Here are my 34 at-large teams:
ACC – Duke/Maryland, N. C. State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest
SEC – Kentucky/Florida, Vanderbilt, LSU, Alabama, Mississippi State, South Carolina
Big East – Pittsburgh, Providence, Boston College, Seton Hall, Syracuse
Big 12 – Oklahoma State/Texas, Kansas, Texas Tech
C-USA – DePaul, Charlotte, Louisville, UAB, Memphis
Big 10 – Wisconsin/Illinois, Michigan State
Atlantic 10 – Saint Joseph’s, Dayton, Richmond
Pac 10 – Arizona, Washington
Mountain West – BYU
MVC – Southern Illinois
Big West – Utah State
The last bid came down to Richmond(IN) and UTEP(OUT). Whomever the last team in turns out to be, they owe a cut of their postseason check to Nevada for knocking UTEP out of the WAC tourney and Colorado State for knocking Air Force out of the MWC tourney.
Teams worth mentioning…
Washington (IN): Many times the committee has decided that what happens in December puts a team over the top. It would only make sense that December play could also knock a team out. Lopsided losses to Houston and Wyoming and two losses to UCLA would be enough to convince me that the Huskies don’t belong. Still, everybody and their grandmother thinks they’re in. Based on their last 15 games, they’re a 5 seed. Based on their first 14 games they would be lucky to win the MEAC. How do you balance the two?
Arizona (IN): A great analog to 2003 Alabama. They were highly touted early, then did nothing from New Year’s Day onward. They have a non-conference SOS of #3, which is exactly what Bama had last year. This was the reason cited for the Tide getting in, so I can only assume the same logic applies to the Wildcats.
LSU (IN): The absence of Jaime Lloreda and closing the season with 2 lopsided losses makes me less than 100% sure about the Tigers. Their profile suggests they are a lock, but there’s an outside chance the committee will hold this injury against the rest of the team. LSU got a win without the nation’s leading rebounder and they’re not a one-man show, so they should be in.
Richmond (IN): How much will the committee reward road play? Of all the teams in at-large consideration, the Spiders have the 4th toughest non-conference schedule RPI-wise. This doesn’t consider the amount of road games they played which is more than the anyone in the top 5 in this category. They played 6 road games compared to: Michigan State (3), Missouri (4), Alabama (2), Nevada (4). But given their 2-10 record against the top 50, I wouldn’t be surpised if Richmond was denied.
As I said about a month ago, Richmond is the poster child for the plight of the smaller conferences. Oddly enough, this year has seen most pundits championing the cause of the BCS schools that haven’t done anything out of conference (Washington), or have a sub-.500 conference record (Maryland).
UTEP (OUT): Can I tell you that Richmond is definitely better than UTEP? No way, it’s impossible to say either way. For me the deciding factor against UTEP is a much less challenging out-of-conference schedule than Richmond. Furthermore they scheduled 2 non-D1 opponents. UTEP is a terrific story and I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing them in over a Pac-10 team. But the committee’s mantra over the years has been about scheduling. So when you’re on the bubble and you elect to avoid 2 games against D1 teams, you have to go.
Air Force (OUT): I have kept the Zoomies out based on the CSU loss. I heard Mr. Bracketology himself, Joe Lunardi, mention that no outright regular season champ of a top 10 conference has ever been left out in the 10 years he has been tracking this. This gives the impression there are many teams that have had similar profiles to AFA and gotten in. In the 3 years of data I have, there is only one outright champion of a top 10 conference that did not win its conference tourney and had an RPI worse than #50 (2002 Wyoming). If only Joe would tell us how many there have been in the last 10 years, I am guessing Air Force fans would feel less secure.
Ironically, that Wyoming team needed a total miracle to get by #193 Air Force in the first round of the 2002 MWC tourney. Wyoming made it as an 11 seed, but had they lost to Air Force they would have been on the brink of the NIT. Wyo had 5 top 50 wins and only one loss outside the top 100. 2004 Air Force has 3 top 50 wins and 2 losses outside the top 100.
Missouri/Colorado (OUT): This only gives the Big XII 4 teams in the field. Colorado’s woeful non-conference effort kills their chances. Missouri had a tough non-conference slate and finished somewhat strong. The impression that they quit down the stretch against Kansas won’t help matters.
If you’re a fan of Air Force, UTEP, or Mizzou there’s still some suspense regarding the selection show. I could see any of them getting in, but they wouldn’t deserve it in my opinion.
I’ll be back Sunday night or Monday morning to critique the brackets…