Tuesday, February 28, 2006

One Stop Shop

I. One Stop Shop Is Open for Business
Please allow The Bracket Board to supply all of your conference tourney needs. We have a terrific selection of baked goods (whole grain, of course), the finest meats and cheeses, and seasonal fruits and vegetables to help keep you healthy during these fading days of winter.

Oh, we will also have ALL THIRTY conference tournament brackets here in one spot: hence the name, One Stop Shop. I do not have all thirty up just yet, but I have 20 of the 30 brackets created even though the teams and seeds are not set in many of these brackets. Click the One Stop Shop link to the right to see fully updated bracket from all 30 tournies each and every day. Use the tabs at the bottom of the OSS page to view specific tourney brackets. I will have all the brackets up by Thursday and will update them daily from here on out.

The Ohio Valley, Horizon League, and Big South all put the wheels in motion tonight to determine their automatic bid. These three are ready to be viewed and printed in the One Stop Shop. This also means that the best three weeks of the year has begun. The conference tourneys (next two weeks), Selection Sunday, and the first weekend of the NCAA tourney are the best three weeks in sports for me. Soak it up!

PS: Sun Belt fans, I have the Belt bracket up complete with the 31 time changes. Unbelievable.

II. Last Night's GOI

--at Oklahoma 67, Oklahoma State 66. That would be FOUR straight one-point wins for the Sooners.
--at West Virginia 67, Pittsburgh 62. The 'Eers now have sole possession of third in the Big East.

III. Tonight's GOI
--Illinois at Minnesota. Dangerous game for Illini. They are fighting for a 2/3 seed.
--Cincinnati at Seton Hall. Nice and bubbly...just the way we like it.
--Big South, Horizon, and OVC Tournies. Some teams' seasons end tonight.

Monday, February 27, 2006

T-Minus 13 Days...

I. Bracket Update: 13 Days Until Selection Sunday
Check out today's new bracket. Some notes on this bracket.

1. Boston College got a nice win over NC State to help their profile which was sorely lacking in quality wins. The Eagles are getting hot at the right time. They are 11-2 in their last 13. A couple of weighty wins in the ACC tourney would really help them nab a good seed.

2. Florida State and Seton Hall: OUT. SIU and Colorado: back IN.

3. Kentucky and Syracuse have eerily similar profiles, although the Orange have a healthier RPI (28 to 42). I can't imagine these two being left out with each having 8 top 100 RPI wins, but they will both sweat if they lose games coming home.

4. UAB maintains their vanilla profile. No top 50 wins, no sub-100 losses. A win over Memphis on Thursday (in Birmingham) would do wonders for the Blazers. A loss may not kill them, but other teams may pass them because UAB has such limited shots at high quality opponents.

5. Can Northern Iowa miss if they lose to Missouri State in the first round in the Valley tourney? Nah...could they? It's not likely, but if some upstarts win some league tourneys, no team that is 1-5 in their last six will feel solid. I do think the Panthers are IN, though. It's hard to ignore non-conf wins over Iowa, LSU, and Bucknell.

6. It looks like Indiana is going to try to make it interesting. Road wins at Purdue and Michigan this week would make the Hoosiers look pretty good.

Multi-bid Conference Breakdown
Big East (8): UConn, Villanova, Pitt, West Virginia, Georgetown, Marquette, Cincinnati, Syracuse
Big Ten (6): Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan
SEC (6): LSU, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky,
MVC (6): Northern Iowa, Wichita State, Creighton, Missouri State, Bradley, Southern Illinois
ACC (4): Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Boston College
Big 12 (4): Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado
Pac-10 (4): UCLA, Arizona, Washington, California
CUSA (2): Memphis, UAB
Colonial (2): George Mason, UNC-Wilmington
Mt. West (2): San Diego State, Air Force

Last Five Teams In: UNC-Wilmington, Colorado, Southern Illinois, UAB, Air Force

First Four Out: Seton Hall, Hofstra, Indiana, Texas A&M

II. The Sun Belt Tournament bracket will look like this unless FIU pulls an upset at Middle Tennessee tonight.

III. Tonight's GOI
--Oklahoma State at Oklahoma. In-state rivalry alert!
--Pitt at West Virginia. Important for both Big East and NCAA seeding.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Bracket; WKU/MTSU Recap

I. Middle Tennessee Hustles Past WKU, 80-74
The writing was on the wall at the 15 minute mark of the second half when Middle Tennessee G Fats Cuyler put up a three that caromed off the rim into a Hilltopper's hands, only to be poked away and fired back out to Fats for a second wide-open attempt that tickled the twine to the delight of 7,097 MTSU fans. That play was a microcosm of entire evening. The
Blue Pegasi were quicker to rebounds, loose balls, and were far more active than the Tops on both ends of the floor for most of the game. It was nip-and-tuck throughout with Middle holding a 2-4 point lead most of the way. But from the 8-min mark to the 5.41 mark of the second half, WKU used a 10-0 run to seize control and rock MT back on their heels, 59-53. MT responded in kind and tied the game at 66 before two Ty Rogers free throws put WKU back up by two. That would be the Tops last lead. Another Cuyler three put MTSU up one, and then WKU was called for an intentional foul that gave MT two free throws followed by a dunk on the ensuing play that put Middle up five. The Tops managed to tie the game at 73 with just over a minute to play on a gutsy Benson Callier triple, but MT made 7 of 8 free tosses to take the game down the stretch. Such is life on the road against a hungry team.

Read articles from WKU here and from MTSU here.

II. Check out today's
updated bracket.
The Quick and Dirty: Colorado and Southern Illinois OUT. Air Force and Florida State IN.

III. Last Night's GOI

--Villanova 74, at Cincinnati 72. Nova survives again on the road and keeps UC on the fence.
--at Georgia 48, South Carolina 47. Probably drove the nail in the Gamecocks' coffin.
--at Hofstra 77, George Mason 66. The Pride is most definitely in the at-large mix...and don't doubt it.
----UNC-Wilmington 61, at VCU 54. UNCW keeps rolling. The CAA has three real contenders.
--at Washington 75, Stanford 57. Cardinal are probably done as an at-large without a SERIOUS conference tourney run.
--Cal 43, at Washington State 41. Bears get an ugly road win that keeps them safely in the bracket.

IV. Weekend Forecast
--Virginia at Clemson. Cavs are fighting for their lives.
--Missouri at Colorado. Must win for Buffs.
--Seton Hall at DePaul. A road win would be huge for the SHU.
--Syracuse at Georgetown. I think Cuse is nearly IN, but there are doubters. This would cinch it.
--Drexel at Hofstra. Pride cannot afford any slips.
--Iowa at Illinois. Illini can tie Hawkeyes with a win.
--Kentucky at LSU. UK could lock it up with a win here.
--Creighton at Missouri State. Bears could breathe pretty easy if they win here. Jays have probably done enough barring an MVC tourney upset.
--Boston College at NC State. Eagles are not going to miss, but they sure could use a nice win.
--Marquette at Notre Dame. It could get really interesting if ND can win their last three.
--Michigan at Ohio State. Buckeyes could lead outright with a win here and an Iowa loss.
--Northern Iowa at Southern Illinois. SIU is desperate and UNI really needs a win to prevent a major dip in seeding.
--Duke at Temple. Dangerous game for the Dukies.
--Arkansas at Tennessee. This would clinch the Hogs.
--Kansas at Texas. For Big 12 supremacy.
--Nebraska at Texas A&M. Must win for Aggies.
--Nevada at Utah State. Aggies could tie for WAC lead and help at-large case.
--Houston at UTEP. Cougars have won eight straight and could sneak into the convo with a win.
--Louisville at West Virginia. Cards need a monster finish to have any hope.
--Florida at Alabama. Suddenly cold Gators need a "W"to stop the bleeding. Alabama could lock up their bid.
--Villanova at UConn. No commentary needed.
--Michigan State at Indiana. Hoosiers can crawl back into Bubbleland with a win.
--Maryland at North Carolina. Terps are in desperation mode.
--Cal at Washington. Both looking to improve seeding.
--Minnesota at Wisconsin. Badgers look to recover from Northwestern loss.
Sun Belt Slate (all on Sat)
--UL-Lafayette at Ark-Little Rock
--Arkansas State at New Orleans
--North Texas at South Alabama
--Denver at Troy
--FIU at Western Kentucky

Thursday, February 23, 2006

17 Teams, 17 Days

I. 17 Bubble Boys, 17 Days Until Selection Sunday over at SCS.com.

II. Last Night's GOI

--at Air Force 51, New Mexico 46. No TBB jinx for AFA after making it IN in the lockbox yesterday. Falcons continue to roll.
--at Bucknell 81, Lehigh 70. Lehigh now has two conference losses...both to the Bison.
--at BYU 100, San Diego State 90. Surging Cougars keep SDSU from getting too far away in the Mt. West.
--at Creighton 67, Indiana State 62. "Takin' care of business and workin' overtime. Look out."
--Tennessee 76, at Florida 72. Vols clinch a share of the SEC East with a win.
--at Florida State 71, Maryland 60. 'Noles may find a way to get in if they can keep winning.
--at Indiana 69, Penn State 65. Hoosiers get a must win.
--Texas 65, at Kansas State 64. Tough, tough loss for K-State.
--at Kentucky 80, Ole Miss 40. We know UK is not going to lose to bad teams. If they can beat some good ones coming home, they can salvage a decent seed.
--at Memphis 66, UTEP 56. Looks like no at-large for the Miners this season.
--Ohio State 79, at Michigan State 68. Buckeyes stay in the hunt for Big Televen title.
--at Nebraska 93, Colorado 77. Crushing loss for Buffs. This may have pushed them out.
--North Carolina 96, at NC State 71. WOW. No doubt about who is #2 in the ACC.
--Bradley 71, at Northern Iowa 49. Holy cow. Braves are really hitting their stride at the right time.
--LSU 77, at Vandy 66. 'Dores are done barring a DEEP run in the SEC tourney.

III. Tonight's GOI
--Villanova at Cincinnati. Could pretty much cement the Bearcats.
--South Carolina at Georgia. Gamecocks need this one to keep flickering hopes alive.
--George Mason at Hofstra. Pride's defining moment. A win here makes them much more viable as an at-large candidate.
----UNC-Wilmington at VCU. Seahawks cannot afford any type of loss right now.
--Stanford at Washington. Cardinal hopes are razor thin. They need this one.
--Cal at Washington State. Bears need these kind.
Sun Belt Slate
--Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee. Great rivalry game with big SBC seeding implications for MTSU.
--Ark-Little Rock at New Orleans. Again, major seeding implications for both.
--Denver at South Alabama. Denver clinches West 2-seed with a win.
--North Texas at Troy. Both trying to take third place in the West and stay alive for the 2-seed.
--Arkansas State at UL-Lafayette. ULL has been hot lately, but ASU has been surviving all year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Lockbox Booms

I. Lots of Invitations Locked Up This Week
We jumped from seven LOCKS all the way up to 23 this week in the Lockbox and there are several more that are on the cusp. Here are the teams that have cemented their bid:

Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Iowa, Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Villanova, UConn, Pitt, West Virginia, Georgetown, Tennessee, Florida, LSU, UCLA, Memphis, Gonzaga, Northern Iowa

There are seven other teams that could miss with an Indiana-style meltdown over the last few games, but it's hard to imagine them missing:

George Washington, Boston College, Marquette, Washington, Wichita State, Creighton, Michigan

The Bubble By the Numbers
--31 Automatic Bids. That will not change this season.
--34 At-Large Bids. That also is a static number.
--24 at-large bids look taken at this point.
--There are 23 teams listed as LOCKS and seven more as "virtual locks" (30 total), but ten of them are conference leaders. That means that they account for 20 at-large bids. Consult the Lockbox and view the teams listed in caps (LOCKS) and in black text. The LOCKS cannot miss and it is hard to imagine any of the "virtual locks" missing at this point. The virtual locks could change, but most if not all of those teams are not going anywhere.
--Six other teams look pretty safe, but we need a little more confirmation from Syracuse, Arizona, California, Alabama, Bucknell, and George Mason. Of course, Bucknell is an interesting case. I think most folks expect them to be IN, but if they were to lose any game between now and SelSun (regular season or tournament), they could fall squarely on the Bubble. This accounts for four bids since Bucknell and GMU currently lead their leagues. So, 24 total bids look to be taken.
--That leaves 10 bids for the Bubble Boys, which is down from 12 last week. The Bubble Boys who made it in are in green and those left out are in red in the Lockbox. Here's the list that got in today: Colorado, Seton Hall, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Arkansas, UAB, Air Force, Missouri State, Bradley, UNC-Wilmington.

1. With SIU's loss to Evansville last night (crazy, I know, but I've attended my share of puzzling WKU losses at Roberts Stadium), the Salukis are the odd team out in the MVC. Although they still lead Missouri State and Bradley in the standings, they are now 2-5 in their last seven and they have that hideous D-II loss hanging on their resume. I moved Air Force into their slot.

2. I think one more win does it for George Mason. This could be the first case of the BracketBusters actually helping a team seal their at-large bid.

3. Virginia is back in the mix again as they handled BC rather easily last night in Charlottesville.

4. Seton Hall is back on the Bubble after a loss to St. John's last night. The SHU was looking so strong a couple of weeks ago, but have been shaky lately. They would be STRONGLY advised to take care of DePaul on the road on Saturday.

I will have a new bracket or an updated Lockbox on Friday.

II. Last Night's GOI
--at Arkansas 65, Alabama 63. The Ark is in pretty good shape now after a monster comeback (down 18 at one point in this one). They have three regular season games left and two of them are on the road, which has been trouble for the Razorbacks. The do at least control their own destiny at this point.
--at Evansville 64, Southern Illinois 59. There was a reason I put this seemingly harmless game on the GOI yesterday. Struggling SIU+on the road at Evansville=Trouble. I've seen my Toppers go down in flames at EU several times.
--at Michigan 72, Illinois 64. This one all but seals it up for Michigan. They have too many top 100 wins to be ignored and now they have the pelts of Illinois, Michigan State and Wisconsin to go with them.
--Texas A&M 54, at Missouri 51. Aggies keep slim hopes alive.
--at St. John's 58, Seton Hall 47. SHU has put themselves back into an uncomfortable spot.
--at Virginia 72, Boston College 58. UVA begins "must win" phase by doing just that.

III. Tonight's GOI
--New Mexico at Air Force. AFA finally made it IN today. Let's see if I jinxed them.
--Lehigh at Bucknell. Lehigh's only loss in conference is to the Bison.
--San Diego State at BYU. An Aztec win here pretty much slams the door on the regular season title. It won't be easy, though. Cougars have won 6 of 7 including one over AFA.
--Indiana State at Creighton. Jays need to win these kind to seal the deal.
--Tennessee at Florida. Vols can clinch a share of the SEC East with a win.
--Maryland at Florida State. They just don't get any Bubblier than this.
--South Carolina at Georgia. Gamecocks are in "must win" mode.
--Penn State at Indiana. How low can you go, IU? PSU has been playing pretty well.
--Texas at Kansas State. 'Horns need to retrench after blowout loss to OK State.
--Ole Miss at Kentucky. UK has been winning these games all year, but they can ill afford an untimely slip-up.
--UTEP at Memphis. Miners' last stand for an at-large case.
--Ohio State at Michigan State. Spartans can pull into a tie with Buckeyes with a win.
--Colorado at Nebraska. Bubblin' Buffs need to send a message after losing to K-State.
--North Carolina at NC State. In-state rivalry alert! Who is the 2nd-best team in the ACC?
--Bradley at Northern Iowa. Braves can take a GIANT step forward with a win at UNI.
--LSU at Vandy. 'Dores gotta have it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Buster Impact

I. What did BracketBusters really do?
1. George Mason. Buster moved GMU into the "win the games they should" category. Even if they lose at Hofstra on Thursday, the Patriots should be OK if they take care of James Madison and win a game or two in the CAA tourney. That win at Wichita State was huge.

2. Missouri State. The Bears got a nice road win at UW-Milwaukee. That pushed them onto the good side of the Bubble likely to stay if they take care of Illinois State and Creighton. A loss to Creighton probably keeps them on the Bubble, but they certainly helped themselves.

3. Bucknell. The Bison missed their chance (twice) to seal the envelope on their bid. I still think they are OK as long as they make the conference tourney finals, but they are still not 100% safe.

4. Southern Illinois. They have been pushed to the edge of the bracket with recent losses, and LA Tech got a nice win that probably hurt SIU more than it helped LA Tech.

5. Read more from ESPN's best, Kyle Whelliston.

II. Last Night's GOI
--at Syracuse 60, West Virginia 58. I think one more win of any type cements the 'Cuse. WVU now fighting to avoid a 5/12 game.
--South Alabama 64, at FIU 51. Ladies and gents, I present to you the SBC West champs: the Jaguars of South Alabama.

III. Tonights' GOI
--Alabama at Arkansas. Hogs could really use this one to solidify themselves a bit.
--Southern Illinois at Evansville. DANGEROUS game for SIU. They have a razor-thin margin for error at this stage.
--Illinois at Michigan. Wolverines looking more Bubbly by the day, and Illini are battling for a 2-seed.
--Texas A&M at Missouri. The Aggies must win out and that includes the one with Texas.
--Seton Hall at St. John's. Pirates finish with three of four on the road, so they need to take care of this winnable roadie.
--Boston College at Virginia. BC needs it to avoid slippage and UVA's hopes are on life support.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Bracket Update 2/20

I. Last Slots Getting Interesting
Peruse today's new bracket. In my estimation, there were about eleven bubble slots today and some of those filled in fairly easily. There seems to be about eight slots that are truly up for grabs because I don't think anyone is going to leave out Cal, Kentucky, or Syracuse at this point, although they are still Bubble teams. Here are the last eight I selected in order of security:

Arkansas, Arizona, Southern Illinois, Cincinnati, Colorado, UAB, UNC-Wilmington, Bradley

These teams were close to getting into the bracket, especially the first two:

Maryland, Air Force, Indiana, Florida State, Utah State, Hofstra, Vanderbilt, South Carolina

1. Villanova reclaims a 1-seed based on the thrashing that Texas took at OK State yesterday and on the Cats excellent play. The Longhorns have thrown up a couple of clunkers this season (home vs Tennessee and yesterday).

2. Like all of their Big Ten predecessors, Ohio State lost in their week after climbing to a 2-seed, but so did a lot of other contenders. The Buckeyes hang in at a 2-seed this week.

3. Colorado had a real chance to solidify themselves after the home win vs Oklahoma, then they go out and lose by double-digits to K-State. Back to the Bubble for the Buffs, though they did stay in...barely.

4. Kentucky greatly helped their case and greatly damaged South Carolina's with their win in Columbia.

5. Am I crazy for putting SIX MVC teams in? Yes, I am. For SIU, Missouri State, and Bradley, it's probably going to come down to conference tourney performance. But as of today, they have worthy profiles, although Bradley was my last team in.

6. I have a little rule that I follow. If you are 3-7 in your last ten, you don't get in barring some amazing circumstances. Sorry, Indiana. You are out until you prove otherwise. In fact, the Hoosiers are 1-7 in their last eight with the lone win coming at home over Northwestern.

Multi-bid Conference Breakdown
Big East (9): UConn, Villanova, Pitt, West Virginia, Georgetown, Marquette, Seton Hall, Syracuse, Cincinnati
Big Ten (6): Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan
SEC (6): Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas
MVC (6): Northern Iowa, Wichita State, Creighton, Southern Illinois, Missouri State, Bradley
ACC (4): Duke, NC State, Boston College, North Carolina
Big 12 (4): Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado
Pac-10 (4): UCLA, Arizona, Washington, California
CUSA (2): Memphis, UAB
Colonial (2): George Mason, UNC-Wilmington

Last Four Teams In: Colorado, UAB, UNC-Wilmington, Bradley

First Four Out: Maryland, Air Force, Indiana, Florida State

We are less than three weeks away from SelSun. Lockbox coming on Wednesday. Hopefully I will have time for another bracket on Friday.

II. As of today, the Sun Belt Tournament bracket would look like this.

III. Tonight's GOI
--West Virginia at Syracuse. Orange will breathe a lot easier if they take of the Eers at home.
--South Alabama at FIU. Jags wrap up the West with a win tonight.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Tops Survive Again; New Lockbox

I. Courtney Lee Kills Trojan Man, 74-73
In another test of the Hilltoppers’ intestinal fortitude, Western Kentucky found a way to escape Little Rock with a 74-73 win. Courtney Lee’s rise-and-fire 18-footer hit nothing but the bottom of the net with 1.7 seconds remaining and UALR’s desperation heave at the buzzer was not close. As the country looks at scores today, they will see this score and think, “Wow. WKU keeps pulling out close games on the road.” Well, this was not a close game for 36 minutes.

The Tops roared out of the gate with a 14-2 run to start the game and kept the Trojans at a distance until the end of the half behind some hot shooting from both Courtney Lee and Anthony Winchester. The Trojans closed the gap to 39-34 with an 14-4 run at the end of the half during a Topper letdown that was foreshadowing of what was to come. The Tops again blitzed the Trojans early in the second half building a robust 17-point lead behind some scrappy inside play from Boris Siakam and some left-handed sweeping hooks from The Great Red Pterodactyl. At about the 8-minute mark, it looked like the Tops would cruise on home with a comfy double-digit victory.

But, this was a road game against a physical opponent. The Trojans shaved the lead down to nine with four minutes left, and the Toppers unconscionably turned it over on four straight possessions at one point allowing UALR to cut the lead to one. They took the lead after Trojan guard Zack Wright made two free throws after a steal to give UALR a one-point lead with just seconds remaining. Enter C-Lee 18-footer. Game over.

In this writer’s opinion, WKU is not one of the teams with a cruise control. There is no “maintain” mode with this team. They are either starving sharks who smell blood in the water or they are helpless lambs being lead to the slaughter. They are either building a monster lead or losing it. It’s either high intensity or no concentration. Thirty-four minutes of intensity were enough last night, but barely.

II. No time for a new bracket today. How about an updated Lockbox?
In short: Maryland and Indiana are OUT. Cincinnati and Bradley are IN.

III. Last Night's GOI
--at Boston College 65, Miami-FL 54. It's slipping away for the U.
--at Cal 75, Arizona 66. Zona hasn't beat a good team lately.
--at Marquette 57, Georgetown 51. Marquette is looking very strong at this point.
--San Diego State 81, at UNLV 70. The Aztecs are pulling away in the Mt. West.
Sun Belt Slate
--Western Kentucky 74, at Ark-Little Rock 73. See above.
--at Arkansas State 75, Middle Tennessee 74. Tough to win in Jonesboro.
--UL-Lafayette 76, at New Orleans 69. Cajuns are putting it together at the right time.
--South Alabama 66, at Troy 52. Impressive road win for South AL.

IV. Weekend Forecast (view BracketBusters here)
Clashes of the Titans
--Gonzaga at Loyola Marymount. Lions have not lost at home since December 10 and are 8-2 intheir last 10.
--Pitt at Marquette. Both playing for seeding now.
--Michigan at Michigan State. In state rivalry alert! And it's a good one.
--Iowa at Minnesota. Careful, Hawkeyes. Careful.
--UConn at West Virginia. Too much fun!

Bubble Boys (He took it out.)
--Tennessee at Alabama. Big chance for Tide to bolster their profile at home.
--Florida at Arkansas. Ditto for Arkansas.
--Virginia at Florida State. Cavs hanging tough on the Bubble.
--Vanderbilt at Georgia. Both are in must win mode.
--Georgia Tech at Maryland. Terps need any kind of win.
--Iowa State at Oklahoma. It's now or never for the 'Clones.
--Kentucky at South Carolina. Gamecocks can climb into the picture with a win over UK.
--Louisville at Syracuse. The Desperation Game of the Weekend.
Sun Belt Slate
--Middle Tennessee at UALR
--Troy at FIU
--Denver at North Texas

Thursday, February 16, 2006

An RPI Primer

I. My latest article on understanding the RPI is up on SCS.com.

II. Bracketography.com continues their excellent BracketBusters coverage.

II. Last Night's GOI
--at Colorado 84, Oklahoma 75. Big Buffs breakthrough. A strong finish puts them in nice position.
--Nebraska 73, at Iowa State 63. Hard to believe the Cyclones are going away this meekly.
--at Kentucky 68, Georgia 61. UK takes care of must win #1. At South Carolina on Saturday is a biggie.
--at Michigan 72, Minnesota 50. Michigan gets back on track with a strong performance.
--at Mississippi 73, Arkansas 70. Hogs cannot win on the road and that's going to keep them out if they don't get a couple late.
--at NC State 86, Florida State 64. Noles are fools gold at this point. Good record, no quality wins.
--at Penn State 71, Indiana 68. Hoosiers may be locked into this nosedive. And that's a shame.
--Cincinnati 82, at Syracuse 65. Orange palms have to be getting a little sweaty at this juncture.
--at UNC-Wilmington 77, Hofstra 68. Seahawks strengthen their at-large hopes.
--Florida 73, at Vanderbilt 68. Gators get a nice win in a tough venue.
--at Wisconsin 78, Ohio State 73. The Curse of the Big Ten 2-seed strikes again.

III. Tonight's GOI
--Miami-FL at Boston College. 'Canes need to finish strong to have a shot.
--Arizona at Cal. Cats can solidify themselves a bit with a win here.
--Georgetown at Marquette. Eagles can get a much needed quality home win tonight.
--San Diego State at UNLV. A win here would give the Aztecs a two game lead in the loss column with four games to play.
Sun Belt Slate
--Western Kentucky at Ark-Little Rock. Tops have already clinched the East, but the physical Trojans are always a test.
--Middle Tennessee at Arkansas State. Both battling for bye in the Belt tourney.
--UL-Lafayette at New Orleans. To get out of the basement in the West.
--South Alabama at Troy. Jags better be careful. Trojans can be very streak, and tough, at home.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

LOCKS Grow to Seven

I. Bubble Shrinks Slightly to Twelve Slots
Congrats to Villanova, Pitt, Iowa, and Memphis for gaining LOCK status. These four joined Duke, UConn, and Texas from last week. By this time next week, the LOCK list will be a lot longer. These seven could lose out and still get in. All have insured at least a .500 record in their conference. They have lofty RPI ratings and a boatload of quality wins. More teams will be added in the coming weeks. LOCK teams are designated by all capital letters in the Lockbox.

In the last few weeks, we have welcomed preseason powers Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisville, Boston College, Syracuse, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Washington as Bubble Boys. Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Washington, and Boston College have graduated to "Projected In" or are in barring an apocalyptic meltdown. The status of Kentucky, Arizona, and Syracuse are still undecided and they remain on the good side of the Bubble...for now. Louisville teeters on the brink of extermination.

This week, we add another Top 10 All-Time Program to the list. Let us once again roll out the plush, red, bubbly carpet to the Indiana Hoosiers. Their losses have came to good teams, but they have had far too many of them. Furthermore, Mike Davis' comments about IU fans' desires for an "Indiana guy" and the following media frenzy during this Hoosier skid may simultaneously distract both Indiana and Iowa who have bigger fish to fry. Iowa is playing for a Big Ten title and IU can still have a good season if they right the ship during the stretch run.

1. With Maryland's loss to Clemson last night, I moved them out and moved a SIXTH MVC team in by virtue of Bradley's win over Northern Iowa last night. This is just temporary until I do another bracket on Friday, but it's hard to ignore FIVE top 50 RPI wins...and the Braves have them.

2. Every single team in the SEC East is very much alive for the Dance. South Carolina took a big step by beating Bama last night. Coupled with their season sweep of Florida, the Gamecocks may be able to push themselves into hte bracket with a win over Kentucky this weekend. The game is in Columbia. HUGE Bubble game for both UK and SC.

3. Lots of folks are inquiring about Utah State, but with five sub-100 losses, it's just not going to happen as an at-large. The Aggies really need Utah and Middle Tennessee to push themselves into the Top 100 RPI.

4. It looks like it may be up to Cincinnati to make the Big East a 9-bid league. If they don't prove that they are NCAA-worthy without Armein Kirkland, they are going to be out. Louisville is nearly dead and Rutgers is a long shot at best. Unless one of those three turn it on, the Big East will likely get eight teams in, and that would still be a record.

5. No El Foldo for Seton Hall. They bounced back from their 42-point tail whipping at UConn to knock off West Virginia. This team is likely going to the Dance.

6. Historically, the Bubble hovers around the 9-14 range in Jan and early Feb, but will be down to 5-7 slots (maybe less) come selection Sunday. Just FYI.

The Bubble by the Numbers

--31 Automatic Bids. That will not change this season.
--34 At-Large Bids. That also is a static number.
--15 at-large bids look taken at this point. There are 25 teams listed as "virtual locks," but ten of them are conference leaders. That means that they account for 15 at-large bids. Consult the Lockbox and view the teams listed in black. It is hard to imagine any of those teams missing at this point. This could change, but most if not all of these teams are not going anywhere.
--Seven other teams look pretty safe, but we need a little more confirmation from Wisconsin, Creighton, Southern Illinois, Seton Hall, Washington and Bucknell. This accounts for seven bids since Bucknell is the leader of the Patriot League.
--That leaves 12 bids for the Bubble Boys, which is down from 14 last week. The Bubble Boys who made it in are in green and those left out are in red in the Lockbox.

II. Last Night's GOI (Interesting tidbit: home teams went 21-2 last night)
--at Bradley 72, SIU 60. As I said yesterday, the Braves are tough in Peoria (11-1). It's a shame they were shut out of an TV game for BracketBusters Saturday this weekend.
--at Iowa 66, Michigan State 54. Michigan State is going to be one scary 5/6 seed. They have all of the parts, they simply cannot keep them harnessed for 40 mins.
--at Seton Hall 71, West Virginia 64. The SHU bounces back in big way. This gives 'Nova the outright Big East lead.
--at South Carolina 67, Alabama 56. SC is officially in the Bubble picture.
--at Temple 57, Saint Joseph's 44. Beautiful game...in that John Chaney way. No "Goongate" this time, though.
--at Wichita State 62, Creighton 61. What a V-Day for WSU. Four teams were tied for first last night and the Shockers are the only ones left standing. The defeated Creighton, Northern Iowa fell at Indiana State, and SIU lost at Bradley.

III. Tonight's GOI
--Oklahoma at Colorado. This a the Buffs' big chance to beat an elite team at home.
--Nebraska at Iowa State. Cyclones are in must win mode.
--Georgia at Kentucky. Dawgs can pull into a three way tie with UK and SC with a win. Cats are desparate for a W.
--Minnesota at Michigan. Woverines need to end this three game skid, but Gophers have sneakily won 3 of 4.
--Arkansas at Mississippi. Hogs cannot afford a loss like this.
--Florida State at NC State. Noles need a marquee win to be taken seriously.
--Indiana at Penn State. Time for the Hoosiers to stop this nonsense if they want to hang around in the bracket.
--Cincinnati at Syracuse. Both need a win, but UC needs it more.
--Hofstra at UNC-Wilmingon. Winner strengthens at-large case.
--Florida at Vanderbilt. Both need for different reasons. UF for seeding, Vandy for NCAA life.
--Ohio State at Wisconsin. Great test for Buckeyes. A loss gives Iowa the outright lead in the loss column.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Buster Matchup Guide

I. Check out the Bracket Buster viewing guide.
Updated ranking of games based on the impact of teams' at-large profiles:
1. Bucknell at Northern Iowa. UNI is all but a lock. Bucknell is likely in, too, but they need this one more. A loss here does not kill them, though.
2. George Mason at Wichita State. A GMU win makes them a solid at-large contender if they falter in the CAA tourney. They are a decent one already.
3. Missouri State at UW-Milwaukee. Both need it for at-large hopes. Panthers are a REAL long shot at this point.
4. Akron at Nevada. Must-win for Nevada. No shot for Akron as an at-large.
5. Fresno State at Creighton. Must-win for Creighton. No shot for Fresno State as an AL.
6. LA Tech at SIU. SIU must win. LA Tech is dead as an AL.
7. Northern Arizona at Western Kentucky. Must win for WKU's razor thin AL hopes. N Ariz has no shot as an AL.
8. Marist at Old Dominion. ODU's hopes are on life support.
9. Northwestern State at Utah State. USU's AL hopes are Kate Moss-thin.
No chance for any of these teams as AL's.
10. Samford at Ohio.
11. Butler at Kent State.
12. Albany at VCU.

II. Bracketography.com is doing in-depth game breakdowns. Good stuff.

III. Last Night's GOI
--at Nevada 50, LA Tech 49. Important win for Nevada. They now have sole possession of the WAC lead.
--Kansas 64, at Oklahoma State 49. Winning by 15 in Gallagher-Iba usually comes with much fanfare, but what else do you expect KU to do at this point? This is one scary team heading down the stretch.
--at Villanova 69, UConn 64. This gets 'Nova back into the 1-seed convo. UConn is still 1-seed material, too. But, will the committee give a 1-seed to a team that finishes third in its conference?

IV. Tonight's GOI
--SIU at Bradley. The Braves are very tough in Peoria (10-1).
--Michigan State at Iowa. Major Big Ten implications.
--West Virginia at Seton Hall. Let's see if SHU can bounce back from the UConn debacle.
--Alabama at South Carolina. Tide trying to solidify themselves while Gamecocks look to climb into the Bubble picture.
--Saint Joseph's at Temple. In city rivalry alert! Gotta love it. SJU won the first meeting by two.
--Creighton at Wichita State. Two of the four 11-4 teams atop the MVC standings. How much fun is the MVC this year?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Valentine Bracket Day

I. Ohio State Takes It Turn as a 2-seed from the Big Ten
Syracuse, Arizona, Cincinnati, and Maryland all continue to toil on the Bubble
. Syracuse's road win at St. John's helped a bit and Maryland's win over fellow ACC Bubbler Virginia won me over for this week. Zona won their home games against the Oregon squads. Cincy was routed by Pitt yesterday which makes them 3-7 in their last ten. That's just not good enough. Have a look at the new bracket.

1. UNC-Wilmington makes their first appearance based on some strong recent play. The Seahawks, current CAA leader George Mason, and Hofstra are very much alive for at-large bids.

2. Stanford remains on the outskirts of Bubbleland. I just cannot see them getting in without posting some big wins down the stretch, and they came up short twice this week.

4. It's Ohio State's turn at a 2-seed from the Big Ten. Their predecessors have not handled it too well (Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa). Iowa is still very much alive, though.

5. I can't believe that a team like Colorado is hanging in there. I simply could not pick anyone else over them no matter how hard I tried. Actually, I can believe it, because this happens every year.

6. Do you want to be my bracket Valentine? Check the "Yes," "No," or "Maybe" box. NOTE: Iowa State checked all three. South Carolina wrote in "Florida" and check the Florida box. Vandy did same with a "Kentucky" box. Kentucky checked "Maybe" six times.

Multi-bid Conference Breakdown
Big East (8): UConn, Villanova, Pitt, West Virginia, Georgetown, Marquette, Seton Hall, Syracuse
Big Ten (7): Ohio State,Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan
SEC (6): Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas
ACC (5): Duke, NC State, Boston College, North Carolina, Maryland
MVC (5): Northern Iowa, Wichita State, Creighton, Southern Illinois, Missouri State
Big 12 (4): Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado,
Pac-10 (4): UCLA, Arizona, Washington, California
CUSA (2): Memphis, UAB
Colonial (2): George Mason, UNC-Wilmington

Last Four Teams In: Arkansas, Maryland, Colorado, UNC-Wilmington

First Four Out: Air Force, Iowa State, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati

We are less than four weeks away from SelSun. Next bracket comes on Friday.

II. Tonight's GOI
--LA Tech at Nevada. Two of the WAC's best.
--Kansas at Oklahoma State. Most years, this is a top-15 match up. This year, it's to see if the Cowboys can slow down the rampaging Jayhawks.
--UConn at Villanova. No commentary needed for this one, but I'll try: Big East regular season title, BE tourney seeding, and NCAA 1-seed implications. WOW.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Tops Scale Mt. Yemi, 71-70

I. WKU Ends Nation's Fourth Longest Winning Streak at Denver, 71-70
Denver had won sixteen in a row at home and twenty of their last twenty-one games at Magness Arena before the Toppers came to town last evening. Despite some poor first-half shooting from superstar guards Anthony Winchester and Courtney Lee, the Tops stayed close behind the efforts of Benson Callier, Ty Rogers, and Boris Siakam. WKU used an 8-2 spurt to close the first half to tie the score at 38.

Boris Siakam was a difference-maker in this game. He played only ten minutes but stacked up 7 points on 3-of-3 shooting (including a wicked throwdown in some Pioneer's grill) and 5 reb (4 offensive) without committing a turnover. Despite the offensive efficiency, his greatest contribution was his energy. In both halves, the Toppers got a shot of adrenaline when he entered the game. In fact, the Tops got good minutes from fellow PF's Daniel Emerson and Mike Walker as well. When WKU gets production from the 4-spot, things generally go in the Toppers' favor.

The Tops ended a long home-winning streak and survived a monster night from Denver center and defending Sun Belt POY Yemi Nicholson (28 pts, 17 rebs, 7 blocks). They also survived a fireworks display from Threeland from DaShawn Walker (5-5, 21 total pts). They also survived Denver's collective J.J. Redick impersonation from the FT line (16-17 as a team). They survived being outscored from said FT line by 12 points on the road (16-4). They survived an off shooting night from Courtney Lee on the road (7-20). How? By winning the overall board battle 37-36 and by fetching 19 offensive boards. This allowed the Tops to get up 70 field goal attempts to Denver's 54. That is a sign of good, old-fashioned desire and hustle, most notably from Boris Siakam. And that's what it takes to win tough road games. The Tops take on North Texas tomorrow night while Denver plays at Middle Tennessee.

II. Last night's GOI
--at California 65, Stanford 62. As I said yesterday, Stanford has a long way to go for an at-large. I'm liking the Bears' chances more and more.
--Ohio State 94, at Michigan 85. Buckeyes are one of four Big Ten teams at the top with three losses.
--at Pittsburgh 57, West Virginia 53. Backyard Brawl goes to Panthers.
--George Mason 73, at VCU 61. Patriots are a real at-large contender and in the driver seat by one game in the CAA.
--at Washington 87, Southern Cal 71. Huskies got it done in a game that they needed.
Sun Belt Slate
--FIU 58, at UALR 55. Disaster for the Trojans. WKU wins a tough roadie and they lose at home to FIU. Trojans are done in the East race.
--Western Kentucky 71, at Denver 70. See above.
--Middle Tennessee 62, at North Texas 60. All of the sudden, the Blue Pegasi have won four in a row to claim second place outright in the Belt East.
--UL-Lafayette 59, at South Alabama 51. Cajuns have turned it around a bit and have now ripped off three in a row.
--at Troy 62, New Orleans 58. Troy roared back in the second half, closing on a 21-7 run to end the game. This is after they had executed a 12-0 earlier in the second half only to fall behind by 10 late in the second half before catching fire to close it out at home.

Just for kicks, here is what the Sun Belt Tournament bracket would look like as of today.

III. Weekend Forecast (5 inches of snow predicted in Bowling Green, KY! For you Northerners, that's a big deal for us in southern KY.)

Clashes of the Titans
--LSU at Florida. Gators had a letdown against South Carolina after smacking Kentucky; this one would make amends. This would stake LSU as a major national player.
--Iowa at Indiana. Hoosiers need this one to calm the storm; Iowa is coming off a puzzling loss to Northwestern.
--UConn at Seton Hall. This might be the most intriguing game of the weekend. The SHU has not been in this kind of position for a good while.

Bubble Boys (And you want to be my latex salesman?!)
--Southern Illinois at Creighton. Both are OK at this point, but SIU can't afford too many losses with those ugly sub-100 RPI losses and that (gulp) D-II on their resume.
--Stanford at Gonzaga. The Cardinal wiffed at Cal last night, so an upset is needed here to keep their slim hopes alive.
--Bucknell at Holy Cross. This is a big one. If the Bison are going to be derailed in the Patriot, this is the most likely place for it to happen.
--Wichita State at Indiana State. This is my weekend upset pick.
--Oral Roberts at IUPUI. ORU can pull into a tie for first with IUPUI if they win. An IUPUI win makes them very difficult to reel in.
--Iowa State at Kansas. Who knows what the Cyclones will do. KU is rockin' and chalkin' all over creation right now.
--Duke at Maryland. Always interesting and the Terps are playing for their NCAA lives.
--Alabama at Mississippi. Tide must be careful if they want to stay in the bracket.
--Missouri State at Northern Iowa. We've seen this before: the Bears with a chance to grab a signature win. Rarely happens (only one Top 50 RPI win).
--Wisconsin at Penn State. No more fooling around for the Badgers. They need to win this game convincingly to compound the interest on their win over Indiana.
--George Washington at Saint Joseph's. One of the few real chances for GW to be tripped up. SJU's hopes could be revived with a win here.
--Mississippi State at South Carolina. Gamecocks are trying to climb onto the Bubble.
--Kentucky at Vanderbilt. It has huge implications for both. A Vandy loss probably buries them and a UK loss puts the Cats squarely back on the Bubble.
--Old Dominion at VCU. Lose here and the Monarchs are likely done in the CAA title race.
--UCLA at Washington. Huskies can solidify themselves a bit with a big win over the Bruins.

Sun Belt Slate
--Savannah State at UALR (non-conference). UALR needs a "get healed" game after the home loss to FIU last night.
--FIU at Arkansas State. FIU looking to sweep the Arkansas swing.
--Denver at Middle Tennessee. Denver is 1-10 on the road and MTSU has won 4 straight.
--North Texas at Western Kentucky. NT has lost four in a row, while WKU has won 11 of its last 12.
--UL-Lafayette at Troy. Red hot Cajuns travel into a tough venue.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wanna Dance?

I. Get your dancing lessons from me on SCS.com. Consider it my waxy ode to Jerry Palm. Jerry has it right more than anyone else out there, IMO, and I consider him my bracketology hero. Most of what I believe about bracketology comes from a mock committee that I did with him back in 2002.

II. Last Night's GOI

--at Alabama 77, Vanderbilt 74 (OT). Vandy is adrift at this point.
--at Charlotte 66, Temple 59. Both will struggle to get into the NCAA picture.
--at UConn 73, Syracuse 50. Deathly serious doubts about the 'Cuse.
--at Kansas State 66, Iowa State 59. The Cyclones just cannot put it all together.
--at LSU 78, Arkansas 74. Hard-luck Hogs let another monster road win slip away.
--NC State 86, at Miami-FL 77 (2OT). This keeps us guessing about the 'Canes.
--Kansas 69, at Nebraska 48. Wow...does anyone want a piece of KU right now?
--Oklahoma 73, at Oklahoma State 65. Sooners have really found their groove lately. They've won 6 of 7 with the only loss coming to blazing Kansas in Lawrence.
--at San Diego State 61, Air Force 51. The Mt. West is now the Aztecs' to lose.
--at Texas A&M 61, Colorado 58. Buffs had little room for error, and this may have used it up.
--at UTEP 65, UAB 37. One of the more bizarre scores of the season. The Miners could roll up a ton of wins from here on in. This puts UAB in a tough position because they now trail UTEP in the standings and the committee is loathe to skip teams in the conf standings to take a lower team.
--at Wisconsin 72, Indiana 54. Hoosiers have now lost four of five, but still trail the leaders by just one game in the loss column. It's a logjam amongst the top seven teams in the Big Ten.

III. Tonight's GOI
--Stanford at California. Monster game for both teams. Stanford is doing their best Lazarus impersonation, and this road win would be huge.
--Ohio State at Michigan. Great football rivalry means more in hoops this year that it has in a long while.
--West Virginia at Pittsburgh. Beginning of a murderous stretch for WVU (three roadies, UConn at home, then at Syracuse).
--George Mason at VCU. Important game in the wild CAA race.
--Southern Cal at Washington. Huskies find themselves in a must win game.
Sun Belt Slate
--FIU at UALR. Trojans could gain ground tonight with WKU at a tough venue in Denver.
--Western Kentucky at Denver. Denver has the nation's third-longest home winning streak and WKU has the outright conference lead at 8-1.
--Middle Tennessee at North Texas. Both are in the thick of the race for the 2-seed in their respective divisions.
--UL-Lafayette at South Alabama. Suddenly hot Cajuns take on Jags who have skated up to 69 in the RPI.
--New Orleans at Troy. Scrappy Privateers will have their hands full with Troy PG Bobby Dixon at home.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

First LOCKS of the Season

I. Bubble Balloons to Fourteen Again
First, some congratulations are in order. Duke, Texas, and UConn have achieved LOCK status at this point. These three could lose out and still get in. All have 20+ wins and all have insured at least a .500 record in their conference. They have lofty RPI ratings and a sackful of quality wins. More teams will be added in the coming weeks. LOCK teams are designated by all capital letters in the Lockbox.

In the last few weeks, we have welcomed preseason powers Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisville, Boston College, and Syracuse as Bubble Boys. Oklahoma and Boston College have graduated to "Projected In" status. The status of Kentucky are Syracuse are still undecided and they remain on the good side of the Bubble...for now. Louisville has painted itself into a "must-win" corner and could be put out of their misery with a couple of more losses. This week, we add a whopping triumvirate of hoops powers to the Bubble Boy club. Let us once again roll out the plush, red, bubbly carpet to Arizona, Wisconsin, and Washington. All three slid backward onto the Bubble this week with some lackluster play.

1. With Missouri State's loss and Cincinnati's win, I moved the Bearcats into the Bears' slot. UC is an interesting case. They clearly did enough with Armein Kirkland to give them a solid NCAA profile. The question now is how much do they have to do to keep their slot without Kirkland? Simply win a few games? Totally reprove themselves? They will be an interesting case to follow.

2. In the last two weeks, Kansas has went from off the radar to "projected in." Fourteen days ago, it looked like KU was in real danger. Since then they have swept aside anyone who dared get in their path.

3. Is Stanford the new Kansas? The Cardinal have won 8 of 10 including five in a row, but they have many early season transgressions for which they must atone. They are not there yet, but I did put them in the Lockbox as a "bubble out." They might be able to achieve full redemption if they take care of Cal and Gonzaga this week.

4. Kentucky nor Arizona has missed the tournament since the early 1990s. Both streaks are in REAL danger unless these two can pick up some quality wins.

5. Historically, the Bubble hovers around the 9-14 range in Jan and early Feb, but will be down to 5-7 slots (maybe less) come selection Sunday. Just FYI.

The Bubble by the Numbers

--31 Automatic Bids. That will not change this season.
--34 At-Large Bids. That also is a static number.
--13 at-large bids look taken at this point. There are 23 teams listed as "virtual locks," but ten of them are conference leaders. That means that they account for 13 at-large bids. Consult the Lockbox and view the teams listed in black. It is hard to imagine any of those teams missing at this point. This could change, but most if not all of these teams are not going anywhere.
--Eight other teams look pretty safe, but we need a little more confirmation from Boston College, Kansas, Oklahoma, Creighton, Southern Illinois, Wichita State, Marquette and Bucknell. This accounts for seven bids since Bucknell is the leader of the Patriot League.
--That leaves 14 bids for the Bubble Boys, which is up from 11 last week. The Bubble Boys who made it in are in green and those left out are in red in the Lockbox.

II. Last Night's GOI
--Tennessee 75, at Kentucky 67. UK now trails Tennessee by THREE full games in the SEC East. It's now Tennessee and Florida ahead of the pack in the East. And Kentucky STILL is looking for a quality win. That win over West VA was a life age ago.
--at Maryland 76, Virginia 65. Cavs led most of the way before collapsing at the end.
--Duke 87, at North Carolina 83. Great comeback by the Heels; greater resiliency from J.J. Redick.
--at Northern Iowa 68, Wichita State 56. UNI and Creighton now tied atop the MVC.
--Villanova 71, at Saint Joseph's 58. Nova blitzed the Hawks in the second half, 49-24.
--at SIU 66, Missouri State 64. The Bears really could have used this one. This keeps SIU from slipping onto the bubble.

III. Tonight's GOI
--Vanderbilt at Alabama. Two SEC bubblers in a interdivisional contest.
--Temple at Charlotte. Two A-10 hopeful on the bad side of the bubble.
--Syracuse at UConn. This would reestablish the Orange in a big way.
--Iowa State at Kansas State. Hey, Cyclones! Do you want to Dance? You do? Then you have to win these types of games.
--Arkansas at LSU. Hogs need it more. LSU looking to strengthen their seed.
--NC State at Miami-FL. BIG game for the Canes. This would go a long way on their resume.
--Kansas at Nebraska. Huskers need it more, but KU is rolling right now...and they THROTTLED Nebraska by 42 (!) a couple of weeks ago.
--Oklahoma at Oklahoma State. In-state rivalry alert! OSU must win to buoy slim NCAA hopes.
--Air Force at San Diego State. A loss here puts the Falcons a full three games back of the Aztecs.
--Colorado at Texas A&M. Buffs have to win these types of games to stay in the bracket.
--UAB at UTEP. Two RED HOT teams out of CUSA. UAB is 12-1 (lost to Memphis) in their last 13 while UTEP has won 6 of 7. This is for second place outright.
--Indiana at Wisconsin. Badgers are in danger of falling out of the bracket completely if they don't right the ship soon.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I. I make them extras sloppyz forz ya.
1. Fallout from the double technical in the Duke/FSU game.

2. Gonzaga barely escaped at home against St. Mary's-CA last night. Read about the game here and Ken Pomeroy's timeout observations here.

3. You can also view my bracket projections at SCS.com for the rest of the season. They will be the same as the one here, but formatted differently and without my bracket breakdown.

I. Last Night's GOI

--at Cincinnati 74, Louisville 68. This one was devastating to the Cards' hopes. Not only are they at a greater risk of missing the Big East tourney, but UC earned a split with UL and lead them by two full games in the Big East. Also, they are now FOUR games under .500 in conference play. With their baby-soft non-conference schedule, a losing Big East record is not an option. They need a miraculous finish. UC is still clinging onto the Bubble.
--at Elon 76, Coll of Charleston. Phoenix still have the best record in the SoCon.
--Southern 70, at Jackson State 58. Jags gained the ouright lead in the SWAC.

II. Tonight's GOI
--Tennessee at Kentucky. Vols can put UK firmly in their SEC East rearview mirror with a win here. Cats need it to solidify NCAA status.
--Virginia at Maryland. A couple of ACC teams that are currently on the bad side of the Bubble.
--Duke at North Carolina. A few people care about this game. Don't forget to activate your hyperbole filter before you tune in tonight.
--Wichita State at Northern Iowa. Two of the three 10-3 MVC teams (Creighton is at Evansville tonight).
--Villanova at Saint Joseph's. Crosstown rivalty alert! I'd be suprised if this were easy for Nova.
--Missouri State at SIU. MO State desparately needs quality wins and SIU needs a win to stay in the MVC title race.

Monday, February 06, 2006

2/06 Bracket Update

I. Bracket Update
Due to some techinical difficulties, it's a little late today. Let's cut to the chase. View the bracket here.

Syracuse, Arizona, Cincinnati, and Maryland continue their spirals into the abyss, with Syracuse (just a hair from "Last Four In") and Arizona (still 18 RPI, but next-to-last team IN) barely remaining IN this week. They have to right the ship quickly or they will be out very soon. Cincy and Maryland are not only tailspinning, but are doing so after losing key players. That is not going to set well with the committee. Both now have to reprove themselves without Kirkland (UC) and McCray (Maryland). They are out.

1. Last week, some people hated the inclusion of Temple and the Owls went out and lost to LaSalle on Saturday, so I don't have to defend them this week. They fell out.

2. I'm sure many will lament Missouri State's inclusion. But, selecting teams for those last few slots proves quite difficult. MO State has no bad losses, a good RPI, a winning conference record, one top 50 win, and winning record in their last ten, and a winning road record. They also beat Bradley to put the Braves behind them in the conference standings. Their big, gaping hole is a mere TWO top 100 wins. That is a hard pill to swallow, but all of the other candidates have major problems as well.

3. Stanford is creeping onto the fringe of the Bubble, but don't let anyone tell you that they are bracket worthy just yet. They have a multitude of early-season sins to overcome. They need to post some BIG wins, and the Pac-10 does not have a lot to offer at this point.

4. Iowa jumped up a couple of rungs to a 2-seed this week by virtue of their pasting of Michigan, their host of quality wins, and gaining the outright lead in the Big 10.

Multi-bid Conference Breakdown
Big East (8): UConn, Villanova, Pitt, West Virginia, Georgetown, Marquette, Seton Hall, Syracuse
Big Ten (7): Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan
SEC (6): Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas
ACC (5): Duke, NC State, Boston College, North Carolina, Miami-FL
MVC (5): Northern Iowa, Creighton, Wichita State, Southern Illinois, Missouri State
Big 12 (5): Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa State
Pac-10 (4): UCLA, Arizona, Washington, California
CUSA (2): Memphis, UAB

Last Four Teams In: Colorado, Arkansas, Arizona, Missouri State

First Four Out: Cincinnati, Maryland, Air Force, Bradley

We are less than five weeks away from SelSun. I will start doing brackets on Monday's and Friday's beginning next week (2/13 and 2/17).

II. Tonight's GOI
--Louisville at Cincinnati. GIANT bubble match up in the Big East.
--Coll of Charleston at Elon. Phoenix are trying to hold on the the best overall conference record.
--Southern at Jackson State. Jags can take ouright lead in SWAC with a win.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Electronic Mail Communications

I. Cue Paul Shafer and the CBS Orchestra: "Letters, we get letters. We get lots and lots of letters. LETTERS!"

Hey, I'm a big Cincinnati fan, what's your outlook on them making the field of 65 this year? Is 17 or 18 wins enough to get them in the big dance?

Chad R.


I fear for Cincy for a few reasons. First, they are 2-5 since Armein Kirkland went down. Second, they are 4-4 in the Big East with four road games and home games against West Virginia and Villanova left. Finally, they have a thin roster and it's getting late...in the Big East, no less. On the plus side, UC has three quality wins and lots of chances for big wins remaining. They need Marquette and Vandy to finish strong. If the Bearcats struggle from here on in, the committee will see Kirkland's injury as having a major negative impact on this team and that will hurt them, too.

I think they'll need to at least finish 8-8 in the Big East to have any shot. That would be 18 wins. I think that would make them a classic bubble team (depending on who they beat and who they lose to, of course). That said, I think 19 wins is their magic number, but a lot can happen in the next five weeks.

Temple should not be in the field.



I would tend to agree, but I always feel that way about the last couple of teams I put in. I couldn't sleep at night if I put Vandy or Arkansas in on Monday. Last year's committee proved that momentum matters (see UAB, Iowa). Temple has won 6 of 7, has a strong RPI, and a couple of quality wins. Of course, they may be out on Monday depending on how some of the other Bubble Boys do this weekend. Those last few slots will be a revolving door from now until SelSun.

II. Last Night's GOI
--at Hofstra 65, Old Dominion 63. No one is talking about Hofstra, but they are a player in the CAA. They have swept ODU, beat UNC-Wilmington, are 8-3 in the CAA, and have an RPI of 56. Don't sleep on the Flying Dutchmen, er, I mean, Pride.
--Nevada 65, at Louisiana Tech 53. Nevada is not going to slink away quietly in the WAC race.
--North Carolina 77, at Maryland 62. I just can't shake the feeling that Maryland is going to wind up on the Bubble.
--Stanford 57, at Oregon 56. Cardinal are starting to play better, but they have a way to go to have any kind of viable NCAA profile.
--Cal 69, at Oregon State 62. Cal, on the other hand, is already in the Bubble picture.
--at Pacific 64, UC-Irvine 52. Tigers came through in a must-win game. Now trail by just one in the loss column in the Big West.
--at Southern Cal 77, Arizona 70. Cats now officially on the Bubble...even with an RPI of 19.

Sun Belt
--South Alabama (6-2) 65, at Ark-Little Rock 58 (4-4). WKU is now three games clear of anyone in the East.
--at New Orleans (3-6) 64, Denver 54 (5-4). Denver is 11-1 in home/neutral games and 1-9 in road games.
--at UL-Lafayette (2-7) 77, North Texas 58 (5-4). This is more like what we expect from ULL. The NT loss give South AL a two game lead in the loss column out West.

View the Belt standings here.

III. Weekend Forecast
Clashes of the Titans
--UConn at Indiana. Superb, late season, out of conference treat.
--Michigan at Iowa. Two of the three Big Ten co-leaders.

Bubble Boy Games (Moors! Moops! MOORS! MOOPS!)
--LSU at Alabama. 'Bama needs to make amends for the loss that they took at Georgia on Wednesday.
--South Carolina at Arkansas. Both need it tremendously. Heath is probably playing for his job in the next month.
--UW-Milwaukee at Butler. A Butler win ties them with UWM in the loss column for the Horizon lead.
--Florida State at Duke. FSU looking for that signature win.
--Kentucky at Florida. UK looks to jump off the Bubble with a big win.
--Miami-FL at Georgia Tech. Must win for roller coaster 'Canes to stay in the picture.
--Oklahoma State at Kansas State. Fringe Bubbler K-State needs these kind of games to stay alive.
--Akron at Kent State. Both are 9-1 in the MAC East.
--Utah State at Louisiana Tech. LA Tech's WAC lead down to just one game after Nevada loss.
--Notre Dame at Louisville. These two now playing to get into the BIG EAST tournament. Must win for UL to have any hope of NCAA.
--Bradley at Missouri State. HUGE, HUGE, HUGE. Winner stays on Bubble, loser in big trouble. This is for solo 5th place in MVC, which would not mean much in most seasons, but it does this year.
--Clemson at North Carolina. Win here makes Clemson much more viable.
--Cal at Oregon. Bears must keep it rolling to stay in the Bubble picture
--Arizona State at Southern Cal. Trojans are a long shot, but playing better of late.
--Arizona at UCLA. Cats need to stop the bleeding a bit.
--Georgia at Vanderbilt. Dawgs trying to climb back onto the Bubble. Vandy is a classic Bubbler at this point.
--Marquette at Villanova. A win here moves Marquette off the Bubble
--Cincinnati at West Virginia. Bearcats need wins of any kind to stay alive.
--Washington at Washington State. In-state rivalry alert! And the Huskies could use a win to bolster their relatively mediocre RPI of 51.
--SIU at Wichita State. The Salukis have too many bad losses to feel comfortable. They need to stay near the top of the MVC standings.

Sun Belt Slate
--Middle Tennessee at FIU
--North Texas at New Orleans
--Arkansas State at South Alabama
--Arkansas-Little Rock at Troy
--Denver at UL-Lafayette

Thursday, February 02, 2006

More Buster Chatter

I. More bracket buster talk on SCS.com, including a game-by-game breakdown.

II. Last Night's GOI
--Duke 83, at Boston College 81. I know that Big Ten Wonk says that officiating is a boring topic, but how do you not call a foul on that Shelden Williams block? Among other calls...
--at Florida State 69, Clemson 59. This one hurts the Tigers. 'Noles evened their ACC record.
--at Georgia 88, Alabama 79. A blow to Bama's hopes.
--Kentucky 81, at Mississippi State 66. Kentucky has taken care of the opponents it is supposed to. Now, at Florida and host Tennessee on deck.
--Texas 66, at Missouri 53. Texas lurking if a current 1-seed slips up.
--at NC State 66, Virginia 64. Nearly a signature win for Cavs, but now just another in the ACC pack.
--Seton Hall 77, at Providence 74. The Hall is looking more and more secure.
--at Syracuse 86, Rutgers 84 (OT). 'Cuse win despite 41 from Q. Douby.
--at Temple 76, UMass 47. UMass won their home game by 26. Temple wins theirs by 29. That's only a 55 point swing.
--at Tennessee 69, Vanderbilt 62. 'Dores now find themselves in need of some wins after losing four of five.

III. Tonight's GOI
--Old Dominion at Hofstra. Very important CAA game and big for ODU's at-large hopes.
--Nevada at Louisiana Tech. If the Pack is to make a move, now is the time.
--North Carolina at Maryland. The Williams' square off in a big ACC tilt.
--Stanford at Oregon. Don't look now, but the Cardinal have won six of seven.
--Cal at Oregon State. Bears still trying to break into the bracket.
--UC-Irvine at Pacific. Anteaters are 8-0 and UOP (4-2) needs this one to stay withing striking distance in the Big West.
--Arizona at Southern Cal. Cats looking more and more like a bubble team.

Sun Belt
--South Alabama (5-2) at Ark-Little Rock (4-3)
--Denver (5-3) at New Orleans (2-6)
--North Texas (5-3) at UL-Lafayette (1-7)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bubble Shrinks to Eleven

I. Bubble Slots Decrease by Three This Week
When a team has been listed as a virtual lock for the entire season, it takes an "apocalyptic meltodown" for them to find themselves outside of the bracket. But, in addition Iowa State last week, we know can add the struggling Orange of Syracuse to the list. The 'Cuse possess just one top 50 RPI win (over freefalling Cincinnati) and have lost four in a row including a home loss to Seton Hall. It would behoove Syracuse to take care of visiting Rutgers tonight. Let us also roll out the bubbly red carpet for aforementioned Cincinnati. They scored a much-needed win over lowly South Florida last night, but they have the look of a team on the outs.

In the last few weeks, we have welcomed preseason powers Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisville, Boston College, and now Syracuse as Bubble Boys. Oklahoma and Boston College have graduated to "Projected In" status and Kentucky is also on the verge of graduating if they can pick up a quality win somewhere. They will have that chance at Florida on Saturday.

Have a look at the updated Lockbox to see what the conference bubble breakdown looks like.

1. Few bracketologists have Temple in, and I may be wrong for plugging them into my last slot. But, the alternatives are not a lot better. Flailing Iowa State (2-5 in last seven)? Arkansas (3-4 in SEC; 1 top 50 win)? Vandy (1-3 in their last 4)? Although the Owls laid a giant egg at UMass (60-34!!!), they are 5-1 in their last six games with wins over Maryland and Xavier.

2. The Big 12 shaped up a bit this week. Oklahoma and Kansas did a LOT to help their causes. Colorado also found their way in. If Iowa State can get it together again, the Big 12 could get five teams in this year.

3. Welcome back, Davidson! We've been waiting for you to resurface as the leader of the SoCon.

4. The 1-seed picture is shaping up. Duke, UConn, and Memphis look to be in great shape, and with Illinois possessing seven top 50 wins (tied for the most) and leading the rough-and-tumble Big Ten, one would have to like their chances as well. Texas is the only other team that can really make a case at this point. The other contenders all have at least one hole in their resume.

5. Historically, the Bubble hovers around the 9-13 range in Jan and early Feb, but will be down to 5-7 slots (maybe less) come selection Sunday. Just FYI.

The Bubble by the Numbers

--31 Automatic Bids. That will not change this season.
--34 At-Large Bids. That also is a static number.
--14 at-large bids look taken at this point. There are 24 teams listed as "virtual locks," but ten of them are conference leaders. That means that they account for 14 at-large bids. Consult the Lockbox and view the teams listed in black. It is hard to imagine any of those teams missing at this point. This could change, but most if not all of these teams are not going anywhere.
--The blue "Projected In" teams slots are where the big changes took place this week. Ten other teams look pretty safe, but we need a little more confirmation from Maryland, Boston College, Kansas, Oklahoma, Georgetown, Arizona, Creighton, Southern Illinois, Wichita State,and Bucknell. This accounts for nine bids since Bucknell is the leader of the Patriot League.
--That leaves 11 bids for the Bubble Boys, which is down from 14 last week. The Bubble Boys who made it in are in green and those left out are in red in the Lockbox.

II. Last Night's GOI
--at UConn 80, Pitt 76. Pitt went a long way in establishing itself as a contender, but UConn was a little too much at home.
--at Creighton 63, Northern Iowa 55. Creighton stays in the conference title hunt by holding serve at home.
--Illinois 66, at Wisconsin 51. Illini now have sole possession of first place in the Big Ten at 6-2. Michigan (5-2) must win at Penn State and Iowa (5-2) must win at Purdue (both tonight) to keep pace.
--at Miami-FL 78, Wake Forest 69. Alright, Wake fans, it worked for Iowa last year so I'll say it: stick a fork in Wake. They are done. (Last year, Iowa went on a tear and made the NCAA tourney after I declared them ready for A-1 sauce)

III. Tonight's GOI
--Duke at Boston College. BC is looking for a signature win, and this is as good as it gets.
--Clemson at Florida State. These are the types of games that Clemson must win to stay in the picture.
--Alabama at Georgia. 'Bama, see Clemson above.
--Kentucky at Mississippi State. UK is solidly in the bracket as of today, but they need this one because their next three games are at Florida, host Tennessee, and at Vandy.
--Texas at Missouri. Big for both teams for different reasons.
--Virginia at NC State. Long shot, but Cavs need big wins to stay alive.
--Seton Hall at Providence. Can The Hall maintain their hot play on the road?
--Rutgers at Syracuse. Orange need to stop the hemorrhaging.
--UMass at Temple. The Owls need to avenge that 60-34 pasting that they took at UMass awhile back.
--Vanderbilt at Tennessee. Vandy needs it to get back into the bracket; Tennessee is now playing for seeding.