Sunday, March 11, 2018

11-MAR Bracket Projections: Final Bracket

The Ivy, Sun Belt, and A10 championships have been decided.  Davidson's win will indeed cost someone a spot.  Popular opinion is that Arizona State and Louisville are battling it out for the final at large spot, but my next team out is unchanged from last night.  Kansas State will be on the outside of my bracket, joining Louisville who was already outside of my field.  I have Arizona State in Dayton with Texas, UCLA and Butler.  St. Mary's, USC, Florida State, and Saint Mary's are my 10 seeds, and the last four safe.

As I mentioned, I'm not feeling confident this is how it will play out, but it's my pick.  RIP to those 3-6 bracketmatrix points.

10-MAR Bracket Projections: An Ominous Note From a Worlock

We’re less than 24 hours from the bracket reveal, and the NCAA Media Director provided a warning for an unnamed bubble team via the tweet below.
Legitimate chance the Brothers Hurley are impacted on both sides of the equation here.  For me, however it would be Kansas State as my first team out.  The Wildcats have wins over Oklahoma, TCU (2), and Texas (2).  Arizona State has wins over Xavier, Kansas, USC, and UCLA.  I like those four a lot more than Kansas State’s five wins.  The Sun Devils also have a neutral site win over Kansas State.  I worry losing 5 of the last 6 is going to weigh heavier for ASU than I give it credence, so I’m not terribly confident in that scenario playing out as described.  Bracket Matrix has ASU already in the first four out and Louisville in the final spot in the field.  Louisville’s key wins are Florida State (2) and Virginia Tech (2).

My bracket is mostly complete. Obviously the Big West, Sun Belt, A-10, and Ivy championships may require some updates, but as for the at larges, my team is on the floor.  Thanks to BracketMatrix for including me again, and for the effort required to maintain this experience.

Grand Canyon’s run came to an end in the WAC finals tonight, as New Mexico State won their umpteenth automatic berth.  The Antelopes were the final program on the Futility list.  Of the 43 we started with, only Lipscomb managed to scrape out the NCAA Tournament bid.  We’ll begin next season with 43, however, as North Alabama will be moving up from Division II.

Congrats to the Bison.  In retrospect, had they officially blown the entirety of their thirty plus point lead to Florida Gulf Coast, it would have been a disastrous post season run for these schools. 

On a more positive note, although with similar late game management, the Marshall Thundering Herd are back in the NCAA tournament snapping a 30 year run of misses.  This was second on the Drought list only to Loyola Chicago’s 32 year run among teams that will be in the 2018 bracket.  Having seen that offense a few times over recent year, this could be a fun Tournament team if Elmore and Penava get hot.  I was critical of the D’antoni hire when it was made, and I was flat wrong.  Some good work being done down there in Huntington.

Toledo lost to Buffalo and Georgia Southern lost to Georgia State in the Sun Belt semifinals to finish off our teams on the drought list.  Aside from the two mentioned above, and Lipscomb as well, the College of Charleston and UNC Greensboro were the other two success stories this post season.  Technically we’ll stretch that to six tomorrow when Auburn gets announced as an at large team, and snapping their fourteen year NCAA drought.

Those schools will be replaced by the three following schools who are now working on their own fourteen year dry spell.  The Longwood Lancers are looking for a new coach, and once they find their person, they will be looking to get that program to the dance for the first time in its history, which only goes back to 2004 at the Division I level.  The other two are Chicago based programs who will need to look at the Loyola Chicago blueprint for snapping streaks.  Illinois Chicago and DePaul have not been in the brackets since 2004.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 0-0 tonight, 0-0 from pending games previous night, 100-65 overall, 0 game pending from tonight)
Sunday's top five as I see them:
#5 Harvard at Penn- Penn 71, Harvard 66
#4 Georgia State vs UT Arlington – Georgia 74, UT Arlington 73
#3 Tennessee vs Kentucky – Tennessee 72, Kentucky 71
#2 Davidson vs Rhode Island- Davidson 72, Rhode Island 71
#1 Houston vs Cincinnati- Cincinnati 70, Houston 68

Saturday, March 10, 2018

9-MAR Bracket Projections: Reno Failure

Nevada was obliterated tonight in Mountain West Tournament action, and it raises some interesting scenarios.  Painfully, though, for Middle Tennessee this may have cost the Raiders a bid.  It does for now in my bracket, at least. 

The below thirteen teams are battling for eight spots.  The bottom five in red are the ones I omitted.  Nevada is listed for additional reference.

The 2017-2018 Futility list is just about settled for the season.  Grand Canyon ran away from Utah Valley early in their semifinal matchup, and the Lopes will make the final tomorrow against New Mexico State with a berth on the line.  Grand Canyon was in the most recent class of Division I teams, coming in with Incarnate Word, Abilene Christian, UMass Lowell, and the team that made it last year Northern Kentucky.  

We’ll find out tomorrow (technically Sunday morning eastern) if two teams will officially drop off, or if Lipscomb is the sole graduating member.

The Sun Belt weeded out the field today, and as a result Louisiana Monroe, Appalachian State and Texas State will tack on another year to their drought (found here).  Eastern Michigan, Nicholls State, Southern Utah and Prairie View all lost semifinal games and watch their string of NCAA misses hit 20 years.  Seattle also battled hard in the WAC, but exit in the semifinals and see their drought hit 49 years.

Toledo (1980), Marshall (1987), Georgia Southern (1992) all still in contention.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 2-3 tonight, 0-0 from pending games previous night, 96-64 overall, 0 game pending from tonight)
Saturday's top five as I see them:
#5 Davidson vs St. Bonaventure- Davidson 73, St. Bonaventure 72
#4 North Carolina vs Virginia – Virginia 70, North Carolina 68
#3 Grand Canyon vs New Mexico State – New Mexico State 69, Grand Canyon 68
#2 West Virginia vs Kansas- West Virginia 75, Kansas 74
#1 Houston vs Wichita State- Houston 74, Wichita State 73

Friday, March 9, 2018

8-MAR Bracket Projections: Stuck In The Middle

Will the Conference USA get two teams in?  I wouldn’t have thought so, but in my first bracket since the Blue Raiders were upset, I have them in utilizing one of the final spots.  Here’s how they stack up as of Thursday night with just a few games remaining in a couple of the notable metrics.

The below thirteen teams are battling for eight spots.  The bottom five are the ones I omitted.

If that 3-3 Quadrant 1 record holds up for MTSU (those borderline teams are going to be crucial for so many schools), that RPI might supplement the wins and give them just enough.  Of course, a few more conference tournament upsets might make this all moot in the next three days should additional bids get stolen.  As it stands though, I’m keeping MTSU in for another bracket.

We lost over half of the remaining teams on the Futility list on this very busy Thursday.  The only two schools left are from the WAC, and neither are top seed New Mexico State.  Utah Valley and Grand Canyon will meet up Friday and be the last bastion of hope.  Chicago State, UT Rio Grande Valley and UMKC were all defeated on Thursday in the WAC.  UC Riverside lost a close one to top seed UC Davis.  Savannah State’s magical turnaround came to a sudden end in their first post season game of the MEAC Tournament.  Lastly Central Arkansas lost in the Southland quarterfinals to make it twelve years without an NCAA Tournament.

Duquense dropped their inaugural post season game today, and 1977 will remain their final NCAA appearance for at least another season.  Idaho ran into the Gem State killers Southern Utah, who had knocked off Idaho State the day before, and the Vandals will see their drought hit 28 years.  Louisiana Tech, East Carolina, Tulane, TCU, and Ball State also saw the end to their 2018 run.

Of the top 100 teams listed on the Drought link, 12 remain in contention in their conference tournaments.  One of those teams is Seattle, who is still alive in the WAC and looking for their first trip to the dance since 1969.

Conference Tournaments
The Sun Belt returns after a one day hiatus.  The Texas State Bobcats will be looking to upset top seeded Louisiana Lafayette for a trip to the semifinals and an opportunity to return to the brackets for the first time since 1997.  Appalachian State will follow that game, and have Texas Arlington in the quarterfinals.  The Mountaineers have not made the field since 2000.  The final quarterfinal matchup comprises two programs looking to snap a drought.  Louisiana Monroe’s last visit was in 1996, while Georgia Southern hasn’t returned since 1992.

The SWAC semifinals are Friday.  Prairie View A&M is the two seed, and will get Mike Davis and his Texas Southern squad.  The Panthers last NCAA trip was in 1998.

The Southland semfinals are tomorrow and Nicholls State will take the floor for the first time.  The Colonels have not made the NCAA Tournament since 1998.  They get the perennial Southland powerhouse Stephen F. Austin. 

MAC semifinals feature an all East and all West Matchup.  In the latter it’s Toledo vs Eastern Michigan.  Toledo hasn’t made the NCAA Tourament since 1980, which is currently the 20th longest active drought.  Eastern is also on the list, but their last trip came in 1998.  The winner will get either Kent State or Buffalo who have combined for the last three MAC Championships.

The Conference USA semifinals lost top seed Middle Tennessee which opens opportunities for the rest of the league.  Marshall was the only league team to beat the Raiders in the regular season, which they did twice, and now they get the team who knocked out Middle Teenessee in the postseason.  If the Thundering Herd can get past Southern Miss, they will be forty minutes away from their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1987.

The Big Sky semifinals could end up going to either Montana or Eastern Washington yet again, however, Southern Utah has knocked out the seven and two seeds, and now has their sights set on the three seed EWU.  The Thunderbirds have not made the NCAA field since 2001.

The Atlantic 10, AAC, and SEC have hit the quarterfinal rounds.  The MEAC, ACC, Big East, Big 12, Mountain West, Big West, WAC and PAC 12 are in the semifinals.  No championship games tomorrow, but they will monopolize the schedule this weekend.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 5-0 tonight, 0-0 from pending games previous night, 94-61 overall, 0 game pending from tonight)
Friday's top five as I see them:
#5 Old Dominion vs Western Kentucky- Old Dominion 72, Western Kentucky 71
#4 Clemson vs Virginia – Virginia 66, Clemson 63
#3 San Diego State vs Nevada – Nevada 75, San Diego State 74
#2 North Carolina vs Duke- Duke 79, North Carolina 76
#1 West Virginia vs Texas Tech- West Virginia 72, Texas Tech 71

Thursday, March 8, 2018

7-MAR Bracket Projections: Previewing the Most Exciting Day of the Year

Tomorrow is peak college basketball. The Thursday before Selection Sunday is the most underrated day of the season.  It begins around noon eastern time and is typically non-stop drama for about 14 straight hours.  It’s the most active day of the two weeks of Conference Tournaments, and most of the larger leagues have weeded out the weaker teams to present a formidable set of neutral site games.  The NCAA Tournament is always awesome, but the quantity of games tomorrow brings it.  Enjoy the day.

Bethune Cookman was upset in the MEAC quarterfinals on Wednesday by Morgan State.  It will now mean the Wildcats have zero appearances in the 38 years since they joined Division I.  Eight teams are still active in their conference tournaments and looking to move off the Futility list.  Thus far, only Lipscomb has managed to secure such a feat.  Central Arkansas was the only other team in action today from this grouping, and they live to see another Southland day.

Fordham was eliminated in the opening round of Atlantic 10 Tournament play tonight, and the Rams have now tallied a 26 year drought as a result.  FIU’s misery will hit year 23, as they dropped out of CUSA postseason play tonight.  Coming in right behind FIU will be both Colgate and San Jose State in much different circumstances.  Colgate lost in the Patriot Finals tonight (by a metric ton), taking the hope that nourished in the previous tournament rounds and just amplifying the torment.  San Jose State garnered no such hope.  They came in as the bottom seed, and got ran off the court by middle of the pack Wyoming in the opening round action in the Mountain West.  Arkansas State’s last NCAA Tournament team will remain the 1999 squad, as they lost in Sun Belt play today.  Lastly, Florida Atlantic also was eliminated in CUSA action tonight.

Of the top 100 teams listed on the Drought link, 23 remain in contention in their conference tournaments.

Conference Tournaments
Fifteen conference tournaments will have games tomorrow.  There are no championship games scheduled, and three are in their opening rounds.  It will be the busiest day of games for the week before whittling away the field with each passing day.

The American Athletic Conference has four first round games.  East Carolina has not been to the tournament since 1993, and will take on UCF in their backyard.  Mike Dunleavy will be trying to get Tulane back into the dance for the first time since 1995.  The Green Wave have drawn Temple. 

The Big West’s first round will feature eighth seeded UC Riverside.  The Highlanders have been Division I since 2001, but have never earned an invite.  They will need to get past UC Davis to make that possible this year. 

The Western Athletic Conference eight team tournament is the remaining new tournament beginning tomorrow. Five teams have never made the NCAA field.  The lone matchup featuring two such teams is third seeded Grand Canyon (Division I since 2013) and UMKC (Division I since 1987).  Second seeded Utah Valley are in their fifteenth year, and will be looking to get past Cal State Bakersfield to setup an all-Futility semifinal with the winner above.  Chicago State is fresh off their first Division I win and hoping to parlay that into three additional wins for their first appearance after missing the field in their last 33 tries.  However, the longest mark belongs to what is now called UT Rio Grande Valley.  Over their existence and various names, the Vaqueros have not made the dance since their debut in 1969.  Their opponent tomorrow has 11 appearances, but the last was also in 1969 when Seattle made the Tournament.

The MAC is back with quarterfinal games in Cleveland.  Toledo is the second seed and has the longest drought in the conference missing the last 37 NCAA Tournaments, and will play Miami OH.  Eastern Michigan is looking to avoid seeing their drought hit 20 years, and they get the team and the coach who have both owned this Tournament on their own separate merits.  Akron is an eleven seed, but nothing would surprise me here given John Groce's track record in March with Ohio.  Ball State is the four seed and gets the defending tournament champions Kent State.  The Cardinals have not made the field since 2000. 

The Big Sky also returns with four quarterfinal games.  Idaho secured the two seed, and are looking to snap 27 years of tournament misses.  The Vandals have Southern Utah on the schedule.  The Thunderbirds meanwhile are looking to establish a postseason winning streak and ultimately return to the brackets for the first time since 2001.

We have two quarterfinal matchups in the Southland, one of which is more relevant here.  Central Arkansas survived Lamar on Wednesday and will now take on the three seed Stephen F. Austin.  The Bears have never made an NCAA Tournament. 

The Atlantic 10 has four second round games on Thursday.  Keith Dambrot has brought some additional energy to Duquense, but they faded to a ten seed in the latter half of the season.  They get Richmond in the evening session as they try and snap the 16th longest active drought with misses in the last 40 NCAA Tournaments.

The MEAC concludes their quarterfinals tomorrow with the final two games in those brackets.  Savannah State will take the court for the first time, and after reports surfaced where they received an APR waiver and are eligible for post season they surged to qualify for the three seed.  The Tigers joined Division in 2002, and have announced their intention to move to Division II for financial reasons.  They have never made the NCAA tournament and their final opportunities are this season and next.  Savannah State gets North Carolina Central tomorrow.

Conference USA has four quarterfinal games on Thursday.  Marshall will take on UTSA in the 4/5 seed matchup.  The Thundering Herd have not made the NCAA Tournament since 1987.  Louisiana Tech upset North Texas and now gets second seeded Old Dominion.  The Bulldogs drought goes back to 1991. 

The Mountain West has four quarterfinal games tomorrow, including fringe bubble team Boise State.  Same goes for the Big Twelve, and TCU will begin quarterfinal action on the day against Kansas State.  The Horned Frogs own the league’s longest active drought.  Their last appearance came in 1998.  The SEC will have four second round games, while the Big East, ACC and Pacific 12 will have 4 quarterfinal games.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 1-4 tonight, 0-0 from pending games previous night, 89-61 overall, 0 game pending from tonight)
Thursday's top five as I see them:
#5 Louisville vs Virginia- Virginia 68, Louisville 64
#4 Notre Dame vs Duke- Duke 76, Notre Dame 72
#3 UAB vs Western Kentucky- Western Kentucky 74, UAB 73
#2 San Diego State vs Fresno State- San Diego State 73, Fresno State 72
#1 North Carolina vs Miami FL- North Carolina 75, Miami FL 74

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

6-MAR Bracket Projections: The Big Ominous Sky

Three additional programs failed to secure the automatic bid tonight and instead notched another tick mark on the Futility list.  South Dakota State won the Summit League invite by knocking off South Dakota.  The Coyotes will now see their tenth season of Division I go by without that first NCAA appearance. 

In the American East, Hartford was eliminated by UMBC in semifinal action tonight.  This will be the 34th year of play for the Hawks at this level, and none of them have come with a tournament berth.  Sacramento State also failed to navigate past Portland State in the Big Sky, and their 22nd season of Division I basketball will end without an NCAA invite.

Nine schools are left to with their fates undecided.

Most of the carnage on the lists tonight came with the Drought teams, and in addition to Sacramento State the Big Sky was a killjoy all day long.  Idaho State was upset in first round, and will now miss 31 consecutive NCAA Tournaments.  Also in conference Montana State started the day in Reno and built up a large lead over North Dakota, only to see it fritter away with contributions coming from a half court heave by Geno Crandall and another late bucket in the final seconds of the second half to seal the UND win.  This is now 22 in a row for the Bobcats.  Not to be left out, last place Northern Arizona got obliterated by Northern Colorado.  The Lumberjacks made their last NCAA appearance in 2000.

Howard was eliminated in MEAC play, and the Bison have not made the dance since 1992.  Alcorn was knocked out of SWAC play to ensure the Braves will miss their sixteenth tournament in a row.

On a positive note, however, the College of Charleston will be the subject of many dancing puns as they were able to withstand the bombogenesis deployed by Northeastern with a late comeback and outlasting the Huskies in overtime.  This is the first trip to the dance since 1999 for the Cougars.

Conference Tournaments
We ramp up to twelve conference tournaments tomorrow, albeit just one championship game in the bunch.  Nine leagues hit the post-season floor for the first time.  The Patriot League final is our one title game.  Bucknell will be looking to repeat, while Colgate is chasing their first NCAA since 1996. 

We have two other returning brackets.  The ACC comes back tomorrow with four second round games with some integral matchups for bubble teams like Notre Dame, Syracuse, Louisville and Florida State.  The other returning bracket is the MEAC who will have two of the four quarterfinal games tomorrow.  Bethune Cookman has never made the NCAA Tournament since their Division I inception in 1980. 

The Sun Belt begins with four first round games.  Texas State is the opening game, and they have not made any of the last 20 NCAA Tournaments.  The Bobcats opponent will be Coastal Carolina.  Appalachian State and Little Rock will follow that game, and the Mountaineers have not been dancing since 2000.  In the final game of the day Louisiana Monroe will draw Arkansas State, and ULM has missed the last 21 NCAA Tournaments.  Meanwhile Arkansas State has missed the last 18.

The Mountain West Conference have arrived in Vegas, and last place San Jose State will participate in the third and final first round game tomorrow.  The Spartans have not made the NCAA Tournament since 1996, and will need to get past Wyoming to potentially change that this season.

The Atlantic 10 will hold two first round games tomorrow.  Fordham takes on George Washington.  The Rams last appearance came in 1992. 

In perhaps the biggest upset, it appears CUSA will have their games available on facebook and not behind a paywall.  This.  Is.  March.  If you’re looking for something beyond that, then your rooting interests tomorrow are Louisiana Tech who have had no tournament appearances since 1991, FIU who have not been seen since 1995, and Florida Atlantic who have not been in the dance since 2002.

The Southland Tournament starts up, using the ladder tournament approach.  Central Arkansas is the seven seed, and will be looking to move past sixth seeded Lamar and continue to push through for their first ever NCAA Tournament. 

The PAC 12 Tournament gets underway on Wednesday.  Washington State is in action tomorrow and has the longest drought in conference with their last appearance coming in 2008.  In the Big East, tenth seeded Depaul owns the longest drought just outside the top 100, but still checking in with 13 consecutive misses.  The SEC and Big Twelve will also have two first round games.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 2-3 tonight, 0-1 from pending games previous night, 88-57 overall, 0 game pending from tonight)
Wednesday's top five as I see them:
#5 Boston College vs North Carolina State- North Carolina State 77, Boston College 74
#4 Oklahoma State vs Oklahoma- Oklahoma 79, Oklahoma State 78
#3 Syracuse vs North Carolina- North Carolina 73, Syracuse 70
#2 Louisville vs Florida State- Florida State 75, Louisville 74
#1 Notre Dame vs Virginia Tech- Virginia Tech 73, Notre Dame 72

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

5-MAR Bracket Projections: No Rule of Eighty

Cue sad horn.  William & Mary was eliminated in the Colonial semifinals tonight and ensures the Tribe will go eighty years without an NCAA Tournament appearance.  They will join The Citadel, Army, and St. Francis NY atop this list for yet another season.  Good luck in 2019, gents.

The Denver Pioneers were defeated in the Summit League semifinals, and Maryland Eastern Shore went out in the first round of the MEAC Tournament.  We have 12 programs still eligible for history.

It was a fairly modest drought, but congratulations to UNC Greensboro who secured the Southern Conference automatic bid tonight.  It ends a sixteen year drought for the Spartans.

Difficult night for the homonym conferences tonight.  Fairfield could not solve the Tim Cluess MAAC riddle, losing to the Gaels in the conference final and pushing the drought out to 21 years.  In the slightly more efficiently named MAC Northern Illinois lost on a buzzer beater to Kent State to stretch their disappointment to a 22nd season.  Neither though have amassed the misery that has been Bowling Green basketball.  The Falcons now owns a fifty year NCAA tournament drought, longer than the previous two schools combined.  In fact they move into a tie with Columbia for the 8th longest active drought, taking their place behind the Futile Four as well as Dartmouth (59 years), Maine (56 years) and Tennessee Tech (55 years). 

San Francisco (20 years) also was eliminated from the 2018 NCAA Tournament this evening. 

Conference Tournaments
Ten brackets in play tomorrow including five championship games and three leagues starting postseason play for the first time.  The Northeast finals will feature the Wagner Seahawks, the top seed, looking to get past the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds for their first Selection Sunday mention since 2003.  College of Charleston and Northeastern will vie for the Colonial Automatic Bid.  The Cougars last appearance was in 1999.  The Summit League Championship will be an all Mount Rushmore state affair, as South Dakota will be looking for their first NCAA appearance in school history against Mike Daum and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits.  Speaking of stair affairs, it’s an all Ohio battle in Detroit when Cleveland State and Wright State compete for the Horizon League title.  Gonzaga will be in the WCC title game, and will take on the Saint Mary’s and BYU winner that is currently underway.

The American East returns with the semifinal rounds.  Hartford is chasing their first ever NCAA appearance and will be at UMBC.  Stony Brook is at Vermont in the other side of the bracket. 

The MEAC is back for day two, but we’re still in first round games for this event.  Howard has missed 25 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, and will have their first chance to begin avenging that mark with a game against Florida A&M tomorrow.  South Carolina State’s last trip was in 2003, and they will be in action tomorrow against Morgan State.

The SWAC initiates with four quarter final games at campus sites.  Prairie View A&M possesses the league’s longest streak of NCAA misses, with their last appearance coming in 1998.  They are the two seed and will host Alcorn State.  The Braves are second on that list, with 15 misses.

The Big Sky is in the “biggest little city in the world” with four first round games scheduled in Reno.  Sacramento State is the 11 seed, and will be looking to get past Portland State and advance their opportunity for their first trip to the dance.  Idaho State has the leagues longest active draught, missing the last 30 NCAA Tournaments.  The seventh seeded Vandals draw Southern Utah.  Those Thunderbirds are also fairly hungry, missing the last 16 brackets.  The Bobcats of Montana State are the 9 seed, and haven’t made a trip to the Tournament since 1996.  Last note, the bottom seed Northern Arizona has missed the last seventeen NCAAs.

The ACC Tournament begins tomorrow, and despite Pittsburgh’s best effort to epitomize Futility, no schools has any noteworthy appearance droughts of any significance.  Boston College has missed the last eight, which is the longest of the 15 constituents.  That said, very necessary games for teams like Syracuse and Notre Dame on the docket tomorrow. 

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 3-1 tonight, 0-0 from pending games previous night, 86-53 overall, 1 game pending from tonight)
Tuesday's top five as I see them:
#5 LIU Brooklyn at Wagner- Wagner 77, LIU Brooklyn 71
#4 Hartford at UMBC- UMBC 73, Hartford 69
#3 Northeastern vs College of Charleston- Northeastern 71, College of Charleston 70
#2 South Dakota vs South Dakota State- South Dakota 77, South Dakota State 76
#1 Gonzaga vs Saint Mary’s- Gonzaga 73, Saint Mary’s 72  (or Gonzaga 75, BYU 70 if necessary)

Sunday, March 4, 2018

4-MAR Bracket Projections: The L Words

The Futility list will reduce by at least one.  Lipscomb built up a massive lead with a gigantic first half effort scoring sixty points, but needed every last bit of distance to withstand the pressuring Florida Gulf Coast attack.  Lipscomb became a member of Division I in 1999, and with the 108-96 (in regulation!) win over Dunk City, the Bison earn their first trip to the NCAA Tournament. 

It’s only a trip to the semifinals for now, but when you’re 0-79 you get to celebrate all the steps along the way.  William & Mary gets past Towson 80-66 and take on the top seed College of Charleston tomorrow night.

Fort Wayne fell in the Summit quarterfinals and Quinnipiac was eliminated in the MAAC semifinals.  Fifteen programs are still alive and hoping to join Lipscomb.  

Loyola only manged five more points than Lipscomb scored in the first half, but it was enough to earn the Missouri Valley Championship over Illinois State.  The Ramblers picked up a 65-49 win over the Redbirds to earn their first trip to the brackets since 1985.

On the flip side Furman will see their drought hit 38 years after falling to East Tennessee State in the Southern Conference semifinals.  As mentioned above, Towson and Illinois State both lost and ensure they will remain on the Drought list for at least another year.  Drexel and Hofstra also failed to qualify for the CAA semifinals and will see another year of no NCAA tournament.  IUPUI was eliminated from the Horizon.  

Conference Tournaments
As I mentioned yesterday, we’re scaling down prior to the second week explosion of conference tournaments.  We have just eight leagues in action tomorrow which is the lowest number until Selection Sunday.  We have two championship games on the schedule, as well as two new leagues beginning play.

The Southern Conference is one of those two championship games.  Top seed UNC Greensboro has made it to the finals and are looking for their first NCAA trip since 2001.  They will take on East Tennessee State who won this tournament last year.

The Metro Atlantic Athletic finals will feature a familiar face in Iona.  Their opponent though is chasing some history.  Fairfield comes in as the six seed, and has missed the last 20 NCAA tournaments.  

The WCC semifinals are tomorrow.  It may just be an exercise of two perfunctory games to setup Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s part III.  However, if San Francisco can manage to pull off the upset over the Zags, it will mean a chance for their first NCAA trip since 1998. 

The Horizon semifinals are tomorrow and are nearly as unpredictable as the MAAC brackets.  Fourth seeded Oakland will take on eighth seeded Cleveland State in the first semifinal.  Second seed Wright State is the top seed still standing, and they draw sixth seeded Milwaukee in the second game. 

The Colonial semifinals will have William & Mary just two wins from their ultimate goal, and they now get the top seed College of Charleston.  The Cougars haven't seen their name in the NCAA Tournaments since 1999.  UNC Wilmington and Northeastern have made trips to the dance in just the last few years, but will be awaiting the Cougars/Tribe winner.

The Summit semifinals will feature two schools still battling for their first ever trip to the NCAAs.  South Dakota and Denver will square off in a semifinal matchup, guaranteeing a berth in the championship and 40 minutes in between them and Selection Sunday.  South Dakota State and North Dakota State comprise the other half of the bracket.

As for the new leagues, the MAC begins with first round games at campus sites on Monday.  Bowling Green will travel to Mt. Pleasant for a road game with Central Michigan.  The Falcons have not made the NCAA tournament in 49 years, which is currently the ninth longest drought in NCAA Division I.  Central meanwhile has not been since the Chris Kaman days of 2003.  Northern Illinois will be in Kent, and they are looking for a return trip to the brackets for the first time since 1996.

The MEAC begins with an aperitif on Monday, with two of the five first round games.  Maryland Eastern Shore has never made the NCAA tournament, and are hoping the 37th year is the breakthrough.  They will measure up against Norfolk State in the final game of the day for the conference. 

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 2-3 tonight, 0-0 from pending games previous night, 83-52 overall, 0 game pending from tonight)
Monday's top five as I see them:
#5 San Francisco vs Gonzaga- Gonzaga 76, San Francisco 67
#4 North Dakota State vs South Dakota State- South Dakota State 77, North Dakota State 74
#3 Hofstra vs Northeastern- Northeastern 75, Hofstra 73
#2 BYU vs Saint Mary’s- Saint Mary’s 71, BYU 68
#1 East Tennessee State vs UNC Greensboro- East Tennessee State 69, UNC Greensboro 68

3-MAR Bracket Projections: Cut Down Those Nets Chicago State!

The Futility list took a beating today as we lost eight schools and now only have 18 of the 43 still in postseason contention.  Several long suffering schools included in those eliminated by their conference foes, and most notable is that The Citadel is the third of the four schools who will roll into 80 consecutive years of not making the NCAA tournament.  Only William and Mary remain alive in 2018.

Also faltering on Saturday was Maine (0-56), New Hampshire (0-39), Western Illinois (0-37), Elon (0-21), Sacred Heart (0-19), Nebraska Omaha (0-7), and Abilene Christian (0-5).  All but Abilene Christian were via Conference Tournament games.  The Wildcats were edged out by the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders in a Southland tiebreaker for the final spot in that Tournament.

Similar to the postseason tournament displacement that plagued Abilene Christian, many of the updates on the Drought list were resulting from the music ending and no conference chairs were left.  Columbia will celebrate the golden anniversary of their last NCAA appearance after failing to make the Ivy League plus one tournament. 

All but two schools make the Conference USA tournament, but UTEP faltered just enough to allow Rice hope before slamming the door shut on Friday.  This ensures 48 years will pass since Rice was in the 1970 NCAA Tournament.  McNeese was also left out in the Southland, and will see their drought hit 16 years as a result.

Western Carolina got obliterated by Furman in SoCon tourney action, and will mark 22 years since their last NCAA. 

Conference Tournaments
We dial it back a notch tomorrow with just ten conference tournaments in action as we begin to prepare for the final crescendo of activity next week.  No new tournaments begin, but four championships will be doled out. 

The Missouri Valley Championship will end a drought for one fan base.  The one seed Loyola Chicago is potentially in proximity of the bubble, but likely needs a win which makes an at large moot.  They have not been in the brackets since 1985.  Their opponent is none other than last year’s slighted Illinois State Redbirds, who are looking to return for the first time since 1998.  The Valley always seems to deliver, albeit at a pace less than desired, but this should be a fun one. 

The Atlantic Sun Championship is between the perennial representative Florida Gulf Coast and a team looking for their first ever NCAA in the Lipscomb Bison.  Radford and Liberty will decide the Big South Championship, while Purdue and Michigan will complete the trilogy in the Big Ten Championship.

Several league semifinals are scheduled for Sunday.  The Patriot League returns and Colgate will be looking to move into the finals for a chance to end their drought at 21 years.  They will be hosting Holy Cross, while Bucknell hosts Boston University on the other side.

The Southern Conference has a little intrigue in both games.  UNC Greensboro is the top seed, and looking to end 16 years of misses with two more wins.  They will be up against Fletcher Magee and Wofford.  In the other semifinal, Furman is bringing a 37 year drought with them and will have to get past East Tennessee State to keep that from growing.

The MAAC is utterly ridiculous but equally fun.  The seeds in these semifinal games are the 4, 6, 7 and 9.  Quinnipiac is the seven seed, and have never made the tournament.  To get to that finals, they’ll need to knock off the six seeded Fairfield.  The Stags motivation will be the 20 year NCAA drought they have to their resume.  St. Peter’s and Iona are your nine and four seeds respectively.

The Colonial has our last hope for 2018, William & Mary.  The Tribe are the four seed, and drew Towson in the quarterfinals as they begin their quest to avoid the same fate as Army, St. Francis NY, and The Citadel.  Towson isn’t exactly a March name either, with their last appearance coming in 1991.  The top seed is the College of Charleston who are looking for their first tournament trip in the 2000s.  They will take on Drexel who won the play-in game on Saturday.  Hofstra is the three seed and also carrying a relatively lengthy drought at 16 years.

Finally a couple latter half ladder quarterfinal matchups.  In the Horizon, IUPUI takes the postseason court for the first time this year trying to snap their drought at 14 years.  The Jaguars have Oakland in Detroit, which presumably will be a difficult out.   In the Summit, Denver is seeking their first ever trip and will get six seeded Oral Roberts in South Dakota.  Fort Wayne is also looking for their first banner, and will need to get past the always tough North Dakota State to advance.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 4-1 tonight, 0-0 from pending games previous night, 81-49 overall, 0 game pending from tonight)
Sunday's top five as I see them:
#5 Liberty at Radford- Radford 67, Liberty 64
#4 Lipscomb at Florida Gulf Coast- Florida Gulf Coast 80, Lipscomb 74
#3 East Tennessee State vs Furman- Furman 73, East Tennessee State 72
#2 Michigan vs Purdue- Purdue 72, Michigan 69
#1 Cincinnati at Wichita State- Cincinnati 72, Wichita State 71

Saturday, March 3, 2018

2-MAR Bracket Projections: The Metro Atlantic Car Crash Tournament

It’s probably difficult enough for Youngstown State to see their streak roll into year 37, for the moment tied for 10th longest among active teams who have not made an NCAA Tournament appearance.  However it has to be extra painful when you’re being eliminated by a team in your part of the state that you’ve never really been able to get some traction against.  Making matters worse was that you lose by one point, and time ticks away as two Penguins collide on a point blank offensive rebound that sends an errant carom frittering away.  We only lost one team off the Futility list tonight, but it was in some gut wrenching fashion.  26 remain, including stalwart Citadel and Quinnipiac who picked up Friday wins.

It wasn’t just the conference tournaments sending teams to the junk pile.  The Ivy League regular season completed another four games Friday night, and the result and tie-breaking permutations will not allow Brown to advance to the post-season four team tournament.  The Bears have now missed every NCAA Tournament dating back to 1986, which is a top 30 active Drought.

Conference Tournaments
Eleven brackets are in action tomorrow, with three tipping for the first time.  The American East will be the busiest of the rookie brackets with four games at the higher seeds.  Four of the eight teams have never been to the NCAA tournament.  New Hampshire and Hartford will square off against each other, while Maine is at Vermont and UMass Lowell is at UMBC. 

In Charleston, South Carolina the Colonial will initiate post season play with two first round games.  Elon hasn’t made an NCAA tournament in their twenty years, and will draw Delaware on Saturday.  Drexel one ups the Phoenix as their fourth NCAA appearance came 21 years ago on the shoulders of Malik Rose.  The Dragons will have James Madison in the early game. 

The Summit (or Badlands, pour one out for midmajority) splits their quarterfinals with the top two seeds in action Saturday night.  Mike Daum and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits start us up against the Leathernecks of Western Illinois who will be searching for their inaugural trip to the NCAA Tournament.  The second game includes two teams who have never made the brackets.  Nebraska Omaha is still in the booster seat era of the Division I livelihood, and South Dakota is only slightly older, but as the second seed has a legitimate path to drop off this list. 

The first ticket will be punched tomorrow night in the Ohio Valley Conference.  It’s the top two seeds, with #1 Murray State and #2 Belmont making it through the ladder tournament.  The two played just once this season, and it was a 79-72 win at home for Belmont.  That Championship is on ESPN2 at 8pm.

Loyola Chicago is now in the semifinals and will face Bradley in Missouri Valley action Saturday.  The top seeds last appearance was in 1985.  Illinois State after their omission in last year’s bracket has also secured a semifinal berth, and will take on Southern Illinois in the second game.  The Redbirds are looking to end a 19 year drought. 

The Northeast Conference has its semifinals Saturday.  Wagner is the top seed and seeking to snap a 14 year drought.  They will host always pesky Robert Morris.  LIU Brooklyn and Fairleigh Dickinson rounds out the bracket.

The Big Ten semifinals are an alliterative set of good basketball games.  Michigan State and Michigan are the first game at the Garden as the Spartans try and secure a one seed.  The other Big Ten team thinking possible one seed is Purdue and they have to deal with a Penn State team looking to beat any good team that isn’t coached by Chris Holtmann. 

The Southern quarterfinals are Saturday and two of the matchups in particular are noteworthy to me.  Certainly, topping that list is The Citadel who received stay number one on Friday night as they outlasted VMI.  Their challenge increases exponentially tomorrow against the top seed UNC Greensboro who are looking for their first trip since 2001.  The other matchup to highlight is the Furman and Western Carolina.  The Paladins are 18th on the Drought list without a tournament appearance since 1980.  The Catamounts don’t quite go back that far, but still with a fairly modest drought dating back to 1996.

The MAAC has the second half of their quarterfinals tomorrow and beware remaining top seeds Niagara and Iona.  Friday night saw the one and two seeds disposed of and this automatic berth is wide open.  Fairfield may have newfound hope as a result and the path to end their twenty year drought looks slightly more manageable as a result.  In the bracket below, Iona is now my MAAC representative after the Canisius loss.

The West Coast quarterfinals will be held Saturday before an off day on Sunday.  Loyola Marymount was successful on Friday night in advancing their drought to 28 years, but now must contend with reigning National Championship Runner-up Gonzaga.  Pepperdine, last seen in the 2002 NCAA tournament, will be in a similar challenging position against the second seeded St Mary’s Gaels.  San Franciso will also be in action and are staring at a 20 year drought without three wins in Las Vegas.

The Horizon continues their ladder tournament with quarterfinal games involving the top two seeds.

Teams With A Zero
Chicago State!  We did not forget about you.  In fact, here’s hoping the Vibes of March have begun to bloom in Chitown and instilled a confidence in this Cougar team.  Saturday is the rematch with UMKC who won a few weeks ago 76-67 in Kansas City.  The Machine says take the Roos 76-72, but the heart wants a win in the finale.
Winless (against Division I) teams (1): Chicago State.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 3-2 tonight, 1-0 from pending games previous night, 77-48 overall, 0 game pending from tonight)
Saturday's top five as I see them:
#5 Penn State vs Purdue- Purdue 74, Penn State 70
#4 Nevada at San Diego State- San Diego State 76, Nevada 74
#3 Belmont vs Murray State- Murray State 73, Belmont 72
#2 North Carolina at Duke- Duke 81, North Carolina 75
#1 Michigan State vs Michigan- Michigan State 72, Michigan 68

Friday, March 2, 2018

1-MAR Bracket Projections: Rutgers Runs This Town

The Big South was a soul crusher today for the schools looking to make history for the first time, as both Gardner Webb and Longwood bowed out in quarterfinal action today.  However, just up the road, Lipscomb picked up an Atlantic Sun semifinal win and will now only have the conference juggernaut Florida Gulf Coast standing between them and Selection Sunday.  Quinnipiac also picked up a win in MAAC first round action.  We have 27 programs still in play from The List.  

The Ohio Valley saw Tennessee Tech end their run today, and the seventh longest drought will tack on another year.  Jacksonville, Marist, Charleston Southern, Navy, Campbell, Eastern Illinois and Evansville also dropped a postseason game to prolong their dry spells as well.  A quick shout out to Rutgers for knocking off Indiana, and the 14 seed lives another day in the Big Ten tournament.  They’ll take on Purdue in quarterfinal action tomorrow, and again the Scarlet Knights are the Power 6 Drought leader with 26 straight tournament misses.

Conference Tournaments
We’re now up to eight tournaments in action tomorrow.  The Big Ten will have four quarterfinal games, the Ohio Valley has two semifinals, and the Big South will feature two semifinals.  Some broader notes on the remaining brackets follow below. 

The MAAC splits their quarterfinals into two nights with the top two seeds taking the floor Friday.  The top seed Rider has not been invited to the NCAAs since 1994, while the second seed Canisius is just a couple years behind at 1996.  Canisius will be facing Quinnipiac who as mentioned above has never made the field. 

The Valley has four quarterfinals tomorrow and the top seed starts things off the first game.  Loyola is the one seed, and also has the longest drought in the conference, with their last appearance coming in 1985.  The one seed has not lost in Arch Madness, so there is plenty of pressure for the Ramblers in this one against Northern Iowa.  Illinois State and Missouri State have some reasonable long droughts as well, and can be found in the two games in the evening session.

The Southern Conference tournament begins tomorrow, and like the Big South will also be in Asheville, North Carolina.  In the first game The Citadel will begin the journey to extricate themselves from the Futile Foursome.  Their opponent will be the VMI Keydets who have a bit of history as well.  They have made three trips, but none since 1977.  Samford will take on Chattanooga in the second first round game looking for their first trip to the NCAAs since 2000.

The Horizon begins first round games in Detroit.  Youngstown State is the only league member without an NCAA appearance in 36 years of Division I existence. 

Finally, the West Coast Conference slides into Las Vegas with two first round games.  Loyola Marymount hasn’t made the Dance since the Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble days in 1990.  The Lions will take on Portland in the first game, and the Pilots will also be looking for their first trip since 1996.  In the second first round game Santa Clara will be looking to punch their first ticket since 1996 when some point guard named Steve Nash was running the show.  The Broncos will be taking on the Pepperdine Waves who have not made the NCAA tournament since 2002.  Weird, it’s almost like a team or two have been dominating this league for some time.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 4-0 tonight, 0-1 from pending games previous night, 73-46 overall, 1 game pending from tonight)
Friday's top five as I see them:
#5 Eastern Michigan at Toledo- Toledo 75, Eastern Michigan 71
#4 Michigan vs Nebraska- Michigan 70, Nebraska 68
#3 Jacksonville State vs Murray State- Murray State 72, Jacksonville State 69
#2 Ohio State vs Penn State- Ohio State 71, Penn State 70
#1 Rhode Island at Davidson- Davidson 73, Rhode Island 71

Thursday, March 1, 2018

28-FEB Bracket Projections: Any Of You Guys Call Me St. Francis…

For the second night in a row, one of the core four Futility schools participated in their inaugural 2018 post season game, and limited their post season to forty total minutes.  Tonight, it was NEC quarter final night, and St. Francis NY never really provided much of a challenge for LIU losing by a final margin of 23 points.  That makes our Mount Rushmore of Futility zero for two, and Thursday will be an off day before The Citadel jumps into Southern Conference Tournament action on Friday.

Elsewhere, in the OVC ladder tournament SIU Edwardsville dropped their opener against Tennessee Tech.  It will be ten seasons of Division I play without an NCAA appearance for the Cougars.  29 of the 43 Futility schools are still alive

Toggling back to the NEC we had the first major seed upsets of the tournament, which was even more surprising given the top seed home court advantage the format provides, and the nearly .800 home court winning percentage those four teams collectively boasted.  Nevertheless, while we just ticked into March officially, the seventh seed Robert Morris and the sixth seed Fairleigh Dickinson provided some magic.  Both teams had two regular season losses against their opponents, but it was the third that mattered most, which was extra painful for St. Francis PA has this will now be 27 years without an NCAA tournament.  That streak is currently 34th on the Drought list.  Rough night for the holy franks.

Tennessee Tech is seventh on that list, and while it came at the expense of SIU Edwardsville, the Eagles live to see another day.  Eastern Illinois similarly survived another day, but at the expense of Tennessee State and their now 24 year long streak of heartbreak.

Conference Tournaments
Seven tournaments are in action tomorrow, including two for the first time this year.  First we have semifinal action in the Atlantic Sun.  Florida Gulf Coast is the overwhelming favorite and will take on North Florida.  The other semifinal features a Futility school in Lipscomb against a Jacksonville team who hasn’t made the tournament since 1986.

Three leagues are in the quarterfinal rounds.  The Big South resumes with action in Asheville, NC after first round campus sites.  Gardner Webb will be looking to take a step toward their first NCAA appearance against a Winthrop team that is seemingly in the dance every year.  Longwood, the ten seed, will look to continue their run against the second seeded Radford.  Campbell and their dynamic guard Chris Clemons are looking for the first trip since 1992, and will take on Liberty in the nightcap.  The game will follow the top seed UNC Asheville who will be hosting Charleston Southern who has not made the tournament since 1997. 

The Patriot League is back in action again at campus sites for their final eight teams.  Colgate is the second seed and will host Lafayette.  The Raiders of Hamilton, NY have not made the NCAA since 1996 when Adonal Foyle took them to the promised land.  Navy, who has not been in the brackets since 1998, will be hosting Holy Cross.

The Ohio Valley has two quarterfinal games on the schedule.  The previously mentioned Tennessee Tech will start the action taking on the four seed Jacksonville State and March wizard Ray Harper.  Eastern Illinois will look to take another step toward ending their own as they will face Austin Peay in the second game. 

The Big Ten tips at noon in the Garden with four second round games.  Rutgers avoided elimination tonight against Minnesota, and will take on Indiana tomorrow night.  The Scarlet Knights own the longest drought in the Power Six conferences at 26 years and counting.

As for the new tournaments beginning play, the MAAC has three first round games tomorrow.  Quinnipiac is in the middle game, hosting Siena, and looking for their first ever trip.  Marist, the last place eleven seed, has less optimism but will be looking for their first return trip since 1987.  The Red Foxes drew Fairfield, who is 61st on the Drought list having not went since 1997. 

The Missouri Valley is our final conference in action tomorrow.  Evansville and Missouri State are tied on the drought list with both teams in the 1999 NCAA field.  The Aces will have Northern Iowa in the opening first round game.  Missouri State will have Valparaiso in the following game.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 3-1 last night, 2-2 from pending games previous night, 69-45 overall, 1 game pending from tonight)
Thursday's top five as I see them:
#5 Oregon State at Washington- Washington 73, Oregon State 71
#4 Marshall at UAB- UAB 78, Marshall 74
#3 Weber State at Montana- Montana 75, Weber State 70
#2 Virginia at Louisville- Virginia 67, Louisville 65
#1 Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee- Middle Tennessee 73, Western Kentucky 71