- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2007

It’s all fun and games to construct a bracket once or twice a week once conference play arrives. There even come times when it’s obvious there’s too much thought being put into slotting 65 teams in the field; like vaguely remembering Wisconsin and Delaware State played this season and shouldn’t meet in the first round and then have a sinking, guilty, bizarre feeling upon discovering that is indeed true (like that’s never happened to you).

It’s quite another to be someone who comes up with a bracket before the season even starts. These are the true bracketologists, and one of the top ones around is ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi.

Lunardi provided me with insight Tuesday on the parade of plausibly local teams who still have a chance to make the NCAA tournament:

Georgetown: They’re definitely on the rise. I have them as a No. 3 seed now. They could certainly go higher if they win the Big East regular season or tournament. The schedule is in their favor [trips to Cincinnati and Syracuse and home games with Pittsburgh and Connecticut]. Pittsburgh has to go to Marquette, so the door is open for them. I think a 2 is in range for Georgetown, but a 3 is no slouch, either.

Maryland: I have them as a 9, and they’re certainly rising. On Super Bowl Sunday, we were talking about them maybe not making it, but 6-6, .500 in the ACC is probably going to do it. It wasn’t good enough last year, but they have three out of four at home. They should be OK. Even if they lose to North Carolina and Duke, they’re catching Florida State reeling. I think they’ll be OK.

George Washington and George Mason: Neither is close to the at-large pool.

Old Dominion, Virginia Commonwealth and the scrum atop the CAA: What do you do about Drexel, which is fourth in the league. They have the most road wins in the country, but they’re 0-3 against those three teams ahead of them.

Old Dominion, I’m getting a lot of e-mail about them from people who don’t understand why they’re not in. They still have work to do. They have a great win early at Georgetown, and winning at Toledo in the Bracket Busters was helpful. They have a bad loss at James Madison. Of their 21 wins, 12 are sub-150 so that 21-7 is really 9-6 because they have a sub-150 loss. I don’t think they’re as close as some people. I have them within four or eight, but I don’t think they’re solidly in.

The same for VCU. They probably could have been had they beaten Bradley, but they’re in that no man’s land of 12 or 13 teams [out]. The league is good, but it has to be remembered there’s some real dogs at the bottom.

Virginia, which is the only team to play N.C. State, Wake Forest and Miami twice: They must have something going for them. I rank in-conference schedule for this very reason, and they’re fifth in the country [behind Villanova, Vanderbilt, Indiana and Clemson].

Virginia and Virginia Tech: They’re both solidly in. Clearly, the way to beat Virginia Tech is to catch them after a big win. They seem to play every other game. Virginia’s story is remarkable. They’ve made the tournament once in the last 10 years and I had them in the preseason bracket and some people thought I was crazy. I though their guards would help them. I’m not sure they’re a Sweet 16 team, but they’re going to be a decent seed, maybe a six. That gives them a chance to make some noise.

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