Chat with Joe Lunardi
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN college basketball Bracketology expert Joe Lunardi will drop by to take your questions on this year's tournament projection.
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 New Year! Time to turn our attention to all things brackets. Fire away....
Chris M. (Washington, DC)
Joe, This has been bugging me for some time, so I'm hoping you can answer this. Could you please explain how your "LRPI" works? I noticed that Duke, Syracuse, and Kansas are 311, 249, and 267, respectively. It says on the page it's your "preferred formula", but how are the discrepancies so large? Thanks!
Joe Lunardi (3:08 PM)
No need to be bugged, Chris. LunaRPI (LRPI) simply excludes home games from the standard RPI calculations. At this point of the season, when many traditional powers have played few (if any) games away from home, the numbers are going to be really screwy. They'll make more sense after a month or so of conference play and become even more helpful in handicapping teams for NCAA tournament purposes.
Joe Lunardi (3:08 PM)
Sorry for the delay, gang. Just solved a small browser issue.
Owen Randall (San Francisco, CA)
Happy New Year, Joe. How does a team like Baylor not only get into the field, but also have a 9 seed? Their profile is pretty empty, and doesn't really compare well to a side-by-side with say, Drexel (12 seed).
Joe Lunardi (3:11 PM)
Great question, Owen. The truth is that this early we cannot create a bracket based only on results to date. If so, Cincinnati and UCF might be No. 1 or No. 2 seeds. Since that's not realistic, we go back to our pre-season evaluations and try to find a happy medium between then and now. Personally, I don't trust my own evaluations until a team has played legitimate opposition on the road.
USC is 9-6 with losses to Rider, Bradley, TCU, and Nebraska... Having them in the bracket is a bigger joke than when you put Oregon in at one point last year.. Do you have a Pac-10 quota to meet?
Joe Lunardi (3:13 PM)
Am usually accused of the opposite, Matt, so I'll take this as a compliment. Oregon was in last year as an early conference leader, if memory serves, and this year Southern Cal has already beaten tourney-caliber Tennessee, Texas and Washington State. You neglected to mention that.
Mike (San Francisco)
Joe, I know you have washington as a 5 seed, and I would agree with your current seeding. But does someone want to explain to me how they are not ranked in the top 25 coaches poll when there three loses are to teams ranked 16 or higher by a combined total of 12 points while they led every game at halftime? I feel like this is the defintion of the east coas bias....
Joe Lunardi (3:15 PM)
Mike, I need you and Matt to get together and resolve this East/West thing. As for Washington, I wouldn't get too worked up about the polls. First, it's still VERY early. Second, if you were to go back in time, you'd find that our January seedings are a far better barometer for eventual March placement. UW is is excellent shape.
How do you track games since you can't possibly watch all of them? Are you all numbers or do you do a look test?
Joe Lunardi (3:16 PM)
A lot of both, Jay. And there's this great new invention called the Internet that lets us watch (and read about) games before, during and after the fact.
Hi Joe, I was taking a look at your bracket and saw Florida a 6 seed in Tampa, and was thinking that probably violates the bracket selection principles (protecting 3 seed Georgetown). Your thoughts?
Joe Lunardi (3:17 PM)
Said "protection" is for first-round games only. This is why we've had things like No. 6 Wisconsin playing No. 3 Pitt in Milwaukee a few years ago. I happen to agree with you, Matt, that the rule should apply for both sub-regional games, but neither of us has a vote on the real Committee.
Rose (Portland, Oregon)
Hi Joe -- In your latest Bracketology, you have slotted three teams from the West Coast Conference(WCC) and even listed Portland as the AUTO-bid i.e. Conference Champion. Do you feel Portland has a real chance to win the WCC over the likes of Gonzaga or St. Mary's or was it by "default" only? Thanks in advance!
Joe Lunardi (3:19 PM)
It's a necessary default selection. With no WCC league games played to date, the RPI tiebreaker applies (and sneaks Portland into the field). I write about circumstances like this in today's "Behind the Bracket" column as an asset in replicating what really happens during conference tournament week.
Joe (San Diego)
Does SDSU have any chance of getting a number 1 seed if they go undefeated or lose 1?
Joe Lunardi (3:22 PM)
Probably not, Joe. The Committee in recent years values perceived quality over demonstrated performance. This is how Tennessee was left off the top line ('08, I think) despite a No. 1 RPI and No. 1 SOS. This is another area in which I disagree with the Committee's approach. I would pick the four teams which have done the most, not the four who should have given their talent. There's no right or wrong.
With wins against Seton Hall and Ole Miss on the road and George Mason and New Mexico at home in the non-conference portion of schedule, what type of A-10 record will it take to get an at-lage bid: 12-4? 11-5?
Joe Lunardi (3:23 PM)
At least that, Bill, with wins over fellow A-10 contenders. Let's not forget Dayton lost 68-34 at Cincinnati and to East Tennessee State at home.
Jimmy B. (Syracuse, NY)
I figured I would pre-empt all the back handed compliments your probably going to give Syracuse. Its a joke to punish Syracuse as not having played a road game until Pittsburgh, when they have to go to both St Johns and Seton Hall first. St Johns has a top 10 RPI right now. The same comments are not made when UNC or Duke play in Greensboro, or when they play at Winston Salem, or Raleigh even if their fans show up. The arbitrary nature of not getting credit for a away game for Syracuse is often just due to lazy reporting .
Joe Lunardi (3:25 PM)
Nothing backhanded about it. The NCAA classifies games as Home, Road or Neutral for RPI purposes. Syracuse will play the last classified "Road" game in the nation this year, and it's not the first time. Don't shoot the messenger.
I know it is to early but gun to your head, who's bubble will burst on Selection Sunday?
Joe Lunardi (3:25 PM)
Harland Sanders (Thidville, PA)
What do you think the secret recipe is to getting the Atlantic 10 out of the low mid major perception?
Joe Lunardi (3:26 PM)
Have the best teams in the league stop losing home games to Bucknell, East Tennessee State, etc.
IHOP2 (San Diego)
Joe, is SAN DIEGO STATE the BEST team in the WEST over the past 10 years? I think they'll hang a PERFECT SEASON banner after this season even if they don't win their conference tournament or the NCAA - they're that good. What do you think??
Joe Lunardi (3:28 PM)
Not even close, IHOP. The Aztecs are terrific, but I'd be shocked if they pass through the Mountain West round-robin unscathed. And there have been some awfully good teams out West over the past 10 years. Let's hold the anointing until at least half the season has been played
Joe, I know you wrote last week that Villanova was a little overrated, but....come on - a four seed? They're #7 in the country!
Joe Lunardi (3:29 PM)
No. 7 in the polls, Matt, not quality wins. The 'Cats are really rounding into form, but they are 1-1 against teams currently in the field.
Dan (Central New York)
when it comes to handing out bids does the committee usually lean towards a team like Marquette that has played tougher competition and only lost by a few points or a team like Cincy - undefeated but weaker competition?
Joe Lunardi (3:32 PM)
Good question, Dan. It's a moot point in this example as Cincinnati is about to play considerably tougher competition (Xavier, then at Villanova later this week). At the end of the day, Marquette would get the nod if these two are relatively even in conference play. For now, I probably have Marquette rated higher than most (and Cincy lower than most) for the very reasons you suggest.
You have BC as a 6 seed in your latest bracketology - do you see them staying in the tournament field?
Joe Lunardi (3:35 PM)
The Eagles have done everything asked of them until this point (save the one early loss to Yale). And, yes, I see BC staying in the field if only because there is a huge drop-off in the ACC after Duke. BC has already won at Maryland and I suspect will post a slightly above .500 conference record. That and their non-league success should be enough to warrant an at-large bid, although maybe not at the level of a No. 6 seed.
I have watched nearly every minute of Purdue this season and heading into the Big Ten season, I thought they would finish 5th in the conference. After their first two games, I must say that I am shocked at how easily they handled Michigan and Northwestern. What is the ceiling on this team (barring further injuries)?
Joe Lunardi (3:36 PM)
Check out the Tourney Odds section of today's Bracket Rundown. Purdue made the list of No. 1 seed candidates with a 20 percent chance. I am very impressed with the Boilers thus far.
Capt. Hypothetical (jumping the gun)
What are the chances that the Big East sends >8 teams to the tourney? Or will they beat each other up now that conference play has begun?
Joe Lunardi (3:37 PM)
You are not jumping the gun, Captain. I am on record as saying the combination of three additional slots in the field plus a "down" ACC will allow the Big East to break the eight-team single tournament record for bids.
Paul Smith (Ohio)
Ohio State has an RPI of 20. Why do you have them as a 1 seed?
Joe Lunardi (3:39 PM)
It's about way more than RPI, Paul, especially this early. Let me ask you, do you think Ohio State is one of the four best teams in the country? I say the Buckeyes pass that test as well as mine, in that they have among the four teams in the country who have "done" the most to this point. It's not close, really.
With the new format for Bracketology this year, is there anywhere to see how teams that are in the bracket for consecutive weeks are likely to stay? I see where the new arrivals go, but what about teams that are still in?
Joe Lunardi (3:41 PM)
Seth, we'll be adding "Bracket Math" columns over the next few weeks that address these exact questions. Stay tuned and thanks for asking!
brett (memphis, tn)
Hey Joe, who do you think will come out on top Wednesday night in Knoxville? The Tigers or the Vols? Also, do you think this game will be the determining factor in whether or not either of these teams make the NCAA tournament?
Joe Lunardi (3:42 PM)
I have no insight into this game, Brett, because it's impossible to know if/when the "real" Vols will return. I agree, though, that it could turn into a critical result for bubble purposes if A) Tennessee continues to struggle and B) Memphis isn't as good as we thought in the pre-season.
How much fun (for you) is your class? Have any students done better than you when picking the bracket?
Joe Lunardi (3:43 PM)
Absolutely fun (with some very smart students). Still a handful of seats left for the next class in mid-January. I'll try to dig up a link before signing off.
did i just read correctly above that as far as the ncaa considers things Syracuse @St Johns and Syracuse @seton Hall are both considered Neutral floor games????? that has to be a misprint.
Joe Lunardi (3:44 PM)
Don't believe I said that, Jon.
I thought that the RPI and LRPI don't take margin of victories (or losses) into account. Therefore why are close losse that much of a factor in your rankings. Isn't a win more important?
Joe Lunardi (3:46 PM)
Correct, neither RPI or LRPI calculates margin of victory. But Committee members (and yours truly) are encouraged to look at all quantitative and qualitative data in making their evaluations. Think of this more like as essay test than multiple choice.
north carolina will be number 1
Joe Lunardi (3:47 PM)
In what sport, Toby??
John David (Lexington ky)
Why haven't you commented on Kentucky yet? ;) What are the chances they get a # 1 seed this year? The SEC is proving to be way down.
Joe Lunardi (3:48 PM)
I have written quite a bit about UK over the last week. I think the 'Cats are in perfect position to steal a No. 1 seed because A) they are that good, B) the SEC isn't and C) there's going to be a whole lot of cannibalization in the Big East and Big Ten, leaving the possibility of at least one open spot on the top line after Duke and presumably Kansas.
Will you go back to posting bracketology in the format where you provide comments about each team?
Joe Lunardi (3:49 PM)
We've got a bit of a different format this year, Drew, that allows for other kinds of content from yours truly. Hopefully you'll find it equally (if not more!) stimulating. Thanks for asking.
Stefan (Albuquerque )
This year, the MWC (fresh out of mid-major status) is looking like the strongest west coast basketball conference, to me. What are the chances that the MWC inches more teams into the bracket than the Pac-10?
Joe Lunardi (3:50 PM)
It's going to be neck-and-neck, Stefan. Unfortunately, at least one of those teams (BYU) won't be around the Mountain West next year. So enjoy this run while it lasts!
Pat (West Caldwell, N.J.)
How much do the addition of more teams this year affects who gets in? Will these teams be from the bigger or smaller conferences?
Joe Lunardi (3:51 PM)
It's too soon to know, Pat. My best guess is that, over time, the ratio of big conference teams in those spots will be about the same as exists in the rest of the at-large pool. Ask me again in 5-10 years!
Is Gonzaga a tournament sleeper threat this year due to their slow start? Do you see them making noise come March?
Joe Lunardi (3:52 PM)
The Zags shouldn't be a sleeper, Adam, as they have too much talent to sneak up on anyone. If they are committed at the defensive end, this team should play until at least the second weekend of the tournament.
Joe, I was curious as why you have K-State as a neutral site loss to Duke and not have Mizzou's loss to Georgetown as a neutral site loss since Manhattan and Columbia are about the same distance to Kansas City?
Joe Lunardi (3:54 PM)
Greg, it has to do with how the NCAA classifies games in terms of site administration and season ticket packages. It could be that these specific designations are reviewed and adjusted as the season goes along, as they are always a few pre-season errors in how the administration of some games is reported.
Rooster (Old West)
The current RPI lacks penalties and rewards insufficiently. Will there come a day when a formula truly rewards road games so that "football BCS conference" basketball teams *MUST* play OOC road games? (Can the NCAA please mandate these teams to play road games. "Non-football BCS" schools are dying for home games and they are being frozen out, yet they'll all be judged the same way in the end:)
Joe Lunardi (3:55 PM)
From your lips to God's ears, Rooster. I just hope we live to see it!
James (Newport Beach)
Did Arizona really drop from a 6 seed to a 10 seed, with a 1 point loss on the road against OSU?
Joe Lunardi (3:55 PM)
Nope, they dropped from a No. 9 to a No. 10 season. And, be honest James, it was a bad loss regardless of margin.
Slappy McGonicle (NYC)
Joe, do you find it amusing that every year the biggest debates seem to be which bubble teams deserve in even though no bubble team has ever made it to or won the National Championship?
Joe Lunardi (3:56 PM)
So you don't count George Mason ("Last Four In") making the Final Four as relevant??
who has ohio state beaten that is in the dance now
Joe Lunardi (3:57 PM)
Florida, Florida State and Oakland (the first two in the state of Florida).
Why is ESPN and all media so infatutuated with labeling teams "major" and "mid-major"? Bottom halves of "high-majors" deserve the pretty label? I remember when all teams were just schools and judged by what they do and how they look. No pre-conceived labels that are derogoratory (no matter how much media denies the "sub-level" term)
Joe Lunardi (3:58 PM)
Wrote about this, too, back before Christmas. Check my archives for a 12/20/10 "Behind the Bracket" column. I also resolved not to talk about it any more this season (so much for that!).
Are you basing your 1 seeds off of what has been done to this point or what you expect? So far Syracuse has the highest RPI of the undefeated teams as well as SOS. They should get the spot in Newark.
Joe Lunardi (4:00 PM)
Jeff, it's going to take an awful lot for a team to knock Duke out of Newark. Not saying that's right or wrong, just reality. And it doesn't impact the first weekend geography one way or the other. Long way to go....
Joe Lunardi (4:01 PM)
That's it for me, folks. Have a great week and think about taking my class. Guaranteed fun, plus a Mock Committee exercise to close our the course: www.sju.edu/bracketology. Happy Hoops!!