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The first set of conference tourneys start on Tuesday, March 3rd. Most of the major conferences don't start until March 10-12. Therefore teams have about 2 or 3 games left to impress the commitee before starting conference tournament play.
Remember, there are 65 spots available, comprised of 31 automatic bids to conference champions and 34 at-large bids. Here is a comprehensive look at the major leagues in Division-I (full rankings are current AP poll)...
From the results that follow, I predict that at this point 60 teams are safe, which includes 31 auto-bids and 29 at-large bids. This means that there are five remaining at-large bids that will go to the "bubble" teams that I have listed. Out of the 60 that I have found, 32 come from major conferences and 28 from minor ones. March 15th is approaching rapidly, so teams need to buncker down and play hard to make the field of 65.
SEC (5) - Championship March 12-15 in Tampa, FL
Projected Champion: LSU
Locks: #18 LSU (24-4, 12-1)
Should be in: #36t South Carolina (20-6, 9-4), #43t Kentucky (19-9, 8-5), Tennessee (17-10, 8-5)
Bubble: #33 Florida (21-7, 8-5), Auburn (18-10, 7-6)
Analysis: The Gators loss to Georgia a few weekends back was crushing. Their remaining schedule includes Tennesse and Kentucky at home, where they are undefeated, and Miss St on the road, where they are 2-6. I believe if they win two of three, they should make the tournament. If they only hold on for one win, then they must make a deep conference tourney run to make it, which is possibel since the tourney is in tampa.
LSU is the clear leader of this somewhat tame SEC. After a win at home against Florida, the Tigers are now 12-1 in conference play and look poised to make a tourney run.
South Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee are just a step ahead of Florida in regards to tournament seeding.
SC has beaten Kentucky twice, so they seem the most poised of this group to make the tourney. However, there are a few game left on the schedule that could change everything.
Auburn is a longshot at best.
Games this weekend: Saturday - 4 p.m.: LSU at Kentucky (CBS), 9 p.m.: South carolina at vanderbilt; Sunday - 2 p.m.: Tennessee at Florida (CBS)
ACC (6) Championship March 12-15 in Atlanta, GA
Projected Champion: North Carolina
Locks: #4 North Carolina (24-3, 10-3), #7 Duke (23-5, 9-4), #13 Wake Forest (21-5, 8-5), #12 Clemson (22-5, 8-5)
Should be in: #23 Florida St (21-7, 8-5), Boston College (20-9, 8-6)
Bubble: Miami (17-10, 6-8), Virginia Tech (17-10, 7-6), #43t Maryland (17-10, 6-7)
Analysis: the top teams in the ACC have all stumbled as of late, but i beleive that they will be focused and ready for the tournament. I expect North Carolina to win the ACC tournament at the Georgia Dome. Florida St is all but a lock, and Boston College should be in with a win or two.
The bubble is more complex. Miami hit a bad spell in the middle of conference play, but have rebounded nicely with wins over BC and Virginia. They challenged UNC and Duke ont he road, and beat Wake Forest at home. If they take care of business and win out, they will make the tourney.
Virginia Tech and Maryland have also played well as of late and are right on the edge. Maryland defeated UNC at home last week, so they have left a big impression with the committee late inthe season.
Games this weekend: Saturday - 2 p.m.: Clemson at Florida St. (ESPN360), 3:30 p.m.: Duke at Virginia Tech (ABC); Sunday - 7:30 p.m.: Maryland at NC State
Big East (7) Championship March 10-14 in New York, NY
Projected Champion: Connecticut
Locks: #2 Connecticut (26-2, 14-2), #8 Marquette (23-5, 12-3), #6 Louisville (22-5, 13-2), #1 Pittsburgh (25-3, 12-3), #10 Villanova (23-5, 11-4)
Should be in: #28 Syracuse (20-8, 8-7), #27 West Virginia (19-9, 8-7)
Bubble: Providence (17-11, 9-7), Cincinnati (18-10, 8-7), Notre Dame (16-11, 7-8)
Analysis: Clearly the most competitive conference, and the deepest, the Big East should have some major firepower in the big dance. I have UConn taking hte title, but Pit, Nova, Loiusville, and Marquette could all jump up and grab it.
Sryacuse and WVU also are in the mix, but need one more win to secure their berth.
As for the bubble, Providence took big steps this week by knocking off the #1 Pitt squad. They could secure a bid with a win or two.
Cincy defeated WVU at home last night in a crucial game.
Notre Dame is going to have to win out and make a deep conference tourney run to have a shot.
Games this weekend: Saturday - 2 p.m.: Notre Dame at UConn (CBS); Sunday - Noon: Marquette at Louisville (CBS), 2 p.m.: Cincinnati at Syracuse (ESPN360), 2 p.m.: Providence at Rutgers, 4 p.m.: West Virginia at South Florida
Big Ten+1 (5) Championship March 12-15 in Indianapolis, IN
Projected Champion: Michigan St
Locks: #9 Michigan St (22-5, 12-3), #20 Illinois (23-6, 11-5), #16 Purdue (21-7, 10-5)
Should be in: Wisconsin (17-10, 8-7), Ohio St (18-8, 8-7)
Bubble: #39t Minnesota (20-8, 8-8), #36t Penn St (19-9, 8-7), Michigan (18-11, 8-8)
Analysis: The Big Ten is weird because I could see as much as eight teams making it, and as low as four teams making it. As of now, Michigan st is the favorite to win the conference tourney. However, they have been wildly inconsistant and could easily be upset by fellow locks Illinois and Purdue.
Ohio St and Wisconsin have been playing really well lately and should make the tourney with a win or two.
As for the bubble, Minnesota, Penn St, and Michigan are all similarly positioned.
Minnesota started of the season something like 17-1, but they have played miserable ball as of late and now find themselves having to play great from here on out.
Penn St has surprised a whole lot of people and have continued to be in the discussion for a tournament berth, including a recent win over Illinois. I think a win in the first round of the conference tourney would seal the deal.
Michigan is also playing well as of late, including a home win over Purdue. They're early season split with Duke, their wins against UCLA and Illinois, and their strong showing against UConn should be enough for them to make the tourney.
Games this weekend: Saturday - 4 p.m.: Ohio St at Purdue, 6 p.m.: Indiana at Penn St; Sunday - 2 p.m.: Michigan at Wisconsin, 4 p.m.: Michigan St. at Illinois (CBS)
Big 12 (4) Championship March 11-14 in Oklahoma City, OK
Projected Champion: Oklahoma
Locks: #3 Oklahoma (25-3, 11-2), #15 Kansas (23-5, 12-1), #11 Missouri (24-4, 11-2)
Should be in: #25 Texas (19-8, 8-5)
Bubble: #39t Kansas St (19-9, 7-6), Nebraska (16-10, 6-7), Oklahoma State (18-9, 7-6), Texas A&M (20-8, 6-7)
Analysis: You can see the importance of Blake Griffin to the Oklahoma Sooners, who have lost two straight since he went down with a concussion against Texas. With him playing, they are a beast. I expect them to get him back and win the conference title.
Kansas and Missouri are locks with their stellar play all season.
Texas stumbled for a short period, but have regrouped with big wins, including Oklahoma.
The real question is with their bubble teams, which include Kansas St, Nebraska, Oklahoma St, and Texas A&M.
OSU has played really well lately, and could clinch a spot with two more wins.
TAMU was 14-1 to start the season, but had a dreadful start to the conference schedule. They been playing well as of late, but will need some help to make the playoffs.
Kansas St had some big wins early in the conference play, but have faltered lately.
Nebraska needs to win out and make a deep conference tourney run to have any shot.
Games this weekend: Saturday - 1:30 p.m.: Iowa St at Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m.: Oklahoma at Texas Tech, 6 p.m.: Texas at Oklahoma St. (ESPN), 8 p.m.: Nebraska at Kansas St.; Sunday - 2 p.m.: Missouri at Kansas (CBS)
Pac-10 (5) Championship March 11-14 in Los Angeles, CA
Projected Champion: Arizona St
Locks: #14 Arizona St (21-5, 10-4), #21 Washington (20-7, 11-4), #22 UCLA (20-7, 9-5)
Should be in: #34 California (20-7, 9-5), #29 Arizona (18-10, 8-7)
Bubble: USC (16-10, 7-7)
Analysis: The Pac-10 is completely up for grabs, with the clear favorites being Arizona St, Washington, and UCLA. At one point I thought that UCLA was the clear class of this league. However, a late season swoon has made me rethink my pick and choose Arizona St.
California and Arizona are also pretty secure with their spots in the tourney, barring a late season meltdown.
There is only one bubble team and that is USC. They will have to winn out and go deep in the conference tourney to have any shot.
Games this weekend: Saturday - 3 p.m.: Arizona at Washington (FSN), 5 p.m.: Arizona St at Washington St, 8 p.m.: USC at Stanford, 9:00 p.m.: UCLA at California (ESPN)
Other Conferences (28)
Projected Champions (Tourney Locks): #19 Xavier (23-5, 11-3, Atlantic 10), #5 Memphis (25-3, 13-0, Conference USA), #24 Butler (24-4, 14-3, Horizon League), #30t Creighton (24-6, 13-4, Missouri Valley), #26 Utah (20-7, 11-2, Mountain West), #39t Davidson (23-6, 16-2, Southern), #17 Gonzaga (21-5, 12-0, West Coast), #32 Utah St (26-3, 13-1, Western Athletic)
Projected Champions (must win conference): Vermont (America East), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Weber State (Big Sky), Radford (Big South), Cal State Northridge (Big West), VCU (Colonial Athletic), Cornell (Ivy League), #35 Siena (MAAC), Buffalo (Mid-American), Morgan St (MEAC), Robert Morris (Northeast), Tennessee-Martin (Ohio Valley), #43t American (Patriot League), Stephen F Austin (Southland), Alabama St (SWAC), North Dakota St (Summit League), Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)
Should be in: #30t Dayton (23-5, 9-4, Atlantic 10), #42 BYU (21-6, 9-4, Mountain West), UNLV (20-8, 8-6, Mountain West)
Bubble: Temple (17-10, 9-4, Atlantic 10), Saint Louis (17-11, 8-6, Atlantic 10), Rhode Island (21-8, 10-4, Atlantic 10), George Mason (19-9, 12-5, Colonial Athletic), Tulsa (19-9, 9-4, Conference USA), UAB (19-9, 9-4, Conference USA), Houston (17-9, 8-5, Conference USA), Green Bay (22-8, 13-4, Horizon), Cleveland State (21-9, 12-5, Horizon), Niagara (22-7, 12-4, MAAC), Northern Iowa (19-10, 13-4, Missouri Valley), Illinois St (22-7, 11-6, Missouri Valley), New Mexico (18-10, 9-4, Mountain West), San Diego St (18-8, 8-5, Mountain West), #38 St Marys (22-5, 8-4, West Coast), Portland (18-9, 9-3, West Coast), Nevada (16-10, 8-4, Western Athletic)
Analysis: There are many great teams out there that aren't in any of the big six major conferences. I have broken up the projected conference champions by their ability to make the tourney regardless of whether they won their conference title or not.
Memphis is the clear best contender for the national title out of this group.
Xavier, Butler, Gonzaga, Creighton, Utah, Davison, and Utah St will be very dangerous con tounament time.
Dayton at 23-5 in the A-10, BYU at 21-6 and UNLV at 20-8 in the Mountain West seem like they should be able to hold on for tournament spots if they fail to win their own tournaments.
As for the bubble, I have added 17 teams for which a limited number of spot remain.
From the A-10, Rhode Island, Temple, and Saint Louis all have a lot of work to do to make it. I believe Rhode Island has the best shot of the three.
From the Colonial Athletic, only George Mason may have a shot at an at-large bid. However, it is a very very slim shot at that.
From Conference USA, Tulsa, UAB, and Houston are still alive. Tulsa and UAB may have a better shot than Houston, but they are all longshots at this point.
From the Horizon, both Green Bay and Cleveland State have good records. however, their conference stregth will hold them back from receiving a bid.
From the MAAC, Niagara is still alive. With a win over Siena tonight, they could put an impression in the eyes of the committee. However, a loss seals their fate.
From the Missouri Valley, Northern Iowa and Illinois St are still in the hunt. However, the MVC is down from its usual spot as mid-major stalwart. I doubt more than one team will make it.
From the Mountain West, New Mexico and San Diego St are still alive. I've already stated that Utah, BYU, and UNLV should be in, and I've heard reports that all five teams that I've mentioned might get in. That would be huge for a mid-major conference. I thin New Mixco and San Diego St will still have a tough time getting in over some other major conference teams.
From the West Coast, St Marys and Portland are hanging around. St Marys seems like the logical choice to make it out of this group, with a 22-5 record. Portland would have to win out to have any shot.
From the Western Athletic, Nevada has a slim chance of making it. They will have to score some big upsets to be considered.
Games this weekend: Friday - 7 p.m.: Siena at Niagara (ESPNU) Saturday - 2 p.m.: Illinois St. at Creighton (ESPN2), 2 p.m.: Georgia Southern at Davidson, 4 p.m.: Temple at Dayton, 5:00 p.m.: Utah at BYU, 7 p.m.: UAB at East Carolina, 8:00 p.m.: St Marys at Loyola Marymount, 9:00 p.m.: New Mexico at Colorado St, 10:00 p.m.: Utah St at Nevada; Sunday - 2:00 p.m.: Siena at Canisius, 3:30 p.m.: Rhode Island at Duquesne