How many wins do Bulls need in New York?
I still have a ton to write from today's big USF win over Connecticut, but first, I'll ask the fundamental question for the next week of college basketball: How many wins do the Bulls need to secure an NCAA Tournament at-large berth?
USF coach Stan Heath thinks you can make a case for two wins, beating 16th-seeded DePaul, then eighth-seeded Georgetown. A third win -- against top-seeded and current No. 1 Syracuse -- would certainly help the Bulls' comfort level on the bubble. But if you ask analyst Jerry Palm -- who runs collegerpi.com and studies the field as much as anyone -- here's what the Bulls need to get in.
"Win the conference tournament," Palm said Saturday afternoon. "Anything short of that may not be enough. Beating Syracuse, as good as that is, may not be enough."
Remember, too, that because of the Big East's double-bye format, USF would be playing their third game in 48 hours against a Syracuse team that would have five days' rest. Palm has no problem putting nine Big East teams in the NCAA field, but says that's what the Bulls would probably need. Few more notes:
-- Palm points out that Georgetown, even with an opening loss to USF on Wednesday, will have a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament than they do in the Big East. The Hoyas might be a No. 4 seed right now -- the good part of that is that a Bulls upset would carry more weight against Georgetown than it would against Notre Dame. The nice thing about beating Notre Dame is that it would offset a season sweep the Irish handed the Bulls.
-- Palm said Connecticut and Cincinnati both need to win the Big East tournament to get in. He points out that both teams already have 14 losses, and in the 16 years he's analyzed the tournament, no 15-loss team has ever gotten an at-large bid, and only two (Georgia in '01, Arizona in '08) got in with 14 losses. There's nothing spectacular enough about those teams to break that trend.
-- Again, lots more to come from USF-UConn. Could easily write five stories off this one game. Chris Howard's last game in the Sun Dome, Jim Calhoun sitting his top two scorers for the final 16 minutes (!?) in a game he had to win, Dominique Jones making the decision to not talk to the media, lots of good storylines here. Check back ...