Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bubble Poppers

March is upon us. The term 'bubble' is in the air and relevant again. 'Under Consideration' is how the NCAA committee would phrase it. Quick review: 31 conference tournament champions receive automatic bids and the rest of the field is made up of the 34 best at large teams. How they arrive at those at large bids is always a source of much conjecture and debate. Let's preview some conference tournaments outside of the Top 6 and who teams on the mythical bubble should be pulling for to win those tourneys:

ATLANTIC 10: Xavier or Dayton. Xavier is being projected as a #5 seed currently in most brackets. Dayton has a big test today at home against Temple. If they lose today it will be three in a row and UD will be putting their NCAA chances at risk.

CONFERENCE USA: Memphis. The Tigers have dominated CUSA, something along the lines of 55 straight conference wins. If they were to lose in the CUSA tournament I would expect it would be either against UAB (no way Robert Vaden goes 0-17 against the Tigers twice) or Houston.

HORIZON: Butler. Butler polished up their resume by winning at Davidson on 'Bracketbusters' last weekend. They have stumbled of late in conference so teams facing them in the Horizon league tournament know their beatable. They play alot of underclassmen so anything is possible.

METRO ATLANTIC: Siena It is highly likely Siena needs to win their conference tournament after last night's loss at Niagra. Still their 'team card' shows they have a RPI in the high twenties and their non conference strength of schedule of 3 stands out. IF they can stay where they are at currently and make it to the MAAC championship game and lose I think they are in.

MISSOURI VALLEY: Creighton. The Blue Jays are gaining steam. They are another team that shares the 'bubble' with top 6 conference teams. However if they won their conference tournament there would be one less on the bubble to contend with.

MOUNTAIN WEST: Utah and BYU. Many bracketologists out there are saying the Mountain West could get as many as 4. I think that number decreases if either Utah or BYU win the MWC tournament. Since games against non D1 opponents do not count against RPI, the Utes embarrassing loss to start the season does not hurt them and they are in the top 10 currently.

WEST COAST: Gonzaga. The tournament darlings are sitting in good shape to get an at large bid if they do not win the WCC tournament. Santa Clara and St. Mary's are both capable of winning that one. It will be interesting to see how the committee handles St. Mary's. They lost their star all american candidate in Patty Mills halfway through conference season but should have him back for the conference tournament.

Also bubble teams should pay attention to the top 6 conference tournaments in addition to those listed above. The SEC has been wide open and remember Georgia came out of nowhere to win that one in 2008 stealing a bid. Any of those leagues could see a talented underperforming team come alive at just the right time.

I am ready and excited for March basketball. Intensity and stakes are raised which generates some great performances to witness. After today we will be two weeks away from Selection Sunday.

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