ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) has UMass in his latest Field of 68 that was released today. He also offers that the Minutemen have one of the best NCAA Tournament resumes to this point in the season.
Conference play has already begun in the ACC, and it won't be long before we see head-to-head encounters in the Big Ten (Dec. 31), Big East (Dec. 31), AAC (Jan. 1), Pac-12 (Jan. 2) and the remainder of the multibid leagues. For potential NCAA tournament teams in these leagues, conference record is the most important at-large criterion.
There are always exceptions, of course. Usually those are teams among the fortunate few whose nonconference résumés are so strong that they could withstand a league finish in the .500 range. Which teams fit that description as we close out nonconference play?
Massachusetts Minutemen (9-0)
The Minutemen have scheduled and performed brilliantly. They are 4-0 against the NCAA consideration board -- a home win over LSU (40) and neutral-site victories over New Mexico (28), Clemson (74) and BYU (39) -- and will be favored in two more pre-league tests against Florida State (43) and Providence (89). Even better, the Minutemen have just one game apiece against Atlantic 10 contenders VCU (34), Saint Louis (38) and Dayton (36), with the first two of those three at home. Look for UMass to post a very gaudy record and roll into its first NCAA tournament since 1998. I'm not sure what's harder to believe, the record UMass is compiling or that it would be 16 years since its last NCAA appearance.
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