So, because I enjoy this time of year perhaps more than any other (particularly since Mizzou is actually part of the discussion), from time to time I just like to load up Yahoo's College Basketball Standings and simply count to 65 in order to determine who is getting to the NCAA tournament.
In past years, it has sometime been quite difficult to limit it to 65 teams -- but this year, I'm actually having issues getting to 65. As we embark on the last weekend of regular season games and the conference tournaments (which are ongoing), I thought this would be an interesting topic.
Counting through the conferences in alphabetical order, I came up with the following 57 teams -- a combination of locks and conference leaders. Note, in one-bid conferences like the America East, I took the first place finisher - if an alternate team wins the conference tournament, they would take that team's place. These are cases where there is no chance of an at-large bid. I have marked such teams with an asterik.
- North Carolina
- Wake Forest
- Florida State
- Boston College
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
- Weber State*
- Michigan State
- Oklahoma State
- Long Beach State*
- Morgan State*
- Robert Morris*
- TN Martin*
- Arizona State
- Stephen F. Austin*
- Alabama State*
- North Dakota State*
- Western Kentucky*
- St. Mary’s
- Utah State
As you can see, that leaves eight spots. These spots could be taken by teams such as, say, Wisconsin Green Bay, who if they won the Horizon would make the tournament but Butler would also still go, removing a spot on the bubble.
However, let's assume for a moment there aren't any such cases and we're exclusively talking about teams on the bubble. Who merits consideration?
In my view, these teams deserve at least some "bubble" discussion:
San Diego State
That's a very NITesque list, if you ask me. Here are a few thoughts:
Mountain West -- there are five really decent teams in this conference, six (with Wyoming) that are going to make the postseason of some sort -- either the NIT (probably all here, IMO), CBI or the new and "more legitimate than the CBI" collegeinsider.com tournament. That's pretty impressive -- at some point we're going to have to call the Mountain West on the level of the other seven conferences.
SEC -- Seriously, I think this league may only get 2 teams. Tennessee has made an interesting case of late with three late wins, and LSU is certainly safe, but can anyone truly make a good case for South Carolina (was safe until this week's losses to Vandy and Tenn), Florida, or Kentucky? Frankly, I think a case could be made for Auburn if they beat LSU this weekend. Auburn would have won 8 of 9 at that point and they have several very close non-con losses (Dayton by 1, N. Iowa by 6, Xavier by 7) South Carolina has the best RPI at 41, Florida is in the 50's and Auburn is at 71 (Kentucky is probably finished at 78). It could be that the SEC Tournament determines this.
Big Ten -- Frankly, one could make a case for Penn State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin being in the tournament, but it was tough to make a "lock" caes for each, to be honest. Penn State is now 10-7 in conference but going into tonight had an RPI in the 60's. Wisconsin and Minnesota are probably close to in but they have both been shaky enough down the stretch. And what about Ohio State, Michigan, or even Northwestern, who has suffered an unbelievable amount of close losses? Separating these teams is a nightmare. If I had to call it, I'd say Penn State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin go dancing while the others are out.
Arizona -- As I write this post, Arizona is about to lose to Cal at home, and they have lost three in a row (all on road) coming into this game (which followed a 7 game winning streak. Two of those losses were narrow, but they are still L's. Arizona's RPI is a shaky 45. This team is an interesting case. They have wins vs. KU, Washington, UCLA, and Gonzaga, which may get them in.
Washington State -- They seemed buried but look at them now. Huge wins lately and though they are 16-13 and a 90 RPI, should they win at Washington, I think they enter the discussion. IN some ways, Wash State is the Northwestern of the Pac 10 - three two point losses (UCLA, USC, Oregon State). Their main problem is they have NOTHING out of conference -- beating a shaky Miss state team and losing to Pitt, LSU, Baylor, and Gonzaga. No shame in that but their other wins are against terrible teams in the 200's and 300's.
Texas A&M -- Now, if they beat Missouri, I think they are in and the Big 12 gets 6. I think the Big 12 will get quite a bit of credit by the committee for having three teams in the Top 15. They have very good wins vs. LSU and Arizona, and unlike Wash State, played several games against teams in the 90-200 range, vs. the high range -- Kent State (W), Alabama (W), Sam Houston State (W), and Stephen F. Austin (W). Their RPI is 35. Frankly, even if they lose to Mizzou -- they may STILL have a case at 8-8 if they beat ISU/TT in OKC. The problem for A&M is that they will have to play Mizzou twice, and even at 9-9, the committee will see two chances (one at home, one on a neutral court) to get a big win that came up short, if they lose both. What is also killing A&M is that game at OU that they should have won as well as losses to Baylor (4 points) and K-State at home. If they win ANY of those games, they are a lock. At this point, to get in, I think they need one of the two games against Mizzou.
Maryland and Virginia Tech -- Maryland needed a win vs. Wake or Duke, in my view, and didn't get it. Both have RPI's in the 60's and simply haven't done enough. Maryland still might get consideration with the wins vs. UNC and Mich State. Both I think need help in the ACC Tournament.
So, after all this, who gets my 8 spots, as of today?
3. Texas A&M
4. Penn State
7. South Carolina
8. San Diego State
I know some of these are shaky, but the question is -- if not these teams, who?