The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 12, 2017

Sunday March Madness Update

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:48 am

Rhode Island won an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by topping VCU in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament.  The Rams now must be moved into first round bye status, so now a new team must be lowered into the First Four in Dayton.

Our Gurus will not have time to send us those teams, so we will go with the lowest team that received a bye prior to URI being moved up.

Thus, Vanderbilt moves down to the First Four as an 11-seed to face USC and Wake Forest moves to a 12-seed to Kansas State in the other First Four game.

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Selection Sunday Ayem–March 12, 2017

Like Xmas Day For A Basketball Junkie

5:30 PM Eastern DAYLIGHT Time cannot come quickly enough.  Today is the day fans of 68 teams get to open their March Madness presents.  Most of the teams that will be dancing know they are in, be it with an automatic bid or a for sure at-large bid.  The Bubble has shrunk to just a few teams, and our Bracketology Gurus believe they have the 68 teams this morning before any games are played today.  Only the seeding may be altered by today’s games, but they agree in 100% unison that the teams we will list are the 68 teams that will continue to pursue their National Championship dreams.

THE FINAL BUBBLE

California

Illinois St.

Iowa

Kansas St.

Rhode Island

Syracuse

USC

Vanderbilt

Wake Forest

Xavier

Room at the Inn for six of these 10 teams, so which six make it, and which 4 are number one seeds in the NIT?

The six we have in are (alphabetically): Kansas State, Rhode Island, USC, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, and Xavier.

The four that will need tissues to wipe their tears are: California, Illinois State, Iowa, and Syracuse

The one that the Gurus believe should be in over one that should be out is Illinois State rather than USC.  However, the Gurus are selecting based on how they predict the Selection Committee will select, and even through the rules state that teams are not chosen within a conference by conference basis, subconsciously the members will look and see that they cannot exclude both Cal and the Trojans.  USC’s win over SMU is the reason the men of Troy get in over the men of Berkeley.

 

There are six games left to be played, and the seed lines could change based on who wins, but the Committee does not change their final seedings within the last two hours, so the final scores of some of the games will be official after the final seeding has been done.  Thus, the AAC and Big Ten Championship Games will still be underway when the final seeds are completed.  Only the name of the Sun Belt Conference Champion will have to be added late, and the Committee can already put the first letter of that champion on the board–a “T” (Texas State or Troy).

 

Here is today’s schedule.

American Athletic Conference Championship
Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 SMU 29-4 vs. 2 Cincinnati 29-4 3:15 PM ESPN
                 
Atlantic 10 Conference Championship
Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
4 Rhode Island 23-9 vs. 2 VCU 26-7 12:30 PM CBS
                 
Big Ten Conference Championship
Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
8 Michigan 23-11 vs. 2 Wisconsin 25-8 3:00 PM CBS
                 
Ivy League Conference Championship
Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 Princeton 22-6 vs. 3 Yale 18-10 12:00 PM ESPN2
                 
Southeastern Conference Championship
Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 Kentucky 28-5 vs. 3 Arkansas 25-8 1:00 PM ESPN
                 
Sun Belt Conference Championship
Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
4 Texas St. 20-12 vs. 6 Troy 21-14 2:00 PM ESPN2
                 
Selection Sunday
5:30 PM EDT on CBS
 
NCAA Tournament
First Four: March 14-15
                 
Second Round: March 16-17
                 
Third Round: March 18-19
                 
Sweet 16: March 23-24
                 
Elite Eight: March 25-26
                 
Final Four: April 1
                 
National Championship: April 3

The Bracketology Gurus Field of 68

  1. Villanova, Gonzaga, Kansas, North Carolina
  2. Duke, Arizona, Kentucky, Oregon
  3. Baylor, Louisville, Florida St., UCLA
  4. West Virginia, Butler, Notre Dame, Cincinnati
  5. Florida, Iowa St., Virginia, Purdue
  6. Wisconsin, SMU, Minnesota, Michigan
  7. Creighton, Arkansas, Saint Mary’s, Wichita St.
  8. Maryland, Miami (Fla.), VCU, Virginia Tech
  9. Northwestern, Oklahoma St., Dayton, Seton Hall
  10. Michigan St., South Carolina, Marquette, Providence
  11. Middle Tennessee, Xavier, Vanderbilt, USC, Wake Forest
  12. UNC-Wilmington, Nevada, Vermont, Rhode Island, Kansas St.
  13. Bucknell, Princeton, Winthrop, East Tennessee St.
  14. Florida Gulf Coast, New Mexico St., Iona, Northern Kentucky
  15. Texas Southern, Kent State, Jacksonville St., North Dakota
  16. Texas St., UNC-Central, New Orleans, South Dakota St., UC-Davis, Mount St. Mary’s

Last Four Byes: Marquette, Providence, Vanderbilt, Xavier

Last Four In (Dayton Bound): USC vs. Wake Forest, Rhode Island vs. Kansas St.

First Four Out (#1 Seeds in NIT): California, Illinois St., Iowa, and Syracuse

 

Coming Next:  We go dark for 48 hours.  Tuesday morning, we will premier PiRate Bracketnomics for 2017 with a total primer on how we handle our bracket picking and outright winners of games for you that failed to heed our warnings and chose to wager your hard-earned dollars in Vegas or offshore.  FWIW, we have heard from a half-dozen of you that you have found something in our Blue Ratings that have made you handsome profits this year.  We hope that continues for you, but please do not rely on just our ratings to wager money with books in Vegas.  We don’t want the guilt trip when you cannot pay your April Mortgage or car payment.

In addition to Bracketnomics, we will also give you all the raw data to use for yourself.  We will have a spreadsheet of all 68 teams with their Four Factors, their PiRate Specific Ratings, and then follow that up with how the teams fit in our Final Four footprint.  We have backtested the data we use as far back as each statistic allows us to do, and we will include that in our preview.

Tell all your friends to check us out.  The Tuesday preview is our most visited entry of the year, even more than our Super Bowl and College Playoff National Championship football editions.

 

But remember our axiom: We are just a bunch of math nerds doing this for fun.  Please wager responsibly, or like us just wager a lunch with your friend.  Also, remember that you have a better chance of being abducted by aliens from space while being struck by lightning, as you hold the winning Power Ball and Mega Millions lottery tickets while getting a kiss from a supermodel (all at the same time) than you do of picking a perfect bracket.

Note: Special Congrats go to Renato Nunez on his impressive home run at Hohokam Park yesterday against the Rangers.

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.

February 15, 2008

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

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Races

Through Games of Thursday, February 14, 2008

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

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

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

This week, if you count the number of likely bids, the minimum comes to 67.  We all know that only 65 teams will be chosen on Selection Sunday, and there are always a small to moderate amount of upsets in the conference tournaments.  Therefore, as of now, no bubble teams should be considered safe.

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

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

America East

Likely Bids:               1

Locks:                        None

In Good Shape:        None

On the Bubble:        None

Can Still Get There:            None

Tournament:                        March 7-9 @ Binghamton, NY

Current Leaders

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

Hartford                                8-4/14-13

Albany                                   8-5/13-12

Vermont                                7-5/12-12      

Boston U.                              7-5/10-14      

Binghamton                         7-6/11-14

           

Key Games This Weekend

SUNDAY

New Hampshire at Hartford

Vermont at Stony Brook

Maine at Binghamton

Boston U. at Maryland-Balt. Co.

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

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

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

Atlantic Coast Conference

Likely Bids:               6 or 7

Locks:                                    Duke, North Carolina, Clemson

In Good Shape:        Maryland

On the Bubble:        NC State, Va. Tech   

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

Tournament:                        March 13-16 @ Charlotte, NC

Current Leaders

Duke                          10-0/22-1                 

North Carolina         8-2/23-2                   

Clemson                    6-4/18-6                   

Maryland                   6-4/16-9                   

Virginia Tech                        5-5/14-10                  

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

                       

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Va. Tech at North Carolina

Florida St. at Maryland

Clemson at North Carolina St.

SUNDAY

Duke at Wake Forest

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

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

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

Atlantic Sun

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 5-8 @Nashville (Lipscomb)

Current Leaders

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

East Tennessee        8-4/14-11                  

Lipscomb                   7-5/13-13

Stetson                      7-5/12-14      

Gardner-Webb         6-5/12-13                  

Mercer                       6-6/11-14                  

Key Games This Weekend

FRIDAY

North Florida at Jacksonville

SATURDAY

Lipscomb at East Tennessee

Belmont at South Carolina Upstate

Stetson at Mercer

Campbell at Gardner-Webb

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

Atlantic 10

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                Xavier

In Good Shape:                    Rhode Island

On the Bubble:                    Dayton, St. Joe’s

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

Tournament:                        March 12-15 @ Atlantic City, NJ

Current Leaders

Xavier                                    9-1/21-4                                                                    

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

Temple                       6-3/13-10

Rhode Island                        6-4/20-5                   

Duquesne                  6-4/16-7

Charlotte                   5-4/14-9                    

Richmond                 5-4/12-10                  

St. Louis                    5-5/14-10                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Temple at Dayton

Richmond at Duquesne

SUNDAY

St. Louis at U Mass.

Charlotte at Fordham

MONDAY

Xavier at Rhode Island

LaSalle at St. Joe’s

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

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

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

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

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

Big East

Likely Bids:               7 or 8

Locks:                                    Georgetown, Connecticut, Louisville

In Good Shape:        Pittsburgh, Marquette, Notre Dame

On the Bubble:        Syracuse, West Virginia

Can Still Get There Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Villanova

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

Current Leaders

Georgetown              10-2/20-3                 

Louisville                  9-3/19-6

Connecticut              8-3/19-5

Notre Dame              8-3/18-5                   

Pittsburgh                 7-4/19-5                    

Marquette                 7-5/17-6                    

Cincinnati                 7-5/12-12

West Virginia           6-5/17-7

Syracuse                    6-6/16-9                   

                       

                       

Key Games This Weekend

FRIDAY

Pittsburgh at Marquette

SATURDAY

Connecticut at South Florida

Georgetown at Syracuse

Louisville at Providence

Villanova at St. John’s

SUNDAY

Notre Dame at Rutgers

Seton Hall at West Virginia

MONDAY

Georgetown at Providence

Syracuse at Louisville

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

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

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

Big Sky

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders

Portland St.                          9-2/16-8                   

Weber St.                              7-4/12-11                  

Northern Arizona                7-5/15-10                  

Montana St.                          6-5/14-10

Montana                                6-5/12-12      

Idaho St.                                6-5/9-15

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Northern Arizona at Montana

Idaho State at Eastern Washington

Weber State at Portland State

SUNDAY

Sacramento State at Montana State

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

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

                                   

Big South

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders

UNC-Asheville                     7-2/18-6                   

Winthrop                              7-3/16-9                    

High Point                            6-4/14-10                 

Coastal Carolina                  5-5/12-11                   

Liberty                                   5-5/13-12

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

VMI at UNC-Asheville

Radford at Winthrop

High Point at Chas. Southern

Liberty at Coastal Carolina

MONDAY

High Point at Coastal Carolina

Liberty at Chas. Southern            

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

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

Big 10

Likely Bids:                           5

Locks:                                                Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan St.

In Good Shape:                    Purdue, Ohio State

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Minnesota

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Indianapolis, IN

Current Leaders

Purdue                                   11-1/20-5

Wisconsin                             10-2/20-4                 

Indiana                                  9-2/20-4                   

Michigan State                     8-3/20-4                                          

Ohio State                             8-4/17-8                   

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Minnesota at Wisconsin

Purdue at Northwestern

Michigan State at Indiana

SUNDAY

Ohio State at Michigan

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

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

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

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

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

Big 12

Likely Bids:                           5 or 6

Locks:                                                Kansas, Texas

In Good Shape:                    Texas A&M, Kansas State

On the Bubble:                    Baylor, Oklahoma

Can Still Get There:                        Missouri, Texas Tech

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Kansas City

Current Leaders

Kansas                                   8-2/23-2                   

Texas                                      7-2/20-4

Kansas St.                              7-2/17-6                    

Texas A&M                            6-3/20-4

Baylor                                                5-4/17-6

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Colorado at Kansas

Oklahoma State at Texas A&M

Oklahoma at Texas Tech

Nebraska at Iowa State

Texas at Baylor

Missouri at Kansas State

MONDAY

Texas A&M at Texas                       

                       

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

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

Big West

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Anaheim, CA

Current Leaders

Cal St. Northridge               8-2/16-6                   

Cal St. Fullerton                  9-3/16-7                    

Pacific                                                8-3/17-7

UC-Santa Barbara               7-4/18-6                   

UC-Irvine                              6-5/11-13

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Pacific at Cal St. Fullerton

UCSB at UC Davis

UC Riverside at Cal St. Northridge

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

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

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

Colonial Athletic

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders

Virginia Commonwealth   12-2/19-5                  

George Mason                      10-4/18-7                 

UNC-Wilmington                9-5/16-10

William & Mary                   9-5/13-11                  

Northeastern                                    8-6/12-12                 

Old Dominion                      8-6/13-13

Delaware                               8-6/11-13                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Drexel at Delaware

Northeastern at Georgia St.

William & Mary at Towson St.

UNC-Wilmington at George Mason

Old Dominion at Virginia Commonwealth

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

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

Conference USA

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Memphis

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Houston

Can Still Get There:                        UAB

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Memphis

Current Leaders

Memphis                               10-0/24-0                

Houston                                7-2/18-5                    

UAB                                        7-2/17-7                    

Tulane                                   5-4/15-8                    

UTEP                                      5-4/14-8                   

Central Florida                    5-4/12-11                  

Key Games This Weekend

Central Florida at Rice

Tulane at Marshall

Memphis at UAB

UTEP at Tulsa

SMU at Houston

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

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

Horizon

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Butler

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Wright St.

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

Current Leaders

Butler                                                12-2/23-2                 

Wright St.                             10-4/18-6                 

Cleveland St.                         10-5/17-10

Illinois-Chicago                   8-6/14-11

UW-Milwaukee                    7-6/12-11                  

UW-Green Bay                     7-7/13-11

                       

Key Games This Weekend

Cleveland State at Butler

Illinois-Chicago at Wright State

UWGB at UW-Milw.

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

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

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

Independents

Likely Bids:                           0

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    None

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

Ivy

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    None, bid goes to regular season champion

Current Leaders

Cornell                                   6-0/14-5                   

Brown                                                4-2/12-8

Penn                                       3-2/8-14                   

Columbia                              3-3/10-11

Yale                                        3-3/9-11                    

Key Games This Weekend

FRIDAY

Columbia at Dartmouth

Brown at Penn

Cornell at Harvard

Yale at Princeton

SATURDAY

Yale at Penn

Cornell at Dartmouth

Columbia at Harvard

Brown at Princeton  

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

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

Metro Atlantic

Likely Bids:                           1 (very slim chance at 2)

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders

Rider                                      11-3/18-7                  

Siena                                      11-3/16-8                  

Niagara                                  9-5/15-8

Marist                                                9-5/15-10

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

Fairfield                                 8-6/10-14

Key Games This Weekend

FRIDAY

Marist at Manhattan

SATURDAY

Loyola (Md.) at Siena

Rider at Fairfield

Iona at Niagara                   

MONDAY

Rider at Loyola (Md.)

St. Peter’s at Niagara

Siena at Manhattan

Marist at Fairfield

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

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

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

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

Mid-American

Likely Bids:                           2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                   

On the Bubble:                    Kent State

Can Still Get There:                        Ohio U, Akron

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Cleveland

Current Leaders

East

Kent State                             9-2/20-5                   

Akron                                     7-4/17-7                    

Ohio U                                   7-4/16-8                   

Miami                                                6-5/12-11                  

Bowling Green                     6-5/11-12

West

Western Michigan               8-3/14-10                 

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Akron at Bowling Green

Ohio U at Kent

Miami (O) at Buffalo

SUNDAY

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

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

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

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

MEAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 10-15 @ Raleigh, NC

Current Leaders

Morgan St.                            9-1/15-8

Norfolk St.                            8-2/12-10                 

Hampton                               7-3/13-9

Delaware St.                         7-3/10-12

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

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Morgan State at Florida A&M

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

Delaware State at Norfolk State

South Carolina State at Hampton

MONDAY

Winston-Salem State at Hampton

Delaware State at N.C. A&T

Morgan State at Bethune-Cookman

Md. Eastern Shore at Norfolk State

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

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

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

Missouri Valley

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Drake

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Illinois State

Can Still Get There:                        Southern Illinois, Creighton

Tournament:                                    March 6-9 @ St. Louis

Current Leaders

Drake                                     13-1/22-2                  

Illinois St.                             10-4/18-7                 

Creighton                              8-6/17-7                    

Southern Illinois                 8-6/13-12

Northern Iowa                     7-7/15-10

Bradley                                  7-7/14-12                  

                       

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Creighton at Bradley

Drake at Northern Iowa

Illinois State at Indiana State

Southern Illinois at Wichita State

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

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

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

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

Mountain West

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    UNLV, BYU

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

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Las Vegas

Current Leaders

Brigham Young                   8-1/19-5                    

UNLV                                     8-2/19-5                   

New Mexico                          6-4/19-6

San Diego St.                                    6-4/16-8                   

Utah                                       5-4/14-8                   

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

San Diego State at Utah

TCU at New Mexico

UNLV at BYU

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

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

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

Northeast

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 6-9-12 @ Higher Seed

Current Leaders

Robert Morris                      11-2/20-6

Wagner                                  11-2/18-6

Sacred Heart                         11-3/14-11                 

Quinnipiac                            9-4/13-11                  

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

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

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Robert Morris at St. Francis, NY

Central Connecticut State at Long Island

St. Francis, PA at Sacred Heart

Quinnipiac at Mt. St. Mary’s

Monmouth at Wagner

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

Ohio Valley

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Austin Peay

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

Current Leaders

Austin Peay                          13-3/17-9                  

Murray St.                             11-6/15-10                

Morehead St.                                    10-6/13-11                

Eastern Kentucky                10-6/13-11                

UT-Martin                            10-8/14-14

Tennessee Tech                   9-9/12-16                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Morehead St. at Jacksonville State

SE Missouri at UT-Martin

Eastern Ky. at Samford

Tennessee Tech at Austin Peay

E. Illinois at Murray State

MONDAY

Austin Peay at Tennessee State

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

Pac-10

Likely Bids:                           6 or 7

Locks:                                                UCLA, Stanford, Arizona

In Good Shape:                    Southern Cal, Washington St.,

On the Bubble:                    Cal, Arizona St.

Can Still Get There:                        Oregon, Washington

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Los Angeles Staples Center

Current Leaders

U C L A                                  9-2/21-3                               

Stanford                                9-3/20-4                               

Washington St.                    7-5/19-5        

Arizona St.                            6-5/16-7

Arizona                                  6-5/16-8                               

Southern Cal                                    6-5/15-8                    

Oregon                                   6-6/15-9

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Stanford at Arizona

California at Arizona State

Washington at Oregon State

Washington State at Oregon                                

SUNDAY

UCLA at Southern Cal

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

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

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

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

Patriot

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 5-9-14 at Higher Seed                   

Current Leaders

American                              7-3/15-10

Lafayette                               5-4/14-10                              

Navy                                       5-4/12-12                  

Bucknell                                5-5/10-14

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Navy at Lafayette

Holy Cross at Bucknell

Army at Lehigh

SUNDAY

American at Colgate                      

                       

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

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

Southeastern

Likely Bids:                           5 or 6

Locks:                                                Tennessee,

In Good Shape:                    Florida, Mississippi St., Vanderbilt

On the Bubble:                    Kentucky, Arkansas

Can Still Get There:                        Ole Miss

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Atlanta

Current Leaders

East

Tennessee                             9-1/22-2

Kentucky                               6-3/12-10

Vanderbilt                             6-4/21-4

Florida                                   6-4/19-6

                                   

West

Mississippi St.                       7-2/16-7                                

Arkansas                               6-3/17-6

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Kentucky at LSU

Tennessee at Georgia

Florida at Vanderbilt

Arkansas at Mississippi State                               

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

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

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

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

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

Southern

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Davidson

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 7-10 @ Charleston

Current Leaders

North

Appalachian St.                    11-5/16-9

Chattanooga                         10-6/15-11                

                       

South

Davidson                               16-0/18-6                 

Georgia Southern                11-5/18-8                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Chattanooga at Citadel

Furman at Davidson

Appy State at UNC-Greensboro

Elon at Georgia Southern

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

Southland

Likely Bids:                           1  

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders

East

Lamar                                                8-1/14-8                               

Northwestern St.                 7-3/11-13                              

SE Louisiana                                    5-5/13-10

West

Stephen F. Austin                8-2/20-3

Sam Houston                       6-4/18-5       

UT-Arlington                                   5-5/16-7                                

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

SF Austin at Northwestern State

Texas A&M CC at Southeast La.

Lamar at Texas State

Sam Houston at Central Arkansas

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

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

SWAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 11-15 @ Birmingham, AL

Current Leaders

Alabama St.                          9-2/13-8       

Jackson State                       7-4/9-15

Arkansas Pine Bluff                        6-5/10-12

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

Southern                               6-5/8-14

Grambling                            6-5/6-12

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Ark. PB at Southern

Alabama State at Alabama A&M

Miss. Valley St. at Alcorn St.

Jackson St. at Prairie View A&M

Grambling at Texas Southern

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

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

Summit

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Oral Roberts

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders

Oral Roberts                         13-0/18-5                 

IUPUI                                     12-2/20-5                 

Oakland                                 8-5/13-11                  

IUPU Ft. Wayne                   7-6/10-14                  

Key Games This Weekend

IUPU Ft. Wayne at Oakland

Oral Roberts at IUPUI

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

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

Sunbelt

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    South Alabama

On the Bubble:                    Western Kentucky

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders

East

Western Kentucky              12-1/20-5                  

South Alabama                    11-2/19-5                  

Middle Tennessee               9-5/12-12                  

West

Arkansas-Little Rock          7-6/15-9

Denver                                   7-6/11-13

Louisiana Lafayette                        7-6/11-13                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee

New Orleans at Ark.-Little Rock

Fla. Atlantic at South Alabama

Denver at UL-Monroe

UL-Lafayette at Arkansas State

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

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

West Coast

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                St. Mary’s

In Good Shape:                    Gonzaga

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 7-10 @ San Diego

Current Leaders

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

Gonzaga                                 8-1/19-6                    

San Diego                              7-1/14-11                   

Santa Clara                           4-4/12-11                  

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Gonzaga at San Francisco

Portland at San Diego

St. Mary’s at Loyola Marymount

Santa Clara at Pepperdine

MONDAY

St. Mary’s at Pepperdine

Santa Clara at Loyola Marymount

Gonzaga at San Diego

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

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

WAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Utah State, Nevada

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

Current Leaders

Utah State                             8-2/18-7                   

Boise State                            9-3/18-6                   

New Mexico St.                    9-3/15-12                  

Nevada                                   8-4/16-9                   

Hawaii                                   6-4/10-12                 

Key Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

Fresno State at Boise State

Nevada at Idaho

Utah State at Hawaii

MONDAY

Utah State at San Jose State

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

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

February 8, 2008

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

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Races

Through Games of Thursday, February 7, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

America East

Likely Bids:               1

Locks:                        None

In Good Shape:        None

On the Bubble:        None

Can Still Get There:            None

Tournament:                        March 7-9 @ Binghamton, NY

Current Leaders                                          Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlantic Coast Conference

Likely Bids:               6

Locks:                                    Duke, North Carolina

In Good Shape:        Clemson

On the Bubble:        NC State, Maryland

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

Tournament:                        March 13-16 @ Charlotte, NC

Current Leaders                                          This Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlantic Sun

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 5-8 @Nashville (Lipscomb)

Current Leaders                                          Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlantic 10

Likely Bids:                           3 or 4

Locks:                                                Xavier

In Good Shape:                    Rhode Island

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

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

Tournament:                        March 12-15 @ Atlantic City, NJ

Current Leaders                                          This Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big East

Likely Bids:               7 or 8

Locks:                                    Pittsburgh, Georgetown

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

On the Bubble:        Seton Hall, Syracuse, West Virginia

Can Still Get There Cincinnati, Villanova, Providence

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

Current Leaders                                          This Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Sky

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                   

Big South

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

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    UNC-Asheville

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big 10

Likely Bids:                           5

Locks:                                                Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan St.

In Good Shape:                    Purdue, Ohio State

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Minnesota

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Indianapolis, IN

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big 12

Likely Bids:                           5 or 6

Locks:                                                Kansas, Baylor, Texas

In Good Shape:                    Kansas State

On the Bubble:                    Texas A&M

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

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Kansas City

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big West

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Cal St. Northridge

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Anaheim, CA

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colonial Athletic

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conference USA

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Memphis

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

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

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Memphis

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horizon

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Butler

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

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

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Independents

Likely Bids:                           0

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    None

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

Ivy

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        All 8 teams

Tournament:                                    None, bid goes to regular season champion

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Metro Atlantic

Likely Bids:                           1 (very slim chance at 2)

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Marist, Siena, Rider

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-American

Likely Bids:                           2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    Kent State

On the Bubble:                    Ohio U

Can Still Get There:                        Akron, Western Michigan

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Cleveland

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

East

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

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

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

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

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

West

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

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

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

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

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

MEAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 10-15 @ Raleigh, NC

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missouri Valley

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Drake

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Illinois State

Can Still Get There:                        Southern Illinois, Creighton

Tournament:                                    March 6-9 @ St. Louis

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mountain West

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    UNLV, BYU

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

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Las Vegas

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northeast

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 6-9-12 @ Higher Seed

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ohio Valley

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Austin Peay

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pac-10

Likely Bids:                           6 or 7

Locks:                                                UCLA, Stanford, Arizona

In Good Shape:                    Southern Cal, Washington St.,

On the Bubble:                    Cal, Arizona St.

Can Still Get There:                        Oregon, Washington

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Los Angeles Staples Center

Current Leaders                                                                  This Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patriot

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 5-9-14 at Higher Seed                   

Current Leaders                                                                  Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southeastern

Likely Bids:                           6

Locks:                                                Tennessee,

In Good Shape:                    Florida, Mississippi St., Arkansas

On the Bubble:                    Kentucky, Vanderbilt

Can Still Get There:                        South Carolina, Ole Miss

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Atlanta

Current Leaders                                                                  This Weekend

East

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

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

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

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

West

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

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

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

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

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

Southern

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Davidson

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 7-10 @ Charleston

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

North

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

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

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

South

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

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

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

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

Southland

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

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

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

Current Leaders                                                                  Next Game(s)

East

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

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

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

West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SWAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 11-15 @ Birmingham, AL

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

Summit

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Oral Roberts

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunbelt

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    South Alabama

On the Bubble:                    Western Kentucky

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

East

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

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

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

West

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Coast

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    St. Mary’s, Gonzaga

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 7-10 @ San Diego

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

WAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Utah State, Nevada

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

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 1, 2008

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Races–February 1, 2008

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Races

Through Games of Thursday, January 31, 2008

It’s only the first of February, but this first week of the month promises to affect the conference races more than any other week of the season.  Let’s call this “moving week,” because in at least 10 leagues, there will be games between the contenders that should shed strong light on which teams will eventually win said leagues.  In the power conferences, the bubble will begin to burst for some teams, while the improving teams will ascend toward “In good shape” mode.

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

This week, if you count the number of likely bids, the minimum comes to 65.  We all know that only 65 teams will be chosen on Selection Sunday, so any amount of upsets in the conference tournaments is going to force a deserving team out of the cotillion.  Some of these teams will play themselves out of contention in the coming weeks, and by mid-February, the number of likely bids will drop to 55 to 60 teams.  That will then give you a better look at how many bubble teams are fighting for an approximate number of bids up for grabs.

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

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

America East

Likely Bids:               1

Locks:                        None

In Good Shape:        None

On the Bubble:        None

Can Still Get There:            None

Tournament:                        March 7-9 @ Binghamton, NY

Current Leaders                                          Next Game(s)

Maryland-Balt. Co.              6-2/14-7         Sat. @ Vermont

Vermont                                6-2/11-9         Sat. vs. UMBC

Binghamton                         6-2/10-10      Sat. vs. Hartford

Albany                                   4-4/9-11         Sat. vs. Stony Brook

Hartford                                4-4/10-13      Sat. @ Binghamton

New Hampshire                   4-4/7-13         Sat. vs. Boston U.

UMBC’s tough defense stifled Boston U and Albany, and now the Retrievers visit Vermont for a rematch of a game they won by 18 points at home.  If UMBC wins this one, they have a Saturday, February 9 home date with Binghamton and a chance to wrap up the A-East regular season title.  Still, the only thing that matters is the A-East Tournament, and Binghamton hosts it this year.  Until someone proves they can win at Binghamton, they are the favorite for the lone bid.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Likely Bids:               6

Locks:                                    Duke, North Carolina

In Good Shape:        Clemson

On the Bubble:        Boston College, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Wake Forest

Can Still Get There:            Florida State, Miami, N.C. State, Georgia Tech

Tournament:                        March 13-16 @ Charlotte, NC

Current Leaders                                          This Weekend

Duke                          6-0/18-1                    Sat. vs. Miami

North Carolina         5-1/20-1                     Sun. @ Florida St.

Virginia Tech                        4-3/13-8                    Sat. vs. Virginia

Clemson                    3-3/15-5                     Sat. vs. Boston College

Wake Forest             3-3/13-6                    Sun. @ North Carolina St.

Boston College         3-3/12-7                     Sat. @ Clemson

Maryland                   3-3/13-8                    Sat. @ Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech                        3-3/10-9                    Sat. vs. Maryland

Only Virginia is not in contention for an at-large bid.  All it takes for any of the number three through 11 teams to become worthy is a two-game ACC winning streak.  Virginia Tech won at Boston College and against Florida St to move to the top side of the bubble.  Boston College lost two in a row to move down to the lower side of the bubble.

Wednesday night, the big Tobacco Road rivalry renews as Duke visits North Carolina.

Atlantic Sun

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 5-8 @Nashville (Lipscomb)

Current Leaders                                          Next Game(s)

Jacksonville              7-1/11-9                      Sat. vs. Gardner-Webb

Belmont                    6-2/14-8                    Sat. vs. Fla-Gulf Coast

East Tennessee        5-2/11-9                     Fri. vs. Mercer, Sun. vs. Kennesaw St.

Stetson                      5-3/10-12                   Sat. @ Lipscomb

Mercer                       4-3/9-11                     Fri. @ ETSU, Sun. @ USC-Upstate

Gardner-Webb         4-4/10-12                  Sat. @ Jacksonville

Fla. Gulf Coast         4-4/8-14                    Sat. @ Belmont

Belmont picked up consecutive road wins against Mercer and Stetson, and the Bruins get to play six of their final eight games at home.  One of those six is a Thursday match against Jacksonville.  If Belmont wins that one, they are in the driver’s seat for the regular season championship.  With the tournament being played a couple miles up the road at Lipscomb, a three-peat is definitely possible.

Atlantic 10

Likely Bids:                           4

Locks:                                                Xavier

In Good Shape:                    Dayton, Rhode Island

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

Can Still Get There:                        Charlotte, Temple, Duquesne

Tournament:                        March 12-15 @ Atlantic City, NJ

Current Leaders                                          This Weekend

Xavier                                    5-1/17-4                     Sat. vs. LaSalle                    

St. Joseph’s               5-1/13-5                     Sat. vs. Fordham, Mon. vs. Villanova

Charlotte                   4-1/13-6                     Sat. vs. Richmond

Rhode Island                        4-2/18-3                    Sat. vs. Dayton

Temple                       3-2/10-9                    Sun. vs. G. Washington

Dayton                       3-3/15-4                     Sat. @ Rhode Island

Massachusetts          3-3/14-6                    Sat. @ St. Louis

Duquesne                  3-3/13-6                    Sat. @ St. Bonaventure

Richmond                 3-3/10-9                    Sat. @ Charlotte

LaSalle                       3-3/8-11                     Sat. @ Xavier

While Xavier is getting all the headlines, and the Musketeers are now a virtual lock for an at-large bid, it’s St. Joe’s that needs some publicity here.  It’s not enough to note that the Hawks have won nine out of 10 games.  What’s really impressive is that eight of those wins have come on the road!  The two co-leaders have yet to meet and still play each other twice.  I think if St. Joe’s wins one of those games, they will end the regular season as an at-large lock.

Charlotte’s status will become clearer in the next two weeks when they face Richmond, Dayton, and Xavier.  The 49ers are the one team that has knocked off St. Joe’s, plus they own wins at Clemson and against Wake Forest and Davidson.  If they can finish 10-6 in the league, they should be a strong at-large candidate.

This is the start of crunch time for Rhode Island, Dayton, U Mass, and Temple.  Two of these teams are going to emerge as the leading candidates for the remaining bids, while two are going to drop out of contention.  More than four teams may be deserving by mid-March, but I cannot see the A-10 getting more than four in the Dance.

Big East

Likely Bids:               7 or 8

Locks:                                    Pittsburgh, Georgetown

In Good Shape:        Connecticut, Marquette, Notre Dame

On the Bubble:        Louisville, Seton Hall, Syracuse, West Virginia

Can Still Get There Cincinnati, DePaul, Villanova, Providence

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

Current Leaders                                          This Weekend

Georgetown              7-1/17-2                     Sat. vs. Seton Hall

Notre Dame              5-2/15-4                     Sat. vs. DePaul

Pittsburgh                 5-3/17-4                     Sat. @ Connecticut

Marquette                 5-3/15-4                     Sat. @ Cincinnati

Connecticut              5-3/15-5                     Sat. vs. Pittsburgh

Seton Hall                 5-3/15-6                     Sat. @ Georgetown

Louisville                  5-3/15-6                     Sat. vs. Rutgers

Syracuse                    5-4/15-7                     Sat. @ Villanova

Cincinnati                 5-4/10-11                   Sat. vs. Marquette

West Virginia           4-4/15-6                     Sat. @ Providence

DePaul                       4-4/9-11                     Sat. @ Notre Dame

This league has quality all the way down to number 14 Rutgers, who won at Pittsburgh.  Speaking of the Panthers, their game at Connecticut is Saturday’s headline contest.

Seton Hall has put together five straight wins to move into bubbleville.  If the Pirates win a sixth consecutive game, it will move them into the top 25 and place them in the “In Good Shape” field.  Of course, they have to play at Georgetown Saturday to pick up that win.

Louisville, Syracuse, and West Virginia have tough games this weekend, and they need to win them to stay in the at-large race.  Cincinnati and DePaul are hanging around and would have to win 10 or more conference games to get in the discussion.

Notre Dame and Marquette are both moving close to rising up to lock status. 

Big Sky

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Weber St.                              6-2/11-9                     Sat. @ Idaho St.

Portland St.                          5-2/12-8                    Sat. vs. Montana St.

Northern Arizona                6-3/14-8                    off until Feb. 7

Montana St.                          5-3/13-8                    Sat. @ Portland St.

Idaho St.                                5-3/8-13                    Sat. vs. Weber St.

By next Friday morning, we will know a lot more about this race.  Montana State is the current hot team, having won four consecutive games (two on the road).  The Bobcats play at Portland State and Montana in the coming week, and if they win them both, they just might keep winning until the own the regular season title.  However, I don’t see them winning at Portland St.

Northern Arizona stubbed its toe after beating Weber State last week; The Lumberjacks dropped back-to-back road games against Idaho State and Northern Colorado.  Seven games remain on NAU’s regular season schedule, and five of them are in Flagstaff.  I look for the Lumberjacks to recover and take the regular season title, which will allow them to host the Big Sky Tournament.

                                   

Big South

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

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        UNC-Asheville, Winthrop

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

UNC-Asheville                     6-0/17-4                    Sat. vs. Winthrop

Winthrop                              5-1/14-7                     Sat. @ UNC-Asheville

Liberty                                   4-2/12-9                    Sat. @ Radford

High Point                            3-3/11-9                     Sat. vs. VMI

Saturday is the most important day in the Big South regular season.  Winthrop visits UNC-Asheville with a chance to regain supremacy.  The Bulldogs and the Southern Conference’s Davidson give the State of North Carolina two of the best mid-major teams in the nation.  UNCA is an extremely tough match-up for any team with giant 7-7 Kenny George and go-to guy Bryan Smithson.  Out of the league, UNCA looked like they belong in close losses to Tennessee and North Carolina, and they took out South Carolina in Columbia.

Winthrop is still the perennial dominant team in the Big South, even without Coach Gregg Marshall.  Don’t discount their chances to win the big game Saturday.

If any other team emerges as the automatic qualifier, it will be a surprise.  UNCA could possibly receive at-large consideration if they sported a 27-5 or 26-6 record, but I highly doubt it would happen.

Big 10

Likely Bids:                           4 or 5

Locks:                                                Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan St.

In Good Shape:                    Purdue, Ohio State

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Minnesota

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Indianapolis, IN

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Michigan State                     7-1/19-2                     Sat. @ Penn State               

Wisconsin                             7-1/17-3                     Sun. @ Minnesota

Purdue                                   7-1/16-5                     Sat. @ Illinois

Indiana                                  6-1/17-3                     Sun. vs. Northwestern

Ohio State                             6-2/15-6                     Sat. @ Iowa

Minnesota                             3-4/13-6                    Sun. vs. Wisconsin

I am dating myself here, but what I see when I look at this year’s Big 10 race is the 1967 American League Pennant race.  1967 was a year where none of the junior circuit’s 10 teams were particularly strong.  It led to one of the most fantastic chases that wasn’t decided until the final day of the season.

Michigan State is the 1967 White Sox.  They have excellent pitching (defense and rebounding) and score just enough to win ugly. 

Wisconsin is the Minnesota Twins.  They have to the World Series recently, and they have the talent to do so again, but they just seem to be missing that killer instinct (take last night’s snoozer over Indiana, where they tried to blow a big lead).

Purdue is the Detroit Tigers.  They have a couple of guys who can play with anybody, but they are still weak in a few areas and ultimately will peak next year.

Indiana is the Boston Red Sox.  They have the league’s true superstar Triple Crown winner, and I expect them to take the league crown at the end.

Ohio State is the California Angels.  They have a bunch of young guys winning games, but I expect them to drop enough contests in February to fall out of contention before the final weekend (but, they should still be in good shape for an at-large bid if the league gets five invitations).

Minnesota is the Baltimore Orioles.  Their best days are a couple years down the road.  For now, they will take their lumps when they play the contenders, and they will enjoy their games against the Senators, Indians, and Athletics (Northwestern, Penn State, Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa).

Big 12

Likely Bids:                           5 or 6

Locks:                                                Kansas, Baylor, Texas

In Good Shape:                    Kansas State

On the Bubble:                    Oklahoma, Texas A&M

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

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Kansas City

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Kansas State                         5-0/15-4                     Sat. @ Missouri

Kansas                                   5-1/20-1                     Sat. @ Colorado

Baylor                                                4-1/16-3                     Sat. @ Texas

Texas                                      3-2/16-4                    Sat. vs. Baylor

Oklahoma                             3-2/15-5                     Sat. @ Texas A&M

Texas A&M                            3-3/17-4                     Sat. vs. Oklahoma

Iowa State                             3-3/13-8                    Sat. @ Nebraska

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!  Just who is number one in the league today?  Kansas State hasn’t been on top of the league since it was the Big Eight Conference.  Something tells me their sole possession of the top spot could last just one game.  Missouri is waiting in ambush in Columbia, and KSU may not be ready to play this game after knocking off Kansas.  All this hinges on Tiger Coach Mike Anderson reinstating the four healthy players who were suspended for their game against Nebraska.

The more I look at this league, the more I think it might be a little overrated.  If I had to bet on it, I would bet against any Big 12 team (including Kansas) making the Final Four this year, and I wouldn’t want to risk money predicting more than two making the Sweet 16.

Big West

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Cal St. Northridge

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Anaheim, CA

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Cal St. Northridge               7-0/15-4                     Sat. vs. Cal St Fullerton

Cal St. Fullerton                  6-2/13-6                    Sat. @ Cal St Northridge

Pacific                                                5-2/14-6                     Sat. @ UC Davis

UC-Santa Barbara               5-3/16-5                     off until Feb. 7

When you think of Northridge, California, earthquakes come to mind.  This year, the 8.0 on the Richter scale is due to all the jumping up and down in The Matadome.  The Matadors have combine good defense, smart offense, and great depth into the complete package for a Big West team.  Their leading scorer, Deon Tresvant, and leading rebounder, Tremaine Townsend, come off the bench!

Northridge hosts Fullerton Saturday.  A Matador win gives them a three-game lead in the loss column, and that would just about wrap up the regular season title.  However, because they don’t have a great non-conference resume, Northridge will still have to win the Big West Tournament to make it to the Dance.

UCSB has played themselves out of the regular season title race and out of at-large contention. 

Pacific gets Northridge at home Thursday night.  They may be the one team standing in the Matadors’ way of running the table.  For that game to many anything, the Tigers have to take care of business at UC-Davis.

Colonial Athletic

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Virginia Commonwealth   8-2/15-5                     Sat. vs. Towson

George Mason                      7-3/15-6                     Sat. vs. James Madison

UNC-Wilmington                7-3/15-8                     Sat. @ Wm. & Mary

William & Mary                   7-3/11-9                     Sat. vs. UNCW

Delaware                               6-4/9-11                     Sat. @ Hofstra

Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason both hold tiny at-large chances.  If either team wins the regular season championship, that team will continue to stay on the bubble, while the other team will have to earn the automatic bid to have any chance.  GMU beat VCU Tuesday night in their only meeting of the regular season.

UNCW has put together a nice five-game winning streak which includes a victory over George Mason.  They must still play at VCU, so chances are they will come up a bit short.

Conference USA

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Memphis

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Houston, UAB, Central Florida

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Memphis

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Memphis                               6-0/20-0                   Sat. vs. UTEP

Houston                                4-1/15-4                     Sat. @ UCF

UAB                                        4-1/14-6                     Sat. vs. Marshall

Tulane                                   4-2/14-6                    Sat. @ Rice

UTEP                                      4-2/13-6                    Sat. @ Memphis

Central Florida                    4-2/11-9                     Sat. vs. Houston

Two down and two to go.  Memphis knocked off Gonzaga and Houston and will face UAB and Tennessee in a couple of weeks.  They should be a number one seed in one of the four regions. 

If the rest of the league beats up on themselves, it’s likely that nobody else will get an at-large bid.  With the C-USA Tournament in Memphis, it’s even more unlikely that someone will upset the Tigers for automatic admittance.  

Horizon

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Butler

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

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

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Butler                                                8-2/19-2                    Tue. @ Valpo

Cleveland St.                         7-3/14-8                    Sat. @ Loyola (Chi.)

UW-Milwaukee                    7-4/14-9                     Sat. @ Wright St.

Wright St.                             6-4/13-6                    Sat. vs. UW-Milw.

Valparaiso                             5-4/14-7                     Tue. Vs. Butler

UW-Green Bay                     5-5/11-9                     Sat. @ Detroit

Illinois-Chicago                   5-5/11-10                   Sat. vs. Youngstown

Cleveland State must have read from a past Cleveland Indians script-the one from 1966, where the Tribe shot out of the gate with 10 straight wins en route to a 26-10 start and 4 ½ game lead before struggling to finish the season 81-81.  After starting Horizon play at 7-0, including wins over Butler and Valparaiso, CSU has dropped three in a row on the road to fall behind Butler.

Butler has a big game Tuesday night at Valparaiso.  A win there could end the Horizon race.  Win or lose, the Bulldogs are in good shape for earning a bid to the Field of 65.  I’d bet against any team beating Butler at Hinkle Field house in the Horizon League Tournament.

Independents

Likely Bids:                           0

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    None

Texas Pan American is 14-11 and the only independent above .500. Head coach Tom Schuberth is a pepper pot guy.  As a player at Mississippi State in the 1970’s, he once tried to pick a fight against 6-7 muscle man Charles Davis of Vanderbilt at Vandy’s Memorial Gym.  Before transferring to Miss. St., he played on the 1977 Final Four team at UNLV.  Keep an eye on Schuberth; he could be on his way to bigger and better things, but his team will be left out of the NIT picture this year. 

Ivy

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        All 8 teams

Tournament:                                    None, bid goes to regular season champion

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Cornell                                   2-0/10-5                    Fri. @ Brown, Sat. @ Yale

Brown                                                1-1/9-7                       Fri. vs. Cornell, Sat. vs. Columbia

Dartmouth                           1-1/8-8                       Fri. @ Princeton, Sat. @ Penn

Yale                                        1-1/7-9                       Fri. vs. Columbia, Sat. vs. Yale

Harvard                                 1-1/6-12                     Fri. @ Penn, Sat. @ Princeton

Penn and Princeton finally begin conference play tonight (Friday).  Neither team appears to be the behemoth they used to be, so this league is wide open.  Cornell leads because they swept Columbia last weekend, but they could easily be 2-2 by Saturday night.  It wouldn’t surprise me if two or three teams finished tied for first with 10-4 records this year.

Metro Atlantic

Likely Bids:                           1 (very slim chance at 2)

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Marist, Siena, Rider

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Rider                                      9-2/16-6                    Sat. @ Siena

Siena                                      8-2/13-7                    Sat vs. Rider

Marist                                                8-3/14-8                    Mon. @ Siena

Niagara                                  7-3/13-6                     Fri. vs. Loyola, Sun. Vs. Fairfield

Loyola (Md.)                         7-3/12-10                   Fri. @ Niagara, Sun @ Canisius

With eight consecutive wins including a road victory against Marist, Rider has leapfrogged to the top of the MAAC.  If they make in nine in a row, it could be enough to put them in the driver’s seat.  Saturday’s Rider-Siena game will go a long way in deciding the regular season champ.  If Rider wins, they would more than likely have to repeat the feat in five weeks in the MAAC Tournament.

Niagara defeated Rider at the beginning of conference play, and they still must travel to Rider.  If they could sweep the series, they could end up at the top of the league.  Of course, winning the MAAC regular season crown only guarantees a spot in the NIT.

Mid-American

Likely Bids:                           2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    Kent State

On the Bubble:                    Ohio U

Can Still Get There:                        Akron

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Cleveland

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

East

Kent State                             6-1/17-4                     Sat. @ Toledo

Ohio U                                   5-2/14-6                     Sat. @ Northern Ill.

Akron                                     5-2/15-5                     Sat. vs. E. Michigan

Bowling Green                     5-2/10-9                    Sat. @ Western Mich.

West

Western Michigan               5-2/11-9                     Sat. vs. Bowling Green

All of the strength is in the East Division.  The winner of the East should be on the bubble regardless of which team it is.  If it’s Kent State, they could actually be close to a lock since they would probably have 25 wins.

Ohio dominated Kent State when they played in Athens.  The Bobcats must still travel to Kent.

Western Michigan can give the West some respect by taking care of business against Bowling Green.

MEAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 10-15 @ Raleigh, NC

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Morgan St.                            6-1/11-8                     Sat. vs. UMES, Mon. vs. Del St.

Hampton                               5-1/11-7                      Sat. @ Norf., Mon @ NC A&T

Norfolk St.                            5-1/9-9                       Sat. vs. Hamp., Mon. vs. Howard

North Carolina A&T                        4-2/10-9                    Sat. vs. Howard, Mon. vs. Hamp.

Delaware St.                         4-2/7-11                     Sat @ Coppin, Mon. @ Morgan St

Florida A&M                         4-3/8-11                     Sat. vs. W-S, Mon. vs. SCSU

This is becoming an interesting race, but I still think Hampton is the class of the league.  Morgan State came to town and pulled off the big win to vault into first place, so you cannot discount MSU.

Norfolk State may pass Hampton in the standings, as they get Hampton and Howard at home, while Hampton has to play at North Carolina A&T after playing at Norfolk.

History shows that a middle of the pack team will emerge with a hot streak in the MEAC Tournament more often than the average league. 

Missouri Valley

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Drake

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Illinois State

Can Still Get There:                        Southern Illinois, Creighton

Tournament:                                    March 6-9 @ St. Louis

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Drake                                     10-0/19-1                   Sat. @ Indiana St.

Illinois St.                             7-3/15-6                     Sat. @ Missouri St.

Southern Illinois                 6-4/11-10                   Sat. @ N. Iowa

Creighton                              5-5/14-6                     Sat. vs. Wichita St.

Northern Iowa                     5-5/13-8                     Sat. vs. Southern Ill.

Bradley                                  5-5/12-10                   Sat. @ Evansville

Indiana St.                            5-5/10-10                   Sat. vs. Drake

Drake swept Creighton, and that basically ended the conference race for the year.  Well, there is still a little shadow of doubt.  If Illinois State can win on the road tomorrow (Saturday), they host Drake Tuesday Night with a chance to pull within two games.  Should Drake have already fallen at Indiana State, then it could bring Redbirds to within one game of the lead.  The more likely scenario is that Drake will win at Indiana State to move to 11-0 and then edge Illinois State to take a four-game conference lead with six games to go.

Southern Illinois is getting ready for a February sprint.  I expect the Salukis to go on a tear and finish in second place at 12-6 or 13-5 in the league.  They are a headache for any team to play, and I wouldn’t count them out in St. Louis.

Creighton is in trouble; the Blue Jays have just about forced themselves to win the Conference Tournament to go dancing.  They play three consecutive home games, including a tilt against SIU, and they must win them all to get back on the bubble.

Mountain West

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    UNLV, BYU

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

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Las Vegas

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

UNLV                                     5-1/15-4                     Sat. vs. New Mexico

Brigham Young                   5-1/16-5                     Sat. @ Wyoming

San Diego St.                                    5-2/14-6                     Off until Feb. 6

New Mexico                          3-3/16-5                     Sat. @ UNLV

T C U                                      3-3/10-8                    Sat. vs. Air Force

Air Force                               3-3/9-8                      Sat. @ TCU

San Diego State fell to the two teams now ahead of them in the standings.  The loss to UNLV was at home, and now the Running Rebels and Cougars are the teams du jour.  UNLV has the easier schedule between now and February 16 when they play at BYU.  I expect them to have at least a one game MWC lead by the time they head to Provo.

New Mexico is capable of getting into the mix.  They still must play UNLV twice and host BYU later in the month.  I think they will come up short this year.

Northeast

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 6-9-12 @ Higher Seed

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Wagner                                  8-1/15-5                     Sat. @ C. Conn. St.

Sacred Heart                         9-2/12-10                  Sat. @ St. Francis, NY

Robert Morris                      7-2/16-6                     Sat. @ Mt. St. Mary’s

Quinnipiac                            7-2/11-9                     Sat. vs. FDU

Mt. St. Mary’s                       6-4/10-11                   Sat vs. Robert Morris

Since the top three teams play on the road this weekend, this race could really become a logjam if the home teams hold serve.  Five of Wagner’s next seven games are on the road.  Sacred Heart must play at Wagner and Quinnipiac in February.  Quinnipiac and Robert Morris have five road games in the next month.    Robert Morris has the most favorable remaining schedule, but they have to make up 2 ½ games in the standings.  This could become a jumbled finish, and since the higher-seeded team hosts every conference tournament game, I expect the next few weeks to become fierce in this league.

Ohio Valley

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Austin Peay

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Austin Peay                          10-3/14-9                  Sat. vs. Tenn. St.

Murray St.                             9-4/13-8                    Sat. vs. Jacksonville St.

Morehead St.                                    8-5/10-10                  Sat. Kentucky Christian

Eastern Kentucky                7-5/10-10                   Sat. @ Tennessee Tech

S.E. Missouri                                    7-6/12-11                   Sat. UT-Martin

Tennessee State                   7-6/10-12                   Sat. @ APSU

Samford                                 7-7/10-12                   Sat. vs. E. Illinois

Tennessee Tech                   7-7/10-14                   Sat vs. EKU

Austin Peay tasted defeat at Samford and SEMO to come back to the pack, but the Governors reclaimed sole possession of first place Thursday night by nipping Murray State in overtime.  APSU finishes the regular season with three tough road games, so they could drop out of first if they don’t separate themselves from their nearest contenders.

Four of Murray State’s next six games will be road contests.  The Racers had won six in a row before losing to Peay.

Morehead has won six of seven, and the Eagles play non-Division 1 Kentucky Christian this weekend.  That will get them over .500 for the season.  They have the most favorable schedule of the contenders to make a late run at the Govs.

As for EKU, SEMO, TSU, Samford, and TTU, these five will be in a mad dash to finish in the upper division and host a first round game in the OVC Tournament.  SEMO is the one I’d look out for as a breakthrough team.

Pac-10

Likely Bids:                           6

Locks:                                                UCLA, Washington St., Arizona, Stanford

In Good Shape:                    Southern Cal, Arizona St.

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Oregon, Washington, California

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Los Angeles Staples Center

Current Leaders                                                                  This Weekend

U C L A                                  7-1/19-2                                 Sat. vs. Arizona

Stanford                                6-2/17-3                                 Sat. @ Wash. St.

Washington St.                    5-3/17-3                                 Sat. vs. Stanford

Arizona                                  5-3/15-6                                 Sat @ UCLA

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

Southern Cal                                    4-4/13-7                                 Sat. vs. Arizona St.

California                              3-5/12-7                                 Sat. @ Washington

Oregon                                   3-5/12-8                                Sat. vs. Oregon St.

Washington                          3-5/12-9                                 Sat. vs. Cal

Oregon, Washington, and California have been moved from the bubble to “Can Still Get There” status.  Even in a tough conference like the Pac-10, I think any team expecting to get an at-large bid will have to finish at least 9-9 in league play.

UCLA is starting to look like the team to beat for the national title.  The Bruins finally have enough offense to defeat the top-rated teams.  What they did to Arizona State Thursday night is reminiscent of the good ole days in Westwood.  They are out-rebounding opponents by 10.4 per game to go along with a better than +2 turnover rating.

Stanford can go a long way toward wrapping up the number two spot by winning at Washington State tomorrow.  The Cardinal have defeated Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, and Washington to move to 6-2.

Washington State is starting to falter somewhat.  The Cougars have to play with the same top intensity for at least 35 minutes to win games in the Pac-10.  They just don’t have enough offensive firepower to dominate in the league.  Most of the top contenders are the type of team that can score 10 points in two minutes or 20 points in five minutes.  WSU cannot do that, and it takes just one opposition run to doom them to defeat.

Arizona is hot on Stanford’s heels for second best in the Pac-10.  Like the Cardinal, the Wildcats have reeled off four consecutive league wins against California, Washington St., Washington, and Southern Cal.  If they should somehow knock off UCLA at Pauley Pavilion tomorrow…

Patriot

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 5-9-14 at Higher Seed                   

Current Leaders                                                                  Next Game(s)

Lafayette                               5-1/14-7                                 Sat. vs. American

Lehigh                                   4-2/11-9                                 Sat. @ Holy Cross

Bucknell                                4-2/9-11                                 Sun. vs. Army

American                              3-3/11-10                               Sat. @ Lafayette

Navy                                       3-3/10-11                               Sat. vs. Colgate

American fell twice at home to drop out of contention.  Meanwhile, Lehigh won four in a row, including the big one against rival Lafayette.  Lafayette recovered from the loss and blew away Army.

Bucknell is still tied with Lehigh, but the Bison lost at home to the Hawks.  This looks like a two-horse race between the Pennsylvanian rivals.  Give a slight edge to the Leopards.

Southeastern

Likely Bids:                           6

Locks:                                                Tennessee, Florida

In Good Shape:                    Mississippi St., Ole Miss

On the Bubble:                    Arkansas, Kentucky

Can Still Get There:                        Vanderbilt, Georgia

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Atlanta

Current Leaders                                                                  This Weekend

East

Tennessee                             5-1/18-2                                 Sat. @ Mississippi St.

Florida                                   5-1/18-3                                 Sat. @ Arkansas

Kentucky                               3-2/9-9                                  Sat. @ Georgia

West

Mississippi St.                       5-1/14-6                                 Sat. vs. Tennessee

Arkansas                               4-2/15-5                                 Sat. vs. Florida

Ole Miss                                3-3/16-3                                Sat. vs. South Carolina

Tennessee faces the two big teams back-to-back in the next four days.  They play at Mississippi State Saturday and host Florida Tuesday night.  I expect them to do no worse than split those games.

Florida could win the regular season title with a group of players who will be around for quite awhile.  The Gators could even contend for a third straight Final Four bid.

Mississippi State hit a bump in the road Wednesday night at Arkansas, and now they face a critical game with the Vols.  If the Bulldogs lose tomorrow, Arkansas and Ole Miss are right back in the race.

Ole Miss took care of business at home against Vanderbilt Wednesday night to stay among the contenders, and now they get South Carolina at the Tad Pad.  The Rebels match up well against the Gamecocks and should win by double digits.

Kentucky can prove they belong back in the NCAA Tournament with a win at Georgia tomorrow.  Four of the Wildcats’ next five games are on the road, but they could win all five games!  The schedule is perfect for Billy G and his troops.  After playing at Georgia tomorrow, the Wildcats go to Auburn, come home for Alabama, and then head back on the road to Vanderbilt and LSU.  None of these road games are impossible, and I expect UK to go 3-2 at the worst in this five game stretch.  I’m thinking the Big Blue will finish 10-6 or better in league play, and that will get them back in the Big Dance.

Georgia is 2-3 in the conference and Auburn, South Carolina,  and Vanderbilt are all 2-4 in league play.  I don’t see any of this group finishing with a flurry to get into the mix.  They all have serious weaknesses that the rest of the league can exploit, and I expect the entire quartet to finish under .500 in the SEC.

Southern

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Davidson

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 7-10 @ Charleston

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

North

Chattanooga                         9-2/14-7                     Sat. vs. Davidson

Appalachian St.                    8-3/13-7                    Sat. @ W. Carolina

UNC-Greensboro                 6-3/12-6                    Sat. vs. Elon, Mon. @ GSU

South

Davidson                               12-0/14-6                  Sat. @ Chattanooga

Georgia Southern                7-5/14-8                     Mon. vs. UNCG

Could Davidson go 20-0 in SoCon play?  If they win at Chattanooga tomorrow, it’s highly possible that they can.  That would make them 20-6 plus or minus what they do against their Bracket Buster opponent.  Because they couldn’t knock off one of the big teams they played out of conference, they still may be forced to run the table if they are to be considered a lock. 

Chattanooga isn’t as talented as the Wildcats, but they are more than capable of beating them at home.  Two weeks ago, the Mocs lost by 27 at Davidson, so the Wildcats have to be considered an 8 to 10-point favorite tomorrow.

Southland

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

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

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

Current Leaders                                                                  Next Game(s)

East

Lamar                                                4-1/10-8                                Sat. vs. McNeese

SE Louisiana                                    4-2/12-7                                 Sat. vs. NW St.

Northwestern St.                 4-3/8-13                                Sat. @ SE La.

West

Sam Houston                       4-2/16-3                                Sat. @ Texas St.

Stephen F. Austin                4-2/16-3                                Sat. @ UT-A

UT-Arlington                                   4-3/13-5                                 Sat. vs. SF Austin

Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin are both getting closer to moving up to bubble status.  If another team wins the automatic bid, at least one of these two deserving squads and possible both will be left out.

Lamar hasn’t gotten much respect this year, and I am not about to give them much.  Their best non-conference win came against lowly Rice.

Southeast Louisiana must still play Lamar twice.  They could overtake the Cardinals.

Texas-Arlington is number three in the West, and they just might be number three in the entire league.  The Mavericks get a chance to move up in the standings when they host SFA Saturday.

SWAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 11-15 @ Birmingham, AL

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Alabama St.                          6-1/7-7                       Sat. vs. Tx Sou., Mon. vs. PVAM

Arkansas Pine Bluff                        5-2/7-9                       Sat. vs. Grambling, Mon. Vs. JSU

Southern                               5-3/6-11                     Sat. vs. Alcorn St.

Miss. Valley                          4-3/4-12                    Sat. vs. JSU, Mon. vs. Grambling

Jackson St.                            4-3/6-14                    Sat. @ MVSU. Mon. @ Ark-PB

The top two teams play two home games in the weekend-Monday series.  I expect both to go 2-0 to distance themselves from the pack.  Alabama State is the only team in the SWAC that I believe can win the play-in game in the NCAA Tournament.

Summit

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Oral Roberts

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Oral Roberts                         9-0/14-5                    Sat. vs. Centenary

IUPUI                                     8-2/16-5                    Sat. vs. UMKC

Oakland                                 6-4/11-10                   Sat. vs. S. Dakota St.

N. Dakota St.            (*)                   5-5/11-10                   Sat. @ IUPUFW

Western Ill.                           5-5/10-11                   Sat. vs. S. Utah

(*) Not eligible for Summit League Title

Oral Roberts must still travel to Indianapolis to play IUPUI.  I think ORU will lose that game.  The Golden Eagles have a two-game cushion in the loss column, so they could lose that one and still win the regular season Summit title.

IUPUI has the talent to finish 15-3 in the league.  They could easily have 23 or 24 wins on Selection Sunday.  Could that be enough for an at-large bid if they fall to ORU in the Tournament Championship Game?  Probably not.  If IUPUI beats ORU for the title, the chances are marginally better for getting two bids.

Sunbelt

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    South Alabama

On the Bubble:                    Western Kentucky

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

East

South Alabama                    9-1/17-4                     Sat. @ UL-Monroe

Western Kentucky              9-1/17-5                     Sat. vs. Denver

Middle Tennessee               6-4/9-11                     Mon. @ Ark. St.

West

Arkansas-Little Rock          6-4/14-7                     Thu. @ Middle Tenn.

Denver                                   5-4/9-11                     Sat. @ WKU

Louisiana Lafayette                        5-5/9-12                     Wed. vs. FIU

Of all the mid-major conferences with a possible second bid on the line, this one may be the most deserving.  Both USA and WKU deserve to go to the Big Dance.  I’m guessing unless they both finish 16-2 in league play and advance to the Conference Tournament Championship Game, only one team will get an invitation. 

I think the Hilltoppers can run the table or lose only one more time and take the regular season title.  Since USA hosts the conference tournament, I think they are better than odds-on to win the automatic bid.

UALR leads the West, but they are much weaker than the two monsters in the East.  They lost at home to USA, and they were brutally beaten at Western.

West Coast

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    St. Mary’s, Gonzaga

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 7-10 @ San Diego

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Gonzaga                                 5-0/16-5                     Sat. @ S Clara, Mon. @ St. Mary’s

St. Mary’s                              4-1/17-3                     Sat. vs. Port., Mon. vs. Gonzaga

San Diego                              4-1/11-11                    Sat. @ LMU, Mon. @ Pepperdine

Santa Clara                           3-2/11-9                     Sat. vs. Gonz., Mon. vs. Portland

San Diego sent St. Mary’s back to the San Francisco Bay with their first conference loss.  The win moves the Toreros into the penthouse along with the Gaels and Gonzaga, who still has to play at San Diego.

Santa Clara is the only other team in the mix, as the remaining four teams are as comparatively weak as the bottom four teams in the Big 10.  What this means is that all four upper division teams should fatten up on the bottom four teams.  It should give Gonzaga and St. Mary’s an excellent opportunity to both get bids should one beat the other in the league tournament finals.

Gonzaga and St. Mary’s face off for the first time Monday night in Moraga.

WAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Utah State, Nevada

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

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Utah State                             5-1/15-6                     Sat. vs. Nevada

Boise State                            6-2/15-5                     Sat. vs. Idaho

Nevada                                   5-2/13-7                     Sat. @ Utah St.

New Mexico St.                    5-3/11-12                   Sat. @ S J State

Hawaii                                   5-3/9-11                     Sat. vs. La. Tech

Utah State should take care of Nevada Saturday, while Boise handles in-state rival Idaho.  That would give the top two teams a little padding.  The Aggies don’t play at Boise until March 6, so this race should continue to be undecided until the very end. 

New Mexico State hosts the league tournament, and the Aggies beat Utah State 100-70 in Las Cruces last week.  They could easily win three home games in three days to gain the automatic and only bid.

January 25, 2008

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Races–Janury 25, 2008

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Races

Through Games of Thursday, January 24, 2008

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

This week, if you count the number of likely bids, the minimum comes to 68.  We all know that only 65 teams will be chosen on Selection Sunday, but the term likely is not to taken as definite.  Some of these teams will play themselves out of contention in the coming weeks, and by mid-February, the number or likely bids will drop to 55 to 60 teams.  That will then give you a better look at how many bubble teams are fighting for an approximate number of bids up for grabs.

After the Bracket Buster on February 22 and 23, many 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 to all: Many of you reading this live in areas where it is quite cold, especially the last week or so.  Some of you live in areas where there are feral mammals that have no place to go for warmth.  You may be the one person who can save an animal from freezing to death. We have taken some cardboard boxes and insulated them, placing a plastic cup of water inside as well,  and placed them in our woods 200 feet away from our house so as not to give these animals the notion that they should come to the house.   It doesn’t take much to make a difference.  In our case, the foxes living on our property have returned the favor by catching all the field mice before they can set up residence in our house.

America East

Likely Bids:               1

Locks:                        None

In Good Shape:        None

On the Bubble:        None

Can Still Get There:            None

Tournament:                        March 7-9 @ Binghamton, NY

Current Leaders                                          Next Game(s)

Maryland-Baltimore Co.    5-2/13-7         Jan. 30 vs. Albany

Binghamton                         5-2/9-10        Jan. 27 at Maine

Vermont                                4-2/9-9          Jan. 25 at Boston U, Jan. 30 at Hartford

Hartford                                4-2/10-11       Jan. 27 at UNH, Jan. 30 vs. Vermont

Albany                                   4-3/9-10        Jan. 30 at UMBC

Vermont’s game tonight (1/25) at Boston U will be nationally televised on ESPN-U

As of today, UMBC is well ahead of its rivals in the latest RPI ratings

Atlantic Coast Conference

Likely Bids:               6

Locks:                                    Duke, North Carolina

In Good Shape:        Clemson

On the Bubble:        Boston College, Virginia Tech, Maryland

Can Still Get There:            Florida State, Wake Forest, Miami, N.C. State

Tournament:                        March 13-16 @ Charlotte, NC

Current Leaders                                          This Weekend

Duke                                      4-0/16-1         Sunday: at Maryland

North Carolina                     4-1/19-1         off until Jan. 31

Boston College                     3-1/12-5         Saturday: vs. Virginia Tech

Clemson                                3-2/15-4         Sunday: at Miami

Maryland                               2-2/12-7         Sunday: vs. Duke

Virginia Tech                                    2-3/11-8         Saturday: vs. Boston College

Wake Forest                                     2-3/12-6        off until Tuesday

Florida State                         2-3/13-7         Saturday: vs. N.C. State

Georgia Tech                                    2-3/9-9          Sunday: at Virginia

Miami                                                1-3/14-4         Sunday vs. Clemson

North Carolina State          1-3/12-6         Saturday at Florida State

Virginia                                 1-3/11-6         Sunday: vs. Georgia Tech

All 12 teams could conceivably end up in either the NCAA or NIT this year in what is currently the strongest conference.  Duke and UNC both have Final Four potential, but neither is a lock to win the ACC Tournament.  There should be a logjam between five or six teams fighting it out for probably four more bids.  A seventh bid is possible if the teams at the bottom fall off the pace, fattening the records of the middle of the pack teams.

Atlantic Sun

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 5-8 @Nashville (Lipscomb)

Current Leaders                                          Next Game(s)

Jacksonville              5-0/9-8                      1/25 vs. E. Tennessee

Belmont                    4-2/12-8                    1/26 at Mercer

Mercer                       4-2/9-10                    1/26 vs. Belmont

Stetson                      4-2/9-11                     1/26 at Campbell

E. Tennessee             3-2/9-9                      1/25 at Jacksonville

Campbell                   3-3/8-10                    1/26 vs. Stetson

This is purely a one-bid league.  Jacksonville has never won the A-Sun, while Belmont has taken home the last two titles.  The two teams meet February 7 at Belmont.

Stetson, Mercer, and East Tennessee all have the talent to win both the regular season and conference tournament titles, so this should continue to be an interesting race.

Friday’s game between Jacksonville and East Tennessee will be televised on CSS.

All six front-runners play against another front-runner this weekend, so there should be some movement in the standings.

Atlantic 10

Likely Bids:                           4

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    Dayton, Xavier, U Mass

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

Can Still Get There:                        Charlotte, Temple, Duquesne

Tournament:                        March 12-15 @ Atlantic City, NJ

Current Leaders                                          This Weekend

Xavier                                    4-1/16-4                     Sun. @ U Mass [big game!]

St. Joe’s                     3-1/11-5                      Sat. @ Temple

Charlotte                   3-1/12-6                     Sat. vs. Fordham

Temple                       2-1/9-8                      Sat. vs. St. Joe’s

Dayton                       2-2/14-3                    Sat. @ Richmond

Rhode Island                        2-2/16-3                    Sat. @ St. Bonaventure

U Mass.                      2-2/13-5                     Sun vs. Xavier [big game!]

Duquesne                  2-2/12-5                     Sat. vs. Geo. Washington

Richmond                 2-2/9-8                      Sat. vs. Dayton

Fordham                   2-2/8-8                      Sat. @ Charlotte

LaSalle                       2-2/7-10                    Sat. vs. St. Louis

This conference may be a tad stronger than the Missouri Valley Conference at the moment with four teams among the top 25 in the RPI ratings and four more in the top 100.  Xavier and U Mass especially could be tough match-ups in the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Xavier beat Dayton last night to set up a big game Sunday at U. Mass.  I expect Travis Ford to have his squad ready and win the game.  If Temple beats St. Joe’s, as I also expect, this race will become even tighter.

Big East

Likely Bids:               7 or 8

Locks:                                    Pittsburgh, Georgetown

In Good Shape:        West Virginia, Louisville

On the Bubble:        DePaul, Providence, Notre Dame, Connecticut, Marquette, Villanova, Syracuse

Can Still Get There Seton Hall, Cincinnati

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

Current Leaders                                          This Weekend

Georgetown              5-1/15-2                     Sat. @ West Virginia

Pittsburgh                 4-2/16-3                    Sat. vs. Rutgers

West Virginia           4-2/15-4                     Sat. vs. Georgetown

Louisville                  4-2/14-5                     Sat. vs. St. John’s, Mon. at U Conn

DePaul                       4-2/9-9                      Sat. @ Marquette

Notre Dame              3-2/13-4                    off until Jan. 31

Connecticut              4-3/13-5                     Sat. @ Indiana, Mon. vs. Louisville

Cincinnati                 4-3/9-10                    Sun. @ Seton Hall

Seton Hall                 3-3/13-6                    Sun. vs. Cincinnati

Providence                3-3/12-6                    Sun. @ Syracuse

Marquette                 3-3/13-4                    Sat. vs. DePaul

Villanova                   3-3/13-4                    off until Jan. 30

Syracuse                    3-4/13-7                     Sun. vs. Providence

While the Big East is a smidgen weaker than the ACC and Pac-10, it is likely to send the most teams to the Big Dance, due to the fact that there are 16 league members.  Sending eight teams would be the equivalent of six ACC and five Pac-10 bids.  With 13 teams still competing for a probable eight bids, it figures there will be about five teams entering conference tournament play on the bubble with one or two more having a chance to play their way in by getting to the finals.

Marquette, Villanova, and Syracuse need to reverse their slides quickly, or else they will become high seeds in the NIT.  Cincinnati and DePaul have reversed early season misfortunes and are in the process of competing for spots on the bubble.  The Bearcats game against Seton Hall and the Blue Demons game at Marquette are the big ones in this conference tomorrow.  The two losers will have to pull off a lot of February wins to compete for an at-large 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                                                      Next Game(s)

Northern Arizona                5-1/13-6                     Fri. @ Weber St., Sun. @ Idaho St          

Weber State                          5-1/10-8                     Fri vs. N. Arizona

Portland St.                          4-2/11-8                     Jan. 31 vs. Montana

Idaho St.                                3-2/6-12                    Fri. vs. Sacramento St.

Montana St.                          3-3/11-8                     Sat. vs. E. Washington

Northern Arizona visits Weber State tonight in a battle for first place in the league.   These two squared off in the conference tournament championship game last year.

Since the regular season champion hosts the conference tournament’s semi-finals and final game, the regular season race has more importance.

                                   

Big South

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

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        UNC-Asheville, Winthrop

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

UNC-Asheville                     4-0/15-4                    Sat. @ Ch. Sou. Mon. @ CCU

Winthrop                              3-1/12-7                     Sat. vs. Coastal Car.

High Point                            3-2/10-8                    Sat. @ Liberty, Mon. @ Radford

V M I                                      2-2/10-8                    Mon. vs. Liberty

Coastal Carolina                  2-2/9-8                      Sat. @ Winthrop, Mon. vs. UNCA

Liberty                                   2-2/10-9                    Sat. vs. High Pt., Mon. @ VMI

Winthrop has the edge in a possible at-large berth from this conference as they will be hosting a bracket-buster game in February 22 or 23.  Should Winthrop win the regular season title and UNC-Asheville win the conference tournament over Winthrop could still sneak into the Dance if a bunch of bubble teams fall in their conference tournaments.

Big 10

Likely Bids:                           4 or 5

Locks:                                                Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan St.

In Good Shape:                    Ohio State

On the Bubble:                    Minnesota, Purdue

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Indianapolis, IN

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Indiana                                  6-0/17-1                     Sat. vs. Connecticut

Wisconsin                             6-0/16-2                    Sat. @ Purdue

Michigan St.                         5-1/17-2                     Sun. vs. Michigan

Purdue                                   5-1/14-5                     Sat. vs. Wisconsin

Ohio State                             4-2/13-6                    Sat. vs. Minnesota

Minnesota                             2-3/12-5                     Sat. @ Ohio State

If Ohio State finishes .500 or better in conference play, they will almost assuredly get an invitation to the Dance.  Minnesota could still creep into the picture, but only if the Gophers can pick up a couple of big wins and finish over .500 in the league with at least one conference tournament victory.

Penn State, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, and Northwestern give this league five rather weak teams, but I’ll bet that one of these teams improves enough by March 13 to compete for a spot in the conference tournament semi-final round.  Michigan could be the one to watch out for if they continue to play like they did at Wisconsin.

Big 12

Likely Bids:                           5 or 6

Locks:                                                Kansas, Baylor, Texas

In Good Shape:                    Kansas State

On the Bubble:                    Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Texas A&M

Can Still Get There:                        Iowa State, Missouri

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Kansas City

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Kansas                                   4-0/19-0                    Sat. vs. Nebraska

Baylor                                                4-0/16-2                    Sat. vs. Oklahoma

Kansas St.                              3-0/13-4                    Sat. vs. Iowa State

Texas                                      2-1/15-3                     Sat. vs. Texas

Iowa St.                                  2-2/12-7                     Sat @ Kansas St.

Texas Tech                            2-2/11-7                     Sat. @ Texas

Oklahoma                             1-2/13-5                     Sat. @ Baylor

Texas A&M                            1-3/15-4                     Sat. @ Oklahoma St.

The top four teams all get home games this weekend, so it gives them a chance to gain some distance from the next wave of contenders.  Of course, a road upset could propel one of the bubble teams several spots higher in the food chain.

Watch out for both Baylor and Texas A&M Saturday.  They played five overtimes in College Station Wednesday night, and they both could be physically and emotionally drained.  They both have games where they could lose.

Big West

Likely Bids:                           1 (2 is a very remote possibility)

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Cal St. Northridge

Can Still Get There:                        UC Santa Barbara

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Anaheim, CA

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Cal St. Northridge               5-0/13-4                    Sat. vs. Long Beach St.

Pacific                                                5-1/14-5                     Mon. vs. Cal-Poly SLO

Cal St. Fullerton                  5-2/12-6                     off until Jan. 31

UC-Santa Barbara               3-3/14-5                     Sat. vs. UC-Davis

Cal. St. Northridge is on the outer edge of the bubble thanks to a road win against Cleveland St.  It won’t be enough to get them in as an at-large team unless they win almost all their remaining regular season games and look mighty impressive in a bracket-buster win.

Pacific’s game with Cal Poly will be on ESPN2 Monday night.

Big West’s top two teams receive byes to the semifinals of the conference tournament.

Colonial Athletic

Likely Bids:                           2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Va. Commonwealth                        7-1/14-4                     Sat. vs. Drexel                      

George Mason                      6-2/14-5                     Sat. @ UNCW

William & Mary                   6-2/10-8                    Sat. vs. Old Dominion

UNC-Wilmington                5-3/12-8                    Sat. vs. George Mason

VCU has the benefit of having the conference tournament on its home floor (actually VCU plays at the municipal Richmond Coliseum). 

GMU still has a little clout among the bubble wannabes due to their Final Four appearance in 2006.  Both VCU and GMU will be road teams in the Bracket Buster. 

Conference USA

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                Memphis

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Houston, UAB, Central Florida

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Memphis

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Memphis                               5-0/18-0                    Sat. vs. Gonzaga

Central Florida                    4-0/11-7                     off until Jan. 30

Houston                                3-0/14-3                    Sat. vs. Marshall

UAB                                        3-1/13-6                     off until Jan. 30

Tulane                                   3-2/13-6                    Sat. @ East Carolina

UTEP                                      2-2/11-6                     Sat. vs. Tulsa

Marshall                                2-2/10-7                    Sat. @ Houston

Memphis has the first of its remaining tough games this weekend when Gonzaga comes to the Fedex Forum.  I expect the Tigers to win by double digits and continue to retain their number one ranking for some time.

If any of the second through fifth place teams can upset Memphis, they will have a chance to move toward the bubble.  Houston could get to the bubble without beating Memphis if they can win 12 or 13 conference games and Kentucky continues to win in the SEC (Houston beat UK).

Horizon

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                Butler

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Cleveland St.

Can Still Get There:                        Valparaiso, Wright St.

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Cleveland St.                         7-1/14-6                     Sat. @ UW-Milw.

Butler                                                7-2/18-2                    Sat. vs. Ill.-Chicago

UW-Milwaukee                    6-3/11-8                     Sat. vs. Cleveland St.

Valparaiso                             5-3/14-6                     Sat. vs. Loyola

Illinois-Chicago                   4-4/10-9                    Sat. @ Butler

Wright St.                             4-4/11-6                     Sat. @ Detroit

UW-Green Bay                     4-4/10-8                    Sat. vs. Youngstown St.

Butler has the better RPI and better shot at an at-large bid, but Cleveland St. has already defeated the Bulldogs.  Both teams benefit from hosting Bracket Buster games this year.  I think both teams will receive bids unless someone else wins the conference tournament.  Cleveland St. could be forced into the NIT in this instance unless they win at Butler in early February.

Watch out for perennial contender Valpo.  They won at Butler and took Cleveland St. to the wire on the road.  Both teams must come to Valpo yet.

UWGB’s win over Cleveland State last night moves them up into the top tier.  One of the three 4-4 teams should emerge as the strong fifth choice, while the other two drop out of the picture.

Independents

Likely Bids:                           0

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    None

Texas Pan American is 10-8 and is probably out of the NIT picture. 

Ivy

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        All 8 teams

Tournament:                                    None, bid goes to regular season champion

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Cornell                                   1-0/9-5                       Sat. at Columbia

Yale                                        1-0/7-8                      Sat. at Brown

Dartmouth                           1-1/8-8                       Feb. 1 @ Princeton

Harvard                                 1-1/6-12                     Feb.1 @ Penn

Penn                                       0-0/5-12                    Feb. 1 vs. Harvard

Princeton                              0-0/2-12                    Feb. 1 vs. Princeton

Brown                                                0-1/8-7                      Sat. vs. Brown

Columbia                              0-1/7-9                       Sat. vs. Cornell

It’s going to be a few weeks before the Ivy League reveals anything.  Because of the mid-season breaks at these schools, these teams practically shut down for a couple of weeks.  All the teams that have played one conference game are about to play their second one against the same team they played their first one.  Harvard and Dartmouth have already played two games, and they were against each other.  Penn and Princeton won’t play their first conference game until February 1.

Looking at games played so far, Brown looks like the mild favorite to win the conference ahead of Cornell and Yale, but this league could be very balanced this year.  The winner could easily finish 10-4.

Metro Atlantic

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Marist, Siena, Niagara

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Siena                                      7-2/12-7                     Sun. @ Iona

Rider                                      7-2/14-6                     Sun. @ St. Peter’s

Marist                                                7-2/13-7                     Sun. vs. Canisius

Niagara                                  5-3/11-6                     Fri. @ St. Peter’s, Sun. @Fairfield

Loyola (Md.)                         6-3/10-10                  Sat. @ Manhattan

This league is on the borderline between one and two teams getting bids.  Siena and Marist could move onto the bubble by winning all or all but one of their games heading into the Bracket Buster and then winning on the road in the Bracket Buster.  Niagara also has a road Bracket Buster game.

Siena owns a big win over Stanford, but Loyola ripped them by 29 points last night.  Marist doesn’t have a signature win, but they have won multiple road games against weaker teams.  Niagara is in the same boat as Marist, and they have already split their home-and-home games.

Mid-American

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    Kent State

On the Bubble:                    Ohio U

Can Still Get There:                        Akron

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Cleveland

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

East

Kent St.                                  4-1/15-4                     Sun. vs. Western Michigan

Akron                                     4-1/14-4                     Sat. @ Central Michigan

Ohio U                                   3-2/12-6                    Sat. vs. Ball State

Bowling Green                     3-2/8-9                      Sun. vs. Northern Illinois

West

Western Michigan               4-1/10-8                    Sun. @ Kent State

Eastern Michigan                3-2/7-10                    Sat. @ Miami (O)

The winner of the East is going to receive an at-large bid if they do not win the league tournament.  No team out of the West has a chance at an at-large bid, and it’s going to be difficult for any of the six to finish the season above .500 overall.

Akron and Ohio host Bracket Buster games, while Kent State and Bowling Green will play on the road.  The Flashes and Falcons could benefit by winning their tough road games that weekend.

MEAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Hampton

Tournament:                                    March 10-15 @ Raleigh, NC

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Hampton                               4-0/10-6                    Sat. vs. Coppin St.

Morgan St.                            4-1/9-8                      Sat. @ Howard

Norfolk St.                            4-1/7-9                       Sat. vs. South Carolina St.

Delaware St.                         3-1/6-10                     Sat. @ Bethune Cookman

With wins over Tulsa and Virginia Commonwealth, Hampton gives the MEAC its best chance to avoid a #16 seed this year and a possible chance at pulling off an upset in the NCAA Tournament.

Morgan St. is tough at home, and they still must play Hampton twice.  If any other team wins the MEAC Tournament crown, they will be a #16 seed and be in contention for the play-in round.

No MEAC teams are involved in the Bracket Buster.

Missouri Valley

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                Drake

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Illinois State, Creighton

Can Still Get There:                        Southern Illinois, Indiana St., Missouri St.

Tournament:                                    March 6-9 @ St. Louis

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Drake                                     8-0/17-1                     Sat. vs. N. Iowa

Illinois St.                             6-2/14-5                     Sun. vs. Indiana St.

Creighton                              5-3/14-4                     Sat. @ Southern Ill.

Indiana State                                    5-3/10-8                    Sun. @ Illinois St.

Northern Iowa                     4-4/12-7                     Sat. @ Drake

Missouri St.                          4-4/11-9                     Sat. @ Evansville

Southern Illinois                 4-4/9-10                    Sat. vs. Creighton

The MVC deserves three bids, but they could lose one if there are enough surprise winners of conference tournaments.

Drake hasn’t been this good since they gave John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins their hardest Final Four semi-final game during their great run of consecutive championships.  It’s very hard to win on the road in the Valley, and the Bulldogs already own four of them, including one at Creighton.

Illinois State has lost back-to-back road games against Drake and Bradley to fall two games off the pace, but they are still firmly on the bubble.  They won at Creighton earlier this month.

Speaking of Creighton, an overtime win over St. Joseph’s isn’t going to get them an at-large invitation; they have work yet to do to earn that bid.

There are seven teams capable of getting hot and winning Arch Madness in St. Louis in March, so this race is far from over.

Mountain West

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    UNLV, San Diego St.

Can Still Get There:                        BYU, New Mexico, Utah

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Las Vegas

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

San Diego St.                                    4-1/14-5                     Sat. vs. UNLV                      

U N L V                                  3-1/14-4                     Sat. @ SDSU

B Y U                                      3-1/14-5                     Sat. vs. New Mexico

T C U                                      3-1/11-6                     Sat. @ Utah

New Mexico                          3-2/16-4                    Sat. @ BYU

Air Force                               3-2/11-7                     off until Jan. 30

Utah                                       1-3/11-7                      Sat. vs. TCU

There will be some movement this weekend in the MWC, as #1 plays one of the co-#2’s, another co-#2 plays #5, and the third co-#2 plays #6.  Utah is in a must-win situation when they host TCU.  The Utes must win at least 10 conference games to be on the bottom of the bubble.

Northeast

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 6-9-12 @ Higher Seed

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Wagner                                  6-1/13-5                     Sun. @ FDU

Quinnipiac                            6-1/10-8                    Sat. @ Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart                         6-2/10-10                  Sat. vs. Quinnipiac

Robert Morris                      5-2/14-6                     Sat. vs. St. Francis (NY)

Central Conn.                       5-4/9-11                     Sat. @ St. Francis (Pa.)

This conference does not participate in the Bracket Buster, so there is no chance that a second team will emerge as an at-large candidate.  In addition to these five frontrunners, keep an eye on Long Island, currently 2-5 in league play.  LIU has enough talent to make a run in the NEC Tournament, but they would more than likely have to win three road games to pull it off.

The NEC re-seeds the pairing after each round of its tournament so that the highest remaining seed hosts the lowest remaining seed, and so on.  Wagner would be a tough opponent if they hosted three tournament games.

Ohio Valley

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Austin Peay

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Austin Peay                          9-1/13-7                     Sat. @ Samford

Murray St.                             7-3/11-7                     Sat. vs. SEMO

Morehead St.                                    7-4/9-9                      Sat. @ E. Illinois

Eastern Kentucky                6-5/9-10                    Tue. @ UT-Martin

Tennessee Tech                   6-5/9-12                     Sat. vs. Tennessee St.

Tennessee St.                       5-5/8-11                     Sat. @ Tennessee Tech

Austin Peay is clearly the class of this league, but Murray State is always tough come tourney time, even though they change coaches more often than the weather changes in the Ohio Valley.  The Racers visit the Governors on January 31; they beat Peay in Murray earlier this month.

If any other team emerges to take the automatic bid, it will be a major upset.  EKU may have the best talent of the middle of the pack teams, and the Colonels have already won on the road three times including at Murray St.

APSU is good enough to keep a first round game close and have a chance to pull off an upset.  The Govs and Murray both get to host Bracket Buster games this year.

Pac-10

Likely Bids:                           7 (9 may deserve bids)

Locks:                                                UCLA, Washington St., Arizona

In Good Shape:                    Stanford, Southern Cal, Arizona St.

On the Bubble:                    Oregon, Washington, California

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 12-15 @ Los Angeles Staples Center

Current Leaders                                                                  This Weekend

UCLA                                     5-1/17-2                                 Sat. @ Oregon St.

Washington St.                    4-2/16-2                                Sat. @ Arizona St.

Stanford                                4-2/15-3                                 Sat. @ Cal

Arizona St.                            4-2/14-4                                Sat. vs. Washington St.

Arizona                                  3-3/13-6                                Sat. vs. Washington

Southern Cal                                    3-3/12-6                                Sat. @ Oregon

Washington                          3-3/12-7                                 Sat. @ Arizona

Oregon                                   3-4/12-7                                 Sat. vs. Southern Cal

California                              2-4/12-6                                Sat. vs. Stanford

This is the conference to follow this year.  Every single game in conference play is a pressure game with serious implications.  Even Oregon State’s games are crucial, because no team can afford to lose to them.  If the Beavers go 0-18 in the Pac-10, then the other nine teams all have a chance to compete for an at-large bid by beating up on each other. 

UCLA won at Oregon last night to solidify their hold on the top spot.  Washington State fell at Arizona, and that creates a seven-team fight for second.  In my opinion, the nine teams other than OSU are deserving of a bid to the Field of 65.  It won’t happen, because the selection committee won’t do it, even if all nine teams have the resume to qualify.  Expect seven bids with two teams getting the shaft.

Cal is in a must-win situation tomorrow when they host Stanford; it the Bears lose to their cross-town rival, then they drop off the bubble and onto the “Can still get there” list.  They will need to finish at least 9-9 in the league and win an opening round conference tournament game to get an invitation to the Dance.

Patriot

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 5-9-14 at Higher Seed                   

Current Leaders                                                                  Next Game(s)

Lafayette                               4-0/13-6                                Sat. @ Lehigh

American                              3-1/11-8                                 Sat. vs. Holy Cross              

Bucknell                                3-1/8-10                                Sat. vs. Colgate

Lehigh                                   2-2/9-9                                  Sat. vs. Lafayette

Navy                                       2-2/9-10                                Sun. vs. Army

Who would have thought that recent dominating member Holy Cross would be in last place at 0-4 after beating three top 100 RPI teams including winning at St. Joseph’s?  That just shows that this league is getting much better and is on the cusp of contending for an extra bid.  All eight teams are capable of winning the conference tournament.  With the tournament games being played on the home floors of the higher-seeded teams, regular season positioning will be important but not a killer to the lower-seeded teams.

Lafayette is an incredible 6-0 in overtime games this year?  Are they an unbelievable clutch team, or is this a case where they should have won most of these six games with relative ease in regulation?  Of course, these wins could give the Leopards the confidence to become a really good team and one that isn’t nervous in the closing minutes of close games.

American hasn’t faced Lafayette yet, while Bucknell has lost to the Leopards in Easton.  Lehigh could make waves by upsetting the rival Leopards tomorrow night.  In that part of the Keystone State, this game is as fierce a rivalry as Duke and North Carolina are on tobacco road.

Southeastern

Likely Bids:                           5 or 6

Locks:                                                Tennessee

In Good Shape:                    Florida, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State

On the Bubble:                    Arkansas

Can Still Get There:                        Kentucky, Georgia

Tournament:                                    March 13-16 @ Atlanta

Current Leaders                                                                  This Weekend

East

Florida                                   4-1/17-3                                 Sun. vs. Vanderbilt

Tennessee                             3-1/16-2                                 Sat. vs. Georgia

Georgia                                  2-1/11-5                                  Sat. @ Tennessee

Vanderbilt                             2-2/17-2                                 Sun. @ Florida

Kentucky                               2-2/8-9                                  Sat. vs. South Carolina

South Carolina                     1-3/9-9                                   Sat. @ Kentucky

West

Mississippi St.                       4-0/13-5                                Sat. vs. Ole Miss

Ole Miss                                2-2/15-2                                 Sat. @ Mississippi St.

Arkansas                               2-2/13-5                                 Sat. @ LSU

Auburn                                  2-2/12-5                                 Sat. @ Alabama

This is a very interesting pennant race.  Can it be that Florida, after losing all that great talent, is about to emerge as the new UCLA of the East and reload immediately?  Can the Gators win the East again with a team young enough to be a JV team?  Yah, sure, ya betcha!  The Gators have a terrific group of underclassmen and the best coach in the league, so it’s foreseeable that they could pull it off.

Tennessee has to learn to play intelligently within their helter-skelter system, or the Vols are going to become the equivalent of the Boston Red Sox from 1948 through 1950.  They cannot beat really good teams with the same second half shot selection they showed at Kentucky last Tuesday night.

Georgia is a mystery team.  The Bulldogs will know just how good they are Saturday night when they play at Tennessee.

Vanderbilt is in trouble if they cannot find a way to rebound.  The Commodores play on the road the next two games and will more than likely lose both to drop to 2-4.  They will have to go on a huge winning streak in February or they will drop to the NIT at-large field.

Kentucky is beginning to play like a team that can compete for a bid.  The Wildcats will always get an at-large bid if they go 8-8 or better in the league and finish better than .500 overall.  They almost won at Florida and almost won at Mississippi State-both of the division leaders.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see UK win eight or nine more times in the league and compete for a first round bye in the conference tournament.

In the West, the two Magnolia State teams square off in Starkville tomorrow, and if State wins, they will have a commanding lead.  It’s hard to lose when you block one out of every five shots your opponent attempts.

Arkansas and Auburn are in dire need of road victories to pad their resumes.  Both get the chance to do just that when they take on the two bottom feeders tomorrow.

Southern

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Davidson

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 7-10 @ Charleston

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

North

Appalachian St.                    7-2/12-6                     Sat. @ Chat., Mon. vs. Elon

Chattanooga                         7-2/12-7                     Sat. vs. Appy St.

UNC-Greensboro                 5-3/11-6                     Sat. @ Citadel

South

Davidson                               10-0/12-6                  Sat. @ Charleston

Georgia Southern                5-4/12-7                     Sat. vs. Furman, Mon. @ WCU

Davidson and the 10 dwarfs is the new name for this league.  The Wildcats are capable of pulling off an at-large bid if they run the table in the regular season and get upset in the semifinals or finals of the conference tournament.  There chances will go way up if they additionally win their road Bracket Buster game.

Appalachian State travels to Chattanooga tomorrow with undisputed first place in the North Division going to the winner.  Appy State won the first meeting in Boone.

Charleston hosts the SoCon Tournament this year, but the Cougars don’t appear to have the talent to take advantage of it this year.

Southland

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

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

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

Current Leaders                                                                  Next Game(s)

East

Lamar                                    3-1/9-8                                  Sat. @ NW St.

Northwestern St.                 3-2/7-12                                 Sat. vs. Lamar

SE Louisiana                                    2-2/10-7                                Sat. @ Nicholls St.

McNeese St.                          2-2/8-8                                  Sat. @ Central Ark.

West

Sam Houston                       3-2/15-3                                 Jan. 30 vs. UT-Arl.

Stephen F. Austin                3-2/15-3                                 Jan. 30 vs. Texas St.

Texas-Arlington                   3-2/13-4                                Sat. @ TAMCC

Sam Houston and SF Austin both could near the bubble, but the Southland Conference won’t be involved in the crucial Bracket Buster games this year.  That may prevent this league from sending two teams to the Field of 65.

Sam Houston defeated Texas Tech earlier this season, while SFA beat Oklahoma.  Whether or not that will be enough for both to get bids if they continue to win most of their league games and then both advance to the conference tournament championship game is debatable.  They will both deserve to go if this scenario plays out.

SWAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 11-15 @ Birmingham, AL

Current Leaders                                                                  Next Game(s)

Alabama State                      4-1/8-7                                   Sat. @ Alcorn St.

Southern                               4-2/6-11                                 Sat. vs. Ala. A&M

Jackson St.                            4-2/6-13                                Sat. vs. Grambling

Ark-Pine Bluff                      3-2/7-9                                  Sat. @ Prairie View

Miss. Valley St.                     3-2/5-11                                 Sat. @ Texas Sou.

Texas Southern                    3-2/4-14                                Sat. vs. Miss. Valley

This conference is actually weaker than the aggregate of independents this year–considerably.  The league members won just 8.5% of their non-conference games against Division 1 competition!  The automatic bid will go to the conference tournament champion, and that team will have to turn around quickly and head to Dayton for the play-in game.  Alabama State has been there before, and they have the best chance of pulling off a play-in win.

Summit

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    Oral Roberts

Can Still Get There:                        None

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

Oral Roberts                         8-0/13-5                    Sat. @ S. Utah                                 

IUPUI                                     6-2/14-5                     Sat. vs. IPFW

Oakland                                 4-4/9-10                    Sat. @ W. Illinois

I.P.F.W.                                  4-4/7-12                     Sat. @ IUPUI

Western Illinois                   4-4/9-10                    Sat. vs. Oakland

Oral Roberts has three non-embarrassing road losses at Texas A&M, Texas, and Arkansas and a win against Oklahoma State.  They host a Bracket Buster game, and if they win that one and finish the regular season with 22 wins, they could be on the bubble if they lost in the Summit League Championship Game.

IUPUI may have an unfair advantage if their coach, Ron Hunter continues to roam the sidelines in his bare feet.  While trying to gain recognition for shoeless children in Africa, he is also creating a minor distraction on the floor.  It may be worth nothing, but it may be worth one opponent defensive lapse if a player looks over at the feet just as a Jaguar offensive player cuts past him for a basket.  Yeah, it’s a stretch, but I wanted to help a great man like Coach Hunter spread his news.

Sunbelt

Likely Bids:                           1 or 2

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    South Alabama

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Western Kentucky

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

Current Leaders                                                      Next Game(s)

East

South Alabama                    8-0/16-3                    Sun. vs. Denver

Western Ky.                          7-1/15-5                      Sun. vs. Arkansas St.

Middle Tennessee               4-4/7-11                     Sun. vs. North Texas

West

UALR                                     5-3/13-6                     Sun. vs. Fla. Atlantic

Denver                                   4-3/8-10                    Sun. @ S. Alabama

New Orleans                         4-4/14-6                    Sun. @ FIU

UL-Lafayette                                    4-4/8-11                     Sun. @ Troy

South Alabama is very close to moving into “Lock” status.  Their win over Mississippi State looks better and better with every Jarvis Varnado block.  Since no Sunbelt team plays in the Bracket Buster, the USA game at Western Kentucky the night before Bracket Buster weekend starts will be just as important as the marquis Bracket Buster games.

Western Kentucky is in position to get into position in the bubble watch.  They must continue to win against the lesser Sunbelt foes and then knock off USA in Bowling Green.

Arkansas Little Rock could be a spoiler in the conference tournament, especially if one of the two biggies suffer an upset.  I don’t think UALR can beat both WKU and USA on consecutive days.

West Coast

Likely Bids:                           2 or 3

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    St. Mary’s, Gonzaga

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        None

Tournament:                                    March 7-10 @ San Diego

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Gonzaga                                 4-0/15-4                    Sat. @ Memphis

St. Mary’s                              3-0/16-2                    Sat. vs. San Francisco

Santa Clara                           2-1/10-8                    Sat. @ San Diego

San Diego                              2-1/9-11                     Sat. vs. Santa Clara

St. Mary’s still owns a fat RPI rating in the teens.  Gonzaga’s RPI is in the 30’s, so there are two legitimate at-large possibilities in the WCC.  Should someone other than the big two win the WCC Tournament (San Diego hosts and was good enough to win at Kentucky), it may be hard for the selection committee to take three teams from this league, but it may be hard for them to explain why they didn’t take three.

If Gonzaga upsets Memphis tomorrow, then you can move them into the “Lock” category, and if that happens and St. Mary’s finishes in first or in a tie for first, there really will be no option but to make them a lock as well.

WAC

Likely Bids:                           1

Locks:                                                None

In Good Shape:                    None

On the Bubble:                    None

Can Still Get There:                        Utah State, Nevada

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

Current Leaders                                                      This Weekend

Utah State                             5-0/15-5                     Sat. @ New Mexico St.

Boise State                            5-2/14-5                     Mon. @ Fresno St.

New Mexico State                4-2/10-11                   Sat. vs. Utah St.

Nevada                                   3-2/11-7                     Sat. @ La. Tech

Hawaii                                   3-3/7-11                     Sat. @ Idaho

What used to be one of the more formidable mid-major conferences, the WAC has fallen behind the Missouri Valley, MAC, Southern, Sunbelt, Colonial, and even the MAAC as of late.  Only one team is destined to get an invitation to the Dance.

Utah State can take control of this race if they win at New Mexico State tomorrow.  The Aggies best non-conference win came against Oral Roberts, and they will get a chance to host a Bracket Buster game, but that probably wouldn’t be enough to get them serious at-large consideration unless they finished at least 15-1 in WAC games. 

Nevada has a tiny chance to move to the bottom of the bubble if they can win out in league play.  That would require two wins over Utah State.  They would also have to win their Bracket Buster game, which will be on the road.

New Mexico St. hosts the tournament, and they used to be really tough to beat in Las Cruces.  This year, they have already lost three home games.

January 18, 2008

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Races

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Races

Through Games of Thursday, January 17, 2008

This is the first of a weekly look at the NCAA basketball conference races.  Each Friday, I will report on the races in each of the conferences, trying to determine how many NCAA Tournament bids will be given to each conference, and other pertinent information pertaining to the “horse races” leading up to the biped version of the Kentucky Derby-the Road to the Final Four.

So without further adieu, let’s get started.

America East

This is a one-bid league with no chance of sneaking a second team in the Big Dance.  So, the champion of the conference tournament is going to get the only bid regardless of whether they are the regular season champ or the ninth place team.

Maryland-Baltimore County (4-1/12-6) leads the league by one game over Hartford (2-1/8-10).  UMBC defeated Hartford Wednesday Night in a home game, and they must play at Hartford on March 2.  UMBC must play its next two games on the road in the league at Binghamton (3-2/7-10) and Boston U (1-3/4-12). 

Defending regular season champ Vermont (3-2/8-9) and conference tournament champ Albany (3-2/8-9) are weaker teams than last season, but both are just one game our of first place and in a virtual tie for second with Hartford.  This will be an interesting conference tournament this year.

Atlantic Coast Conference

We are back to the days of the Big Two in the ACC.  Number one North Carolina (3-0/18-0) survived a tough game against Georgia Tech to stay unbeaten Wednesday night.  Duke (2-0/14-1) is strong enough to beat the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, but UNC could also beat the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium. 

There’s quite a drop off to Clemson (2-1/14-3), but the Tigers are in great shape to make it to the Dance.  Three or four teams are fighting it out as bubble teams at the moment.  Miami (1-1/14-2) is on the top of the bubble.  Florida State (1-2/12-6) and North Carolina State (0-2/11-5) need to get to 8-8 in the league, and they will be in good shape.  Boston College (3-0/12-4) is quickly working its way up the ladder.  The Eagles own a road win at Maryland and defeated Miami this week.  BC’s next six games should reveal if they have what it takes to make it to the NCAA Tourney.  If they split the six games (at Virginia, Va. Tech, at North Carolina, at Clemson, Maryland, at Duke), it would propel them well onto the good side of the bubble.

Virginia Tech (2-1/11-6) and Wake Forest (1-2/11-5) are beneath the bubble at the moment.  The Hokies have an excellent shot to play themselves into contention if they fare well over the next seven games.  The schedule sets up to give them a chance to make hay if they can pull off an upset at home.  The Demon Deacons had a rough week getting slaughtered against Boston College and losing to Maryland after knocking off Brigham Young.

As of today, this looks like a five or six-bid league, with UNC, Duke, Clemson, Miami, and one or two other teams emerging.

Atlantic Sun

This is a definite one-bid league going to the conference tournament champion.  With the change in scheduling this year, expect the final outcome to be quite close with four to six teams finishing within two games of first place.

Jacksonville (4-0/8-8) has shot out to an early lead over two-time defending conference champion Belmont (3-1/11-7), Mercer (3-1/8-9), and Stetson (3-1/7-10).  Four more teams are another game back at 2-2 (East Tennessee, Lipscomb, Gardner-Webb, and Campbell).  This is a league where home court advantage is weak, so don’t expect typical results when certain teams have more home or more road games left on their schedule.  Jacksonville plays Lipscomb and Belmont one time only and both of these games are in Nashville.  Belmont must play on the road against Mercer and Stetson with no return match at home.  The Bruins already own road wins at Cincinnati and Alabama, and they appear to be the favorite for making a third consecutive trip to the Big Dance.

Atlantic 10

This is a league back on the rise.  In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the teams in this league took a back seat to nobody.  Expect at least three and possibly more teams to receive a bid to the Dance. 

At the moment, Charlotte (2-0/11-5) leads the league, but the 89ers are not considered to be one of the top teams in the league, even though they won at Clemson.  Dayton (2-1/14-2) owns a road win against Louisville and blew out Pittsburgh by 25 points.  This looks like the strongest Flyer team since Don May led the 1967ers to the Championship Game against UCLA.

Xavier (2-1/14-4), Massachusetts (1-1/12-4), and Rhode Island (1-2/15-3) are all worthy of being in the NCAA Tournament.  The Musketeers own victories over Indiana, Creighton, Cincinnati, Kansas State, Virginia, and Auburn. 

UMass looks like a team that will be tough come conference tournament time.  Their style of play is hard to prepare for in 24 hours under tournament conditions.

URI owns a win at Syracuse, but they stubbed their toe in their most recent loss at St. Louis.  Their schedule sets them up to win their next four games, and they will have to do just that to stay on the good side of the bubble.

St. Joseph’s (2-1/9-5) and Duquesne (1-1/11-4) are in position to put themselves into position if they can pick up some key wins at home over the teams just mentioned and take care of business against the weaker conference foes.  St. Joe’s win at UMass brought them up the ladder and into contention for a bid.  Duquesne hasn’t been a power for almost four decades, but their four losses this year have been to teams that should be in the NCAA Tournament.  They still need a signature win or two and must continue to beat the Fordhams and St. Bonaventures.

Big East

This is a 16-team league that could almost become a stand-alone entity.  15 of the 16 have been in the Final Four, and the 16th team (South Florida) hasn’t been around that long.  The teams in this league comprise a monster media market that includes three teams in the Greater Metropolitan New York area from Connecticut to New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Pittsburgh, Tampa-St. Pete, Milwaukee, Louisville, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Providence.  If the league split into two, eight-team leagues, I’m confident that as many as 12 teams could make the NCAA Tournament.  As it is, eight teams could make it this year.

Four teams are currently tied for first with 3-1 league marks.  Pittsburgh (15-2), Georgetown (13-2), Notre Dame (13-3), and Louisville (13-4) lead a group of four other tough teams by just one half game.  In a logjam at 3-2 in the league are Marquette (13-3), West Virginia (13-4), Syracuse (13-5), and Providence (12-5).  These eight teams are in line for bids.

Villanova (2-2/12-3) is strongly on the bubble, and Connecticut (2-3/11-5) is close behind.  Two more teams are 3-2 in the league, but they have a lot of work to do to make up for lousy non-conference results.  DePaul (7-9) and Cincinnati (8-9) can still play their way onto the bubble.  The Blue Demons beat Villanova and Providence, while the Bearcats defeated Louisville, Syracuse, and Villanova, so both teams have the strength to move up.

Big Sky

This is a one-bid league going to the conference champion.  The usual suspects currently head the top of the conference.  Northern Arizona (4-1/12-6) leads last season’s NCAA participant Weber State (3-1/8-8) and Idaho State (3-1/6-11) by a half game with Portland State (3-2/10-8) close behind in fourth.  The top three have yet to face each other, so they all have four tough games to play. 

Portland State already owns a victory over Northern Arizona and a close road loss to Weber State.  Keep an eye on the Vikings, as they have their next four games at home.  They gave Washington State a good game last month.

Big South

This one-bid league deserves some of your attention because of a couple of its members, who just happened to be heading the league at the moment.

UNC-Asheville (2-0/13-4) has 7-7 Center Kenny George averaging nine rebounds and five blocks per game to go with nearly 75% shooting.  It allows sharpshooter Bryan Smithson to get a lot of open looks for threes.

VMI (2-0/10-6) runs an offense similar to but different from the one Paul Westhead used at Loyola-Marymount and other places.  The Keydets are currently scoring points at a rate of 97.7 points per game.

The dynasty may not be over for Winthrop (1-1/10-7).  It’s too early in the season to tell if the Eagles are going to miss out.  They own out-of-conference wins over Georgia Tech and Miami of Florida and took Ole Miss to the buzzer in Oxford.

Big 10

The overwhelming sentiment in the upper Midwest this year is that this league is down a notch or two.  There are three teams that appear to be ahead of the rest of the league, and the league is quite weak at its bottom.  That might make it difficult for more than four teams getting Dance invitations.

Wisconsin (4-0/14-2), Indiana (4-0/15-1), and Michigan State (3-1/15-2) appear to be near locks for making it to the NCAAs.  Since losing a tough game to Marquette, the Badgers have reeled off eight consecutive wins including a win at Texas.  Their four conference victories have come by an average of 71-55.  Indiana’s 4-0 start is more impressive when you realize that three of those wins were on the road.

Michigan State has a home win over Texas, but the Spartans lose their offensive intensity at times, especially on the road.  Their defense is top-notch as usual for a Tom Izzo-coached team.

Among those vying for the fourth position in the league are Purdue (3-1/12-5), Ohio State (3-2/12-5), and Minnesota (2-2/12-4).  The Buckeyes have the best shot at garnering bid number four, while the Boilermakers and Gophers must win 10 conference games to guarantee a shot. 

The rest of the league is weak this year, and that will keep the conference’s ratings below normal.

Big 12

It’s no surprise to see Kansas (2-0/16-0 & 25.4 ppg margin of victory) at the top of the standings.  The surprise here is that the rest of the league is so balanced that the Jayhawks could go 16-0 and win the league by six or more games, while teams two through nine finish within a couple of games of each other.  While I don’t see that happening, it wouldn’t be a surprise.

Baylor (2-0/14-2) has yet to prove they are worthy of being mentioned among the elite, but their showing to date means they must be monitored closely over the next couple of weeks.  The Bears play five of their next seven on the road including at Texas A&M, Texas, and Kansas.  If they own a 5-4 league mark after that, they could be ready to compete for an at-large bid.

Kansas State (1-0/11-4) has won six of seven games averaging close to 90 points per game in that streak.  All-World freshman Michael Beasley may be the best Wildcat since Bob Boozer played for Tex Winter back in the late 1950’s.  Beasley currently averages 25 points and13 rebounds, and he shoots at a better than 57% accuracy rate.

Among the remaining teams, Texas (0-1/13-3) and Texas A&M (1-1/15-2) appear to be the best of the bunch, but that could change quickly.  General Robert Montgomery Knight’s Texas Tech Red Raiders (1-1/10-6) and Missouri (1-1/11-6) could be ready to make a move north into the upper third of the standings.  Mizzou hosts Kansas in a big game Saturday.   

Big West

Here is a conference with the remotest of chances of getting a second team in the NCAA Tournament.  Cal. State-Northridge (5-0/13-3) could run the table in the league.  If the Matadors were to be upset in the tournament final, there is a slim chance they could pick up an at-large bid, but I wouldn’t expect it.

Pacific (3-1/12-5), Cal St.-Fullerton (3-2/10-6), and UC Santa Barbara (2-2/13-4) are the nearest competitors to Northridge.

Colonial Athletic

In recent years, this conference was near the top of the mid-majors.  This year, the CAA is dropping back a few notches.  In fact, there is a chance just one representative will garner a bid.

Regardless of the post-season, seven teams should vie for the regular season title in a close race that will probably go down to the final weekend.

Virginia Commonwealth (5-1/12-4) and Delaware (5-1/8-8) lead the race (VCU clobbered Delaware 60-39 Wednesday) with five other teams within two games.  In a three-way tie for third at 4-2 in the league are George Mason (12-5), Old Dominion (9-9), and William & Mary (8-8).  James Madison (3-3/10-6) and UNC-Wilmington (3-3/10-8) are one game further back, but both are capable of winning the league.  JMU pegged the loss on VCU.

Conference USA

This league will likely see just two teams go to the NCAA Tournament, but the chances are strong that one team will make it to the Final Four.

Memphis (3-0/16-0) has three teams standing in its way of running the table in the regular season.  If the Tigers can beat Tennessee at home in February and knock off UAB and Houston on the road, they should finish the regular season without a loss and be ranked number one in the nation heading into the conference tournament.  I don’t buy into the theory that it’s better to lose a game.  Sure, UNLV–1990, San Francisco–1977, Rutgers-1976, and Indiana–1975 entered the NCAA Tournament without a loss and all four lost in the Big Dance, but Indiana, UCLA, North Carolina, and San Francisco also entered the NCAA Tournament a combined total of seven times and won the title.  There have been many one-loss teams that lost in the NCAAs.  A loss can create doubt just as much as no losses can create a false sense of security.

Memphis’s challengers are UTEP (2-0/11-4), UAB (2-0/12-5), Central Florida (2-0/9-7), and Houston (1-0/12-3).  There is a chance that if the rest of the league stays balanced and nobody else can win 11 conference games that Memphis will get the lone C-USA bid.

Horizon

This is a league that us a wildcard.  It could receive one, two, or three bids depending on the results.  Butler (5-2/16-2) is not leading the Horizon, but their RPI has them high enough to receive an at-large bid.  The Bulldogs have defeated Michigan, Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, Ohio State, and Florida State, so they look to be comfortably in control of their own destiny.

Cleveland State (6-0/13-5) just upset Butler; the Vikings are in first place and own road wins against South Florida and Florida State.  They host Valparaiso (4-2/13-5) Saturday, and a win in that game would start to get them noticed in bubbleville.

Independents

Not only will no independent earn a bid to the NCAAs, none will earn an NIT bid this year.  Only Texas-Pan American at 11-10 has a record over .500.

Ivy

This league is just starting conference play, so it’s hard to make any calls here.  In the past, you just penciled in a “P” in the automatic bid slot because either Penn or Princeton won the league.  Now, it’s not so cut and dry.  Brown (0-0/8-6) has played the best ball so far, but the closest thing to signature wins are victories over Northwestern and Hartford.  Penn (0-0/5-10) and Princeton (0-0/2-12) could actually be the weakest two teams in the league. 

This looks like a year where the Ivy Champion could be forced to the play-in game in Dayton.

Metro Atlantic

This should be an exciting race all season long for the regular season title, but only the conference champ is going dancing from the MAAC this year.  Siena (6-1/11-6) is ½-game ahead of defending conference tournament champ Niagara (5-1/11-4). 

Just behind the Purple Eagles are Marist (5-2/11-7), Rider (4-2/11-6), and Loyola (Md.) (4-3/8-10).  When you look at their record and stats, Fairfield (3-3/5-11) should be picked to finish near the bottom, but the Stags have won at Siena and Loyola.

Mid-American

After placing just one team in the tournament last year, I am figuring a doubling of that amount in 2008.  Kent State (3-0/14-3) and Akron (3-0/13-3) are tied for first in the Eastern Division.  Ohio U (1-2/10-6) has an out-of-conference win at Maryland.  The Bobcats could get into bubble contention with a nice run in league play.  Miami of Ohio may have scheduled too many tough teams in the non-conference season, and the Red Hawks could be running out of gas.  They defeated Xavier and Mississippi State and scared the pants off Southern Cal, Dayton, Louisville, and Cincinnati.  Even their loss to Kansas was by less points than most expected.  If they can recover and finish with 10 conference wins, they could be bubble-worthy.

The Western Division has no worthy teams.  In a three-way tie for first at 2-1 are Toledo (5-10), Western Michigan (8-8), and Eastern Michigan (6-9), while the other three teams are 1-2 (Central Michigan 6-9, Northern Illinois 4-11, and Ball State 2-13).  The winner on this side could still sport a losing record when conference tournament play begins.

MEAC

There’s reason to believe that the MEAC representative will not be forced to begin NCAA Tournament action in the Play-in game.  That won’t happen this year if Hampton (3-0/8-6) wins the lone league bid.  The Pirates have defeated Tulsa and VCU and appear to be safely ahead of the best teams from multiple conferences.

Should Hampton fall, Norfolk State (3-0/6-8) and Delaware State (2-0/5-9) are ready to take command in the regular season race.  Last year’s tournament champ Florida A&M (1-2/5-10) is mired back in the pack.

Missouri Valley

Back in the 1950’s, there was a move afoot to make the Pacific Coast League the third Major League in baseball.  With teams in Seattle, Portland, Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Hollywood, Los Angeles, and San Diego, the PCL had teams that were actually a little better than some of the Major League counterparts like the Philadelphia Athletics, Washington Senators, Pittsburgh Pirates, and St. Louis Browns. 

The MVC is the PCL of college basketball.  This league is too strong to be considered a regular mid-major.  This year, the league is strong enough to be considered an outright major conference.

A minimum of three teams should make the field of 65 unless the NCAA selection committee allows Diebold to count their votes.  Drake (6-0/15-1), Illinois State (6-0/14-3), and Creighton (4-2/13-3) are all capable of making it to the Sweet 16. 

Indiana State (4-2/9-7) has a win over Creighton, and the Sycamores have the talent to compete for a bid.  Southern Illinois (3-3/8-9) has defeated Mississippi State, St. Mary’s, and Western Kentucky out-of-conference.  The Salukis are due for a major run, as they have been forced to play four tough road games in the league.  The other good teams have to come to Carbondale yet.  SIU could be right there come tournament time.

Mountain West

This is a league of haves and have nots.  If not for the fact that there are two weak teams and two more that have played lousy schedules, the MWC would be in the same position as the MVC.  I look for just two teams to gain bids to the Big Dance.

San Diego State (3-0/13-4) is a sleeping giant.   There is no reason why the Aztecs cannot become the next Gonzaga, but right now, they still need to win the regular season title or automatic bid to get into the NCAA tourney.  They won’t make it as a runner-up in both the regular season and conference tournament.

UNLV (2-1/13-4) manhandled BYU (1-1/12-5) Tuesday night to place themselves in the bubble mix.  TCU and Air Force (both 2-1/10-6) don’t have the resumes to earn at-large bids.  Utah (1-1/10-5) cannot be forgotten, but the Utes are not the same team they used to be in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Northeast

This is a one-bid league, and there are four or five teams with the talent to win the automatic bid by taking the conference tournament title.  The winner will most assuredly receive a #16 seed and could be forced into the play-in game.

Wagner (5-1/12-5) won’t have to begin in the play-in game if they win the bid.  The Seahawks have a win against Brown, and that’s enough to keep them away from Dayton on the Tuesday night after Selection Sunday.

Quinnipiac (5-1/9-8) is famous for political polling and not basketball, but the Bobcats are tied for the NEC lead.  They do not play Wagner until mid-February, so by the time the two co-leaders face off, they could be far ahead of the rest of the field.

Ohio Valley

Austin Peay (8-1/12-7) is better than the rest of the league, but they still must win the conference tournament to get a bid this year.  Only one OVC team will be in the Field of 65.

APSU’s chief competitors this year are: SE Missouri (6-3/11-8), Murray State (5-3/9-7), Eastern Kentucky (5-4/8-9), Morehead State (5-4/7-9), Tennessee Tech (5-4/8-11), and Tennessee State (4-4/7-10). 

Pac-10

In my opinion, this is the best conference this season.  Take away Oregon State, and there is no argument that the other nine teams are the strongest 90% of any league.

UCLA (4-0/16-1) is tied with surprising Arizona State (4-0/14-2).  The Bruins and Sun Devils are both headed to the Big Dance.  Ditto Washington State (3-1/15-1); the Cougars are going to be a tough match-up for any NCAA tournament team.

Stanford (3-2/14-03) and Oregon (3-2/12-5) are both in good shape.  Both the Cardinal and Ducks could win the Big 10 this year if they were in that conference.

In the sixth through ninth positions are teams that could all be in the upper half of most of the other conferences.  California (2-3/11-5) has some work to do if they are going dancing.  The Bears don’t have a signature win and blew a golden chance last night against Arizona State.  Arizona (1-3/11-6) is a tired team with an interim coach in Kevin O’Neill who doesn’t know when to lighten his team’s practice intensity.  The Wildcats took Kansas to overtime in Lawrence, but they also are the victim of a home loss to Oregon, and they have already played their “gimme” win over Oregon State at home.

Southern Cal (1-3/10-6) and Washington (1-3/10-7) have some work to do in order to get in the mix.  They could both make it to the Final Four of the NIT if they were forced to play in it.  The Trojans are good enough to move into the upper half of the standings and win the conference tournament.  USC lost back-to-back four-point games against Kansas and Memphis.  They play at UCLA Saturday.

Patriot

This league has recently been a two-team race between Bucknell and Holy Cross.  This year, it is shaping up to be a different affair.  Bucknell (2-0/7-9) is considerably weaker this season, but the Bison find themselves tied for first with Lafayette (2-0/11-6).  While this is a one-bid league, the conference championship is played on the home floor of the regular season champ, so winning the race is very important.

Southeastern

The SEC is a bit down this year, but not at the top.  Tennessee (3-0/15-1) is the class of the league, and the Volunteers have to be considered a strong Final Four candidate.  I took a lot of flak on another forum when Bruce Pearl took the job, and I predicted in print that he would lead the then mediocre Vols immediately into the NCAA tournament and have them competing for a Final Four spot within five years.  This is just year three for Pearl in Knoxville.  With Duke Crews being cleared to play and Chris Lofton eventually breaking out of his slump, the orange and white could give the SEC a chance to bring home its third consecutive national championship.

This is not a one-team league.  There are four or five additional teams worthy of receiving bids to the Field of 65.  Ole Miss (2-1/15-1) took Tennessee to the buzzer in Knoxville.  The Rebels play more like a Big East team, and they are a tough match-up for all the other SEC teams.  Their arch-rival, Mississippi State (3-0/12-5) has run off a seven-game winning streak.  The Bulldogs are the best shot-blocking team I have seen since Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo were swatting shots for Georgetown almost two decades past.

Even though they lost the great foursome that brought them back-to-back national titles, Florida (2-1/15-3) has reloaded with new stars.  The Gators gave Ole Miss quite a scare at Tad Smith Coliseum.  By March, they could be back in the top 20.

Arkansas (2-1/13-4) should challenge the two Magnolia State teams for supremacy in the West Division.  The Razorbacks won at Baylor and own a win over Missouri.

Vanderbilt (1-2/16-2) won all 15 of its non-conference games, but the schedule was closer in strength to Air Force and TCU than Arizona and Tennessee.  The Commodores may be in trouble in the East soon, as they have to play at Florida and at Ole Miss next week and could easily be 2-4 in the league after that and looking up at the rest of the division.

Kentucky (1-1/7-8) is the wildcard.  The Wildcats have enough talent to finish above .500 in the league, but this is a program where if someone belches, it’s on the local radio stations and Internet forums before the sound echoes off the gym walls.

I look for four or five SEC teams to get bids, so one of these teams will be left out.

Southern

Davidson (7-0/9-6) breezed through conference play last year, and the Wildcats are almost halfway through the SoCon race this year without a conference loss and leading the South Division by 1 ½ game over Georgia Southern (5-2/12-5).  Unfortunately, this was supposed to be the season where Davidson broke through with some big out-of-conference wins to return them to the glory years they enjoyed under Lefty Driesell four decades ago.  Instead, they lost by four to North Carolina, six to Duke, 12 to UCLA, and one to North Carolina State.  Hence, there will be only one bid awarded to this conference this season.

Davidson’s top competitor is the leader of the North Division, Chattanooga (7-1/12-6).  The Mocs play at Davidson Saturday.  Next in line in the North is Appalachian State (5-2/10-6).

Southland

This is a league where it is possible two teams could be selected on Selection Sunday, but the chances are remote.  Sam Houston (2-1/14-2) began the season 10-0 including a win over Texas Tech.  Stephen F. Austin (2-1/14-2) isn’t far behind the Bearkats.  The Lumberjacks won at Oklahoma last month.  These two teams are tied for first in the West Division.

In the East, Northwestern State (3-0/7-10) leads a weaker division with Southeast Louisiana (2-1/10-6 with win over Sam Houston) close behind. 

SWAC

This league is not only the weakest in Division I basketball, it is weaker than the collection of independents!  Nobody belongs in the NIT much less the NCAA Tournament.  There’s not much difference between 1st and 6th place in this league this year, and the winner of the conference tournament is almost guaranteed to be forced into the play-in game.  The current standings show Texas Southern (3-0/4-12) in the lead.  Prior to starting conference play, the Tigers had lost 12 consecutive games.

In a three-way tie for 2nd at 3-1 are Alabama State (7-7), Southern (5-10), and Jackson St. (5-12). 

Summit

The former Mid-Continent Conference added Indiana-Purdue Ft. Wayne, North Dakota State and South Dakota State, lost Valparaiso, and now calls itself, “The Summit League.”  The remaining three top teams from last year are still the top three teams this season.

Oral Roberts (6-0/11-5) could give the Summit two teams in the NCAAs if they finish strong but lose in the Summit Conference Tournament Championship Game. 

The teams most likely to upset ORU are IUPUI (5-1/13-4) and Oakland (4-2/9-8).  ORU has already defeated both of them, with the win against Oakland coming on the Golden Grizzlies’ home floor.

Sunbelt

This has a good chance to be a two-bid league this year.  South Alabama (6-0/14-3) will get an at-large bid if they don’t earn an automatic bid.  The Jaguars lost at both Ole Miss and Vanderbilt by three points.  They beat second best Sunbelt team Western Kentucky (5-1/13-5).  If these two teams continue to play great ball, both could end up in the Big Dance.

West Coast

No longer is this the Gonzaga League.  St. Mary’s (1-0/14-2) has now made this a great two team race.  The Gaels pegged the only loss on Drake and posted wins over Oregon and Seton Hall in the pre-conference schedule.  They have an exceptional inside-out punch with forward Diamon Simpson and Center Omar Samhan banging in the paint and sharp-shooting guard Patrick Mills shooting the jumper.

Gonzaga (2-0/13-4) will join the Gaels in the Field of 65.  The Bulldogs won consecutive road games against Virginia Tech, St. Joe’s, and Connecticut to show they are capable of getting to the Sweet 16.

The two teams don’t face each other until February 5, and by then the rest of the league could already be four or more games out.

WAC

This former top mid-major conference is going through a rebuilding phase.  It is only going to see one bid awarded this year.  Utah State (3-0/13-5) leads the league, but the closest thing to a big win for the Cowboys is against Oral Roberts. 

New Mexico State (3-1/9-10) and Nevada (2-1/10-6) are next in line. NMSU beat New Mexico, while Nevada hasn’t beaten a team with a double digit RPI rating.

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