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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.

Big East
Locks: Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette, Louisville
Should be In: Notre Dame, Cincinnati, West Virginia
Firmly on Bubble: UConn, Seton Hall, Pitt
UConn's best win is still Harvard and at 5-5 in the conference they're the epitome of a bubble team.  Seton Hall was 15-2 the first week of January but now sit at 15-8 and 4-7 in conference play.  They'll need to turn in a good performance in the Big East tournament to make up for their slide.  Pitt is just the opposite, after losing their first seven conference games they've won three straight.  Their remaining schedule should allow them to get to .500.

Big Ten
Locks: Ohio St., Michigan St.
Should be In: Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana
Firmly on Bubble: Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern
The story for all three bubble teams is the same: make it to .500 in Big Ten play, win your first conference tournament game and you're probably in.  Only Purdue currently has the inside track but the way they've been playing of late a tournament bid is unlikely.

Colonial Athletic Conference
Should be In: 
Firmly on Bubble: Virginia Commonwealth, Drexel, George Mason
Bracket Buster weekend will provide a golden opportunity for VCU and Drexel to gain another win out of conference.  VCU hosts Northern Iowa, Drexel travels to Cleveland St., while George Mason hosts Lamar.  Unfortunately for GMU this game is a no-win situation.

Conference USA
Should be In: Southern Mississippi
Firmly on Bubble: Tulsa, Memphis
Tulsa's won seven straight in conference play to put themselves into the conversation.  Memphis has wins over Belmont and Xavier but that's it.  Beating Southern Miss is probably the only way this conference gains two at-large berths.

Horizon League
Should be In:
Firmly on Bubble: Cleveland St., Valparaiso
Cleveland St. needs to win their Bracket Buster against Drexel to move off the bubble.  Valpo travels to  Loyola Marymount in their Bracket Buster but if they lose to Cleveland St. Thursday the outcome of that game may not matter.

Ivy League
Locks: Harvard
Should be In:
Firmly on Bubble:
Harvard hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 1946.  That streak is about to end.

Missouri Valley Conference
Locks: Creighton
Should be In: Wichita St.
Firmly on Bubble: Missouri St., Northern Iowa
Creighton and Wichita St. are tied for first and have one game remaining between them. Stay tuned.  UNI beat Creighton at home yesterday to save face for their season.  They'll need to finish 5-1 in their last six to have any chance.  The same is true for Missouri St..  Their win over Creighton is nice but they need a couple of good wins to support it.  Wichita St. and Old Dominion provide them with an opportunity.

Mountain West Conference
Locks: UNLV, San Diego St., 
Should be In: New Mexico
Firmly on Bubble: Wyoming, Colorado St.
Wyoming stole one at home against UNLV yesterday to revive their fading NCAA hopes.  They'll need to split their remaining games with SDSU and New Mexico to stay on the bubble.  When these smaller conferences send multiple bids to the tournament it's a lot of fun isn't it?

Pacific 12
Should be In: Washington
Firmly on Bubble: California, Arizona, Colorado, Stanford
Cal going 8-3 in Pac 12 play is a double edged sword.  It allows them to climb into bubble consideration but then again it disparages the credibility of the conference. Really, how good can they be when their best win is home against Denver?  Arizona and Colorado can't even say that.

Southeastern Conference
Locks: Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt
Should be In: Alabama, Mississippi St.
Firmly on Bubble: Arkansas, Mississippi
Arkansas' wins over Michigan and Vanderbilt in the last month have to put them in the discussion. They'll need to either go 9-7 in SEC play or beat Florida or Alabama to move up.  Doing both would do wonders for their chances.

Western Athletic Conference
Should be In: Nevada
Firmly on Bubble: New Mexico St.
Nevada just dropped their first conference game to Idaho yesterday.  If they'd have won they would be a lock.  New Mexico St. will likely need to get to their conference championship to feel confident.  The committee can be fickle about Mid-majors sometimes.

West Coast Conference
Locks: St. Mary's
Should be In: Gonzaga
Firmly on Bubble: BYU
Gonzaga's rein on the WCC appears to be coming to an end.  Fourteen straight isn't bad!  BYU's victory over the Zags makes them 8-3 in WCC play and nearly in.  I'm including them on the bubble because there's still a chance in my mind that they could struggle down the stretch.

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), Davidson (Southern), Marshall (MAC)

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

Total Locks: 23
Teams that Should Be In: 19
Bubble Teams: 37

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