Texas A&M is back for me after a one post hiatus. The Aggies have challenges, but the one I’m most interested in is how their SEC record finishes. At this point I’m projecting 8-10, which would be tied with Arkansas, and coupled with the comfortable home win this week over Arkansas it’s enough for me to resurrect TAMU and supplant the Razorbacks in the bracket. For now, at least.
Speaking of teams struggling for conference respectability, the Baylor Bears have been hemorrhaging. I have been late to move off of them, and this team could lose 12 or 13 conference games at the rate they’re going. They are mercifully out for me, and replaced by a longshot from Olean, New York. Saint Bonaventure’s resume was touted by some back in December, but have been forgotten since. They’re sitting at a meager 5-4 in conference, with all four of those losses on the road, and 2-2 against Quadrant 1 teams. Six of their final ten will be at home, with a chance to pick up wins against Rhode Island and Davidson. If they can avoid bad losses, and possibly steal a game against Duquesne and/or VCU on the road, then we could be talking about a multi-bid Atlantic 10.
Conference Tournament Outlook
This Monday will represent the three week mark before conference tournaments begin, when the Atlantic Sun quarterfinals tip off Championship Fortnight. Going off recent memory this is the largest pool of eligible teams we’ve had at this point in the season, as only three schools remain on APR post-season bans: Alabama A&M, Grambling State and Southeast Missouri State. With the successful Division I transition of several schools, and the lack of postseason bans, that leaves 348 teams in the field still relevant.
Some conference teams will be excised from the postseason prior to the conference tournaments, although we are not quite within range to see that happen just yet. But where will those eliminations emanate from?
The nine team American East will only allow eight to the postseason party. Binghamton is the current basement dweller, but Maine and UMass Lowell linger within range. Remaining schedules indicate Maine could be the team left out here.
The Big West is in the same situation, looking for one school to bow out. UC Riverside is yet to notch a conference win, and remain the likeliest candidate. Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly each have two wins and are the only schools really in range of the Highlanders.
Conference USA is arguably the best conference to not send all teams, but given their digital and syndication package, it would be unlikely we’d see any of these early round matchups anyways. The swollen fourteen team league begins their tournament at twelve. One win Charlotte, as well as 2-7 Rice and UTEP currently are in danger of missing out here. Basically we’re down to two schools that removed their coaches already, as well as a first year coach, so it sort of makes sense why these schools are here.
The Ivy joined the fun last year with a four team runoff, so this is a half in, half out setup. Given the late conference play start this is still wide open, but Harvard, Penn, and Princeton appear to be in good shape with a combined 9-1 conference record. That would leave Brown, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, and Dartmouth left to fight for the final spot. Kenpom likes Yale for it, I lean Brown, but in both situations the prevailing team attaining a 7-7 league mark.
The Northeast Conference will weed out two to make up an eight team field. Bryant, at 1-10, and Sacred Heart, at 2-9, are both multiple games back of the rest of the conference. If either of those two want to escape, it will likely mean chasing down 4-7 Fairleigh Dickinson.
The Ohio Valley has a nice twelve team league, but uses the double ladder tournament approach which means curtains for the final four spots. Southeast Missouri State possesses an APR post-season ban, and the OVC has elected to hold them out of their conference tournament, leaving three more voids to fill. SIU Edwardsville is clear of two teams thus far in the standings, but are projected by me to finish last. Eastern Illinois and Morehead State are also in the running to be left waiting until next year.
The Southland Conference is the most ruthless as five teams will be left out of the eight team ladder tournament. Northwestern State and Incarnate Word are winless in conference and look poised to be eliminated in the near future. Houston Baptist, Texas A&M Corpus Christi and McNeese State also look to be hovering below the cutline.
Finally we have the SWAC, which is perennially one of the more difficult fields to figure out. If there are no changes, then past fields will indicate that both Alabama A&M and Grambling State are eligible to participate in the SWAC Tournament, but not to receive the automatic bid. It would appear then the two teams will likely come from the Mississippi Valley State, Alcorn State, and Alabama A&M trio. I project Alabama A&M to slide through, leaving six eligible teams in the eight team field.
So there you have it. 348 of the 351 remain, and a few others this month will fail to qualify for the only vehicle they have to win a National Championship. You’re still in this Northwestern State!
Teams With A Zero
Chicago State is still in action tonight, but currently down 24 on the road at Cal State Bakersfield, so it looks like we’ll take both winless teams into the weekend.
There are 178 schedule games this weekend, with the overwhelming majority coming on Saturday as teams seek to avoid going up against a Justin Timberlake concert Sunday night. I rank upcoming games each post below that factor the quality of teams playing against each other, and how likely that game will be competitive. Registering in at 176 of 178 on that scale are our Delaware State Hornets. DSU travels to Durham to do battle with North Carolina Central and hope to eke out a win over another Division I opponent for the first time this season. My prediction: NCC 76, DSU 65.
Which game would be 178 out of 178, you ask? Well, that would involve Chicago State, who are scheduled to travel into Phoenix for a tilt against Grand Canyon in what looks to be a significant mismatch. Kenpom gives the Cougars a 1% shot. The NMSU fans in my comments gives this a “who cares, put NMSU in already”. I’ll settle in the middle with a 82-61 Grand Canyon win.
Winless (against Division I) teams (2): Chicago State, and Delaware State.
Quadrant 1 Wins (Home vs Top 30 RPI, Neutral vs Top 50 RPI, Road vs Top 75 RPI)
Of the Bracket Matrix teams I’d consider bubble teams (teams in the field but not on 10% or more of brackets, plus the first four out), below are the quadrant 1 wins. The below ten teams would be vying for six spots. Bracket Matrix seed shown in parenthesis:
(11) North Carolina State 4-4, (F4O) Washington 3-3, .500
(F4O) Missouri 4-6, (11) SMU 2-3, .400
(10) Texas A&M 3-5, .375
(F4O) Virginia Tech 2-4, (F4O) Western Kentucky 1-2, .333
(11) Marquette 2-8, .200
(11) Syracuse 0-3, (11) Boise State 0-3 .000
NCAA Q1 Win Leaders
(6)- Purdue, Oklahoma, Virginia, Villanova
(5)- Clemson, Florida, Auburn, Xavier
(4)- West Virginia, Cincinnati, Texas, Duke, Seton Hall, Gonzaga, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Florida State, LSU, Missouri, Tennessee, Providence, Alabama, Temple
(3)- 10 teams
Notable Games (predictions in italics, 4-1 last week, 48-22 overall)
This weekend's top five as I see them:
#5 Saturday, Kansas State at West Virginia- West Virginia 75, Kansas State 70
#4 Saturday, Texas Tech at TCU- TCU 75, Texas Tech 74
#3 Saturday, Miami at Virginia Tech- Virginia Tech 76, Miami 72
#2 Saturday, UNLV at Boise State- Boise State 76, UNLV 74
#1 Saturday, BYU at Gonzaga- Gonzaga 77, BYU 70