11 March 2009

Two wins away from the Promised Land

NU men's basketball is just two wins away from its first invite to March Madness. Long suffering followers of the program have awaited this day and would be cause for spontaneous rejoice and perhaps even combustion. Can NU make the leap? Absolutely.

This feat would be accomplished by defeating Minnesota and Michigan State at the Big Ten Tournament this Thursday and Friday. Note that NU already vanquished both foes earlier this year including a victory over MSU at the Breslin Center. Thus, it is reasonable to think that NU can climb this last little bit of the NCAA's mountain.

The Big Ten is projected by the bracketologistensia to have anywhere between 6 and 8 invitees to the Big Dance. NU, as the 9th seed, is currently on the outside looking in. A victory over Minnesota could conceivably leapfrog NU over Minnesota in the eyes of the selection committee and in of itself persuade the committee that NU is worthy of an invite. However, I don't think this victory alone would do the deed and would most likely result in Big Ten cannibalization with both NU and Minnesota NIT-bound.

A second victory over MSU would really raise the eyebrows of the NCAA selection committee and add enough substance to NU's case for an invite to seal the deal. More specifically, a victory over MSU would mean:

1. NU defeated 8 top 50 programs. This statistic alone compares favorably to other bubble teams (and even to many NCAA locks);
2. NU defeated MSU, a likely 2 or 3 seed, both at Breslin and on a neutral court;
3. NU finished the year strong. At worst, NU would have won 5 of its last 7 and 6 of its last 9 including 2 road victories and 2 neutral court victories;
4. NU's record, at worst, of 19-13, 10-11 including a top 4 finish in the conference tourney; and
5. Improved RPI, Sagarin, strength of schedule, and Pomeroy ratings. All but the RPI statistic currently are NCAA-worthy with possibly all four in the no red flag territory after a victory on Friday.

These are compelling arguments to the NCAA selection committee. The last leg of the NCAA push begins Thursday @ 11AM Central. Just win, baby!

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