When I said at the bottom of yesterday's post that there weren't really any games with bubble implications last night, I was counting Virginia as a lock. After blowing a home game to Florida State last night they're suddenly looking a wee bit shakier. They're probably still in good shape (losing to FSU isn't anywhere near a bad loss), but absolutely need to win at Maryland this weekend or the ACC Tournament is going to be nerve-wracking. Elsewhere Washington avoided a bad loss by smoking USC on the road and Oregon won a bubble elimination game by knocking of Colorado at home. Oregon is still not anywhere near in, but they are still in the conversation. And that's about it.
BIG SKY (saturday):
My third team I root for (behind Minnesota, then Iowa State) resides here in Weber State, and they look solid once again this year. Unfortunately it's a pretty down year in the mountains, with only Weber and Montana having anything resembling good seasons. Not that it really matters, I'm not sure if I can recall the Big Sky ever getting an at-large, and that's not likely to change any time soon.
Favorite: Montana. The Grizzlies win over Weber on Tuesday bumped them a game ahead of the Wildcats and into first place. Not that it really matters, because only six teams make the tournament and the 1 and 2 seeds get byes, so it's win one each and then Montana and Weber face off again.
Sleeper: Eastern Washington. There's not really anything special about the Eagles, but they play at a fast pace and don't turn it over so they'll get plenty of shots. Unfortunately they can't shoot. But what if they could? Think about that.
W's Pick: Weber State. Of course I'm going to pick Weber, but in this case it makes sense. Their best player is point guard Damian Lillard who's second in the country in scoring at 24.5 per game, and he's good enough to take over and bring the Wildcats back to the tournament where we could have Harold Arceneaux part II: Shorter and Whiter.
Seems as if every year the MAC is almost a two-bid league. Like, every year either Akron or Kent State is close but they can't get over the hump, and by not over the hump I mean they can't even get themselves on the Bubble. But somehow they always seem to have a team that's close. I don't know, maybe I'm a weirdo.
Favorite: Akron. And, once again, the Zips would be that team this year. Coming into their bracket buster game against Oral Roberts they were 19-7 and 11-1 in league with no real bad losses, and a win over ORU would have probably moved them from off the bubble to the bottom of it. Instead they lost to the Golden Eagles and followed that up by losing two of the next three. They're still the class of the league at 12-3 (pending Friday night's regular season finale at Kent State) and the definite favorite.
Sleeper: Ohio. This was supposed to be a big year for the Bobcats who were returning six of their top 8 scorers plus adding a couple "impact" transfers and some good freshmen. It hasn't quite worked out to be their year, but Ohio is still the best defensive team in the MAC and D.J. Cooper is still around, the point man who was instrumental in leading Ohio to a MAC Tourney win as a freshman, not to mention scoring 23 with 8 assists in their first round upset over Georgetown.
W's Pick: Ohio. I remember Cooper and what he did as a freshman and it wouldn't shock me to see it happen again. Plus, if it wasn't for a couple of bizarre mid-season losses to Eastern Michigan and Toledo the Bobcats would be 12-3 and tied with Akron for first place, not to mention they just pasted the Zips by 24 a week ago.
MID-EASTERN ATLANTIC (monday):
One of the worst conferences, and always one of the worst conferences (never ranked better than 30th in the land according to kenpom.com), the MEAC nonetheless can produce some interesting stuff. Like Reggie Holmes. How could you forget Reggie Holmes? Simply put, the best chucker I've ever seen - and by best I don't mean most skilled, although he did nearly lead the nation in scoring. So that's why, no matter what, I will always partially love the MEAC. That and they have Bethune-Cookman, which is still my favorite name for a college ever.
Favorite: Savannah State. In 2005 Savannah State finished the year 0-28, the first winless D-I team since 1992. A few short years later they set the record for fewest points in a half after scoring just 4 against Kansas State on 1-23 shooting in the second half. Now they're the #1 seed in the MEAC Tournament after going 14-2 this year. Quite the turnaround. Also there's a chance they're not 100% D-I eligible yet so it's actually possible they might not be playing in this tournament in which case they're not really the #1 seed, obviously. I kind of tried to look it up but after searching for like, a minute I couldn't find anything so I quit.
Sleeper: Coppin State. In a league that's just bad you end up with a whole ton of horrid offensive teams. Coppin State is the exception. They rank 53rd in the NCAA in points per game and 124th in offensive efficiency, which may not sound like much but it's the best in the conference by far and only Delaware State is even close.
W's Pick: Coppin State. I don't know, it seems like they always win. Plus they at least shoot the three-pointer well which means they might be a halfway interesting 16 seed, assuming they win their play-in game.
SUMMIT LEAGUE (saturday):
You know who loves the Summit League? All the dorky Gopher fans who have already bailed on the team and have decided to throw all their support behind South Dakota State and their little boyfriend Nate Wolters, just like all those same dorks were all behind NDSU that one year when they made the tournament. Well you know who hates teams like those? Yeah, I do. Screw those nerds. I hate all teams from all states that border this one except Iowa State.
Favorite: Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles are actually not that far off of the bubble thanks to an RPI of 44 and a 26-5 overall record. It's very doubtful they get a bid even if they make the final but lose, but the Golden Eagles have wins over Xavier and Akron and held tough with Gonzaga and West Virginia. I very much hope they make it because they could give somebody a nice tussle in round one.
Sleeper: Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies (really? Two "golden" teams in the same conference?) had a bit of a fall-off after losing Keith Benson from last year's super good team that somehow couldn't even beat Texas, but they still finished third in the league this year and have Reggie Hamilton back. Hamilton is the leading scorer in the nation while still managing to chip in 5.1 assists per game and he had an absolutely monster Summit tourney last year and had a great game against Texas. He's absolutely capable of carrying this team to a title.
W's Pick: South Dakota State. I'd love to see ORU or Oakland have a chance to take a run at somebody, but because life loves irritating me I'm sure the stupid Jackrabbits will end up making it. At least my cousin will be happy since she's alumni. Unless she went to USD. I have to be honest, I'm not exactly sure. Maybe I'm not the best cousin.
SUN BELT (saturday):
For much of the year Middle Tennessee State was bringing back the memories of when the Sun Belt used to be good with Courtney Lee and Taco Hawk running around for Western Kentucky and whoever used to be on South Alabama doing good things and all that jazz. Then they lost to that same WKU team in the regular season finale, and since WKU's RPI is in the sub-200 range and MTSU had basically zero margin for error, they really better win this tournament.
Favorite: Middle Tennessee. I just said that, dummy, pay attention. The Blue Raiders might not have any "holy shit" type wins, but they did beat Ole Miss, Akron, Belmont, and Loyola Marymount and crushed UCLA (which sounded better earlier in the year, but still). They also rank in kenpom's top 100 for both offensive and defensive efficiency, and you know how many teams can say that? Well, a lot, actually, but not too many from conferences like the Sun Belt.
Sleeper: Denver. If I remember correctly, Denver was the preseason favorite to win the Sun Belt, and after some early season issues they've won their last four to close out the year and finish 11-5, and also beat MTSU in their last meeting.
W's Pick: Denver. Check these stats: The Pioneers shoot 40.1% from three, 11th in the country, and compliment that by shooting 55.9% from two, which is second best in the nation (behind Missouri). They also play at a really slow pace (326th) so if they could just stop somebody they'd be money. I'd really like to see them get in because I think they'd be a fascinating first round match-up.
Plenty of bubble stuff going on this weekend, and that's without even counting the conference tournament stuff. Harvard has a big weekend starting tonight. If they can sweep Columbia and Cornell on the road they'll lock up at least a tie for the Ivy Title, and those two wins might be enough to get them in anyway. Texas has a huge chance to get the giant win they desperately need at Kansas, although that might be too tall an order. Teams like UCONN (vs. Pitt), Memphis (@ Tulsa), St. Louis (@ Duquesne), Kansas State (vs. Okla State), Washington (@ UCLA), Cincy (@ Nova), Miami (vs. BC), Miss State (vs Arkansas), Seton Hall (@DePaul), Oregon (vs. Utah), Virginia (@ Maryland), and Arizona (@ ASU) need to avoid a loss, while Southern Miss is probably fine either way but a win @ Marshall would go a long way. Perhaps the biggest bubble game of the weekend is WVU @ South Florida - the winner is probably in, the loser will need to make a decent run in the Big East tournament.
Also Mrs. W just got back from an early screening of Project X and told me it was like a combination of Superbad, Hangover, and Can't Hardly Wait. She then told me it was a terrible movie. lolwut? Those are like, three of the best movies of all-time, can't possibly see how this would be terrible. I think she might be a bit touched in the head, but don't tell her I said that.