by Zack Peñalva, Sports Editor
With the regular season ending and the start of March Madness looming, this weekend is the last chance for many teams that find themselves on the cusp of a tournament bid. Sixty-four teams will be selected to participate in the biggest college sporting event of the year, and for a few teams, getting a result this weekend will mean the difference between getting selected to play in the tournament or watching the games at home. Among the things used by the selection committee are College Basketball Power Index (BPI), a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of performance and Strength of Schedule (SOS), a measure of how tough the opponents a team has faced are. Here are three teams that could cause some surprises if they’re able to take that final step and lock up their spot in the bracket.
The Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University first leaped into the public eye when they made a run into the Final Four during the 2011 tournament under the charge of head coach Shaka Smart. Will Wade took over after Smart’s departure last season and was able to guide the team into the second round of the tournament before they were knocked out. For a team that has become a tournament fixture in the past few years, they’ll need to make sure not to blow their chances of locking up a spot at the Atlantic Ten Championship this weekend.
VCU is ranked 39th in BPI and finished their season 24-7 despite their schedule barely cracking the top-100 in terms of strength. Further complicating their path are two losses late in the year against Rhode Island and conference-leaders Dayton. The Rams brought their stock back up with a win against George Mason, but if they stumble during the Atlantic Ten Conference Tournament this weekend, then the selection committee may have a harder time giving the Rams a spot.
Wake Forrest Demon Deacons
Wake Forrest has not had the best time this year. After going 18-12 for the season and 9-9 in the ACC, their work is far from over if they want to be taken seriously on Selection Sunday. The 88-81 win over eighth-ranked Louisville was a massive statement for the Deacons and following that up by beating Virginia Tech has given them a much better outlook going forward. Beating Boston College by a score of 92-78 in the opening round of the ACC tournament was one more step towards a tournament spot.
One significant factor helping out Wake Forrest is how well they’ve done despite having a schedule ranked in the top ten in terms of difficulty. Players like first-team All-ACC selection John Collins will be key as well.
Seton Hall Pirates
Seton Hall beating 13th-ranked Butler breathed new life into their postseason hopes. The win was their fourth in a row and allowed them to finish the regular season 10-8 in the Big East. Before that, they knocked off 20th-ranked Creighton and took a win off of 16th-ranked South Carolina early in the year. Their giant killing has had its limits, evidenced by two separate 20-point beat downs at the hands of the number one team in the nation, Villanova.
Villanova is the definite favorite to win the Big East Tournament this weekend, but Seton Hall will need to be more concerned about putting in good performances than they do about lifting the trophy. With teams like Providence, Marquette and Xavier all buzzing to overtake them, this weekend could determine the Pirate’s fate for the rest of the postseason. All-conference first team selection Angel Delgado and second team selection Khadeen Carrington will be expected to carry the load if Seton wants their second March Madness in a row.