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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rooting Interests for Championship Week

It's the time of year where ESPN start's pimping the mid-majors because they have exclusive rights to their conference tournaments.  Most people that didn't attend one of these schools really don't care what's going on but if you're a fan of a bubble team you might want to check in every now and then to see what's going on. Every year more than one surprise team wins their respective conference tournament and shrinks the bubble. After this weekend we'll begin to officially count how many bubble spots there are and see who is in line to grab them.
I've listed each of the conference tournaments that will take place this week and shown how potential winners will affect the field.  I've also gone ahead and given my predictions for what it's worth.

America East
Regular Season Champ: Stony Brook
Potential At-large Bids: None
Who fans of Mid-majors want to win: Stony Brook deserves it and is the only potential representative who could skip the play-in game.
Who fans of bubble teams want: No interest
Who will win: Stony Brook went 14-2 in conference play and will pull it out.

Atlantic Sun
Regular Season Champ: Belmont
Potential At-large Bids: Belmont
Who fans of Mid-majors want to win: Belmont's not a sure thing to earn the respect of the committee so winning the conference tournament is the only guarantee the best team moves on.
Who fans of bubble teams want: Belmont since they are likely on the top of the bubble.
Who will win: Belmont

Big South
Regular Season Champ: NC Asheville
Potential At-large Bids: None
Who fans of Mid-majors want to win: NC Asheville
Who fans of bubble teams want: No interest
Who will win: Campbell has a great draw from their point of view. They went 2-0 against Winthrop, their first round opponent, and beat #2 seed Coastal Carolina also. That would likely earn them a draw with NC Asheville where anything can happen.

Regular Season Champ: Drexel
Potential At-large Bids: Drexel and maybe VCU
Who fans of Mid-majors want to win: Either George Mason or VCU depending on how confident you are that VCU can earn an at-large bid.
Who fans of bubble teams want: Drexel since they're the only sure team to earn a bid.
Who will win: VCU will end Drexel's 16 game winning streak in an ESPN Instant Classic.

 Horizon League
Regular Season Champ: Valparaiso
Potential At-large Bids: None
Who fans of Mid-majors want to win: Valparaiso or Cleveland St. since they're the two most talented teams.
Who fans of bubble teams want: I think Butler has a lot of fans now.
Who will win: Valpo has a double bye and home court throughout so that may give them just the edge they need.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
Regular Season Champ: Iona
Potential At-large Bids: Iona
Who fans of Mid-majors want to win: Iona's probably in though they're not a sure thing especially with the way the bubble can move in the last week of the season, so Iona.
Who fans of bubble teams want: Definitely Iona.
Who will win: Iona gets it done with their exciting offense and even breaks 100 in their first game.

Missouri Valley Conference
Regular Season Champ: Wichita St.
Potential At-large Bids: Wichita St., Creighton
Who fans of Mid-majors want to win: Anyone but Wichita St. or Creighton to get another team in the field.
Who fans of bubble teams want: The Shockers and Jays have spots locked up so in order to preserve the bubble one of these two teams will need to win Arch Madness.
Who will win: I'm going to go out on a limb and say the winner of Missouri St. and Evansville takes out Wichita St. in the final.  Both of these teams played Creighton tough this season so picking an upset there isn't much of a stretch.

Northeast Conference
Regular Season Champ: Long Island
Potential At-large Bids: None, this is another lock for a 16 seed.
Who fans of Mid-majors want to win: Wagner's defense is good enough to give a top team some trouble which could cause some temporary excitement in the first round.
Who fans of bubble teams want: No interest
Who will win: Wagner shuts down LIU to earn the bid.

Ohio Valley
Regular Season Champ: Murray St.
Potential At-large Bids: Murray St.
Who fans of Mid-majors want to win: Tough call, but I think Murray St. since a championship would give them a 30-1 record prior to the Big Dance with a good shot at reaching the Sweet 16. 
Who fans of bubble teams want: Murray St. is arguably the best mid-major program this season so they're a lock.
Who will win: Murray St. will cruise through their conference tournament since the OVC isn't very good.

Patriot League
Regular Season Champ: Bucknell
Potential At-large Bids: None
Who fans of Mid-majors want to win: Remember when Bucknell upset Kansas a few years ago?
Who fans of bubble teams want: No interest
Who will win: Bucknell leads the nation in fewest offensive rebounds allowed and that's one of the ways to win tournaments: prevent second chances.

Southern League
Regular Season Champ: Davidson
Potential At-large Bids: None. Davidson's ship has sailed.
Who fans of Mid-majors want to win: Davidson is the only team who can bring down a giant.
Who fans of bubble teams want: No interest.
Who will win: I think Davdison gets it done but due to their conference's goofy bracket setup it won't be easy.

West Coast Conference
Regular Season Champ: St. Mary's ended Gonzaga's reign atop the WCC.
Potential At-large Bids: St. Mary's, Gonzaga, and probably BYU barring a silly loss.
Who fans of Mid-majors want to win: Loyola Marymount winning might give this conference four bids.
Who fans of Power Conferences want: St. Mary's or Gonzaga along with a BYU loss to Pepperdine or San Diego.
Who will win: Gonzaga appears to be playing their best ball now and recently ripped St. Mary's. Gonzaga's the pick.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Conference Run-Down: February 26, 2012

It's the last week of February.  The mid-majors have finished their regular seasons and the conference tournaments begin. The power conferences are in their last struggle to create a pecking order before their conference tournaments begin.  We're going to start hearing words like RPI, Strength of Schedule, and S-curve thrown around anytime someone mentions a bubble team.  I'm here to make sense of it all. Read on to see how the field of 68 is shaping up.

The Spartans are this week's big winners as they move up the S-curve and into a 1 seed.
The Sportstemps cameraman was on the scene to catch their reaction.
Atlantic 10
Locks: Temple, St. Louis
Should be In:
Firmly on Bubble: Xavier, Dayton, St. Joseph's
St. Joe's win over Temple moves them up several notches on the S-curve and into bubble consideration.  LaSalle and UMass each suffered losses that eliminate them from bubble consideration.

Atlantic Coast Conference
Locks: Duke, North Carolina, Florida St., Virginia
Should be In:
Firmly on Bubble: Miami, North Carolina St.
Virginia picking up their 21st win moves them to lock status.  They're going to finish with at least 11 wins and probably a top 4 seed in the ACC tournament.  NC St. and Miami both had opportunities to move up but Miami lost to Maryland while NC St. have lost four in a row.  Time is running out on the Wolfpack.

Big 12
Locks: Missouri, Kansas, Baylor, Iowa St.
Should be In: Kansas St.
Firmly on Bubble: Texas
Iowa St. beat Kansas St. to jump past them on the S-curve and solidify their status. At 11-5 in Big 12 play, they're in. Kansas St. has the quality wins but they're only 8-8 in the conference. A winning record will get them in.  Texas keeps hanging around but hasn't done enough to move off the bubble.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Conference Run-Down February 19, 2012

BracketBusters weren't as hyped this season as in seasons past but that doesn't mean teams weren't able to help their own cause.  Wichita St.,  Murray St., and the Colonial were the big winners while the Horizon League turned out to be a big loser. There was some shuffling among the big boys with teams moving up and others falling out. Scroll down to see the latest update.

The Sportstemps loved the Shockers reaction when we informed them they'd been
 elevated to "Lock" status.  We'll talk to the committee about a 5 seed for you.
Atlantic 10
Locks: Temple, St. Louis
Should be In:
Firmly on Bubble: Xavier, LaSalle, UMass
Despite Xavier's up and down play of late they still rank ahead of LaSalle and UMass thanks to each of them suffering losing streaks of their own.  The margin is slim here with UMass taking on Xavier Tuesday and LaSalle hosting Temple Wednesday.  If both schools lose they're off the bubble.

Atlantic Coast Conference
Locks: Duke, North Carolina, Florida St.
Should be In: Virginia
Firmly on Bubble: Miami, North Carolina St.
NC St. had a great opportunity to move up but lost to both Duke and FSU this week.  The same can be said for Miami who lost to FSU and UNC.  They're probably both in at this point but any stumbles can change that in a hurry.

Big 12
Locks: Kansas, Missouri, Baylor
Should be In: Kansas St., Iowa St.
Firmly on Bubble: Texas
Iowa St.'s strong performance in the Big 12 will put them in the tournament. Texas needs to finish with a winning record in conference play or finish .500 and win a conference tournament game. Both are doable at this point.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bracket Buster Weekend 2012

BracketBuster weekend provides an opportunity that many Mid-majors would be without otherwise.  
Notching another key win to impress the selection committee can go a long way on Selection Sunday.  These matchups also provide a chance for us to compare conferences; to see how one conference stacks up with another.  This may not matter in the case of the fifth place MVC team vs. the fifth place Horizon team but it does for second and third place teams fighting for bubble spots.  
VCU kicked off the weekend by kicking Northern Iowa around.  UNI was starting to play better of late and a win there could really have gone a long way.  VCU brings some credibility back to the Colonial, a league that has taken some criticism this season for not performing as well as it had the past few seasons.
With the good, there's also the bad.  Several schools have tenuous position on the bubble and a bad loss not only knocks them off but permanently pops their chances at securing an at-large bid.  Still, this is an exciting weekend that every college basketball fan should enjoy.
Below I've previewed the five games I'm looking the most forward to on Saturday and Sunday.  

1. St. Mary's (23-4) @ Murray St. (25-1)
Murray State's loss to Tennessee St. last week takes some luster off what would have been the most hyped game of the weekend.  St. Mary's is the best team in the WCC and would like to make a statement on the road while Murray St. is running away with the Ohio Valley.
Who gains more with win: Murray St. - Their best win is currently a win over Memphis which isn't quite enough when building a case for a mid-level seed from a small conference.
Who loses most with loss: Murray St.- Losing this game will raise some doubts with the committee about how good this team is.  At the very least it needs to be close or the Racers could find themselves with a ten seed or worse in March.
Who wins: St. Mary's 74-69.

2. Wichita St. (23-4) @ Davidson (20-6)
Davidson really opened some eyes with their win over Kansas in December. Wichita St. just beat three of the top teams in the Valley.
Who gains more with win: Wichita St. - If they continue like this they'll earn a nice seed in March.
Who loses most with loss: Davidson - The Wildcats needs this one if their win over Kansas isn't to look like a fluke.
Who wins: Wichita St. attacks the basket better than most teams and it will cause Davidson to get into foul trouble. Shockers win 82-65.

3. Long Beach St. (19-6) @ Creighton (22-5)
LBSU played possibly the toughest non-conference schedule in the nation this year but hasn't walked away with much more than a boost in RPI.  Creighton lost three in a row before beating Southern Illinois last week.  
Who gains more with win: Long Beach St. - A big road win is just what this team needs
Who loses most with loss: Creighton - They're at home and they need to notch another decent win to help erase the memory of their losing streak. A loss here may lead the committee to believe this team already peaked and is on the way down.
Who wins: Home court advantage helps the Bluejays prevail 78-72.

4. Nevada (22-4) @ Iona (21-6)
Nevada's 10-1 in the WAC and looks to slow down the Gaels quick tempo.  Iona has scored 100 points four times this season but lacks a signature win.  The guard play here makes this game one to watch.
Who gains more with win: Iona - A win improves their bubble position dramatically.
Who loses most with loss: Iona - Nevada's likely in either way so Iona needs to take care of business.
Who wins: Iona 80-70.

5. Drexel (22-5) @ Cleveland St. (20-7)
Drexel has won 14 in a row and currently sits atop the CAA standings.  Cleveland St.'s three game losing streak comes at the worst possible time as they've gone from frontrunners to a crowded second place in the Horizon League.
Who gains more with win: Drexel - A win here locks up an at-large bid.
Who loses most with loss: Cleveland St. - A win here and all is not lost for an at-large bid. A loss and they'll need to win the conference tournament for a chance in March.
Who wins: Drexel is on fire and gets it done 63-57.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Power 16: February 10, 2012

Though Austin Rivers' 3-pointer won the game for the Blue Devils it's still not enough 
to earn them a 1 seed. There's still time. And seriously, what was Tyler Zeller thinking?

I held off making this week's Power 16 since there were so many intriguing games in the middle of the week. It paid off.  There's a lot of shuffling going on and while the top teams are starting to secure position the 3's and 4's are not even close to being settled. Check it out to see who moved up and who moved down.

              RPI/SOS/vs. RPI top 50
24-1 (11-1)
   3 / 74/ 5-1
24-1 (11-1)
   1 /12 / 6-1
Ohio St.
21-3 (8-2)
   4 /41 / 6-3
22-2 (9-2)
   9 /102 / 6-1

Kentucky continues to roll and unless they lose more than two times down the stretch a 1 seed is all locked up.  Syracuse held off a feisty Georgetown squad this week to stay atop the Big East.  They're in a dogfight with Kentucky for the top overall seed.  Ohio St. is 10-2 over their last 12 games and looks like they've got the Big Ten wrapped up. Missouri earns themselves the final 1 seed by currently sitting in first place in the Big 12. Wins over Kansas and Baylor help their cause.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Conference Run-Down February 5, 2012

Each February I take a closer look at each conference to try and see where each team stands relative to another.   I've listed the top 15 conference in my opinion and dissected them into three groups. This little exercise allows me to 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.  There were a few upsets this weekend while other games just created more separation amongst bubble teams. 

Atlantic 10
Locks: Temple, St. Louis
Should be In:
Firmly on Bubble: Xavier, LaSalle, UMass
Xavier was 8-0 after they won the brawl with Cincinnati. Since then they're 7-8 and haven't beaten anybody who will be playing in the NCAA Tournament.  LaSalle has a nice overall record but lacks a signature win though they still have home games left against St. Louis and Temple.  UMass's win over St. Louis puts them in the discussion but right now they're probably on the outside looking in.

Atlantic Coast Conference
Locks: Duke, North Carolina, Florida St.
Should be In: Virginia
Firmly on Bubble: Miami, North Carolina St.
Virginia's loss to FSU yesterday put a bit of a damper on their likely seeding.  Miami and NC St. both need a couple of big wins to help their cause.

Big 12
Locks: Baylor, Kansas, Missouri
Should be In: Kansas St.
Firmly on Bubble: Iowa St., Texas
Kansas St.'s two losses to Oklahoma really sting but shouldn't keep them out.  Iowa St. is 7-3 in conference play with wins over Kansas, Kansas St., and Texas.  That's likely enough.  Texas needs to finish .500 in the conference to feel good about their case and right now they're 4-6.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mid-major rankings: Ground Hog Day, 2012

There's been quite a shakeup in the Mid-major rankings since the last one came out.  It's nitty gritty time for a lot of these schools and the upcoming Bracketbusters could provide a last chance for statement wins.  Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow won't provide six more weeks to the college basketball season but it also shows that there's still time for teams to build their resumes.  Don't be surprised if a team towards the bottom of this list makes a move around conference tournament time.
St. Mary's has found success recruiting most of their players from Australia.
I wonder, does the ball go around the rim counter-clockwise down there too?

  1. Creighton (21-2) – The Bluejays are on a roll and are the best mid-major team in the country right now.  There are still a couple of tricky conference games left but they host Wichita St. and will host Long Beach St. in the Bracketbuster.  
  2. St. Mary's (21-2) – While we didn't know much about St. Mary's in the latest Power Rankings, we know plenty now.  They're 10-0 in the WCC and their two losses came at Denver (so-so), and to Baylor (forgiven).  
  3. Murray St. (21-0) – Undefeated and untested in conference play, the Racers will host St. Mary's for their Bracketbuster.  If they win an undefeated season will be in their grasp.
  4. Harvard (18-2) – The Crimson remain undefeated in the Ivy League though their loss to Fordham in January took a little shine off their resume.
  5. Wichita St. (19-4) – Starting 10-2 in the Missouri Valley would get a little more publicity most years but this team still hasn't answered the number one question: can they beat anybody good?  They'll have to win their rematch with Creighton to prove it as their Bracketbuster matchup with Davidson isn't going to provide much help.
  6. Gonzaga (17-3) – Gonzaga's a decent school and a good bet to make the dance but don't expect much once there.  Their best win is Xavier and they lost by 19 to St. Mary's.  They have won 12 of their last 13 though.
  7. Middle Tennessee (20-3) – I never would've guessed this team would be so successful this season.  They thumped UCLA, split with Belmont, and played a hot Vanderbilt team tough.  They may not earn a good seed in March but they'll give whomever they play quite a game.
  8. Long Beach St. (16-6) – Of their six losses five are to at-large teams. They've got wins over Pitt and Xavier so beating Creighton would be icing on the cake. They, too, are undefeated in conference play (Big West).
  9. BYU (18-6) – BYU has won every game they're supposed to except one (Loyola) but they're lacking the signature win needed to give their bubble much credential.  With no Bracketbuster on the docket, and still two games with Gonzaga, BYU have little margin for error.
  10. Davidson (16-5) – Their win over Kansas likely put them in the NCAA Tournament but they still need to finish strong to keep ahold of an at-large bid.  Wichita St. comes to town in a couple of weeks for another chance at a quality win.
  11. VCU (19-5) – VCU lack the quality wins necessary for an at-large berth but they're in a three-way tie for first in the Colonial.  They'll play Northern Iowa for their bracket buster.
  12. Cleveland St. (18-4) – The Horizon's most likely bet for representation in the NCAA Tournament, Cleveland St. has won 8 of their last 10 gets to play the two Chicago schools before  their date with Valpo.
  13. Akron (15-7) – It looks as if this team is just hitting their stride. They've actually got a couple of decent wins putting them in position for a potential at-large bid if they finish strong.  They can't afford to lose to Oral Roberts in the Bracketbuster.
Just missed: Iona, Belmont, Drexel