Palm reading: Bulls out of NCAAs, Seton Hall in
It seems established that if USF is to make the NCAA Tournament, it would be as the Big East's ninth team in the field. But what if another conference team were to get in at No. 9 instead of the Bulls?
The latest NCAA projections from analyst Jerry Palm at collegerpi.com have nine Big East teams making the cut, but he has Seton Hall filling out the Big East nine, not USF.
It's an interesting debate -- the two teams have identical 9-9 conference records, with USF 19-11 and Seton Hall 18-11 overall. USF has the higher seed in the Big East tournament because the Bulls beat the Pirates head-to-head when they met in Tampa this season.
USF arguably has better quality wins -- both teams won at Pittsburgh (RPI 10), but USF's next best win is at Georgetown (RPI 14), while Seton Hall's is at home against Louisville (RPI 30). Best non-conference win? Seton Hall has Cornell (RPI 48), now in the NCAA field, while USF has Kent State (RPI 42), which could still win the MAC. Against top 100 opponents, USF is 6-10, Seton Hall 6-11.
But Seton Hall has a higher RPI -- 55 to USF's 63 in Palm's newest ratings. That's a function of the Pirates having a stronger strength of schedule -- rated 31st nationally, as opposed to USF at 54. And Seton Hall doesn't have a bad loss on its schedule (to a team out of the top 100), while USF has a loss to Central Michigan (RPI 191), albeit in the first game without Augustus Gilchrist back in December.
Palm isn't the only analyst who likes Seton Hall -- from Sunday to Monday, the Pirates moved up five spots on the bubble, according to ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi, who now has them as the second team out. (USF is his 10th team out as of Monday.)
The two teams are close enough that USF could probably jump ahead of Seton Hall simply by outlasting them in the Big East tournament -- if the Bulls beat Georgetown to advance to Thursday's quarterfinals, while Seton Hall loses to Notre Dame. (The Pirates beat the Irish 90-87 in the regular season).