Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bubble Statement

It was a big day for bubble teams, as Virginia Tech and Ole Miss both won games they had to have. Ohio State did as well, but they still have a lot of work left. Arkansas and UNLV both lost on the road, the Razorbacks to fellow bubble team Ole Miss. Both teams should still be ok at-large wise as long as they live up to expectations in their conference tournaments. UNLV's loss was to New Mexico - who may have just put themselves in the bubble conversation with that win, jumping up to 46th in RPI, although a SOS of 127th doesn't help.

On to today:

ATLANTIC SUN: I'm sick of Belmont, yet once again, they're on top of the A-Sun. They've made the tournament the past two years as a fifteen seed, and have failed to even put the tiniest little scare into their opponent. They do have wins this season at Alabama and at Cincinnati, so maybe this year's team is a little better equipped to handle the big boys. Their top four scorers are around from last season, and guard Justin Hare has led the Bruins in scoring for three seasons. Their closest competitor is Jacksonville, a team who lost 8 straight earlier in non-conference play, but played well in the A-Sun.
SLEEPER: Mercer and Gardner-Webb are low seeds, but Mercer beat USC and GW beat Kentucky this year, so either could surprise
W's PICK: Belmont. The most talented and most experienced team in the conference should be able to get through.

This conference was dominated for a while by Holy Cross and Bucknell, but those two teams have fallen to the bottom of the conference as new contenders arise in American (the picture is for them) and Navy. Both teams ended the season hot, with Navy knocking off American in the second to last game behind 34 from likely Patriot POY Greg Sprink. Unfortunately for the Midshipmen, they lost a surprising one to Colgate in the season finale to give American the regular season title and home court through the tournament (each game is played at the higher seed in this one).
FAVORITE: American, regular season champ and home court throughout.
SLEEPER: Holy Cross. They're the bottom seed and will have to win four games on the road, but they were much improved the second half of the season and have a win at American on the resume.
W's PICK: Navy. Sprink is a good enough player that he can carry the Midshipmen on his shoulders and take them to the dance.


Two of the better mid-major teams reside in the Sun Belt, in Western Kentucky and South Alabama, and the Belt may actually get two bids. South Alabama should be in good shape as long as they get to the finals, with a win over Mississippi State and a sweep of WKU, as well as a 3-pt loss at Vanderbilt. The Jaguars also have an advantage in that the tournament is being held in their own arena. Western Kentucky might not be able to get in even with a finals appearance and may need to win the whole thing. They are led by one of the best players in the country in Courtney Lee, who is still looking for his first NCAA tournament appearance. If you get a chance to watch these two teams, do it.
FAVORITE: South Alabama
SLEEPER: Denver. Ok, not really. There isn't really a sleeper here, because USA and WKU are head and shoulders above everybody else. Denver does rank 340th out of 341 in terms of tempo, so it's possible they could screw everybody up.
W's PICK: Western Kentucky. Western is an excellent team, whose only two losses in conference were to USA, and it's tough to beat a team three times (or so the saying goes). Needing to win the tournament, along with the force that is Courtney Lee should be enough to get the Hilltoppers into the dance - and make a very nerve-wracking Selection Sunday for South Alabama.

Dayton @ St. Bonnies - Dayton can't afford to lose anymore games
BC @ Miami - Miami is probably in anyway, but should take care of business just to be sure
Syracuse @ Seton Hall - pretty much an elimination game
Kentucky @ South Carolina - Can Kentucky get in? Don't know, but they need to keep winning.
LaSalle @ UMass - Minutemen second in line in A-10 for an at large, need to take care of a surprisingly good LaSalle team
Tulsa @ UAB - Blazers only hope for C-USA beyond Memphis
Oklahoma @ Ok State - Sooners probably in, State probably out
Tennessee @ Florida - pretty much a must win for the Gators
Texas A&M @ Baylor - Aggies sliding badly and desperately need this game, Baylor should be in but can really help themselves out
Wyoming @ BYU - A BYU win guarantees them at least a share of the MWC title, which might be enough to get them an at-large if they fall in the MWC tournament

God I love this stuff.

TOMORROW: Missouri Valley & NEC first rounds. Second round action for the Atlantic Sun and Big South

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