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Basketball: Lunardi says Bears are a lock

I participated this morning on a teleconference call with ESPN.com “bracketologist: Joe Lunardi, who said he cannot envision a scenario where Cal fails to get into the NCAA Tournament field.

Here are some highlights from the one-hour call:

–  On Cal’s tournament status:  “I seem to be in the minority on this, but I have thought since New Year’s that the regular-season champion of the Pac-10 was going to go to the tournament regardless of their performance in the Pac-10 tournament.  There’s a lot of history with any league ranked as high as the Pac-10 _  and I realize `ranked as high as the Pac-10′ this year is a bit of a red herring,. But I haven’t found a single regular-season champion in that range that’s been left out ever since the field was expanded in 1985. I do believe they’re in the field. As bad as the Pac-10 has been, historically it’s still in the top quarter of leagues. I just don’t see how that champion isn’t going to go to the tournament.”

– On how much the Bears have helped their chance by winning six of seven: “Recently, now that they’re whole, Cal’s been pretty good. There’s a qualitative part of it – outstanding play of late, a top-25 RPI,  regular-season championship.”

– On whether winning the Pac-10 tournament would significantly impact Cal’s NCAA seeding: “I think their seed will be higher than a lot of people think,. They’re in the 8-9 range now and I think they can get to a 6-7.”

– On whether there is any way the Pac-10 can get three NCAA berths: “I don’t think there’s any longer a secenario for three Pac-10 teams. I think that ship kind of sailed when Arzona State got swept by Cal last Saturday. I just don’t think there’s a way the Pac-10 can get three.”

– On how much we should keep an eye on the “first four teams out” listed in his current bracket projection: “The last four in (including Saint Mary’s) is more of a group to watch  because the bubble’s going to shrink.”

– On possible expansion of the NCAA field: ”I’ve tried to be consistent in my answers. There’s no good basketball reason to do it, to expand, at least to expand dramatically. By that I mean there’s no team with a realistic chance to win the national championship that isn’t being included in the current system. This isn’t college football at the BCS level where every year two or three teams can make a reasonable argument that on the field they can be the last team standing. We leave good teams out of the tournament, but we never leave out a team that can win six games (and the NCAA title).”

– On whether, in spite of that argument, expansion is coming: “Having said all that, whatever decision is made is going to be made for business reasons, because that’s the world we live in . . . The tourament ain’t non-profit in any way, shape or form. I do think some expansion is coming, sooner rather than later, and my only wish is they consider my sleeping habits. I lie awake at night dividing 65 from 66. (To separate) 95 from 96, to be quite honest, would be nothing short of a pain in the (butt). This year’s No. 66 isn’t good enough to play for a national championship, so I’d be hard-pressed to make a case for No. 96. I don’t think the world will be worse off if we don’t have 13 Big East teams in the field.”

– On the chances we”ll see another non-BCS team in the Final Four this season: ”I think there’s actually a decent chance of it this year because of the Mountain West and the Atlantic-10. To my eyes, those are not mid-major leagues. They didn’t used to be called mid-major leagues until BCS football exploded.  BYU draws 23,000 a game. Is that mid-major. Xavier has been to two Elite Eights in the past six years. Is that mid-major?”

– On whether this NCAA field will be the weakest ever: ”The bubble is weaker than it has been . . . I don’t think the field itself is overly weak. What might be giving that impression is it’s composed differently. (Without North Carolina, UCLA, Arizona, Indiana)  the brand-name quality of the field is off. But New Mexico and BYU are good and there are good teams in Atlantic-10.”

– On whether he believes it when the selection committee says conference affiliation is not a factor in picking the field: “I believe it 200 percent . . . (because) the process doesn’t allow for it. The number of teams from a conference are an effect of the process, not a cause.”

Jeff Faraudo

  • uh oh.

    Hey! Lunardi and I both think Cal can be a 6 seed!
    Toot toot!

  • Kevin

    I think if the Bears beat Stanford and get to the tourney semis, they get to a 7 seed. If they can get to the championship game, they get to a 6 seed. Would be huge to get to a #6, and perhaps we get placed closer to home as well.

  • Rocko

    On possible expansion of the NCAA field:

    Why don’t they increase the play in teams from 2 to 8 teams. Play all four games at the same venue on the same day, Tuesday. This could allow 4 more major conference teams to get in, while the smaller conference teams would still be in the tournament.

  • milo

    A 6 or 7 certainly would be cool…avoids the eventual game against the 1 from the 8 or 9 spot.

  • TakeOffThatRedShirt

    seed analysis:

    6 or better = best possible situation
    7-10 = glad we made it, 2 wins nearly impossible
    11-13 = upsets needed but better situation than 7-10

  • uh oh.

    Rocko:
    huh? Each of the 16 locations already has 4 games played on the first day of the tourney. That’s how you get from 64 teams to 16 by the end of the 2nd round. (actually, it’s only 8 venue locations because the first round is spread out over 2 days)

    The bummer is that you can no longer go sit and watch 4 games in a row. I think you buy tickets for the early session, then have to exit and re-enter with a new ticket for the late session. That stinks.

    I used to like it when they had the NorCal playoff finals at the oakland arena. You’d buy a ticket and watch game after game after game after game after game. That’s 5 in a row. 10 hours of hoops! Whoopie!

  • Dan

    Uh oh-

    I think you might be revising history a bit. I have been going to the tourney when geography allows me as far back as 1989. I was at both the first and second day rounds at Long Beach in 1989- that was the Loyola Marymount year, they were actually favorably placed at Long Beach- Day 1 they played 2 games, emptied the arena, and then brought eveybody back in with a different ticket.

    I have subsequently gone several times, and that has been the case every time I’ve gone. Not sure that they’ve done it the way you stated, but then I haven’t gone every year so maybe at some point you could watch all 4 in a row. But there is are a lot of issues with locker room space and other logistics at an arena if they play 4 in a row.
    _______________________________________________

    The bummer is that you can no longer go sit and watch 4 games in a row. I think you buy tickets for the early session, then have to exit and re-enter with a new ticket for the late session. That stinks.