NEWS AND NOTES FROM WEDNESDAY
-The second Wednesday of Championship Week is oftentimes the most sluggish day. The Big East, Pac Ten and Atlantic Ten Tournaments got underway, which are usually all multi-bid leagues, but action generally doesnt heat up until the quarterfinals. There were still some games of note, though.
-Portland State won the Big Sky Championship in a game where they led Northern Arizona the whole way. Its their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in school history. Theyll probably be a #16 seed, but its still a huge accomplishment for their program.
-Mount Saint Marys finished fourth in the Northeast Conference, but pulled off two upsets in the conference tournament to win the automatic bid. Well most likely be seeing them in the play-in game against the SWAC champion.
-Syracuses at-large hopes basically went up in smoke with their 82-63 loss to Villanova. They got off to a great start and jumped out to an early lead, but Nova completely dominated the second half in an overall unimpressive showing by the Orange. Nova advances to the quarterfinals where theyll have a rematch with Georgetown. More on that below. Ive taken them out of the bracket and replaced them with Ohio State for now.
-Rhode Island, who was once ranked in the Top 25 and seemed to be well on their way to the NCAA Tournament, completed their monumental collapse yesterday with their opening round loss to Charlotte. On February 7th the Rams were 19-4, ranked in the top 20, and had just won a big game at Dayton (who was also nationally ranked). Theyve won just two games since then, finished 11th in the Atlantic Ten Standings (whenever you finish 11th in the Atlantic TEN, you know its bad), and completely played their way out of the NCAA Tournament.
-Dayton, who was also highly ranked back on February 7th, has faired a little better, but not by much. They have won four straight, but three of those wins came against garbage teams, and they didnt look all that good even though they were winning. They needed overtime to get by Saint Louis in the opening round, and if they dont step it up today against Xavier their NCAA Tournament hopes, which seemed to be a certainty five weeks ago, will most likely come to an end.
-Oregon States season ended with a blowout loss to Arizona in the opening round of the Pac Ten. Thank God!! Unlike Rhode Island and Dayton it wasnt a major collapse because they had never begun to build anything in the first place. They did not win a single game in conference play. Even more remarkably pathetic than that, they didnt manage to beat a single team in the RPI top 250 all season. I dont know who will be coaching the Beavers next year, but whoever it is I fell sorry for them.
-Yesterday may have been one of the more sluggish days of Championship Week, but today is one of the busiest days. The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is packed with action, but nothing like today. If youre a diehard college basketball fan youre probably as excited about today as you are toward the first round. The Thursday of Championship Week gives you 53 high stakes games in one day, all of which involve teams that could still theoretically win the national championship. As far as realistically winning the national championship
thats a different story, but so long as a team keeps winning their season wont end. CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS
BIG EAST QUARTERFINALS
-#8. VILLANOVA VS #1. GEORGETOWN. I believe both of these teams are in the tournament. Villanova doesnt have the best profile, but I believe its good enough and a loss today wouldnt hurt them at all. A win completely ices a bid. The last time these two met, Georgetown won thanks to a controversial call at the end of regulation that can best be described as a phantom foul with 0.1 seconds to play. Nova has a chance to avenge that loss today. If that happens, their seed in the NCAA Tournament will end up being quite a bit better.
-#5. WEST VIRGINIA VS #4. CONNECTICUT. Connecticut is playing for a spot in the pod system, and if they can win this tournament they could very well end up with a #2 seed. West Virginia has been winning lately, but their last two games have been unimpressive wins against unimpressive teams. If they dont play better today than they have in their last two games this could turn into a blowout. West Virginia would also miss their chance to build their resume and improve their seed.
-#7. PITTSBURGH VS #2. LOUISVILLE. Like a lot of Big East games this season, it went down to the wire when these two met in the regular season, and we could be in store for another great game today. Pitt had some trouble with Cincinnati in the opening round, but held on. Theyre solidly in the NCAA Tournament, but they could really build up their resume with a win in this game. Louisville has been on fire lately. They did finish the season with a close loss to Georgetown, but theyve still been playing well and will probably end up with a #2 seed with a strong showing in this tournament.
-#6. MARQUETTE VS #3. NOTRE DAME. These two rivals split during the regular season, so this is the rubber match. Both teams are top 25 teams and solidly in the tournament, so the fact that theyre meeting as early as the quarterfinals is a testament to how strong the league is. Notre Dame can end up with a #3 seed if they can win a game or two in this conference tournament and Marquette could really strengthen their seed with a strong showing as well.
PAC TEN QUARTERFINALS
-#9. CALIFORNIA VS #1. UCLA. In case youve been living under a rock for the past week and dont know what happened the last time these two met, Cal led the whole way and appeared to have the game won, but UCLA forced a couple of turnovers in the final minute, and then hit an unbelievable shot that went over the backboard and into the bucket that led to a Bruins win. It shouldnt have counted, but it was so incredible that I for one am glad that it did. This is the rematch, and it will be interesting to see how Cal reacts. They actually knocked the Bruins off in the quarterfinals last year, so they must believe they can win. They also have some momentum from having beaten Washington in the opening round. Its just that sometime a loss like their last game against UCLA motivates teams, and sometime it suffocates them. UCLA, on the other hand, is into the NCAA Tournament and will get no worse than a #2 seed, but will have a strong case for a #1 seed if they can win the whole thing.
-#5. ARIZONA STATE VS #4. USC (Bubble Watch). Arizona State is squarely on the bubble of my projections, and I believe this is a must win game for them. If they end up advancing to the championship game then theyre pretty much a lock, but simply winning today would give their credentials a much needed nudge. They have beaten USC this season and they do have some decent wins, but they need this one for their RPI and for the sake of adding another win of note to their unstable resume.
-#6. OREGON VS #3. WASHINGTON STATE (Bubble Watch). Oregon is another team thats right on the bubble and this is a game that they pretty much need to win. Even if they win this game and lose in the next round theyll be sweating a little bit, but not nearly as much as if they lose today. This game could make the difference as to whether or not the Ducks make it. They havent beaten Washington State this year, so this is not an easy assignment. Wazzu is solidly in the field, but can really help out their seed with a strong showing in this tournament.
-#7. ARIZONA VS #2. STANFORD. Arizona appears to be in the dance, but theyre closer to the bubble than theyd like to be and a win in this one would basically end all doubts. They absolutely blew out Oregon State in the opening round and if they play like that again tonight then they have a chance at pulling the upset. Stanford should be getting a seed no worse than #4th regardless of what happens, but theyll get something better than that if they play well in the tournament.
ATLANTIC TEN QUARTERFINALS
-#8. DAYTON VS #1. XAVIER (Bubble Watch). This is probably the biggest rival in the conference, and today the stakes are pretty big. Dayton is an interesting case. They got off to a great start this season and appeared to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but since losing Chris Wright
to an injury theyve really not been the same. Still, they have an RPI in the 30s, an SOS in the 40s, and come into this game having won four straight. Granted, none of those four teams are NCAA teams and they needed overtime to get past Saint Louis in the opening round, but at least theyve stopped the bleeding. Still, they need a big win to prove they can still play tournament basketball, because for the last few months they havent. This would certainly qualify and most likely get them back in the discussion. More importantly, it would keep them alive to win the automatic bid. Xavier is in the NCAA Tournament regardless. Theyre just playing for seeding and bragging rights. This is a rivalry and theyd love to crush Daytons NCAA Tournament hopes with a win today.
#5. SAINT JOSEPHS AT #4. RICHMOND (Bubble Watch). Saint Josephs is on the bubble and needs to play well in this tournament. This is pretty much a must win for them if they want to make the NCAAs. If they can advance to the championship game it should seal the deal. They won impressively in their opening round game against Fordham. Richmond is the higher seed, but thats a result of unbalanced scheduling within the conference and the committee knows it. Saint Josephs clearly looks like the better team.
-#7. LA SALLE VS #2. TEMPLE (Bubble Watch). Temple is right on the bubble and really needs a strong showing in the conference tournament. La Salle is a crosstown rival, and it seems like whenever the Big Five gets together anything can happen. La Salle has also played some pretty decent basketball down the stretch, so they should come into this game with a reasonable amount of confidence. If Temple loses this game their NCAA hopes are pretty much done.
-#6. CHARLOTTE VS #3. MASSACHUSETTS (Bubble Watch). Charlotte has been inconsistent all season long. For that matter, so has UMass, but at least UMass has put together a few decent wins to make an at-large bid a possibility. That possibility will disappear if they lose today, though. They probably need at least two wins in order to be seriously considered. UMass won during the regular season, but they were at home for that game, so this should be more evenly matched.
ACC OPENING ROUND
-#9. FLORIDA STATE VS #8. WAKE FOREST (winner gets North Carolina) (Bubble Watch). Wake Forest went on the run toward the end of the season, but has fallen apart recently with four losses in their last five games. Theyll need to win this game and beat North Carolina just to get the slightest bit of consideration. Florida State is lower in the conference standings, but theyve won four out of their last five and do have some decent wins. If they can win this game and beat North Carolina they may be able to sneak into the field.
-#10. VIRGINIA VS #7. GEORGIA TECH (winner gets Duke). Both of these teams have looked good at times, but theyve looked worse most of the time. I dont see either team getting in without winning the automatic bid.
-#11. BOSTON COLLEGE VS #6. MARYLAND (winner gets Clemson). Maryland has a win at North Carolina, which is one of the more impressive wins anyone in the country has all year. Unfortunately they have very little else and come into this tournament having lost four of their last five. If they can get to the semifinals that should put them on the bubble and give them a chance, but in order to lock a bid up theyll probably need to advance to the championship game.
-#12. NORTH CAROLINA STATE VS #5. MIAMI, FL (winner gets Virginia Tech). I believe Miami is safely in the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens, but they can certainly help preserve their seed with a win today. Since they have a beatable Virginia Tech team in the quarterfinals I like their chances as much as anyone playing today to advance to the semis of the conference tournament. Theyve been playing some good basketball down the stretch. NC State has been a huge disappointment this season. They did put up a nice fight against Duke recently so they can play better than what they normally do, but theyre not going anywhere without the automatic bid.
BIG TWELVE OPENING ROUND
-#9. OKLAHOMA STATE VS #8. TEXAS TECH (winner gets Texas). Both Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have played Texas within the past two weeks, and both nearly pulled off the upset, so the winner of this game will have reason to hope. Texas Tech has a fairly decent RPI and could get into the NCAAs if they play their way into the championship game, but anything short of that and the best they can probably hope for is the NIT. The two split during the regular season, so we should be in for an exciting game today.
-#10. MISSOURI VS #7. NEBRASKA (winner gets Kansas). Nebraska is playing their best basketball of the season right now. They come into this tournament having won three of their last five with wins over Kansas State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma (all NCAA Tournament teams) and nearly upset Texas in one of their two losses. Both meetings against Kansas were blowouts, though, so winning in the next round would be a tall order. If Missouri wins, well get to see yet another addition of the Border War, which is one of the great rivalries in the country, although it appears to be a mismatch this year.
-#11. IOWA STATE VS #6. TEXAS A&M (winner gets Kansas State). Texas A&Ms spot in the NCAA Tournament appears to be safe, but they wont be doing themselves any favors if they lose today. They come into this game having lost five of their last seven and really dont want to add yet another loss to that slump, especially against a low caliber team like Iowa State.
-#12. COLORADO VS #5. BAYLOR (winner gets Oklahoma). Baylor looks to be dancing even if they lose today, but it would still be a damaging loss. They dont have a poor loss on their resume now, and if they can just take care of business in this one they can finish the year with zero losses outside the RPI top 100. Given their overall body of work it looks like theyll completely lock up a bid with a win today and theyll just be playing for seeding the rest of the way. Theyll also get a rematch with Oklahoma, whom they lost to earlier this season in an overtime thriller.
MOUNTAIN WEST QUARTERFINALS
-#9. COLORADO STATE VS #1. BYU. BYU had no trouble with Colorado State during the regular season and that shouldnt change today. If they can get through this game then they should be in the clear as far as avoiding a poor RPI loss on their resume prior to Selection Sunday.
-#5. AIR FORCE VS #4. SAN DIEGO STATE. Neither team can get in without the automatic bid, but San Diego State has proven to be a talented team at times this season and recently knocked off BYU, so they should be able to put up a fight in the semifinals if they can get past Air Force, who I dont believe has ever won a conference tournament game in the history of the school.
-#7. TCU AT #2. UNLV. UNLV is hosting this tournament and seeing as how well theyve played at home they look to be the favorites to win it. They appear to be safely in the NCAAs, but this is a loss that would look really bad on their resume and since theyre close the bubble it could cause them to sweat.
-#6. UTAH VS #3. NEW MEXICO. The Lobos have a shot at an at-large, but they must advance to the championship game, which probably means beating UNLV on the road. Thats hard to do, but the kinds of teams that can pull that off are the kinds of teams that get the attention of the committee. Utah comes into this having lost five of their last six. Prior to that they werent having that bad of a season.
MID AMERICAN QUARTERFINALS
-#8. TOLEDO VS #1. KENT STATE. Toledo actually upset Kent State earlier this season in a thriller, but that was at Toledo and the Rockets arent the same team when they play on the road. This is a big game for Kent State. Although it looks as though theyre safely in the tournament, they dont want to add another poor RPI loss to their resume. It would hurt their seed and depending on how everything works out it could cause them to sweat more than theyd like to.
-#5. MIAMI, OH VS #4. OHIO. Miami barely survived their opening round game against Buffalo. They seem to have a habit of playing to the level of their competition, but that can work in their favor so long as they play slightly above it, I guess. The last time Miami played Ohio, they played way above their competition. Ohio is not happy to see their big rivals. Miami crushed them when these two met less than two weeks ago. The winner gets the bragging rights and advances to the semifinals.
-#7. EASTERN MICHIGAN VS #2. WESTERN MICHIGAN. Western Michigan won the West Division, which earned them the #2 seed, but I dont believe they are the second, or even third best team in the conference. They should be able to win today, though, and advance to the semis, and they did manage to beat Akron rather handily this year, so they could very easily go deep in this tournament.
-#6. CENTRAL MICHIGAN VS #3. AKRON. I really like Akrons team and think they can make a run in this tournament, but they have their work cut out for them. They did lose to both Central Michigan and Western Michigan during the regular season, so theyll have to redeem themselves in the quarters and possibly the semis if they want to make the championship game.
CONFERENCE USA QUARTERFINALS
-#9. TULANE AT #1. MEMPHIS. This game should end up being a blowout, and Memphis will get one step closer to winning the conference tournament and wrapping up a #1 seed. If Tulane pulls the upset, it may be the biggest upset well ever see in the month of March. With an RPI of 175 and eight straight losses to end the regular season, not only would Tulane be a #16 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but theyd be in the play-in game.
-#5. SOUTHERN MISS VS #4. UCF. The winner of this will most likely be facing Memphis in the Semifinals. Southern Miss gave them a decent game about a week ago, but that game was at Southern Miss. Its a different story wit the tournament being in Memphis.
-#7. TULSA VS #2. UAB. UAB may get some consideration of they advance to the finals and lose to Memphis, but Id say theyre a long shot at best without winning the automatic bid. They did come close to upsetting Memphis once, but were recently blown out when they played them on the road.
-#6. UTEP VS #3. HOUSTON. This will likely turn out to be a pretty decent game. UTEP is inconsistent, but they have played well at points during the year. Houston is a pretty solid club, but they just dont have the big wins they need to get an at-large, although they may get some consideration if they advance to the final. If anyone can upset Memphis on the road, I believe its Houston, but even though I think they have the best shot out of anyone else in the league I still dont think its a good shot.
SEC OPENING ROUND
-#E5. SOUTH CAROLINA VS #W4. LSU (winner gets Tennessee). Neither of these teams are getting anywhere near the NCAA Tournament without the automatic bid, and since theyll be facing Tennessee in the quarterfinals theyre both long shots at best.
-#W5. ALABAMA VS #E4. FLORIDA (winner gets Mississippi State). Floridas NCAA Tournament hopes are barely flickering, but at the very least they need to win their next two games and even that probably wont be enough. If they advance to the championship game then it will likely be enough for an at-large, though.
-#E6. GEORGIA VS #W3. MISSISSIPPI (winner gets Kentucky). Ole Miss got off to an incredible start, but then went into a huge slump in the middle of conference play that they probably wont be able to recover from. They have won their last three games, and beat Georgia rather handily on the road to close the season, so they should be able to win today. If they advance to the championship game then they could get an at-large, but anything short of that probably wont be enough.
-#W6. AUBURN VS #E3. VANDERBILT (winner gets Arkansas). Vanderbilt is the only team thats playing today thats solidly in the NCAA Tournament. They have struggled away from home so this is a chance to pick up some neutral floor wins. A loss today wouldnt keep them out of the dance, but it would be rather damaging to their seed. Auburn either needs to go on a run or be put out of their misery. Theyre just 2-10 in their last twelve games and have battled injuries all season.
-#8. San Jose State vs #1. Utah State
-#5. Hawaii vs #4. Boise State
-#7. Fresno State vs #2. Nevada
-#6. Idaho vs #3. New Mexico State
Utah State, Boise State, Nevada and New Mexico State all tied for first place in the league, so if all for are able to advance to the semifinals it should be an exciting finish. New Mexico State is hosting the tournament and was playing really well down the stretch, especially at home, so I really like their chances, but once we get to the semis its completely up for grabs. This has been a down year for the WAC. Its unusual that none of the teams are in position to get an at-large, but thats the case this year. I think the best seed any of these teams could hope for is a #14.
BIG TEN OPENING ROUND
-#9. Michigan vs #8. Iowa (winner gets Wisconsin)
-#10. Illinois vs #7. Penn State (winner gets Purdue)
-#11. Northwestern vs #6. Minnesota (winner gets Indiana)
Minnesota may be looking at an NIT bid if they lose today, but they have no shot at making the NCAAs without the automatic bid and neither does anyone else who is playing today. That means that these are pretty much elimination games. This is a major conference, but the teams playing today are not major teams, which is why theyre so far down the list.
-#8. Texas San Antonio vs #1. Stephen F. Austin
-#5. Northwestern State vs #4. Southeast Louisiana
-#7. Texas Arlington vs #2. Lamar
-#6. McNeese State vs #3. Sam Houston State
If Stephen F. Austin doesnt win this tournament it really would be disappointing. They dont appear to be good enough to get an at-large, but they have just four losses on the season and did manage a win at Oklahoma, so theyre clearly the most deserving team from the conference. If they do make the NCAAs whoever faces them better be on upset alert. They used to play this tournament at the campus sites. Unfortunately they dont do that anymore, so SF Austin isnt getting any protection despite the fact that they ran away with the regular season title. They struggled to get past Texas San Antonio over the weekend in their final regular season game, but blew them out earlier this season so they should be able to win today.
BIG WEST QUARTERFINALS
-#7. UC Riverside vs #3. Cal State Fullerton
-#5. UC Irvine vs #4. Pacific
The lowest (worst) remaining seed will face UC Santa Barbara and the better seed will face Cal State Northridge. CS Fullteron and CS Northridge are very evenly matched teams, so if CS Fullerton can get through to the next round it should make for a very exciting semifinal game.
-#5. North Carolina A&T vs #4. Delaware State (winner gets Morgan State)
-#6. Florida A&M vs #3. Norfolk State (winner gets Coppin State)
#7 seeded Coppin State upset Hampton in the quarterfinals game yesterday. The final two spots in the semifinals will be determined today. Whoever wins this tournament will almost assuredly end up with a #16 seed.
-#6. Arkansas Pine Bluff vs #3. Alabama A&M
-#5. Southern U vs #4. Jackson State
Mississippi Valley State and Alabama State have already advanced to the semifinals. Whoever wins this will most likely be facing Mount Saint Marys in the play-in game.
-Ill have a new bracket projection posted tomorrow to reflect all of todays action.