Taking a last look at who is on the verge of making the NCAA Tourney.
by Jon Jaques / @JJaques25
You know what’s fantastic about college basketball (among a gazillion other things)? After possibly two of the greatest days of non-NCAA tournament action ever, the excitement is just getting started.
There are still automatic bids from the ACC, A-10, Big Ten, and SEC to be handed out in the four remaining conference championship games (Duke-UNC, Penn State-Ohio State, Kentucky-Florida, Dayton-Richmond), and if that wasn’t enough, Selection Sunday (just thinking about Greg Gumbel jollily welcoming the entire country to “The Road to the Final Four on CBS” puts a big goofy smile on my face) rounds out the day.
So think of this as a Selection Sunday Viewers’ Guide to prepare you for what might be unfurled in those brackets at approximately 6ET.
As always, the field will still be fluid until all four of today’s conference tournament finals are completed. The ACC and SEC tournaments both involve absolute locks, but a precarious bid can be secured with a Penn State upset in the Big Ten, and a spot can be straight up pilfered in the A-10 if Dayton can beat the Spiders of Richmond.
After the 27 automatic berths that have been already handed out and the “x” number of deserving teams that are “locks” at this point (here is a great post if you want a thorough rundown of which teams are probably locked in the tournament right now), a larger-than-normal group of bubble teams are fighting for the last five or six spots (maybe less after today’s outcomes) in the Big Dance. One or both of Dayton and Penn State winning would be devastating for this bunch.
Here is a list of are the newest and biggest Ohio State and Richmond fans (in no particular order):
-Clemson: The Tigers definitely passed the eye test this week after running to the ACC semis and pushing North Carolina to overtime. Aside from head-to-head conquests over conference rivals/bubble buddies Virginia Tech and Boston College, the numbers’ aren’t overwhelming, but at this point it should be hard not to include Clemson in the field.
-USC: Southern Cal is an interesting case because whether it gets in or not will be a great indicator of what this committee values in its at-large participants. USC’s computer numbers are pretty mediocre, but not many teams have the quality wins that the Trojans do. If you stack up USC’s handful of Top 50 wins against some of these teams with just one or two quality wins, I like its chances.
-Alabama: Everyone knew Bama’s disastrous non-conference record would be hard to overcome … but was it so bad that they had to make the SEC finals to make up for it? Beating Georgia in the SEC tourney was a must, but guaranteed the Tide nothing. A win yesterday over Kentucky might have done the trick … now Anthony Grant’s team needs help.
-Georgia: Had a better resume than Alabama going into the two schools’ showdown, but that loss to Alabama was a killer. Now Alabama might get in over Georgia (although that’s still debatable). In any case, there’s probably not enough room for both schools on the dance floor.
-Virginia Tech: Everyone’s favorite bubble team could be safe after being saved by the buzzer in its Florida State ACC Tournament squeaker. I’m not sure it’s as sure of a thing as many believe, so the Hokies better hope for more good luck in today’s remaining games.
-Saint Mary’s: It seems like no one dropped from the vault to the bubble faster Saint Mary’s this season. And with good reason … the team has wins over St. John’s and Gonzaga, but not much else since late January… Joe Lunardi still has the Gaels in his last 4 in, but unless the committee sub-consciously looks favorably upon past darlings, I don’t see how you can rationalize putting Saint Mary’s in the field.
-Boston College: I think Boston College deserves a spot in the tournament, but I’m afraid it’s blowout tournament loss to a team (Clemson) that it is directly competing with for an-large bid could end up being decisive. The Eagles still have a shot though if things fall their way today.
-Penn State: Penn State is the only team on this list that has any semblance control of the situation. And for the Nittany Lions, it’s as simple: win and Penn State is dancing. There are obviously much simpler things in the world than beating No. 1 Ohio State, but at least Penn State’s destiny is in their own hands. Even if it loses, Ed DeChellis’s team may have earned itself a bid anyway with its semifinal win over Michigan State. And if that happens, I will be happy to eat my own words.
-Colorado: Before this week, if you had told me that Colorado won two Big 12 tournament games, including one against tournament-lock Kansas State, I would have given the Buffs a bid. But it doesn’t seem that simple now. Colorado’s profile is similar to that of USC: if the committee values quality wins (which the boys from Boulder have a ton of) the Buffaloes should be in. If not, it might be a long night for Tad Boyle. In other words, I don’t think you’ll see a tournament field with one of CU or USC without the other.
-VCU: The Rams’ profile is super-solid. Wins against UCLA and Old Dominion, and a run to the Colonial tournament final are all impressive. But I don’t think it’ll be enough to get three Colonial teams into the field of 68. VCU needs Penn State and Dayton losses, but even then, I think their profile is lacking in comparison to the rest of the teams on this list.
In discussion, but extreme longshots: Harvard, UAB, Missouri State, UTEP
Prediction for Last 6 in: Clemson, USC, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Colorado, Alabama.
Jon Jaques is a former starter for the Cornell Big Red and current forward for Israel’s Ironi Ashkelon club.