On the 9th Day of Conference tourneys the Buffet gave to me...

The QUINTESSENTIAL, mostly hypothetical, likely flawed, definiteive, but mostly guess work source for the status, seeding potential and outook all teams in contention for an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament as we head into #champweek for the major conferences (and, of course, the SWAC). (Not really the SWAC)

PART I

As always, the Buffet is brought to you by Ring.com. The $200 Ring Video Doorbell monitoring system was named by Time as one of the top 10 gadgets of 2014. With Ring you're always home. Go to www.ring.com/inthebuffet for free FedEx Delivery.... (ok, we are still trying to verify if the first & last sentences are, in fact, accurate, we believe they likely are not. Although, we are certain ring.com/espn gets you that free FedEx)

On to the Buffet... The plan was to approach this alphabetically by conference - but there's one team on everyone's mind: Valparaiso. 

We kid. Although, Valpo doesn't have the worst argument, the problem is they have nowhere near the best.

·         Decent computers numbers: 51 RPI, 41 BPI, 38 on KenPom

·         48th ranked non-conference schedule.

But that's when things get murky:

·         Only 1 win of note, TOTAL, that being at Oregon State in November (when they also played Oregon tough on the road as well).  

·         That's the thing, this team hasn't won any big games since November (they also blew MAAC champ Iona in early November as well).

·         They've played shaky down the stretch, have four losses to teams over 125, and did little away from home but beat up, not only non-tournament teams, but teams who never held out tournament thoughts.  

Bottom line: If you're a team without at least 3 good wins away from home, don't lose before your tournament final, regardless of who you lose to. ESPECIALLY don't lose in your first tournament game.  Valparaiso had a great season and it will continue in the N.I.T.

To the real team on folks' minds: The Monmouth Hawks and their bench mob. Last night was a TREMENDOUS game between two conference rivals and pair of great players - Justin Robinson of Monmouth (who sort of lost his mind down the stretch of that one, in a bad way) versus A.J. English of Iona (who lost his in a good way).

Monmouth has absolutely everything a small conference team can reasonably be expected to do:

·         Scheduled Notre Dame, Southern California (twice), Dayton, UCLA & Georgetown away from home.  

·         Went 4-2 in those games (which included a blowout win in DC and just a three point loss to Dayton).

·         Played 11 non-conference games and ONE was at home.

Sure there are potholes:

·         Just 4-4 versus top 100

·         3 TERRIBLE LOSSES - Army (215), Canisius (223), Manhattan (228)

·         Despite the 6 strong games, still just a 93rd ranked non-conference schedule.  

The analysis:

·         But, and maybe the committee doesn't see it this way, but here's our take on that - If your Monmouth, and you are forced to played 26 games against lower tier teams, you're going to lose some of them - it's the game.  Same way a dominant conference team like Kansas will lose a couple of games in their conference - it's the ebb and flow of a season. When I can focus on the top of the resume so clearly, the bottom doesn't have the crushing effect, because we've seen what Monmouth is capable of - as opposed to Valpo who just has a trip to Oregon to point at. For us, as of now, Monmouth is in.

Of course, important to remember, this week, teams like Tulsa, St.  Bonaventure, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Washington, Houston and even Ohio State (all who will be discussed below) have many chances to push their resumes to a place much more pristine than the Monmouths, Wichita State, etc...

Be sure to follow @inthebuffet on Twitter – for week long #monmouthatlargemob ALERTS – monitoring the at large hopes of YOUR Monmouth Hawks as it relates to the outcomes of each relevant power conference tournament game.

As we review these, please note, we will assume chalk in most cases (unless noted), as in MOST instances, chalk provides the highest ceiling for resume building...

Also to be noted – these capsules don’t exist in a vacuum. For instance, UConn can play out their tournament exactly as prescribed below, this does not suggest they will absolute end up where that capsule predicts. No angry mail that your team did X & Y like the Buffet said, and didn’t get in. This is to maximize their selection chances and/or seeding ceiling only. No further guarantees.

American Athletic Conference Locks: None

American Athletic Conference Waiting Line... Temple, Cincinnati, Tulsa, Connecticut

Temple: The Owls have ONLY stayed in the discussion this long because of their excellent conference season play. 6-6 heading into American play - they rattled off a 14-4 conference record and won 8 of 10 down the stretch. They have some nice wins - SMU, Cincy twice, Tulsa, a sweep of UCoon and a win at Houston.  All those teams are in tournament consideration (or would be if Larry Brown didn't cheat everywhere he coached) - but there's another common thread there - they're all conference opponents.  

Best work Temple did out of conference all season was Fairleigh Dickinson (#220 RPI)! The upside of Major conference tournaments on #champweek? 1-3 shots at resume building wins. The downside of conference tournaments? Teams with zero non-conference efforts do not get a single non-conference game. Temple, who will get a game of note versus Cincy/UConn and then, at best Houston - needs to win the American to get in the tournament.

Cincinnati - Currently projected at a 9-seed, likely cemented their bid with a season finale win over SMU. With UConn and Temple (projected) before reaching the final - it's possible to raise them to a 7-8, with a 6 being their absolute ceiling should they win the tournament final.

Connecticut - The Huskies seems to be a pretty divisive team heading into committee time.  Here at the Buffet they are projected as a 10, on the cusp of 9.  Some projectors have them among the last 4 in, some have them out al together.  It would behoove them to get their tournament opener versus Cincinnati - without it, they are a prime target to be a Monmouth/Wichita St/Oregon State at-large casualty.

·         Best non-conference win was a nice road win at Texas, but a deeper dive reveals that was Texas first game without Cameron Ridley, the Horns were out of sync all game, and still kept it within 5 points. Next wins are against a pair of Big10 teams, who are on the verge of missing the tournament themselves... Now, will the committee really take the Ridley injury into account when eval'ing UConn? Probably not, unless it gets to the slimmest of margins and they need a reason to keep them out.  Beat Cincy, and you eliminate that reason. Beat Cincy and Temple -- suddenly you might be wearing white as an 8-seed. Win the tournament, laugh in everyone's face, and enjoy.

Houston - The American was wacky this season. SMU was ineligible. The closest thing to locks from the conference are playing a quarterfinal 4/5 game, that had Cincy lost to SMU last weekend, could have been a Waiting Line Elimination game. And sitting as the 2-seed? Houston. The Cougars are currently sitting 7th in the Buffet's Waiting Line. That feels like too many teams to hop over (especially with potentially bid thieves looming). Assuming a collapse of the teams ahead, what does Houston need to do?

·         Reach the tournament final - hoping that it faces Cincy or UConn

·         Don’t let Memphis beat Tulsa for the second time in two weeks, so that is Houston's first good win (Tulane/UCF do not = good win)

Do not lose to Tulane or UCF.

Tulsa - Buffet holds a lot of respect for Danny Manning. And with a Texas alumnus on the editorial staff, there’s not a ton of respect (as a coach) for Frank Haith. BUT, just like Tubby Smith taking Minnesota/Texas Tech to the tournament in years when he previous employers did not qualify, we do love when a coach leaves for "greener pastures" and his old school hits the tournament before he does.

Tulsa is CLOSE. Though the Monmouth loss bumped them back, we currently feel they are among the top 5 teams in the Waiting Line (Gonzaga, currently ahead of them, can't improve their standing, and Florida/Michigan have been showing lately they aren't so interested in doing so.). The problem, unlike Florida, Michigan and even St. Bonaventure - great resume improvement is not to be found here:

·         Memphis, who derailed their seeming unstoppable Buffet train a week ago starts the quarterfinals, then it's Houston, then the tournament final.  Does beating Memphis/Houston and losing to UConn, Cincy or Temple = at-large selection.  Can't see it, but that's the best formula they have. Oh yeah, and don't lose to Memphis again

Atlantic Coast Conference Locks: North Carolina, Miami, Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame

Atlantic Coast Conference Waiting Line Squads: Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Florida State

North Carolina – In the UConn school of wide ranging projections.  They won the #3 conference (by RPI). Great top 100 record, 13-6 with nary a bad loss – and they are scattered from 1-3 seed depending on your source for bracket projections. The winner of tomorrow's highly scrutinized potential Buffet elimination between Pitt/Syracuse is on tap first. Then the winner of Duke/Notre Dame. (hey, if it's Duke, please round up whomever you're watching with and drink every time an announcer mentions "do you know these teams have never played in the NCAA tournament>"), then it's likely Miami or Virginia in a final.

·         Lose the final, and a 2-seed is the likeliest outcome here.  

·         Win it - and the regular season/tournament double seems like a recipe for a 1-seed.

·         Lose before it, and it'll be a thin line between 2/3.

Virginia – Not sure if it's Tony Bennett's difficult to love style of play or his own unassuming nature, but we feel most people don't realize the season Virginia had.

·         A Grayson Allen non-travel call away from sharing the ACC regular season crown.

·         7-2 against the RPI top 25, and added another top 50 win to be 8-2.  

·         14-6 versus the top 100 - wins against Villanova (a likely #1 seed lock provided they take care of business in the BE tournament), Miami, West Virginia (2 seed in B12 on a neutral court), swept Louisville (tournament lock if Rick Pitino wasn't gutless), and beat another potential protected seed (protected = committee takes geography into consideration when placing the top 4 seed lines) in California.  

·         Computers? Technology loves Virginia - #2 in RPI & BPI, #1 in the Pomeroy ratings.

·         Worst loss is 87. Some teams we will be discussing would kill for their 2nd or 3rd best win to be 87. They enter ACC tourney play on an 8-2 streak (would be 9-1 without the aforementioned non-call).

This is a 1 seed.

·         Losing to Georgia Tech (who is a tournament hopeful themself) shouldn't derail that.

·         Losing to Miami shouldn't derail that.

All this is, of course, pends what UNC does.   Kansas has a #1 seed, Villanova likely has sealed one itself. That leaves 2: between UNC, Virginia, Oklahoma, Michigan State and Oregon (Xavier has an outside shot, but with the competition, seems unlikely Big East gets a pair of #1s). If UNC wins the ACC double and Virginia doesn't reach the final - guess will be, resume-aside, Virginia is on the 2 line. Reach the final but lose, wiggle room exists for a #1, but given the competition, and assuming UNC and one of the other 3 teams listed wins their tournament - Virginia is a 2. Win the ACC tournament, Charlottesville should riot if they're not a #1.

Miami - The Canes won 5 straight to start February and silenced the echoes of their 16-pt loss to NC State. Suddenly they were entering 2-seed land, and some #1seed talk. Then they got torched by Virginia Tech in a listless performance to end the regular season, dropping them back to the 3-line. There's a 2-seed ceiling with an ACC tournament final appearance, and especially a win.

Duke - Was an odd season in Durham.  They lost 4 of 5 in January – as a result, ESPN nearly shut down, Coach K missed a game with illness, cats and dogs living together, MASS HYSTERIA.

Then things turned around: won at Georgia Tech (without Coach K!), beat Virginia, then UNC on the road

Then they stumbled a bit on their way in - losing to Louisville & Pitt on the road, and finished with a loss in #clashofthetitans in the finale versus UNC.

·         Great strength of schedule

·         Computer numbers are strong –

A potentially leaky resume that requires they beat NC State at a minimum, and possibly Notre Dame to stay on the 3 line. Without a semi-final berth, a 4 seed could be a likely destination (maybe a 5?) - pending outcomes elsewhere.  Winning the ACC tournament would likely = wins over Notre Dame, UNC and Virginia - that puts a 2-seed directly in their sights – and locks in the 3 seed floor.

Notre Dame - Quietly, as is Mike Brey’s way, the Irish were putting together quite a season: No bad losses; Beat Iowa out of conference – but then it became up and down.  Currently sitting as a 6-seed, a 7 seed could be their destiny if they lose their quarterfinal matchup and don't have any impact in the ACC tournament. Beating Duke could push them up to a 5, but likely cements their 6. Beating Virginia or Miami in the semis likely moves them up to 5 and potentially in 4-seed land. Win it, are they 4 – that’s a big jump, but their best formula for doing so. *For those with Monmouth still on the brain- Notre Dame pushing their way to an ACC tournament championship could oddly impact Monmouth, as that neutral court win by the Hawks suddenly gives the Committee another data point to point to as an excuse to get them an at-large.

ACC Waiting Line-

Pittsburgh – Time for some breakfast Buffet. Tomorrow morning, Pacific time, if you believe the mind control of the Worldwide Leader – is an elimination game. Syracuse v Pittsburgh. Big East throwback time! But is it? The Panthers sure came stumbling home. Lost 3 of 4 – with the 1 being a significant 14 point home win over Duke. Overall, though, this is a resume with some holes. 188th ranked non-conference schedule. Top non-conference win? Davidson. Couple of +110 losses. But they swept fellow Waiting Liner… Syracuse, won at Florida State, and won at Notre Dame. Currently, holding on to a 10 seed – a loss tomorrow probably doesn’t shuffle them out – but could move them to Dayton and the first four (pending other outcomes of course).  Where could they rise to? Obviously, 1 win isn’t moving them much. Beat North Carolina in the quarters? An 8 isn’t out of the question.  7 seed is likely the ceiling here.

Syracuse – After Northern Iowa, Iona edged their win in, Syracuse’s resume is suddenly under intense scrutiny. And frankly, it was doing really well under that microscope until February 17. Road win in Durham. Neutral court victory over Texas A&M. Beating Waiting Line nail biters St. Bonaventure, Georgia Tech & Connecticut. But there are 3 losses over 100, including in the place (D.C.) that Monmouth won by double-digits. Computers don’t love them – 46th average across the 3. This is all copmbounded by 4 of 5 losses to end the season. Lose to Pitt, and it’s a LONG 4 days – and it gives the ammo to keep them out. That’s 3 straight losses (see St. Joe’s below) and 5 of 6.  Currently sitting as the last team in.. but Bonnies, Florida, Michigan, and Tulsa loom (Gonzaga does not, despite their place in the Waiting Line… because to need at-large they’d lose tonight, and that doesn’t improve their resume). Can they get above a 9? Wins over Pitt, UNC, Notre Dame and Virginia – a Gerry McNamara-like run to the ACC tournament title, could show them the way to a 7or8, but I think 9 likely their ceiling.

Georgia Tech – The Yellow Jackets had a fine run to end the season, handled BC and Clemson as they should’ve, and eeked by Notre Dame & Pitt at home, to go from 3-9 in conference to 8-10 and in the Buffet discussion. 

The good:

·         Top wins: Virginia, Notre Dame and VCU

·         Stayed away from the multiple crushing losses – Clemson at 116 is the worst

·         The finish to the season

The Bad:

·         Other than VCU, absolutely nothing out of conference.

·         Top road win is 69 (Florida St)

·         Computers averaging – 46

·         12-13 against top 200 (bad indicator for at large berths)

Tech opens with Clemson. (BTW, don't lose that or yerrrrrr out.) That isn’t helping their resume, but does get them to 13-13 against top 200. Then comes Virginia. Buffet prescription needs them to win 3 games, but beating Virginia, with Syracuse and St. Bonaventure losing early, gets them closer and closer to Dayton.

Atlantic 10 Locks – Dayton

Atlantic 10 Waiting Line – St. Joseph’s, VCU, St. Bonaventure, George Washington

Dayton – There was a point when Dayton was a sneaky good resume – rocketing up the seed list. Then February 27th happened.  They had lost 2of3 coming in, but Kendall Pollard didn’t play in those. He did play on 2/27 when the Flyers fell to Rhode Island at home by 9. Suddenly the 2 losses out of 3 take on great significance. There’s a bunch of good here – wins away from home against Iowa, Vanderbilt, St. Bonaventure and Monmouth.  #6 non-conference schedule (A10 play actually dinged their schedule ranking) and 9 top 100 wins. But there’s losses home against URI and at LaSalle. And the play coming in – losing 3 of 4, then finishing out with 1 point wins over Richmond and home vs. VCU.  Seed be sliding, but think that’s done.  They’re currently sitting at 7 and likely will stay there.  St. Joe’s and winner of VCU/St. Bonaventure are on tap this weekend. A pair of wins and a A10 title (and the double) could grab them a 6, and perhaps a 5 – but I think the line is 6/7 and pretty set there.

St. Joseph’s – The Hawks were the dude stumbling home at 2AM.  After a big win over Dayton on Feb 17, they looked at a 5 game stretch to seal their bid against Davidson, UMass, St. Louis, St Bonaventure and Duquesne.  Yes roaddies at Davidson & Bonnie aren’t gimmes, but this is the tournament you seek. Bonnies went 2-3, and closed out versus Duquesne at home with an L. Non-RPI computers don’t like them (74.5 on average).  Scheduled well in the non-conference, but only able to beat Princeton and Virginia Tech, in 1-100 RPI games. They were good away from home.  But, this is the most tenuous of resumes.  Currently an 9, but what separates St Joe’s from the 11 line is thin, so don't to GW in round 1.

VCU -  More Atlantic 10 resume flimsiness. VCU played a decent schedule, and regarded by the computers. But their non-conference efforts are lacking. Best NC win? Middle Tennessee – next? Buffalo.  The saving grace is this conference is all Waiting Line, and VCU won those head to head matchups.  Without February 11&24 (losses to 180+ UMass and George Mason), this would be a tournament lock.  But it isn’t. Now, they’ve got only 1 game that can help their resume before the tourney final. That’s St Bonaventure – while it’s not a full- fledged elimination game, neither team would be in great shape with a loss there.  VCU currently on the 10 line would join Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Monmouth of teams whose last games could potentially be tournament hope crushers.  Win the tourney, and VCU is in the 8/9 game, some way shape or form. Losing early to Davidson, while not a bad loss - certainly imperils there tourney hopes and could crush them altogether.

 St. Bonaventure – Bonnies have the Buffet’s respect because they brought their season home like a designated driver. 5 straight wins (including St. Joe’s and Dayton), and 9-1 overall.  LA SALLE, though, really? They swept St. Joe’s overall, and beat Dayton on Feb 20th – #recencybias.  But, deeper diving you see a light resume – best non-conference win? Ohio, after that? Buffalo. You may sense a pattern here – A10>MAC. Losses to Waiting Line candidates VCU, and especially Syracuse, hurt in that last few teams in comparison scenario. And losing to La Salle, Duquesne and Siena on the road brings into question their tournament worthiness.  Currently among the first teams in the waiting line – they were bumped out this AM in the most recent Buffetology following the Monmouth loss. They’ll need to reach the tournament final, in all likelihood. Losing to VCU just puts them on the wrong side (0-2 versus a Waiting Liner) of too many Waiting Line comparisons. A loss to UMass/Rhode Island keeps them on the wrong side of the waiting line.

George Washington – File this under “barely in the discussion.” Wins over tourney locks Virginia & Seton Hall are the only thing propping up this resume.  They went splitsville with VCU, but lost h2h with Waiting Line candidates – St. Bonaventure, Saint Joes, and Cincy. Because they finished 5th, they do have the rare A10 opportunity at 2 good wins (St. Joes & Dayton) before the final.  But even then, and that’s the ONLY way they dream of getting in, there’s just a lot of better resumes in front of them that figure to get better. One loss, and they might need to try and make Buffet reservations for another year, wouldn't even get to stay in line.