Thursday, January 28, 2010

The State of the Bubble - Part 3

To view the first two parts of this series, click this link for part 1 and this link for part 2.(Note: will have links up soon)

Likely bid range: 1-3
Bubble riders: Arizona State, California, Washington, Washington State
It is so bad for this league, it would be a complete shock if it got an at-large team to sneak in, let alone 2. Southern California would have a good chance, if it wasn't for the fact they're sitting out the postseason, thanks in large part to O.J. Mayo's transgressions. The only hope the league has is Dan Guererro's salesmanship(As the AD at UCLA and the chair of the Division I Men's Basketball committee, he has to walk a very fine line between salesmanship and huckstering).

Patriot League
Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: Lafayette, Lehigh
A very wide open league, with no one really standing out. Army had the best OOC, but the Black Knights are fading away already.

Likely bid range: 4-7
Lock: Kentucky
Close to a lock: Mississippi, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Bubble riders: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State
A year after only seeing three of it's teams compete in the Tourney, the SEC looks to improve it's bid allocation. Four teams are a guarantee, five to seven is also likely for the Kings of Football.

Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: College of Charleston, Western Carolina
Even with the two contenders having stellar wins(the Cougars over North Carolina, the Catamounts over Louisville in Freedom Hall), the league is too weak at the bottom end to allow for a second bid to become available.

Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: Sam Houston State, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
The West division of this league is home to it's two remaining unbeatens. It's not impossible to see these two teams meet for a third time in the final of the conference tourney.

Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Jackson State, Prairie View A&M, Texas Southern
An exciting race is brewing in SWAC country, but regardless of who wins, the winner will be in Dayton for the Opening Round game, likely as the 65th seed. A remarkable stat about UAPB is that they did not play a true home game this season until Janurary 16th.

Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: IUPUI, Oakland, South Dakota State
By all rights, the Golden Grizzlies should be dominating the leagues, but neither the Jaguars nor the Jackrabbits will go down in vain, Look for SDSU to have a massive edge in support at the conference tourney in Sioux Falls.

Sun Belt
Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: Arkansas State, Denver, Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky
The Hilltoppers actually had aspirations of an at-large candidacy, but falling to 4-4 in the conference(as of last night) have destroyed that chance. Still another wide open battle that won't be settled until the final week of play.

West Coast
Likely bid range: 1-2
Lock: Gonzaga
Bubble rider: St. Mary's
Could St. Mary's get shafted again by the committee? The Gaels hope not, but after failing again to beat the Zags, it's certainly a possibility. Portland had a decent start to the year, but is no longer in contention.

Western Athletic
Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: Louisiana Tech, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah State
Could be another barn burner in the WAC, with all these teams having similar resumes. And conversely, no chance at securing an at-large berth.

About last night - Road woes

Anyone have a brick wall handy? I need one after Connecticut blew up in front of our faces in Providence vs. the Friars. The 81-66 result was a surprise since the Huskies were able to hold the lead for a chunk of the game, but it wasn't a surprise in terms of the Big East standings where the Huskies were behind the Friars. The question for the Huskies is will they fall out in the next projections? It's about 53-47 in favor of dropping out. And can the Friars make a move into the field? No, at least not yet. They'll make the under consideration board.

A clash of the titans took place in the Mountain West last night too, it ended up with New Mexico edging out Brigham Young 76-72 to hand the Cougars their first loss inside the conference and make it a 50-50 shot the Lobos move up to a protected seed. There was also a bit of controversy that could have altered the result. With 26 seconds left, Jimmer Fredette shot a questionable 3-pointer that made the score 73-70. The toes of Fredette's right foot appeared to be straddling the 3-point line, with no TV camera having a clear shot. The Lobos, however, never lost the lead in the last 26 seconds, thus making it moot.

William & Mary's at-large chances are done after James Madison edged them out in Harrisonburg, 65-63. Also faltering in Colonial play was Northeaster who was upset at home by Drexel, 61-48. This leaves the "old reliables" George Mason and Old Dominion at the head of the pack.

Elsewhere, Florida State will have a tough time staying in the bracket after falling for the 11th time in succession to Duke in Cameron Indoor, 70-56 Charlotte proved worthy of inclusion in the field, topping Temple 74-64; Oklahoma State pushed Texas A&M over the edge, 76-69; Wichita State downed Illinois State 74-66; Vanderbilt continued it's unbeaten SEC run in 85-76 road win over Tennessee; and lastly Maine drew a stiff challenge from Boston University before prevailing 56-54.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The State of the Bubble - Part 2

If you missed the first part of the State of the Bubble series, Click here on this link:

Horizon League
Likely bid range: 1-2
Close to lock: Butler
Also in the mix: Green Bay
The only way the Bulldogs end up with an at-large bid is if they don't win the conference tournament. But since Butler is likely to be the host, the chance is small, although you could have said it last year and Cleveland State ended up proving the theory wrong.

Ivy League
Likely bid range: 1-2
Bubble riders: Cornell, Harvard
An at-large team? From the Ivy League? Yes, it's possible for this league to record score an at-large bid, but it has to fall like this:
(1) Cornell and Harvard go 13-1 in league play.
(2) Harvard must win the one-game playoff to decide the automatic bid.
(3) Cornell must hope that there are no bid stealers anywhere.
It' s a longshot at best, but it could happen.

Metro Atlantic
Likely bid range: 1-2
Bubble riders: Siena, Fairfield
The Saints could not take advantage of their OOC schedule to build their resume(only their Bracket Buster game is left), leaving the Albany area school to resort to gunning for a perfect MAAC record and close loss in the tourney final to give it a fallback. But since the Saints are hosting it at Times-Union Arena, any loss in the final will affect it in the RPI ratings.

Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: Akron, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Kent State
The MAC has regressed as a basketball conference to the point where the best seed that these four could hope for is a 13 seed.

Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: Morgan State, Bethune-Cookman
With the toughest part of the MEAC schedule out of the way, look for the Bears to coast to a top seed in the conference tournament in Winston-Salem. The Rattlers were right on Morgan's tail until Monday when they lost by three to Howard in D.C.

Missouri Valley
Likely bid range: 1-2
Close to a lock: Northern Iowa
Bubble riders: Illinois State, Wichita State
The Panthers have no bad losses(not after Boston College beat Clemson last night), but they have no good wins either. They should still be to the good side of the cut line if they falter in St. Louis. The Shockers(even with a win of UNI at home) and Redbirds have no such luxury.

Mountain West
Likely bid range: 2-4
Lock: BYU
Close to a lock: New Mexico
Bubble riders: Nevada-Las Vegas, San Diego State
The Cougars, currently 20-1, are aiming for a protected seed and a likely placement in San Jose, whilst the Lobos are using their excellent start to the season to good use. Those two meet tonight in the Pit. Beyond them, both the Rebels and Aztecs will have their supporters, but both have flaws that need to be corrected.

Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: Long Island, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris
The winner of this conference will likely be a sacrificial lamb to a #1 seed, possibly it will have to play in the Opening Round at Dayton. A shame, because this maybe one of the more competitive races out there.

Ohio Valley
Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: Murray State, Morehead State
Doesn't seem long ago that the Racers were in the NCAA tourney. But 2004 seems like ancient times to the Murray faithful. Of course, the Eagles will have something to say about, both in February in Morehead and possibly in the conference tournament in Nashville.

About last night - Storm all over me

When the SEC decided to institute the rediculous "No rushing the field of play" rule a few years, many folks wondered how timid would SEC students be if they tried to do it? Well when South Carolina deep-sixed Kentucky in Columbia last night, they made it a trickle at first, then turned it into an all-out rush. Particularly since they had just been treated to a one-man circus shot parade by Devon Downey. In terms of the bracket, the Gamecocks aren't probably going to have a sniff at the bubble, and while Kentucky won't be the top seed overall next week, they should be able to stay a #1 seed, especially if they can beat Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Tar Heel fans, you can step away from the cliff, for now at least. Six days off was just what North Carolina needed to revive itself, and they did just that, controlling a hungry NC State team 77-63 for their first true road win this season. Now that doesn't mean the Heels are home scott-free. They have to head back home to face a suprising Virginia team if they are to move up substansially away from the cut line. Elswhere in the ACC: Maryland throttled Miami 81-59, while Clemson fell at Boston College 75-69.

A key bubble battle in the Big Ten fell the way of Minnesota as they outdueled Northwestern(and once again proved the fallacy of those getting on the Wildcat bandwagon) 65-61 at Williams Arena. This is key, since the Gophers lost Al Nolen to academic issues last Friday. Meanwhile, Michigan State continues it's life of living dangerously, beating Michigan 57-56 on another Jai Lucas game-winner.

Elsewhere, Kansas State edged Baylor 76-74 in Big 12 play, Rhode Island edged Dayton 65-64 at the UD Arena, UNLV got a scare from the Air Force before winning 60-50, West Virginia cruised at DePaul 62-46, Marquette pounded Rutgers into a pulp, 82-59, and Washington took out it's frustrations on Seattle 123-76.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The State of the Bubble - Part 1

Since it's State of the Union week this week, and with it also after the halfway point of the season, it's time to examine this year's bubble picture. Part one will focus on every conference from America East to Conference USA. Part two tomorrow goes from the Horizon League to the Ohio Valley. Part three Thursday will cover from the Pacific-10 to the Western Athletic. Sorry Great West, I have no time for you.

America East
Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: Vermont, Maine, Stony Brook
The Catamounts are trying to return to the NCAA's for the 1st time since 2005, in the interim, four teams earned their first NCAA bid. It could be a fifth newbie in 6 years if the Black Bears(owners of a road win over the Catamounts) or the Seawolves are able to assert themselves.

Atlantic Coast
Likely bid range: 5-7
Lock: Duke
Close to a lock: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest
Bubble riders: Florida State, Maryland, Miami(FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Apart from Duke, the ACC has no real clear-cut choices for the field. The three "close to a lock" teams all have their warts and the 7-team bubble contingent is hard to differentiate. Still, expect at least five to (possibly) seven teams from the ACC getting the call. The Tar Heels could be close to the wrong side of the cut line if they don't reverse their decline(especially with an RPI in the 70's).

Atlantic Sun
Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: Campbell, East Tennessee State, Jacksonville
The Camels currently lead the league, but should they win the automatic bid could cause some logistical problems. Campbell has a no play on Sunday policy, but it's possible their profile could scream "Opening Round participant". Neither the Bucs nor the Dolphins have that issue and both host Campbell later on this season.

Atlantic 10
Likely bid range: 3-5
Close to a lock: Temple, Xavier
Bubble riders: Charlotte, Dayton, Rhode Island, Richmond
Temple should move up to lock status within a few weeks, beyond that, the Musketeers are the only ones who, if not an actual lock, should have no problems getting in. The four bubble riders hope to score a scalp or two of the leaders, mostly to offset some warts.

Big East
Likely bid range: 7-11
Locks: Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia
Close to a lock: Connecticut, Pittsburgh
Bubble riders: Cincinnati, Louisville, Notre Dame, St. John's, Seton Hall
It would be a shock if this conference were to get all these teams listed into the field, but with the other BCS 6 conferences(with the exception of the Big 12) not up to snuff, it's certainly possible. What is likely is the Big East will have the most teams represented in the field.

Big Sky
Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: Northern Colorado, Weber State
The most decorated team in the league(Weber State) faces off with a team just a few years into it's second Division I residency(Northern Colorado). The battle to win the regular season crown(and thus the rights to host the finals of the conference tournament) will go down to the wire.

Big South
Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: Coastal Carolina, Radford, Winthrop
The Highlanders may have had the better non-conference resume, but it's the Chanticleers who currently lead the league. Never count out the Winthrop Eagles, however, their rebuilding mode is almost over and are looking to reestablish their dominance.

Big Ten
Likely bid range: 4-7
Locks: Michigan State, Purdue
Close to a lock: Ohio State, Wisconsin
Bubble riders: Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern
Although there have been some doubts, especially with Evan Turner missing 6 games, the Buckeyes have been able to become a credible candidate to become a lock. The three bubble riders could beat each other up and leave the Big Ten with only four teams representing it. If the Wildcats qualify, they will be the last BCS 6 team to do so.

Big 12
Likely bid range: 5-8
Locks: Kansas, Kansas State, Texas
Close to a lock: Baylor
Bubble riders; Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech
I don't expect all four bubble riders to make the field, the Red Raiders are particularly vulnerable, but the should have the second largest contingent in the NCAA's behind the Big East.

Big West
Likely number of bids: 1
Contenders: Long Beach State, Pacific
In spite of having a losing record, I think the 49ers will have the goods to make a run for the top of the conference. The Tigers, however, will a lot to say about who gets the top seed.

Likely bid range: 1-3
Bubble riders: George Mason, Northeastern, Old Dominion, Virginia Commonwealth, William & Mary
William & Mary is having it's best year yet(wins over Maryland, Wake Forest and Richmond, all on the road), and yet it's no guarantee the Tribe will make it(losses at home to UNC Wilmington and ODU). The same can be said for the others. By all rights, the Colonial could have a second team in, and if things break a certain way, a third team is possible.

Conference USA
Likely bid range: 1-3
Bubble riders: UAB, Marshall, Memphis, UTEP, Tulsa
Like the Colonial above, Conference USA has a good chance of landing a second team in the dance and a third if everything breaks it's way. The leading candidate is UAB, but Tulsa isn't far behind. Don't sleep on Memphis, they have owned this conference since the 2005 reorginaization. And Josh Pastner would love to prove people wrong by picking up where John Calipari left off.

About last night - When it doesn't mean anything

For the record, at one point in last night's game vs. Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, Georgetown had a 14-0 lead. If only it ended at that point for the Hoyas. The Orange proceeded to to rally and then smother the Hoyas resulting in an 73-56 win. Some prognosticators predicted the Hoyas had the look of a 1-seed, especially if they could beat both the 'Cuse and Duke this week(The two being two of the top three in the RPI, Sagarin, and Pomeroy ratings). But, as we saw last year, this team could stumble the rest of the way and lose all the resume muscle it has. Kansas, incidentally the third of the power ratings trio, had little trouble in dispatching Missouri 84-65 in Lawrence.

In the lower leagues, Morgan State has breathing space in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Their rout of Maryland-Eastern Shore was an expected one, but the key result for Todd Bozeman's Bears occured in Washington as Howard built a big lead over 2nd placed Bethune-Cookman and held of a Rattler rally to win 67-64. With a very friendly schedule, look for Morgan State to waltz home to an undisputed regular season crown(and the fall-back NIT bid that goes with it). In the SWAC, Texas Southern defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff 70-67 in a battle of two of the three teams that came into the day tied for 1st(Jackson State, the other team, had the night off). In the Southern, Western Carolina scored a 100-90 takedown of the College of Charleston, ending the Cougars' unbeaten conference run. Lastly, Western Kentucky's at-large hopes are completely through as they lose to Southern Illinois.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bracket Watch-There is a morning after...after all

Please excuse me if I seem a bit agaitated this morning. Aah, forget agitated, flushed with outrage. After what happened in the NFC Championship Game, where the Vikings fell short(AGAIN!!) in New Orleans. The anger is spread out on all fronts, but mostly against Pete Morelli, who pretty much created this generation's "Immaculate Pushoff" when he ruled that a catch in overtime was still good, even when there was evidence that revealed the New Orleans receiver trapped the ball. Two plays later, the Saints won on a field goal and I went to bed feeling angry. But in this business you don't brood over such shenanigans, you brush it off and move on. Which is why there is this week's projected bracket. (Done as always as if the season ended last night).

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

Midwest Region

1-Kentucky(Southeastern) vs. 16-Opening Round winner
Opening Round: Central Michigan(Mid-American) vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff(Southwestern)
8-Xavier vs. 9-Texas A&M
@San Jose
4-Pittsburgh vs. 13-Northeastern(Colonial)
5-Ohio State vs. 12-Maryland(Atlantic Coast)
@Oklahoma City
2-Texas vs. 15-Texas A&M-Corpus Christi(Southland)
7-New Mexico vs. 10-Mississippi State
3-West Virginia vs. 14-Morgan State(Mid-Eastern)
6-Florida State vs. 11-Rhode Island

West Region

@ Buffalo
1-Syracuse vs. 16-Maine(America East)
8-Nevada-Las Vegas vs. 9-Siena(Metro Atlantic)
@New Orleans
4-Kansas State vs. 13-Oakland(Summit)
5-Vanderbilt vs. 12-Charlotte
2-Michigan State(Big Ten) vs. 15-Lehigh(Patriot)
7-Missouri vs. 10-UAB(Conference USA)
3-Gonzaga(West Coast) vs. 14-Weber State(Big Sky)
6-Northern Iowa(Missouri Valley vs. 11-North Carolina

South Region

@Oklahoma City
1-Kansas(Big 12) vs. 16-Arkansas State(Sun Belt)
8-Connecticut vs. 9-California(Pac-10)
4-Wisconsin vs. 13-Louisiana Tech(Western Athletic)
5-Clemson vs. 12-Old Dominion
2-Tennessee vs. 15-Coastal Carolina(Big South)
7-Wake Forest vs. 10-Cornell(Ivy)
3-Georgetown vs. 14-College of Charleston(Southern)
6-Temple(Atlantic 10) vs. 11-Oklahoma State

East Region

1-Villanova(Big East) vs. 16-Campbell(Atlantic Sun)
8-Georgia Tech vs. 9-Florida
@San Jose
4-Brigham Young(Mountain West) vs. 13-Pacific(Big West)
5-Butler(Horizon) vs. 12-Seton Hall
2-Duke vs. 15-Quinnipiac(Northeast)
7-Baylor vs. 10-St. Mary's
@New Orleans
3-Purdue vs. 14-Murray State(Ohio Valley)
6-Mississippi vs. 11-Louisville

Last four in the field: Rhode Island, Charlotte, Seton Hall, Old Dominion
First four left out: Dayton, Wichita State, Virginia Tech, Northwestern
Next four left out: William & Mary, Richmond, Oklahoma, Cincinnati
Also under consideration: Miami(FL), Virginia, George Washington, Notre Dame, Illinois, Minnesota, Virginia Commonwealth, Marshall, Memphis, Tulsa, Illinois State, San Diego State, Arizona State, Washington, Alabama, Georgia, Utah State

Moving in: Maine, Maryland, Charlotte, Connecticut, Louisville, Seton Hall, Oklahoma State, Northeastern, Old Dominion, Central Michigan, Quinnipiac, Lehigh, Florida, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Moving out: Vermont, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Richmond, Marquette, Minnesota, William & Mary, Marshall, Buffalo, Long Island, Arizona State, Washington, Lafayette, Jackson State

State of the Bubble, this week
With the State of the Union being held this week, look for it's basketball counterpart, the State of the Bubble to come out over the next 3 days on this blog.