The Pi-Rate Ratings

February 8, 2008

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Races–February 8, 2008

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Races

Through Games of Thursday, February 7, 2008

This first week of February didn’t solve much, but it did solidify some teams’ positions while making other teams’ positions more tenuous.  A number of conferences saw their leading teams square off, but these games didn’t eliminate the losers for the most part.

  The Bracket Buster pairings were announced, and one of the match-ups looks like a mid-major game for the ages.

To explain what you are about to read, the terms used (Locks, In Good Shape, On the Bubble, Can Still Get There) refer to the teams’ receiving at-large invitations to the NCAA Tournament.  Obviously, every team can still get there if they win their conference tournament, or in the case of the Ivy League, win the regular season title.

This week, if you count the number of likely bids, the minimum comes to 65.  We all know that only 65 teams will be chosen on Selection Sunday, and there are always a small to moderate amount of upsets in the conference tournaments.  Therefore, as of now, no bubble teams should be considered safe.

After the Bracket Buster on February 22 and 23, some of the mid-major teams will be eliminated.  That will make this exercise quite a bit easier.

Enjoy!  Before you know it Selection Sunday will be here.  I’ll bet you can hear the “Road to the Final Four” music in your head as you read this.

America East

Likely Bids:               1

Locks:                        None

In Good Shape:        None

On the Bubble:        None

Can Still Get There:            None

Tournament:                        March 7-9 @ Binghamton, NY

Current Leaders                                          Next Game(s)

Maryland-Balt. Co.              8-2/16-7        Sat. vs. Binghamton

Vermont                                7-3/12-10       Mon. vs. Albany

Albany                                   6-4/11-11        Sat. vs. Hartford, Mon.  @ Vermont

Hartford                                6-4/12-13       Sat. @ Albany

Binghamton                         6-4/10-12      Sat. @ UMBC

UMBC won the big game at Vermont last week to complete the season sweep and open what in essence is a two-game cushion in the league.  Binghamton lost at home to both Hartford and Vermont to fall two games off the pace.  What’s more, those two home losses means the post-season tournament is not theirs for the taking.  If Hartford and Vermont can beat them at home in February, they can do it in March as well. 

Atlantic Coast Conference

Likely Bids:               6

Locks:                                    Duke, North Carolina

In Good Shape:        Clemson

On the Bubble:        NC State, Maryland

Can Still Get There:            Va. Tech, Fla State, Miami, Ga Tech, Wake Forest, Bost. Coll.

Tournament:                        March 13-16 @ Charlotte, NC

Current Leaders                                          This Weekend

Duke                          8-0/20-1                    Sat. vs. Boston College

North Carolina         6-2/21-2                    Sun. vs. Clemson

Clemson                    5-3/17-5                     Sun. @ North Carolina

Maryland                   5-3/15-8                     Sat. vs. N.C. State

Virginia Tech                        5-4/14-9                     Sat. vs. Miami

N. C. State                 4-4/15-7                     Sat. @ Maryland

Georgia Tech                        4-4/11-10                   Sat. @ Connecticut

Duke won the first battle of the war and did so on foreign soil.  The Blue Devils have reached the halfway point of the ACC schedule unscathed, but chances are slim they will run the table.  While they may sweep the Tar Heels, I think they will fall on the road one time and finish 15-1.

Maryland is the other hot team in the league.  The Terrapins have won five of six games including taking out North Carolina in Chapel Hill.  Their only loss came to Duke, but it was in College Park.

North Carolina State should get a bid if they continue to play .500 in the league.  They played just enough quality opposition outside the league to get in at 8-8.

Atlantic Sun

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 5-8 @Nashville (Lipscomb)

Current Leaders                                          Next Game(s)

Belmont                    8-2/16-8                    Sat. vs. North Florida
Jacksonville              8-2/12-10                  Sat. @ Lipscomb

East Tennessee        7-2/13-9                     Fri. @ Fla-Gulf Cost, Sun @ Stetson

Stetson                      5-4/10-13                   Fri. vs. SC Upst. Sun vs. East Tenn.

Lipscomb                   5-5/11-13                    Sat. vs. Jacksonville

Gardner-Webb         5-5/11-13                    Sat. @ Kennesaw St.

Campbell                   5-5/10-12                   Sat. @ Mercer

Belmont defeated Jacksonville last night to move into a first place tie.  Since the two co-leaders play only once, Belmont would win the conference championship if they finished tied. 

Jacksonville must take the three mile trek up the road from Belmont to play Lipscomb this weekend, and by Saturday night, the Bulls could be looking at a two-game losing streak in the league.

East Tennessee is lurking just one half game back.  The Buccaneers must play two tough road games this weekend, and they should lose at least one if not both games.  They face Belmont and Lipscomb at home, and have three additional road games, so ETSU’s road to the top seed is through a mine field.

Lipscomb is riding a three-game winning streak and is back at .500 in the ASun.  The Bisons could move into the upper tier if they knock off Jacksonville.  They host the conference tournament this year, so they must be considered a top contender.

Atlantic 10

Likely Bids:                           3 or 4

Locks:                                                Xavier

In Good Shape:                    Rhode Island

On the Bubble:                    Dayton, U Mass, St. Joe’s

Can Still Get There:                        Charlotte, Temple, Duquesne, Richmond

Tournament:                        March 12-15 @ Atlantic City, NJ

Current Leaders                                          This Weekend

Xavier                                    7-1/19-4                     Sun. vs. St. Joe’s                                         

St. Joseph’s               6-2/15-6                     Sun. @ Xavier         

Rhode Island                        5-3/19-4                     Sun. @ Fordham

Richmond                 5-3/12-9                     Sun. vs. St. Louis

Charlotte                   4-3/13-8                    Sat. @ St. Bonaventure

Temple                       4-3/11-10                   Sun. vs. U Mass

Dayton                       4-4/14-7                     Sat. @ G. Washington

Massachusetts          4-4/15-7                     Sun. @ Temple

Duquesne                  4-4/14-7                     Sat. @ LaSalle

LaSalle                       4-4/9-12                    Sat. vs. Duquesne

Dayton and U Mass need to put together winning streaks to get back in the good graces of the Selection Committee.  If the season ended today, I think both would be left out.

Xavier looks like an elite 8 team.  Their game with St. Joe’s Sunday will go a long way in determining the Hawks’ fate.

Richmond, Charlotte, Temple, Duquesne, and LaSalle are vying for one final bubble spot.  The team in this group that finishes the best will be the only one of these still on the bubble.  Most of the others will be popular NIT picks.

Big East

Likely Bids:               7 or 8

Locks:                                    Pittsburgh, Georgetown

In Good Shape:        Connecticut, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame

On the Bubble:        Seton Hall, Syracuse, West Virginia

Can Still Get There Cincinnati, Villanova, Providence

Tournament:                        March 12-15 at Madison Square Garden, New York City

Current Leaders                                          This Weekend

Georgetown              9-1/19-2                     Sat. @ Louisville

Notre Dame              7-2/17-4                     Sat. vs. Marquette

Connecticut              7-3/17-5                     Sat. vs. Georgia Tech

Louisville                  7-3/17-6                     Sat. vs. Georgetown

Pittsburgh                 6-4/18-5                    Off until Feb. 12

Marquette                 6-4/16-5                     Sat. @ Notre Dame

Syracuse                    6-5/16-8                    Off until Feb. 13

West Virginia           5-5/16-7                     Off until Feb. 14

Seton Hall                 5-5/15-8                     Sat. @ Villanova

Cincinnati                 5-5/10-12                   Sat. @ Rutgers

The Big East race is beginning to show its final form.  Seton Hall, West Virginia, and Cincinnati are about to play themselves out of the picture, leaving seven deserving teams for the Selection Committee.  Seton Hall’s home blowout loss to Notre Dame and WVU’s back-to-back home losses to Georgetown and Cincinnati followed by a narrow loss at Pitt has dropped both the Pirates and Mountaineers to the bottom of the bubble.

Saturday’s biggest game of the day is perhaps the Georgetown-Louisville game.  Rick Pitino’s Cards could move to “Lock” status with a win in Freedom Hall.

Big Sky

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 8, 11-12 @ Regular Season Champion

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Portland St.                          7-2/14-8                    Sat. @ Sacramento St.

Weber St.                              6-3/11-10                   Sat. vs. N. Colorado

Northern Arizona                6-4/14-9                    Sun. vs. E. Washington

Idaho St.                                6-4/9-14                    Off until Feb. 14

Montana St.                          5-4/13-9                     Sat. @ Montana

Portland State took a major step forward last night by beating NAU in Flagstaff.  The Vikings have won five in a row and would be a heavy favorite to win the Big Sky Tournament if they end up as the top seed and host.

Weber State must still play at Portland State and Northern Arizona.  I expect the Wildcats to come up short in those games, so Portland State should win the regular season title by multiple games.

                                   

Big South

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2 (3-5% chance of 2)

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    UNC-Asheville

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                        March 4-6-8   1st round and finals at higher seeds, semi-finals at #1 seed

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

UNC-Asheville                     7-0/18-4                    Sat. @ Liberty

Winthrop                              5-3/14-9                     Sat.  vs. High Point

High Point                            5-3/13-9                     Sat. @ Winthrop

Coastal Carolina                  4-4/11-10                   Sat. @ VMI

Liberty                                   4-4/12-11                   Sat. vs. UNCA

UNC-Asheville spotted Winthrop a seven-point halftime lead before blowing them away in the second half.  I have moved UNCA up to the Bubble, but I think they still have to prove themselves worthy of being at-large material.  Not being part of the Bracket Buster may force the Bulldogs to gain the automatic bid.

Winthrop lost to Coastal Carolina after losing to UNCA, and that probably killed any remote at-large possibilities for the Eagles.  Even if the were to win out, which would mean beating Davidson as well as UNCA, they would have to win the league tournament.

High Point has only two home games left, and one of those is a game against UNCA.  I don’t expect the Panthers to be above .500 in the league at season’s end.

Big 10

Likely Bids:                           5

Locks:                                                Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan St.

In Good Shape:                    Purdue, Ohio State

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Minnesota

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Indianapolis, IN

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Wisconsin                             9-1/19-3                     Sat. vs. Purdue

Purdue                                   9-1/18-5                     Sat. @ Wisconsin

Indiana                                  8-1/19-3                     Sun. @ Ohio State

Michigan State                     7-2/19-3                     Sat. vs. Northwestern                    

Ohio State                             7-3/16-7                     Sun. vs. Indiana

Unless Ohio State drops the ball or Minnesota finishes 5-2 and wins at least once in the Big 10 Tournament, there won’t be any changes here.  The top five teams will make the Field of 65.

Wisconsin and Purdue face off at the Kohl Center Saturday.  The Boilermakers won in W. Lafayette 60-56. 

Indiana survived a scare against Illinois Thursday night, and the Hoosiers still host Purdue and Wisconsin.  IU has the best chance to win the regular season crown.

Big 12

Likely Bids:                           5 or 6

Locks:                                                Kansas, Baylor, Texas

In Good Shape:                    Kansas State

On the Bubble:                    Texas A&M

Can Still Get There:                        Oklahoma, Iowa State, Missouri, Texas Tech

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Kansas City

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Kansas                                   7-1/22-1                     Sat. vs. Baylor, Mon. @ Texas

Kansas St.                              6-1/16-5                     Sat. vs. Oklahoma St.

Texas                                      5-2/18-4                    Sat. @ Iowa St., Mon. vs. Kansas

Baylor                                                5-2/17-4                     Sat. @ Kansas

Texas A&M                            5-3/19-4                     Sat. @ Missouri

Last week, the big surprise was Kansas State taking out Kansas.  I told you I didn’t think the Wildcats would be ready to play Missouri, and the personnel-challenged Tigers won.

This week the big surprise comes out of Texas Tech, where Bob Knight has retired.  In game one of the Pat Knight regime, the Red Raiders lost at Baylor by six.

If the selections were made today, only five teams would be invited.  Currently, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Missouri, and Iowa State are fighting it out for the number six spot.  The team that ends up number six will have a chance if they win their first conference tournament game and a good chance if they make it to the semi-final round.

Big West

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Cal St. Northridge

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Anaheim, CA

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Pacific                                                7-2/16-6                     Sat. vs. Long Beach St.

Cal St. Northridge               7-2/15-6                     Sat. @ UC-Davis

Cal St. Fullerton                  7-3/14-7                     Sat. @ Cal Poly SLO

UC-Santa Barbara               6-3/17-5                     Sat. vs. UC-Irvine

Pacific and Cal State Fullerton brought Cal St. Northridge back to Earth with consecutive wins over the former leader.  Now, it’s a four-team race for the conference title.  Of course, this is a one-bid league, and the conference champion will only be guaranteed a spot in the NIT.

UCSB beat Fullerton last night.  The Gauchos could easily win their next three to move to 9-3 prior to playing at Pacific.

Colonial Athletic

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 7-10 @ Richmond Coliseum (VCU)

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Virginia Commonwealth   10-2/17-5                   Sat. @ Delaware

George Mason                      9-3/17-6                     Sat. @ ODU

William & Mary                   9-3/13-9                    Sat. @ Northeastern

UNC-Wilmington                7-5/14-10                   Sat.  vs. JMU

Delaware                               7-5/10-12                   Sat.  vs. VCU

Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason improved their at-large chances in the past week.  Both teams drew MAC opponents for the Bracket Buster, and both will have to play on the road-VCU at Akron and GMU at Ohio U.

VCU Coach Anthony Grant has quickly moved to the top of the list for advancement in the business.  The former Florida assistant could be on the short list of every major conference school looking to change coaches.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get serious consideration at South Carolina.

Conference USA

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Memphis

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Houston, UAB, Central Florida, Tulane, UTEP

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Memphis

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Memphis                               8-0/22-0                   Sat. vs. Central Fla.

Houston                                6-1/17-4                     Sat. @ Tulane

UAB                                        5-2/15-7                     Sat. vs. UTEP

Tulane                                   5-3/15-7                     Sat. vs. Houston

UTEP                                      5-3/14-7                     Sat. @ UAB

Central Florida                    5-3/12-10                   Sat. @ Memphis

This weekend will go a long way in determining which team gets to play second fiddle to Memphis.  The Houston-Tulane game should be interesting, and it wouldn’t surprise my old olive green and sky blue pull out the win (I was Hullabaloo Howie for the Tulane Hullabaloo in 1979 and 1980).

If UAB takes care of business at home against UTEP, then the players might start to think they actually have a chance in the upcoming game against Memphis.

Horizon

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Butler

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        UWGB, Wright St., Cleveland St., UW-Milw.

Tournament:                        March 4, 7, 10-11 Quarter & Semifinals at top seed & Finals at higher seed

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Butler                                                9-2/20-2                    Sat. @ UWGB, Mon. @ UWM      

Wright St.                             8-4/16-6                    Sat. @ Youngstown

UW-Green Bay                     7-5/13-9                     Sat. vs. Butler, Mon. @ CSU

Cleveland St.                         7-5/14-10                   Sat. vs. Det., Mon. vs. UWGB

UW-Milwaukee                    7-5/12-10                   Mon. vs. Butler

Illinois-Chicago                   6-5/12-10                   Sat. @ Loy., Mon. vs. Valpo

Five consecutive defeats have dropped Cleveland State from first to tied for third.  If they don’t recover this weekend, CSU’s at-large hopes are gone.

Butler has a tough pair of road games this weekend.  If they win both, they could be moving up near 3-seed status in the Big Dance.

Wright State has won six games in a row, five in conference play.  The Raiders are the masters of the close game, as they have won nine games by five points or less and lost their four conference games by a total of 21 points.  WSU owns a win over Butler, but their only “big” non-conference wins came against Miami-O and Belmont.

Independents

Likely Bids:                           0

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    None

Texas Pan American is 14-13 and the only independent above .500.  They have a good chance to finish with a winning record since they play 0-24 New Jersey Tech this weekend and have three more games against weak Indies.

Ivy

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        All 8 teams

Tournament:                                    None, bid goes to regular season champion

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Cornell                                   4-0/12-5                    Fri. vs. Princeton, Sat. vs. Penn

Penn                                       2-0/7-12                    Fri. @ Columbia, Sat. @ Cornell

Princeton                              2-0/5-12                    Fri. @ Cornell, Sat. @ Columbia

Brown                                                2-2/10-8                    Fri. vs. Dart., Sat. vs. Harvard  

Cornell isn’t that far from being good enough to be considered an at-large possibility.  The Ivy League has never sent more than one team to the NCAA Tournament.  Since there is no conference tournament, the only chance this league might ever have of getting two teams would be if two teams finished tied at 13-1 and the loser of the playoff got in as an at-large team.

If Cornell sweeps Princeton and Penn this weekend, they would be in great shape at 6-0.  I expect it to happen.  Look for two low-scoring games.  If either (or both) the Tigers or Quakers win in Ithaca, it will be the same old, same old in the Ivy once again.

Metro Atlantic

Likely Bids:                           1 (very slim chance at 2)

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Marist, Siena, Rider

Tournament:                                    March 7-10 @ Albany, NY (Siena)

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Rider                                      10-2/17-6                   Fri. vs. Niagara, Sun. vs. Siena

Siena                                      9-3/14-8                    Fri. @ Marist, Sun. @ Rider

Loyola (Md.)                         9-4/14-11                   Sun. vs. Niagara

Niagara                                  8-4/14-7                    Fri.  @ Rider, Sun. @ Loyola

Marist                                                8-4/14-9                    Fri. vs. Siena, Sun. @ St. Peter’s

Rider can lap the field if they win their two weekend home games.  The Broncos won at Siena by 14 points to give them nine consecutive victories.  Even if they win their Bracket Buster game at Cal. State Northridge, I don’t think it will be enough to garner at-large consideration this season.  The Broncos will have to earn the automatic bid, and that means more than likely having to win against Siena in Albany once again.

Loyola is the wildcard team here.  The Greyhounds have a tough remaining schedule, but they may be the one team that can derail Rider, if not in the standings at least their winning streak.

Mid-American

Likely Bids:                           2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    Kent State

On the Bubble:                    Ohio U

Can Still Get There:                        Akron, Western Michigan

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Cleveland

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

East

Kent State                             7-2/18-5                     Sat. vs. Northern Ill.

Akron                                     6-3/16-6                    Sat. @  Ball State

Ohio U                                   6-3/15-7                     Sat. vs. W. Michigan

Miami                                                5-4/11-10                   Sat. vs. C. Michigan

Bowling Green                     5-4/10-11                   Sun. vs. Toledo

West

Western Michigan               7-2/13-9                     Sat. @ Ohio U

Central Michigan                 5-4/10-11                   Sat. @ Miami-O

Western Michigan has taken six of seven games including blowout wins this week over Bowling Green and Akron.  What hurts the Broncos is the fact that four East Division teams will play marquis Bracket Buster games, while they don’t get to play one.

In the East, Kent State has a slim one-game lead over Akron and Ohio, with Miami and Bowling Green two games back.  All five are good enough to be in the MAC Tournament Championship game. 

The Golden Flashes were dealt the toughest Bracket Buster of the four MAC invitees. Kent St. has to play at St. Mary’s, while Akron hosts Virginia Commonwealth, Ohio hosts George Mason, and Miami goes to Valparaiso.  Miami and Bowling Green have lost too many games to become serious bubble contenders.

MEAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 10-15 @ Raleigh, NC

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Morgan St.                            8-1/13-8                    Sat. vs. W-S St., Mon. vs. SC St.

Hampton                               7-1/13-7                     Sat. @ Del St., Mon @ Md.-ES

Norfolk St.                            6-2/10-10                  Sat. @ B-C, Mon. @ FAMU

North Carolina A&T                        5-3/11-10                   Sat. @ FAMU, Mon. @ B-C

Delaware St.                         5-3/8-12                    Sat. vs. Hamp., Mon. vs. Howard

Morgan State is on a roll, having won six games in a row and holding opponents to 51.7 points per game in that streak.  One of those wins came on the road at Hampton.

Both Hampton and Morgan State are good enough to assure the MEAC won’t be stuck with a #16 seed if one of the two wins the automatic bid.

Missouri Valley

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Drake

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Illinois State

Can Still Get There:                        Southern Illinois, Creighton

Tournament:                                    March 6-9 @ St. Louis

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Drake                                     12-0/21-1                   Sat. vs. Evansville

Illinois St.                             8-4/16-7                    Sat. vs. Bradley

Creighton                              7-5/16-6                     Sun. vs. Southern Ill.

Bradley                                  7-5/14-10                   Sat. @ Ill. State

Southern Illinois                 7-5/12-11                    Sun. @ Creighton

Drake is trying to become the MVC equivalent of the 1927 Yankees.  Even the great 1971 team that went to the Final Four and came within a whisker of upsetting UCLA was not 21-1 after 22 games.  The win at Illinois State Tuesday night ended the regular season chase in the Valley.  Drake’s next big hurdle is the Bracket Buster game, and the Bulldogs have been pitted against Butler.  When they go to Indianapolis, it will be the top Bracket Buster game in the young history of the event.  To put it bluntly, it will the best game of the entire weekend and almost as big as Duke-North Carolina, Tennessee-Memphis, and UCLA-Stanford.

The rest of the league is playing for positioning.  This conference should send more than one team, even if the Bulldogs continue to dominate in the tournament in St. Louis.  The league’s overall RPI is too high to not merit two teams.

Mountain West

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    UNLV, BYU

Can Still Get There:                        San Diego St., New Mexico, Utah

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Las Vegas

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Brigham Young                   7-1/18-5                     Off until Feb. 13

UNLV                                     6-2/17-5                     Sat. vs. Colorado St.

San Diego St.                                    6-2/16-6                    Sat. @ TCU

New Mexico                          4-4/17-6                     Sat. vs. Wyoming

Utah                                       4-4/13-8                    Sat. @ Air Force

Air Force                               4-4/12-9                    Sat. vs. Utah

Never count out Utah.  Coaches come and go, but the Utes continue to win.  They taught UNLV a lesson this week, and now the Runnin’ Rebels trail BYU.

All of a sudden, this conference looks like it deserves at least three and maybe a fourth entrant in the Big Dance.  That’s not the way the selection committee will see it though, so the MWC stays at two or three.

This weekend, San Diego State and Utah play tough road games.  For those not familiar with this conference, it is one of the hardest places to win on the road against a good opponent.  If the Aztecs and/or Utes win their road games, they will move up several places in the RPI pecking order, and it might move the number up to three or four.

Northeast

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 6-9-12 @ Higher Seed

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Sacred Heart                         11-2/14-10                 Off until Feb. 14

Robert Morris                      9-2/18-6                    Sat. vs. Long Island

Wagner                                  9-2/16-6                    Sat. @ Quinnipiac

Quinnipiac                            8-3/12-10                  Sat. vs. Wagner

Central Conn. St.                 7-5/11-12                    Sat vs. St. Francis-NY

It’s fitting that Sacred Heart would take the lead in the NEC just before Valentine’s Day.  The question is, can they hold onto that lead on the 14th when they play at Wagner? 

Sacred Heart lost at home to Wagner by seven.  The Pioneers won at Robert Morris, and must face the Colonials in Fairfield at the end of the month.  This league doesn’t afford much home court advantage, so this race is still wide open.  However, kudos must go to Coach David Bike, a former minor league catcher in the Detroit Tigers’ system who got tired of waiting for Bill Freehan to retire.  His squad began the season 0-6, but after last night, SH has won eight straight. 

Ohio Valley

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Austin Peay

Tournament:                        March 4, 7-8 1st rd at higher seeds, semifinals and finals at Nashville

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Austin Peay                          12-3/16-9                   Sat. vs. Samford

Murray St.                             10-5/14-10                 Sat.  @ Morehead St.

Morehead St.                                    9-5/12-10                   Sat.  vs. Murray St.

Eastern Kentucky                9-5/12-10                   Sat.  vs. SEMO

Samford                                 8-7/11-12                   Sat. @ Austin Peay

UT-Martin                            8-8/12-14                  Sat. vs. E. Illinois

Tennessee Tech                   8-8/11-15                   Sat. @ Tennessee St.

Austin Peay must finish the regular season with three OVC road games.  All three teams (TSU, EKU, and Morehead) can beat them away from Clarksville, and I expect at least one team to do so.  However, Murray State just lost at EKU and could lose at Morehead tomorrow, so the Governors are in good shape to take the OVC crown and at least guarantee Coach Dave Loos a spot in the NIT.

Eastern Kentucky and Morehead are the teams I’d watch out for this week.  If the Eagles beat Murray and the Colonels beat SEMO to move into a tie for second place, these teams could finish the season on a roll.  Collectively, the pair of rivals makes up the toughest two-game swing in the league.  Teams don’t like having to face one on a Thursday night and the other on a Saturday.  Additionally, their road schedule finds them getting Jacksonville State and Samford.  Samford is decent, but they are beatable in Birmingham.

Pac-10

Likely Bids:                           6 or 7

Locks:                                                UCLA, Stanford, Arizona

In Good Shape:                    Southern Cal, Washington St.,

On the Bubble:                    Cal, Arizona St.

Can Still Get There:                        Oregon, Washington

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Los Angeles Staples Center

Current Leaders                                                                  This Weekend

U C L A                                  9-1/21-2                                 Sat. @ Washington

Stanford                                8-2/19-3                                Sat. vs. Oregon St.

Southern Cal                                    6-4/15-7                                 Sat. @ Washington St.

Arizona                                  5-4/15-7                                 Sun. vs. Arizona St.

Washington St.                    5-5/17-5                                 Sat. vs. USC

California                              5-5/14-7                                 Sat. vs. Oregon

Arizona St.                            4-4/14-6                                Sat. @ USC

UCLA won at Washington State last night, and now the Cougars have to begin to worry.  At 5-5 in the best conference, they are still plainly in the Field of 65 as of today.  However, they might be in jeopardy if they lose at home to USC tomorrow.

The Trojans have quietly won six of seven games including a victory over the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion.  Like Kansas State in the Big 12, USC will be a tough opponent for any team in the NCAA Tournament.

Stanford has been almost as quiet as USC, but the Cardinal are showing enough talent and team play to breeze into the Sweet 16 this year.

Arizona is missing something, but the Wildcats have the ability to reach the Sweet 16 as well.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see 25% of the Sweet 16 to hail from the Pac-10.

California has made a big move by winning three conference games in a row.  Number four should come tomorrow in Berkeley against Oregon.  Speaking of Oregon, the Ducks are fading fast along with Washington.

Arizona State needs a signature win and at least a 9-9 league record to be considered seriously for the Big Dance.

Patriot

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 5-9-14 at Higher Seed                   

Current Leaders                                                                  Next Game(s)

Lafayette                               5-2/14-8                                Sat. @ Holy Cross

American                              5-3/13-10                               Sun. vs. Lehigh

Bucknell                                5-3/10-12                               Sat. @ Navy

Lehigh                                   4-3/11-10                               Sun. @ American

Lafayette fell at home to American and leads the Eagles (and Bucknell) by just a half game in the standings with Lehigh just one game back.  The Leopards have a difficult closing schedule, and I think they will surrender the top spot to either American or Bucknell. 

This conference isn’t downright weak, but it isn’t particularly strong this year, so I expect the league’s automatic qualifier to exit the Big Dance with a double-digit first round loss.

Southeastern

Likely Bids:                           6

Locks:                                                Tennessee,

In Good Shape:                    Florida, Mississippi St., Arkansas

On the Bubble:                    Kentucky, Vanderbilt

Can Still Get There:                        South Carolina, Ole Miss

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Atlanta

Current Leaders                                                                  This Weekend

East

Tennessee                             7-1/20-2                                Sat. @ LSU

Kentucky                               5-2/11-9                                 Sat. vs. Alabama

Florida                                   5-3/18-5                                 Sat. vs. Georgia

Vanderbilt                             4-4/19-4                                Sat. @ South Carolina

West

Mississippi St.                       6-2/15-7                                 Sat. @ Auburn

Arkansas                               5-2/16-5                                 Sat. vs. Ole Miss

The teams shuffle positions in this league weekly.  Last week, Florida was on the rise and Vanderbilt was on the way to NITland.  This week, Florida has been knocked back to Earth, while Arkansas is moving on up.  Vanderbilt won at Georgia to even their SEC mark and get back on the good side of the bubble.  Ole Miss fell at home to South Carolina, and the Rebels find themselves on the outside looking in as they play at Arkansas. 

Surprise, Surprise!  Kentucky is number two in the East and still could sneak into the top spot if they could beat Tennessee a second time.  As I told you last week, I expected the K-Cats to win back-to-back road games against Georgia and Auburn, and they did just that.  Now the Blue Mist host a week Alabama team.  By the time Kentucky plays in Knoxville on March 2, I expect their league record to be 10-3 and maybe even 11-2.  Just imagine how good the Cats might have been this year without all the injuries.

Speaking of Tennessee, they won at Mississippi State and dismantled Florida this week.  The Vols may play sloppy ball at times and frequently take unwise gambles at crunch time, but it’s this type of team that stays loose in tournament play.  If they win at Memphis, and that’s a mighty big if, they could be looking at a number one seed.

Southern

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Davidson

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 7-10 @ Charleston

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

North

Chattanooga                         10-4/15-9                   Sat. @ Ga. Sou.

Appalachian St.                    9-4/14-8                    Sat. vs. Cit., Mon. vs. Wofford

UNC-Greensboro                 7-5/13-8                     Sun. @ Furman

South

Davidson                               14-0/16-6                  Sat. vs. Charleston

Georgia Southern                9-5/16-8                    Sat. vs. Chattanooga

Davidson drew intrastate foe Winthrop for their Bracket Buster game and will have to play on the road.  If the Wildcats win that one and run the table in the SoCon, then they probably will have ensured themselves an at-large NCAA bid if they don’t go on to win the conference tournament.

The chances that any other SoCon team will beat Davidson in the tournament are quite slim, but it’s happened before.  In 1965, Davidson wasn’t just undefeated in conference play, they had just one overall loss and were in the national Top Five after being ranked number one in the preseason.  In those days, only one team per conference went to the NCAA Tournament., and when Davidson lost to West Virginia in the Southern Conference Tournament semifinal round, the Wildcats stayed home at 24-2.  West Virginia went on to win the SoCon Tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament with an overall losing record.

Southland

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin

Tournament:                                    March 12-16 @ Katy, TX (Houston suburb)

Current Leaders                                                                  Next Game(s)

East

Lamar                                                6-1/12-8                                 Sat. vs. SE La.

SE Louisiana                                    5-3/13-8                                Sat. @ Lamar

Northwestern St.                 5-3/9-13                                 Sat. @ Central Ark.

West

Stephen F. Austin                6-2/18-3                                Sat. @ UTSA

Sam Houston                       5-3/17-4                                 Sat. @ TAMCC

UT-Arlington                                   4-4/15-6                                 Sat. vs. Texas St.

Texas St.                                4-4/11-10                               Sat. @ UTA

Stephen F. Austin has moved squarely onto the bubble and could still get in the Dance as an at-large if they finish at least 13-3 in the league and make it to the conference finals.  It still would be a 25% chance at that.

Sam Houston’s loss to Texas St. probably forced them to win the automatic bid to make the NCAA Tournament this year. 

If Lamar beats, SE La. Tomorrow, the East Division trophy can go to the engraver. 

SWAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 11-15 @ Birmingham, AL

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Alabama St.                          8-1/12-7                     Sat. @ MVSU, Mon. @ UAPB

Southern                               6-3/8-12                    Sat. vs. Alcorn St.

Alabama State has reeled off seven consecutive victories by an average score of 75-60.  Normally, that would be quite impressive, but the Hornets have not beaten anybody of merit.  They play twice on the road in this weekend’s series of conference games, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they fall to the Golden Lions in Pine Bluff.

Southern is the only other team worthy of mentioning here, and they lost at home to Alabama St. by 15.

Summit

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Oral Roberts

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 8-11 @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts)

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Oral Roberts                         11-0/16-5                   Sat. vs. IPFW

IUPUI                                     10-2/18-5                  Sat. @ North Dakota St.

Oakland                                 7-5/12-11                    Sat. @ Centenary

IUPU Ft. Wayne                   7-5/10-13                   Sat. @ ORU

Oral Roberts hosts Creighton in what should be a great Bracket Buster game.  The Golden Eagles could end up in the middle of the bubble if they beat the Blue Jays and won the Summit League Championship but failed to take the Tournament Championship.  However, I would bet against it.

IUPUI is going to have to win the automatic bid to get to the Dance.  Their non-conference resume won’t get them a smidgen of at-large consideration.

Sunbelt

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    South Alabama

On the Bubble:                    Western Kentucky

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 5-11 @ Mobile, AL (S. Ala.)

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

East

South Alabama                    11-1/19-4                    Sun. @ Troy

Western Kentucky              11-1/19-5                    Off until Feb. 13

Middle Tennessee               8-4/10-11                   Sat. @ FIU

West

Arkansas-Little Rock          6-5/14-8                    Sat. vs. N. Texas

Denver                                   6-5/10-12                   Sun. vs. ULL

Louisiana Lafayette                        6-5/10-12                   Sun. @ Denver

This league isn’t getting the credit for having two Tourney-worthy teams, and I believe only one team will get a bid.  If someone other than USA or WKU wins the League Tournament, it’s going to be a sad day for both the Hilltoppers and Jaguars.

Western and USA are far ahead of the rest of the SBC field.  USA’s conference wins over everybody except WKU have come by an average of 15 points per game.  Western’s wins have come by an average of 14 points per game.

The two behemoths face off in Bowling Green February 21,  just before Bracket Buster weekend.  That game will be as important as any of the 14 key games.

West Coast

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    St. Mary’s, Gonzaga

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 7-10 @ San Diego

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

St. Mary’s                              6-1/19-3                     Sat. vs. USF, Mon. @ Santa Clara

Gonzaga                                 6-1/17-6                     Sat. vs. P’dine Mon. vs. LMU

San Diego                              6-1/13-11                    Mon. @ USF

Santa Clara                           4-3/12-10                  Mon.  @ St. Mary’s

St. Mary’s and Gonzaga hooked up in a barn-burner Monday night before the Gaels won in overtime.  With San Diego winning at Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount, that makes the WCC a legitimate three-team race.  USD could force the selection committee to go three deep here if they won the conference tournament.  And, because they host the WCC tourney, they could very well do just that!

WAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Utah State, Nevada

Tournament:                                    March 11-15 @ Las Cruces, NM (New Mexico St.)

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Utah State                             7-1/17-6                     Sat. vs. SJ St., Mon. @ Nev.

Boise State                            8-2/17-5                     Sat. @ New Mexico St.

New Mexico St.                    7-3/13-12                   Sat. vs. Boise St.

Nevada                                   6-3/14-8                    Sat. vs. Hawaii, Mon. vs. Ut. St.

Hawaii                                   6-3/10-11                   Sat. @ Nevada

Utah State continues to play impressive ball, easily handling Nevada and winning at Fresno State this week.  If they go 6-2 in the second half of the WAC, they should win the conference championship.

Boise State doesn’t have a strong enough case to get into at-large consideration.  Nevada could conceivably get into position to be in position for the bottom of the bubble if they win out.  That would include a Bracket Buster win at Southern Illinois.

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