A real, live Lockbox will not be born until about a month from now, but there are a few teams that most folks agree are going to be in the NCAA Tourney this season. If any of these teams miss, pretty much everyone is wrong about them.
ACC: North Carolina, Duke
Big East: Georgetown, Louisville
Big Ten: Michigan State, Indiana
Big 12: Kansas, Texas A&M, Texas
Pac-10: UCLA, Oregon, Washington State
There are lots of other teams that are probably confident in their position, but we judge teams based on performance here at TBB. The above teams had the weight of preseason expectations and have validated those lofty expectations to some extent on the court. We do not do polls here, but rather judge teams based on their NCAA resume. No team will have a truly meaningful one until about New Year's Day, but the above teams certainly look to be on the right track. Obvious? Yes. But, this illustrates how few teams can feel comfortable at this early stage.
Does everyone expect USC to be in the Dance? Sure. But, with a blowout loss to a bad Mercer team, some rugged sledding in the Pac-10 ahead, and tremendous reliance on a freshman superstar, there is reason to take a wait-and-see approach with the Trojans. Surely Tennessee is comfy? Well, they have a not-that-impressive 2-point win over West Virginia and were ravaged by Texas on a neutral court. I fully expect both of these teams to be there...but I would have said the same thing about Syracuse last year and Louisville the year before that.
Last Night's GOI
--at Arkansas 94, Missouri 91. These two runnin' teams did not disappoint. The pace of this game was a brisk 84.
--UMass 107, at Syracuse 100. Good win for the Minutemen, but realize that the 'Cuse had a Def Eff of 132.4 in this game on their home court! UMass might be pretty good, but a lot of that has to be on the Orange defense.
--at Texas A&M 76, Alabama 63. Bama (along with Syracuse) is on my "no confidence" list.
--Georgetown 66, at Old Dominion 48. This may not be ODU's 2007 NCAA team, but this is still a fairly impressive win by G'town.
Big 10/ACC Challenge
--at Maryland 69, Illinois 61. Illini are going to need more from Brian Randle to be a tourney team.
--Boston College 77, at Michigan 64. BC is turning into one of the more consistent programs in the country.
--at Michigan State 81, NC State 58. Sparty looked more like the Big Televen fave in this one than they have in a few other early games.
--North Carolina 66, at Ohio State 55. Buckeyes were game, but UNC will be ever scarier when Lawson returns.
--at Penn State 66, VA Tech 55. Not a terribly promising start to the season for the Hokies (2-3).
--Drexel at George Mason. The CAA kicks it off right with this tasty match up (both are 5-1).
--Gonzaga at Saint Joseph's. The Hawks' biggest home game of the year. Golden opportunity for a quality non-conference win.
--Oklahoma at Southern Cal. One of those early season games that will make one of these teams much more optimistic about their tourney hopes.
Big 12/Pac 10 Challenge
--Oregon at Kansas State. The Ducks invade Michael Beasley U.