Just one bid handed out on Wednesday as the Patriot League’s regular season champion carried that momentum into the conference tournament and knocked off Lehigh tonight. That’s twelve auto bids, and gives us an even split. Five have been won by the #1 seed, five have been won by lower seeds, and 2 were won by projected at large bids. No bids scheduled over the next two days, as we move into the bulk of the brackets and whittle down the field significantly.
Two teams from the Futility list were knocked off tonight. Bethune Cookman was destroyed by the #1 seed in the MEAC (NC Central) and will move to 0 for 37. In the Southland, Central Arkansas battled back, but ultimately couldn’t get past Sam Houston State. The Bears have been in Division I since only 2006, but will remain without a tournament appearance for another season. Eleven teams are still alive in their conference tournaments, all but one are in action tomorrow (the SWAC doesn’t resume play until Friday).
Three more tournaments begin play tomorrow. The Big West starts with quarterfinal action. Long Beach State has the most tournament trips among conference members with 9. UC Riverside and UC Davis have never been. Davis has a legitimate shot to make a run, earning the #2 seed. The Big West has been pretty generous with the automatic bid. Aside from the two mentioned (who have droughts of 15 and 13 years respectively), the remaining 7 members have all made the tournament since 2008.
The Western Athletic begins play tomorrow, and once again it looks like we’re heading to a Bakersfield/New Mexico State final. Last year’s win by Bakersfield was their first trip ever and prevented NMSU from their 23rd berth. UT Rio Grande Valley, Chicago State, Missouri-Kansas City, and Utah Valley are all looking to break through for the first time. Seattle also deserves a mention, as they will be trying to make it to the tournament for the first time since 1969.
Finally, the American Athletic tips off Thursday. East Carolina (1993) and Tulane (1995) will be looking to take the first step to ending their tournament droughts.
All in all, tomorrow is one of the best days of the year. Conference overlap is at its peak, and we’re jam-packed with meaningful games all day long starting at noon EST with fairly decent pacing of the games. Enjoy it.
It was pointed out that my RPI figures were incorrect, which they were. The result was a handful of teams were off a few spots, which is important considering the unfortunate significance of Top 50 wins. That has been corrected, and in the words of John Groce I got 1% better today. Again, appreciate the comment.
USC jumps in, Iowa moves to first out.
Games of note tomorrow:
Last Four In: Xavier (vs Butler), USC (vs UCLA)
First Four Out: Iowa (vs Indiana), Kansas State (vs Baylor)
Next For Out: Illinois (vs Michigan), Utah (vs California)