Want an NCAA Tourney Bid? Clinch a (A-10 Tourney) First Round Bye
Where did the time go? 4 weeks until the regular season ends. 5 weeks until Selection Sunday. And (most importantly), 8 weeks until the Cardinals and Cubs kick off baseball season under the lights at Wrigley.
Admittedly, I spend most of my life pondering events too far in advance at the expense of my current obligations. So while I’m at it, here are some forward looking thoughts on the rest of the A-10 season.
Friday, March 13th will be the biggest day of the season. Why? Because four A-10 quarterfinal matchups will take place at the Barclays Center, and may decide the NCAA tournament fates of up to four teams. Winning your quarterfinal game is essential. It impresses the committee, gives you a resume building win, and gives you the opportunity to gain one more, typically against an NCAA-worthy opponent.
A big part of surviving the quarterfinals involves putting yourself in position ahead of time, i.e., clinching a first round bye. For teams like Dayton URI, Davidson, and George Washington, finishing in the top-4 is CRUCIAL. Not only might you score a more favorable matchup, but you come out fresh in the quarterfinals instead of on 24 hours rest. There is no way in hell VCU finishes outside of the top 4, but at least one of the aforementioned teams will. So, don’t be that team.
I’ll go one step further, here. The way the A-10 standings are shaking out, I would not feel good about being the 4 seed, even with the first round bye. Could you imagine being a team like Rhode Island, having to facing either Davidson or George Washington in a 4-5 game? The winner of that game could very well clinch a tourney spot, but I’d rather take my chances against a UMass or Richmond. So, if you’re a top-tier A-10 team, finish in the top 3.
Finishing 2nd or 3rd could very well mean avoiding VCU in the semifinals. I know VCU and URI are tied for 1st right now. But anyone who says they would rather play VCU instead of Rhode Island or Dayton is insane.
And let’s not discount the rest of the teams we might bet on seeing in the quarterfinals. St. Bonaventure, UMass, and Richmond are not easy outs. We all remember the 9th seeded Bonnies taking down top-seeded Saint Louis in the quarterfinals. And once again, there are 9 teams who are more than capable of beating anyone in Brooklyn.
Thankfully, there is plenty of basketball between now and March’s version of Friday the 13th. And while every team’s goal is obviously to win as much as possible, for teams in the NCAA conversation, finishing higher than 5th is essential, and finishing higher than 4th is a huge bonus.