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ESPN's Joe Lunardi on St. Bonaventure: 'I think they're safely in'

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi is close to calling St. Bonaventure men's basketball a lock for the NCAA Tournament.

"When I did my list of close to 90 percent locks at this point, I made the cut line just above St. Bonaventure," Lunardi said on a media conference call on Thursday. "If they're not 90 percent in, they're 88 and a half. ... I think they're safely in."

Lunardi said he told St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt the same thing Thursday morning when he ran into him in a hotel lobby. The Bonnies are a nine seed in Lunardi's Thursday bracket.

Of course, it is understandable for Bonnies fans to still be on edge. St. Bonaventure was surprisingly left out of the NCAA Tournament field in 2016 despite having a strong case.

"We've seen this movie before and not all that long ago," Lunardi said. "The committee's recent history with the next tier leagues like the Atlantic 10, the American, the Mountain West and the West Coast Conference, is frankly pretty discouraging."

However, Lunardi said the Bonnies benefited from other teams around them losing Wednesday and another win could be enough to seal a bid. St. Bonaventure kicks off A-10 Tournament play at 6 p.m. Friday when the Bonnies face Richmond.

"They could lose to a less-than-great team in their first game on Friday here in D.C.," Lunardi said. "Let's get through one more win, which would be 13 in a row, and let's see if that's not enough to hit the committee in the head with a bat when it comes to the Bonnies."

The committee is using a new metric to judge resumes this year – quadrants. Teams will be graded on their performance against opponents in quadrants one through four.

Here's how the quadrants are categorized:

Quadrant 1: Home games vs. RPI teams ranked in the top 30, neutral games vs. 1-50 and away games vs. 1-75.

Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75 teams, neutral vs. 51-100 and away vs. 76-135.

Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160 teams, neutral vs. 101-200 and away vs. 136-240.

Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161-plus teams, neutral vs. 201-plus and away vs. 241-plus.

St. Bonaventure's worst loss came in the team's season opener, a Quadrant 4 loss to Niagara while Jaylen Adams was out with an injury. Lunardi said that shouldn't hold the team out of the tournament.

"Was that even in this century?" Lunardi said. "If they miss because of that, then there's really something wrong with this whole system."

Before he gave his thoughts on the Bonnies, Lunardi turned to ESPN's women's bracketologist, St. Bonaventure alum Charlie Creme, for his opinion.

"They have to be in," Creme said.

Creme also ended the call with an enthusiastic, "Go Bonnies."

Lunardi has the University at Buffalo as a 13 seed in his latest bracket since the top seeds in one-bid conferences are automatically penciled in. The Bulls likely need to win the Mid-American Conference Tournament to make the field.

On the women's side, Creme said he's still wrestling with his thoughts on the two MAC teams with NCAA Tournament aspirations, UB and Central Michigan.

"I think a loss in the (MAC) semis would be enough to take one of those two teams out," Creme said. "The reason they both are in right now is history tells us what the committee does with RPI. Their RPIs are both in the top 30. It's pretty rare if a team gets left out in those instances, but the resumes of those teams at the moment are kind of iffy."

The Bulls, the second seed in the MAC Tournament, play sixth-seeded Western Michigan at 1:30 p.m. in the semifinal on Friday. Top-seeded Central Michigan plays fourth-seeded Miami (Oh.) at 11 a.m.

UB is a 10 seed and among the last four in when it comes to at-large teams in Creme's Thursday bracket.

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