The Pi-Rate Ratings

February 17, 2012

A PiRate Look At The Big Dance & The Bracket Buster

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , — piratings @ 1:58 pm

It’s Bracket Buster weekend, which means that the first conference tournaments are just a week away.  13 games will be televised on ESPN, or should we rename the network ESP-LIN?

 

With the expanded 68-team field entering its second year, this weekend becomes more important.  The positions of mid-major and low-major teams on the bubble will move with each game.

 

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has instructed the public in how they select the at-large teams.  RPI ratings are important, but they are not the be all and end all.  The committee stresses that they want members watching these games, trying to figure out which teams “look” like they could win tournament games.

 

With that in mind, let’s look at the Bracket Buster schedule, and then let’s look at every conference, trying to figure out which teams would be in the Big Dance if the season ended today.

 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Time

Network

Home Team

W-L

RPI

Visiting Team

W-L

RPI

7:00 PM

ESPN-2

Va.Commonwealth

22-6

81

Northern Iowa

17-11

53

9:00 PM

ESPN-U

Loyola Marymount

17-10

107

Valparaiso

19-9

95

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Time

Network

Home Team

W-L

RPI

Visiting Team

W-L

RPI

11:00 AM

ESPN-U

Cleveland St.

20-7

83

Drexel

22-5

86

12:00 PM

ESPN-2

Davidson

20-6

70

Wichita St.

23-4

17

1:00 PM

ESPN-U

South Dakota St.

21-7

73

Buffalo

16-7

80

2:00 PM

ESPN-2

Oral Roberts

24-5

45

Akron

19-7

61

3:00 PM

ESPN-U

New Mexico St.

19-8

77

Drake

15-12

130

4:00 PM

ESPN-2

Iona

21-6

54

Nevada

22-4

58

5:00 PM

ESPN-U

Missouri St.

16-12

89

Old Dominion

17-11

128

6:00 PM

ESPN

Murray St.

25-1

51

Saint Mary’s

23-4

26

7:00 PM

ESPN-3

OhioU

20-6

105

UNC-Asheville

19-8

118

8:00 PM

ESPN-3

Weber St.

21-4

88

UT-Arlington

20-5

114

10:00 PM

ESPN-2

Creighton

22-5

30

Long Beach St.

19-6

44

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Times Eastern Standard

RPI as of February 15, 2012 from realtimerpi.com

 

 

America East

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion

 

Stony Brook (12-2/17-8) and Vermont (12-2/18-10) lead Boston U (10-4/14-14) by two games.  Stony Brook had won 14 of 15 games until losing at Vermont by 19 last Sunday.  The Sea Wolves have no spectacular non-conference wins.

 

Vermont has won nine in a row and 12 of their last 13.

 

Atlantic Ten

2 or 3 bids (most likely 2)

 

Temple (9-2/20-5) and St. Louis (9-3/21-5) are both on the bubble, with the Owls resting near the top of that bubble thanks to wins over Duke and Wichita State.  Xavier (7-4/16-9) has played their way into needing to win the automatic bid.  UMass (7-4/18-7) has the talent to win the conference tournament, as does St. Joe’s (7-5/17-10), LaSalle (6-5/17-9), and Dayton (6-5/16-9).

 

ACC

5-7 bids (probably 6)

 

North Carolina (9-2/22-4) and Duke (9-2/22-4) are definitely in.  Florida State (9-2/18-7) needs one more win to be a cinch.  Virginia (6-5/19-6 needs two more wins to be a lock.  These four will be called on Selection Sunday.

 

Three other teams are still in the hunt for at-large bids, and they are in order of preference: North Carolina St. (7-4/18-8), Miami (6-5/15-9), and Maryland (5-6/15-10).

 

Atlantic Sun

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion

 

Perennial champion Belmont (12-2/20-7) is locked in a tight race with Mercer (12-2/20-7) for the regular season title.  But, the winner will only be guaranteed a bid in the NIT if they cannot win the conference tournament.

 

Mercer hosts the tournament this year, so the Bears have to be considered the favorite.  Belmont has yet to play at Mercer.  The Bruins close the regular season in Macon.

 

Big 12

5-7 bids (probably 6)

 

Losing Nebraska and Colorado did not affect this league’s basketball strength, and the same amount of teams should make the tournament this year than last.

 

What’s a Big Dance without Kansas (11-2/21-5)?  The Jayhawks are a lock, as are Missouri (11-2/24-2) and Baylor (9-4/22-4).  Any of these three could still be around in the Elite 8.

 

Two surprise teams come next.  Iowa State (8-5/18-8) is a positive surprise, while Texas (7-6/17-9) have not quite made enough of a case for themselves.  Fred Hoiberg has done a great job in Ames, and the Cyclones need maybe two more wins to be locks.  The Longhorns must win at least three more times to be on the safe side of the bubble.

 

Kansas State (6-7/17-8) is slowly falling down in the ranks of the elite.  The Wildcats must win three of their final five regular season games and at least once in the Big 12 Tournament to be considered a shoo-in.  Their next two are at Baylor and at Missouri, and the boys from the Little Apple could be 6-9/17-10 on Wednesday morning. 

 

Big East

6 to 9 bids (probably 7)

 

Recent trends in this league has made a muddy mess out of the group in the middle.  Five teams (Syracuse 13-1/26-1, Marquette 10-3/21-5, Notre Dame 10-3/18-8, Georgetown 9-4/19-5, and Louisville 8-5/20-6) will be dancing for sure. 

 

After that quintet, one to four more teams could make the dance, and five teams are competing for those one to four bids.  South Florida (9-4/16-10) is actually ahead of the other four in the conference standings, but the Bulls are actually the lowest team in this mini-bubble.  Looking down at USF in the bubble watch are: Cincinnati (8-5/18-8), Seton Hall (7-7/18-8), West Virginia (7-7/17-10), and Connecticut (6-7/17-9).

 

Pitt (4-10/15-12) could still make some noise at MSG in the conference tournament, but do not expect the Panthers to make a UConn-like run.

 

Big Sky

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion

 

Weber State (13-1/21-4) has won 15 of 16 games, but the Wildcats are not on the bubble.  Weber State should win the automatic bid, and if they do, keep an eye on Damian Lillard, one of the best players you may not know.

 

Montana (12-1/19-6) can still win the regular season title, as they host the Wildcats to conclude the regular season on February 28.  The Grizzlies have won 14 or 15 games, losing only at Weber State. 

 

The regular season champion hosts the semifinal and final rounds, and the top two teams get byes to the semifinals, which makes seeding very important in this league.

 

Big South

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion

 

Four teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, and it is hard to believe any other team would have a chance to win the conference tournament.

 

UNC-Asheville (14-2/19-8) and Coastal Carolina (11-5/18-8) are the two top teams in the league, and Campbell (11-5/17-11) and Charleston Southern (10-6/16-10) are the best of the rest.

 

UNCA can shoot and score, but they are a little soft inside.  CCU has more muscle inside and has shown a penchant for being able to play with major conference teams.  The Chanticleers own wins over LSU and Clemson.

 

Big Ten

6 to 8 bids (probably 7)

 

This league’s games have been on the boring side this year, and we have a feeling that more than one tournament team will fall in upsets in the Big Dance.  The league has become too controlled, and underdogs that can score cheap baskets could pull off multiple upsets in the tournament.

 

Michigan State (10-3/21-5) and Ohio State (10-3/22-4) can lose out and still get in the tournament.  Michigan (9-4/19-7), Wisconsin (8-5/19-7), and Indiana (8-6/20-6) will be in unless they lose out.  So count these five as sure things.

 

Purdue (7-6/17-9) is on the good side of the bubble.  Minnesota (5-8/17-9), Illinois (5-8/16-10, and Northwestern (5-8/15-10) are on the outside looking in.  If any of this trio can go 4-1 and then win their first conference tournament game, it could be enough to sneak in as one of the four majors that must go to Dayton.

 

Big West

1 or 2 bids

 

Long Beach State (12-0/19-6) has done enough to be on the bubble should they not win the conference tournament.  The 49ers played a brutally tough non-conference schedule, and they get one more in this week’s bracket buster game against Creighton.  LBSU has wins over Pitt, Xavier, and Auburn, and they have close losses to North Carolina, San Diego State, Kansas, and Louisville.

 

In conference play, the 49ers are outscoring their opponents by an average of 75.9 to 62.7.  Cal State Fullerton (9-3/17-7) is the top contender in a possible upset chance.

 

Colonial Athletic

1 to 3 bids

 

Here is where the RPI rankings could prove to be either more or less important than most people think.  This league’s RPI rankings are lackluster this year, but there are three teams strong enough to win an NCAA Tournament game, maybe even stronger than last year’s surprise Final Four participant.

 

Drexel (14-2/22-5) is squarely on the bubble.  Coach Bruiser Flint could be on his way to bigger and better things after bringing the Dragons this far.  They could be better than any of the Big Five in Philly this year.  Drexel has won 20 of their last 21, including wins over VCU and George Mason, the teams fighting them in the standings.  If the Dragons can win at Cleveland State this weekend, they may move close to sure thing status.

 

George Mason (14-2/22-6) is on par with the GMU team that played in the Final Four in the previous decade.  Ryan Pearson has the moves inside to give the Patriots balance.

 

Virginia Commonwealth (13-3/22-6) may be better this year than last when they snuck into the Final Four after having to play in the first round in Dayton.  However, the Rams may not even get into the tournament unless they close out with some key wins.

 

Conference USA

2 or 3 bids

 

Two teams, Southern Mississippi (9-2/22-4) and Memphis (9-2/19-7) have earned at-large bids if they do not win the conference tournament.  A host of also-rans could be considered contenders if they get hot in the conference tournament, but we cannot really see someone other than the Golden Eagles or Tigers cutting down the nets. 

 

The top contenders are Central Florida (7-4/18-7) and Tulsa (8-4/15-11).

 

Great West

0 bids

 

This league does not receive an automatic bid.  Utah Valley (7-0/18-10) will earn an automatic bid to the College Insider Tournament if they win the conference title.  They have a 2 ½ game lead.

 

Horizon

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion

 

This league lost all of its luster once January gave way to February.  At one point, two or even three teams were in competition for an at-large bid, but now, none of the trio has a chance unless they win the automatic bid.

 

Valparaiso (12-4/19-9) leads fading Cleveland State (10-5/20-7).  Detroit (10-6/16-12) and Butler (10-6/16-12) will compete with those two in the conference tournament.  Butler might still be considered the favorite when the conference tournament begins.  16-2 in the postseason in the last two years is enough to qualify as a tournament-savvy team.

 

Ivy League

1 or 2 bids

 

Harvard (7-1/21-3) could still earn an at-large bid if they somehow lost to Yale twice (at home in the regular season and then in a playoff) and won the rest of their games.  This has about as much chance of happening as Ron Paul’s chances to win the Republican nomination.

 

Yale (6-2/16-6) lost at home to their arch-rival by 30, so the chances of the Bulldogs beating the Crimson twice are virtually nil.

 

M A A C

1 or 2 bids

 

We are giving Iona (13-3/21-6) the benefit of the doubt in the bubble watch, but we really do not think the Gaels are bubble-worthy yet.  A bracket buster win over Nevada might put them on the lower end of the bubble, but it would still be a tough road to an at-large bid should they lose to another MAAC team in the conference tournament.

 

Loyola (MD) (12-4/19-7) is the chief competitor.

 

M A C

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion

 

Akron (11-1/19-7), Kent State (9-3/19-6), and Buffalo (9-3/16-7) are the top contenders to win the MAC Tournament, with Ohio U (8-4/20-6) the best of the rest.  One of these four should win the league’s only bid.

 

Kent State has won seven games in a row by an average margin of better than 13 points.  The Golden Flashes own a win over West Virginia, so they are capable of competing in the Big Dance.

 

M E A C

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion

 

This league has not fared well in recent years, but things could be a little different this year.  Two teams, Savannah State (9-2/16-10) and Norfolk State (10-3/18-9), have enough talent to get past a first round opponent in Dayton. 

 

Missouri Valley

2 or 3 bids (probably 2)

 

Wichita State (14-2/23-4) is already a lock and should be a higher seed than their opening game opponent.  The Shockers could sneak into the top six in seeding.

 

Creighton (12-4/22-5) has fallen back a step or two in the last 10 days, but the Blue Jays are also already in the Big Dance.  They have the Jeremy Lin of college basketball in coach’s son Doug McDermott.  McDermott averages 23 points and 8 rebounds per game, and he shoots like Larry Bird (61+% FG, 83% FT, and 50% 3-pt).

 

A host of contenders could get hot and win Arch Madness in St. Louis.  Missouri State (9-7/16-12), Illinois State (8-8/16-11), and Drake (8-8/15-12) are the three top contenders, but keep an eye on Northern Iowa (7-9/17-11).

 

Mountain West

3 or 4 bids (probably 3)

 

New Mexico (7-2/21-4), UNLV (6-3/22-5), and San Diego State (6-3/20-5) are in barring a total collapse.

 

Whether or not a fourth team can surprise in the MWC Tournament is the question.  There are three other teams capable of winning the automatic bid.  TCU (5-4/15-10), Wyoming (4-5/18-7), and Colorado State (4-5/15-9) all have the talent to make a run.

 

Northeast

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion

 

We follow this league more than most other pundits.  It is our opinion that two teams deserve to be highly considered for the Big Dance, but we know that only the conference tournament champion will get a bid.

 

Long Island (14-1/20-7) and Wagner (13-2/22-4) are both tournament worthy.  LIU swept Wagner in two close games, and it will be hard to defeat the Blackbirds to beat the Seahawks a third time if they meet in the Championship Game.

 

Jamal Olasewere and Julian Boyd give LIU a potent inside attack.  The dynamic duo average 34.6 points and 17 rebounds per game.  Jason Brickman is the best point guard in the league.

 

Robert Morris (11-4/20-8) is the only team to beat the Blackbirds.  They should earn a post-season bid to one of the lesser tournaments.

 

Ohio Valley

1 or 2 bids

 

The OVC has only once before sent more than one team to the Big Dance, and that was more than 20 years ago when two teams (Akron and Middle Tennessee) no longer in the league made the field.

 

Murray State (13-1/25-1) can virtually wrap up an at-large bid with a win tomorrow over Saint Mary’s.  The Racers probably will not need it, but there are two teams capable of knocking them off in the conference tournament.

 

Tennessee State (11-4/18-10) penned the one loss on Murray, and they did it on the road.  The Tigers benefit from having the conference tournament in Nashville, less than two miles from campus.

 

Tennessee Tech (9-6/17-11) is the other team to watch out for.

 

Pac-12

1 or 2 bids (probably 2)

 

This is not a typo.  As little as one team could receive an invitation to dance from a conference that is supposed to be one of the Big Six leagues.

 

California (11-3/21-6) is the only sure thing.  If the Bears win the Pac-12 Tournament, then the boys from Berkeley could be the only league team in the NCAA Tournament.

 

This league’s lack of star quality should make for a great conference tournament.  Washington (11-3/18-8), Arizona (10-4/19-8), Colorado (9-4/17-8), Oregon (9-5/18-8), Stanford (8-6/18-8), and UCLA (8-6/15-11) all have a shot at winning the automatic bid.  None of these teams are spectacular, but any one of them could get hot and win three or four games in three or four days.

 

Patriot

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion

 

Bucknell (10-1/20-7) is the prohibitive favorite to return to the Big Dance.  Lehigh (8-3/20-7) and American (8-3/17-9) are the top contenders.

 

S E C

3 to 6 bids (probably 4)

 

Kentucky (11-0/25-1) and Florida (8-3/20-6) are already in the tournament.  Vanderbilt (7-4/18-8) probably needs just two more wins to get in.

 

After those three, it is a dogfight for fourth through seventh.  Mississippi State (6-5/19-7) is the leading contender for a possible fourth bid, while Tennessee (6-5/14-12), Alabama (5-6/16-9), and Arkansas (5-6/17-9) contending for possible fifth and sixth bids.  If one of these three can win a combination of five more regular season and conference tournament games, they should sneak into the Dance.

 

Southern

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion

 

Davidson (14-2/20-6) is close to being added to the bubble.  Maybe a Wildcat win over Wichita State would put them on the bubble.  However, we feel like the Wildcats will get there via an automatic bid.  The rest of the league is mediocre or worse.

 

Southland

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion

 

Texas-Arlington (12-0/20-5) is a little weaker than Davidson, and the Mavericks could get a little more respect with a win at Weber State in the Bracket Buster game.

 

The rest of the league is marginally better than the rest of the Southern Conference, so we believe UTA has a rather strong shot of winning the automatic bid.

 

S W A C

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion

 

This league has struggled in recent years, and this year should be no different.  There really aren’t any really good teams in the SWAC this year.  Mississippi Valley is 13-0 in league play and 1-11 outside the league.  Southern (9-4/13-13) has the best out of conference mark at 4-9, and two of those wins came against non-Division 1 teams.

 

Summit

1 or 2 bids

 

Oral Roberts (16-1/24-5) is on the bubble, and if the Golden Eagles handle Akron with ease, like we think they will, they could move into the middle of the bubble.

 

South Dakota State (13-3/21-7) is the principle rival to ORU in the conference tournament.  Should SDSU beat ORU in the final round, then ORU would be given strong consideration in the at-large picks.

 

Sunbelt

1 or 2 bids

 

Middle Tennessee (12-1/23-4) is in the same boat as Oral Roberts, but the Blue Raiders do not play in the Bracket Buster.  With a high RPI, Middle Tennessee should rank just below the second choice in the West Coast on the mid-major bubble.

 

Denver (9-5/19-8) is the top contender, but we believe the Blue Raiders will not need an at-large bid to get in the Dance.

 

West Coast

2 or 3 bids (probably 2)

 

Gonzaga (11-2/21-4) is a lock for the Big Dance based on their out-of-conference slate.  The Bulldogs trail Saint Mary’s (12-2/23-4) by a half game in the standings.  The Gaels can wrap up an at-large bid with a win at Murray State tomorrow.

 

BYU (10-3/22-6) discovered that the WCC is as tough as the MWC.  The Cougars will probably have to make it to the finals of the WCC Tournament to earn an at-large bid.

 

Loyola Marymount (10-4/17-10) is out of at-large consideration, but the Lions are talented enough to pull off a couple of upsets and play spoiler at the conference tournament.

 

W A C

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion

 

Nevada (10-1/22-4) is in the same boat as Davidson and UT-Arlington.  The Wolf Pack need a big win at Iona to be considered to be at the bottom of the bubble.  They have won 19 of 20 games, and they are flying under the radar due to their intrastate rival down south.  Had the Wolf Pack defeated UNLV by four instead of losing by four, they would be on the bubble and probably ranked in the top 25.

February 29, 2008

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Races–February 29, 2008

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Races

Through Games of Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bracket Buster weekend has now come and gone, and it cleared up a little while creating some more questions.  Kent State and Davidson probably earned themselves at-large bids if they fail to garner automatic bids by winning their conference tournaments.  Drake was probably already guaranteed a spot, but they solidified it by winning against Butler.

Now we come down to the final games of regular season play.  Some conferences begin their tournament play as early as this Tuesday, March 4, so starting next week, this blog will begin to cover conference tournament play as well as finishing up the conference races for leagues that begin tournament play the following week.

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 (plus the team.  Obviously, every team, except those already eliminated in the Ivy League race and the Independents, can still get there if they win their conference tournament.

This week, if you count the number of likely bids, the minimum comes to 60 after being 67 just two weeks ago.  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.

Enjoy!  Before you know it Selection Sunday will be here-it’s just a little more than two weeks away.  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

Conf.

Overall

Maryland-Balt. Co.

13-2

21-7

Hartford

9-6

15-15

Albany

9-6

14-14

Boston U.

9-6

13-15

Vermont

8-7

14-14

Binghamton

8-7

13-15

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY
Binghamton at Stony Brook
SUNDAY
UMBC at Hartford
Boston U at Albany
Maine at Vermont

Maryland-Baltimore County has won the regular season title and will be the top-seed in the America East Tournament.  Hartford plays UMBC in the final game on Sunday.  The Hawks narrowly lost by one at UMBC and have to be considered a co-favorite in the tournament, even after losing at Boston last night.  Host Binghamton has not shown this year that their home floor has much advantage.

Atlantic Coast Conference
Likely Bids: 5, 6, or 7
Locks: Duke, North Carolina, Clemson
In Good Shape: Maryland
On the Bubble: Va. Tech, Wake Forest, Miami
Can Still Get There: Florida State
Tournament: March 13-16 @ Charlotte, NC
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
North Carolina 11-2 26-2
Duke 11-2 24-3
Clemson 8-5 20-7
Maryland 8-6 18-11
Virginia Tech 8-6 17-11
Miami-FL 6-7 19-8
Wake Forest 6-7 16-10
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
North Carolina at Boston College
Duke at North Carolina State
Wake Forest at Georgia Tech
Virginia at Miami
SUNDAY
Clemson at Maryland

North Carolina and Duke both have the talent to make it to the Elite 8 if not the Final Four.  The Tar Heels are the top rebounding team in the nation, and rebounding strength is possibly the number one statistic that shows how well and how deep a team can go in the NCAA Tournament.

There is still a dogfight among four or five teams for the final two at-large spots, although Maryland might have earned one of those spots with a win at Wake Forest last night.  A win at home over Clemson Sunday puts the Terps in the Dance.

Virginia Tech can probably earn their way in with a home win against Wake Forest Tuesday night.  If Miami defeats Virginia Saturday and then takes care of business against Boston College next Wednesday (both at home), the Hurricanes will all but be a shoo-in.  A win at Florida State would be icing on the cake.  Speaking of Florida State, the Seminoles can only work their way into the discussion by winning at North Carolina Tuesday and at home against Miami next Saturday.

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 Conf. Overall
Belmont 13-2 21-8
Jacksonville 12-3 16-11
East Tennessee 10-5 17-12
Stetson 10-5 15-15
Gardner-Webb 9-6 15-14
Lipscomb 8-7 14-15
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Gardner-Webb at Belmont
Jacksonville at Stetson
East Tennessee at South Carolina Upstate
Campbell at Lipscomb

With Belmont’s win over Campbell last night, the Bruins clinched the top seed in the A-Sun Tournament.  Lipscomb hosts the tournament, and the Bisons are finishing the season on a huge upswing.  Unfortunately for the fans, it looks like they will be the #5-seed, so they would possibly face Belmont in the semifinals.  Two years ago, Belmont edged Lipscomb in overtime to earn their first NCAA Tournament, forcing Lipscomb to play in the NIT.  The Bisons would love to get revenge this year, but it wouldn’t be in the final game.

Jacksonville, East Tennessee, Stetson, and Gardner-Webb all have enough talent to win the league tournament.  All it takes is a hot shooting hand and smart play.

This should be an exciting conference tournament, but you have to favor Belmont winning their third consecutive tournament.

Atlantic 10
Likely Bids: 2 or 3
Locks: Xavier
In Good Shape: None
On the Bubble: St. Joe’s
Can Still Get There: U Mass.
Tournament: March 12-15 @ Atlantic City, NJ
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
Xavier 12-1 24-4
St. Joseph’s 8-5 17-9
Richmond 8-5 15-11
Temple 8-5 15-12
LaSalle 8-5 14-13
U Mass. 7-6 18-9
St. Louis 7-7 16-12
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
George Washington at Xavier
U Mass at Richmond
St. Bonaventure at St. Louis
SUNDAY
Temple at St. Joseph’s

This race cleared up in the last week.  Xavier is already in the Big Dance.  If the Musketeers win the A-10 Tournament and St. Joe’s loses before the final round, this league may get just one team in.  However, I expect U Mass to win out to finish the regular season 10-6/21-9.  If the Minutemen then advance to the semifinal round of the tournament, they will be high on the bubble come Selection Sunday.  I would go ahead and count them in if they have 22 or more wins.

All other teams can only punch their dance card by earning the automatic bid.

Big East
Likely Bids: 7 or 8
Locks: G’town, Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Marquette
In Good Shape: Pittsburgh
On the Bubble: West Virginia
Can Still Get There Syracuse, Villanova, Seton Hall
Tournament: March 12-15 at Madison Square Garden, New York City
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
Georgetown 13-3 23-4
Louisville 13-3 23-6
Connecticut 11-4 22-6
Notre Dame 11-4 21-6
Marquette 11-5 21-6
West Virginia 9-6 20-8
Pittsburgh 8-7 20-8
Cincinnati 8-7 13-14
Villanova 7-8 17-10
Syracuse 7-8 17-11
Seton Hall 7-8 17-11
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Georgetown at Marquette
West Virginia at Connecticut
Pittsburgh at Syracuse
Seton Hall at St. John’s
SUNDAY
Villanova at Louisville
Notre Dame at DePaul
Providence at Cincinnati
MONDAY
Pittsburgh at West Virginia

From number one to number 11, the Big East is the best league in the NCAA.  Numbers 12 through 16 are rather weak.  In the Big East, only the top 12 teams qualify for the conference tournament, and it should be a hard-fought, aggressive get-together.  The top five teams are safe and will get invitations to the Field of 65 regardless of what happens from this point on.  At least two and possibly three more teams will get at-large bids.

Pitt has two tough road games this weekend; a win in either game will put them over the top.  West Virginia may need to beat Pitt to have any chance. 

Syracuse and Seton Hall are the two desperate teams.  The two play each other in New Jersey next Wednesday night with the loser being eliminated from the at-large discussion.  The winner will have to win at least one additional regular season game and get to the semifinals of the Big East Tournament.  I think Jim Boeheim will get his Orangemen there.

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

Conf.

Overall
Portland St. 12-2 19-9
Northern Arizona 10-5 19-10
Weber St. 9-6 14-13
Montana 8-7 14-14
Idaho St. 8-7 11-17
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Portland State at Montana
Idaho State at Northern Arizona
MONDAY
Weber State at Sacramento State

This is definitely just a one-bid league, so the conference tournament champion will be the only NCAA Tourney team.  Portland State will be hosting the tournament, and the Vikings have not only won all seven conference home games to date, they have done so by an average score of 82-70.   Last night, they won at Montana State 96-68, so you have to consider the Vikings prohibitive favorites to win the automatic bid.

Montana and Weber State gave Portland State fits in Portland.  It will be interesting to see how PSU fares at Montana tomorrow.

You cannot overlook Northern Arizona.  If they can edge Idaho State in Flagstaff Saturday, the Lumberjacks will enter the tournament on a five-game winning streak, and Portland State might have to beat them a third time to win the automatic bid.

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 rd. and finals at higher seeds, semi-finals at #1 seed
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
Winthrop 10-3 19-10
UNC-Asheville 9-4 20-8
High Point 7-6 15-13
Coastal Carolina 6-7 14-13
VMI 6-7 14-13
Liberty 6-7 14-15
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
UNC-Asheville at Winthrop
High Point at VMI
Charleston Southern at Coastal Carolina
Radford at Liberty

It’s not like a win over Davidson would have moved Winthrop up into at-large consideration, but the loss may have lasting effects on the Eagles.  With UNC-Asheville coming to town Saturday, Winthrop better be ready to play.  This game will decide the conference championship; in the Big South, the champion can stay at home throughout the conference tournament.

VMI is in a three-way tie for fourth place, and a win over High Point could earn them the number three seed.  The Keydets are my dark horse team to get hot and compete for the tournament title.  They lead the nation in scoring and force a lot of turnovers with their full-court pressure.  In tournament situations, players on this type of team rarely come out tight and frequently pull off more than one upset.  Look for VMI to sneak into the Big South Final.

Big 10
Likely Bids: 4 or 5
Locks: Indiana, Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan St.
In Good Shape: None
On the Bubble: Ohio State
Can Still Get There: Minnesota
Tournament: March 13-16 @ Indianapolis, IN
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
Wisconsin 14-2 24-4
Indiana 13-2 24-4
Purdue 13-2 22-6
Michigan State 10-5 22-6
Ohio State 8-7 17-11
Minnesota 7-8 17-10
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Northwestern at Purdue
Ohio State at Minnesota
SUNDAY
Indiana at Michigan State

I’ve had to take one definite bid away from the Big 10 this week.  Ohio State has dropped three games in a row and five out of their last seven.  The Buckeyes are now back on the bubble.  If Minnesota beats OSU in Minneapolis tomorrow, the Gophers will move into a fifth place tie.

Wisconsin’s win over Michigan State last night in Madison puts the Badgers in the driver’s seat for the regular season title.  UW finishes with Penn State and Northwestern and should beat them both.  Indiana must play at Michigan State, where the Spartans are just 16-0 this year.  Purdue still has to play at Ohio State in what will more than likely be a must-win game for the Buckeyes.

I cannot see any of the bottom five teams posing a serious threat at the Big 10 Tournament.  On the other hand, the top four teams all have serious liabilities, so a Michigan, Illinois, or Penn State could pull off a quarterfinal upset.

Big 12
Likely Bids: 5 or 6
Locks: Kansas, Texas
In Good Shape: Texas A&M, Kansas State
On the Bubble: Oklahoma
Can Still Get There: Baylor, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Oklahoma State
Tournament: March 13-16 @ Kansas City
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
Texas 11-2 24-4
Kansas 10-3 25-3
Kansas St. 8-5 18-9
Texas A&M 7-6 21-7
Baylor 7-6 19-8
Nebraska 6-7 17-9
Oklahoma 6-7 18-10
Oklahoma State 6-7 15-12
Texas Tech 6-7 15-12
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Texas at Texas Tech
Kansas State at Kansas
Oklahoma at Texas A&M
Missouri at Baylor
Nebraska at Oklahoma State
MONDAY
Texas Tech at Kansas

                       

Texas ran the table in February with an 8-0 record.  If the Longhorns can ease past Texas Tech in Lubbock tomorrow, with remaining home games against Nebraska and Oklahoma State, the ‘Horns should enter Big 12 Tournament play with an 11-game winning streak.

There’s a big fight going on for the fifth spot.  While there could still be a sixth team invited, only five are definite.  Baylor has home games with Missouri and Texas A&M and a road game at Texas Tech left on their schedule.  A 2-1 finish would give them the fifth spot, but the Bears have lost six of nine games.  There’s no guarantee they will win two more games.

Nebraska and Oklahoma State are the two hot teams from among the middle of the pack.  They face off in Stillwater tomorrow, and the winner will have an excellent shot of replacing Baylor for the fifth spot should the Bears continue to slide.

Oklahoma is very much still in the race.  The Sooners must play at Oklahoma State Wednesday night.  If OU beats Texas A&M tomorrow and then adds a win over the Cowboys, then they could move to the upper third of the bubble. 

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 Conf. Overall
Cal St. Northridge 11-2 19-7
Cal St. Fullerton 10-4 18-8
UC-Santa Barbara 9-4 20-7
Pacific 9-5 19-9
UC-Irvine 7-6 13-14
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Cal State Northridge at UC-Irvine
Long Beach State at Cal State Fullerton
UC-Riverside at UC-Santa Barbara
Cal Poly at Pacific

I expect this to be one remarkable conference tournament.  Only one team will make it to the Dance, and there are four fairly good teams in the Big West.  If the top four make it to the semifinal round, the final three games will be well worth the price of admission.

Cal State Northridge probably wrapped up the first seed last night when they won at Fullerton.  The Matadors have excellent balance with five players averaging double figure points per game, and unlike many mid-major teams, they can hold their own on the boards against the big conference teams.

Colonial Athletic
Likely Bids: 1 or 2
Locks: None
In Good Shape: Virginia Commonwealth
On the Bubble: George Mason
Can Still Get There: None
Tournament: March 7-10 @ Richmond Coliseum (VCU)
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
Virginia Commonwealth 14-3 22-6
George Mason 12-5 20-9
UNC-Wilmington 11-6 18-12
William & Mary 10-7 14-14
Old Dominion 11-6 17-13
Delaware 9-8 13-15
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
V C U at William & Mary
George Mason at Northeastern
Old Dominion at UNC-Wilmington
Delaware at Towson State

In the past week, one team played their way into an at-large bid, one team played themselves into the NIT if they don’t win the conference tournament, and another team may have established themselves as the team to beat for the automatic bid.

Virginia Commonwealth won at Akron in the Bracket Buster, and the Rams have now won 19 of their last 22 games.  With an RPI rating in the mid-40’s, they stand an excellent shot of getting an at-large bid.

George Mason fell to Ohio in the Bracket Buster, and the Patriots needed a crucial road win.  Now, GMU must win the CAA Tournament to get in.

Old Dominion has won six consecutive games including a win at VCU.  The Monarchs close out the regular season tomorrow at UNC-Wilmington.  If they beat the Seahawks, ODU has to be considered the tournament co-favorite with VCU.  VCU hosts the tournament.

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 Conf. Overall
Memphis 13-0 27-1
Houston 10-3 21-6
UAB 10-3 20-8
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Memphis at Southern Miss.
Houston at East Carolina
Tulane at UAB

Memphis has been a lock for some time.  Houston and UAB have been slowly moving up in the RPI ratings and both are in the mix as March approaches.  Both teams are looking at 12-4 conference records, but it might take a 13-3 mark plus one or two wins to secure an at-large spot.

Should Memphis fall in the C-USA Tourney, it will hurt someone like Syracuse or Oklahoma.

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 Conf. Overall
Butler 15-2 26-3
Wright St. 12-5 20-8
Cleveland St. 11-6 19-11
UW-Milwaukee 8-8 13-14

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY
Detroit at Butler
Wright St. at Valparaiso
Cleveland St. at Youngstown St.
Illinois-Chicago at UW-Milw.

Butler lost in the Bracket Buster, but the Bulldogs are still locks for the NCAA Tournament.  Wright State’s slim at-large hopes were dashed in Normal Sunday in a loss to Illinois State and stamped void when Butler beat them last night.

Cleveland State has pulled out of a nosedive that saw the Vikings drop five consecutive games.  CSU has now won five of six with the one loss coming at Butler by five points.  The Vikings are probably the only team capable of knocking off Butler in Indianapolis.

Ivy
Likely Bids:

1

Locks: None
In Good Shape: Cornell
On the Bubble: None
Can Still Get There: None
Tournament: None, bid goes to regular season champion
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
Cornell 10-0 18-5
Brown 7-3 15-9
Columbia 6-4 13-12
Penn 5-4 10-16
Key Games This Weekend
FRIDAY
Dartmouth at Cornell
Princeton at Brown
Harvard at Columbia
Penn at Yale
SATURDAY
Harvard at Cornell
Penn at Brown
Dartmouth at Columbia

Cornell hasn’t won an Ivy League Championship in 20 years, but the Big Red will do so this weekend when they sweep Dartmouth and Harvard.  Cornell will be a tough first-round match as a #13 or #14 seed.  They can shoot the three, and they can punish an opponent if they get to the foul line, where they connect on almost 80%.

Metro Atlantic
Likely Bids:

1

Locks: None
In Good Shape: None
On the Bubble: None
Can Still Get There: None
Tournament: March 7-10 @ Albany, NY (Siena)
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
Loyola (Md.) 12-5 18-12
Niagara 11-5 18-8
Rider 11-5 19-9
Siena 11-5 17-10
Fairfield 10-6 13-14
Marist 9-7 15-13
Key Games This Weekend
FRIDAY
Niagara at Siena
St. Peter’s at Rider
Manhattan at Fairfield
Iona at Marist
SUNDAY
Canisius at Niagara
Fairfield at Rider
Siena at St. Peter’s
Loyola at Marist

It won’t earn the league a second invitation, but you have to give the MAAC the award for best showing in the Bracket Buster.  Niagara won at Appy State, Rider won at Cal State Northridge, Siena won at Boise State, Loyola beat UC-Davis, and Fairfield won at Drexel.  There are no MAAC teams with RPIs in the top 80, so it’s a moot point.

The final weekend of the schedule favors Rider and Siena finishing in a first place tie with Niagara and Loyola finishing one game back.  Siena hosts the conference tournament, but the Saints have performed better on the road in the MAAC this year; they are only 4-3 in league play heading into their big game with Niagara tonight.

Mid-American
Likely Bids: 1 or 2
Locks: None
In Good Shape: Kent State
On the Bubble: None
Can Still Get There: Ohio
Tournament: March 12-15 @ Cleveland
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
East
Kent State 11-2 23-5
Akron 9-4 19-8
Ohio U 8-5 18-9
Miami 7-6 13-13
West
Western Michigan 10-3 17-10
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Kent State at Bowling Green
Buffalo at Akron
Ohio U at Miami (O)
Western Michigan at Toledo

Kent State pulled off the Bracket Buster coup by knocking off St. Mary’s.  Now, the Golden Flashes are in excellent shape of garnering an at-large bid if they don’t win the conference tournament.

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 Conf. Overall
Morgan St. 12-2 18-9
Norfolk St. 10-3 14-12
Delaware St. 9-5 12-14
Hampton 8-5 15-11
North Carolina A&T 8-5 14-13
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Morgan State at Delaware St.
Norfolk State at Hampton
N.C. A&T at Howard
MONDAY
Norfolk State at Howard
N.C. A&T at Hampton

The schedule wasn’t kind to Norfolk State.  The Spartans finish the season with five straight road games, for which they have already lost the first two of those games.

That’s good news for Morgan State, as the Golden Bears are closing in on the conference championship.  Of course, that will only guarantee MSU an NIT bid if they fail to win the conference tournament, but that’s better than nothing.

When the league tournament tips off in Raleigh, I think there are at least eight teams with some shot at winning the thing.

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 Conf. Overall
Drake 14-3 24-4
Illinois St. 12-5 21-8
Southern Illinois 11-6 17-12
Creighton 9-8 19-9
Bradley 9-8 17-13
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Wichita State at Drake
Illinois State at Southern Illinois
Bradley at Creighton

Drake is the conference champion and is already assured of an NCAA Tournament bid, but I don’t believe the Bulldogs are the favorite to win the MVC Tournament.  I believe Southern Illinois will win the automatic bid and give the Valley two teams in the Dance.

SIU has won five games in a row by an average margin of victory of 13.2 points.  They thoroughly dismantled Nevada in the Bracket Buster, and they are the best team in the league right now.

Illinois State is on the edge of becoming at-large worthy.  Should the Redbirds pull off the upset of SIU in Carbondale, their RPI could very well move up enough to give them a 50-50 shot of getting an at-large bid.

Mountain West
Likely Bids: 2 or 3
Locks: BYU
In Good Shape: UNLV
On the Bubble: New Mexico
Can Still Get There: San Diego St.
Tournament: March 12-15 @ Las Vegas
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
Brigham Young 11-2 22-6
UNLV 10-3 21-6
New Mexico 9-5 22-7
San Diego St. 8-6 18-10
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Air Force at BYU
TCU at UNLV
Colorado State at San Diego State

BYU finally had their winning streak snapped at San Diego State, but the Cougars bounced back and pulled off a big road win at New Mexico.  That was enough to move them up to “lock” status.

UNLV will secure a top spot on the bubble just by winning their two remaining home games.

New Mexico needed to defeat BYU to have even a remote at-large chance.  The Lobos can only get into the Field of 65 by earning an automatic bid.

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 Conf. Overall
Robert Morris 15-2 24-6
Wagner 14-3 21-7
Sacred Heart 13-4 16-12
Quinnipiac 11-6 15-13
Mt. St. Mary’s 10-7 14-14
Central Conn. St. 9-8 13-15
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Robert Morris at Long Island
Quinnipiac at Wagner
Monmouth at Mt. St. Mary’s
SUNDAY
Central Conn. St. at Sacred Heart

Robert Morris has now won 12 games in a row after knocking off Sacred Heart in Fairfield last night, getting some revenge.  As NEC Champions, the Colonials get to host the conference tournament, but they fell in Coraopolis to Sacred Heart.  Don’t expect a repeat performance if they meet again this year.

Wagner should get a call from the NIT if the Seahawks don’t win the league tourney.

Ohio Valley
Likely Bids:

1

Locks: None
In Good Shape: None
On the Bubble: None
Can Still Get There: None
Tournament: March 4, 7-8 1st rd at higher seeds, semifinals and finals at Nashville
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
Austin Peay 15-4 20-10
Murray St. 12-7 16-12
Morehead St. 12-7 15-13
UT-Martin 11-8 16-14
Eastern Kentucky 10-9 14-14
Samford 10-9 14-14
Tennessee Tech 10-10 13-18
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Austin Peay at Morehead State
UT-Martin at Murray State
Tennessee State at Eastern Kentucky
Samford at E. Illinois

Austin Peay clinched the OVC regular season title last night by winning at Eastern Kentucky.  The Governors will now host an opening round OVC Tournament game against the number eight seed Tuesday night, as only eight of the 11 teams  make the OVC Tournament.  It looks like Tennessee State will be that number eight seed and make the 50-mile trip from Nashville to Clarksville.

  

Pac-10
Likely Bids: 6 or 7
Locks: UCLA, Stanford, Washington St.
In Good Shape: Southern Cal
On the Bubble: Arizona St., Arizona
Can Still Get There: Oregon, Cal, Washington
Tournament: March 12-15 @ Los Angeles Staples Center
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
U C L A 13-2 25-3
Stanford 12-3 23-4
Washington St. 10-6 22-6
Southern Cal 9-6 18-9
Arizona St. 7-8 17-10
Arizona 7-8 17-11
Oregon 6-9 15-12
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Washington State at Stanford
Southern Cal at Arizona State
Washington at Cal
SUNDAY
UCLA at Arizona
Oregon at Oregon State

UCLA and USC began their weekend trip through the Grand Canyon State last night with the Bruins destroying Arizona State and the Trojans surprising Arizona.  With Stanford taking care of business at home against Washington, the Cardinal stay just one game behind UCLA, while the Huskies are now just fighting for an NIT berth.

Oregon must win at Oregon State and then probably beat both of the Arizona schools in Eugene next weekend to get on the bubble.

Cal’s loss to Washington State last night ended any chance for the Bears to get an at-large bid. 

This is one league where the leaders have a great chance to advance to the championship game of the conference tournament.  Look for a UCLA-Stanford final at the Staples Center, unless USC gets hot.  The Trojans have the talent to win three games in three days.

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 Conf. Overall
American 9-4 17-11
Navy 9-4 16-12
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Lafayette at American
Navy at Colgate

                       

A Navy win at Colgate tomorrow gives the Midshipmen the top seed in the Patriot League Tournament.  With the top seed comes the privilege of having home court advantage throughout the tourney.  Navy finished the regular season with just a 4-3 home conference record, and one of those losses was at the hands of Colgate.

Waiting in the wings is American.  The Eagles fell twice to Navy, so they would be the second seed if they finish tied with the Middies.

There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between third and eighth place in this league, and it’s possible that all six could finish tied at 6-8.  In a league where all conference tournament games are played on the home court of the higher seed, the officials at Patriot League headquarters could be burning the midnight oil trying to determine the seedings.

Southeastern
Likely Bids: 5 or 6
Locks: Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi St.
In Good Shape: Florida, Kentucky
On the Bubble: Arkansas
Can Still Get There: None
Tournament: March 13-16 @ Atlanta
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
East
Tennessee 11-2 24-3
Kentucky 10-3 16-10
Vanderbilt 9-4 24-4
Florida 8-5 21-7
West
Mississippi St. 10-3 19-8
Arkansas 7-6 18-9
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Vanderbilt at Arkansas
Mississippi State at Florida
SUNDAY
Kentucky at Tennessee

The big news here is the story of the Volunteer State.  Tennessee handed Memphis their first loss and moved to number one in the nation only to lose three days later at Vanderbilt.  That win was the black and gold’s seventh in a row, and it moved the Commodores up to “Lock” status.

Mississippi State joined the Volunteers and Commodores as locks when the Bulldogs picked up their 10th conference win Wednesday night.  The Bulldogs have two tough road games at Florida and at Vandy before closing out at home against LSU.  Even at 11-5, the maroon and white should be safe as West Division Champions.

Kentucky, Florida, and Arkansas still have some work to do.  The Wildcats have 10 conference wins, and that will probably get them into the Big Dance, as no SEC team has ever been left out with 10 conference wins.  If UK can upset the big orange in Knoxville Sunday, the blue mist will be atop the league standings once again.  If the Wildcats lose to UT, they still can get into the Dance with a win at South Carolina and a home finale victory over Florida.

The Gators are probably one win away from being safely in the Field of 65.  A win over Mississippi State tomorrow will do the trick, but if they lose that game, the defending national champs could be in a bit of trouble with closing road games at Tennessee and Kentucky.  At 8-8, Florida would have to win at least two games in the conference tournament to be in good shape.

Arkansas is the team of desperation.  At 7-6, they must win at least two of their final three regular season games and then win at least once in the conference tournament.  The Razorbacks host Vanderbilt tomorrow and couldn’t ask for a better time to play this game, just after the Commodores beat Tennessee.

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 Conf. Overall
North
Chattanooga 12-7 17-12
Appalachian St. 12-7 17-12
UNC-Greensboro 11-8 17-11
South
Davidson 19-0 22-6
Georgia Southern 13-6 20-10
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Chattanooga at Elon
Western Carolina at Appy State
Davidson at Georgia Southern
MONDAY
Western Carolina at UNCG

I’ve been waiting in anticipation the past few weeks for the Davidson-Georgia Southern match in Statesboro.  So has GSU, and they overlooked Charleston in a five-point loss last night.  If Davidson can beat the Eagles, then they will have earned an at-large bid to the Dance.  Of course, if the Wildcats can win this game, there really isn’t much hope that anybody can beat them in the conference tournament.

Southland
Likely Bids: 1 or 2
Locks: None
In Good Shape: None
On the Bubble: Stephen F Austin
Can Still Get There: None
Tournament: March 12-16 @ Katy, TX (Houston suburb)
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
East
Lamar 12-1 18-8
Northwestern St. 8-6 12-16
West
Stephen F. Austin 11-2 23-3
Sam Houston 8-5 20-6
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Lamar at McNeese State
Southeast La. At Northwestern State
UT-Arlington at SFA
Texas State at S. Houston

I’ve moved Stephen F. Austin up to the bubble and added a possibility of the Southland getting two teams.  The Lumberjacks have an RPI rating in the upper 40’s, and that’s good enough to be considered.  Of course, in order to keep the RPI that high, SFA needs to win out in the regular season.  One loss could burst the bubble.  Their final three games are very winnable.  Of note, SFA leads the nation in fewest points allowed.

Lamar is actually the Southland leader.  Their lone conference loss came by six points at SFA.  The Cardinals have won 11 games in a row, but their resume fails to include any decent out of conference victories.

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 Conf. Overall
Alabama St. 11-3 15-9
Jackson State 9-5 11-16
Miss. Valley St. 9-6 11-15
Arkansas Pine Bluff 8-7 12-14
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Alabama State at Texas Southern
Mississippi Valley St. at Jackson State
Ark.-Pine Bluff at Grambling
MONDAY
Alabama State at Prairie View
Ark.-Pine Bluff ay Jackson St.
Mississippi Valley at Grambling

Alabama State lost at home to 22-loss Alcorn State!  It’s ashamed that a team from this league is going to be one of the 65, when there is a much better Independent that will be staying home.  The NCAA should add a rule allowing the top Independent to replace a conference champion if the conference in question has a lower overall RPI rating than the Independents.  The SWAC is most definitely weaker than the Independents this year. 

And if a 20-loss team comes out of this league as the automatic qualifier, even the play-in game will be a joke, unless a second weak team sneaks in as well.  Imagine someone like UT-Martin playing Alcorn State or Prairie View in the play-in; it would be over by the first TV timeout.

Alabama State could do everybody a favor by winning out and dominating in the tournament in Birmingham.

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 Conf. Overall
Oral Roberts 16-1 21-7
IUPUI 14-3 23-6
Oakland 10-7 15-13
IP Ft. Wayne 9-8 12-16
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Oral Roberts at North Dakota State
Western Illinois at IUPUI
Oakland at Mo.-KC
IPFW at Southern Utah

ORU couldn’t finish off Creighton in the Bracket Buster, so now they are on the lower half of the bubble.  Chances are this league will receive just one bid even if someone beats the Golden Eagles in the conference tournament.

After stinking up the gym at Oakland, IUPUI recovered to handle IPFW and Chicago State on the road.  That gives the Jaguars 10 wins in their last 11 games.

Oakland is an improving team with an improving offense as the season comes down the stretch.  Until losing at Southern Utah last night, the Golden Grizzlies had won six of eight games. 

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 Conf. Overall
East
South Alabama 15-2 24-5
Western Kentucky 15-2 23-6
Middle Tennessee 10-7 13-14
West
Arkansas-Little Rock 10-7 18-10
Louisiana Lafayette 10-7 14-14
North Texas 9-8 18-10
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Western Kentucky at Fla. Atlantic
South Alabama at Fla. Int’l.
Troy at Middle Tennessee
North Texas at New Orleans
UALR at UL-Monroe
Denver at UL-Lafayette

South Alabama has an at-large bid in their grasp if they need it, but since the Jags host the Sunbelt Tournament, I don’t think they will need it.  As for Western Kentucky, the Hilltoppers could win at FAU and then advance to the Sunbelt finals, losing to USA, and they would be left out of the Big Dance at 26-7. 

West Coast
Likely Bids: 2 or 3
Locks: St. Mary’s, Gonzaga
In Good Shape: None
On the Bubble: None
Can Still Get There: None
Tournament: March 7-10 @ San Diego
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
St. Mary’s 11-1 24-4
Gonzaga 11-1 22-6
San Diego 9-3 16-13
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
St. Mary’s at Gonzaga
Pepperdine at San Diego
MONDAY
St. Mary’s at Portland
Santa Clara at Gonzaga
Loyola Marymount at San Diego

The top two teams are already in the Big Dance, but even so, the Gonzaga-St. Mary’s game Saturday is the Game of the Week.  I expect Gonzaga to win at home, and that will give them the regular season WCC Title unless they lose at home to Santa Clara Monday.

If neither St. Mary’s nor Gonzaga win the WCC Tournament, this league will send three teams to the NCAA Tourney.

WAC
Likely Bids:

1

Locks: None
In Good Shape: None
On the Bubble: None
Can Still Get There: None
Tournament: March 11-15 @ Las Cruces, NM (New Mexico St.)
Current Leaders Conf. Overall
Boise State 11-3 21-7
Nevada 10-4 18-10
Utah State 9-4 20-9
New Mexico St. 9-4 16-13
Hawaii 7-6 11-15
Key Games This Weekend
SATURDAY
Boise State at Hawaii
New Mexico State at Fresno State
La. Tech at Nevada
MONDAY
Fresno State at Utah State

This has been a rather weak year in the WAC, and the league will only send the conference tournament champion to the Field of 65.  No team currently has an RPI rating higher than 80.

Until last night, New Mexico State was the hot team.  The Aggies had won five consecutive games until falling to Nevada in Reno.

February 22, 2008

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Races–February 22, 2008

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Races

Through Games of Thursday, February 21, 2008

It’s Bracket Buster Weekend!  Add to that the fact that we have number one playing number two, and this is a can’t miss weekend for college basketball fans.  If you are snowed in somewhere in the frozen upper Midwest, fret not.  Just keep your TV set on and watch basketball until you can close your eyes and see the ball still bouncing.

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 (plus the team.  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 XX.  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 this weekend, 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.

Note:  A “-bb” after a scheduled game means this is a Bracket Buster game.  A “-bbtv” means this is a televised bracket buster game.

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.              11-2/19-7      

Hartford                                9-5/15-14

Albany                                   8-6/13-13

Vermont                                8-6/13-13     

Binghamton                         8-6/12-14

Boston U.                              8-6/11-15      

           

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

New Hampshire at UMBC

Albany at Canisius-bb

Vermont at UNC-Wilmington-bb

Binghamton at Manhattan-bb

Boston U. at St. Peter’s-bb

Give credit to the UMBC for winning at Albany without their top scorer, Brian Hodges; it clinched at least a tie for the regular season America East title.  The Terriers have moved up to the low 90’s in the RPI, but they don’t play in the Bracket Buster.  So, this is a definite one-bid league.  If UMBC doesn’t win the A-East Tourney, they will be a formidable foe in the NIT. 

Atlantic Coast Conference

Likely Bids:               6 or 7

Locks:                                    Duke, North Carolina, Clemson

In Good Shape:       

On the Bubble:        Maryland, Va. Tech, Wake Forest   

Can Still Get There:            Miami,

Tournament:                        March 13-16 @ Charlotte, NC

Current Leaders

North Carolina         10-2/25-2

Duke                          10-2/22-3                 

Clemson                    7-5/19-7                    

Maryland                   7-5/17-10                  

Wake Forest             6-5/16-8

Virginia Tech                        6-6/15-11                  

Miami-FL                  5-6/18-7                    

                       

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

St. John’s at Duke

Maryland at Miami

Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech

SUNDAY

Wake Forest at North Carolina

I put the kiss of death on Duke last week.  Now, two losses later, the Blue Devils need to regroup, and they get lowly St. John’s at home this weekend.

Wake Forest and Miami greatly improved their prospects this week.  If Miami can take out Maryland Saturday, the Hurricanes will move up to the bubble.  Virginia Tech is hanging by a thread and must handle Georgia Tech Saturday to stay in the race.

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                    11-2/19-8                  
Jacksonville              10-3/14-11                

East Tennessee        9-5/15-12                  

Gardner-Webb         8-5/14-13                  

Stetson                      8-5/13-15      

Lipscomb                   7-6/13-14

Key Games This Weekend

FRIDAY

Lipscomb at Belmont

SATURDAY

Kennesaw State at Jacksonville

Tennessee Tech at East Tennessee

Florida Gulf Coast at Stetson

S.C. Upstate at Gardner-Webb

MONDAY

East Tennessee at Campbell

No teams will play in the Bracket Buster, but there is a big game in the A-Sun Friday Night when Lipscomb makes the five minute road trip down Belmont Boulevard to take on league-leading Belmont in the “Battle of the Boulevard.”  The Bruins should win and wrap up the regular season title.  Belmont is an odds-on favorite to win the league tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.  The Bruins are becoming the new Winthrop.

Gardner-Webb is hovering around .500, but remember this is a team that blew out Kentucky in Lexington in November.  The Bulldogs must close out the regular season at Lipscomb and at Belmont, so they should be quite familiar with the two teams they will have to upset in the tournament to win the league title.

Atlantic 10              (FIX)

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                Xavier

In Good Shape:                   

On the Bubble:                    Rhode Island, St. Joe’s

Can Still Get There:                        Temple, Duquesne, Dayton, Rich., Mass., St. Louis

Tournament:                        March 12-15 @ Atlantic City, NJ

Current Leaders

Xavier                                    11-1/23-4                                                                  

St. Joseph’s               7-4/16-8                               

Richmond                 7-4/14-10                  

Temple                       7-4/14-11

LaSalle                       6-5/12-13

Rhode Island                        6-6/20-7                   

Duquesne                  6-6/16-9

U Mass.                      6-6/17-9                    

St. Louis                    6-6/15-11

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Richmond at Geo. Washington

Fordham at Temple

St. Louis at Charlotte

SUNDAY

Xavier at Dayton

St. Joe’s at Rhode Island

LaSalle at Duquesne

St. Bonaventure at U Mass

Xavier is a definite lock, but they are the only safe team as of now.  Dayton and U Mass have done nothing to come out of their midseason nosedive, while St. Joe’s, Richmond, and Temple have played quite capably.

Duquesne and St. Louis could get in the mix if the two surprise teams finish with a strong kick.  If the Dukes win out, they will have 20 victories heading into the tournament with two additional road wins.  St. Louis finishes with three road games in their final four, and the Billikens must win all four to be in serious consideration.

I’m looking at just two teams making the Dance from this league unless a surprise team knocks off Xavier prior to the finals and then beats either Rhode Island, Dayton, U Mass, or Temple in the championship game.

Big East                  

Likely Bids:               7 or 8

Locks:                                    G’town, Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Marquette

In Good Shape:        Pittsburgh

On the Bubble:        Syracuse, West Virginia

Can Still Get There Cincinnati, Villanova

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

Current Leaders

Georgetown              11-3/21-4                  

Louisville                  11-3/21-6

Connecticut              10-3/21-5

Notre Dame              10-3/20-5                 

Marquette                 9-5/19-6                    

Cincinnati                 8-5/13-12

Pittsburgh                 7-6/19-7                    

West Virginia           7-6/18-8

Syracuse                    7-7/17-10

Villanova                   6-7/16-9                    

                       

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Cincinnati at Georgetown

Connecticut at Villanova

Rutgers at Marquette

Providence at West Virginia

SUNDAY

Louisville at Pittsburgh

Syracuse at Notre Dame

MONDAY

Marquette at Villanova

Go ahead and use a pen to mark Georgetown, Louisville, Connecticut, Notre Dame, and Marquette into the Field of 65.  You can mark in Pitt with a pencil as long as you have an eraser, as the Panthers still need to take care of business. 

After those six, everything is still up for grabs.  At least one and possibly two more teams will receive invitations.  Cincinnati has won at Louisville and West Virginia, but the Bearcats must win at either Georgetown tomorrow or at Connecticut on March 8 and also win at Pittsburgh next Wednesday night.  11-7 gets the Bearcats to the bubble, where they would need to advance to the semifinals at MSG.

Syracuse is hanging in there, but the Orangemen have a favorable closing schedule.  After playing at Notre Dame Sunday, SU hosts Pittsburgh next Saturday, go to Seton Hall on March 5, and close out at home against Marquette on March 8.  A 2-2 finish with two wins in the Big East Tournament will get them a bid.

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.                          11-2/18-8                  

Northern Arizona                9-5/17-10                  

Weber St.                              8-5/13-12                  

Montana St.                          7-6/15-11

Idaho St.                                7-6/10-16

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Portland State at Cal State Fullerton-bb

Wichita State at Northern Arizona

Montana State at Weber State

SUNDAY

Montana at Idaho State

Portland State is sitting in the catbird seat.  Having won nine consecutive games, the Vikings need only split on their road trip to the state of Montana to win the Big Sky regular season title and host the conference tournament.

Northern Arizona is probably the one team that can beat PSU in Portland.  The Lumberjacks were swept by the Vikings this year, and it will be hard for PSU to win three out of three if they meet in the conference tournament.

                                   

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

Winthrop                              9-3/18-9                   

UNC-Asheville                     7-4/18-8                   

High Point                            6-6/14-12                  

Coastal Carolina                  6-6/13-12                  

Liberty                                   6-6/14-13

Key Games This Weekend

FRIDAY

Winthrop vs. Davidson-bbtv

Liberty at Longwood

SATURDAY

UNC-Asheville vs. Charleston Southern

High Point at Towson-bb

Look who’s taken over command in the Big South.  It’s Winthrop!  UNC-Asheville has done its best impersonation of the 1969 Cubs.  After starting conference play at 7-0, the Bulldogs have now dropped four straight games.  Meanwhile, Winthrop has won four in a row and nine of 11 games.  The Eagles host Davidson in a great TV match up for the Bracket Buster series, and they should be competitive in this game between schools just 45 minutes apart.

There’s quite a drop after the top two, and I think Winthrop is headed back to the Tournament.

Big 10

Likely Bids:                           5

Locks:                                                Indiana, Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan St.

In Good Shape:                    Ohio State

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Minnesota

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Indianapolis, IN

Current Leaders

Purdue                                   12-2/21-6

Wisconsin                             12-2/22-4                 

Indiana                                  11-2/22-4                  

Michigan State                     9-4/21-5                                            

Ohio State                             8-5/17-9                    

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Indiana at Northwestern

Iowa at Michigan State

SUNDAY

Wisconsin at Ohio State

The big news in the Big 10 is the apparent firing of Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson.  As of the time of this writing (Late Thursday Night/Early Friday AM), reports coming from Indianapolis television say that Sampson has coached his last game at Indiana, and Dan Dakich has assumed the title of interim head coach.

The second biggest news in the league is that Indiana beat Purdue the other night.  That allowed Wisconsin to pull back in a tie for first, although the Badgers lost both of their games against the Boilermakers.

Ohio State can move to “lock” status with a win at home over Wisconsin.

Having followed the Big 10 at length this year, I can say that I would be surprised if any of these teams advance to the Elite Eight.

Big 12

Likely Bids:                           5 or 6

Locks:                                                Kansas, Texas

In Good Shape:                    Texas A&M, Kansas State

On the Bubble:                    Oklahoma

Can Still Get There:                        Baylor, Texas Tech

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Kansas City

Current Leaders

Kansas                                   8-2/24-2                   

Texas                                      8-2/22-4

Kansas St.                              8-3/18-7                   

Texas A&M                            6-5/20-6

Oklahoma                             6-5/18-8

Baylor                                                5-6/17-8

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Kansas at Oklahoma State

Oklahoma at Texas

Kansas State at Baylor

Nebraska at Texas A&M

Iowa State at Texas Tech

MONDAY

Texas at Kansas State

                       

Coach Rick Barnes always gets his Texas Longhorns ready to play their best from mid-February on.  This season is no different.  Texas has won six games in a row including two wins over Baylor, a win against Kansas and blowout wins at Oklahoma and Texas A&M.  The ‘Horns still have road games against Texas Tech and Kansas State, but it wouldn’t shock me to see UT win their final five regular season games.

Kansas has three more conference road games, but the Jayhawks have an equal chance to run the table. 

Kansas State has dropped two of three to fall one half game behind the co-leaders.  The Wildcats next three games are at Baylor, at home against Texas, and at Kansas.  The schedule is not on their side.

Oklahoma needs one more big win and a 9-7 conference record to be safe.  The Sooners have a tough finishing schedule, and they could easily close 2-3 to finish 8-8.

Texas A&M is limping home to the finish.  The Aggies lost at home to Oklahoma State and then got blown out at Texas.  Their next two games are at home against Nebraska and Texas Tech.  Anything short of wins over both will knock them down to the bubble.

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               10-2/18-6                 

Cal St. Fullerton                  10-3/17-7                  

UC-Santa Barbara               9-4/20-6                   

Pacific                                                8-5/17-9

Key Games This Weekend

FRIDAY

UCSB at Utah State-bbtv

SATURDAY

Rider at Cal State Northridge-bbtv

Portland State at Cal State Fullerton-bb

San Jose State at Pacific-bb

This league doesn’t get enough respect.  The four top teams could all compete in the WAC, and I expect the Big West to fare rather well in the Bracket Buster games.

The RPI ratings don’t bode well for this league, so don’t expect a second team to earn a bid. 

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   13-3/20-6                 

George Mason                      11-5/19-8                  

UNC-Wilmington                11-5/18-10

William & Mary                   10-6/14-12                

Old Dominion                      10-6/15-13

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

V C U at Akron-bbtv

George Mason at Ohio U-bbtv

Vermont at UNC-Wilmington-bb

Loyola (Chi.) at William & Mary-bb

Bucknell at Old Dominion-bb

Hold the phones here.  We have a late-rushing team coming on hard at the end and threatening to crash the gate.  It’s Old Dominion.  With four consecutive CAA wins including victories over George Mason and at league-leading VCU, the Monarchs have to be considered a serious threat to march into the Richmond Coliseum and take the automatic bid.

Don’t count out VCU.  After all, they will be the number one seed in the CAA Tournament, and they host the thing.  Coach Anthony Grant is sure to get multiple chances to interview for jobs at bigger schools.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see him coaching in the Southeastern Conference in 2009.

George Mason needs a big Bracket Buster win at Ohio U to make a serious run at an at-large bid. 

UNC-Wilmington has flown under the radar for most of the season, but the Seahawks have won four straight including a road win at George Mason.

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                               12-0/26-0                 

Houston                                8-3/19-6                   

UAB                                        8-3/18-8                   

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

# 2 Tennessee at #1 Memphis

Rice at Houston

UAB at SMU

Forget the Bracket Buster games.  This is the game of the year.  The last time the two top teams faced off in February in a non-conference game was 1991, when UNLV and Arkansas hooked up in a shootout with UNLV winning 112-105.

Houston has a chance to get an at-large berth if the Cougars can win all five of their remaining games and then make it to the finals of the C-USA Tournament.

UAB beat Houston earlier this week, but the Blazers’ RPI is almost two spots lower than Houston.  It may take a season-ending win at Memphis to give UAB an at-large chance.

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                                                14-2/25-2                 

Wright St.                             12-4/20-6                 

Cleveland St.                         11-6/18-11

UW-Milwaukee                    8-7/13-12                  

Illinois-Chicago                   8-8/14-13

                       

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Drake at Butler-bbtv

Marist at Cleveland State-bbtv

UW-Milw. at Bradley-bbtv

Ill.-Chicago at Northern Iowa-bb

SUNDAY

Wright State at Illinois State-bbtv

MONDAY

Valparaiso at UW-Milw.

Although both teams are already locks, the Butler-Drake Bracket Buster match is a can’t miss game.  This game reminds me of George Mason and Wichita State in 2006.  GMU won that game and parlayed that into a run to the Final Four.

Wright State’s game at Illinois State is more important in the at-large discussion.  Both teams are in must-win positions, and the loser will not get an invitation to the Big Dance without earning an automatic bid. 

Cleveland State has played themselves out of at-large contention, so their bracket buster game against Marist is meaningless.

Ivy

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    Cornell

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    None, bid goes to regular season champion

Current Leaders

Cornell                                   8-0/16-5                   

Brown                                                6-2/14-8

Columbia                              5-3/12-11

Penn                                       4-3/9-15                    

Key Games This Weekend

FRIDAY

Yale at Cornell

Brown at Columbia

Penn at Dartmouth

SATURDAY

Brown at Cornell

Yale at Columbia

Penn at Harvard

Another sweep by Cornell has the Big Red on the verge of clinching the Ivy title rather early.  It could happen this weekend, if Cornell can sweep at home against Yale and Brown, while Columbia beats Brown and loses to Yale, while Penn loses to Dartmouth and Harvard.  I don’t expect all that to happen, but Cornell is all but in as Ivy champs.  If they should happen to run the table and finish 22-5, the Big Red could move up as high as a number 13 seed.

Metro Atlantic

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders

Niagara                                  11-5/17-8

Rider                                      11-5/18-9                  

Siena                                      11-5/16-10                

Loyola (Md.)                         11-5/16-12                 

Fairfield                                 10-6/12-14

Marist                                                9-7/15-12

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Niagara at Appy State-bb

Rider at Cal. State Northridge-bbtv

Siena at Boise State-bbtv

UC Davis at Loyola (Md.)-bb

Fairfield at Drexel-bb

Marist at Cleveland State-bb

Here is an example of the Bracket Buster hurting teams.  Rider and Siena have to travel across the country and will suffer some fatigue for playing tough road games which they will more than likely lose.  This race is by far the most competitive of all the conferences, and the Bracket Buster fatigue could determine the regular season championship.

Loyola has won nine of 11 games and Niagara has taken six of eight.  I expect one of these two teams to win the conference tournament and take the one bid.  One cannot eliminate Siena, since they host the tournament.  However, the Saints have split their last eight games and are not firing on all cylinders.

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                             11-2/22-5                  

Akron                                     9-4/19-7                    

Ohio U                                   8-5/17-9                    

Miami                                                7-6/13-12                  

West

Western Michigan               9-3/15-10                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Kent State at St. Mary’s-bbtv

Virginia Commonwealth at Akron-bbtv

George Mason at Ohio U-bbtv

Miami (O) at Valparaiso-bbtv

Western Michigan at UW Green Bay-bb

Kent State moved up several spots in the RPI ratings this week, and now the Golden Flashes have a decent shot at gaining an at-large bid if they don’t earn the automatic one.  Their game at St. Mary’s is just as big as the Butler-Drake game, but it will take place when most basketball fans are in bed or trying to get there with their date Saturday night.

I don’t think a second MAC team will earn an invitation unless they take the automatic bid.  Ohio U has the next best RPI after Kent State, but that RPI number is in the low 60’s.  A low 60’s RPI is too high for serious at-large consideration.

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.                            10-2/16-9

Norfolk St.                            10-2/14-10               

Hampton                               8-3/15-9

Delaware St.                         8-4/11-13

North Carolina A&T                        7-5/13-12                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Howard at Morgan State

Norfolk State at S.C. State

Hampton at Coppin State

Bethune-Cookman at Delaware State

N.C. A&T at Winston-Salem State

MONDAY

Hampton at Morgan State

Norfolk State at Winston-Salem State

Fla. A&M at Delaware State

N.C. A&T at S.C. State

Morgan State and Norfolk State only played once this season with Norfolk State winning.  All Norfolk State can earn by winning the tiebreaker is a guarantee of an NIT berth should they fail to win the conference tournament.

Don’t count out third place Hampton just yet.  The Pirates still have games remaining against the two co-leaders.

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                                     14-2/23-3                 

Illinois St.                             11-5/19-8      

Southern Illinois                 10-6/15-12

Creighton                              9-7/18-8                   

Bradley                                  9-7/16-12                  

                       

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Drake at Butler-bbtv

Nevada at Southern Illinois-bbtv

Creighton at Oral Roberts-bbtv

UW-Milw. at Bradley-bbtv

SUNDAY

Wright State at Illinois State-bbtv

Drake has lost some of it focus and has now dropped two games in their last three.  I expect the losing ways to continue this weekend because the Bulldogs have a tough Bracket Buster draw at Butler.

The team that I think will be cutting down the nets in St. Louis at the MVC Tournament is Southern Illinois.  The Salukis are beginning to play like a champion team.

Mountain West

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    BYU

On the Bubble:                    UNLV

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

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Las Vegas

Current Leaders

Brigham Young                   10-1/21-5                  

UNLV                                     8-3/19-6                   

New Mexico                          8-4/21-6

San Diego St.                                    7-5/17-9        

Utah                                       6-5/15-9                    

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

BYU at San Diego State

UNLV at Wyoming

New Mexico at Utah

BYU took care of business against UNLV and Utah for their eighth and ninth consecutive victories, and the Cougars are in command in the MWC.  If they split their next two games (at San Diego State and at New Mexico), they will secure an at-large invitation.

UNLV still has work to do, but if the Runnin’ Rebels continue at their current pace, they will be on the good side of the bubble come mid-March.  The schedule gives them a great chance to finish 4-1 for a 12-4/23-7 record entering the conference tournament, which they host.

New Mexico needs to add to its resume to be seriously considered.   The Lobos have won five games in a row, and they need to beat both BYU and UNLV at the pit to have a legitimate shot at an at-large bid.

San Diego State and Utah will have to win the conference tournament to get into the Field of 65.

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                      13-2/22-6

Wagner                                  13-2/20-6

Sacred Heart                         12-3/15-11                 

Quinnipiac                            10-5/14-12                

Mt. St. Mary’s                       9-7/13-14      

Central Conn. St.                 9-7/13-14

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Wagner at Robert Morris

Sacred Heart at Quinnipiac

Mt. St. Mary’s at St. Francis (Pa.)

Even with two teams sporting gaudy records, the RPIs will keep the NEC from landing a second team in the Dance.  Robert Morris and Wagner would make a great NEC Tournament Final if both can avoid the upset bug.  The two co-leaders meet in Coraopolis tomorrow night with the league championship on the line.  The winner will host the league tournament, so this game is really big.

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                          14-4/18-10               

Murray St.                             12-6/16-10                

Morehead St.                                    11-7/14-12                 

Eastern Kentucky                10-8/13-13               

UT-Martin                            11-8/15-14

Samford                                 9-9/12-14

Tennessee State                   9-9/12-15

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Georgia Southern at Austin Peay-bb

Indiana State at Murray State-bb

Morehead State at James Madison-bb

Elon at UT-Martin-bb

Ball State at EKU-bb

Samford at La. Tech-bb

SUNDAY

Tennessee State’s game with Northern Illinois has been cancelled

There is a hot team in this league, and that hot team has the top player in the league as well.  UT-Martin has won five straight games by an average score of 87-75, and star player Lester Hudson has been taking control of each game.  He recently recorded a triple double against SEMO.  UTM has just two games remaining-a bracket buster game at Elon tomorrow and a tough game at Murray State.  Watch out for the Skyhawks in the OVC Tournament.

Austin Peay has a two-game cushion with two conference games remaining, but the Governors are no lock.  They must finish playing at EKU and at Morehead, where teams have run into trouble in the past. 

Murray State closes out conference play at Tennessee Tech and home against UT-Martin.  The Racers could win both and earn a tie for the conference title.

Morehead and Eastern Kentucky certainly have great home court advantages, but the OVC Tourney is in Nashville, so they shouldn’t be cutting down the nets on March 8.

Tennessee State has earned their OVC Tournament bid the hard way-the Tigers dumped the top two teams, Murray State and Austin Peay.  While the conference tournament is not on their home floor, it is only a few miles away.

Pac-10

Likely Bids:                           6 or 7

Locks:                                                UCLA, Stanford, Washington St.

In Good Shape:                    Southern Cal, Arizona

On the Bubble:                    Arizona St.

Can Still Get There:                        Oregon, Cal, Washington

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Los Angeles Staples Center

Current Leaders

U C L A                                  10-2/22-3                             

Stanford                                10-3/21-4                             

Washington St.                    8-5/20-5       

Southern Cal                                    7-5/16-8                    

Arizona St.                            6-6/16-8

Arizona                                  6-6/16-9

California                              6-7/15-9                                

Oregon                                   6-7/15-10

Washington                          6-8/15-12

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Oregon at UCLA

Arizona at Washington State

Arizona State at Washington

Oregon State at Southern Cal

SUNDAY

Cal at Stanford

The Pac-10 is probably the top conference, so there is a good chance a team can get in the NCAA Tournament with an 8-10 conference record and a trip to the conference tournament semifinals.

If I had to pick a team to get hot in Los Angeles and pull off the upset in the conference tournament, I’d go with Southern Cal.  When they play smart ball, they can beat anybody in this league. 

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                              9-3/17-10

Navy                                       7-4/14-12                  

Bucknell                                6-6/11-15

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Navy at Army

Bucknell at Old Dominion-bb

                       

American and Navy face off Wednesday night in Annapolis.  If the Middies win can beat the Eagles, then American will be forced to win their finale against Lafayette to secure the top seed and hosting duties of the conference tournament.

American has the best backcourt in the league in guards Garrison Carr and Derrick Mercer (combining for 31 points and six assists per game).  However, both players are under six feet tall, and that will hurt the Eagles in the NCAA Tournament.

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                             11-1/24-2

Kentucky                               8-3/14-10

Vanderbilt                             7-4/22-4

Florida                                   7-5/20-7

                                   

West

Mississippi St.                       8-3/17-8                               

Arkansas                               7-4/18-7

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Tennessee at Memphis

Arkansas at Kentucky

Georgia at Vanderbilt

Mississippi State at South Carolina

The SEC may be down this year, but top team Tennessee could be looking at the top ranking in the land if they can handle Memphis at the Pyramid tomorrow night. 

Kentucky faces a must-win situation at Rupp Arena against Arkansas tomorrow.  A win against the Hogs will secure a winning conference record, as well as another quality win.  The Wildcats’ schedule gives them an excellent shot at a 12-4 conference record if they take care of business in Lexington.

Vanderbilt hasn’t been 22-4 since 1993.  The Commodores have an excellent shot to pick up consecutive win number six against Georgia tomorrow.  If they can knock off Tennessee at home Tuesday night, the Commodores will move to “lock” status.

Florida has probably secured an at-large bid due to the fact that they are the two-time defending national champions.  The Gators have a shot at finishing 10-6, which always gets an SEC team in the Big Dance.

In the West Division, Mississippi State and Arkansas still have unfinished business.  Neither team has a bid wrapped up as of today.  Miss State has three tough road games against East Division teams.  If they lose at South Carolina, the Bulldogs could be headed to a 10-6 finish.  If they should stub their toe at home to Auburn or LSU, the Maroons could be in big trouble.

Arkansas has three tough road games plus a home game with Vanderbilt.  The Razorbacks need to win at least one of those road games and defeat the Commodores to have a shot at an at-large bid.

As for Ole Miss, the 4-7 Rebels must win at LSU and at Kentucky to even get into the discussion.  Then, they will have to beat Alabama and Arkansas at home and probably close out the season with a win at Georgia to be in the mix.

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.                    12-6/17-10

Chattanooga                         11-6/16-11                 

           

South

Davidson                               18-0/20-6                

Georgia Southern                13-5/20-8                 

Key Games This Weekend

FRIDAY

Davidson at Winthrop-bbtv

SATURDAY

Niagara at Appy State-bb

Wofford at Chattanooga

Georgia Southern at Austin Peay-bb

Davidson long ago clinched the conference’s top seed.  The Wildcats still haven’t secured an at-large bid due to an RPI in the low 60’s.  A win at Winthrop tonight may be more important than any of their conference games.  Of course, since no Southern Conference team has been able to beat them for two years, they are a very heavy favorite to win the conference tournament and earn the automatic bid.

Georgia Southern won’t be in the mix for an at-large berth, but the Eagles are the one team that can beat Davidson.  GSU closes out the regular season by hosting the Wildcats, and their tenacious defense can get the job done.  The problem is if they beat Davidson on March 1, they will still have to beat them a second time on March 10 to get into the Dance.  I don’t think they can beat Davidson twice in 10 days.

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                                                10-1/16-8                              

Northwestern St.                 8-4/12-14                             

West

Stephen F. Austin                10-2/22-3

Sam Houston                       7-5/19-6        

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Northwestern State at Lamar

Stephen F. Austin annihilated Sam Houston last night, and the Lumberjacks can make a strong case for an at-large bid if they win their final four games to enter the conference tournament at 26-3.  SFA has two big road wins in non-conference play-against Oklahoma and San Diego, so they deserve an at-large bid if they enter the conference tournament at 26-3 and lose in the semis or finals.

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.                          10-2/14-8     

Jackson State                       8-5/10-16

Arkansas Pine Bluff                        7-6/11-13

Miss. Valley St.                     7-6/9-15

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Alcorn State at Alabama State

Jackson State at Grambling

Prairie View at Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Texas Southern at Mississippi Valley

Alabama State is the only SWAC team with the talent to win a play-in game, but they aren’t so good that they can go through the motions and win the SWAC Tournament.  There’s a 50-50 chance someone else will win the SWAC Tournament and head to Dayton with a losing record.  Even somebody like Texas Southern could win the league tourney and head to the play-in round of the NCAA Tournament with 22-24 losses.  This would be ridiculous, especially when you take into consideration that Independent Texas-Pan American will be home in March with a winning record and just enough talent to win a play-in game.

Summit

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    Oral Roberts

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders

Oral Roberts                         15-1/20-6                  

IUPUI                                     13-3/21-6                  

Oakland                                 9-6/14-12                  

IUPU Ft. Wayne                   9-6/12-14                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Creighton at Oral Roberts-bbtv

IUPUI at IPFW

Western Illinois at Oakland

IUPUI beat Oral Roberts last Saturday to make a race in the conference, but then the Jaguars failed to show up last night at Oakland and got their hat handed to them in a 15-point loss.  That loss ended all their at-large hopes.

ORU is now closing in on “lock” status for an at-large bid.  A Bracket Buster win over Creighton could do the trick. 

Oakland gave ORU two close games this year, and the Golden Grizzlies have both the talent and the confidence to knock off the league giant in the conference tournament.

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              13-2/21-6                  

South Alabama                    14-2/22-5                 

Middle Tennessee               10-6/13-13                

West

Louisiana Lafayette                        9-6/13-13                  

North Texas                          8-7/17-9

Arkansas-Little Rock          7-7/15-10

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

UL-Monroe at Western Kentucky

Middle Tennessee at Fla. Atlantic

UALR at Louisiana-Lafayette

Arkansas State at North Texas

After falling at Middle Tennessee earlier, South Alabama was on the verge of falling out of at-large range.  Then, the Jaguars went to Bowling Green and knocked off Western Kentucky last night to sweep the season’s series.  The win all but clinches the top seed for USA, and they host the SBC Tournament.  Things look good for Coach Ronnie Arrow and his troops.

Western Kentucky may be on the outside looking in even if they win out and lose to USA for a third time in the SBC Tournament Finals.  That would give the Hilltoppers a 26-7 record, and their non-conference resume includes no quality wins.  They has three close losses at Tennessee, at Gonzaga, and at Southern Illinois.

Middle Tennessee has just enough talent to make it to the finals of the conference tournament.  However, I don’t think they can get over the final obstacle.

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                              10-1/23-3                 

Gonzaga                                 10-1/21-6                  

San Diego                              8-2/15-12                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Kent State at St. Mary’s-bbtv

San Diego at Santa Clara

MONDAY

San Diego at St. Mary’s

Gonzaga at Portland

St. Mary’s has already guaranteed themselves a spot in the Field of 65, so they may be ripe for an upset either tomorrow against Kent State or Monday night against San Diego.  If they win both, the Gaels deserve to be in the mix for a #4 seed.

Gonzaga gets St. Mary’s at home, so the Bulldogs are actually favored to win the regular season title.  They are one or two wins away from moving into “lock” status.

San Diego must now win the conference tournament to get into the Dance.  The Toreros host the tournament, so it is possible.  They will have to beat both Gonzaga and St. Mary’s to do it.

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

Boise State                            10-3/20-6                 

New Mexico St.                    9-3/15-12                  

Nevada                                   9-4/17-9                    

Utah State                             8-4/18-9                   

Hawaii                                   7-5/11-13                   

Key Games This Weekend

FRIDAY

UC Santa Barbara at Utah State-bbtv

SATURDAY

Siena at Boise State-bbtv

Long Beach State at New Mexico State-bb

Nevada at Southern Illinois-bbtv

Hawaii at UC-Riverside-bb

The rough three game road trip did in Utah State, as they lost all three games and fell from first to fourth.  The new leader is Boise State, and the Broncos have won eight of nine games, in which they have averaged 84 points per game.   

New Mexico State has won four in a row, outscoring opponents 89-68.  The Aggies host the league tourney, and they have to be considered a strong favorite to win it.  NMSU swept Boise State and blew Utah State away by 30 points.

Nevada has probably the toughest Bracket Buster game of all.  I can see no possibility where they will win at Southern Illinois.  The long road trip this late in the year is bound to have a negative effect in the final days of the conference race.  The Wolf pack host New Mexico State Thursday, but they may not be ready to play that game.

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