A Somewhat Realistic NCAA Tournament Scenario

Right off the top, I just want to say this - I would be surprised if the Bulls went dancing. I don't want to get ahead of myself like, unfortunately, many of our fans do, and start booking plane tickets and all that. But hey, it's February and someone actually cares about USF's RPI rating and NCAA Tournament chances, which hasn't happened since 2002 (my last year on campus). So let's take a look at the resume and the future.

CBSSports.com has a very helpful tool for just such an undertaking. Here's what it says for USF in full, but I'll summarize:

Record: 14-7
Conference Record: 4-5
RPI: 54
Strength of Schedule: 35(!)
Last 10 Games: 5-5
Best wins: Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Kent State (by 22 points)
Bad losses: Central Michigan (at home)

A mid-50s RPI is pretty sketchy if you want an at-large bid, but it makes the selection committee give you a look. I'm not going to imagine that USF will beat Georgetown or Villanova, but there are three crucial games against potential bubble that will help their cause, and all of which are winnable as long as Gilchrist's impending return doesn't mess things up. (You read that right. I'll share those thoughts tomorrow. My first tease, what a moment!)

Feb. 13 at Marquette (current RPI: 58)
Feb. 16 vs. Cincinnati (current RPI: 49)
Mar. 6 vs. Connecticut (current RPI: 44)

Let's say you go 2-1 in those games, lose at Georgetown and Villanova, and go 3-1 in the other four games (at Notre Dame, home vs. St. John's, home vs. Providence, at DePaul). That puts you at 19-11 going into the conference tournament, with a 9-9 conference record. (For the sake of argument, let's assume the RPI and strength of schedule stay roughly the same or improve slightly.)

The top eight teams get a bye in the Big East tournament. If you're the #8 seed, you play the winner of the previous day's 9/16 game. If you're the #6 seed, you play the winner of the previous day's 11/14 game, and so on. It might not be so bad to come in 9th and play an extra game. You would probably thrash the 16th seed (either DePaul or Rutgers) and then have a critical 8/9 matchup the next day. Win that game and you're up to 21 wins. The party would almost surely end the next day with a matchup against Villanova or Syracuse. But 21-12 might be enough.

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