Thursday, March 12, 2009

Road to Selection Sunday

The first two days of the major-conference tournaments have brought about several changes in the projected bracket and the status of bubble teams. One of the most important results was Cleveland State defeating Butler in the Horizon League championship game; with Butler already locking up a bid, this takes away an at-large bid from a bubble team. As for the bubble teams, some are playing themselves in, while others are losing games they can't lose and are playing themselves out. Moreover, teams that are locks have their seeds fluctuating by the hour. Who's in? Who's out? Answers to all that and more in a mid-week update of the "Road to Selection Sunday". Note: Complete "Bracket Breakdown" will be coming Friday.

Teams who locked up a bid:
Oklahoma State:
The Cowboys solidified their spot in the Big Dance with a win over Iowa State and then really locked it up with their huge one-point win over Oklahoma.
Boston College: The Eagles basically needed one more win to wrap up an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, and they handled Virginia easily by 13.
Dayton: The Flyers are very likely in after they defeated Richmond and now don’t have to face Rhode Island in the semis. Win or lose against Duquesne, I think they’re in.

Bubble teams trying to play themselves into the NCAA Tournament:
Virginia Tech:
Pulled away in the second half to knock off fellow bubble-dweller Miami (Fl.). A win over North Carolina the quarterfinals would do wonders.
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers might be in after their excellent finish against Northwestern. However, a win over Michigan State would elimination any question.
Michigan: The Wolverines really sent a message, blowing out Iowa from the opening tip. They will face Illinois in the quarterfinals, and will lock it up with a win.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions were another Big Ten team helping its cause, as they dominated Indiana to advance and play Purdue. A win could clinch a bid.
San Diego State: Certainly ahead of UNLV in the MWC pecking order after defeating the Runnin’ Rebels for the third time this season. Beat BYU, and they’re in.
Utah State: The Aggies can’t lose until the WAC final if they want a chance for an at-large bid in case of a loss, and they jumped out to an early lead on Fresno State en route to an easy win.
Maryland: The Terrapins defeated North Carolina State to keep their hopes alive, but they still probably need to knock off Wake Forest in the quarterfinals.
Florida: The Gators took care of Arkansas very easily, dominating the Razorbacks. They now face Auburn in what could be an elimination game for the loser.

Bubble teams not helping their NCAA Tournament case:
Texas A&M: Blew a 19-point halftime lead against Texas Tech and lost in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. Still probably in, but the loss hurts.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels probably could have helped their case for a bid even with a close loss to Gonzaga. However, Patty Mills didn’t look good and they were blown out.
Miami (Fl.): The Hurricanes struggled most of the game against Virginia Tech and will now have to wait after a ninth-place finish and a first-round tourney loss.
Providence: The Friars likely needed to defeat Louisville to feel comfortable about a bid. With the loss, their 2-8 record vs. the top-50 is going to hurt.
Arizona: After the Wildcats’ loss to Arizona State, they will now enter Selection Sunday having lost five of their last six. Plenty of good wins, but they will sweat it out.
Kansas State: The Wildcats received the No. 4 seed in the Big 12 Tournament and posted a 9-7 record, but they needed to beat Texas to get a bid, and fell short late.
UNLV: The Runnin’ Rebels are probably fifth in the MWC pecking order after losing to SDSU for the third time, and will likely be heading to the NIT. Their big wins only get them so far.
Rhode Island: The Rams probably needed to make the finals – at the very least, the semifinals. However, they lost to Duquesne in the quarterfinals and are likely done.
New Mexico: After UNLV’s loss, the Lobos just had to beat Wyoming to feel good about their chances for the Big Dance. However, they lost to the Cowboys and now have to pray.

Staying in the conversation for a bid:
The Wildcats came into the SEC Tournament losing four in a row, but their victory over Mississippi could potentially start a deep run to get a bid.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane jumped on Rice from the get-go and didn’t look back. They still need to beat UAB and then hope should they lose to Memphis.
Temple: The Owls still have to get to the A-10 final by beating Xavier, but a solid victory over Saint Joseph’s was a start. They now have 11 wins away from home.
UAB: Paul Delaney III’s shot with the clock winding down in overtime against Southern Miss keeps the Blazers in the mix, but they still might need the auto bid.
USC: The Trojans are still on the outside looking in, but their win over California in the quarterfinals keeps them alive for an at-large bid. Need to beat UCLA.

See you in the NIT:
The Bearcats were looking like a tournament team a few weeks ago, but lost to South Florida, Seton Hall and then DePaul to end the season.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish needed a deep run in the Big East Tournament to have any chance at a bid, and a blowout loss to West Virginia ends that.
Georgetown: If the Hoyas made a run to the Big East title game, they might have been in the discussion, but a loss to St. John’s caps a disappointing campaign.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers had a very surprising season under Doc Sadler, but a blowout loss to underachieving Baylor is not the way they wanted to go out.
Northwestern: The Wildcats had been on the periphery and needed to beat Minnesota to have a real shot, but they fell apart late and likely don’t have a chance.

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