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College basketball: Georgetown Syracuse, Maryland North Carolina State and NCAA tourney chances

Feb 18, 2010

Washington Post staff writer Eric Prisbell was online Thurs., Feb. 18 to take all your questions about Wednesday night's Maryland North Carolina State game, Thurs. night's Georgetown Syracuse Big East showdown, Maryland's NCAA tournament stock and all your other college basketball questions.

Who ya got? Syracuse or Georgetown? PITT or Marquette? Go Big East. Best conference ever!

Hello, everyone! We are getting down to crunch time in the regular season. Thanks a lot for stopping by. Lots to talk about. Feel free to ask about anything you want, and to ask as many times as you want. I promise I will get to every question.

I am also interested if anyone out there thinks a 96-team NCAA tournament field is a good idea. Let me know. As always, feelf ree to email at if you have any other thoughts.

I ahve Geogetown winning tonight. If the Hoyas play a good team at home, good bet to pick the Hoyas. But we'll get into that more later. Flip a coin on the other game.

I am told Gene Wang will be conducting a live chat during tonight's Georgetown game on The 65 blog, which is dedicated to everything and anything NCAA tournament related.

Fire away, everyone!

Moving beyond bubble talk, what are Virginia Tech's chances to make some noise in the tournament? The weak schedule likely gives them a relatively low seed, but I don't think any higher-seeded will be happy they get VT. Depending on the draw they could make it to 16 or 8. The Hokies play solid defense and have the ability to hang around every game, a few scorers and a great overall team feel, and mostly they have become a seriously clutch team that knows how to win close games.

I agree. It depends on the matchup, of course, but I think there is a good chance I will pick the Hokies to win one NCAA tournament game (assuming they make it). They are very athletic, and they strike me as a mentally tough team -- look at the win at Virginia. Delaney is a stud, Hudson is an accomplished scorer. Allen is surely capable, etc.

I don't see any ACC team advancing too far, but VT can make a little noise for sure.

Next year Maryland will likely have a starting lineup of Bowie, Tucker, Mosley, Gregory and Williams with Padgett and a slew of talented freshman coming in - Stoglin, Parker, Pe'Shon. It seems they are set up quite nicely to compete in the top tier of the ACC for a good while. Isn't it about time to dismiss the "Gary Williams recruiting woes" tag that has been placed on him (by you among others)?

Not at all.

Here's the situation on Gary: He is a Hall of Fame caliber college basketball coach, nothing less. He is one of the best coaches in the entire country. He gets the absolute most out of his teams. If a team underachieves or falls off, blame the players (like a John Gilchrist), but Gary is not the problem.

As for recruiting, Gary Williams will struggle to get the elite national prospects in large part because he refuses to push the envelope, bend the rules or deal extensively with unsavory characters (runners, hangers-on, etc.) who attach themselves to the best players. That is fact. Take the top 30 players and there are runners, or other individuals attached to most of them. Gary does not want -- or need -- to deal with them. Other coaches do. Not all do. But some do. Gary can take his five and more often than not beat the five you want to put on the floor. He is an old-school rarity these days, but college basketball is better with Gary still on the sideline. That's how I feel.

What are the chances of the Big 12 getting seven teams into NCAA Tournament this year? I would say Kansas, K-State, Texas A&M, Baylor, Missouri and Texas are locks, while Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma are bubble teams. Actually there is probably no way Oklahoma makes it and the only reason they are a bubble team is because of the name, but if either TT or Ok State finish with an above .500 record in conference and/or make a deep conference tournament run, I think they should probably be in, especailly since the conference has the highest RPI. Thoughts?

Thanks for the question. I've got the Big 12 with a solid 7 teams. I thought before the season started that the Big 12 would compete with the Big Ten for the title of the nation's strongest conference. I underestimated Syracuse and just how strong the top of the Big East would be.

Texas Tech is interesting, I was actually looking closely at its resume earlier today, very early this morning. Look, they have only 5 wins against top 100 teams, and that's one of the problems I have with Tech. The overall SOS is good. I'd say they are on the fringe of the bubble right now. There is room for them if they want to make a run.

When you get to trying to figure out the final 5 teams that will get at-large bids, a lot of resumes look alike, and some of these Big East teams -- I have six competing for the final five slots! -- will start to eliminate one another.

It actually physically hurt to watch the Maryland-N.C. State game last night. Just ugly basketball to watch. This conference is remarkably weak. I do not think they are even the third-best conference at this point. I do not think there is an ACC team out there that makes the tourney that gets past the second round. The only one seemingly capable is the cream of the ACC,  Duke, and honestly, they are not very good either. ACC will get 5-7 teams in on the conference rep alone, but really they probably should not have more then 3 at-large bids and the automatic. Just make the NIT the ACC Invitational?

I agree with some of what you have said, but not all of it UNC has carried the entire league in NCAA tournament play since 2005. Duke has a strong resume, but raise your hand if you are picking Duke to get to the Elite Eight. Not many people will be.

I think there are a bunch of "good" teams in the league. Maryland is good. VT is good. Georgia Tech and Clemson surely can be good. Wake is good so long as they don't play Cleveland State again. I would not be surprised to see a couple ACC teams make the Sweet 16. But I also would not be surprised to see none make it. I can say with relative confidence that I will not be selecting an ACC team to advance to the Elite Eight.

As mediocre as the ACC has been -- and it has been mediocre this season -- we need some perspective, too, because the Pac-10 is simply awful. It is in position to be the first power conference since 1985 to be a one-bid league.

What are some of the mid-majors you're excited to see in the tournament. Can Cornell, a team that lost to horrid Penn, really make some noise?

Good question. I'll just consider the term mid-major to mean any team not in a BCS conference with the exception of Gonzaga.

The non-BCS team I am most excited to see is New Mexico. I have not seen a game of theirs yet this season but really want to. They have an excellent resume. I have them as a No. 3 seed right now, but the top of the MWC is strong and if they should win the conference tournament it would be interesting to see if they could climb to a No. 2.

There are some tough road games in that league because of the travel situation and the venues, but New Mexico for the most part keeps rolling. Very impressive.

Richmond is another team that I will be excited to see and that could make a little noise.

I like UTEP and Derrick Caracter, whom I have read about and watched play since he was 12 or 13 years old.

Murray State is a very balanced team with I think six players averaging double figures. Could give a 3 or 4 seed a game.

I always like Butler. Siena and Cornell? The recent losses surprised me, but Cornell will still be a dangerous and capable 13 seed that can shoot the lights out.

Have we seen the end of the Maryland, West Virginia, Mississippi State ugly fan participation in on-court events? Can we expect NCAA sanctions if university administrations can't police their fan base? Thanks.

Great question. As far as I know, Maryland fans have behaved this season. Years ago, it was a different matter and they were quite vile at times. But something needs to be done at West Virginia and Miss. State because a few fans at each place ruin the reputation of the entire fan base, not to mention put players and coaches in danger. They will need to start penalizing the home team and holding the students accountable. Cannot be tolerated.

I love Morgantown. I do. Great place.

But if I went to school in Starkville, Miss., I'd be upset, too. Still, you need to behave yourself!

On that note, it's a shame Renardo Sidney has not played.

If Murray State keeps making shots like these, they'll go far in the tournament.

Hey Eric, Sean Mosely seems to be struggling a bit of late. I realize he is a "glue player" and his numbers are not always reflective of his impact but he has made some uncharacteristic plays of late and appears to be short on energy at times. I thought he would be a key player against Duke but never was able to make an impact. Is he healthy? Just in a slump? Thanks!

Well, Gary Williams has talked about this some, I believe. Mosely started off so well, but now, at this point of the season, all the teams are scouted so well, everyone knows everything about everyone else, and the ACC opponents during the second half of league play are more prepared for him. I think that is some of it. I also think that he has looked indecisive at times, and perhaps he just needs to go back to playing more, reacting more, instead of thinking it through. That's more of an observation. All that said, the improvement of his shot has been pretty remarkable and a good sign for the future in the years to come.

Why can't RU develp a decent/good basketball program? They are in a great conferene, have very good facilities and have a great location from which to recruit.

Hiring the wrong coaches. And they can't recruit a state and area loaded with talent. Hire Eddie Jordan. It would be a great move for Rutgers if they can get the former Scarlet Knight. The RAC can also be a tough place to play. When I went to school at Rutgers, I remember coveraging RU's win over Georgetown. Intense atmosphere.

Do you really like the team or just the coach? One of the best [the coach]. Must be something about learning fundamentals under Bob Knight.

I am intrigued by the team. I certainly commend Steve Alford on the job he has done there. I like Darington Hobson as a player. And I like the team's overall resume. But I need to watch this team play some. New Mexico is one of the teams I am most looking forward to seeing play over the next few weeks. They are also one of the few teams west of Manhattan, Kansas, that matter this year. New Mexico will get a good seed and head to San Jose and Spokane, Wash., for a first round game. It will be interesting to see if those sites attract a lot of fan interest because there will be a good number of east coact teams (3 and 4 seeds ) out there this year with the Pac-10 down.

Lest anyone forget, the NCAA's TV rights are up for bid. The last thing it wants is a bunch of New Mexicos, Cornells and William & Marys polluting the field. We all know if any of those teams played 10 times against a Cal, Washington, Connecticut or North Carolina, they'd lose six or seven times. Thus, viewers aren't going to pay attention if the "body of work" demands these non-entities make the tournament. That means lower ratings, which equal lower rights fees. So really, for the good of the membership, the selection committee has to put together a field that pumps up ratings in this most critical year.

Well, it is an issue worth keeping an eye on this season. But I disagree with you completely about the mid-majors. To me, they are what makes this event so special. George Mason beating a no-fun UConn team and reaching the Final Four in 2006 wasn't so bad, was it? Davidson coming within a shot of beating Kansas? Steph Curry can play a little, right?

This season, Cornell nearly won in Lawrence, William & Mary won at Wake and at Maryland -- two likely tournament teams and New Mexico -- get this -- has 7 top 50 wins. That is 7 more than California has.

The big boys don't want the little guys in because they want to keep their jobs. They want 96 teams so more coaches can have job security. But the stories make the tournament -- whether it's George Mason, Steph Curry or whatever -- and more likely than not those stories can be found with the mid-majors.

That said, you raise a good point. Only four at-large mid-majors got in last season. It will be interesting to see if more get in this season. I think there will be more because more are deserving.

New Mexico was improving under Reggie Theus, too. The MWC is better than people out east think, but it's hard to know that when any games are on at midnight.

True. I used to cover the WAC and Fresno State for three years, so I'm very much interested with the WAC, WCC and MWC. The WAC tournament was good at times, but I always have wanted to cover a MWC tournament. A trip to Vegas in March isn't so bad.

Gritty win last night for the Terps. Jordan Williams played by far his best half of basketball. He really controlled the paint in the second half. I think that matchup-wise, Georgia Tech may be the most unfavorable to U-Md. in the ACC because of the two skilled athletic big men that they have. Where do you see U-Md. finishing in the ACC? They do not have an easy game left at home and U-Va. and Va. Tech on the road are going to be tough as well. Wherever they finish in the ACC it has been another terrific coaching job by Gary Williams. His teams always improve markedly every year from November to March.


Terrapins Insider: Jordan Williams 'on a fine line'

Good points. The next four games are all against top 50 teams. I say Maryland gets either Clemson or GT and Duke at home in Vasquez's last home game (should be a wild atmosphere). The game at Virginia Tech will be a bloodbath, a tough atmosphere against a good team. I've got Tech. And I've got the Terps winning at UVA, which is sinking fast. So I have three more wins.


I believe the Big East is good, but isn't it overrated as well. I think Seton hall would be decent in most other conference, but it is overwhelmed in the Big East. Who in the Big East could beat Kansas or Kentucky? I like Villanova and its five athletes/ballplayers approach, but they don't have the studs like Kentucky or Kansas. Syracuse is very good, but I still don't see the quality depth to compete with either Kansas or Kentucky.

Well, I still have Kansas winning the whole thing because it is the best team. A lot of depth. Star power. Future pros. A coach who has done it. Etc.

The Syracuse team has quickly grown on me because of the team's length and because of Wes Johnson's supporting cast. But the team that I liked the most in the Big East before the season to make the Final Four is West Virginia. Huggins is underrated as a coach.

I have a hard time rating the entire Big East because it is just too darn large at 16 teams. I still think the bottom of the league is junk, even with Rutgers beating Georgetown. The middle of the league is too muddled right now. I like South Florida's potential with Jones, UConn's potential if they ever get it together.

As for Kentucky, they may have the top two picks in the draft on the team in Cousins and Wall. But they are playing in the SEC. They have only one loss, but they have not beaten a great team. Wins over North Carolina and UConn don't look as strong now. Once again with Calipari's teams, very hard to predict in March. Because of the youth, I could see a Sweet 16 exit, or I could see Calipari putting another banner up in the rafters. (Okay, if someone wants to say, Banner goes up, in two years banner comes down, now would be the time -- but I'm not saying it)

Eric, do you have any idea where the selection committee will send the Terrapins in March (assuming, of course, that they make the tournament)? They try to keep teams close to home, no?

When I participated in the mock bracket exercise at the NCAA headquarters a few years ago, it really struck me with how far the committee goes to try to place top four seeds near home. They measure the mileage, etc. It is unlikely, though I guess not impossible, for Maryland to creep up to a four seed, so the Terps can pretty much go anywhere.

Take Buffalo. Syracuse will likely be there as a No. 1 or No. 2. Maryland could easily be a 8/9 or 7/10 and be up there and play the 'Cuse in the second round.

Say Maryland gets a 6. They play an 11 in the first round and a 3 in round two. If that 3 is, say, New Mexico, Maryland could be shipped out to Spokane or San Jose, so it really could be anywhere at this point.

I am hoping for New Orleans or Milwaukee. Not Buffalo again!

I think the 96-team field is a BAD idea. That's my vote. Thanks!

Thank you. I agree.

I heard Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton say that he would be open to every team -- all 347 -- being in the NCAA tournament. That would be, um, interesting. Try doing a mock bracket for that, Patrick Stevens!

Can you provide any actual facts that make the Big East the "best conference" this year? This superior conference has the following record this year against the five other major conferences: ACC, 5-7; Big 12, 2-1; Big 10, 2-5; Pac-10, 10-3;  SEC, 7-8. Oh I see, its the top teams in the Big East that make it so great; let's forget about the garbage at the bottom padding all the won-loss records. Let's point out how the best in the ACC was owned by Georgetown, proving the Big East was much better than the ACC. I guess I missed your articles when ODU beat Georgetown at Georgetown and Temple beat Villanova that those games proved the CAA and the Atlantic 10 were better than the Big East. I also missed the article from you claiming the ACC was better than the Big East when ACC's last place team NC State beat 5 in a row winner in the Big East Marquette. Here are some facts - the Big East's several good teams are more than counterbalanced by the horrid ones, and certainly overhyped by ESPN and "experts" like you.

Yes, I agree with you, and thanks for the question. I love the top of the Big East, hard not to. But I just have a hard time comparing the league to other leagues because it is too large.

I think I like the Big 12 the best this season. It has the national title favorite in Kansas, a solid 2/3 seed in Kansas State. Texas is capable though struggling. Texas A&M is dangerous. Missouri can reach the Sweet 16 again. Baylor is capable. That's my league. And I also like the top half of the Big Ten. I think Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State are all very good.

I picked Purdue to make the Final Four before the season and I am not backing off that now, regardless of how many times Steve Yanda wants to badmouth 'em!

How do you view Sunday's Duke-Virginia Tech game? With Virginia Tech's win over Wake, this game becomes less of a must-win for the Hokies. Granted it's for first place in the ACC standings to date, but I feel as though Virginia Tech is playing with house money at this point (i.e., already in tourney barring a total collapse). That said, what are the Hokies' chances of escaping with a win? Duke-Virginia Tech games have typically been very physical, and I think foul trouble coule play a major role (cough Jeff Allen cough cough). What do you think?

It depends on whether the bearded one on Duke down low plays like he did against Maryland.

No, seriously, I think VT has a chance against any ACC team. Compete with Duke on the boards, try to contain Scheyer, etc. It won't be easy by any means, but the Hokies certainly have a shot.

That said, I would not take the house money approach just yet. I did a chart on our blog, The 65, yesterday about just how bad VT's schedule is. It is awful. Awful. The worst of any BCS conference team this season. By far the worst of any bubble team. No team has earned an at-large bid the past few years with a schedule even close to being that poor. The nonleague sked ranks 340 out of 347 games. There are 10 members of the selection committee.

What if you have a few who have the letters SOS tattooed on their arms and they are just in love with Strength of Schedule ratings more than family members? And what it they won't put VT in unless they have 4-5 top 50 wins -- which they don't?

So nothing is ever a lock when you have a team with an extreme like VT's SOS. But I do think at least 10 ACC wins should be enough and they should get there. The team is good enough to make the NCAAs.

Eric, this new format for the chats is going to take away reader glory! How are we gonna know if it's Fushezzi or Barno asking the questions!?!

I haven't even gotten a chance to see how it looks, just trying to answer the questions with the new system. Looks good so far.

One suggestion to improve Rutgers: join the ACC. All the cellar dwellers from the Big East that joined the ACC are finding remarkable and fast success.

Well, that would help the ACC from a football standpoint, I suppose.

I liked the ACC better before expansion when the double round-robin was in place for hoops. A shame.

Do you think that the Hokies might be ranked next week, even if they lose to Duke? They were just outside the AP poll this week, and I'm thinking they'd just swap places with Wake. Would a respectable loss to Duke keep them out of the top 25?

To be honest, I have no idea about the AP rankings and refuse to look a them. The selection committee focuses on the RPI and top 50 wins and all that, so I study that every day. I could not tell you where teams are ranked in the AP poll.

But why was Duke ranked ahead of a Georgetown team that spanked them? Why was Cornell in the top 25 when, while a good team, they had virtually no at-large hopes and were nowhere near a top six seed in the NCAAs? This is why I don't look at the polls much.

If Tech beats Duke, I could see Tech as a 6 seed, which would mean (6 times 4=24) they could slip in.

A lot has been made about Gary Williams's recruiting, about how he doesn't recruit the best players because they often have questionable ties in AAU or to agents or boosters. I think what a lot of people forget is where the Maryland program was when Gary took over. The Terps were near the death penalty because of the actions of recruits and of Bob Wade. So who can really question why Gary continues to avoid the questionable recruits? I don't blame him a bit.

I would not blame Gary even if he didn't take over the program in such condition. Who wants to deal extensively with unsavory characters or runners or hangers-on or with people who want money, jobs, cars, tax-exempt donations, speaking deals at camps, etc. I don't blame Gary at all. And he does more than fine without giving his fans a scare that NCAA investigators could one day make their way to College Park. Won't happen. They are one of the cleanest programs around.

there have been some dog games of late. With that said, what games are you looking forward to this weekend?

Dog games? Like what? What exactly was a dog game? Virginia-Florida State maybe was a dog game. I guess it was a dog game.

I'm looking forward to a handful of Bracket Buster games, especially Siena-Butler.

Nope. Join the MAAC. It's more interesting to watch than the ACC. More drama; more unexpected results.

Fair point. The ACC is really taking a beating today!

Ha ha ha,all those ACC boys got a chip on their shoulder. The Big East is the best conference in the league, bar none. Any argument against is, well, merely humorous. So let's look at the "good" teams in the ACC: Duke . Okay, that's it. There is a reason that team like Miami, Florida State and Virginia Tech were bottom dwellers in the Big East but all of a sudden became middle of the pack/toward the top of the ACC. ACC plays a guard oriented, "soft" style of basketball. It is a pretty boy league and, Duke and UNC aside, it usually gets exposed come tournament time.

The Big East is a confederation more than it is a league. Sixteen teams? Really?

As far as leagues I like to watch usually: the CAA, the Big 12, the MVC, the Pac-10 (usually, but not this year) and the Big East and ACC.

Sure, but have it be only the "not top 6" from the BCS conferences that first weekend, and the best 8 from that 32 start the tourney as the lowest 8 seeds. That way you can make the remaining 56 teams reflect regular season excellence including the best two teams from the lesser leagues if they deserve it. For example, both Harvard and Cornell make the tourney, at the expense of Big East #9, who has to earn its entry. And getting rid of the 64-65 game enhances the experience for the lower-league teams. If you win the MEAC, you shouldn't have to prove you belong by beating your counterpart from the MAAC.

Thanks. Interesting point. I would be okay with 68 teams, but adding 31 more at-large berths seems insane. That means that almost every ACC team would make it. Crazy.

If there were a way to bring a few more capable at-large teams, both from big leagues and small leagues, that's fine.

So Fred Hill ain't da man? Anyone available out here who comes to mind? Who needs to move on? How about Jerry Wainwright? He knows the Big East now.

Jerry's a great quote. But it didn't work out at DePaul and that would not get me too excited. I like Eddie Jordan.

How big was Purdue's win at Ohio State last night and do you think Purdue is a legitimate top 4 team?

Very impressive. My preseason Final Four pick has not lost in a month. Ohio State was also starting to surge, and it has the best player in the country, so the win was all the more impressive. Purdue has beaten five teams in the RPI's top 25. The team's core has been together for a few years now, and this team has a chance at a No. 1 seed if things break right.

I don't think Jamie Dixon has ever won there. Any comments? A Pitt and Georgetown win tonight would really add some lustre to my day. Pity about Notre Dame last night. Couldn't pull out the upset in 2 OT. Have to admit, don't you: exciting conference play.

The Louisville-Notre Dame game was fun to watch.

I'd probably lean toward Marquette, which could still use the win to bolster its credentials.

Eric, how would you rank the area teams for next year? George Mason is scarily young (only one senior this year) and should be the prohibitive favorite in the CAA next season.

My Bracketology 2011 Edition is not quite out on the shelves yet, but George Mason should be improved with a more experienced team. Virginia Tech should be very good if the entire roster, for the most part, returns. Virginia should be better. Maryland should take a few steps back.

Good wins and bad losses are always cited when comparing NCAA tournament bubble teams. However, when you look at a team like Virginia Tech, which doesn't really have either, where does that put them? I think the Hokies (coming from a Terp fan, BTW) are a solid lock for the tournament, and I'd probably even put them ahead of Maryland right now. They only have four losses (all on the road), which is less than most of the mid-major bubble teams like Old Dominion, William & Mary, Siena, etc. Virginia Tech has beaten who it has played this year, so why should the Hokies be penalized when the teams they thought would be good this year are having terrible season. Also, why should the Hokies be dinged for not getting two games against the upper echelon of the ACC, they don't control their ACC schedule?

Great point about the ACC schedule. That's why I don't like the scheduling now. But the nonconference sked is ranked 340 -- hard to defend that, really. VT does have two good wins -- Clemson and Wake -- and the Wake win is a very good win. VT also has a better record against top 100 teams than Maryland does. So VT has beaten good teams, it just has had limited chances against very good teams.

Why does the strength of schedule carry more weight than RPI? RPI seems to have strength of schedule factored into it anyways, since it takes into consideration the opponents' winning percentage, and the opponents' opponents' winning percentage. If Virginia Tech has an RPI in the 40s then isn't that saying we've accounted for the quality of the teams that they've played and they're still on of the top 64 teams? It also doesn't seem fair that they're being penalized for beating teams that are weak (particularly ones that should have been stronger like Penn State, Georgia, etc) instead of losing to Cincinatti, Wisconsin, and Villanova as Maryland has done.

Good points. Some people may value one over the other, and others may disagree. I'm just saying that when the SOS is that extreme, that bad, it just jumps out at you. It's kind of like a team with an RPI in the 90s. No team with an RPI worse than the low 60s has ever earned an at-large berth. The SOS in nonconference play can also show a little bit about what a team intended to do with its schedule. Who tried to play people? Did you schedule someone that was supposed to be good but had a down year? I look at that, but I am not sure everyone does.

RPI is not the end all, either. Texas Tech and St. mary's are in the 40s and they are probably not in the field now. Siena has an RPI around 33 and they don't have much of an at-large chance. A few years ago, Mizz State got left out with an RPI of 20 or so.

It's the whole body of work, as they say. But I think it's important to take a clear look at exactly who the teams played. And by beating up on softies, I don't think it shows much.


See ya, everyone. It was fun. Thanks for all the questions. Take care.

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Eric Prisbell
Washington Post College Sports Writer and Blogger
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