Begrudgingly, I submit my look at the at-large picture. In my patented piecemeal approach, I am adding bubble teams this week. This is probably more for my benefit than yours, so if you think I’ve missed something – maybe I have! Drop me a line to let me know.
I’ve had to ax three teams from the lock list I produced last week.
Texas – The reasons for the removal of Texas from this list were given last week in this space. Texas is still limping badly, evidenced by an overtime home win against Kansas State last Saturday, when the Longhorns went 11 for 20 from three. They are totally at the mercy of bombs and excellent defense from here on out.
Minnesota – Individually, a home loss to Northwestern or a road loss to Indiana are not back-breakers. But together they hurt a lot, especially since the Indiana loss was lopsided. I still think the Gophers will get a bid, but they need to do some work.
Stanford – Their profile looks great, but with the season-ending injury to leading scorer (and third-leading rebounder) Dan Grunfeld, who knows if the new version of the Cardinal will be at-large worthy? I’m guessing not. Jason Haas will move into the starting point guard role and Chris Hernandez will fill in for Grunfeld at the two. They lose a lot of size with that change, and Haas is not much of an offensive presence.
I’ve also had to turn the other cheek to keep Georgia Tech on this list. Ultimately, they will get enough done to get in.
The additions are Maryland, DePaul and Florida.
ACC – UNC, Wake, Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland
Pac 10 – Washington, Arizona, UCLA
Big East – BC, Syracuse, Pitt, UConn, Villanova
Big XII – Kansas, Oklahoma St., Oklahoma, Texas Tech
Big Ten – Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan St.
SEC – Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi St., Florida
WCC – Gonzaga
MVC – Southern Illinois, Wichita St.
CUSA – Louisville, Cincinnati, Charlotte, DePaul
MWC – Utah
And now for the rest of the teams with a legitimate chance to play their way into an at-large bid. The principle here is similar to the locks – I am not listing every team with a glimmer of hope of getting a bid. I’m listing the teams I feel have the ability to play their way in. So that means while Indiana has a shot if they go something like 5-1 down the stretch, I don’t think they will, especially with Bracey Wright coming back.
(Speaking of Indiana, I’m starting to buy the whole "woe is me" act from Mike Davis. Have you seen what opponents are shooting from the free throw line against the Hoosiers? 75%!! That’s the second best opponents FT% of any team in the nation.)
ACC – Miami
Pac 10 – Arizona St., Stanford
Big East – Notre Dame, Georgetown
Big XII – Texas, Iowa St.
Big Ten – Minnesota, Iowa
SEC – LSU
WCC – (none)
MVC – (none)
CUSA – Memphis, UAB, Marquette
MWC – (none)
Atlantic 10 – George Washington
MAC – Miami, Kent St.
America East – Vermont
WAC – Nevada
Big West – Pacific
CAA – Old Dominion
Exhibits A and B for why tourney projections are nearly pointless this far out are the Big East and Conference USA. It is really difficult to separate teams three through seven in the Big East. I just think UConn and Villanova are better teams than Notre Dame and Georgetown, but based on their resumes, any of them should get in with nine conference wins.
Of the CUSA bubble teams, Marquette is the team with the best chance now that Travis Diener is back. It’s between him, Diogu, and Coppenrath, for the single most important player to any team in the nation.
There are 52 teams and 16 conferences listed. So 36 of these teams are vying for the 34 at-large bids, assuming no upsets in conference tournaments, and you can count on at least two of those. So at least two of the above teams will not get a bid. But this list will change quite a bit from week to week, as a few teams that I’m not giving any chance pull off surprises.