Sunday, March 16, 2003

Good seeding likely for XU

A-10 loss shouldn't affect NCAA spot

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Xavier didn't look very good in an Atlantic 10 semifinal loss to Temple Friday, but the Musketeers' chances for a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament still look strong.

Xavier (25-5) is competing with the likes of Florida, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Illinois, Syracuse and Duke for one of the four No. 3 seeds, which play 14th seeds in the first round. All those teams except Illinois, Pittsburgh and Duke lost before the final round of their respective conference tournaments.

Xavier won 16 consecutive games and moved up to No. 10 in the nation before playing one of its worst offensive games of the season in 63-57 loss to Temple Friday in Dayton.

"Temple played great," said Xavier coach Thad Matta. "That's all part of it. It's March Madness at its finest."

Now the Musketeers coaches and players must wait until 6 p.m. today to see what effect that game had on the selection committee's seeding of Xavier.

"Most likely they're still a three seed," said Jerry Palm, a seeding expert who runs and has correctly predicted all 34 at-large teams each of the last two years. "Friday's loss didn't hurt them too much, except instead of having a chance at a two seed, now they're a three, and the committee could make a four out of them depending on what they do with Illinois and Duke."

Palm said teams traditionally do not lose or gain seeds based on conference tournament performances unless a team that would not be in the NCAA Tournament wins its league title.

"It's really just another game," he said. "It's not like you'll lose three seeds. If Xavier ends up with a four or five seed, its because they were already seeded like that before they lost to Temple."

Palm had Xavier seeded third, along with Florida, Marquette and Illinois, in his projected bracket on Saturday. He had Pittsburgh and Syracuse, both from the Big East, getting a No. 2 seed and Duke a No. 4.

Xavier's strongest argument for a No. 3 seed rests on the Musketeers' impressive end to the regular season, in which Xavier won its last 15 games - including all eight of its A-10 road games. Because no team plays at home in the NCAA Tournament, the committee values road wins ahead of a team's performance at home. Overall, Xavier is 10-2 on the road, the best of any team hoping for a No. 3 seed, and 1-2 on neutral courts. Its best road win came at Dayton Feb. 22. The Flyers, who the Musketeers beat twice this season, are No. 13 in the Ratings Percentage Index.

Duke went 4-6 on the road, with its best win coming at Georgia Tech, No. 75 in the RPI. Illinois went 3-6 on the road.

The Musketeers are hurt most by strength of schedule. Xavier's RPI is No. 18 but the Musketeers have the weakest schedule of the teams competing for a three seed, 70th in the nation. Pittsburgh's isn't much better at No. 64, and Illinois' is No. 56.

Xavier has never been better than a No. 6 seed. Last season Xavier won the A-10 regular-season and conference tournament titles, and went into the NCAA Tournament with the same 25-5 record but received a No. 7 seed largely because of the Musketeers' schedule strength, which was 78th. Xavier defeated No. 10 seed Hawaii in the first round but lost to Final Four-bound Oklahoma in the second.

But Xavier has more going for it this season, including a year-long national ranking and the benefit of playing in the Atlantic 10, where three teams were ranked by season's end. Last year, Xavier was the only NCAA Tournament team from the A-10.

XU's competition for a No. 3 seed

Team Record Best win Worst loss RPI SOS Last 10
Xavier 25-5 DaytonRichmond 18 70 9-1
Duke 22-6 W. Forest Florida St. 12 33 7-3
Florida 24-7 Kansas W. Virginia 14 28 6-4
Pittsburgh 25-4 Syracuse Seton Hall 11 64 9-1
Illinois 23-6 Missouri Iowa 22 56 7-3
Marquette 23-5 W. Forest E. Carolina 9 36 8-2
Syracuse 24-5 Pittsburgh Rutgers 8 37 8-2



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