Chat with Joe Lunardi
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN college basketball Bracketology expert Joe Lunardi will drop by to talk early season bracket projections.
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 Thursday at 4 p.m. ET!
Joe Lunardi (4:01 PM)
Welcome back to another season. Only 122 days until Selection Sunday! So let's get started with some serious hoop talk...
Joe Lunardi (4:01 PM)
And the first question of the year is...
Nestor Velasco (Huntington Park)
Will Seton Hall be in the tourney this year, your thoughts?
Joe Lunardi (4:05 PM)
Nestor, I have Seton Hall "on the board" if not yet in the field. The middle teams in the Big East -- UConn, Louisville, Notre Dame, St. John's and Seton Hall -- are pretty much indistinguishable in terms of their NCAA potential. Typically one or two teams in a situation like this will underachieve (Louisville?) and one or more will emerge in their place. Seton Hall certainly has enough veteran talent to be on the right side of the bubble. Some stability on the sideline (finally?!?) is another real plus.
Dustin (Louisville, KY)
Hey Joe! Any chance that the Ohio Valley Conference could get its first at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament since 1987? Murray State seems to have the opportunity for some big resume-building wins in the non-conference and my alma mater Morehead State should be strong, as well. If things break the right way and Morehead wins the OVC Tournament, could Murray be in a position to grab an at-large?
Joe Lunardi (4:08 PM)
I wrote specifically about Murray's at-large chances earlier in the week (http://insider.espn.go.com/ncb/preview2010/insider/news/story?id=5785250). It'll likely come down to the 76 Classic in Anaheim. VaTech, UNLV, Oklahoma State and Tulsa are among the NCAA-level contenders in that field. I'd say the Racers need to reach at least the title game, plus win their BracketBusters game in February, to have legitimate at-large hopes. One chance in four, if I had to handicap it today.
No way if ODU wins the CAA do they get a 13 seed.
Joe Lunardi (4:12 PM)
I assume, Bob, that you think Old Dominion should/would have a better seed than No. 13. But let's remember the Monarchs have been a No. 11 and No. 12 (twice) in their last three NCAA appearances. It's also well worth noting that, with three additional at-large teams in the field, everyone below that cut line is going to slide "back" three places on the S-Curve. In other words, three our of every four teams seeded below the lowest at-large are going to be one seed line lower than we've come to expect. I'll be writing about this next Monday in greater detail.
Dave (Ellicott City, MD)
Everyone seems to want to see Northwestern make the NCAA tournament finally, but Northwestern has not scheduled like a team that really wants to get there. Assuming they roll through there non-conf games with little problem, what will they need to do in the Big Ten to get that bid?
Joe Lunardi (4:15 PM)
I agree, Dave, that Northwestern's non-league schedule is far from being an asset. So we're looking at at least 10+ Big Ten wins for a serious run at the NCAAs. And the last time that happened was (I think) never...
Joe...Could Villanova actually be better without Scottie Reynolds? With the increased minutes, I think Maalik Wayns is going to be a star.
Joe Lunardi (4:17 PM)
Agree completely with both statements, Ed, with the caveat that Scottie won a number of games single-handedly for the 'Cats during his career.
Hi Joe! Are you going to be breaking down your Bracketology predictions on video again this year once the field is set in March? I like being able to watch your matchup prediction/analysis for each teams chances on the web. Thank you!
Joe Lunardi (4:18 PM)
Tim, you may be the only one looking forward to those videos at this point. But, yes, I do expect to be taping those team "shorts" come Selection Monday.
Does Ohio St and Michigan St earn #1 seeds?
Joe Lunardi (4:20 PM)
I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Big Ten snagged a pair of No. 1 seeds in the tournament. At this point, I'd say both Ohio State and Illinois have a chance to join Michigan State on the top line. Whether or not Purdue can reach that level without Hummel remains to be seen.
Fill in the blanks:The WCC will get _____ number of bids this year.Next year with the addition of BYU the WCC will get ______ teams to the tournament.
Joe Lunardi (4:22 PM)
I would answer "two" to both questions. I think there will be less of a net gain upon BYU's arrival than appears at first glance.
Best 9 of the A10 versus the MWC. Who wins?
Joe Lunardi (4:24 PM)
This year I'd go with the Atlantic 10, Kyle, as the A-10 looks a tad deeper to me. But I'd say the Mountain West is typically stronger overall due to having a much smaller "bottom" (an observation which is easily illustrated by annual RPI data).
Your first answer listed the middle pack of Big East teams. Is Marquette above those teams, below, or just an omission from the list?
Joe Lunardi (4:26 PM)
I have the Golden Eagles "just above" that list, Nick. I also expect to take in Marquette's riveting tilt versus South Dakota a week from Saturday.
Could there be 3 teams from the BIG 12 with a 1-2 seed (Missouri, Kansas, K-State)
Joe Lunardi (4:27 PM)
Sure, Brad, every one of those teams has the upside for a very, very good seed. Most likely is one No. 1, one No. 2 and one No. 3. Missouri, to me, is the most likely to overachieve.
IF Michigan State follows its historical pattern of losing games early in the season and being merely solid in the Big 10, should the NCAA seed them higher than what their record (and RPI) would indicate as they tend to over perform in the Tournament relative to their seed?
Joe Lunardi (4:29 PM)
Great observation and question, Bob. The Committee has been better at this in recent years (seeding as much on tournament potential as season-long performance). I don't happen to agree with that practice in general, but it can and probably should apply to evaluations of teams like Michigan State.
I think K State is overrated. Am I crazy?
Joe Lunardi (4:30 PM)
Count me "in" on that thinking (although I'd add the modifier "slightly").
Tom D. (Austin, TX)
Do you see Duke getting below a #1 seed?
Joe Lunardi (4:31 PM)
With nine No. 1 seeds in the last 13 years, you'd certainly be foolish to bet on it.
GZW (Midwestern Midwest)
Big J- It seems like the last 3-4 seasons, there are multiple analysts saying "This could be the season that the zags go deep in the tourney", yet...unfortunately, the zags haven't done much better than a win or two in the tourney. Do you buy the hype this season? Why or why not?
Joe Lunardi (4:35 PM)
I am buying the hype this year because I think Elias Harris is good enough to take Gonzaga to the "next level." The 'Zags are also 15-12 in the tourney over their decade-plus run, so I would argue against the "underachievement" argument. Many, many programs would be delighted with two Sweet 16s in the last five years.
Do you see the Georgia Bulldogs competing for the SEC title this year?
Joe Lunardi (4:36 PM)
Wow, Tony, that's a tall order. The SEC East along is as good a division as we've seen in any league for quite some time.
Jim (Mobile, AL)
Several teams in the Sun Belt return their basic core from last year and much improvement is expected overall in the league. How do you see the SB playing out (i.e. contenders), and do you think the SB can get two bids?
Joe Lunardi (4:39 PM)
Jim, I'm looking at both Western Kentucky and North Texas as NCAA-level teams. It was a coin flip on which to include in our first real bracket of the year. WKU, in particular, could build a very credible at-large resume. Am looking forward to seeing the Hilltoppers in-person tomorrow night.
What mid major teams do you see making the tournament besides the A10 and Mountain West? Who's a mid major sleeper that can do damage in March?
Joe Lunardi (4:42 PM)
In addition to Gonzaga and Butler, there is a real buzz around the likes of Wichita State, Utah State, Murray State and Old Dominion (and I'm probably missing 2-3 more). See also the Western Kentucky/North Texas comment above, and keep an eye on Fairfield in the "deep sleeper" category. Sophomore guard Derek Needham would start in the Big East.
Come tourney time, do you think Purdue will be higher or lower than the 6 seed you've set for now?
Joe Lunardi (4:42 PM)
Higher (as in better), but we have to see it happen first.
Will the Valley return to a multi bid conference this year?
Joe Lunardi (4:44 PM)
At least a 50/50 chance, Michael. Missouri State and Creighton would seem to have the best chance to join Wichita State in this year's tourney.
Chioke Hassan (Baltimore,Md)
Dear JoeWhen could you see Navy being a powerhouse in Basekball?
Joe Lunardi (4:44 PM)
Does David Robinson have basketball-playing children?
Charlotte returns 4 starters from a team that started out 18-5 before ending out the season 1-7. Will the coaching change and players' experience be enough to take them back to the NCAA Tourney for the first time since 2005?
Joe Lunardi (4:46 PM)
I don't know about the NCAAs, Frank, but the general feeling is that Charlotte has not performed to its talent level since joining the Atlantic 10. I expect that to change with a new staff in place and for the 49ers to reside permanently in the upper tier of the conference. They should have been there already, in my view.
Bill (Louisville KY)
Kentucky and #1 seed ....IF Kanter is eligible... could it happen?
Joe Lunardi (4:48 PM)
Absolutely, Bill, it's just hard to go out on that limb when we're looking at a near-complete turnover of the rotation. So let's say this: the eventual SEC winner will be very much in the hunt for a spot on the top line.
How do you see the Coaches v. Cancer (Texas, Pitt, Md, Ill) shaking out next week? A good chance for quality pre-conference wins for all four.
Joe Lunardi (4:51 PM)
Hoping to see Pitt and Illinois match up at some point (and may shoot up to NYC next Friday night if and when that happens). It's a great foursome regardless and probably rates with the Kansas City bunch (Duke, Gonzaga, Marquette, K-State) as the best of the early-season feast. The difference is I can't jump on a train and be in Kansas City on a moment's notice!
Big J (NYC)
Joe, Always been a fan. Noticed you have WVU as an 8 to start. I understand the loss of Butler and Ebanks has most prognosticators down on the Mounties. Regardless, if the young girth on the inside (Kilicli and Jennings) can grow up over the course of the season, can you see WVU making another run?
Joe Lunardi (4:53 PM)
If I had to bet, it would be on West Virginia playing above (not below) this seed. Last year's tournament experience can only help the program going forward, both on and off the court.
What is your thought on Minnesota?
Joe Lunardi (4:53 PM)
VERY dangerous in my eyes, Kit.
Are Cremin's Cougars really as good as they looked last night? Or has Maryland fallen that far back without Vasquez?
Joe Lunardi (4:54 PM)
A little of both, I'd say. But let's not forget to look at the calendar. It's only Veteran's Day, for heaven's sake. Any conclusions are relative and subject to change.
Chris (Blacksburg, VA)
Joe, with all of the talent returning to Virginia Tech's lineup, how deep of a run in the NCAA tournament can the Hokies make? Sure losing JT Thompson hurts, but hopefully Cadarian Raines will be back soon after the K-State game. I'm thinking no further than the Sweet 16. What say you?
Joe Lunardi (4:55 PM)
Let's get there first, Chris. It's been a bit of an issue for the Hokies, as I'm sure you well know.
Joe Lunardi (4:56 PM)
That's it for me, gang. Let's have a great season! Talk to you next time...