (3:50 PM)
The Wolverines are in serious trouble, and I don't think the 8-10 scenario will be good enough. The Big Ten pecking order is going to be too strong at the top to allow for that record, especially as it will have meant Michigan essentially being a .500 or below team for almost two months.
Purdue, with back-to-back road wins at Wisconsin and Minnesota, seems to be on the rise. Where do you see them seeded at this point? #5?
Joe Lunardi (3:51 PM)
Maybe even a #4 for the Boilermakers. There's quite a dropoff after the #3 seeds right now. Purdue is somewhere in that next group.
If Florida beats Tennessee, would that move them to a 7 seed or better?
Joe Lunardi (3:52 PM)
Absolutely. The Gators may already be that high because so many other teams at or near them on the S-curve have stumbled since the last bracket. Saturday night is a genuinely big game for both teams.
Matt (Fort Collins)
It's a mess atop the MWC. Would you agree that they need a couple teams to break from the pack if they want to ensure multiple bids? And if so, who breaks away? Thanks
Joe Lunardi (3:54 PM)
Very well said, Matt. A lack of separation is typically not beneficial outside BCS conferences. My best guess is that UNLV will finish a cut above Utah and BYU with the conference tourney determining a second bid. San Diego State remains a possibility, but I don't think TCU or New Mexico will be good enough in the long run.
Jeff (Bossier City, LA)
I presume by the ordering of your previous answer OU is #4 on your S-curve? I would figure #2 given the relative profiles; why so low for you?
Joe Lunardi (3:57 PM)
That's correct, Jeff. I have OU at #4 overall, and while you ask if that's fair, many others want to know why UNC is #5 overall. This way, I keep both schools mad at me. Seriously, you could certainly make an argument for the Sooners to be a slot or two higher. It's that close.
Joe Lunardi (3:57 PM)
One more question, let's make it count...
how good is florida state and are they good enough to compete and have a chance to win the acc championship an will they make the ncaa tournament and how far can they go and way aint people talkin bout Toney Douglas for player of the year
Joe Lunardi (3:59 PM)
Let's cut to the chase, Brandon. FSU's first and only goal should be to break a decade-plus NCAA tournament drought. That appears more likely with each passing game, even Wednesday's last-second loss to North Carolina. All the rest is gravy. Just enjoy the ride.
Joe Lunardi (4:00 PM)
Don't forget, Monday is Groundhog Day. I expect to see my shadow and produce six more weeks of Bracketology. Have a great weekend!