This week we look at how all the various conferences from big to small are shaping up as far as at-large and potential automatic bids go.
You can read Drew's daily look at the happenings of the NCAA and follow his weekly bracket projections on the BracketExpress section of the site.
NOTES ON THE BRACKET
-Let me reiterate that this is not a prediction of what the NCAA Tournament field will look like in March, but rather a report card of what has happened already. The teams are seeded and selected using the exact same criteria the selection committee will use on Selection Sunday.
-AUTOMATIC BIDS are given to each of the 31 conference champions regardless of how good or poor the overall conference is. The teams who are projected as the champions in this bracket are either currently in first place in the standings or tied for it via the loss column. Those teams are Duke, Texas, Memphis, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Washington, Northern Iowa, LSU, George Washington, Bucknell, Old Dominion, Wisconsin Milwaukee, Winthrop, Iona, Akron, Tennessee Tech, Northwestern State, Western Kentucky, San Diego State, Louisiana Tech, Penn, Northern Arizona, Oral Roberts, Delaware State, UC Irvine, Southern, Elon, Sacred Heart, Binghamton and Florida Atlantic.
-OTHERS CONSIDERED but not put in the field were Wake Forest, Alabama, Georgia, George Mason, Nevada, Clemson, Manhattan and Air Force.
Still missing from the bracket picture is Kansas. They are currently outside of the RPI top 105 which means they would not even be on the Nitty Gritty Report that is submitted to the committee. That does not disqualify them from being eligible for a bid, but I dont think it is realistic to think that the committee would give a bid to a team outside the RPI top 105 on Selection Sunday. There is a lot of season left for the Jayhawks to play their way into the picture though.
A more thorough analysis about why each team wound up where they did is in the CONFERENCE RUNDOWN below.
-This conference continues to have a high number of teams who are competing for the pod system. Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois and Iowa are not only solid tournament teams, but all are contenders to be seeded #4th or better. It should be an absolute war from here on out.
-Michigan State has an incredible six wins against the RPI top 25. They are on a three game win streak and all of those wins were against the top 25. They could be serious contenders for a #1 seed if that keeps up.
-Michigan is in a position to get themselves in the tournament, especially if they are able to knock off some of the heavyweights in conference, but right now they appear to be way outside the pod picture.
-West Virginia is the only team who has yet to lose a conference game. They are on an absolute roll having won twelve straight games. Their most recent was a big road win against UCLA.
-Connecticut appears to be the best team in the league despite having lost their conference opener. They have four wins against the RPI top 25 and beat Syracuse on the road pretty handily in their last game.
-Pitt lost their first game of the season to Saint Johns over the weekend and it shouldnt have hurt their profile that much, they did fall quite a few lines. The reason for that is they have just one win against The RPI top fifty and the loss to Saint Johns was to a team outside the RPI top 100. Everyone ahead of them has simply done more.
-Villanova is another strong pod contender.
-Cincinnati got a much needed win against Rutgers on Sunday. It ended a three game losing streak and was the first game theyd won since losing Armein Kirkland for the year. They need a few more to show the committee they can win without him.
-Marquette and Georgetown appear to be solid tournament teams as well. Georgetown gave their resume an ultra boost with their win over Duke this past Saturday. Marquette has a very high profile win against Connecticut on theirs.
-Louisville has lost three in a row and has done absolutely nothing to indicate they are a tournament team.
-Duke suffered their first loss over the weekend, but they still have the overall best NCAA Tournament resume and remain the top #1 seed. Remember, the season is not so much a week to week thing to the selection committee like it is to the poll voters. They look at everything a team has done and despite the recent loss Duke has done more than anyone else.
-NC State is a solid tournament team and could sneak into the pod picture, especially if they remain as high as they are in the conference standings.
-Maryland and North Carolina are solid teams as well.
-Wake Forest and Boston College have some work to do. BC has yet to beat anyone in the RPI top 80 and is just 2-3 in league play. They are ranked highly in the polls though, which would indicate a good NABC ranking and that will help their profile.
-There were tons of exciting games this past weekend, but I think the most exciting was Tennessees upset win over Florida. It ended a two game losing streak for the Vols and gave them a huge signature win and resume boost.
-Florida is still in the hunt for a #1 seed, but the problem they are currently having is that they have just one win (Syracuse) against the RPI top 50. Theyll get their shot at some more in conference play and if they want to stay in the picture for a #1 theyll need to cash in most of them.
-Kentucky appears to have fixed whatever was wrong with them, at least temporarily. They have won their last two games and resuscitated their resume somewhat.
-LSU is the only team who is unbeaten in conference play. They still havent made much noise in the media, but they look to be a very dangerous team. They had several close losses to highly ranked teams OOC, but are finishing off their opponents now. Theyve won their last four games.
-Arkansas and Vanderbilt are in the picture as well, but need some big wins in order to stay there.
-Texas is very solid. They have three wins against the RPI top 25 and two others against the RPI top 50 to go with their 16-2 overall record. They have a very big win at Memphis who is also a #1 seed candidate. That could turn out to be their signature win.
-Kansas has a good team, but cant seem to break into the RPI top 100.
-There is a seven way tie for second place in the conference. All of those teams appear to be in a position to get to the tournament, but none are what I would consider to be safe at the moment. That means well be seeing a lot of high stakes games in this conference the rest of the way.
-I dont have anyone in this league seeded better than #4th. No one in the league really has as many big time out of conference wins as most of the teams ahead of them. Therefore to get consideration for a better seed theyll need to dominate this conference, but since there is so much parity no one has really stepped up and dominated. Washington and UCLA are both good enough to make the pod system and perhaps be seeded better than #4, but theyll need to win a lot of league games to do it.
-Arizona has lost two starting caliber guards for the year, which means the committee wont give them as much credit for what they did early in the year unless they can prove they can win at the same rate without them. It will be very hard for the Wildcats to make the pod system now.
-Memphis, UAB and ten also-rans. Memphis is in a position to get a #1 seed if they win out and UAB is at the moment a solid tournament team and on a ten game winning streak.
-One thing that is worth mentioning is one of the most ridiculous pieces of officiating youll ever see occurred in the Houston vs. UAB game this Saturday. Houston coach Tom Penders was upset with a referee and simultaneously had his health give out and collapsed on the floor in front of his bench. I guess the referee thought he was throwing a fit when he collapsed and called a technical foul. Penders did not get up. He wound up leaving the floor on a stretcher. The referees however did not revoke the technical foul despite the fact that Pederss collapse had everything to do with his health and nothing to do with him throwing a fit. They earn the Barney Fife award of the week.
-Northern Iowa has five wins against the RPI top 50 and appears to be in a position to not just get to the tournament but possibly get to the pod system if they continue to win at a high level. It wont be easy for them to do because this league is so competitive. There is a four way tie for first place between them, Wichita State, Creighton and Southern Illinois. All of them are strong tournament contenders and it wouldnt be a big surprise to see them all make it.
-Missouri State is in this bracket projection as well. They arent quite as solid as the other teams at the moment, but they are definitely in a position to play their way in and keep themselves in the bracket picture.
-No one in this league is in the top 25 polls. Thats probably because they beat each other up enough that no one puts together a long enough winning streak for the voters to notice them. The RPI loves them and several teams have several wins against good RPI teams. The voters may not like them, but the committee sure will.
-Gonzaga had a scare at San Diego this past Saturday, but managed to pull out the one point win at the end. They remain unbeaten in conference and appear to be headed toward the pod system. No one else in the league is even close to being tournament worthy.
-Im having a hard time seeding George Washington any higher than where I already have them even though I think theyre much better than that. They just dont have much of a profile. They are 14-1, but have just one win against the RPI top 50 and four against the top 100. Their RPI is just in the 40s and their SOS is in the 220s. Still, a high NABC ranking could earn GW a much better seed.
-Xavier is the other team in the field and like GW they have a good record but really havent done much. Their best win was at home against an injury ridden Cincinnati team and they followed that up with a loss to Saint Louis. Everyone else is pretty far outside at the moment. Temple or Saint Josephs could play their way in, but theyd have to win nearly all their games to do it.
-Old Dominion, George Mason and UNC Wilmington are all tied for first place in the standings. Its possible that the winner of this league will get to the tournament without needing the automatic bid, but they cant afford to lose too many games and must win it decisively. Due to UNCWs weak schedule and two sub 200 RPI losses winning the league might not even be enough. George Mason and Old Dominion have the kind of profiles where theyll get serious consideration for an at large bid so long as they dominate the conference.
-Bucknell continues to dominate to the surprise of no one. Their opponents are weak so it isnt easy to keep up with other teams as far as maintaining their profiles, but if they run the table they should be safely in the tournament with or without winning the conference tourney. Theyre probably looking at ending up seeded in the #9-#11 range.
-Wisconsin Milwaukee continues to dominate the league, but they have had some close calls. Just earlier this week they had to come from behind very late in the game to beat Detroit by one point. They also have a loss to Wisconsin Green Bay. They are a game in front of Wright State for first place and have a top 20 RPI. If they can win the league outright and avoid any bad losses along the way they should be okay for a bid. I dont see them maintaining the RPI that they currently have simply because the level of competition theyll face from here on out is nowhere near that.
-Winthrop continues to win and their RPI continues to rise. I thought for a time they were completely out of the at large picture, but now Im not so sure. They do have a big win on Marquettes floor, but it happened early in the year when Marquette was not playing quite as well as they are now so they arent likely to get the same credit for it that they would if they were to beat them today. They have been absolutely dominating conference play, though.
-Nevada really took one on the chin last week when they lost handily to Fresno State. Theyll need to win this league to get serious consideration for an at large. As of now they appear to be the only team who could get any serious consideration and theyll have to win the regular season to get it. They are a game behind Louisiana Tech in the loss column right now.
-This conference is looking more and more like a one bid only league. San Diego State is in first place and is in no position to get an at large bid if they were to need it. Air Force has a good team and will get consideration if they win the league outright, but a weak schedule is dragging their profile down. They also have two losses in conference play.
-At one point it looked like there were some teams in this league that could get at larges, but at the time being it looks less and less likely. Akron and Kent State are both 6-0 in conference play. Ohio and Miami, OH are right behind them at 6-1. All of those teams are in the East Division so if one of them runs the table they may get some consideration, but its too early to say whether or not that will be enough. Northern Illinois is the only team in the West Division that has a winning record in league play.
-Davidson appears to be the best team in the conference and is the team I think will end up winning it, but at this point in time Elon is the only team who is unbeaten in conference play. They are in first place in the North Division and Davidson is tied with Furman for first place in the South Division.
-Manhattan had their ten game win streak snapped when they lost to Marist last week. They are now tied with Iona in the conference standings. Both Manhattan and Iona have decent RPIs and if they win out theyll get serious consideration for an at large bid if they fail to win the conference tournament. Winning out wont be easy though and it is impossible for both to do it. Theyll face each other again later this season.
-Western Kentucky is atop the West Division and South Alabama is atop the East. Western KY just beat South Alabama this past weekend in a 74-73 thriller. The problem for Western KY is that it followed a loss to Troy who is a very poor RPI team. That loss to Troy may be enough to keep them out of the at large picture because they arent going to get many chances to offset it. I think theyll get consideration if they win out, but their chances of getting an at large if they were to need it are now much slimmer than they were before.
-Tennessee Tech, Samford and Murray State are all tied for first place in the conference standings. The quarterfinals are played at the campus sites and the teams are reseeded for the semifinals so the conference winner gets the most protection. Tennessee Tech is the projected champion, but its anyones league.
-Northwestern State is tied with Lamar for first place, but just one game separates those two teams from the fifth place team. Northwestern State has a somewhat healthy RPI at 51, but it probably wont stay there even if they continue to win. If they win out they may get some consideration for an at large, but chances are theyll have to win the conference tournament.
-With no conference tournament it is all about the conference standings. Harvard and Penn are both 2-0. Penn appears to be the better team though, but their profile means nothing. No one in this league will get an at large bid, so the only thing that matters is the conference standings.
-Montana appears to have the best team, but Northern Arizona beat them in a thriller last week which propelled them into first place in the league. They have won eight straight games.
-IUPUI and Oral Roberts both have similar profiles and both have just one loss in the conference. It looks like this league is a toss up between these two teams at the moment.
-Coming into conference play it appeared that Pacific had the best team, but UC Irvine now has a two game lead on them with a 6-0 record in conference play. They are also on a six game winning streak right now.
-Delaware State is all by themselves in first place at the moment. There is a three way tie for second between Norfolk State, Coppin State and Florida A&M.
-There is a five way tie for first place in the loss column between Sacred Heart, Monmouth, Central Connecticut, Robert Morris and Mount Saint Marys. This is a conference that protects the high seeds during the league tournament by playing the games at the campus sites, so there is a lot to be gained from winning this league. Sacred Heart is the current projected champion, but it looks like its anybodys league to win right now.
-Southern and Mississippi Valley State are tied for first in the loss column. Southern has been playing very well since conference play began, but lost at Mississippi Valley State earlier this week.
-Kennesaw State appears to be the best team, but they are ineligible for postseason play due to being on the probation period that comes with making the jump to div1. Florida Atlantic is tied with them for first in the loss column, but has a terrible resume otherwise.
-Albany has lost two straight games since going on an eight game winning streak. As a result Binghamton has passed them as the #1 team in the conference standings. They have won five in a row.
-I dont know what is more notable, North Dakota States unbelievable upset win on the road against Wisconsin or Savannah States win over Longwood, which is their first ever win against a div1 team since becoming div1 themselves. Either way it was a big week for the Indies.