Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Thrill Is Gone

As you can tell by the lack of textual characters over the last few days, the thrill is gone for TBB. When the bracket is whittled down to the big-money teams (Xavier and Gonzaga are slightly less big money, but still...), as a fan, I care less. I am MUCH more into the stories and trials of teams like Morehead State, WKU, and Siena than I am who has enough future NBA players to cut down the nets. Heck, even comeback stories like Michigan intrigue me more than another year of Pitino, Coach K, UNC, and the usual suspects. I still enjoy the high-level basketball, but I'm not sure what I can add to the cacaphony at this stage.

That said, it is still the national championship! And, there are only two weekends left. Soak it in, for high humidity, BBQs, and unrelenting Yankee/Sawks storylines are coming. Well, not for me. I'll be busy trying to drum up support for Project Mockingbird, counting down the days til hoops practice and Blue Ribbon Yearbook, and whipping myself into a frenzy over WKU's stacked team next season.

Friday, March 20, 2009

NOT an Upset

WKU beat Illinois. I was not surprised. Most die-hard hoops fans probably were not surprised, either. They won the way they have won 16 of their last 18: sticky D, winning the boards, and grit. All five starters scored in double figures and all played massive roles in the win. It's what they do. Zags are up next in a much tougher match up for this Topper team.

TONS of stories out there. You can read some them here, here, here, and here. Go to nearly any sports sight and see a Hilltopper on the front page.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Game Day

No more bracketizing or lockboxing. No more One-Stopping. No more throwing dishes against the wall while listening to that hated (enter your most hated TV talking head or radio host). It's time for the national championship.

It's game day, and it starts at 11.20 AM CST with an 8/9 doozy in LSU/Butler: Power Conference regular season champ versus Mid-Major Powerhouse in a game the committee seeded as a virtual draw. Fifteen other games follow.

My team, the WKU Hilltoppers, meet Illinois in the night cap at 8.55 PM CST. The Illini will be without G Chester Frazier, their defensive engine.

I don't post my picks publically. Only my family (and maybe my students) sees those, as they will not judge me for picking WKU all the way or picking them to lose. I have made bracket picks for 24 straight years or so and it's a rite of Spring for me. But, it is usually done with my family on the couch in good fun. Nowadays, with the distance from the couch too great for all of us to meet easily, we use the newfangled World Wide Web (the internet, they call it) to have a family bracket group.

Enjoy the day. Storylines, overtimes, glory and heartbreak await.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On "Bracketology"

Technically, I guess the term "bracketology" is accurate, as "-ology" means "study of a branch of knowledge." "Bracketologists" do study the bracket, its history, its patterns, and its rules and regs (more accurately, its principles and precedures). But, in our culture, it also connotes "science" or a an academic discipline, and this is certainly not what "bracketology" is or does. Major media types build up their in-house bracketologists to be some sort of mathematics guru with access to formulas and complex equations that mere mortals cannot comprehend. It's just not true. Truth be told, "bracketology" is more art than science. It's more like picking the right job candidate from resumes/interviews than solving algebraic equations or using the scientific method to discover which teams are best.

Even the RPI is basic math. No one has to "solve" anything. It's a simple formula: win % x .25 [road wins weighted value is 1.4, home wins are 0.6], opponents' win % x .50, opponents' opponents' win % x .25. Add those three values. That's it. Beyond that, there is no math to be done. And the RPI is available in umpteen (technical math term) different forms online and is updated by the minute, or at least every day. Bracketologists do not even have to do the math that is involved.

When Joe Fan asks me, "How do you get the teams right?" my answer is this: 1) I've been doing this awhile, 2) I read the selection critieria, and 3) I've done the committee process five times. I understand what the committee aims to do. But, scientific it's not. Individual bracketologists are much more about trying to guess what a group of ten humans will do and there are always unknowns and quirks. Each committee differs a little in where it places its emphasis. Some years, finishing strong seems to matter more than in other years. This year, committee chair Mike Slive's magic phrase was "full body of work." This helps explain how Arizona got in (good early wins). It also explains how they were picked over Creighton and San Diego State, who were red hot teams before losing in their conference tourneys. Every committee is different. Knowing this also allows me to stay calm on Selection Sunday when the committee does not do what I think it "should."

If we must stick with the term "bracketology," then we must at least understand that this "science" is more like a TV meteorologist or economics columnist than chemist or mathemetician. Meteorology studies the "rules" of weather, and can get decent results predicting it, but it's far from exact. There is too much variation in natural weather patterns. Economics can use past and current trends and history to forecast the rise and fall of economic markets, but it is nowhere near exact in its prognostications. "Bracketology" is like that. We can study history and patterns of past committees and there are some constants, but projections and predictions are attempting to speak for a long, complex process performed by ten humans. I do think it's valuable because it helps me keep up with all conferences and the more I participate in the process, the better I understand it.

But, I have never mistaken myself for a scientist. Bracketology is a lot more about learning the process than it is "getting the bracket right." That's a fun game, but it's not the primary reason for doing it. The primary reason should be to better understand how our national championship bracket is birthed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Project Mockingbird

I would like to take the next couple of days to talk about "bracketology", it's purpose, and it's usefulness (?). Today, I want to focus on the mock committee experience and urge you to get out of the Lunardi Bubble and do the process.

My bracket projections are largely based on my mock committee experiences. I have been doing bracket projections since 1998, but 2002 was the real "Hallelujah Moment for" me. Jerry Palm of asked for volunteers/resumes to participate in a mock selection committee for the 01-02 season. I applied as the WKU "AD" and was selected to participate. We did all votes by email and all discussions on Yahoo! chat. No amount reading what I write or listening to "experts" is ever going to teach you as much as participating the process. It changed everything for me and for the folks on the SCKySSiP.

After that experience, I saw the formerly pseudo-evil, biased, mid-major-hating committee for what they are: a group of humans charged with a difficult task and destined to disappoint some teams and their fan bases. There is no such thing as a "perfect" bracket. Creighton, St. Mary's, Auburn, Providence, and San Diego State are bummin' today. But, it could have just as easily been Dayton, Maryland, or Arizona's fans. And swapping out any of those teams would not have made the bracket any more perfect or just.

The reason for this is because the committee does not choose teams in talks over brandy and cigars. It is done through a relentless series of votes based on what teams have done in their "full body of work" (phrase copyright Mike Slive, 2009). In fact, it's ENTIRELY possible that no committee member had Arizona "in" on their personal S-curve (list of 65 teams) and yet have the Wildcats get into the final bracket. How?

Let's say the committee is voting to add two teams to the bracket and it turns out that these are the last two teams IN (not that they would necessarily know this at the time--SCKySSiP certainly did not know that Dayton would be bumped by Miss State when we voted them IN). And, let's say three of the members ballots look like this:

Dayton, San Diego State, Arizona, Creighton, St. Mary's
Dayton, Creighton, Arizona, San Diego State, St. Mary's
Dayton, St. Mary's, Arizona, San Diego State, Creighton

In these lists of five (assigned point values of 1-5), Dayton has 3 points, SD State has 10, Arizona has 9, St. Mary's 12, and Creighton has 11. So, even though none of the three members have Arizona technically "IN" on their individual S-curve, Dayton and Arizona have the lowest vote totals and would go IN. Collectively, Arizona is #2 on this list.

Understanding this helps debunk the idea that some single member with an agenda can skew things disproportionately (nevermind the fact that they cannot participate in votes involving their own school). If there is any perceived unfairness or injustice toward "mid-majors," it's more the result of imbalanced budgets and scheduling than committee bias.

So, next season on TBB, let us start "Project Mockingbird." Let's get as many people as possible to replicate this process, not by guessing what the committee will do (which is fun, but amounts to guesswork, especially at the bottom), but by DOING the process with a group of people just like the actual committtee does and seeing what results. It is an exercise in tedium, voting, argumentation, voting, evaluation, voting, tedium, discussion, fun, voting, and numbers. You must read complex rules and regs, and orchestrate smooth voting procedures. You will need people who will commit to watching lots of games and join you in this mad process which has nothing to do with a beautiful pick-n-roll, intense full-court defense, an oily-smooth shooting stroke, or boxing out. It has everything to do with RPI, bracketing rules, pod assignments, and lower-level math. It can still be fun, but when it's over, you will be glad. I think I can speak for the SCKySSiP in that regard. We have a blast doing it, but by the 4,593rd vote, you are ready for it to be over. And you still have to assign pods!

I am not a champion of "bracketology" or the selection process. But, it is the system we have and it does birth The Bracket--the greatest championship in sports. For all it's flaws and soul-stripping resume evaluation, it is OUR process. So, I immerse myself in it not because it is perfect or righteous, but because it is the process used to create the championship tournament and should be understood by fans who care about it.

This is a call to do it. Anyone can slap together 65 teams and make a guess. It's good fun and it keeps me in touch with all 31 conferences. I love that about the Lockbox and bracket projections. But, next season, go the distance, put together a committee, and do the process. I guarantee that you will learn a lot and gain a new appreciation for the actual committee. I warn you that unless you keep the proper perspective, it can darken your soul. But, for me, engaging in the tedium only bright lines the goodness of the game bewteen the lines on the court. "Bracketology" is fun--but it's not basketball. Immersing myself in the selection process only heightens my appreciation for the sights, sounds, smells, and energy of watching my Hilltoppers in Diddle Arena and for a well-executed backdoor cut.

"Bracketology" should not be about how many teams you can "get right." Again, that's a fun game that I play pretty well, but it does not do much in the way of helping me or anyone else understand the committee process. Like just about anything else, the best way to learn and understand is to do it. So, here is a link the selection criteria. Read it (it's best in small chunks lest you lose your soul), find some other insane fans, and plan on doing it next season with the goal being understanding, NOT guesswork.

Monday, March 16, 2009


If this committee had taken St. Mary's or Creighton or San Diego State instead of Arizona, I would have practically no qualms. While Zona was pretty far away in my mind (5th or 6th OUT), they did beat San Diego State, Gonzaga, and Kansas in the non-conference (all at home, though). However, their best roadie was Oregon State and they played ONE true road game in the non-conference (a loss at Texas A&M). They ended with 5/6 losses, too.

That said, all teams vying for those last few slots were flawed, so no rant here. The committee is made up of 10 humans who take this very seriously and did a good job following the criteria otherwise. They obviously saw something in Arizona that most of us did not.

Beyond that, I was a little suprised that Wisconsin was a 12. Selection committee chair Mike Slive noted that the Badgers had to be moved due to "P&P" (principles and procedures), but even an 11 seems low for Wiscy.

Otherwise, no realm beef from me. I think Michigan State's resume is underappreciated, but I understand why they are a 2. They don't look as good as UConn.

Tomorrow: a fleshing out of the SCKySSiP Mock Committee process.

Wednesday: an essay on "bracketology."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Snap Reaction

A pretty good job by the committee given the criteria. Arizona IN is a puzzler to me, but the committee obviously valued heavy-hitting wins and Zona had some of those. That was my only miss. I had San Diego State in for them.

I missed Wisconsin by 3 seed lines. I missed 9 others by two. That means I had 55/65 exact or within one line if my quick count is accurate.

More tomorrow. I am taking tonight to savor WKU's 12-seed and draw against a team I think they match up pretty well with in Illinois.

Full SCKySSiP report tomorrow, too.

Final Bracket

Here is my final bracket.

1. I am in the tiny minority of folks who believe Michigan State will get that last one seed. Here's why. The Spartans won the #2 RPI league by FOUR full games. FOUR. Yes, they lost in their conference quarters. So did UConn. They are #5 RPI (UConn #8). They have 13 top 50 wins (UConn 8). OOC, they beat Kansas at home and Oklahoma State and Texas on neutral courts. UConn beat Gonzaga, Michigan and Wisconsin. Pretty similar there. UConn won neither their regular season or conference titles; Sparty won the Big Televen convincingly. It's very close in mind. I considered Memphis, but they just don't have the juice in their wins. Not enough good ones.

2. Mississippi State forced me to cut Creighton. SD State and Maryland have a much more positive aura from their conference tourneys. The Jays were blasted by 24 by Illinois State.

3. Last Four IN: Minnesota, Maryland, Dayton, San Diego State. First Four OUT: Creighton, St. Mary's, Penn State, Auburn

SCKySSiP Mock Selection Committee
Final Results
1. Three one seeds from the Big East. I obviously didn't vote that way, but that was the way the collective voting shook out.
2. Mississippi State's win cut Dayton here.
3. Last Four IN: San Diego State, Wisconsin, Maryland, Creighton. Next Two OUT: Dayton, St. Mary's. That's really as far as our voting got us. After that, it was a hodge-podge of the usual suspects with a smattering of votes (Auburn, Florida, Virginia Tech, Penn State...).

Once more, the SCKySSiP is a replication of the process, not a prediction of what the committee will do (what "bracketologists" do). We didn't give a flip about what the committee will do. This was DOING, not guessing. We simply followed their rules in an effort to understand how this bracket is created. Essay coming later this week on "bracketology."

40 mins away. This is my last update before it comes out.

(Semi) Final Bracket

Here is my (semi) final bracket. There is of course a contingency in case Mississippi State wins today. And, I'm not totally settled on a couple of seeds. I currently have Michigan State as the last 1-seed with UNC, Pitt, and Louisville. It may be UConn before the day is done. The Spartans won the #1 RPI league by two full games and have more top 50 wins than UConn. They both lost early than they had hoped in the conference tourney.

Here is the final SCKySSiP Mock Committee results. This is what our 9-person committee came up with by replicating the process.

More later on that.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

SCKySSiP Complete/Final Lockbox

It's late, but we're done. We have been voting, voting, voting, voting, voting since 3 pm today and the debate regarding the 1-seeds and the last slots was passionate. Remember, what our nine-member SCKySSiP team has done is replicate the process, NOT predict what the committee will do. There is a big difference. We don't care one iota what the committee thinks or does. We merely followed the rules as best we could and did the process to the best of our ability. That's much different than me or one of a gazillion other people trying to guess what the committee will do.

I will post the SCKySSiP bracket in the morning, but I can give you this much:

1 seeds: North Carolina, Pitt, Louisville, UConn (MUCH discussion of Michigan State and little for Memphis)

Last Four IN: San Diego State, Maryland, Creighton, Dayton. If Mississippi State beats Tennessee tomorrow, Dayton goes OUT.

I have updated the OSS. And, I will post my personal final projection tomorrow before the bracket comes out. I have updated the Lockbox, and I don't think I'll change my mind on who gets IN.

There are 4 Bubble slots in my mind and Maryland, Dayton, San Diego State, and Creighton have those in that order. If Mississippi State wins tomorrow, Creighton goes OUT. I will not be stunned to see Arizona, Florida, Penn State, Auburn, or St. Mary's in place of one of my last four IN. South Carolina or UNLV would raise my eyebrows, but I wouldn't fall over. It just depends on what this committee values. They are humans, and they are making complex decisions, not ones based solely on cold numbers.

That said, anyone else other than the teams listed above will shock me. Or, if someone not in those last four OUT gets left at home, I will be quite surprised.

Final version of my bracket and SCKySSiP results tomorrow.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Saturday Landscape

The OSS is up to date.

The SCKySSiP Mock Committee is rockin' along. We meet for our marathon session of hammering out the last few at-larges, seeding teams, and setting up Sunday contingencies all day tomorrow. I will post the fruits of our labor late tomorrow or early on Sunday.

Another bid went off the board today, as Temple and Duquesne (that's doo-KAYN for the unitiated) took out A10 faves Xavier and Dayton, respectively. Xavier is obviously IN. I moved the Flyers onto the Bubble as they sputtered a bit late, suffering some puzzling losses. They will have to sweat it out on Sunday. But, it did not cost them their bid in the Lockbox for the time being. It cost Florida. Not only is the Gators' profile spotty, but they simply have not looked like a tourney team in the times I have seen them. They go OUT, leaving the SEC with just two. More on that momentarily.

It is good seeing some teams roar late. Maryland has really helped themselves. Ohio State is now a lock. Tulsa and Auburn are doing everything they can. Southern Cal is rising from the ashes.

All that said, there are a number of scenarios that could result in erased available bids. In fact, by my count, the max number is seven. Here's a list to watch for results that could reduce the number of Bubble bids. Some of these are long shots, but some are feasible or have even already occurred (A10).

San Diego State vs Utah (MtWest Final). I like the Aztecs to get IN even if they lose, barring too many bids disappearing. But, their success means another Bubble team gets cut. The Bubble is rooting for Utah.

Tulsa vs Memphis (CUSA Final). Bubble Nation will break out their vintage Keith Lee jerseys and cheer for the Tigers.

Temple vs Duquesne (A10 Final). As mentioned above, this has already cut one. Remember what TBB said about the Owls WAAAAYYY back on December 18? Road warriors are they.

Baylor vs Missouri (Big 12 Final). The Bears are playing like the team we expected back in November. A Baylor wins steals another one from the Bubblers.

Utah State at Nevada (WAC Final). If the Aggies lose, it puts a highly regarded team on the Bubble. It's crowded enough without adding a 28-5 team to the mix. And this game is on Nevada's home court.

Southern Cal vs Arizona State (Pac 10 Final). USC has played their way back into the mix, and will swipe another Bubble bid if they hold on tonight and win tomorrow. Even if they lose, they will certainly be in the AL convo.

SEC Final Four. Back to the SEC. Their final four is quite intriguing. Tennessee and LSU have been known NCAA teams for quite some time. Auburn found its mojo in early Feb and has went 10-1 since. Mississippi State has won four straight and has the talent to win this thing. If one of the two upstarts win it, it takes another bid off the board. And it ensures that the SEC sends at least three teams.

Bracket Update 3/13

Updated bracket went like this at the bottom: Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State, Creighton, Florida, Maryland, and San Diego State IN and South Carolina, Arizona, Virginia Tech, New Mexico, Southern Cal, UNLV, Auburn, and Providence OUT. There were others on the board, but those are the ones I labored over.

Big 1-seed shake-ups, too. Today, it's North Carolina, Michigan State, Pitt, and Louisville.

Kentucky just gave up the ghost against LSU (I LOCKed the Tigers). A .500 record in the weak SEC, an RPI in the 70s, 4-8 in last 12, and generally not looking very good is not a profile of hope. If they miss (and it seems nearly certain), it will end a streak of 17 straight NCAAs (#3 longest currently). Oddly enough, the #1 streak is in jeopardy at Arizona, too. #2 Kansas' streak is safe.

VA Tech is definitely in the conversation, but they missed a golden opportunity to get UNC without Lawson.

Minnesota is Bubble, but seems to be on the good side right now. The Wisconsin/Ohio State has to be in good shape and even the loser is likely going.

Multi-Bid Conference Breakdown
Big Ten (8): Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State
Big East (7): UConn, Pitt, Louisville, Villanova, Marquette, Syracuse, West Virginia
ACC (7): North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest, Florida State, Boston College, Maryland
Big 12 (6): Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M
Pac-10 (4): Washington, UCLA, California, Arizona State
Mountain West (3): Utah, BYU, San Diego State
SEC (3): LSU, Tennessee, Florida
Atlantic 10 (2): Xavier, Dayton
Missouri Valley (2): Northern Iowa, Creighton
Horizon (2): Cleveland State, Butler

Friday Landscape

Bracket radio talk on 1340 AM The Ticket in Bowling Green today at 5 pm CT.

If I had known that The Cuse and UConn were going to play SIX (!) overtimes, I would have taken a nap and then awakened to watch the end instead of losing my battle with sleep in a commercial break somewhere in the middle of those OT's. WOW.

Lockbox Changes
--Oklahoma State has done enough. They are IN.
--I swapped New Mexico OUT and San Diego State IN. That may be temporary, as I will do a full bracket update later today. The Lobos finished strong, but lost to Wyoming last night. That's not a terrible sin, but their lack of success away from home coupled with their inability to take care of a first-round opponent on a neutral court really hurts the Lobos.
--3/4 of the Big Ten Bubble Boys won, so that league still has 8 teams very much in play and I'm pretty confident all 8 will be in the bracket update later.

--I mentioned New Mexico, but MtWest mate UNLV lost on their home court to a fellow Bubbler from their own conference. San Diego State finished two games ahead of them in the regular season, is now nearly 30 slots in front of them in the RPI, and beat them in the conference tourney. UNLV also finished by losing 4/6. They had a good season, but probably not good enough to overcome all that.
--Arizona needed a win. They turn in their resume having lost 5/6 to close.
--Rhode Island gave way to Duquesne. They follow their red-hot stretch in February by losing home to UMass and neutral to Duquesne. That kills.

--All four SEC Bubble teams are in action today. Auburn and Florida play one another; Kentucky gets LSU; South Carolina faces Mississippi State. Every team on that list except LSU feels like they MUST win. Should make for high drama.
--Big Ten is in a similar state. All the games are quite meaningful, although most of the Big Ten Bubble Boys have a little more room for error.
--ACC has Maryland and VA Tech playing for their lives with BC trying to seal a bid vs Duke.
--San Diego State could really make a push with a win over BYU.
--Temple makes a stand vs Xavier in a must win for the Owls.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thursday Updates

2.40 pm
--Northwestern is probably stuck as a "near miss" after losing handily to Minnesota.
--Kentucky came through in a must win. They need more, though.
--Providence will sweat for three days after bowing out to BEast 1-seed Louisville.
--Kansas cost themselves a seed line or two with a loss to the 9-seed in their own conference.
--Michigan and Temple have built huge leads at half. VA Tech also TCB vs Miami-FL, who will lobby and hope but is likely NITting. Xavier cruised over SLU as well.
--Villanova is looking to secure that high seed and is +16 on Marquette, who just hasn't been the same without James. They could slip into a dreaded 8/9 game if they don't make a comeback here.
--MtWest #1 BYU has not been able to shake Air Force, and in fact is down 3 at half.
--Currently, Clemson is -9 vs last-place ACC GA Tech (9 mins left to play). A loss to the Jackets would be costly given their sputtering finish.

Thursday Landscape

Below this post is an essay about the yearly rites of the NCAA tourney. Read it if you like.

Also, if you want to talk bracket on the radio with TBB, you can listen here:
Friday, Mar 13, 5 pm CST: Bowling Green's The Ticket, 1340 AM with the Sports Guys
Saturday, Mar 14, 10 am CST: 1450 AM Bowling Green, 1230 Glasgow (Kentucky)

--The OSS is updated through last night's games.
--I took Notre Dame out of the Lockbox. They will be NITting.
--Conference tourney fever reaches it height today as every tourney not already underway begins today. There's so many big games, it warrants a GOI.

Today's GOI
--Virginia vs Boston College. Eagles are in good shape, but a loss here would put them on the Bubble.
--NC State vs Maryland. Terps need a deep, strong run.
--Richmond vs Dayton. Flyers need to win a couple to feel totally safe.
--Duquesne vs Rhode Island. That loss to UMass badly damaged the Rams. They need a strong run and may need to win the whole thing.
--Saint Joseph's vs Temple. Anything but a trip to the finals and a good showing there kills the Owls.
--Oklahoma State at Oklahoma. Cowboys are in decent shape, but a win here would clinch it.
--Providence at Louisville. Friars can make huge hay with a win.
--Iowa vs Michigan. Wolverines cannot lose this one.
--Northwestern vs Minnesota. A win puts the Gophers in great shape, a loss puts them squarely on the Bubble. Wildcats have to have it.
--Indiana at Penn State. Lions can't afford a loss to IU.
--Wyoming vs New Mexico. Lobos need a big run.
--San Diego State at UNLV. Loser is probably done.
--Arizona at Arizona State. Cats could really use another win or two. A loss and they will be right on the fence.
--Southern Cal vs Cal. Trojans need a strong tourney showing.
--Mississippi vs Kentucky. UK needs multiple wins to have any shot.

With Madness Comes Sanity

Every NCAA Tournament brings with it wild hope and excitement for all 65 teams. A few elite teams look at their protected seed and see how much resistance they might meet before they get to the supposed sure-fire Elite Eight or Final Four (North Carolina, UConn, Oklahoma, Pitt). A big chunk of teams see tough match ups in the first round and fret over playing a team that they know little about in just four or five days. Others are simply happy to be in the bracket and await their chance to make history by upsetting some power conference stalwart in a 14-over-3 upset. Regardless of a team’s view of their place in Bracketville, the themes are accomplishment, electricity, anticipation, and a chance for glory.

Fans of all stripes will undoubtedly work themselves into a rich lather over what could be in store for their respective teams, but amid all the dreams of unknown splendor reside some constants that never change from year to year. Here lay the old souls of Bracketville that are always sitting at the barber shop or the lunch counter every season drinking coffee and telling all the youngsters about how the more things change, the more they stay the same. They are the cool, sane, steady constants of this once-a-year storm of excitement commonly known as March Madness.

Not many At-Large teams from non-power conferences
Bank on it: the lion’s share (and it’s a big, ferocious, man-eating lion this season) of At-Large bids will go to teams from power/BCS/”major” conferences. In fact, the only teams outside of the Big 6 plus the Mountain West and CUSA (the “power” conferences) that stand much of a chance at an At-Large bid this season are Butler, Xavier, Dayton, Gonzaga, Utah State, Davidson, Temple, Creighton, Rhode Island, and St. Mary’s. That’s it—and that is being quite generous in a few of those cases. If a number of those teams win their conference tourneys and do not need an At-Large bid, it could result in the smallest number of non-power At-Large teams in many years.

Since the RPI formula changed in 2005 to weight road games more heavily, 25 non-power conference teams have been awarded At-Large bids for an average of just over six per year. That means about 28/34 At-large teams come from power conferences. So called “mid-majors” will be fortunate to get that many this year. It does not look likely unless teams like Butler, Xavier, and Utah State lose in their conference tourneys.

Tirades about conference quotas
Teams get bids not conferences. There is no set number of bids for each conference—never has been. Recently, Kyle Whelliston of (and Hoopdom’s Mid-Major Czar) participated in the mock selection committee held for journalists to help the public understand the process. He noted that late in the process, he realized that no one had any idea how many teams were “in” from each conference. The committee looks at team profiles when making decisions. The question, “How many are in from the Big East?” simply does not come up. The ACC, ESPN’s darling conference, sent just three teams in 2000. They have sent as many as seven. It depends on the year and a team’s conference name alone does not help them get into the bracket.

Outrage from media types and fans
It happens every year. Dickie V will pick his case or two. So will Digger Phelps. Billy Packer retired, so hoop nation will be spared his C. Montgomery Burns-like-venom-spewing session directed at the committee chair this season. But many fans will unleash a red-faced, vein-bulging, profanity-laced tirade aimed at their television when their team is left out. The reality is that if a team is left out, they had a fatal flaw of some sort, or else ten experts would have voted them into the bracket. Folks can debate if their #35 or #36 best At-Large team should have gotten in over #34, but at the bottom of the bracket, the argument is almost always about which team is the least flawed and not about how X team “deserves” to get in.

Anointing of a Cinderella
“Cinderella.” Sometimes it fits the bill, like when a team seems coated with pixie dust and gets a lot of lucky breaks helping them to upend a couple of higher seeds. But, more often, it is assigned to teams in an effort to create a nice storyline for the media. Truthfully, if a team won their conference tourney and then makes a run in the national championship bracket, then they are likely a good basketball team. Just because they do not play in a TV conference does not mean they are not good, and just because Joe Fan cannot name any of their players does not mean they could not have competed in one of the power conferences. Appreciate the so-called “Cinderallas” for what they are: good teams that few people knew anything about or possible underachieving teams that put it together late. Was WKU a Cinderalla last year? NO! Anyone who watched WKU over the last 15 games knew this was a top-20 level team. Save the term for when it fits.

Buds of Spring
Finally, the tournament season comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. What begins in tumultuous March weather (I got snowed in on Monday and sunburned on Friday during my 1998 Spring Break in Washington, DC) will end in the warmer April showers of real, live Spring. The NCAA Tournament not only culminates a long winter of over 10,000 DI college basketball games, but launches the sports world into thoughts of days at the diamond-shaped ballpark, the Masters, and the rediscovery of the fresh, greening outdoors. In sports world, we put winter to bed with the most democratic championship in sports.

And that is the madness of March—the cool, constant, soothing, dependable madness. It does not matter if the jersey says North Carolina or Western Carolina, Duke or Drake, Syracuse or Binghamton. If a team wins their conference tourney and wins six games in the NCAA Tourney, they will be the national champion. Just like the discussed points above, it happens every year. Therefore, I have a hard time calling it “March Madness.” In fact, is the sanest championship in sports.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bracket Update 3/11

The new bracket is really just a tweak of Wed's. But, there are substantive changes in the auto bids. The 11-16 seeds had to be shifted a bit. And, with Butler's loss, St. Mary's is out.

2.40 pm
So far today, Providence did what they had to do and beat DePaul. Now, if they can beat Louisville, they might be in business. Marquette is absolutely undressing St. John's. It's 38-10 at half.

And I'm still on a high from the WKU win last night that clinched the Belt bid.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday Night Music Club

These three earned bids tonight: WKU (Sun Belt), North Dakota State (Summit), and Cleveland State (Horizon). That last one cost some Bubble team an invite, and in the updated Lockbox, that team was St. Mary's. Full bracket update tomorrow.

Cleveland State played nip-and-tuck on Butler's home court before pulling it out late. ND State overcame a 10-pt deficit late as Ben Woodside's jumper with 3 seconds left lifted the Bison into the bracket in their first year of DI full eligibility. WKU built a 15-pt first half lead only to see South Alabama storm back to take a 4-pt advantage midway through the 2nd half. The Toppers methodically cranked up the D again and made every free throw they took in the game (!) to salt it away.

Given all that, the real shocker of the night was Weber State losing on their home court to #6 seed Montana State in the Big Sky. They went 15-1 in league, won it by a full FOUR games, and had won 12 straight. The only loss? A home loss to Montana State. Just like tonight.

The OSS is complete through tonight's games. Things get wild tomorrow. Aforementioned Montana State will play Portland State for the Big Sky bid. Mt. St. Mary's travels to Robert Morris to decide the Northeast rep, too. Big East and MEAC round twos are happening. The A-10, Big 12, Big West, CUSA, Mountain West, Pac-10, and SWAC all get going as well.

The most intriguing game outside of the bid games is probably Notre Dame vs West Virginia. A loss kills ND for good. A win puts them back in the convo. They are 6-3 in their last nine including a POUNDING of Louisville and a rout of Providence at the Donut.

Tuesday Landscape

--The OSS is up to date.
--Congrats Siena (MAAC) and Gonzaga (WCC). They joined Chattonooga and VCU as auto bids last night, Gonzaga doing so in devastating fashion over St. Mary's. Devastating enough to kill St. Mary's AL chances? They are certainly an interesting case for the committee.
--It's bid day for three conferences:
1. Cleveland State at Butler (Horizon). These two played just ten days ago in Hinkle in a down-to-the-wire affair. Bubble Nation is praying for Butler to win.
2. Oakland vs North Dakota State (Summit). The Bison are 17-1 in their last 18 and have only lost two games this calendar year. One of those was at Oakland by 1. They beat the Super Golden Crisp Grizzlies by 10 at home. The Grizz have won 9 in a row of their own.
3. WKU vs South Alabama (Sun Belt). After a year of relative parity in the Belt, it comes down to two old stalwarts. WKU beat USA twice in the regular season (by 12 at home, 3 at South AL), but both were close most of the way. WKU is 14-2 to end the season (6 straight) while USA is 8-2 in their last 10.
--In other action, the Big Sky semis, MEAC first round, and WAC first round are on tap. The MAC and Big East also get things started today.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Monday Updates

9.33 pm CT
--Congrats to VCU (CAA) and Chattanooga (SoCon). They punched their tickets tonight.
--In the Belt, WKU won a war of attrition with North Texas that left its mark, literally and figuratively. It was a rough-and-tumble game, but North Texas found out it's difficult to outwork and out-battle the Hilltoppers. You simply have to be better and the Mean Green's hot early shooting left them late in the game. WKU gets the winner of South Alabama and pseudo-home team UALR and Team USA is all over them to start 15-3. UALR is having one of it's occasional offensive clunkers. Their D will probably get them back in it.
--Meanwhile, Siena and Niagara are in a lockjaw affair over in the MAAC final while Gonzaga is cruising up 20 over St. Mary's. Looks like thumb-twiddling time for the Gaels.

SCKySSiP Update
Our mock committee turned in our first lists today: At-Large list (teams who are already IN) and our Nomination board. We voted 26 teams IN, but a number of those will win their conference tourneys, so it's less AL teams than that.

Bracket Update 3/9

It's wild, wild stuff at the bottom of today's bracket. I think there are STILL 8 spots in danger, but I took Penn State, Minnesota, Michigan, Creighton, St. Mary's, New Mexico, Florida, and Arizona. There are a gaggle of teams I could easily swap out including South Carolina, Miami-FL, UNLV, San Diego State and Maryland. There were a number of others on the board, too.

At the top, I think Michigan State has earned a 1 if they win the Big Televen tourney. They have a full three more top 50 RPI wins than any other team in the country as of today.

Multi-Bid Conference Breakdown
Big Ten (8): Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State
Big East (7): UConn, Pitt, Louisville, Villanova, Marquette, Syracuse, West Virginia
ACC (6): North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest, Florida State, Boston College
Big 12 (6): Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M
Pac-10 (5): Washington, UCLA, California, Arizona State, Arizona
Mountain West (3): Utah, BYU, New Mexico
SEC (3): LSU, Tennessee, Florida
Atlantic 10 (2): Xavier, Dayton
Missouri Valley (2): Northern Iowa, Creighton
West Coast (2): Gonzaga, St. Mary's

I made some adjustments to the Lockbox, too. No longer are blue teams "win games they should," but more "needs to win a game two to feel secure." These teams are not likely to miss, but let's face it, Wisconsin, Dayton, BC, Ohio State...these teams will not sleep easy if they lose their first tourney game. They are likely IN, but can seal the deal with one more victory. The Bubble is still at 8 slots today, although a couple of teams could fall back onto it with poor tourney showings. It's a huge Bubble for this late in the game.

T-Minus 6 days

1. The One Stop Shop is updated through last night and all other tourney brackets are now set.
2. Bracket and lockbox updates coming this afternoon.
3. Bid Games today:
--George Mason vs VCU (Colonial)
--Niagara vs Siena (MAAC)
--College of Charleston at Chattanooga (SoCon)
--St. Mary's vs Gonzaga (West Coast)

Bubble nation is rooting hard for Siena and a blowout loss for St. Mary's.

Other games today: Sun Belt and Summit semis.

More this afternoon.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sunday Updates

4.10 pm
--Congrats, Northern Iowa! The Panthers escaped an Osiris Eldridge barrage from Illinois State and will rep the Valley.
--WKU held FIU at arms length and pulled away late in the first of four Sun Belt quarters today.
--Michigan State leaned on Purdue in the 2nd half and is really pushing for a 1-seed now.
--VA Tech lost to FSU, so they are going to need a monster ACC tourney run.
--Tennessee kept up the absolute staunch mediocrity of the SEC East by losing at home to Alabama to close this season. This may help South Carolina since they finish in a tie with the Vols, even though Tennessee wins the tie breaker.

6.50 am
--There are four bids taken now as East Tennessee State (ASUN), Morehead State (OVC), and Radford (Big South) all won auto bids yesterday. They join Cornell at the party. The OSS is up to date.
--After wins yesterday, I LOCKed Utah and BYU in the Lockbox. I also moved Rhode Island out and Michigan in. That's the only sure-fire change I can make today before further evaluation. Full bracket tomorrow a/noon.
--Louisville is your Big East champ, and with a strong tourney, they are going to be in the 1-seed mix.
--One bid game today: MVC championship. Illinois State ripped Creighton by 24 yesterday, sending the Jays into an 8-day sweat and causing Bubble Nation to get even more nervy. ISU will take on 1-seed Northern Iowa who disposed of Bradley by 16 in the other semi.
--Sun Belt starts quarterfinal action today and the America East, CAA, MAAC, Patriot, Southern and West Coast have semis going. There are also two quarterfinal games in the Summit.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Saturday Updates

2.10 pm
--OSS is updated.
--VCU is through to the CAA semis.
--Michigan strengthened their case and pushed Minnesota firmly onto the Bubble by winning at The Barn.
--Pitt did themselves (and Louisville) a big favor by beating UConn. UL can win the BEAST outright with a win at West Virginia tonight.
--Miami-FL stayed alive by beating NC State.
--Seton Hall extinguished Cincinnati's slim AL hopes.
--BC is all but IN after squeaking past GA Tech.
--Mizzou is getting taken behind Grandpa's shed by Texas A&M at half (51-29!). Unless they Aggies collapse, this will LOCK them in.
--Kentucky nor Florida look like NCAA teams to me based on the first half.

Friday, March 06, 2009

First Ticket Punched

Cornell gets the first ticket. They wasted Penn tonight and Princeton got rolled up by Columbia giving the Big Red a +2 advantage with one game to play. I have put them into the Auto Bid sheet in the updated One Stop Shop through Friday night's games.

And Bubbleland breathed a collective sigh as Booker Woodfox's last second jumper had eyes and saved Creighton's bacon after they had frittered away a huge second half lead vs Wichita State in a Valley quarterfinal game.

Saturday's Bid Games
A-Sun: Jacksonville vs East Tenn State
Big South: VMI at Radford
OVC: Morehead State vs Austin Peay

Bracket Update 3/6

Lots of new blood at the bottom today's bracket. Florida, Providence, and South Carolina out; Rhode Island, New Mexico and Creighton in (sort of). Creighton has been showing up as the auto bid, but my rule is that the 1-seed in the conference tourney gets the projected auto bid. That's not Creighton in the Valley tourney, it's UNI. So, Creighton grabbed one of the final AL slots.

The Bubble is bigger than 6 slots, but I feel like 6 were truly up for grabs. I took Creighton, Maryland, Arizona, UNLV, Rhode Island, and New Mexico over Michigan, Northwestern, Providence, Miami-FL, St. Mary's, South Carolina, and Florida. There are a few more teams out on the fringe, but they need big-time finishes to jump these teams.

It's hard to imagine the SEC only getting two teams in, but they have worked very hard on their collective mediocrity and may get rewarded justly. Kentucky's RPI is 79 today, so they are going to need a big finish. South Carolina lacks anything resembling a big win and Florida is languishing home having lost 6/9. Auburn is getting some talk, but they are a long, long shot. Tough times for the SEC.

Interestingly, the SEC commissioner is this year's selection committee chair. That's a neutral statement, but an intriguing one nonetheless.

Multi-Bid Conference Breakdown
ACC (7): North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest, Florida State, Boston College, Maryland
Big East (7): UConn, Pitt, Louisville, Villanova, Marquette, Syracuse, West Virginia
Big Ten (7): Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State
Big 12 (6): Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M
Pac-10 (5): Washington, UCLA, California, Arizona State, Arizona
Mountain West (4): Utah, BYU, UNLV, New Mexico
Atlantic 10 (3): Xavier, Dayton, Rhode Island
Missouri Valley (2): Northern Iowa, Creighton
SEC (2): LSU, Tennessee

LOCKS, Tourneys, Weekend Forecast

Bracket coming later today.

After wins last night, I LOCKed UCLA and Cal in the Lockbox. I also LOCKed West Virginia and Syracuse.

The A-Sun's top 4 are through as are the Big South's top two (bid game on Sat!). The higher seeds are now 27-5 this season and we are still waiting on the first big upset. See all the brackets in the One Stop Shop.

Last Night's GOI
--Cal 83, at Arizona 77. Bad time of the year to lose four in a row, Zona. They must hold at home vs Stanford this weekend and should probably win a Pac 10 tourney game to be safe.
--at Penn State 64, Illinois 63. A Bubble who wins when the chips are down does mucho goodness for themselves right now.
--Tennessee 86, at South Carolina 70. Vols win the East #1 seed and may have knocked out the Gamecocks. USC East lacks ANY wins against the RPI top 50 or any team projected to be in the bracket!!! They also lacked any semblance of discipline, rebounding or shot selection. With the nation (and the committee) watching, they looked terrible. Gamecocks will need to win at Georgia and make a run in the SEC tourney.
--at Temple 68, Saint Joseph's 59. Owls keep their hopes on life support.
--at Villanova 97, Providence 80. Friars may not have lost much ground with this loss, but they missed a chance to solidify themselves. They will need some Big East tourney wins.
--at Xavier 76, Dayton 59. X clinched a share of the A10 title. Flyers are probably OK if they hold serve vs Duquesne this weekend and avoid a bad loss in the A10 tourney.


--Penn at Cornell. The Big Red play two games this weekend. Win both and they get the Ivy bid. Princeton is one game back while Yale and Dartmouth are two behind.
--St. John's at Notre Dame. Irish need to win out to the Big East final for any hope.
--Conference tourneys in action: America East, A-Sun, Colonial, Horizon, MAAC, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, Southern and West Coast.
--VMI at Radford. Big South Auto Bid!
--Stanford at Arizona. Cats need to stop the bleeding.
--Conference tourneys: AmEast, Big Sky, Colonial, Horizon, MAAC, Southern, Summit, West Coast
--Cal at Arizona State. Devils are also on a skid that needs to end.
--LSU at Auburn. A win by the Tigers could get them some attention, although the non-conf train wreck is probably too much to overcome.
--Georgia Tech at Boston College. Eagles cannot afford a slip of this magnitude.
--Seton Hall at Cincinnati. Bearcats are going to need several in a row.
--Duquesne at Dayton. Flyers need to hold serve to stay away from the Bubble.
--Kentucky at Florida. Both playing for their lives...and both probably need more than this win.
--Temple at George Washington. Owls slim hopes rest on winning out to the A10 final.
--South Carolina at Georgia. Gamecocks are in must-win mode.
--Penn State at Iowa. Lions need to consolidate that big win over Illinois.
--Texas at Kansas. Both need it for seeding purposes.
--Syracuse at Marquette. Seeding.
--Purdue at Michigan State. Sparty has designs on a 1-seed.
--Michigan at Minnesota. Wolverines need it more, but this would put Minnesota in great shape.
--Oklahoma State at Oklahoma. Sooners try to hold their 1-seed while the Cowboys play to lock themselves IN.
--UConn at Pitt. HUGE Big East and 1-seed implications. Your Harry Hamlin Clash of the Titans Game of the Weekend.
--UMass at Rhode Island. Red-hot Rams need to keep stacking up wins to have hope.
--UNLV at San Diego State. Tough game for the very Bubbly Rebels. Aztecs could get into the convo with a win.
--Missouri at Texas A&M. Seeding mostly.
--TCU at Utah. Utes can clinch a share of MWC.
--Maryland at Virginia. Terps cannot afford a loss here.
--Louisville at West Virginia. Cards are playing for a piece of the Big East title and a 1-seed.
--Indiana at Wisconsin. Badgers have to hold this one.
--Washington State at Washington. Huskies can clinch the Pac 10 title.
--Virginia Tech at Florida State. Hokies need a very strong finish.
--Duke at North Carolina. ACC title and 1-seed implications.
--Northwestern at Ohio State. Classic Bubble game, with NWern needing it more.
--Clemson at Wake Forest. ACC and high seed implications.
Conference tourneys: Northeast, Patriot, Summit, Sun Belt, West Coast

Thursday, March 05, 2009

More Chalk (But No Rock Chalk Jayhawk)

Lockbox has been updated. New full bracket update tomorrow.

And we had a horse come off the pace and grab my last at-large slot today: Rhode Island. The Rams have some deficiencies, but Miami-FL, Florida and Kentucky spit the bit last night. Cincinnati did so on Tuesday. Michigan, Northwestern, San Diego State...just as many holes and they don't have the cap feather of being hotter than a $2 pistol at the moment. The Rams are. The #48 RPI is acceptable. They are 10-1 in their last 11 and have won six straight, including one over Dayton with whom they are tied for 2nd in the A10. They have played FOURTEEN true road games and won 9 of them. They might have a hard time staying in, but today they look better than a lot of floundering Bubble Boys.

The Bubble by the Numbers
--31 Automatic Bids. That number will not change this season.
--34 At-Large Bids. That also is a static number.
--29 teams are LOCKS or listed in black. The black teams could miss, but at this stage it would be extremely surprising if they did. It would take a real meltdown to miss at this stage.
--I have 7 other teams listed in blue (I upgraded OK State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, BYU, and Minnesota and downgraded Boston College to "Bubble IN" today) which means they are on their way, but still have a little work to do. Of these 36 black and blue teams, 11 are conference leaders. That means 25 at-large slots look fairly secure at this stage.
--Hence, the Bubble stands at 9 slots right now. That's down two from last week. This will shrink over the coming days, and on Selection Sunday it is usually no more than four or five. Teams in green are Bubble-IN and those in red are Bubble-OUT.

The other big news from last night was the Bubble bloodbath that occurred in the SEC and Kansas' damaging loss at Texas Tech. Actually, the bigger news is that some teams had their seasons ended. Let's get to that.

The A-Sun and Big South continue, while the Valley and Northeast crank it up.

Last night's games have been updated in the One Stop Shop. The chalk was pretty good again, going 8-2 and making the running tally 19-3 for higher seeds. One of those "upsets" was in the Sun Belt as #9 FIU nipped #8 UL-Lafayette by 2. FIU has had some injuries this season and is much healthier now, so this was an upset in seed only. FIU is a better team.

Missouri Valley
It was all Northern Iowa for a long time, but Creighton remembered who they were and close hard. UNI still won the tie-breaker and kept the won seed. Illinois State is the #3 and has an outside shot, but it would be surprising if UNI or Creighton did not take this one. And, the Jays are hot, winners of 10 straight, and the favorite.

Robert Morris dominated this league for most of the season. They were 13-1 before stumbling in a couple of game and haven't really crush teams in their last two. So, the door is open, but the Colonials are the fave. Mt. St. Mary's, Long Island, and Sacred Heart logjammed in a tie for 2nd.

Last Night's GOI
--Texas A&M 72, at Colorado 66. Aggies avoid disaster.
--Georgia 90, at Kentucky 85. Wildcats find disaster. Gonna need a BIG run here at the end.
--at Minnesota 51, Wisconsin 46. Gophers stay on the good side.
--at Mississippi State 80, Florida 71. Gators will have to win at home vs Kentucky and may need a win or two in the SEC tourney.
--at Missouri 73, Oklahoma 64. This huge win allowed Mizzou to hold out hope for a share of the Big 12 crown as Kansas crashed and burned at Texas Tech. Weird, wild stuff.
--at NC State 74, Boston College 69. Eagles cannot stand not being on the Bubble.
--at Pitt 90, Marquette 75. Panthers strengthen their 1-seed hand.
--Northwestern 64, at Purdue 61. Wildcats get right back in the mix by scoring a huge win while much of the Bubble faltered.
-- at UTEP 70, UAB 52. Blazers must win CUSA tourney.
--North Carolina 86, at Virginia Tech 78. Hokies probably need to beat FSU and make a little run in the ACC tourney.

Tonight's GOI
--Cal at Arizona. Cats really need to hold serve at home in these last two games lest they slide out.
--Illinois at Penn State. Lions cannot afford losses of any sort due to their bad RPI for an AL team (#66 today).
--Tennessee at South Carolina. Hard to imagine a bigger game. SEC East title on the line, as the winner will have a one game lead going into their final game this weekend. If UTenn wins, they win the tie-breaker by sweeping SCar. SCar is playing for their NCAA lives. Tennessee is trying to stay off the Bubble. It's BIG.
--Saint Joseph's at Temple. Owls have to win out to the A10 final to hold even slim AL hopes.
--Providence at Villanova. Friars could do themselves a lot of good with a monster road win.
--Dayton at Xavier. X has their nose in front, but would fall into a three way tie for first with a loss. Dayton is trying to stay off the Bubble.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Updates and Chalk

I tweaked the bracket today, dropping Cincinnati out and putting in South Carolina. I considered dropping Maryland out, but left them in. Michigan and Miami-FL were the two I was most strongly considering. New bracket on Friday.

I moved OK State to blue in the Lockbox.

Last night was, in a word, "chalky" in the conference tourneys as the higher seeds went 11-1. See results for the Big South, Horizon, and OVC in the One Stop Shop.

More action tonight as the Atlantic Sun, Patriot and Sun Belt get things going.

Atlantic Sun
Jacksonville, Belmont, and East Tennessee State have traded the lead all season, but the Jax earned the 1-seed bye. Lipscomb has come on strong at the end and could play spoiler.

American has dominated and is far away the best team by nearly any measure. They lost just one league game at #2 seed Holy Cross. They are a heavy favorite, but the Crusaders played them tough at American, too.

Sun Belt
If you follow this site, you should know the story in the Belt. The top three seeds really separated themselves this season. WKU, UALR, and Troy all have a good shot to win this thing. WKU has probably played the best lately, but UALR has the pseudo-home court (Hot Springs, AR). Troy is 12-1 in their last 13. It would be surprising if one of those three did not come away with the tourney title.

Last Night's GOI
--Auburn 77, at Alabama 73. The Tigers just sewed up the West #2 seed and secured a bye in the SEC tourney. They have won 8/9 including three road games.
--at Duke 84, Florida State 81. Devils scratch out a tough one at home.
--Michigan State 64, at Indiana 59. Despite a game effort from IU, Sparty is your 2009 Big Ten champion.
--Ohio State 60, at Iowa 58. With the Bubble looming and a significant 2nd half deficit in place, the Buckeyes regrouped and clawed out a hard-fought road win.
--at New Mexico 77, Utah 71. Lobos are officially a factor in the AL picture. Their RPI is up to 63 and they are 11-3 in their last 14 with wins over BYU and Utah.
--Wake Forest 65, at Maryland 63. Terps let another big fish wriggle off the hook in a home game.
--at Oklahoma State 77, Kansas State 71. OK State is in decent position now having won six straight. A loss at Oklahoma won't kill them. One win in the Big 12 would put them in nice shape.
--at South Florida 70, Cincinnati 59. Just can't do this as a Bubble. Bearcats have now dropped 4/5 and are going to need to beat SHU and have a nice run in the Bif East tourney.
--at St. John's 59, Georgetown 56 (OT). Hoyas now trail Seton Hall in the Big East standings. They will have to win the conference tourney.

Tonight's GOI
--Texas A&M at Colorado. Aggies are in decent shape, but cannot afford a loss to the lowly Buffs.
--Georgia at Kentucky. Wildcats must win this one.
--Wisconsin at Minnesota. Neither team is totally solid, but a home loss for the Gophers would make them sub-.500 in league play and make them very Bubbly.
--Florida at Mississippi State. Gators cannot afford any losses right now.
--Oklahoma at Missouri. Titanic match up.
--Boston College at NC State. Eagles will be in good shape with a win here.
--Marquette at Pitt. Big seeding implications for both Big East and NCAA tourneys.
--Northwestern at Purdue. Wildcats have two tough roadies left and probably need to win both to get have a realistic shot.
--UAB at UTEP. Blazers slim hopes rest on winning out to the CUSA final.
--North Carolina at Virginia Tech. Hokies need at least a split this one and the finale (at FSU).

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Conference Tourneys: ENGAGE!

Three conference tourneys get underway tonight, and here's the lowdown on these early birds.

Big South. This is the time when normally we pencil "Winthrop" into the NCAA bracket. Not this year. It was a dogfight between Radford and VMI during the regular season with the Highlanders coming out on top. They had won 9 games in a row before losing their season finale at home to Liberty by 7...a team VMI decapitated by 37 not one week earier. Radford and VMI are the faves, but beware aforementioned Liberty (#3 seed) and familiar Winthrop, a team that has won five straight.

Horizon. Bubbleland is praying Butler comes through this bracket. And, while they will have the advantage playing at home if they win, there are plenty of worthy challengers. Cleveland State nearly missed getting them in Hinkle last weekend. UW-Green Bay (who beat Butler this season) and Wright State are also worthy challengers. UW-Milwaukee and even Loyola-Chi nipped the Bulldogs in the regular season. Butler is the clear favorite, but do not be suprised if one of the other quality teams in the Horizon gets through. And Bubbleworld will groan, because Butler will nab an AL bid if they lose.

Ohio Valley. While I follow the Sun Belt more closely, the conference with the closest geographical center to my residence is the OVC. Sure, the usual players have a good shot to dance, your Murray States, your Austin Peays, etc. But the theme this year in the OVC is "new blood." Morehead State led this league for a good stretch of the season and has had its best season in years. Tennessee state, once 3-9 in the league, has run off six straight wins at the end including a triumph AT Austin Peay! And, the 1-seed is UT-Martin, led by future NBA player Lester Hudson. UT-M has to be considered the slight favorite, but this one feels wide open.

In other news:
I LOCKed Texas after their win last night. A loss at Kansas and a first-round exit in the Big 12 tourney is not enough to knock them out at this point. Longhorns are IN.

Last Night's GOI
--Villanova 77, at Notre Dame 60. Irish are going to have to do it the hard way. They VERY hard way in the Big East tourney.
--at Texas 73, Baylor 57. Bears have a fork in their back. They will need to win the Big 12 tourney.

Tonight's GOI
--Auburn at Alabama. I don't know how many people are paying attention to the Tigers, and they have little shot at an AL bid. But, they have won won 7/8 with the loss to LSU by 7. They beat Tennessee by one, and the other six wins have been by double digits, two of those on the road. Win here, and they will secure the West #2 seed in the SEC, gain a bye, and be a dangerous team in the SEC tourney.
--Florida State at Duke. A whole mess o' conference and NCAA seeding implications.
--Michigan State at Indiana. Sparty can clinch the Big 10 title with a win.
--Ohio State at Iowa. Buckeyes are not Bubble...but they will be if they lose here.
--Utah at New Mexico. Lobos can pull into a tie for the MWC lead with a win, and strengthen their AL case. Utes can clinch a share of the league title.
--Wake Forest at Maryland. Terps need wins to stay Bubble-IN. They have a must win coming up on Sat at Virginia.
--Kansas State at Oklahoma State. K-State needs it much more between these two Bubblers. Both need it, though.
--Cincinnati at South Florida. A loss here would be quite damaging to the smack-on-the-Bubble Bearcats.
--Georgetown at St. John's. Hoyas continue in must-win mode.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Bracket 3/2

New bracket is up. The battle for those last few slots shook out like this:

IN: Arizona, Maryland, Penn State, UNLV, Florida, Cincinnati, Providence

OUT: South Carolina, Miami-FL, Virginia Tech, Kentucky, Michigan, Rhode Island, Kansas State, St. Mary's, San Diego State, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Temple, New Mexico, UAB

I think that's most if not all of the teams that I considered for more than a second or two.

The One Stop Shop has also been updated to reflect clinched seeds, and several conference tourney brackets are filled are ready to go! The Horizon, Big South, and OVC start tomorrow!

Multi-Bid Conference Breakdown
Big East (9): UConn, Pitt, Louisville, Villanova, Marquette, Syracuse, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Providence
ACC (7): North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest, Florida State, Boston College, Maryland
Big Ten (7): Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State
Pac-10 (5): Washington, UCLA, California, Arizona State, Arizona
SEC (3): LSU, Tennessee, Florida
Big 12 (6): Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M
Mountain West (3): Utah, BYU, UNLV
Atlantic 10 (2): Xavier, Dayton

Tonight's GOI
--Villanova at Notre Dame. This could get ND right back in the mix. Nova is gunning for a high seed in both the Big East (top 4 gain a double-bye) and NCAA tourneys.
--Baylor at Texas. Bears need a monster finish starting right now.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


After Saturday, I have LOCKed Purdue, Florida State, and Wake Forest in the Lockbox. I downgraded Ohio State from black (near lock) to blue (win games they "should").

The OSS has also been updated. I'll do a bit more work tonight after some of today's games sort out some more seeding.