It's late January, which means it's the time of year when the bizarre-yet-perfect coinage bracketology starts taking over sports conversations. Teams will be on the bubble; the bubble will pop; automatic bids; flex-5-6-seeds; San Jose regional; play-in game. There are all kinds of terms that you'll think about obsessively for the next two months and then not again until this time next year. It's a very fun season.
We thought we'd take a look at the NYC-area teams to see how they're looking, bracketology-wise. We haven't had a city hoops team make the NCAA Tournament since 2004 (when Manhattan made it), and that's unacceptable. Any hope this year? Let's take a look. (Just to make sure we don't get yelled at by the 85 percent of the non-Ivy New York staff that went to Syracuse, we're adding the Orange in, as well. All at once now: CUUUUUUUUSE.)
We looked at six different bracketologists:
They'll only matter for the two Big East teams we're looking at, though. Everyone else is going to have to win their conference tournament.
The Orange are listed as a No. 1 seed by all six of our bracketologists. Here's who each has them playing in the first round:
Central Michigan (Lunardi)
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Fagan)
No one has them as the No. 1 seed in the country yet (that's Kentucky's spot right now), but after last night's convincing win over Georgetown, they're on the cusp.
Our very own bubble team. They happen so rarely around here.
The Red Storm are currently 12–7, 2–5 in the Big East, which probably puts them on the bottom half of the bubble, if bubbles had halves. Right now, only Jerry Palm at CollegeRPI.com has St. John's in (as a No. 11 seed, playing New Mexico in Spokane, Washington), and hardly anyone else has them on the bubble. St. John's needs a marquee win. In the next two weeks, they play at Pittsburgh, Rutgers, and Notre Dame, and host West Virginia and Louisville. If they can survive that, and maybe go 3–2, you'll see them showing up on more people's brackets.
The Jaspers are 7–13, and 2–8 in the Metro Atlantic Conference. They'll need a miracle run in the MEAC tournament.
The Rams fired their coach mid-season, lost their best player to a transfer, and are 2–16, 0–6 in the Atlantic-10. They are unlikely to be invited to the A-10 tournament, which just makes us sad.
The Blackbirds were on a nice little run amid their win over Robert Morris, but they dropped an awful game to Wagner at home that will plague them all year. They're currently 8–11, but 6–2 in the Northeast Conference, good enough for second place, one game behind Robert Morris and Quinnipiac. In the NEC, whichever team finishes higher in the conference hosts their conference tournament game, so every win counts.
The Lions are 6–10 and 0–2 in the Ivy League. Because the Ivy doesn't have a conference tournament, and both Cornell and Harvard are excellent teams, Columbia has no chance at the NCAA Tourney. Sorry.
ST. FRANCIS (NY)
Here's a bit of a surprise story. When we saw the Terriers play back in December, we thought they were pretty lousy, and destined for the bottom of the NEC. But look: They're 6–2 in the conference, tied with Long Island for second place. We don't know if we like their odds to stay that high — the "tough" part of the NEC is coming up — but any school that has never made the NCAA tourney and is 6–2 in the conference has our full attention.
Other than the upset win over LIU, it has been a dreadful year for the Seahawks. They're 3–18, 1–7 in the NEC, and still in Staten Island. It's a tough life.
Another update next month. Until then: Start preparing your brackets. It's never too early.