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Sunday, February 20, 2011

So Who's IN and Who's OUT?

Before I start to assemble my bracket I like to do a quick run-down of all the conferences and see who's a lock and who's on the bubble.  After this is done I can start to rank the teams and give them seeds.  This weekend's games were pretty important so I feel confident I have most of the teams grouped appropriately.

Atlantic 10
Locks: Xavier, Temple
Should be In:
Firmly on Bubble: Duquesne, Richmond
Duquesne and Richmond play each other in their final conference game. There are likely significant ramifications tied to the outcome. Richmond's win over Purdue provides them a huge boost.

Atlantic Coast Conference
Locks: Duke, North Carolina
Should be In: Florida St.
Firmly on Bubble: Virginia Tech, Clemson, Maryland, Boston College
Currently only Virginia Tech appears to be on the inside track of the bubble teams. Maryland and BC need to win out and do some damage in the ACC Tournament.

Big 12
Locks: Texas, Kansas
Should be In: Texas A&M, Missouri
Firmly on Bubble: Kansas St., Baylor, Nebraska, Oklahoma St.
Nebraska gave Texas their first conference loss and has placed themselves firmly into the bubble discussion. Of the three bubble teams, K St. has the hardest row to plow (@Neb, Mizzu, @Texas, ISU). A stumble could allow Nebraska and Baylor to push them out.

Big East
Locks: Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Villanova, Louisville, Connecticut, St. John's
Should be In: Syracuse, West Virginia
Firmly on Bubble: Cincinnati, Marquette
The Bearcats have four tough games remaining. If they can go 2-2 in those games they'll probably receive an invite.  Marquette has an easier schedule and will likely need to go 3-1 to feel good about their chances going into the conference tournament.

Big Ten
Locks: Ohio St., Purdue, Wisconsin
Should be In: Illinois
Firmly on Bubble: Michigan St., Minnesota, Penn St., Michigan
I'm giving Illinois credit here because there's no way the committee only selects three Big Ten teams.  Each of the four bubble teams will need to finish at least 9-9 in conference play to have a shot. Minnesota presents an interesting case for the committee due to their injury situation. Penn St. and Michigan will likely need to win two conference tournament games.

Colonial Athletic Conference
Locks: George Mason
Should be In: Old Dominion
Firmly on Bubble: Virginia Commonwealth
Huge doesn't begin to describe how important VCU's win at Wichita St. was during Bracket Buster weekend.  If they win their last two conference games and the first game of their conference tournament this is likely a three-bid league.  Hofstra would be a potential bubble team if they'd won at Wright St. Instead they got blown out and are headed to the NIT unless they win their conference tournament. That would make things really tricky for the committee.

Conference USA
Should be In: Memphis
Firmly on Bubble: UAB, UTEP, Southern Miss
Perhaps no teams need statement conference tournament wins more than the three bubble teams in Conference USA.  It's unlikely the committee will want to invite more than two teams since they all lack multiple key wins and as a whole the conference just isn't impressive.

Horizon League
Should be In: Valparaiso
Firmly on Bubble: Cleveland St., Butler, Wright St.
Valpo whipping Missouri St. was a huge, huge win as it moves them off the bubble and "in" in my mind.  Butler, Cleveland St., and to a greater extent Wright St. need to just keep on winning. Cleveland St.'s stock took a hit with their loss at Old Dominion. If one of Cleveland St and Wright St. were to beat Butler in the Horizon Championship then this could be a three-bid league. Amazing.

Ivy League
Should be In:
Firmly on Bubble:
No real contenders here. I just wanted to note that current league leader Harvard hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 1946.

Missouri Valley Conference
Should be In:
Firmly on Bubble: Missouri St., Wichita St., Northern Iowa
If Missouri St. had won vs. Valpo I'd say with confidence this is a two-bid league. Now I'm doubting it.  If two of these three teams win out and meet in the MVC championship there's a decent chance. Anything less doesn't look good.

Mountain West Conference
Locks: San Diego St., Brigham Young
Should be In: UNLV
Firmly on Bubble: New Mexico, Colorado St.
If New Mexico doesn't win three of their last four and get to the semis of the MWC Tournament they're in deep trouble. Colorado St. has a couple of decent wins but need a win over SDSU or BYU to push them off the bubble.

Pacific 10
Locks: Arizona
Should be In: Washington, UCLA
Firmly on Bubble: Washington St.
WSU thought it had nice wins over Baylor and Gonzaga but those don't look as impressive now. Really, they need to win their last three conference games which will be tough since they're at Washington and home vs. UCLA.

Southeastern Conference
Locks: Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky
Should be In: Alabama, Tennessee
Firmly on Bubble: Georgia
Georgia has some nice wins this year (Colorado, UAB, Kentucky, Tennessee). A road win over Florida or Alabama should do the job.

Western Athletic Conference
Should be In: Utah St.
Firmly on Bubble:
Utah St. took care of business at St. Mary's over the weekend. I think everyone can now agree they're in.

West Coast Conference
Should be In:
Firmly on Bubble: St. Mary's, Gonzaga
Gonzaga appears to be coming back from the dead in their title chase. They didn't participate in Bracket Buster weekend so their last chance to get a quality win is at St. Mary's.  St. Mary's loss to San Diego really stings. They had a chance to make up for it when Utah St. came to town but failed to get the win. If they lose at home to Gonzaga they'll probably have played themselves out of the discussion.  This is a one-bid league which will be decided on Thursday.

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