Sunday, March 12, 2006

Selection Sunday - Field of 65 Guesses as of 2:30 PM

With almost all of the conference tourneys over, and in the major conferences (other than the SEC), both finalists assured of bids, here’s who’s going at-large for sure:

3 ACC – Duke/Boston College loser, NC State, UNC
6 Big East – Villanova, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Marquette, West Virginia
3 Big XII – Texas/Kansas loser, Oklahoma, Texas A&M
5 Big Ten – Ohio State/Iowa loser, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Indiana
3 Pac-10 – Washington, California, Arizona
5 SEC – Tennessee, LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky (and Florida if it loses Sunday)
Major conferences = 25 at-large bids assured

Afterdoing my initial projections, I added Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Arizona and Indiana, to the “in” list, after seeing how weak the bubble teams are. The Crimson Tide (17-11, RPI #46) went 10-6 in a tough league, ordinarily a guaranteed ticket into the Dance. They also have good wins over LSU and Florida and Tennessee. On the downside, Alabama fell in the first round to Kentucky, and have lost four of their last seven. However, Alabama played an extremely difficult schedule (11th nationally) and has a lot of good losses, too.

Arkansas had a lot of cupcakes (21-8 RPI 45 SOS 70) but they had decent wins over SEC opponents and wins over Florida, Tennessee and Kansas, a good OOC loss against UConn, and another good loss against Florida in the SEC tourney. They are in.

Arizona – defeated fellow bubble team Stanford in Pac-10 tourney.

Texas A&M – knocked out fading Colorado and picked up another good loss to Texas in Big XII tourney.

1 Atlantic 10 – George Washington
1 Missouri Valley – Wichita State
1 Conference USA – Alabama-Birmingham (UAB)

Mid-major conferences = 3 bids assured

28 total at-large bids assured.

That leaves a maximum of 6 at-large bids, for everyone else, assuming that all the favorites win (less if they don’t).

In good shape:

Indiana – 17-10 RPI #35… lame-duck coach Mike Davis took out Michigan (in dire straits) in Big Ten quarterfinals, finished 9-7 in a strong conference, plus adding another good loss to Ohio State in semis.

Desperately rooting for Florida

Michigan – Probably will make it, 8-8 in Big Ten, strong SOS, wins over Illinois, Michigan State and Wisconsin, plus a ton of good losses. However, lost in first round to Indiana. Let’s see what happens…

BE: Cincinnati & Seton Hall – Cincy is the stronger of the two, with a loss to Syracuse in the first round and a high RPI of 32. Seton Hall had a terrible loss to Rutgers in the first round (a game which, had they won it, would have guaranteed a bid, with a good loss to ‘Nova the following evening.) SHU was at 48 and will only drop w/o any wins and a bad loss to RU. Pirates have lost four out of six and five out of eight, also. But they do have good wins (NC State, Syracuse, Pitt, WVU, Cincy).

ACC: Florida State and Maryland

FSU appeared in after defeat of Duke and 9-7 finish in ACC , but 19-8, RPI #56, and an absence of OOC wins (best one – Nebraska) and ACC wins (they had no wins against any of the other powers) has put them in serious trouble. FSU was bounced by cellar-dwelling Wake Forest in ACC first round and that will probably push them out.

Maryland is in the same boat, with a slightly worse ACC mark of 8-8 and a marginally higher RPI of 47, 17-11. Unlike FSU, it doesn’t have a great win to point to, just a lot of good losses. Maryland beat Georgia Tech in the first round but failed to get past BC again (they had won in the regular season), and it might not be enough

Four Missouri Valley also-rans – Six teams claim to deserve bids in the top heavy league: Northern Iowa, Missouri State, Creighton, Bradley, plus Southern Illinois (the tournament winner) and Wichita State, the regular-season winner, is the only one assured of a bid.

Two CAA also-rans – George Mason and Hofstra.

Hofstra would appear to have the inside track, if for no other reason than two victories over the Patriots, the second in the CAA semifinals. (They are at 29 and 30, respectively, in the RPI, although both have very weak schedules.) It’s hard to see how the CAA is going to get three bids, so bet on Hofstra.

Air Force – The Falcons probably would have gotten in, just by beating Wyoming in the first round of the Mountain West. But they didn’t, even though coming into the MWC tourney on a six-game winning streak. With a SOS of 156 – despite the high RPI of 38 – they are probably done. Fatal flaw – no wins over anybody good, other than San Diego State. Life support.

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