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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.

Big East
Locks: Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Louisville, Cincinnati
Should be In: West Virginia
Firmly on Bubble: Seton Hall, South Florida, UConn
West Virginia is 46th in RPI and 7th in strength of schedule but are just 2-7 in their last nine. They're on the verge of playing themselves onto the bubble.  If South Florida wins two of their last three (Cincinnati, Louisville, West Virginia) they'll get in.  UConn and Seton Hall are in a holding pattern and will likely need to win at least one conference tournament game.

Big Ten
Locks: Ohio St., Michigan St., Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana
Should be In: Purdue
Firmly on Bubble: Northwestern, Iowa
Purdue finally got a quality road win with their victory over Michigan yesterday.  Northwestern snuck by Penn St. to stay on the bubble but Iowa is the story here. They've got quality wins over Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan but they've also got one really bad loss to Campbell.  Their last three conference games are winnable and if they can pull it off they'll be 10-8 in Big Ten play. Win those and their first round Big Ten tournament game and I don't see how the committee will keep them out.

Colonial Athletic Conference
Should be In: Drexel
Firmly on Bubble: Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason
There's finally some clarity in the pecking order in the CAA.  Drexel won 16 in a row to close out the season and VCU defeated George Mason yesterday.  If VCU or George Mason get to the conference championship game they can earn this conference two bids.

Conference USA
Locks: Memphis
Should be In: Southern Mississippi
Firmly on Bubble: Tulsa, Central Florida
Tulsa and UCF won't go away. Each has a game remaining with Memphis and if either wins it will go a long way to improving their position on the S-curve.

Horizon League
Should be In:
Firmly on Bubble: 
Valparaiso won the regular season and will host the conference tournament.  Whoever wins it will be the sole conference representative barring some dramatic shifts on the bubble in the next two weeks.

Ivy League
Locks: Harvard
Should be In:
Firmly on Bubble:
There is no conference tournament in the Ivy League so once the season ends Harvard will earn the auto-bid.

Missouri Valley Conference
Locks: Wichita St., Creighton
Should be In:
Firmly on Bubble: 
Creighton and Wichita St. have locked up bids.  The conference was very competitive this season so I won't be surprised if someone else like UNI or Drake wins the tournament giving the MVC three bids.

Mountain West Conference
Locks: UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego St.
Should be In: 
Firmly on Bubble: Colorado St.
Colorado St. is buoyed by their top 50 RPI number despite not earning any quality wins in non-conference play.  If they can beat UNLV Wednesday they'll likely jump past a lot of teams and lock up a bid. Wyoming's four game losing streak eliminates them.

Pacific 12
Locks: California
Should be In: Arizona
Firmly on Bubble: Washington, Oregon, Colorado
If there's anything we've learned over the past few years it's that BCS conference teams with a good RPI will get in.  That bodes well for Arizona and possibly Washington.  Oregon and Colorado are on the bubble and probably need to reach their conference championship game to get in.

Southeastern Conference
Locks: Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt
Should be In: Alabama
Firmly on Bubble: Mississippi St., Tennessee
Mississippi St. has lost five in a row.  They are in serious trouble of falling off right now.Tennessee went 2-0 this week and knocked Mississippi off the bubble in the process.  Their last two games are at LSU, and vs. Vanderbilt. Win both of those and two tournament games and watch intrigue ensue.

Western Athletic Conference
Should be In: Nevada
Firmly on Bubble: New Mexico St.
Nevada and New Mexico St. keep winning but their conference RPI is so weak right now there's not much help they can receive other than winning the conference tournament.

West Coast Conference
Locks: St. Mary's, Gonzaga
Should be In: BYU
Firmly on Bubble: Loyola Marymount
BYU is in but still can't afford a silly loss in the first round of their conference tournament.  Loyola's loss to San Diego may have sealed their fate.

Other Locks: Murray St. (Ohio Valley)
Other Should Be Ins: Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Long Beach St. (Big West)
Other Bubble Teams: Middle Tennessee (Sun Belt), Iona (MAAC), Akron (MAC), Oral Roberts (Summit), Davidson (Southern), South Dakota St. (Summit)

Number of Teams in Field: 68
Auto-bids: 31
At-large Berths: 37

Total Locks: 35
Teams that Should Be In: 11
Bubble Teams: 28

1 Seeds: Kentucky, Syracuse, Missouri, Michigan St.
2 Seeds: Duke, Kansas, Ohio St., North Carolina
3 Seeds: Baylor, Marquette, Georgetown, Michigan
4 Seeds: Notre Dame, Florida, Florida St., Wichita St.
Estimated Size of the Bubble: 12

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