Picking 65: 2006 NCAA Tournament Discussion

whistles It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Well, almost, anyways. We’re three weeks from March 12, 2006 - also known as Selection Sunday. Other than the NFL, college basketball is my biggest sports obsession, and I wanted to see if we could get a bit of discussion going about the end of conference play, the upcoming conference tournaments, and the Big Dance ™. After sitting in a brewpub in Bethesda over the weekend and watching the locals go crazy over an overtime win, at home, against a 10-14 Georgia Tech, I knew it was time. I am going to start the thread with discussion of the men’s field, but I am perfectly willing to talk women’s ball as well - I just spend a lot more time watching and reading about the guys.

First, some obligatory links:

The Official NCAA RPI Rankings - one of the most-oft-quoted components for selecting and seeding the Tournament teams.
A Couple of sites with Conference RPI rankings - to judge the relative strength of conferences. The numbers are marginally different on each, but tell the same story.
ESPN.com’s Bubble Watch - Use the dropdown in the top right to get to the most recent. Useful particularly in that it gives the RPI and Strength of Schedule of most bubble contenders.
ESPN.com’s Bracketology - one of many well-publicized bracket predictions.
Other sites with weekly bubble and/or bracket updates include FOXSports.com, CBS Sportsline, and CNNSI.

I’m going to do this by going through on a general conference-by-conference basis, paying the most attention to the conferences that will (or should) get multiple bids, and the teams that have the best chances to do some damage while there. I will get this out of the way now: I am from northeastern CT, about half an hour outside of Storrs, and I am a born-and-bred UConn fan. Additionally, I am a big fan of the Big East as a conference, particularly because of the brand of physical basketball it is known for as well as familiarity with the teams involved. In another year, this might be a bigger problem; thankfully, this year, there is quite the dearth of competitive West Coast teams for my East Coast Bias to dismiss readily out of hand :smiley:

Once I cover the contenders for the spots, I’ll attack the top seeds, and who I think should get them. I’ll then finish off with a summary, and some other “predictions” (I use the term loosely, as they will likely have little actual predictive accuracy). Will hopefully have this done by tomorrow evening, but I of course welcome anyone who has anything to add before then as well!

Starting things up…

The Top Tier: The Big Ten, the Big East, the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the Southeastern Conference

If you take a look at the conference RPI rankings, you’ll note that the top conferences divide into a few discernible tiers: The Top Four, the Next Three, and The Rest. I’m going to go about it this way rather than using a traditional “Power Conference” structure. In particular, I think the relative strength of the conferences fluctuates enough on a year-to-year basis that this is more helpful.

Numbers in parentheses are official RPI rankings as of 2.14.06. Teams are listed in order of conference standing where applicable.

The Big Ten

In the Tournament: 6 [Iowa (9), Illinois (13), Ohio State (8), Wisconsin (16), Michigan State (10), Michigan (30)]
Near Misses: 1 [Indiana (37)]
Close: None
Injustices: None
Number of times we hear “They’re a year away!” in reference to Big Ten teams: Many

This is highly dependant on how Indiana closes the season. The top five are all very solid, and I feel pretty good about Michigan’s chances despite some of their recent struggles. Indiana, however, is on a downward spiral. They have off-the-court issues to go with more than enough on-the-court ones. The RPI is currently very borderline, as it’s lower than the number listed above after the games played this week – current projections have them around 44. Unless they make a major turnaround fast, I think they fall short.

As for the teams that will make it in… well, many of them were considered “a year too young” coming into this season, most notably Ohio State. The conference race is wide open because there are a bunch of quality teams but no dominant one. This is a good recipe for strong conference play, but could spell danger when it comes bracket time. I see pretty much all of these teams as extremely vulnerable to a “hot hand” team – there is no Duke-type-team that can take a fearless underdog’s best shot and still have a great chance of coming out with the win. For all that this is probably the strongest conference on average in the nation, I don’t see any of the teams (other than perhaps a MSU repeat of last year) as serious Final Four contenders.

The Big East

In the Tournament: 7 [Villanova (2), Connecticut (4), West Virginia (19), Pittsburgh (6), Georgetown (26), Marquette (35), Seton Hall (34)]
Borderline: 2 [Cincinnati (32), Syracuse (28)]
Contenders who will stay home if they don’t win at least three in MSG: 2 [Louisville (64), Rutgers (77)]
Injustices: If less than eight make it, definitely – dependant on how the last few weeks go, though.
Is a 16 team league worth the bloated size if it means you get 9 of the top 35 RPI teams beating the crap out of each other in competitive, physical games several times a week? Absolutely!

The top teams here all have extremely solid profiles; they also all have extreme tournament potential. Whether a 8-8 or (god forbid) 7-9 Big East team is more worthy than a Pac-10 team several games above .500 will be a key question in front of the committee; I would tend to say yes, at least this year. With the exception of South Florida, there have been few easy games here. Syracuse and Cincinnati are interesting cases, because both have strong RPI ratings, and they have played two of the ten most difficult schedules in the nation; unfortunately, they’ve mostly won the games they were “supposed to win”, and little more. I think either should be in with two more wins, but each needs at least one win at MSG to feel remotely comfortable. Louisville needs to worry itself with making the conference tournament at this point; Rutgers also sees 7-9 in conference play as a goal too far out in the distance.

The Big East is the only conference that could potentially have two #1 seeds this year, and at this point I think UConn and Villanova each deserve the honor. If each wins out, with UConn taking the rematch between the two at Storrs, and reaches at least the semifinals of the league tournament, I think they’ll both pick up the top seeds – particularly in light of Texas’s shellacking today. West Virginia is even more of a threat to go on a run than they were last year; Pitt will try to overcome its recent reputation for coming up soft come tourney time; Georgetown and Marquette have both shown this year that they are capable of beating the very best (with wins over Duke and UConn, respectively). Asking for 1985 all over again might be a bit much, but I would not be surprised in the least two see two of these teams representing in Indianapolis in early April.


In the Tournament: 4 [Duke (1), N.C. State (22), Boston College (33), North Carolina (23)]
Borderline: 1 [Maryland (42)]
Done unless they make some major noise in the conference tournament: [Florida St. (67), Virginia (53), Miami (78)]
Injustices: Only if Maryland gets in, given how badly they’ve played this year.
Teams That Matter: 1 [Duke (1)]

Maryland is treading water, and has been all season. They only have one remotely significant win, at home vs. BC. Many of the teams they’ve taken losses to have been… well, not teams you lose to if you want to get in the tournament. #3 ranking notwithstanding, this is a down year in the ACC (as it is for all of the six “majors” after the top two).

Except, of course, for Duke. They don’t have down years. I do think Shelden Williams is a little bit overrated (not a LOT, mind you, but a little), and I’d gladly take UConn’s frontcourt in a matchup against the Blue Devils. Plus, I think he’s kind of funny looking. On the other hand, I think J.J. Redick IS, quite frankly, all that. I think this team is quite beatable if you get Redick on a down night – he just doesn’t happen to have down nights. I don’t think they’re going to win it all this year, but you also won’t see me betting against them until the Final Four comes along, unless they get a crazy-strong 2-seed in their bracket.

I’m not really sure that N.C. State, BC, or UNC are worth writing about. They’d all be middle of the pack teams in the Big Ten or Big East (wait a minute, BC WAS a middle of the pack team in the Big East just last year!). There is some potential for an upset or two (especially if Craig Smith goes off for a few games in a row), but there’s just as much potential for these teams to get upset. Very blah, overall, IMO.


Also Known As: The Borderline Conference
In the Tournament: 4 [Tennessee (3), LSU (15), Florida (18), Alabama (43)]
On the Borderline: 4 [Kentucky (44), Arkansas (66), Vanderbilt (58), South Carolina (52)]
Done: The Rest. I think. Probably.
Injustices: Who knows, yet?
Mid-majors watching the last few weeks of conference play and the tournament to see if this league gets 4 or 7: All of them with bubble hopes.

Alabama came up with the big win over Tennessee this weekend to put them in my “In” column. Kentucky… hasn’t impressed me enough, yet. One more big win, or not embarrassing themselves in the conference tourney, and they should probably be in. The other three are in serious trouble, even with Arkansas’s win over Florida this weekend. For SC and Vandy, the W-L record just isn’t going to be there, and Arkansas needs at least one more big win for the RPI to be anywhere near there. On the other hand, the top teams in this conference have all shown themselves to be very beatable, and most of these teams have one last shot at one or more of them, so they can still prove themselves.

The team I like the best here come tourney time is actually LSU. Most of Tennessee’s big wins, to get to its current gaudy RPI ranking, have come over teams that I think are a little suspect in one way or another; LSU, on the other hand, has beaten or played competitively with a number of absolutely top notch teams. Sorry, but I just value a win at Texas when they were playing their worst ball of the year less than close losses at UConn and Ohio St. when they were playing fairly well. Depending on the road they draw, I could definitely see writing LSU into the Elite Eight as a semi-sleeper.

Tomorrow afternoonish, it’s The Second Tier: The Big 12, The Missouri Valley Conference, and the Pacific 10 (and I think the MVC is probably the best of the three!)

I love you man.

I too spent the last 12 hours or so at a bar on a Sunday inspired by the big Illinois-Indiana game.

You are totally and completely drunk and/or high! The Big East and ACC comprise the patty-cake conferences. The most pussified conferences in all of basketball, making the PAC-10 look like a old-school streetball game. Lucky for you the refs tighten up during the postseason and call the games like Big East/ACC conference games so the candy-ass east coast schools have a huge advantage going in. Watching a game from those two conferences is like watching a free throw clinic…made even more embarrassing by the Jordanesque preferential treatment the blue chip schools get.

In the interest of full disclosure I’m a Illinois alum and rabid fan. So you could say we have differing views. :wink:

Indiana is cooked. Totally and completely toast, but they have enough quality wins that if none of the bubble teams step up they could squeak in on legacy alone. In or out, there’s no way they win a game in the tourney.

Do not sell OSU short. In my estimation they are the scariest team in the Big Ten, and that is almost totally due to Terrance Dials. He’s got the potential to go on a Shawn May type tear. The rest of the OSU squad is too streaky, but Dials is better than Sheldon Williams, Josh Boone and Tyler Hansbrough. For my money, the best frontcourt player in the country.

Michigan is a total enigma even to me. I’ve watched them at least 10 times this year and I have no idea if they belong in the big dance or not. My guess is that they miss out with expected losses in their last 4 games. Indiana is the only one where they have a prayer, and IU could be fighting for their NCAA lives. In the Big Ten tourney they are probably one and done due to the projected low seed.

Iowa is all smoke and mirrors. Take away their obscene homecourt advantage and they aren’t frightening. They get a referee bias at home that makes Duke’s look like a fair shake. They belong in the big dance, but they won’t make it to the Sweet 16.

Wisconsin is falling apart and have cold streaks that can be comical. Their defense keeps them close, and they’ll make the NCAA and probably win a game, but they aren’t really a threat to make it to the Elite 8. If they get hot they can beat anyone in the nation especially with Bo Ryan coaching them up, so don’t count them out totally.

The class of the conference is clearly Illinois and MSU, with OSU a scary runner up. MSU is getting by mostly on reputation right now and don’t deserve the ranking they have. I don’t have a problem with this because they are very talented and Izzo is one of the top 4 coaches in the nation. When the dance comes up they’ll be one of the first teams I pencil into the Elite 8, even though they’ve yet to live up to expectations.

Illinois is easily the most talented, deepest and most well rounded team. Dee Brown will be a NCAA stud and has put up middling stats due to his attempt to impress the NBA scouts by showing he can be a 1-guard. He won’t waste time with that when the lights come on. My key concern is the tendancy to get into foul trouble, especially with the aforementioned tight NCAA officating, and they occasional lack of toughness in the frontcourt. Augustine, Arnold, Carter, Randle, and Pruitt make up a deep, scary interior crew, but Randle and Augustine have a tendancy to forget that they are more athletic and bigger then everyone else on the court. If they find the killer instinct that Deron and Luther had last year a Final Four is in the cards.

The Big East has 2 of the top teams in my estimation and the top semi-sleeper.

UConn is excellent and is built to win games in the postseason. They’ll be there when the Elite 8 are decided, though I think they might miss out on a #1 seed. Their non-conference schedule was embarrassing and unless they win out they won’t get the #1 seed. Still, I’d hate to be in their bracket. Rudy Gay is capable of winning any game he plays, but if they come up against Villinova or Illinois in the tourney they’ll have serious trouble. A guard dominated team will be their Acchilies.

I love Villinova this year. They remind me of Illinois last year with all those talented, good shooting guards. Guards are always the great equalizer in the NCAA. I don;t care how powerful your middle man is, if you’re out gunned on the perimeter you’re going home early. The only reason Shawn May was as dominant as he was was in '05 was due to Felton’s ability to feed him the ball and keep defenses honest. The only concern is that Villinova doesn’t play enough defense, and in that way they compare poorly to Illinois last year. For this reason they should be concerned about West Virginia in the Big East tournament and need to win out to secure a #1 seed.

WVU is the team that I think will make a run. I think they’ll get a #2 seed which will shock some people. The depth of the Big East will boost them as well has playing a better than average non-conference schedule. Pittsnogle and Gansy will give teams match-up nightmares, especially those outside the Big East who aren’t used to it. If they get the right seed and match-ups they could be a lock fo rthe Elite 8.

Georgetown is my semi-sleeper. These guys have the size and defense to beat anyone in the country in the big dance. They are a bit streaky at times and could fall to the the NCAA officiating whimsy, but I wouldn’t want to play them. I’m guessing they could be a 5 seed who makes a run, knocking off a 2.

I think the rest are also-rans and Pitt will be the highest seeded team bounced in the first round.

Duke and a bunch of nobodies. NC State and UNC will both get a win in the tournament but neither are a threat to anyone good. I like NC State’s starting 5 over UNC’s but Hansbrough is one of those guys who could dominate a game. Neither would shock me in the Sweet 16, but if both made it I’d be floored. If neither made it out of the first weekend I wouldn’t be surprised.

Dook is dook. They are skilled and I love Redick’s game. I’m certaily a Duke-hater, but I’m not one of those guys who will rip on Redick. I like the way he plays and I like his skills, being enemy #1 in every venue, yet never missing stride demands respect from me. The most frustrating thing is how Duke gets such a silly edge from the Refs in the tournament. Shelden Williams could end up being the MOP without shooting 10 times in any game, he’ll most assuredly average 14 FT’s a game in the tourney, which is total bullshit. Nonetheless, you’re a fool if you don;t pencil them into the Final Four.

This conference sucks and I see no reason to expect any of these teams to do shit in the postseason. Kentucky doesn’t belong in the NCAA, though they’ll probably slide in on popularity alone. Tennessee has talent and Bruce Pearl is the most hated man in the Big Ten. He deserves to have something really embrassing happen this season, but I’d be lying if I thought his team wasn’t the best of the SEC. I agree that LSU will be a sleeper and will be the only team making noise in the big dance from the SEC. Everyone else is a no-account team that’s fattened up on nothing but garbage SEC teams.

I’ll give my two cents. I am generally in agreement with the assessments above so I will not waste space repeating them.

I hate to say it, but I don’t think Kentucky gets into the tourney; though, it really depends on these last 4 games of the season. The next game against Ole Miss and the finale against Florida at home are must wins. UK needs to win one of the other two games which are against Tennessee and LSU. I just don’t think UK will pull off those needed wins. I was not impresssed when the Cats beat South Carolina 79-66 this past weekend; the team was completely dependent on Sparks’ hot shooting. Most of the players are consistent in their performance game to game, but Sparks can be either really on fire or ice cold or somewhere in between. I do not believe they “slide in on popularity.” The selection committe would likely love to snub UK given the chance if you ask me. As I stated, it will really depend on these upcoming games plus a solid conference tourney appearance. The selection committee likes to pick bubble teams who have a strong finish. UK is popular among many fans, and very much hated by even more fans.

It is possible to be an Illinois and Big Ten fan without being delusional about other conferences. It would not surprise me to see two Big East teams and one ACC team (yeah…Duke) in the final four. As a conference, the Big Ten (well…Big 11 nowadays) IMO clearly had the most success in last years Big Dance, but last year is over.

Yet, the Big East is a patty-cake, pussified conference? wtf?

A #2 seed would certainly surprise me after the two losses this past week. WVU will get a #4 seed most likely, but they could earn a #3 seed depending on their showing in the conference tourney. I am just thrilled how Beilein completely turned the program around in Morgantown after it was in shambles 4 years ago.

A few early predictions:

  1. I am most certain about this: Gonzaga will not reach the elite 8. Some analysts seriously overrate this team. Anyone else remember when Sports Illustrated picked Gonzaga to win the NCAA championship two years ago? link. They didn’t even make the sweet 16. Morrison is awesome and all but one-man teams don’t make it to the elite 8. The Bulldogs fell apart when Morrison got into foul trouble against St. Mary’s but were able to eke out the 1 point victory.

  2. Michigan State will be the last Big Ten team to fall. Izzo has a knack for making the most of his team during tourney play.

  3. Cincinnati gets in; Syracuse does not.

FTR, I am a born-and-bred WVU fan, but I attend University of Kentucky and am acquainted with several current players here. I’d love to see either of those schools make a deep run but I am not at all optimistic about it. I was in Morgantown last year when WVU beat Texas Tech in the sweet 16 game…Wow, I am no stranger to seeing burning couches in Morgantown, but it turned into a riot that night with over turned cars and bonfires in the street. Since then, the city has dropped off a bus load of police in riot gear on Grant Street after major victories.

Granted, as you can tell by my handle, I see the world through Carolina-blue lenses. However, you would be well advised to underestimate the Heels at your own risk.

They’ve won six of their last seven (the only loss being a 4 pt. loss to Dook, a game in which the Heels easily could [should?] have won). They are 5-1 on the road in the ACC. They are multi-dimensional - Hansbrough is showing that he HAS to be double-teamed (see the 40 pts. he slapped on GT for an example of what happens when he’s guarded by one guy), and Reyshawn Terry has averaged 18.9 ppg in his last 8 games. David Noel is about as good a senior leader as you can hope to have, although his inability to make a good entry pass has tested my blood pressure often this season.

They can throw talented (albeit young) talent at you in waves with Danny Green, Bobby Frasor, and Marcus Ginyard, and Wes Miller typically has one of two 3s per game that deflate opponents.

The Heels lead the ACC in rebound differential (+8.5 per game). Although TOs have plagued them since December, in the last five games they have averaged about 12 per game.

Yes, because of their youth, this team is prone to inconsistency. And yes, they may very well get upset early by an inferior opponent. But they’re beginning to peak at exactly the right time, and with one of the country’s best coaches - Roy Williams - at the helm, I think we’re looking at a 4 or 5 seed.

Furthermore, if we do make it to the Sweet 16, I guarantee you the sphincter of a No. 1 seed is going to tighten considerably if they see the defending champs as an opponent. Certainly, there are teams that we really don’t match up well against (Villanova, UConn off the top of my head), but I’d relish a matchup vs. potential No. 1/2 seeds Memphis, Texas, Tennessee, Florida and DEFINITELY Gonzaga, all of whom I think we’d beat straight up if we played in the tourney.

And the best part is there’s practically no pressure on them. After May, Felton, Marv, McCants, Jawad, Melvin, and Jackie left, everybody relegated UNC to bubble status, and probably the NIT. Right now, our guys are playing like there’s nothing to lose, and they are going to be an extremely TOUGH out in March.

And as for the Dookies, you’ll see their down year next year when Redick, SheWill, Melchionni, and Dockery leave. They won’t be 8-20 bad, but they should certainly fall from their lofty perch. I see McRoberts as being the key for them this year; as good as their big two are, they don’t play good enough defense or rebound the ball well enough to survive against a really good team unless one of their supporting players contributes. Also, remember in his three previous years, J.J. has always petered out in March (remember how he sucked vs. UNC at Chapel Hill and MSU in the Sweet 16?), so I’m not sold.

I actually like BC to make a pretty good run this year. N.C. State? Second round flameout. Maryland sucks. I think only four ACC teams make it.

From skimming this thread, I see that Duke has many haters no matter what forum in which they’re being discussed. :slight_smile: I will preface that this season is the least college basketball that I’ve been following (I’m too busy) and I’m a huge Illini fan (though I think the Big 10 is massively overrated in general).

I don’t care for them either way, though I think Redick is a stud. If the entire team is on, then they have the championship in the bag. The tournament is a mere formality. I’ll continue to have Duke go deep in my pool, and barring any crazy voodoo conspiracies (e.g. Bucknell), I plan on winning my pool again (won 3 out of the last 5, finished top 3 for the last 5 (then again, my friend’s mom won it the other two times)).

I really like the Illini this year but Augustine has to step up. He needs to be more of a physical presence. Putting on 15lbs won’t hurt either. However, they’re not deep enough to win it. If they keep up the pressure D, they’ll go far.

[Cool name!] Were we watching the same game? Duke put out a 18 pt lead on them. Duke’s problem is they let their opponents back into the game, while the starters rest. They’re not deep, though they play a good team game. I think everyone on that team is just expecting Redick to score.

I like Gonzaga in the West, and I agree they might be a bit overrated, but the same ESPN guys called NC to win it all last year (though, I still think the Illini got a bad shake). Adam Morrison will probably be a bigger NBA star than Redick, but Duke plays more team than the Zags (again, I haven’t had much time for western games).

Strongest conference is the Big East, and I hate UConn. I have much respect for Villanova. Either team has the ability to win it all. How has Duke faired against big eight?

They were up 17 with about 16 minutes to go, and then we scored 12 straight to cut it to 5. They went up 10, but we went on a 20-5 run to go up five with the ball with 4:33 to go. Regardless, they needed three dagger 3s from Redick in the final three minutes to win that game, and even then, we still had a chance to tie with 10 seconds to go.

Credit where it’s due to J.J., he’s loathed everywhere he goes, yet he still manages to stick crazy jumpers in everybody’s face. He’s a much more complete player than he was his first three years. Sure, I do hate him, but definitely respect his ability. That said, until he performs in March (which he hasn’t done his first three years - see his disappearing act vs. MSU in the Sweet 16 last year), the jury is still out on him.

I have my doubts about them. If I’m a Dook fan (::shudder::), I would worry about meeting a team with quick guards who won’t be awed by Dook’s overplaying pressure (see Villanova), or by multidimensional teams with strong inside threats who would dominate Dook on the boards (UConn, Memphis, BC, Pitt). And the freshman PG Paulus has been very shaky in clutch time this year.

They are the favorites, yes, but in nearly 30 years of watching the ACC, I’ve seen better Dook teams than this year’s edition take the gas pipe in the tourney. Don’t be shocked to see Dook fall earlier than expected. If McRoberts and Dockery stand around and watch as JJ takes 25 shots, they will fall.

Well, I’m going to give the alternate ACC perspective, as I’m an NC State fan. I know that it’s pretty typical for us forgotten teams in the ACC (read: not Duke or UNC) to whine about not getting any respect, but I don’t think that you guys are giving us enough respect.

Look at it this way: If UNC were 10-3 in conference, with a 21-5 record (with blowout wins over George Washington – their only loss – and over BC at BC ), plus with 4 of the losses being away, two by 3 points and one to Duke, wouldn’t you be talking about them as sleepers to get to the Elite Eight?

[As an aside, my Carolina-hating compels me to point out the unlikelihood of Tyler Hansbrough getting to shoot more free throws than entire teams (see GT game, NC State game) in the NCAA tournament. Good luck scoring 40 points under those circumstances]

Also, don’t underestimate the effect of our offense. We play the same sort of Princeton derived motion offense that West Virginia and Georgetown are getting a lot of press for running. ACC teams see us a lot, but tourney teams? Good luck defending against it. Also, I suspect that we’re on track to getting a 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA (as the #2 team in the ACC at the moment), which means our first two games may be in Greensboro, which is a huge advantage.

In general, I can’t see the ACC getting fewer than 5 teams, although 6 will be a stretch. Duke, UNC, State and BC are locks. MD, VA or FSU have a shot if they play well down the stretch and win one or two in the ACC tourney.

As for the other conferences, the one that I want to bring up is the MVC. What the hell is going on there? They’ve got five, yes five, teams in contention for at-large bids going by their RPIs: UNI (17), Wichita State (21), Southern Illinois (24), Missouri State (25) and Creighton (29). How is that possible?

The Big 12

In the Tournament: 3 [Texas (7), Kansas (38), Oklahoma (14)]
Borderline: 1 [Colorado (49)]
Wouldn’t be borderline in a real conference, but borderline in this one: 2 [Texas A&M (80), Nebraska (102)]
Teams with decent RPI ratings that are 4-8 in conference and thus don’t really have a chance: 1 [Iowa St. (61)]
Teams that are going to get spanked earlier in the tournament than their seeds might allow for: Likely all of them that make it.

The Big 12 is not very good this year. There. I said it. Every time I’m willing to proclaim Texas as the savior of the conference, the team that will carry their flag and represent them well, they go and do something like they did this weekend - get blown out by an inferior team. So I quit. Texas is going to bow out before the Big 12 tournament final, the winner of the conference tournament will get the 4th bid (and if it’s Kansas or Oklahoma, Colorado may get in by default, even if I think the conference probably only deserves three bids), and Texas will be ripe for a second round upset by a 7/10 seed.

Kansas might be the most interesting case here. Early in the year, it was doubtful they’d even make the tournament. Then they turned things around, and they’ve been one of the hottest teams over the last couple of months, making them a lock even with the questionable RPI. The question, for me, is if they can maintain that momentum going forward - this could easily end up being a “team that peaked too early” that gets knocked out in the first round in a 5-12 or 6-11 matchup. The Big 12’s tournament hopes seem to be completely dependant on whether Texas can get it all together at the right time.


In the Tournament: 4 [Wichita St. (21), Northern Iowa (17), Creighton (29), Missouri St. (25)]
Probably also in, but took a loss at home in the BracketBusters that really didn’t help: 1 [Southern Illinois (24)]
Would be a bubble team in a “major” but probably needs to win the conference tournament here (and certainly has a chance to do so): 1 [Bradley (63)]
Phrase you’ll hear way too many times over the next few weeks, but isn’t EXACTLY true: “If this was the sixth rated conference in the country and named ‘The Big 12’ or ‘The Pac-10’, all five of these teams would be in!”

Well, well, our enigma conference of the year. Everyone is going to tell you how great the MVC is, and how it’s just like any of the other major conferences this year, and how it should get some respect. Well, to some degree, I agree - and I certainly think it deserves five bids if those teams stay about where they are. On the other hand, there are two crucial differences between this conference and a major:

a) Extremely top heavy: The bottom four teams have a grand total of three (3) wins over the top five teams, and two of those are by Indiana St. Two of the bottom four are winless against the five teams that will likely make the tourney. Gaudy conference records on five out of ten teams comes from somewhere, and this is it - as opposed to the Big Ten and Big East especially, where anyone other than Northwestern or South Florida can beat you on a given night.

b) No “contender”: The Big 12 has Texas. The ACC has Duke. The Pac-10 has UCLA. The SEC, the Big Ten, and the Big East all have at least two teams that you could conceivably see going deep into the tournament (or at least getting a very high seed), especially if the matchups fall the right way. Even if the conference is otherwise mediocre, there is the possibility that someone is going to come out on top. Not so much, here. This is a conference full of five and six seeds. And we all know what tends to happen to five and six seeds. Even a Gonzaga would help confirm the MVC’s legitimacy, and you’ll see later on how I feel about Gonzaga.

So, then, we see the real problem before the mid-majors: getting a team deep into the tournament. In a way, the “Five teams” thing might not be so great - if you get two teams in and win a game, you did well for a mid-major, but if you get five teams in and none get past the round of 32, it’s a big disappointment. These are all teams that CAN get past the round of 32, but there is no one that I can say WILL do it. Hopefully for the MVC (and mid-majors in general) the odds bear out, and they pick up five or six wins in the tournament as a conference. I’m just not sure I’m too optimistic about that.

The Pac-10
Or, Watch me disrespect West Coast Basketball

In the Tournament and deserve it: 2 [UCLA (11), Washington (39)]
Probably in by virtue of gaudy conference record, but I still don’t think they deserve it in the least, particularly in light of their non-conference results and home losses to the two worst teams in the Pac-10: 1 [California (54)]
Probably in by virtue of gaudy RPI, obtained by playing an extremely ambitious schedule… and losing most of the big games (but still deserves to be in more than California): 1 [Arizona (20)]
Teams that shouldn’t be discussed in any relation to the bubble but likely will be anyways: 2 [Stanford (76), USC (105)]
Teams in this league with conference records 3+ games over .500 that would be two or three games under in the Big Ten or the Big East: All of them but UCLA
Teams that will make a NCAA run just to spite me and make me look stupid: Probably at least one of them!

UCLA blew a game against USC late last night, but at least that was at USC. I still feel better about them than any of the other teams here… at least they could hang around with the third place Big East team in a home game involving a cross-country trip for the visitors, you know? Cal didn’t play anyone out of conference, and STILL lost three games - but they’ve made their resume by not losing to the mediocre teams in conference and picking up a win here or there against the “better” teams in conference. And then they go and lose this weekend at home to the cellar dweller that they didn’t ALREADY lose to at home. At this point, they’re in, but there’s a very real chance they’ll drop 3 of their last 4 - and if that happens I think they don’t make it unless they win a couple in the conference tournament.

Arizona might be the other team worth watching in the NCAAs. They don’t have a ton of wins against the best teams, but at least they’ve gone out and played them, and kept a lot of the games close (UNC notwithstanding). Then again, they keep managing to blow all sorts of winnable conference games. I really have no clue here. I think SOMEONE here is going to make a run, I just don’t have confidence in any of the teams here to actually do so.

There are a couple reasons a lot of us (well, me, at least) are looking past NC State:

  1. It is a down year for the mid-tier and bottom teams of the ACC. SOMEONE other than Duke almost HAS to be 10-3 in conference by default.
  2. They lost Hodge after last year, and none of us recognize any of the player names - I’m looking at the roster/stats right now and going “huh?!”, and I saw half of these guys in person beating my Huskies in Worcester last year (Grrrr!).
  3. You lost to the two ACC programs we see as “measuring sticks”, and neither of those games were particularly close. You also got spanked pretty hard by the seventh-place Big East team, at home. So there’s at least some reason to doubt.

All of that said… the BC win was a good win. The GW win may or may not have been - it’s not like we have anything else to measure GW against. There are no bad losses, except maybe at Georgia Tech, and even that was a competitive conference game, which we all know can swing either way. If you take out UNC and BC at home in the next two games (which I think is very doable), and then make the finals in the conference tournament… well, you’d definitely have earned the 3 seed you’d likely end up with in that situation.

re: the 5 ACC teams… I have seen too many MD games this year. They just aren’t that good, unfortunately. Not sure about the others, but the profiles don’t really impress me. That said, two wins in the ACC tournament to go with a strong finish over the last few regular season games could probably get any of those teams some very strong bubble consideration.

Well, the recipe is basically thus: Play and beat a bunch of middle of the pack majors in non-conference, lose whatever extra-strong games you can get (but play them, which helps your RPI anyways), minimize bad losses (both out of conference and to the lower tier in-conference), and beat up on each other in round-robin form to further keep the RPI healthy.

As I noted, I think all five of those teams should probably make it, and all five are eminently beatable. Those RPIs are a bit artificially inflated, IMO. On the other hand, if they get likely first-round matchups with middle of the pack majors… those are games they have shown they can win. So…

Kentucky will get in, as long as they win one more game (Ole Miss) and don’t get blown out by Tennessee or Florida again. A run in the SEC Tournament will help too, but even without it they’ll be in. Kentucky makes the NCAA too much money in ticket sales.

The latest Bracketology has them playing Cincy in the first round and, with a win, facing Duke. The NCAA would love to pull the trigger on that matchup, because Kentucky never plays Cincy and the potential for a UK-Duke matchup will sell a lot of tickets.

Omni obviously gets to see a LOT more Big Ten basketball than I do :slight_smile: As for your opinion on the Big East… well, you obviously haven’t caught many of the Pitt-UConn tilts over the last few years. The refs let them play, even when “playing” has as much to do with shoulders and elbows as it does with basketballs.

UConn played some weaker teams in the nonconference, but I should note that they have non-conference wins over Arizona, Gonzaga, LSU, and Indiana (first two on neutral courts, Indiana on the road). “Embarrassing” as that is, a bunch of the majors out there would kill for those credentials. Plus, they get all the matchups against the Big East teams to boost their profile. If UConn wins the 'Nova return trip (which should be another good game), they’ll get the 1 even if they don’t win the conference tournament. They’ll have at least one less loss than Texas with a more difficult schedule, and Memphis has unfortunately been playing in C-USA for the last two months, which kills them.

You are right about their weaknesses, though - other than Marcus Williams, they don’t have anyone in the regular rotation who handles all that well or can create without help. 'Nova might be the worst matchup in the entire NCAA for them.

As for Illinois, I like Brown and Augustine, but most of the rest of the guys fall into the “they’ll be scary as hell NEXT year” category that goes with most of the Big Ten. How far they go will depend entirely on how well Brown decides to play when it matters - since, as you noted, he has been decidedly sub-par so far this year.

I think you’re misunderstanding the point I was making. I agree that the Big East is a very good conference and the ACC has Duke and a few other quality teams. I was not calling them “patty-cake” to imply that they aren’t good tams, I was disagreeing with Kiros’ assessment that they are tough, physical conferences. These two conferences live and die on touch fouls and don’t consistently play tight defense.

**The Rest **

Teams that are (or should be) in with at-large bids even if they don’t win conference tournaments, with conference affiliation and RPI: 6 [Memphis (C-USA, 5), Gonzaga (WCC, 12), George Mason (CAA, 27), Nevada (WAC, 31), George Washington (A-10, 36), Bucknell (Patriot, 40)]
Teams that have a chance at an at-large, especially this year, but would be well served by securing the automatic bid: 11 [UW-Milwaukee (Horizon, 41), UNC-Wilmington (CAA, 45), Air Force (MWC, 48), UAB (C-USA, 50), Old Dominion (CAA, 51), Hofstra (CAA, 55), Utah St. (WAC, 56), Temple (A-10, 57), Houston (C-USA, 59), BYU (MWC, 60), San Diego St. (MWC, 62)]

Hope I didn’t miss TOO many there - things get REAL crowded for the lower conferences in the deep bubble territory. Some of these teams (and leagues) have the credentials, some don’t. Mostly, the borderline ones will be praying for the borderline teams in the major conference to NOT come up big over the last couple of weeks.

Among the bubble teams, most of these conferences won’t get more than two teams total in, if that - making the conference tournaments crucial. The exception is C-USA, if Memphis collapses over the next couple of weeks and UAB/Houston pick up the big wins. In the Colonial, George Mason can lose in the tournament and still make it, and the second team will be whomever wins the tournament; if George Mason wins the tournament, I think UNC-Wilmington probably makes it in off the bubble. Temple can help themselves more than the rest of these teams, with Duke sitting on the schedule as well as a potential GW rematch in the conference tournament. Milwaukee’s profile as of right now would put them in, but if they DON’T win the automatic bid, it means they have another (likely bad) in-conference loss on the resume, which could be a problem. All of the other teams on the bubble here must make it at least to their conference tournament finals, and likely win that game.

Among the teams already in… well. We get to find out how much playing cupcake opponents for two months straight affects Memphis, Gonzaga, and GW when they get quality tournament seeds and bow out surprisingly early. As much as I’d love to see a Morrison-Redick matchup, I don’t think Gonzaga will last until the elite eight, the minimum they’d need to for us to see it barring something unforseen happening in the next few weeks. I wouldn’t even be shocked if they failed to make it out of the first weekend, though I expect the Sweet 16 to be about right.

As for Memphis, I’m not completely sure what to think… but I’ll be happy if they end up anywhere OTHER than the 2-seed in UConn’s bracket. I imagine they’ll pick up the 4th #1 if they continue how they have been playing in conference (only three games even within single digits). They have shown they can beat the second-tier-good-teams (Tennessee, Gonzaga, UCLA) and play with the top-tier (only losses against Duke and Texas). However, by the time of the first round, it’s quite likely that the last game they’ll have played against anyone stronger than a bubble team will have been two months in the past. That sort of thing never seems to work out well, and given the strength of the other likely one-seeds, they’re sure to be everyone’s pick as “first top seed out” if they do nail one.

GMU, Nevada, GW (even with only one loss), and Bucknell all are in the “quality teams from not-so-quality conferences” mold. They can all play with anyone (other than maybe the very best)… and none of them are going to be huge consensus picks to go deep into the tournament. There is one potentially interesting situation: One of the four regionals this year is at the MCI Center in DC, and I believe GW only played one game there this year, making them potentially eligible to end up there for the second weekend, especially if they sneak up to a 4 seed. Not sure how the Powers that Be would feel about that - the only references to such things in the bracket principles and procedures are to home-court advantage in the first round and to designated host institutions for each site (and Georgetown is the designated host institution for the DC regional). On the other hand, I can’t imagine they’d give a 4 seed that sort of advantage in a region.

Memphis is clearly the team to watch out for from this group. After that, it’s as much a curiousity thing to see how far these teams can go - I almost guarantee that one other will end up sliding into the round of 16. It’s just a matter of which one takes the opportunity.

Read this article, it’s what largely shaped my opinion on UConn’s chances at a #1 seed. I don’t think that both UConn and Villinova will be able to get #1 seeds and if both teams win their remaining games, it’ll come down to who wins the rematch getting the #1 seed. If I were wagering on it, I’d place my money on 'Nova in the rematch, tough not confidently. All bets are off if UConn wins out the regular season though.

Only have a few minutes, but there have been some significant results over the last couple of nights. On Monday, Syracuse pulled off an upset over West Virginia that has its profile looking WORLDS better than it previously did. On Sunday and tonight, Seton Hall dropped two straight “should-win” games, versus Notre Dame and St. John’s. Well, the Notre Dame one isn’t too embarassing, because the Irish just played UConn to within one point in overtime, in Hartford - it looked for a second like they were seriously planning to try to go from 1-8 in conference to 8-8 and serious consideration. Without the “big” win, they probably don’t have it, though. Either way, Seton Hall is putting on a clinic on how to un-lock yourself - they are squarely a bubble team right now, and possibly in the worst position of the three serious bubble contenders from the Big East, all of a sudden.

Monday night, Oklahoma squeaked out of Texas Tech with a win that likely should have been easier than it was. Tonight, BC dropped a game against Virginia that has seeding implications for the Eagles and might be a breath of life for the Cavs - they still have a lot more work to do, however. Michigan pulled the upset over Omni’s Illini, solidifying their credentials with an important name win. Texas A&M came up with their second straight road win over the dregs of the Big 12; call me if they pick up a convincing win in the Longhorn rematch and a couple wins in the conference tournament. In the Valley, Southern Illinois is losing at halftime to cellar-dweller Evansville; if they can’t turn it around in the second half, they are in serious trouble re: an at-large going forward.

A bunch more interesting matchups over the next couple of days. Little has been predictable so far - we will see if the upcoming games continue that trend or bring some clarity.

It’s looking like the seeding process is going to be even more chaotic than previously thought. Depending on what happens in the Texas-KU matchup and Big 12 tourney, Texas is looking like a stronger candidate for a #1.

I had expected that one of the Big Ten powers, Illinois, MSU or OSU, would run the table in the final games (they all play each other) and step to the forefront and possibly claim a #1 seed. With the Illini loss (in which Michigan played close to a perfect game, impressive at home) and the Trannon injury that’s looking much less likely. We’ll have to see how OSU fairs, but in the long run I’d be surprised to see any of those teams seeded lower than a #3.

This UConn-Villinova tilt should be riveting to watch and have huge implications for the bracket. Ditto, the MSU-Illini finale.

I have a sinking feeling that Gonzaga is going to lose one before the tourney and lose a lot of status in the process. I feel like people are just waiting for a reason to drop them in the polls and lower them to a #3 or #4 seed.

As for the 'cuse…I did not see that coming at all. They’ve got a few tough matchups remaining, but unless they play really poorly I think this win gets them in. Unless, the wheels fall off for WVU which could put things into a new perspective. Between that game and Michigan, I think the door was officially slammed on Indiana.

I realize that A) it’s Ole Miss, and B) they’re missing their top player, but still, Kentucky is laying it on the Rebels right now.

/goes to start the petition to wear the throwback unis for the rest of the year

Keep suckin’ down the Kool-Aid my friend.