Update – March 11 5:20pm
We are less than 2 hours away from the beginning of the Selection Sunday show on CBS. There has obviously been a lot of action in the past 2 days, so let me get you up-to-date.
A-10 – The biggest news is that St. Bonaventure won the A-10 tournament and stole an At-large bid from the remaining teams on the bubble. This means at least 3 and possibly 4 teams will make the Big Dance: Temple, St Louis, St Bonaventure and possibly Xavier who lost in the A-10 finals. The teams hurt the most by this are the mid-majors like Drexel, Iona, Marshall (who made a valiant run to the C-USA finals), BYU and Oral Roberts.
ACC – Florida State went through both Duke and UNC to win the ACC tournament. NC State should have done enough to get into the NCAA tournament. However, Miami is most likely going to be left out.
Big East – Louisville came out of nowhere to win the Big East tournament. It will be interesting to see how many teams get in from this conference. I guarantee that at least 8 team will make the NCAA tournament. West Virginia and South Florida have the strongest cases to be the 8th and possibly 9th team.
Big Ten – As of writing this, this is the conference championship game still being played. Northwestern is probably out now that there are less at large bids left.
Big 12 – Missouri is going to be a team to look out for this March. They beat Baylor in the Big 12 tournament after Baylor took out Kansas. Texas is probably going to be in and I would not expect them to be one of the last four.
Mountain West – New Mexico beat both of the other two powers, SDSU and UNLV, on their way to the MWC title. If Colorado State makes the tournament, they will be one of the First Four teams. Their strength of schedule and RPI are what will probably get them into the Tournament.
Pac 12 – The other big shocker of the weekend was Colorado winning the Pac-12 tournament and getting the automatic bid. Sorry to say, but this does little to help out this conference. I did think that 3 teams could make it, but not anymore. The strength of schedule and RPI will hurt all of these teams except for California. I don’t expect Washington, Oregon or Arizona (who lost by 2 in the finals) to make the tournament. Of these teams, Arizona has the best case to be one of the last 4.
SEC – Vanderbilt knocked off Kentucky in the SEC finals to take their first title since 1951. This will be another interesting conference to see how many teams will get into the NCAA tournament. Mississippi made a run until they met Vandy in the semi-finals. They may have a good case over both Tennessee and MSU.
1 Seeds – Kentucky, Syracuse, Missouri, (Winner of Ohio State vs Michigan State)
2 Seeds – North Carolina, Kansas, Florida State, (Loser of Ohio State vs Michigan State)
3 Seeds – Louisville, Duke, Memphis, Vanderbilt
4 Seeds – Marquette, Cincinnati, Michigan, Baylor
5 Seeds – Wisconsin, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Murray State
6 Seeds – Wichita State, Florida, Creighton, Temple
7 Seeds – New Mexico, St Mary’s, San Diego State, Iowa State
8 Seeds – Indiana, UNLV, Virginia, Connecticut
9 Seeds – Kansas State, California, West Virginia, Purdue
10 Seeds – Southern Miss, Texas, Alabama, NC State
11 Seeds – Xavier, Ole Miss, Colorado State, South Florida, Iona, Arizona
12 Seeds – Saint Louis, VCU, Colorado, Long Beach State
13 Seeds – Ohio, New Mexico State, Harvard, St Bonaventure
14 Seeds – Belmont, Lehigh, Detroit, Davidson
15 Seeds – South Dakota St., Loyola (MD), Norfolk State, LIU Brooklyn
16 Seeds – Vermont, Montana, UNC-Asheville, Lamar, Western Kentucky, Mississippi Valley State
Last 4 At-Large Bids – Colorado State, South Florida, Iona, Arizona
It’s only a few days away from Selection Sunday and some of the Conference Championship tournaments are finished or underway. The majority of the big conferences will begin their conference tournaments tomorrow, March 8. These conference tournaments will rap up on Sunday a couple hours before the NCAA tournament brackets come out.
This means that you have to get familiar with a lot of these teams very quickly before you need to fill out your brackets. I have traditionally done very well with picking winners for the first 2 rounds of the tournament. After that, my brackets usually get destroyed. But, selecting the correct teams for the Elite 8 and Final 4 is necessary if you are going to win any march madness contests.
Realize that there is a lot that is yet to be determined and don’t forget that there are still 68 teams selected for the Big Dance. The First 4 is the new first round of the tournament. This features 2 play-in games for the 16 seeds and 2 play-in games for the 11 seeds. This represents the weakest 4 conference champions and the last 4 at-large teams selected to the tournament. This is important in case a team can use this play-in game to get warmed up and make a run like VCU did last year.
So without further adieu, I give to you the important knowledge that is currently available in this post.
Conference Championship Tournaments
Here are the current Conference Champions:
Atlantic Sun – Belmont (27-7)
The teams that are on the bubble can breathe a sigh of relief because Belmont was the only team that could threaten to take an at large bid. They came back in the 2nd half against the Cinderella team of Florida Gulf Coast (15-17) to win their conference tournament.
Big South – UNC-Asheville (24-9)
UNC-Asheville needed to win the conference tournament as the #1 because they were unlikely to receive an At-Large bid. They were head and shoulders better than the rest of this conference.
Colonial Athletic Association – VCU (28-6)
Their back! VCU famously went to the Final 4 last year after being one of the last 4 At-Large teams picked (and heavily criticized for it). They had to play in the First 4 and road that win Houston last year. I think that it will be unlikely that 3 teams will be selected from the CAA this year. That means Drexel (27-6) will probably be in after taking VCU to the buzzer in the CAA title game. That also means George Mason will probably be out this year.
Horizon League – Detroit (22-13)
The Horizon League traditionally only gets 1 bid into the NCAA tournament. That means that Butler (20-14) will not be in the NCAA Tournament this year as they lost in the 2nd round of the tournament. Detroit was a mild upset as the #3 seed; but the top teams in the conference do not have as good of records as they did last year when they only received 1 NCAA bid.
Ivy League – Harvard (26-4)
The Ivy League does not have a conference tournament to decide the winner. Instead the automatic bid goes to the team with the best conference record. Harvard is not going to be an easy out in this tournament, but I don’t see them making the Sweet 16.
MAAC – Loyola MD (24-8)
If Iona (25-7) had won this conference tournament, the MAAC probably would have only got 1 team into the tournament. However, a second round upset by Fairfield means that there may be one less spot for a Bubble team. Unfortunately for Iona, they may be left on the fence if a bunch of teams in bigger conferences make a run in their respective tournaments.
Missouri Valley Conference – Creighton (28-5)
This was a big sigh of relief for all teams on the bubble. Both Creighton and Wichita State were going to be in the NCAA tournament. However, Illinois State (20-13) took Creighton to overtime in the MVC title game. This means that only 2 teams will receive bids from this conference.
Ohio Valley – Murray State (30-1)
While the outcome doesn’t seem to be a surprise, there was almost a major upset in the Ohio Valley title game. Tennessee State (20-12) lost by 2 points in a thrilling game. This is yet another time for the big conference teams to breathe a little easier as many of the lower conference teams are winning their conference tournaments.
Southern Conference – Davidson (25-7)
Davidson had a wild title game against #3 seed Western Carolina (17-18) where they won a double OT thriller. It’s a good thing for them because they would not have received an at-large bid.
Summit League – South Dakota St (27-7)
Even though Oral Roberts has a 27-6 record, they lost to Western Illinois in the 2nd round of the tournament and don’t have a chance at an At-Large bid. South Dakota St won in yet another conference title game that went to OT.
Sun Belt Conference – Western Kentucky (15-18)
Our first true Cinderella story. Western Kentucky defeated North Texas (18-14) in an upset laden Sun Belt tournament. Middle Tennessee (25-6) will be hoping for an At-Large bid, but they lost their last two games including a first round upset. This makes their trip to the NCAA tournament unlikely.
West Coast Conference – Saint Mary’s (27-5)
At this point, you can pretty much pencil in Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga (25-6) into the NCAA tournament every year. They played each other in the conference title game and it was still another contest that was decided in overtime. BYU (25-8) probably still have a legitimate shot to make the NCAA tournament as well this year.
Here are the Conference Tournaments that will be decided soon:
American East – #1 Stony Brook (22-8) vs #2 Vermont (22-11)
Unlike the other games in this list, this title game will not be played until Saturday. However, it will not matter who wins outside of the two fan bases because only one will make the NCAA tournament.
Big Sky – #1 Montana (24-6) vs #2 Weber State (24-5)
The loser of this contest is very unlikely to receive an automatic bid as the Big Sky is one of the weaker conferences in Division 1. (Montana Grizzlies win 85-66)
Northeast Conference – #1 LIU Brooklyn (24-8) vs #3 Robert Morris (24-9)
This is another lose and your out conference championship game. The NEC is another one of the weakest conferences in Division 1. (LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds win 90-73)
Patriot League – #1 Bucknell (24-8) vs #2 Lehigh (25-7)
Despite the great records, neither team has a signature non-conference win to the resume. So, this will be yet another win-and-your-in or lose-and-go-home title game. (Lehigh Mountain Hawks defeats Bucknell 82-77)
Other Conference Tournaments and Ramifications
All of the other conference tournaments have either not started or are not close to being finished. Here are the things that you will need to know about these conferences, Bubble teams and teams that are locks.
Teams that are in – UNC, Duke, Florida State, Virginia
Teams that have to win at least 2 wins in the ACC tournament – Miami, North Carolina State
Teams that are in – Temple, Saint Louis
Teams that need to do well in the A-10 tournament – Saint Joseph’s, Xavier, Dayton
Teams that are in – Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Cincinatti, West Virginia
Teams that need to do well in the Big East tournament – Uconn, South Florida, Seton Hall
Teams that are in – Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Purdue
Needs to win 2 games in the Big Ten tournament – Northwestern
Teams that are in – Kansas, Baylor, Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas State
Needs at least 1 win in Big 12 tournament – Texas
Big West Conference
Teams that should be in – Long Beach State
All other teams need to win the conference tournament
Teams that are in – Memphis, Southern Miss
All other teams need to win the conference tournament
Mid American Conference
Only the winner of the MAC title game will be getting an NCAA tournament bid
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
Only the winner of the MEAC title game will be getting an NCAA tournament bid
Mountain West Conference
Teams that are in – UNLV, San Diego St, New Mexico
Needs at least 1 win in the MWC tournament – Colorado State
The Pac-12 is very interesting this year, and by interesting I mean bad. The main reason for this is that not one team has a signature win outside of the conference. A first round loss for Washington, California, Oregon or Arizona could leave that team out in the cold.
Depending on how things go in the conference tournament, I expect at least 2 teams and possibly 3 teams to make the tournament from this conference.
Teams that are in – Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Alabama
Teams that need at least 1 win in the SEC tournament – Tennessee, Mississippi State
Only the winner of the Southland title game will be getting an NCAA Bid
Southwestern Athletic Tournament
Only the winner of the SWAC title game will be getting an NCAA Bid
Western Athletic Conference
Even though Nevada has a 25-5 record, they will still probably need to win the WAC tournament in order to receive an NCAA Bid
NCAA Tournament Look So Far
Conference Championship Automatic Bids – 31 Teams
At Large Bids available – 37 Teams
Guaranteed At-Large Bids taken – 27 Teams
(This assumes that a team that is a Lock will win their conference tournament)
At-Large Bids available – 10
The following teams are in consideration for these 10 bids: Miami, North Carolina St, Uconn, South Florida, Seton Hall, Northwestern, Texas, California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Colorado State, Saint Joseph’s, Xavier, Dayton, Iona, BYU, Drexel
This is 20 teams, but remember that the PAC-12 does not have a team that is a Lock so there are 10 spots for 19 teams and 9 of the teams will be left outside of the NCAA tournament.
Update Friday, March 9 – 4:00PM ET
Here is a quick update for the Bubble Watch over the past 2 days:
A-10 – U Mass just provided the bubble teams a little bit more anxiety. They defeated the top seed Temple in the second round of the A-10 tournament. If Saint Louis doesn’t win the A-10 tournament, there will likely be at least 3 teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Big East – Connecticut locked up an At Large bid with 2 Big East tournament wins and a near upset of Syracuse. West Virginia should still be in as well, even with their loss to Uconn. South Florida and Seton Hall are starting to get on the wrong side of the Bubble.
Big Ten – Northwestern is probably out of the NCAA tournament after losing to #10 seed Minnesota in overtime.
Big 12 – Texas is probably in after beating Iowa State, although a win against Missouri would clinch it.
Mountain West – This tournament has gone true to form with all 4 higher seeds winning. Colorado State would probably clinch an at large bid with a win over San Diego St.
Pac-12 – Washington lost a game that they had to have against Oregon State. After giving the Beavers an early lead, they came back and lead by 8 only to give up the game at the end on a layup. Oregon met a similar fate to Colorado. Both of these teams have to hope a lot of teams falter.
Mississippi State did not want to go into Selection Sunday like that. A 10 point loss against a sub .500 Georgia team is probably going to make the Bulldogs miss the NCAA Tournament.
So this leaves a total of 9 At large bids that are not locks (Uconn took 1). We have possibly eliminated 6 of the 19 remaining potential at large teams: South Florida, Seton Hall, Northwestern, Oregon, Washington and Mississippi State.
That leaves the following 13 teams in that group of potential at large teams: Miami, North Carolina St, Texas, California, Arizona, Tennessee, Colorado State, Saint Joseph’s, Xavier, Dayton, Iona, BYU, Drexel
That total of 9 At-Large bids can change very quickly if a surprise team wins the A-10, Pac-12, Conference USA or Big West. Also, don’t forget that some of these team only need 1 or 2 more wins to wrap up a bid. That will leave more teams fighting for fewer remaining spots.