Thursday, February 12, 2009

State of the Bubble(Part 4)

The more I think about this year's bubble, the more it resembles 2006 when the committee picked Utah State, Air Force and George Mason over the likes of Cincinnati, Missouri State and others. If anyone gets all 34 at-large teams this year, they'll have earned it. Obviously if no one gets all 34, I wouldn't be surprised. Every year it seems that all of us bracketologists get at least 1 team wrong. With that in mind, here is the last installment of the State of the Bubble.

Likely number of bids: 4-6
Lock: UCLA
Close to lockhood: Arizona State, California, Washington
In the mix: Arizona, Southern California
Losing the edge: Stanford
New coach? Constant roster turmoil? No chance at a bid? No problem if you're Arizona. The Wildcats have rattled of 6 in a row heading into tonights bubble battle with the Trojans. Southern California won the 1st meeting earlier this year in the final moments.

Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: American
Holy Cross might have won the first meeting, but that was in Worcester. The Eagles welcome the Crusaders to Washington for the next one. One that will in all likelyhood determine the top seed here.

Likely number of bids: 3-5
In the mix: Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana State, South Carolina, Tennessee
Losing the edge: Arkansas, Mississippi State
Yes, you're reading it right. There are no locks in the SEC, not even teams that are close. That doesn't suggest that this will be a one bid league. In fact, there's bound to be significant controversy if it gets 5. With Commissioner Mike Silve as the chair of the selection committee, it may very well happen.

Likely number of bids: 1-2
In the mix: Davidson
Just like last year, the Wildcats(or more accurately, Stephen Curry) had a loaded schedule. Their only big win occured against West Virginia at Madison Square Garden, but at least did well early in the season vs. Oklahoma. The most significant result however, was a 2 point loss to the College of Charleston that could deny the Wildcats an at-large berth if needed.

Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Stephen F. Austin
Who can figure this conference out? I know I can't. Which is why the Lumberjacks are listed here.

Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Alabama State
Regardless of who wins, the champion is a sure lock to be team #65 on the seed list with a trip to the opening round game in Dayton.

Summit League
Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: North Dakota State
In only their first year of big dance eligiblity, the Bison are storming(so to speak) to their first Summit crown. With the tourney in Sioux Falls, look for the Bison to stop the advance of long time kingpin Oral Roberts.

Sun Belt
Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Western Kentucky
Unlike last year, there are no at-large hopefuls out of this league, so look for Big Red and his Hilltoppers to once again rule the Belt.

West Coast
Likely number of bids: 1-2
Close to lockhood: Gonzaga
In the mix: St. Mary's
The Gaels may miss their leader Patrick Mills, but this team is was a borderline bubble team even with him. Upsetting the Zags, or perhaps beating Utah State next week could change that perception.

Western Athletic
Likely number of bids: 1-2
Close to lockhood: Utah State
The Aggies were helped last night by Utah's win over San Diego State, but the Aggies probably don't need the help as they could clinch the outright WAC championship this weekend.

And with that, the state of the bubble is fully adressed. We now return you to your regularly scheduled bracket watching.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

State of the bubble(Part 3)

Yes, I was going to do the third part of the State of the bubble series on Thursday, but I couldn't resist doing one before the first really important UNC/Duke game tonight. So here we go into the....

Horizon League
Likely number of bids: 1-2
Lock: Butler
In the mix: Green Bay
Remember all those preseason predictions that Butler would quietly sink to the middle of the pack in the Horizon? Of course you don't. We should've seen this coming from Brad Stevens' Bulldogs. Of course they couldn't get by the Phoenix last week in the frozen tundra, giving Green Bay an outside chance at an at-large.

Ivy League
Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Cornell
Cornell still is favored by a more favorable schedule in league play. But it's Princeton who's the league leader, with a 20 point shellacking of the Big Red last week. There's no tournament in the Ancient Eight, so the winner has to earn it the hard way.

Metro Atlantic
Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Siena
The Saints 90-88 loss to Rider last Sunday has all but eliminated it from at-large contention, or was it even in contention to begin with? Well failing to score a non-conference scalp against the likes of Tennessee, Pittsburgh, etc. would have hampered the Saints even if they went 18-0 in the MAAC.

Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Buffalo
The Bulls are favored over Miami(OH) by virtue of it's non-conference performance(Winning the Rainbow Classic; close loss to Connecticut). If Buffalo can win, it would be it's first Big Dance in it's history.

Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Morgan State
The Bears are in the same boat as Buffalo, looking to nail down it's inagural Big Dance invite. Todd Bozeman's team came close last year, but were upset by Coppin State in the conference championship.

Missouri Valley
Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Creighton
Dana Altman's charges have the best RPI in the league and on Tuesday defeated current leader Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Despite remaining in the top 10 of both the RPI and Ken Pomeroy's ratings, the valley is destined to be a one-bid conference for the 2nd straight year.

Mountain West:
Likely number of bids: 2-4
In the mix: Brigham Young, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah
Of the five teams listed here, the Utes have the most perplexing profile. Wins over Gonzaga and Louisiana State are offset by losses to Idaho State and Division II Southwest Baptist(WTF is with that?). The MWC should get at least 2, but if it gets 3 or 4, I won't be surprised. If gets only one, it may be a greater injustice than Utah being denied a national championship if football.

Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Robert Morris
Falling short of the field last season, the Colonials are 2 games clear heading in to the stretch drive. Anyother team that wins the tournament will likely be headed to Dayton for the opening round.

Ohio Valley
Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Morehead State
The last time the Phil Simms' alma mater was dancing was 1984. They should go again, despite challenges from resurgent Tennessee-Martin, last year's winner Austin Peay and ole standbuys Murray State.

Part 4 tomorrow, I promise.

State of the Bubble(Part 2)

Big Sky
Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Weber State
Having already beaten fellow contenders Montana and Portland State, the Wildcats have the edge for homecourt advantage in the conference tournament.

Big South
Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Virginia Military
The Keydets, the highest scoring team in country, are tied with Radford for 1st, but hold the edge for the top seed due to a win at the Highlanders. Liberty has beaten the Keydets in Lexington, VA and could do so again should they meet in the finals.

Big Ten
Likely number of bids: 5-7
Locks: Michigan State
Close to lockhood: Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue
In the mix: Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin
To say the Big Ten is overachieving this year is an understatement. But the matter is simply the league is close to regaining the prominence it had in 2005. Of the four teams in the mix, the Badgers are the closest to being close to lockhood, but a six game losing streak in the middle of conference play cannot be overlooked. Purdue might fall off to the in the mix line if Robbie Hummel can't get back quickly.

Big 12
Likely number of bids: 4-6
Locks: Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma
Close to lockhood: Texas
In the mix: Baylor, Kansas State, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M
The first three are solidly safe, then there's a dropoff to the Longhorns, and then another sharp drop to the in the mix crowd. Could the top four be the only ones to make the dance? Maybe, but even then Texas may continue to slide(Last night's win over Oklahoma State not withstanding).

Big West
Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Long Beach State
Dan Monson has done a respectable job of reviving the 49ers. Whether or not it gets Long Beach to the dance is another matter, Cal State Fullerton, UC Davis and Northridge State will have something to say about that.

Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Northeastern
The Boston based Huskies weren't expected to contend for the overall crown, yet they're a game up over the competition including Virginia Commonwealth, whom the Huskies beat on the Rams' home court.

Conference USA
Likely number of bids: 1-2
Locks: Memphis
In the mix: UAB, Tulsa
Memphis is once again the prohibitive favorite to win the automatic bid. The Blazers and Golden Hurricane are on the verge of falling off the bubble entirely, but both have chances to knock the Tigers off(Tulsa actually came close to beating the Tigers at home in their first meeting, but the Tigers won on a last second shot).

Part 3 tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

State of the Bubble (Part 1)

With less than 5 weeks before Mike Silve and his fellow selection committee members hunker down in downtown Indianapolis to hammer out the field of 65, here is a (somewhat) detailed look at how the bubble is shaping up:

America East
Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Vermont
Boston University is the current leader(as of Monday), but the Terriers have to visit the Catamounts on Wednesday night. The winner should have the inside edge for the #1 seed in the conference tournament. Binghamton, the surprise early leader is also in the mix.

Atlantic Coast
Likely number of bids: 6-8
Locks: Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest
Close to lockhood: Florida State
In the mix: Boston College, Miami(FL), Virginia Tech
Losing the edge: Maryland
The Seminoles recent hot streak has them closer to lock status recently, but they probably need one more high profile win(likely @ Wake) to feel secure. The Eagles famously followed up their upset of North Carolina in Chapel by being beat by Harvard at the Conte Forum. Miami and Virginia Tech both have upsets over Wake Forest, but little else. The Terps are all but finished after being routed by the Heels.

Atlantic Sun
Likely number of bids: 1
The favorite: Belmont
It's deja vu in the A-Sun, where Vince Gill's favorite team is rising to the top of the standings. With the conference tourney in Nashville, look for the Bruins to get the better of East Tennessee State and Jacksonville.

Atlantic 10
Likely number of bids: 1-3
Lock: Xavier
In the mix: Dayton, Duquesne
Losing the edge: Rhode Island, Temple
Xavier is well entrenched, but a loss to Duquesne helped dent their inviciblilty within the league. The Flyers' hopes have been rocked by losses to Massachusetts and Charlotte. Neither the Rams nor the Owls had the kind of non-conference seasons they could fall back on if their conference seasons faltered.

Big East
Likely number of bids: 7-10
Locks: Connecticut, Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova
Close to lockhood: West Virginia
In the mix: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Providence
Losing the edge: Notre Dame
If any conference deserves the description muddled, it this one. And I'm going to leave it at that.

More on this later.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bracket Watch - Over a muddling field

When I mean a muddling field, I mean a pool of at-large teams that are falling into a growing field of mediocrity or trying to reach it. That means the field is considerably more fluid this week. Without trying to get into too much detail, it means that the at-large field will be more difficult to pick on Selection Sunday.

Now on to the latest projected field(as of Sunday night's games):

Final Four Pairings
East(1) vs. West(4)
South(2) vs. Midwest(3)

East Region
1-Connecticut/Big East vs. 16-Morehead State/Ohio Valley
8-Utah State/Western Athletic vs. 9-Florida State
4-Xavier/Atlantic 10 vs. 13-Western Kentucky/Sun Belt
5-Butler/Horizon vs. 12-Kansas State
2-Clemson vs. 15-Virginia Military/Big South
7-California vs. 10-Providence
@Kansas City
3-Missouri vs. 14-Sam Houston State/Southland
6-Ohio State vs. 11-Cincinnati

West Region
1-Pittsburgh vs. 16-Opening Round Winner
Opening Round: Long Beach State/Big West vs. Princeton/Ivy
8-Louisiana State/Southeastern vs. 9-Miami(FL)
4-Kansas vs. 13-North Dakota State/Summit
5-Illinois vs. 12-Siena/Metro Atlantic
2-Duke/Atlantic Coast vs. 15-East Tennessee State/Atlantic Sun
7-Texas vs. 10-South Carolina
3-Ucla/Pacific-10 vs. 14-Weber State/Big Sky
6-West Virginia vs. 11-Nevada-Las Vegas

South Region
@Kansas City
1-Oklahoma/Big 12 vs. 16-Alabama State/Southwestern
8-Minnesota vs. 9-Utah
4-Wake Forest vs. 13-Northeastern/Colonial
5-Villanova vs. 12-Arizona
2-Michigan State/Big Ten vs. 15-Holy Cross/Patriot
7-Arizona State vs. 10-Davidson/Southern
3-Louisville vs. 14-Buffalo/Mid-American
6-Florida vs. 11-Boston College

Midwest Region
1-North Carolina vs. 16-Morgan State/Mid-Eastern
8-Dayton vs. 9-Tennessee
4-Washington vs. 13-Northern Iowa/Missouri Valley
5-Syracuse vs. 12-Michigan
2-Marquette vs. 15-Boston University/America East
7-San Diego State/Mountain West vs. 10-Gonzaga/West Coast
3-Memphis/Conference USA vs. 14-Robert Morris/Northeast
6-Purdue vs. 11-Virginia Tech

New to the field this week: Boston University, Boston College, Miami(FL), Cincinnati, Michigan, Kansas State, Princeton, San Diego State, Arizona, Sam Houston State, Western Kentucky

Last four in the field: Cincinnati, Michigan, Arizona, Kansas State
First four left out: Georgetown, Brigham Young, Penn State, Nebraska
Next four left out: Creighton, Maryland, Wisconsin, Southern California
Also in consideration: Duquesne, Rhode Island, Temple, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Virginia Commonwealth, UAB, Tulsa, Green Bay, New Mexico, Kentucky, Mississippi State, College of Charleston

Polls will be up later.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Added Wisconsin as a bubble team.