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What seed will the UMass Minutemen be in the tournament this year? This is a question I never thought I’d be able to ask. In what has seemed like an annual tradition, the question around this time has most often been – do they have to win the A-10 tournament to get into the Big Dance?
I, like many UMass fans, has spent many a February and March reading Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm’s latest bracketologies and bubble watches. Did the loss to URI kill our chances? Exactly how devastating was that loss to St. Bonaventure? What if we had just won just one more game? Is this Xavier game a must win?
We don’t have to ask those questions any more. And it feels fantastic. The Minutemen WILL be in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. The only question now is, what seed will they be?
With only one regular season game remaining the range is only so big. Lunardi and Palm currently have UMass as a seven seed. The highest I’ve seen them anywhere is sixth. The lowest is eighth. They haven’t once appeared as one of Lunardi’s last four in, and that’s just swell.
So where will they finish? That’s a GFQ right there. The highest seed the Minutemen can possibly get at this point is a four seed. The lowest is nine. Coming to this conclusion was not easy. Here’s the breakdown:
Current A-10 Standings
St. Louis 12-3
St. Joe’s 11-4
George Washington 10-5
The top four teams in the final A-10 standings get a first round bye in Brooklyn for the conference tournament. The advantage of that cannot be overstated. The Atlantic 10 is one of the best conferences in the country. Period. The only reason they aren’t given mainstream attention is because the conference lacks sexy, high profile “names” from college basketball’s royalty tree, as well as high profile McDonald’s All Americans, and national TV exposure.
The A-10 doesn’t have a Duke, North Carolina, or Syracuse. Not that any A-10 couldn’t play with any of those teams, but St. Louis, St. Joe’s and Dayton just don’t have the same ring to it.
But the A-10 also doesn’t have Virginia Tech, Boston College, Miami, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. Those teams are terrible. Instead the conference is filled with scrappy teams, capable of playing with anyone. Every game UMass has played this year has been contentious, outside of Fordham, and MAYBE Lasalle. So getting a fifth seed, and matching up against George Mason, or the scrappy Duquense Dukes in the first round is not a position UMass would like to be in.
As of right now the A-10 is a six bid conference. St. Louis, St. Joe’s, UMass, VCU, and George Washington are virtual locks.
The Minutemen can finish anywhere from second to sixth. Even though they have head to head losses to both Dayton and Richmond, and would therefore lose tiebreakers with those teams, neither of those teams can win out since they will face each other to end the season. Therefore UMass will finish in front of at least one of those teams.
That’s what makes Sunday’s showdown with St. Louis so important.
The Bilikens were the shining star of the A-10 not too long ago. Ranked as high as tenth, they’ve come on hard times lately, losing their last three to George Mason, at VCU, and Wednesday’s home loss to Dayton.
A win brings UMass to 11-5 in conference and guarantees a first round by, since they own the head to head tiebreaker with GW. They could move up to the second seed if Lasalle somehow upsets St. Joe’s, and VCU loses one of its two remaining games against Richmond and St. Bonaventure.
Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter if they get the second, third, or fourth seed. You’re gonna have to play a really good team no matter what. Just don’t get five or six because I can’t get down to Brooklyn for Thursday.
So some of you might think I’m hitting the UMass crack pipe too hard, talking about all this wild four seed cockey pop. But that might be generous. They’d probably deserve a three seed if they won out. Think about it, if they don’t lose the rest of the way, this is what their resume looks like:
14-5 in the A-10
Atlantic Ten Tournament Champions
Top 10 RPI
Quality wins against likely NCAA tournament teams: St. Louis (potentially twice), VCU (potentially twice), Nebraska, Providence, New Mexico, George Washington, St. Joe’s, BYU.
Four of their six losses would all be to teams at least getting consideration for the dance: Florida State, Richmond, St. Joe’s, Dayton, (St. Bonaventure, George Mason).
That’s a nice looking resume right there. In a conference that is now set up for six teams to get in the dance (Dayton, St. Joe’s, UMass, VCU, St. Louis, GW), the top seed deserves AT LEAST a four seed. Probably deserve a three seed. But we all know the stooges on the Tournament Committee don’t know the difference between the Atlantic Ten and the Patriot League.
Worst case scenario is they lose to St. Louis, get a six seed, lose to St. Bonaventure in the tournament, and Hannah Gordon gets her revenge. What seed do they get if that happens? Probably a nine. They’d still be 23-8, with a 10-7 conference record, and a shitload of quality wins.
There’s a million different possibilities in between there. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Beat St Louis, win conference championship: Four seed.
- Lose to St. Louis and win conference championship: Five seed.
- Beat St. Louis and lose in the conference championship: Five seed.
- Lose to St. Louis and lose in the conference championship: Six seed.
- Beat St. Louis and lose in conference semifinals: Six seed.
- Lose to St. Louis and lose in conference semifinals: Seven seed.
- Beat St. Louis and lose in conference quarterfinals: Seven seed.
- Lose to St. Louis and lose in conference quarterfinals: Eight seed.
- Beat St. Louis and don’t make conference quarterfinals: Eight seed.
- Lose to St. Louis and don’t make conference quarterfinals: Nine seed.
A lot of people think we should avoid being an eight or nine seed because you will have to get cream-pied by Arizona in the second round. I say bring it on. Slap the floor, UMass can play with anyone. In reality, they’re probably not going to win the National Championship, so they’ll have to lose to someone in the tournament. Who better to go down in flames to than a one seed? And think of the possibilities if they pull the eight over one seed situation. UMass all of a sudden becomes a legendary March Madness team. Chaz Williams becomes the next Bryce Drew, and his UMass legacy is cemented forever.
Start with St. Louis Sunday.
Feel free to share your thoughts to keep the conversation going.
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