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NCAA Tournament: Hoyas Chances Exist Yet Still Up In The Air

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NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The college basketball season breaks down into four segments: Non-conference games, conference games, conference tournament, postseason.

Caveat: That last segment only comes to those who qualify for the NCAA Tournament or the less interesting NIT (There are also those pay-to-play events, but...). Georgetown's gloomy 15-18 campaign kept the Hoyas from reaching the fourth stage. After a home debacle against Arkansas State and two blowout losses in Maui dropped the current Hoyas to 2-4, fears that another three-segment campaign was on deck showed in force.

Since then, six straight wins. Certainly, 8-4 looks better, but have the Hoyas put themselves in good position for an NCAA at-large berth if needed? Let's take a look via data from WarrenNolan.com.

Georgetown opens Big East play Wednesday at Marquette (9-3).

* The Hoyas enter the post-Christmas week with an RPI of 67. That's not a great number in early March when the selection committee meets, but not a worry now considering the upcoming games against several national heavyweights who double as Big East foes. It's also inline or better than other power conference programs -- yes, the Big East is a power conference for hoops; only the moronic or football-first thinkers would disagree. Miami (9-2, 66), Kansas State (11-1, 71) and Michigan (10-3, 77) are among the schools in comparable RPI boats.

* The strength of schedule (34) works now and will zoom up. Of the 19 remaining regular season games, 12 are against teams currently in the RPI top 50. That doesn't count the lone non-Big East game remaining against Connecticut (166).

* Despite the four early losses, none are "bad" at this moment in terms of RPI. Wisconsin (61) is the worst of the lot, though Arkansas State's current status (41) will dip once it faces its slate of Sun Belt Conference games. Michigan received an at-large bid last season despite only four wins against the top 100 in part because they didn’t lose to anyone outside the top 100.

* However, the Hoyas have only two wins over top 100 teams: Oregon (24) and La Salle (79). The Syracuse (202) victory should, in theory, eventually become helpful. We'll see about that. It likely would have meant game over for an at-large bid with a loss.

The good news is that because their conference frenimies rocked their schedules to date, there are plenty of big win opportunities remaining, including the Big East Tournament -- and the Hoyas better get some.

Let's look at Syracuse's resume last year entering the NCAA's. The Orange were only 19-12 overall, 9-9 in ACC games and sported an RPI of 72. That final number which is why many didn't they deserved a bid. They also had eight wins over the top 100. Syracuse picked up four more on the way to the Final Four.

* Lets say the Hoyas play a tick over .500 in Big East games (10-8) and downs UConn. That means 19-12 overall. On the surface, that appears promising in relation to 2016 Syracuse and knowing that their RPI and SOS numbers should be just fine. However, not all conference wins are created equal.

At the moment there looks like a clear split within the Big East between the great/good teams (Villanova, Creighton, Xavier, Butler, Seton Hall) and the rest (Providence, Marquette, DePaul, Saint John's). Georgetown is somewhere in the middle for now and the same is probably truer than not for Seton Hall, Providence and Marquette.

The Hoyas could get their needed 10 wins against the Hall and those other four teams and yet be left on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. That's the rub when you don't have many big scalps already. That's why Georgetown probably needs at least 2-3 victories against the projected top 4 teams without suffering RPI-crushing losses to DePaul (219) and Saint John's (224). Last season the Hoyas went 2-8 against the current top 5 teams.

* The key, though, are those opportunities, something mid-to-low majors like Monmouth and Arkansas State lack in conference play. Villanova and Creighton are two of six undefeated teams in the country. Combined with Butler and Xavier, the top four Big East teams are a staggering 10-1 against the RPI top 50.

If the current winning stretch proves the norm, the Hoyas are poised for a return to the NCAA Tournament. They can thank their conference foes for taking care o business. That's what Georgetown must do against the best of the best among Big East teams while not faltering against the so-called bottom feeders. There's some needle threading, but thanks to a strong close before Big East play and the upcoming opportunities, they have a shot.