Now that the Super Bowl is behind us, it’s time to get serious about college hoops postseason. A lot of folks are out there projecting brackets, so I am not going to go that route. Instead, here is my analysis of the at-large prospects of various teams, in order of conference strength. Teams with a (?) next to them are on the proverbial bubble. This is not a “if the season ended today” projection. Future schedules of teams are taken into account. For example, Virginia would might get in if the season ended today, but a likely 8th or 9th place finish in the 9-team ACC will prevent them from getting consideration.
Just because a team isn’t listed here doesn’t mean they couldn’t vault themselves into the at-large discussion with a good run. Also, just because a team is listed as “in” doesn’t mean they can’t play their way out. There is plenty of time left for a team’s true colors to come out, and many changes will occur.
ACC (7 teams) – Duke, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, North Carolina St., North Carolina, Maryland, Florida St. While Maryland or Florida St. will have 10 conference losses, both will have enough quality victories to get in. FSU could use a quality road win to cinch things up however. The worst loss by any member of the ACC was Maryland’s loss to #90 West Virginia.
SEC (8) – Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi St., Alabama, LSU, Tennessee (?). Ga. Tech at Tennessee this Saturday is HUGE for the Vols chances. Tennessee has only one win away from Knoxville and that combined with a pathetic pre-conference schedule is killing them. If they get by the Jackets, then the SEC has a realistic shot of sending an unprecedented 8 teams to the dance (and 5 out of 6 from the SEC East). Although LSU and USC could easily play themselves out at this point.
Big East (7) – Connecticut, Providence, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Syracuse, Boston College, Rutgers (?).
The loss to WVU really hurt BC, another bad loss will drop them from shoo-in status to being in danger.
Conference USA (6) – Louisville, Cincinnati, UAB, Charlotte, Memphis, Marquette (?). C-USA stands to benefit most from the demise of the Pa(theti)c-10. Marquette’s eye-catching win at Louisville really helps them get back in the hunt, even if there were some injury issues with their opponent.
Big 10 (6) – Wisconsin, Michigan St., Purdue, Indiana (?), Illinois (?), Michigan (?). It’s a real longshot that the Big 10 gets all 6 of these teams in. Injuries have played a role in Purdue’s and Indiana’s embarrassing losses, so their portfolios are better than they look on paper.
Big 12 (6) – Kansas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma St., Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri (?). Oklahoma is undeserving of a top 25 ranking, but without any bad losses they are a lock for selection. Missouri’s hopes are still on life-support, but they have some opportunities left to impress the committee.
Atlantic 10 (3) – St Joseph’s, Dayton, Richmond (?). Richmond has made an amazing resurrection since falling to La Salle on January 10th. They will be Dickie V’s poster child if they are denied a bid by an 8th SEC or 7th ACC team. They have 8 losses right now, but 6 are to the RPI top 50. The win at Kansas will cover a lot of sins when bids are handed out.
Mountain West (2) – Air Force, Utah (?). The MWC is in a bit of disarray. BYU had the best non-conference run, but they have crashed and burned in conference play. Air Force is the feel good story of the year, but they had a horrible non-conference schedule. Utah must finish no worse than 2nd in the conference to get a bid.
Pac 10 (3) – Stanford, Arizona, Oregon (?). Hard to believe this league might only get two bids, but UCLA’s recent losses to USC and St. John’s have damaged their dreams badly. Oregon is the best hope for a third bid.
WAC (2) – Nevada (?), Hawaii (?). Hawaii’s RPI is inflated by playing a non-conference schedule exclusively on the islands. But they have proven themselves on the road in WAC play, so they deserve mention. If Nevada can regroup and win the WAC regular season they should get in.
44 bids are available from these 10 conferences, and I listed 50 teams. Teams from other conferences with legitimate at-large aspirations: Gonzaga (a lock from the WCC), Southern Illinois (MVC), Utah St. (Big West), Western Michigan and Kent (MAC).
So here’s the Doubting Dozen. The top six teams would be in, the bottom six are out. Utah St. and Southern Illinois are assumed to get the automatic bid from their conference. But if they don’t, the bubble divider gets moved up one team. The same applies if a team not listed in the 50 teams above gets one of their conference’s automatic bids. That means that while Rutgers is listed as in, they would only get in under the ideal and unrealistic scenario that nothing stupid happens in conference tournaments.
1 Indiana 2 Illinois 3 Richmond 4 Utah (Utah St.) (Southern Illinois) 5 Marquette 6 Rutgers -bubble divider- 7 Hawaii 8 Nevada 9 Tennessee 10 Michigan 11 Oregon 12 Missouri