Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tournament Field Projection 3/16/08

Saturday saw a lot of wild action in a lot of conferences. All of these teams are looking to 6 PM Eastern time, when the selections are announced for this year's NCAA tournament.

This blog will have a final bracket projection this afternoon before the selections come out.

Teams with automatic bids to date:
Atlantic Sun: Belmont
Big Sky: Portland State
Big South: Winthrop
Colonial: George Mason
Horizon: Butler
Ivy: Cornell
Metro Atlantic: Siena
Missouri Valley: Drake (Illinois State should get an at-large bid)
Northeast: Mt. St. Mary’s
Ohio Valley: Austin Peay
Patriot: American
Southern: Davidson
Summit: Oral Roberts
Sun Belt: Western Kentucky (South Alabama should get an at-large bid)
West Coast: San Diego (Gonzaga and St. Mary’s should get at-large bids)

Reviews and comments on conferences still duking it out:

In: North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech
UNC is ranked #1 in the country and won the regular season in the ACC. What counts on Tobacco Road, however, is the ACC Tournament, the nation’s oldest post-season tournament. North Carolina trailed the whole day before the great Tyler Hansbrough hit a jumper with .08 left to put away the Hokies of Virginia Tech. They go on to play Clemson. The Tigers, long the orange-headed football playing stepchild of the ACC, beat Duke for the first time in 11 years on Saturday. Clemson has never won an ACC Tournament, and has not been in the final since 1962.

America East
In: Maryland-Baltimore County
UMBC beat Hartford like a rented mule on Saturday to win the A-East title. This is the Retrievers’ first appearance in the Big Dance.

Atlantic 10
In: Xavier, St. Joseph’s, Temple
On the bubble: UMass, Dayton
Temple defeated St. Joseph’s on Saturday for the automatic bid. Xavier, of course, is in the tournament. St. Joseph’s is on the bubble, but should make it at this point. They make it due to a head to head win over and higher RPI rating than cross-town rival Villanova.

Big 12
In: Texas, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas A&M
The Big 12 is strong this year. UT and KU took care of business Saturday and will meet for the automatic bid and possible #1 seed. OU, K-State, Baylor, and A&M should get good news from the selection committee on Sunday evening, as well.

Big East
In: Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Marquette, Connecticut, West Virginia, Pittsburgh
On the bubble: Villanova
16 teams are just way too many for one conference. This group of schools would probably squeeze out a couple more bids if they weren’t in the same conference. Pittsburgh once again created some magic in the Garden, winning another tournament final over Georgetown. This won’t help the Hoyas’ seeding. Elsewhere in the league, I have slid Villanova out of my latest bracket. The Wildcats are the last team out at this point, due their loss to and lower RPI ranking than St. Joseph’s.

Big Ten
In: Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State
Some strange things are happening here. Wisconsin is proving itself to be the best team in this conference. The Badgers handled Michigan State today, while Illinois took care of Minnesota. If the Illini win their fourth game in four days against the Badgers, they will make the tournament with a losing overall record of 17-18. I doubt if the Illini have enough left in the tank for this one. It’s been good run in Indy this week for them, though. Elsewhere in the conference, Ohio State needs to sweat Selection Sunday, as they are close to the wrong side of the bubble. I look for them to get some love from the selection committee.

Big West
In: Cal State-Fullerton
The Titans of Cal State-Fullerton whipped Orange County rival UC Irvine to win the automatic bid from the Big West.

Conference USA
In: Memphis
Memphis owns this conference, lock, stock, and barrel. They proved it Saturday with a 77-51 win over Tulsa in a game that wasn’t even that close. The Tigers look to be a #1 seed when the brackets are released on Sunday.

In: Kent State
Beware of the Golden Flashes. Kent State won their 28th game tonight in grand fashion over nearby rival Akron. I wouldn’t want to draw Kent State in my bracket if I were a coach. These guys can play.

In: Coppin State
Coppin State got their fourth win in four days, defeating regular season champion Morgan State 62-60. The Eagles were the seventh seed in the MEAC tournament, and are 14-20. I love it!

Mountain West
What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. UNLV used a strong second half to pound BYU, 76-61. Both teams will be in the field of 65.

In: UCLA, Stanford, Washington State, USC, Arizona State
On the Bubble: Oregon, Arizona
UCLA took care of Stanford to nail down the post-season tournament and a probable #1 seed in the Tournament. Arizona State, Oregon, and Arizona will be sweating bullets late Sunday afternoon. I have the Sun Devils barely in based on head-to-head results. The Wildcats could get some love from the committee due to some injuries earlier in the season, and have a high RPI and a high strength of schedule. I have them barely out of the bracket. Oregon is also close to the Field of 65, but not quite there.

In: Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Arkansas
It was a bizarre day in Atlanta, as the teams played in front of family, cheerleaders, bands, and the leering press. Kentucky was expected to be the team that might pull the doubleheader sweep. Instead, it was the Georgia Bulldogs, owners of a 4-12 conference record and last place finish in the East division. Georgia got past Kentucky in the first game of the day, winning in overtime on a three-pointer by Zac Swansey. In the semifinals, Arkansas won a barnburner over Tennessee, 92-91. The Vols are most likely looking at a #2 seed in the Tournament. In the nightcap, Georgia upset West division champs Mississippi State, 64-60. The Bulldogs, possibly playing for coach Dennis Felton’s job, move to a record of 16-16 and can go to the Big Dance with a win over the Hogs.

In: Post-season tournament champion
UT-Arlington goes for their third win in a row, facing Northwestern State in Sunday’s final. Northwestern State is known for their tournament magic in 2006, when they upset Iowa in the first round. The Demons have a losing record at 15-17. If they win, they may be headed directly from the arena in Katy to Dayton, Ohio for a Tuesday night game with Coppin State. UTA, with a win, could make that Katy-to-Dayton trip, or would be a #16 seed, possibly playing Texas in the first round.

In: Mississippi Valley State
Mississippi Valley State won the league tournament in a 59-58 nailbiter over Jackson State. The Delta Devils are still a candidate for the opening round game on Tuesday night in Dayton.

In: Boise State
Boise State went to Las Cruces and proved their worth, defeating New Mexico State on their home court in a 107-102 triple-overtime thriller to win the conference tournament. They’re known as giant killers in football, and they have a chance to do the same in hoops.

Last four teams in (rooting hard for Wisconsin and Arkansas to take out Illinois and Georgia): Arizona State, South Alabama, Illinois State, St. Joseph’s
Last four teams out (need a favor from the committee): Villanova, Oregon, Arizona, VCU

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