What seed will Bulls have in Big East tourney?
Two straight wins by USF's men's basketball team have brought the Bulls back into the conversation for the NCAA Tournament bubble, if only in the context of "Could three more wins put USF back in contention?"
There's still a lot in play in the next four days -- USF, with an 18-11 record and an 8-9 mark in the Big East -- could as high as the seventh seed or as low as the 12th. Either extreme is certainly reasonable:
Bulls in 7th scenario: Connecticut wins at Notre Dame tonight, but loses at USF on Saturday. Notre Dame loses at Marquette and Georgetown loses to Cincinnati. Bulls and Hoyas finish 9-9, but USF wins the tiebreaker, finishes 7th. (It doesn't matter if Seton Hall wins out and also finishes 9-9).
Bulls in 12th scenario: Bulls lose to UConn. Notre Dame loses both its remaining games and Cincinnati knocks off Georgetown. Bulls, Irish and Bearcats tie for 10th at 8-10, but USF is 1-3 against those two, so they take the 12th seed.
The easiest way (this is a loose term) for USF to really get in the NCAA mix is to make the Big East semifinals, but that likely requires a big upset -- knocking off a Villanova or West Virginia, if not Syracuse in next Thursday's quarterfinals.
For USF's sake, I think you can treat seven Big East teams as being in right now -- Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia and Pittsburgh are locks. Georgetown, for all its recent stumbles, has an RPI in the teens, so even losing out, I think they make it in. Louisville is probably one win away from locking up a spot, and Marquette has won nine of 10, including three straight overtime road wins, so hard to see them out.
That means USF has to make a case for being the Big East's eighth team, and its primary competition for that is Notre Dame and Connecticut. So what's the scenario that allows USF to beat both and help itself the most between now and the Big East quarterfinals?
Ideal scenario for USF: Connecticut wins tonight at Notre Dame, which knocks the Irish down a bit on the bubble. It also makes it more impressive when the Bulls beat Connecticut on Saturday. Georgetown beats Cincinnati, which keeps value in USF's road win against the Hoyas. Seton Hall wins out, maximizing the value of USF's win against the Pirates. Notre Dame wins at Marquette. That all puts USF as the ninth seed in the tournament, with Notre Dame as the eighth seed. Bulls beat DePaul in the opening round to pad their record, then beat Notre Dame in second round, helping offset their two regular-season losses to the Irish. Connecticut and Seton Hall don't make it to the Big East quarterfinals. Bulls would have five straight wins at that point.
Even with all that happening, USF would face No. 1 Syracuse on Thursday, so the Bulls would need a strong showing there. And for the Big East to get eight teams in, USF would have to avoid chaos in the other conference tournaments -- one-bid leagues need their top seeds to get automatic berths, no surprise champs in the major conferences, etc.
For any of this to be more than wild speculation, the Bulls have to beat Connecticut in the Sun Dome on Saturday, and that's a pretty big first domino that has to fall for USF.