There has been little change in the bracketology rankings in the last six days, but there has been a shifting in the seedings. Additionally, we have moved another mid-major team ahead of some at-large major conference opponents. This now allows for two 11-seeds and two 12-seeds to appear in First Four games in Dayton.
Let’s start with the One-Big Leagues. As of today, there are 23 one-bid leagues, but in the case of two or three leagues, if the overwhelming favorite fails to earn the automatic bid, there is a puncher’s chance that these leagues will steal a second bid away from an at-large team.
Stony Brook 6-0/15-4 is beginning to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the league. The Seawolves mounted a late charge Saturday to knock off second place Albany. They must make up a game tonight against Maine, and then they play at Vermont on Saturday. If SB wins both games, the regular season title is almost assured.
North Florida (6-0/17-6) took sole possession of first place after Lipscomb upset Florida Gulf Coast (4-1/13-8) thanks to raining threes for 40 minutes. It will be a big bird fight this Saturday when the Ospreys and Eagles meet at FGCU.
The two previously unbeaten teams in conference play lost last week. Montana (7-1/12-7) and Weber State (5-1/13-6) now have six additional contenders to worry about in a league where just the top 8 of the 12 teams qualify for the conference tournament. It should be an exciting three days for this league when determining their one automatic bid.
UNC-Asheville (7-2/14-7) lost at High Point (6-3/13-7) in the middle of last week, and now this league is a wide-open race with Winthrop (6-3/14-6), Coastal Carolina (5-4/11-8), Radford (5-4/12-9), and Gardner-Webb (5-4/10-11) all in contention. This will also be an exciting conference tournament.
It looks like a two-team race between Hawaii (5-0/16-2) and UC-Irvine (5-0/16-5). The Warriors have won eight games in a row including one over Auburn, while their two losses were on the road by eight at Texas Tech and by three to Oklahoma. UH should be in the discussion for at-large worthiness. UCI has won nine of ten games, with the sole loss coming at Kansas. In that KU game, UCI led for almost all of the first half, as the Jayhawks were hesitant to penetrate the lane against 7 foot 6 inch titan Mamadou Ndiaye and backup center, 7 foot 2 inch Herculean Ioannis Dimakopoulos.
This is a tight three-way race at the moment with a group of two or three more capable of getting back into the hunt. James Madison (6-2/16-5), UNC-Wilmington (6-2/14-5), and Hofstra (6-2/14-6) lead two others by a game and two additional teams by two games. JMU won at Hofstra in overtime, so the Dukes are the team to beat for now.
This race is starting to evolve into a three-team contest. UAB (7-0/17-3) has won 14 consecutive games, but they have no signature wins and cannot possibly earn an at-large bid with their resume. Middle Tennessee (6-1/14-5) and Marshall (6-1/10-10) are a game back, but UAB must still play at both contenders plus host Marshall.
With six consecutive wins, including an 11-point victory over the co-leader, Wright State (7-1/13-8) has moved into the penthouse with Valparaiso (7-1/17-4). The race will probably come down to the wire, with a February 13 game left at Valpo, the Crusaders are still the slight favorite. If Valpo wins 25 games and then loses to Wright State in the Horizon League Tournament Championship, there is a very slim chance the Crusaders could sneak an at-large bid. They have semi-big wins against Oregon State and Belmont.
The Ivy League is the most prestigious academic group in the nation, but their athletic scheduling is just plain goofy. Six of the eight teams have played two conference games. In all six cases, the teams played home and home against one other conference team. Yale (2-0/11-5) swept Brown. Columbia (2-0/13-6) swept Cornell; and Harvard (1-1/9-9) and Dartmouth (1-1/7-9) split their two games. Princeton (1-0/11-4) appears to be the best in the league, and the Tigers won their lone conference game over Penn. There are no big wins outside of the league, and there is no conference tournament. The regular season champ gets the automatic bid, but there is a playoff in any tie for first, even if one team swept the other in the regular season.
Monmouth (7-2/15-5) is the only team with multiple quality wins (UCLA, USC, Notre Dame, and Georgetown), but the Hawks are struggling to keep the lead in the MAAC having lost at Manhattan (5-4/8-10) last week. St. Peter’s (6-2/8-9) had snuck into a tie until losing to fading Iona (7-3/10-9). Siena (6-3/13-7) has won four of five to move into contention. While Monmouth has the best chance of becoming a Sweet 16 darling, they have not wrapped up a bid and will most likely get the shaft if they do not earn the automatic bid.
The MAC is the final remaining conference to divide its teams into basketball divisions. There are two teams in both divisions that look capable of winning an opening round NCAA Tournament game, but this league will not receive multiple bids. In the four-way cat fight for the lone bid are Kent State (5-1/14-5) and Akron (4-2/15-4) from the East and Northern Illinois (5-1/16-3) and Ball State (4-2/13-6) from the West. Akron has the best out-of-conference success with wins over Arkansas, Marshall, and Iona.
Hampton (7-0/11-7) has opened up a game and a half lead over Norfolk State (5-1/9-12) and a 2 1/2 game lead over Howard (3-1/9-10). If the Pirates win the bid, the MEAC might avoid a First Four game in Dayton, but that is still not definite.
This is the one of two leagues where the number of bids will move from one to two if the one behemoth loses in the MVC Tournament. Wichita State (8-0/14-5) is going to be in the Big Dance whether it is an automatic or at-large invitation. If the Shockers win Arch Madness, then the MVC is almost guaranteed to be a one-bid league. Southern Illinois (7-1/18-3) and Evansville (6-2/17-4) look like they have records deserving of at-large contention, but SIU has no resume-building win, while the Purple Aces can boast of wins over Belmont and UC-Irvine, which is not going to get them in the Dance without having a guaranteed ticket.
This is the other league where an upset in the conference tournament could see a second bid awarded to the league. San Diego State (7-0/14-6) is the class of the league again, but the Aztecs cannot count on a definite at-large invitation if they come up short in the conference tourney. SDSU has a win over Cal, when the Bears were ranked in the top 15, but UC has fallen out of the rankings. The Aztecs have losses to power teams in Utah, West Virginia, and Kansas. Boise State (6-1/15-5) has a win over Oregon as well as non-embarrassing losses to Michigan State and Arizona twice. The Broncos lost at home to SDSU.
Eight of the Ten teams can still win the conference title, and any of the eight could win the conference tournament. Mount St. Mary’s (6-2/9-12) leads, but Wagner (5-3/12-7) would probably give the conference a better chance to avoid Dayton and a First Four game.
Belmont (7-0/15-6) sprinted to a 20+ – point lead over Tennessee State (5-1/14-5) in their first meeting of the season yesterday, before withstanding a late Tiger rally to make it close. One of these two Nashville rivals should get the automatic bid.
This looks like a three-team race for the conference title, and the winner hosts the conference tournament, so it is important to win the regular season title. Bucknell (7-1/10-9) is the closest thing to a dynasty team in this league. Navy (6-1/15-5) and Colgate (6-2/10-9) are the two others contending for first.
Chattanooga (6-1/17-3) has wins over Georgia and Dayton as well as a win over leading contender East Tennessee (6-1/13-7). Mercer (4-3/14-6) still hosts the co-leaders, so the Bears have a chance.
This league is quickly improving each year, and the time may come when the SLC challenges the Missouri Valley for Mid-Major supremacy. Houston Baptist (7-0/12-7) has won 10 of 11 games, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christie (6-0/15-3) has won 14 of 15 games but neither the Huskies nor the Islanders have yet to face multiple time defending champ Stephen F. Austin (6-0/13-5). Incarnate Word (4-1/9-7) is ineligible for the bid, but the Cardinals may have a say in who does, by changing a seed or two.
The SWAC has been a regular in the First Four in recent years. It looks very possible like the league champ will be headed to Dayton again this year. Texas Southern (6-0/7-11). Southern (5-2/13-7) and Jackson State (5-2/10-10) are the top two contenders. As has been the case in the SWAC in recent years, one of the better league teams, Alcorn State (5-2/7-11) is not eligible for the tournament due to low APR scores.
Maybe it is Peyton Manning’s year, because Omaha 6-1/14-7) leads the league. The Mavericks will have to hold off a fiesty trio of competitors in South Dakota State (5-2/16-5), IPFW (5-2/16-6), and IUPUI (5-2/9-13). Our money is on SDSU to win the conference tournament. The Jackrabbits have the best program in the league.
What will it take for Arkansas-Little Rock (7-1/17-2) to get some respect? The Trojans won at San Diego State and Tulsa in the pre-conference schedule and have run out to a game and a half lead in the league? UALR could make it to the Dance with 30 wins and still be a prohibitive underdog in their first game due to lower than deserved seeding. Texas-Arlington (5-2/14-4) is the chief contender.
The hands-down best team in the league in the last three or four seasons won’t get the opportunity to play for a spot in the Dance. Grand Canyon (5-0/18-2) is ineligible for a couple more years. New Mexico State (5-1/13-8) and Cal State Bakersfield (4-1/14-6) are the next best two in line.
The League In The Cracks
With SMU ineligible for the tournament, the AAC could very well find itself with just one bid this year, but there are five teams capable of earning at-large bids as of now. We cannot put a second AAC team in this week’s Field, but we cannot place the league with the definite one-bid only conferences.
Tulsa (5-2/13-6) and Temple (5-2/11-7) lead Connecticut (4-2/14-5) and Central Florida (4-2/10-7) by a half game with Cincinnati (5-3/15-6) lurking close behind. Memphis (3-3/12-7) is still alive and capable of winning the automatic bid. Temple upset previously unbeaten SMU yesterday.
The Multi-Bid Leagues
We moved one league from possible second bid to definite second bid this week. The West Coast Conference went from one and maybe another to two definite as of now.
North Carolina (7-0/18-2)
Okay for Now
Notre Dame (5-2/14-5)
Florida St. (2-5/12-7)
Okay for Now
Virginia Commonwealth (7-0/15-5)
St. Joseph’s (5-1/16-3)
George Washington (4-2/15-4)
West Virginia (5-2/16-3)
Iowa St. (4-3/15-4)
Okay for Now
Texas Tech (2-5/12-6)
Kansas St. (2-5/12-7)
Okay for Now
Seton Hall (3-4/13-6)
Michigan St. (4-4/17-4)
Okay for Now
Ohio St. (4-3/12-8)
Okay for Now
Oregon St. (3-4/12-6)
Texas A&M (7-0/17-2)
Okay for Now
South Carolina (4-2/17-2)
Ole Miss (2-5/12-7)
Okay for Now
St. Mary’s (8-1/17-2)
The Field of 68 Seeded
|12||San Diego St.|
|16||New Mexico St.|
Last 4 IN–First Four Games in Dayton
Syracuse vs. UCLA
Gonzaga vs. Washington
First 4 OUT
Next 4 OUT