With just a few days remaining until the frenzy that is Selection Sunday is upon us, the father of Bracketology, Joe Lunardi, hosted a conference call with various members of the media on Wednesday and ESPN was gracious enough to let Busting Brackets in on the dish.
Lunardi took on many of the burning questions in the NCAA, including the murky outlook for John Calipari’s Wildcats and the state of the SEC. He gave his piece on what made teams can do to help their seeding, and also spoke on what some tournament hopefuls must do to not be one of the many programs left on the cutting room floor when it’s all said and done.
Q. John Calipari said ‘Kentucky’ and ‘No. 1 seed’ in the same sentence. What is the ceiling for them? What is the best seed possible?
I think a 3. Their résumé on paper, for a good team, is average at best. I can name 10 to 12 teams that, if they stopped playing the sport now, Kentucky can’t pass. That’s not a knock. I picked them to win the national championship. My job is to tell you what is today.
Q. The SEC is 8-40 against ranked teams. How much of a drag, how much of a historically bad conference is it?
It’s going to hurt Kentucky’s seed. That’s another unpopular opinion of mine in certain social media circles. But I think it’s completely justified. Kentucky, by its own standards, has been inconsistent. It has not been dominant even in a poor SEC. It has lost, I think, every game to the three or four best teams on its schedule. To me that does not scream, you know, 2 or 3 seed. It screams more like 5 or 6 unless they beat Florida to end the regular season or in Atlanta.
Q. Aside from Florida and Kentucky, what about Tennessee which beat Virginia by 35?
That’s good, isn’t it? That’s why I still have them in. Everybody’s telling me I’m nuts. Again, that has happened before also.
You know, they’re one bad bounce and a close game away from falling almost completely out of the picture. It’s more likely now at this point that the SEC I think gets two teams than four or five. And recent history of the SEC tournament, if I’m not mistaken, is every bubble team seems to do exactly what it shouldn’t on the Friday and Saturday. Of course, it could be the opposite, right?
They’re not terrible, but there’s just nothing consistent about anything that makes you want to buy their stock.
Q. You had mentioned about San Diego and New Mexico, a 2/3 scenario. Would it matter if they lose against San Diego State, if one is in the regular season and one is in the Conference Finals? Does that matter in any way?
Only if you subscribe to what the committee just saw being more important. I actually think the regular-season sweep is more meaningful because it includes a road win. Then there’s the reality that the Mountain West final is going to take place very late in their game of seeding, et cetera. I’d want to put their early wins on the board. I would rather win the regular season outright than win a one-game conference title matchup.
Q. What is the magic number for Nebraska? How much work do you think they have to do to get in?
They need to go a minimum of 2-2 here down the stretch. The schedule is clearly in a place where they can do that, I think. They should beat Northwestern at home. If they can split with Illinois and Indiana, that gets them to 10-8 minimally, not counting the game against Wisconsin, counting that as a loss. It’s not guaranteed to be a loss, they’ve beaten teams that good already. Depending on who they would draw, 10-8 plus one more I think would almost certainly do it for Nebraska, given how the rest of the bubble looks at this point.