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

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