The Pi-Rate Ratings

February 15, 2008

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Races–February 15, 2008

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Races

Through Games of Thursday, February 14, 2008

And down the stretch they come!!!  Okay, this isn’t the final quarter mile of the Kentucky Derby, but we’re at a point in the season where we can call this the stretch run of the Bluegrass Stakes.  In the next 10 days, “the bubble” will begin to clear out the pretenders from the contenders.  Some teams will play their way into at-large quality; some will play themselves into the NIT; some will remain solidly on the bubble and have to begin growing their collective nails in order to bite them in March.

Of course, next weekend is Bracket Buster weekend, and this weekend doesn’t have the numbers of quality games we will experience in one week’s time.

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 67.  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

Maryland-Balt. Co.              9-2/17-7        

Hartford                                8-4/14-13

Albany                                   8-5/13-12

Vermont                                7-5/12-12      

Boston U.                              7-5/10-14      

Binghamton                         7-6/11-14

           

Key Games This Weekend

SUNDAY

New Hampshire at Hartford

Vermont at Stony Brook

Maine at Binghamton

Boston U. at Maryland-Balt. Co.

UMBC has the regular season championship well in-hand.  The Retrievers are headed to a probable 13-3 finish in league play and more than 20 wins total.

Hartford has an outside chance to tie for the regular season title if they can win two big road games prior to their regular season finale.  The Hawks host UMBC in that one.

Conference tournament host Binghamton is fading fast and needs to re-group before March 7.  They will still be a dangerous team when the tournament begins, but the Bearcats lost four games in a row including two at home prior to beating New Hampshire last night.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Likely Bids:               6 or 7

Locks:                                    Duke, North Carolina, Clemson

In Good Shape:        Maryland

On the Bubble:        NC State, Va. Tech   

Can Still Get There:            Miami, Wake Forest, Ga. Tech

Tournament:                        March 13-16 @ Charlotte, NC

Current Leaders

Duke                          10-0/22-1                 

North Carolina         8-2/23-2                   

Clemson                    6-4/18-6                   

Maryland                   6-4/16-9                   

Virginia Tech                        5-5/14-10                  

N. C. State                 4-5/15-8                    

                       

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Va. Tech at North Carolina

Florida St. at Maryland

Clemson at North Carolina St.

SUNDAY

Duke at Wake Forest

Duke is looking more and more like a team that could be the overall number one seed come mid-March.  With a tw0-game cushion over North Carolina along with a win in Chapel Hill, the Blue Devils could conceivably finish 16-0 in the ACC.  While I think they will stub their toes one time, I also think Coach K is looking at his next Final Four team.

North Carolina is 23-2, yet the word is they have too many holes to contend for a Final Four spot this year.  If they do have legitimate weaknesses, only Duke and Maryland have figured out a way to exploit them so far.  The Heels are undefeated on the road, and that bodes well come tournament time.

After the big two, the field is crowded from third to 11th place.  This is a league where a 7-9 team could gain an at-large bid.  Miami could be that team.  Georgia Tech and Wake Forest need 9-7 or better conference records to have a chance.

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

Belmont                    10-2/18-8                 
Jacksonville              8-3/12-11                  

East Tennessee        8-4/14-11                  

Lipscomb                   7-5/13-13

Stetson                      7-5/12-14      

Gardner-Webb         6-5/12-13                  

Mercer                       6-6/11-14                  

Key Games This Weekend

FRIDAY

North Florida at Jacksonville

SATURDAY

Lipscomb at East Tennessee

Belmont at South Carolina Upstate

Stetson at Mercer

Campbell at Gardner-Webb

Belmont went a long way toward wrapping up the regular season title last night by going to Johnson City and thumping East Tennessee.  The Bruins are now heavy favorites to make three consecutive trips to the Big Dance.  Arch-rival Lipscomb is moving up in the standings and could be number two by the time they host the A-Sun Tournament.  The Bisons won at South Carolina Upstate last night to give them five straight wins.  If Coach Scott Sanderson’s squad can beat East Tennessee tomorrow night, then next Friday’s renewal of the Battle of the Boulevard at Belmont will be big.

Atlantic 10

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                Xavier

In Good Shape:                    Rhode Island

On the Bubble:                    Dayton, St. Joe’s

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

Tournament:                        March 12-15 @ Atlantic City, NJ

Current Leaders

Xavier                                    9-1/21-4                                                                    

St. Joseph’s               7-3/16-7                                

Temple                       6-3/13-10

Rhode Island                        6-4/20-5                   

Duquesne                  6-4/16-7

Charlotte                   5-4/14-9                    

Richmond                 5-4/12-10                  

St. Louis                    5-5/14-10                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Temple at Dayton

Richmond at Duquesne

SUNDAY

St. Louis at U Mass.

Charlotte at Fordham

MONDAY

Xavier at Rhode Island

LaSalle at St. Joe’s

I have taken away one bid from the A-10 this week due to the tanking of U Mass and Dayton.

Xavier has proven itself worthy of an at-large bid and will be a definite recipient of an invitation to the Big Dance short of a total collapse.

Rhode Island will get its shot to earn an at-large invite Monday night when the Rams host Xavier.  At 7-4/21-5 including a win over Xavier, their resume will look great.

Both Dayton and U Mass have played themselves into NIT territory, and one of them will have to win the conference tournament in order to go to the Dance.

St. Joe’s and Temple are fighting it out for the possible third A-10 bid.  Of course, if they or anyone other than the big two win the conference tournament, then this league is virtually guaranteed a third bid.  If Xavier or URI win the tournament, the A-10 could be just a two-bid league.

Big East

Likely Bids:               7 or 8

Locks:                                    Georgetown, Connecticut, Louisville

In Good Shape:        Pittsburgh, Marquette, Notre Dame

On the Bubble:        Syracuse, West Virginia

Can Still Get There Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Villanova

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

Current Leaders

Georgetown              10-2/20-3                 

Louisville                  9-3/19-6

Connecticut              8-3/19-5

Notre Dame              8-3/18-5                   

Pittsburgh                 7-4/19-5                    

Marquette                 7-5/17-6                    

Cincinnati                 7-5/12-12

West Virginia           6-5/17-7

Syracuse                    6-6/16-9                   

                       

                       

Key Games This Weekend

FRIDAY

Pittsburgh at Marquette

SATURDAY

Connecticut at South Florida

Georgetown at Syracuse

Louisville at Providence

Villanova at St. John’s

SUNDAY

Notre Dame at Rutgers

Seton Hall at West Virginia

MONDAY

Georgetown at Providence

Syracuse at Louisville

When Louisville knocked off Georgetown last week, it moved the Cardinals to “Lock” status.  I believe the current top six Big East teams are practically assured of getting bids.  As I see it, five additional teams are fighting for one or two bids.

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin has his Bearcats playing great on the defensive end, while riding the arm of Deonta Vaughn to squeak by with low-scoring wins.  The Bearcats have won their last two road games and will need to win one crucial road game on either February 23 (Georgetown) or February 27 (Pittsburgh).  Cinti will have to finish at least 10-6 in the league and win at least once in the Big East Tournament.

West Virginia moved to the top part of the bubble last night and jumped over Syracuse in the standings.  The Orangemen need a big win, and rival Georgetown comes to the Carrier Dome this weekend.

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

Portland St.                          9-2/16-8                   

Weber St.                              7-4/12-11                  

Northern Arizona                7-5/15-10                  

Montana St.                          6-5/14-10

Montana                                6-5/12-12      

Idaho St.                                6-5/9-15

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Northern Arizona at Montana

Idaho State at Eastern Washington

Weber State at Portland State

SUNDAY

Sacramento State at Montana State

Portland State beat Idaho State last night for their seventh consecutive win.  With both Weber State and Northern Arizona losing, it virtually wraps up the regular season title for the Vikings giving PSU the home court advantage in the league tournament.  PSU rarely loses at the Stott Center, so the Vikings are now prohibitive favorites for taking the Big Sky’s lone NCAA bid.

Montana State and Northern Arizona hooked up in an important game in Bozeman last night with the home team Bobcats winning to end a two-game losing streak.  MSU has enough talent to get to the Big Sky Championship game where they would be a worthy opponent. 

                                   

Big South

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders

UNC-Asheville                     7-2/18-6                   

Winthrop                              7-3/16-9                    

High Point                            6-4/14-10                 

Coastal Carolina                  5-5/12-11                   

Liberty                                   5-5/13-12

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

VMI at UNC-Asheville

Radford at Winthrop

High Point at Chas. Southern

Liberty at Coastal Carolina

MONDAY

High Point at Coastal Carolina

Liberty at Chas. Southern            

UNC-Asheville had the bubble within their sites after beating Winthrop last week, but then the Bulldogs dropped consecutive road games to Liberty and High Point.  Now, they will have to earn the automatic bid to become one of the Field of 65. 

The door is now open for Winthrop to claim a piece of the regular season title or possibly win it outright.  The Eagles have just one road game remaining and get UNCA at home to conclude the regular season.  The Big South awards the semifinals and finals to the home court of the regular season champion, so this should be quite an interesting stretch run.

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

Purdue                                   11-1/20-5

Wisconsin                             10-2/20-4                 

Indiana                                  9-2/20-4                   

Michigan State                     8-3/20-4                                          

Ohio State                             8-4/17-8                   

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Minnesota at Wisconsin

Purdue at Northwestern

Michigan State at Indiana

SUNDAY

Ohio State at Michigan

Kudos go to Matt Painter and his Purdue Boilermakers.  They won at Wisconsin to complete the season sweep, and that gives them the outright lead in the conference.

The other big news in the Big 10 is the current plight in Bloomington, Indiana, where coach Kelvin Sampson could be on his way out after he was found to have committed five major infractions.  IU lost at home to Wisconsin immediately after the news became public, and the Hoosiers could feel the effects of this for the rest of the season.  They’re still in the Dance even if they blow up.

Wisconsin and Michigan State are definitely in the NCAA Tournament, while Ohio State is close to being in.  Keep an eye out for Buckeye coach Thad Matta if the Indiana job opens.

Minnesota has road games at Wisconsin, Purdue, and Indiana, and they must win two of them to get on the bubble.  It looks more like Tubby Smith’s first Gopher squad will be relegated to the NIT.

The Big 10 has seen its share of conference tournament upsets over its short history.  If you are looking for a possible surprise team, keep an eye on Illinois.  The Illini have not played up to their potential this year, and they could wake up just in time.

Big 12

Likely Bids:                           5 or 6

Locks:                                                Kansas, Texas

In Good Shape:                    Texas A&M, Kansas State

On the Bubble:                    Baylor, Oklahoma

Can Still Get There:                        Missouri, Texas Tech

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Kansas City

Current Leaders

Kansas                                   8-2/23-2                   

Texas                                      7-2/20-4

Kansas St.                              7-2/17-6                    

Texas A&M                            6-3/20-4

Baylor                                                5-4/17-6

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Colorado at Kansas

Oklahoma State at Texas A&M

Oklahoma at Texas Tech

Nebraska at Iowa State

Texas at Baylor

Missouri at Kansas State

MONDAY

Texas A&M at Texas                       

                       

This league took a little bit of a hit this week when Baylor lost twice to fall to the Bubble.  Texas A&M’s wins at Iowa State and Missouri moved them up from the Bubble to “In good shape” status.

Texas Tech must beat Oklahoma in Lubbock to have any chance to jump up to the bubble.  Pat Knight go his first win when the Red Raiders defeated Kansas State.  TTU has a favorable schedule and could finish the regular season at 9-7 if they can take care of the Sooners.

Big West

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Anaheim, CA

Current Leaders

Cal St. Northridge               8-2/16-6                   

Cal St. Fullerton                  9-3/16-7                    

Pacific                                                8-3/17-7

UC-Santa Barbara               7-4/18-6                   

UC-Irvine                              6-5/11-13

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Pacific at Cal St. Fullerton

UCSB at UC Davis

UC Riverside at Cal St. Northridge

UCSB fell at home to UC-Irvine, and with that loss, the Gauchos dropped out of contention for the regular season title. 

That leaves three teams fighting it out for top honors, and there is a big game Saturday in Fullerton between Pacific and CSU-Fullerton.

This league may be deserving of having two teams admitted to the Dance, but I don’t see it happening.

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

Virginia Commonwealth   12-2/19-5                  

George Mason                      10-4/18-7                 

UNC-Wilmington                9-5/16-10

William & Mary                   9-5/13-11                  

Northeastern                                    8-6/12-12                 

Old Dominion                      8-6/13-13

Delaware                               8-6/11-13                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Drexel at Delaware

Northeastern at Georgia St.

William & Mary at Towson St.

UNC-Wilmington at George Mason

Old Dominion at Virginia Commonwealth

VCU deserves an at-large bid if they win the CAA title and advance to the semifinals of the league tournament.  GMU may deserve an at-large bid if VCU beats them in the CAA Tournament Championship game.  The Patriots’ Bracket Buster game at Ohio will be one of the most important of the games next weekend.

Though UNC Wilmington has won seven of nine games, the Seahawks must still play at VCU and GMU.  It may be hard for them to hold onto third place.

Conference USA

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Memphis

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Houston

Can Still Get There:                        UAB

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Memphis

Current Leaders

Memphis                               10-0/24-0                

Houston                                7-2/18-5                    

UAB                                        7-2/17-7                    

Tulane                                   5-4/15-8                    

UTEP                                      5-4/14-8                   

Central Florida                    5-4/12-11                  

Key Games This Weekend

Central Florida at Rice

Tulane at Marshall

Memphis at UAB

UTEP at Tulsa

SMU at Houston

If somebody is going to beat Memphis prior to the NCAA Tournament, it will take place either this Saturday or next Saturday.  Next week is the big game with Tennessee.  The Tigers visit UAB this Saturday, where the Blazers are a perfect 10-0.  Coach Mike Davis lost his point guard, Paul Delaney early in the season; if not for that, UAB might be on the bubble this year.

Houston gave Memphis a great game in the Bluff City, and the Cougars are on the precipice of being on the bubble.  They need to win six of their final seven games plus get to the semifinals of the C-USA Tournament.

Horizon

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Butler

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Wright St.

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

Current Leaders

Butler                                                12-2/23-2                 

Wright St.                             10-4/18-6                 

Cleveland St.                         10-5/17-10

Illinois-Chicago                   8-6/14-11

UW-Milwaukee                    7-6/12-11                  

UW-Green Bay                     7-7/13-11

                       

Key Games This Weekend

Cleveland State at Butler

Illinois-Chicago at Wright State

UWGB at UW-Milw.

Butler is in the Big Dance even if they lose in their conference tournament.  If Butler wins the automatic bid, then the Horizon League will get just one bid.

Wright State has won nine games in a row and defeated Butler earlier this year.  The Raiders are doing it with patient offense and strong defense, giving up just 47.1 points per game in the winning streak.

UIC has snuck up on the rest of the field to claim an upper division placing, but the Flames have just one home game remaining, and that’s against Butler.

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 16-13 with two games left on their schedule.   The Broncos will be the only Indy with a winning record but won’t even get a sniff by the NIT.

Ivy

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    None, bid goes to regular season champion

Current Leaders

Cornell                                   6-0/14-5                   

Brown                                                4-2/12-8

Penn                                       3-2/8-14                   

Columbia                              3-3/10-11

Yale                                        3-3/9-11                    

Key Games This Weekend

FRIDAY

Columbia at Dartmouth

Brown at Penn

Cornell at Harvard

Yale at Princeton

SATURDAY

Yale at Penn

Cornell at Dartmouth

Columbia at Harvard

Brown at Princeton  

Cornell swept the former big two last week and now finds itself with a two-game lead over Brown, a team they have already clobbered in Providence.  The Big Red play on the road at the two bottom feeders this week.  A sweep to get to 8-0 could be all they need to gain an insurmountable advantage over Penn, who at 3-2 is the real top challenger. 

Penn has Brown and Yale at home this weekend, and then the Quakers play four consecutive home games before hosting Cornell.  If Penn loses another game prior to the rematch with the Big Red, beating Cornell won’t mean much.

Metro Atlantic

Likely Bids:                           1 (very slim chance at 2)

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders

Rider                                      11-3/18-7                  

Siena                                      11-3/16-8                  

Niagara                                  9-5/15-8

Marist                                                9-5/15-10

Loyola (Md.)                         9-5/14-12                  

Fairfield                                 8-6/10-14

Key Games This Weekend

FRIDAY

Marist at Manhattan

SATURDAY

Loyola (Md.) at Siena

Rider at Fairfield

Iona at Niagara                   

MONDAY

Rider at Loyola (Md.)

St. Peter’s at Niagara

Siena at Manhattan

Marist at Fairfield

Rider could have wrapped up the MAAC regular season last weekend, but the Broncos fell at home to Siena.  Combined that with Siena’s win at Marist in the game prior, and the Saints moved into a tie for first in the MAAC.  Siena has the more favorable schedule to the finish, and the Saints could be the number one seed when the MAAC Tournament begins on their home floor.

There are still multiple teams with enough talent to pull off a conference tournament upset or two and steal the automatic bid.    Niagara has superstar swing man Charron Fisher, who is the school’s best player since Calvin Murphy.  Fisher can put up 40 points and can carry the team when he’s hot (he can bury the Purple Eagles when he shoots 5-20). 

Marist doesn’t have a star on their roster, but they have excellent depth.  The Red Foxes won at Rider and gave Siena two close games.

Loyola beat Siena by 29 points earlier this year, and if the Greyhounds play with the same intensity for three days, they could be a force in the conference tournament.

Mid-American

Likely Bids:                           2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                   

On the Bubble:                    Kent State

Can Still Get There:                        Ohio U, Akron

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Cleveland

Current Leaders

East

Kent State                             9-2/20-5                   

Akron                                     7-4/17-7                    

Ohio U                                   7-4/16-8                   

Miami                                                6-5/12-11                  

Bowling Green                     6-5/11-12

West

Western Michigan               8-3/14-10                 

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Akron at Bowling Green

Ohio U at Kent

Miami (O) at Buffalo

SUNDAY

Western Michigan at Northern Illinois (Game may be postponed due to shooting at Northern Illinois campus)

Kent State has the resume for at-large consideration, but their RPI rating is in the low 50’s, which places them well down in the list of bubble teams.

Ohio U and Akron could sneak into the discussion if either wins out.

In the West, Western Michigan has no chance at getting an at-large bid, and the rest of the division probably cannot qualify for an NIT bid.

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

Morgan St.                            9-1/15-8

Norfolk St.                            8-2/12-10                 

Hampton                               7-3/13-9

Delaware St.                         7-3/10-12

North Carolina A&T                        6-4/12-11                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Morgan State at Florida A&M

Md. Eastern Shore at N.C. A&T

Delaware State at Norfolk State

South Carolina State at Hampton

MONDAY

Winston-Salem State at Hampton

Delaware State at N.C. A&T

Morgan State at Bethune-Cookman

Md. Eastern Shore at Norfolk State

Morgan State has now won eight games in a row, and the Golden Bears have outscored their league foes by an average of 66-51.  When he isn’t getting put on an eight-year suspension by the NCAA for giving $30,000 to recruits’ parents or getting arrested for assault with a deadly ham sandwich, former Cal coach Todd Bozeman must know something about coaching.

Norfolk State has won nine of 11 games including the lone defeat of Morgan State.  The Spartans close the regular season with five road games, so Morgan State should take the regular season crown and gain at least an automatic bid to the NIT.

Hampton and Delaware State are more than talented enough to win the conference tournament, especially in a league where surprise winners outnumber favorite winners.

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

Drake                                     13-1/22-2                  

Illinois St.                             10-4/18-7                 

Creighton                              8-6/17-7                    

Southern Illinois                 8-6/13-12

Northern Iowa                     7-7/15-10

Bradley                                  7-7/14-12                  

                       

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Creighton at Bradley

Drake at Northern Iowa

Illinois State at Indiana State

Southern Illinois at Wichita State

Drake finally lost a conference game, but the defeat to Southern Illinois came after the Bulldogs clinched the MVC regular season title.  The Bulldogs are a cinch to get in the NCAA Tournament, but winning out could give them a high enough seed to be considered a favorite for a spot in the Sweet 16.

Illinois State is not good enough to be a sure thing in the at-large bid world, but if the Redbirds win their last five regular season contests, they will be just that.

Creighton, SIU, NIU, and Bradley will have to win the automatic bid to get into the Dance.  The Salukis beat Drake for their 10th home win, but they are a paltry 1-9 on the road.  The MVC Tournament isn’t in Carbondale, so that does not bode well for SIU.

Creighton is a streaky team.  The Blue Jays have enjoyed winning streaks of five, four, five, and three games for their 17 wins, so they are capable of getting hot at the right time and taking the automatic bid in St. Louis.

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

Brigham Young                   8-1/19-5                    

UNLV                                     8-2/19-5                   

New Mexico                          6-4/19-6

San Diego St.                                    6-4/16-8                   

Utah                                       5-4/14-8                   

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

San Diego State at Utah

TCU at New Mexico

UNLV at BYU

The regular season champion should emerge Saturday when UNLV visits BYU.  If the Cougars win, they will be up two games in the loss column, which would probably be enough to guarantee them at least a share of the title.  UNLV embarrassed them by 29 points a month ago.

New Mexico is coming on strong in the final half of the season.  Coach Steve Alford’s Lobos sport a three-game winning streak in which they have outscored their opposition by an average of 88-56!

San Diego State has dropped four of their last six games to fall out of the race.  Utah must still play at BYU and UNLV, but the Utes are talented enough to win those games.  I don’t think they will win both, but there’s a good chance they will win one and become a spoiler.

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

Robert Morris                      11-2/20-6

Wagner                                  11-2/18-6

Sacred Heart                         11-3/14-11                 

Quinnipiac                            9-4/13-11                  

Central Conn. St.                 8-6/12-13

Mt. St. Mary’s                       8-6/12-13     

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Robert Morris at St. Francis, NY

Central Connecticut State at Long Island

St. Francis, PA at Sacred Heart

Quinnipiac at Mt. St. Mary’s

Monmouth at Wagner

Sacred Heart’s Valentine’s Day wasn’t so happy, as the Pioneers fell in overtime at Wagner.  The win keeps the Seahawks tied for first with Robert Morris.  The Colonials won their eighth game in a row last night with a win over Central Connecticut.  As for Wagner, they have now won three straight games, all in overtime.  They face Robert Morris in Greater Pittsburgh next Saturday.

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

Austin Peay                          13-3/17-9                  

Murray St.                             11-6/15-10                

Morehead St.                                    10-6/13-11                

Eastern Kentucky                10-6/13-11                

UT-Martin                            10-8/14-14

Tennessee Tech                   9-9/12-16                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Morehead St. at Jacksonville State

SE Missouri at UT-Martin

Eastern Ky. at Samford

Tennessee Tech at Austin Peay

E. Illinois at Murray State

MONDAY

Austin Peay at Tennessee State

Austin Peay took a 2 ½ game lead last night when Murray State fell at Tennessee State.  Morehead tied EKU for third by winning at Samford while EKU fell at Jacksonville State.  The big mover in the league is UT-Martin, who has now won four in a row after knocking off Tennessee Tech in Cookeville last night.  The Skyhawks have the best pair of guards in the league in Lester Hudson and Marquis Weddle.  Hot-shooting guards can win tournaments, and UTM has to be considered a legitimate contender in the OVC Tournament.

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

U C L A                                  9-2/21-3                               

Stanford                                9-3/20-4                               

Washington St.                    7-5/19-5        

Arizona St.                            6-5/16-7

Arizona                                  6-5/16-8                               

Southern Cal                                    6-5/15-8                    

Oregon                                   6-6/15-9

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Stanford at Arizona

California at Arizona State

Washington at Oregon State

Washington State at Oregon                                

SUNDAY

UCLA at Southern Cal

The teams are beating up on each other in this balanced league, so the eventual winner may end up falling to a 2-seed.  UCLA lost at home to USC and now faces the Trojans across town.  If USC wins Sunday, they will have done enough to get in the Dance if they finish 9-9 in the league.

Arizona State’s comeback upset over Stanford last night puts the Sun Devils into position to knock Cal out of contention and solidify their hold on an at-large berth.  Arizona finds itself in a precarious position; they have to host an angry Stanford team tomorrow, and they cannot afford to lose a home game at this point in the season.

Washington State has recovered from their 3-5 stretch to win two in a row, but the Cougars don’t have enough offensive firepower to feel comfortable.  Their finishing schedule includes road games at Oregon, Cal, and Stanford, as well as home games with the two Arizona teams.  They could easily lose four of these games and finish in sixth place at 9-9.  They would then have to win one game in the Pac-10 Tournament to be safe.

California, Oregon, and Washington are in emergency mode right now.  The Ducks are in a must-win situation against Washington State tomorrow.  As for the Bears and Huskies, they need to win on the road to have a chance.  It looks more like the NIT for both of them.

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

American                              7-3/15-10

Lafayette                               5-4/14-10                              

Navy                                       5-4/12-12                  

Bucknell                                5-5/10-14

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Navy at Lafayette

Holy Cross at Bucknell

Army at Lehigh

SUNDAY

American at Colgate                      

                       

There’s a new sheriff in town.  American has pieced together four consecutive victories to open a 1 ½ game lead over Lafayette and Navy.  Bucknell is fading fast, while Army, Lehigh, Holy Cross, and Colgate are within striking distance of second place.  It wouldn’t surprise me if last place Colgate beat first place American on Sunday.

With the league so balanced, it probably means the eventual league champion will be looking at a #16 seed.

Southeastern

Likely Bids:                           5 or 6

Locks:                                                Tennessee,

In Good Shape:                    Florida, Mississippi St., Vanderbilt

On the Bubble:                    Kentucky, Arkansas

Can Still Get There:                        Ole Miss

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Atlanta

Current Leaders

East

Tennessee                             9-1/22-2

Kentucky                               6-3/12-10

Vanderbilt                             6-4/21-4

Florida                                   6-4/19-6

                                   

West

Mississippi St.                       7-2/16-7                                

Arkansas                               6-3/17-6

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Kentucky at LSU

Tennessee at Georgia

Florida at Vanderbilt

Arkansas at Mississippi State                               

This is a league of Tennessee and everybody else.  The Vols can earn a number one seed if they finish 14-2 in the SEC and beat Memphis a week from tomorrow.  When they don’t throw up too many stupid shots and hit their free throws, they are capable of beating anybody in the nation, including Memphis, UCLA, and Duke.

Vanderbilt moved back to number two status with four straight wins including a 41-point dismantling of Kentucky.  The Commodores are close to lock status now, and a win over Florida Saturday could do the trick.

Speaking of Florida, the Gators are in free-fall mode.  They lost at home to LSU Wednesday night, making it three defeats in their last four outings.  The Gators could finish as low as 8-8 in the conference if they lose their remaining road games and fall at home to Tennessee.  They should still get in at 8-8.

Arkansas had a four-game winning streak snapped at Tennessee.  The Razorbacks have four tough road games still to play and could easily lose all four.  That means they must win out at home or else they will be in the middle of the bubble on March 13.

As for Ole Miss, the Rebels have little room for error now.  At 3-6, they must finish the regular season 5-2 and win twice in the SEC Tournament of 6-1 and win once.  Anything short of that will doom them to the NIT again.

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

North

Appalachian St.                    11-5/16-9

Chattanooga                         10-6/15-11                

                       

South

Davidson                               16-0/18-6                 

Georgia Southern                11-5/18-8                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Chattanooga at Citadel

Furman at Davidson

Appy State at UNC-Greensboro

Elon at Georgia Southern

Davidson is running away with the league title again and could run the table for the second year in a row.  Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they couldn’t upset any of the big name teams they played earlier in the season.  Even if they knock off Winthrop in the Bracket Buster game, they may still need to win the automatic bid to get into the Field of 65.  Their RPI is in the mid-50’s and isn’t likely to go up much if they win out until the finals of the SoCon Tourney and then lose that game.

Southland

Likely Bids:                           1  

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders

East

Lamar                                                8-1/14-8                               

Northwestern St.                 7-3/11-13                              

SE Louisiana                                    5-5/13-10

West

Stephen F. Austin                8-2/20-3

Sam Houston                       6-4/18-5       

UT-Arlington                                   5-5/16-7                                

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

SF Austin at Northwestern State

Texas A&M CC at Southeast La.

Lamar at Texas State

Sam Houston at Central Arkansas

Lamar dismissed SE Louisiana last week, and they have already won at Northwestern State.  Coach Steve Roccaforte’s Cardinals are exciting to watch much like Billy Tubbs’ Lamar teams were.  Expect 180 total points to be scored when they take on Texas State Saturday.

Stephen F. Austin has an RPI just a little too low to be considered an at-large contender.  With the Southland not participating in the Bracket Buster, it makes this a one-bid league, even though two teams will be left out that will be better than some of the other mid-major at-large invitees.

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

Alabama St.                          9-2/13-8       

Jackson State                       7-4/9-15

Arkansas Pine Bluff                        6-5/10-12

Miss. Valley St.                     6-5/8-14

Southern                               6-5/8-14

Grambling                            6-5/6-12

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Ark. PB at Southern

Alabama State at Alabama A&M

Miss. Valley St. at Alcorn St.

Jackson St. at Prairie View A&M

Grambling at Texas Southern

The SWAC may be the weakest league in Division I this year and even weaker than the Independents, but it doesn’t mean the conference race isn’t exciting.  With five teams within a game of second place and league leader Alabama State shown to be vulnerable after losing big at Mississippi Valley, any of six or seven teams could win the league tournament and become one of the play-in participants.

If Alabama A&M can upset the Hornets tomorrow, and if Jackson State can win at P.V. A&M, then the race for the top seed will still be up for grabs.  JSU and ASU close out the regular season in Montgomery.

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

Oral Roberts                         13-0/18-5                 

IUPUI                                     12-2/20-5                 

Oakland                                 8-5/13-11                  

IUPU Ft. Wayne                   7-6/10-14                  

Key Games This Weekend

IUPU Ft. Wayne at Oakland

Oral Roberts at IUPUI

The game of the year in the Summit tips off tomorrow in Indianapolis when ORU visits IUPUI.  If ORU wins this one, they will move into the upper half of the bubble.  I think the Jaguars are going to win at home and make the final week of the schedule meaningful.

Of course, ORU hosts the Summit Tournament this year, so I expect the Golden Eagles, who are 10-0 at home, to win the automatic bid.  IUPUI did lose by just one in Tulsa. 

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

East

Western Kentucky              12-1/20-5                  

South Alabama                    11-2/19-5                  

Middle Tennessee               9-5/12-12                  

West

Arkansas-Little Rock          7-6/15-9

Denver                                   7-6/11-13

Louisiana Lafayette                        7-6/11-13                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee

New Orleans at Ark.-Little Rock

Fla. Atlantic at South Alabama

Denver at UL-Monroe

UL-Lafayette at Arkansas State

Middle Tennessee pulled off the big upset last night when they knocked off South Alabama.  Now they host Western Kentucky tomorrow.  Another upset could prove the Blue Raiders worthy of being a legitimate conference tournament contender.

The West Division does not have a solid team, and I doubt we will be seeing someone from the West in the SBC Tournament final.

West Coast

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                St. Mary’s

In Good Shape:                    Gonzaga

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 7-10 @ San Diego

Current Leaders

St. Mary’s                              8-1/21-3                    

Gonzaga                                 8-1/19-6                    

San Diego                              7-1/14-11                   

Santa Clara                           4-4/12-11                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Gonzaga at San Francisco

Portland at San Diego

St. Mary’s at Loyola Marymount

Santa Clara at Pepperdine

MONDAY

St. Mary’s at Pepperdine

Santa Clara at Loyola Marymount

Gonzaga at San Diego

By Monday night, San Diego could be in first place, and that would throw this league into shambles.  While I don’t expect St. Mary’s to lose either road game this weekend, I think the Gaels are ripe for an upset.  Gonzaga plays at San Diego Monday night, so the Toreros should move into second if not first place.  USD owns a win at Kentucky, but their RPI is down in the 100’s.

What will be interesting is how Gonzaga will rate if they finish third in the WCC and do not win the conference tournament.  St. Mary’s is in regardless of how they finish, and this league deserves two bids.  How can the NCAA Tournament choose Gonzaga over San Diego, if the Toreros finish ahead of them in the standings and beat the Bulldogs in the tournament semifinals before losing to SMC in the finals?  That scenario could happen.

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

Utah State                             8-2/18-7                   

Boise State                            9-3/18-6                   

New Mexico St.                    9-3/15-12                  

Nevada                                   8-4/16-9                   

Hawaii                                   6-4/10-12                 

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Fresno State at Boise State

Nevada at Idaho

Utah State at Hawaii

MONDAY

Utah State at San Jose State

League leader Utah State has a tough road trip this weekend, having to play at Hawaii Saturday and San Jose State Monday.  I expect the Aggies to lose at least one of those games.  Boise State will move into first place with a win at home over Fresno if USU loses a game. 

The team to watch is New Mexico State.  The Aggies have won four games in a row and defeated Utah State 100-70 in Las Cruces a few weeks back.  NMSU hosts the conference tournament, where they are 10-2 at home this year.

Advertisements

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: