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Top Five Potential Landing Spots for Brad Stevens

Dr. Stevens: Professor of Hoops

If Brad Stevens is to leave a perennial Final Four school, Butler, to move up to a bigger job, it has to be one of the traditional, iconic basketball powers. He’s proven that he can win consistently at Butler and moving to another school that hasn’t seen a Final Four in decades or ever, just for a few more dollars, doesn’t seem like the kind of well calculated decision that Stevens would make.

In the four years since replacing Todd Lickliter as the Butler head coach, Stevens has won 116 games going into Saturday’s national semifinal matchup with Virginia Commonwealth. He’s already surpassed the accomplishments of fellow national mid-major darling Gonzaga and other non-BCS schools like Xavier. Memphis is the only other non-BCS school to have comparable success to Butler over the past four seasons, but their compass of success has headed downward since John Calipari left for Kentucky two years ago.

When looking for a situation to compare with Steven’s job at Butler, the coach to look at would be Mark Few at Gonzaga. Few could probably get most, if not all of the jobs that open up every year. But Gonzaga has been able to keep him through big sponsorship money and made-for-TV out of conference matchups that bring in good money and give the program the type of national exposure needed to compete for top recruits. Butler, located in metropolitan Indianapolis, should be able to greatly exceed the revenues generated by Gonzaga, which is in sparsely populated Spokane, Washington. Butler could most likely compensate Stevens more than Few given their market size.

Assuming that money wouldn’t be the ultimate draw for Brad Stevens, which jobs might be able to entice the hottest coaching prospect to come around in years?

Indiana

This one is pretty obvious and could be realized as soon as next year if Tom Crean is still unable to register his first winning season after four years in Bloomington. Stevens is an Indiana native and grew up dreaming of playing for Bob Knight in Assembly Hall. If Crean were to leave (unlikely) or be let go, Stevens would be the first and, maybe, only call the administration would need to make.

Purdue

If not Indiana, how about Purdue? The interesting part of this hypothetical situation is that Purdue coach Matt Painter is currently flirting with Missouri and has an interview scheduled for Tuesday with the Big 12 school. While it’s extremely unlikely that Painter would leave his alma mater to go to another job, especially one that would be at best a lateral move, Purdue could call his bluff and let him go to Missouri instead of giving him a raise. Then the door for Stevens to go to Purdue would open. For Purdue to just let Painter walk now, they would have to have assurances through sources that Stevens would be amenable to taking their coaching position.

Duke

How can Stevens go from lovable underdog to hated frontrunner? He can replace Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Coach K isn’t going to coach forever (we all hope). Who would be a better selection to fill the shoes of the soon-to-be all time leader in wins than Brad Stevens? Coach K has turned Duke into the biggest brand name in college basketball. Coach K has built the program into one that chooses recruits, not the other way around. Avoiding the recruiting cesspool could be a major draw to Stevens. In addition, Duke will be looking for a coach who understands how things work at a smaller, private school and Stevens brings that experience.

UCLA

The seat in Westwood might be lukewarm for Ben Howland right now, but another season like 2009-10 and the Bruins could be looking for a new coach. The last time UCLA hired an Indiana native with spectacles; he ran off 9 NCAA championships in 10 years and added another one to make it 10 out of 12. Based on his professorial look, persona, and on-court success, Stevens is beginning to resemble a modern day John Wooden.

NBA

What makes Stevens so unusual at the college level is his coolness under fire. He always seems to be in control of his emotions and rarely shows any on the sidelines. One of the reasons why college coaches have difficulty adjusting to the NBA is their inability to take a step back from the micromanaging world of college basketball. Most college coaches who didn’t last in the NBA, like Rick Pitino and John Calipari, have difficulty with pulling back and letting their players go and play. Stevens’ sideline demeanor is what NBA teams want on the sidelines, as opposed to the typical emotional college coach.

For the good of the college game, it would be nice if he stayed. Hopefully, with Stevens, all good things don’t have to come to an end.

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NCAA Tournament Daily Breakdown March 20

Here comes Butler again

Here’s a look back at Saturday’s excitement in the NCAA tournament.

Best Finish

The San Diego State and Temple game went to two OT’s, but the Pittsburgh and Butler game easily takes the honors. Butler coach Brad Stevens drew up another brilliant end of game play to give the Bulldogs the lead. But the two subsequent fouls on each team and the drama surrounding those calls overshadowed Stevens’ coaching. Should those calls have been made? The first one was Butler’s Shelvin Mack definitely impeding Gilbert Brown as he was going to attempt a half-court shot. The following foul in a tie game with no chance of a 90 foot made shot, was questionable. But at the end of the day, you can’t make contact and Jamie Dixon shouldn’t have had anybody on that foul line. A John Chaney coached team goes to overtime, because he never had his players on the foul line when his players were shooting for that reason.

Best Performance – Team

Brigham Young: Everybody was picking Gonzaga to beat BYU last night, but The Jimmer and his teammates had other plans. Gonzaga guard Marquise Carter had a career high 24 points against St. John’s on Thursday, but didn’t even score a point against the Cougars. As for the Cougars offense, they shot 14-28 from three point range and shot 52.5% overall. It didn’t matter that the Bulldogs won the battle of the boards by 11, 34-23. All of that resulted in a 22 point win for BYU.

Best Performance – Player

(Tie) Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker: Was there any doubt? These two should share the national player of the year award and last night’s performance is why. The Jimmer went for 34 points and also dished 6 assists as Gonzaga had no answer defensively for the Cougars sharp shooting. Kemba scored 33 and had 6 rebounds and 5 assists as Connecticut beat fellow Big East member Cincinnati last night. It’s too bad that the only way these two could face off would be in Houston on the Monday night. Or that could just be what this season deserves. Honorable mention to Kentucky‘s Brandon Knight who scored 30 against West Virginia.

Best Performance – Player on Losing Team

The Beard, Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen went out with a tremendous performance against Wisconsin. He had 38 points on 13-22 shooting, but went 6 of 8 from three point range. The only blemish on his performance was that missed free throw in the final ten seconds that could have helped tie the game. Pullen is a special college player who probably won’t have a long NBA career due to his size. He’ll be hard to replace not only for K-State, but for college hoops in general.

What’s Happening to the Big East

Notre Dame is now the conference’s last hope to send more than two teams to the Sweet 16 next week. If the Irish lose to Florida State tomorrow night, then the only Big East teams to advance past this weekend would be the winners of the two Big East matchups. This was unthinkable when the tournament started but injuries (Georgetown), collapses (Villanova), peaking too soon (St. John’s), and March Madness (Louisville) thwarted the chances of this formerly (last week) mighty conference.

Coach Who Made the Most $$$

Chris Mooney of Richmond heads to the Sweet 16 as a 12 seed after the Spiders beat Morehead State yesterday. Rumors are already rampant that the Princeton grad will be a top target of the two ACC schools that have openings, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State. Based on his experience and the expectations at each school, Tech looks to be the better fit due to not being on Tobacco Road with Mike and Roy. Mooney could get overwhelmed, like others, in Raleigh.  

Coaches Who Will Have a Little Pressure on them Next Season

Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon worked together at Northern Arizona and then again at Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, because of where he coaches, UCLA’s Howland will have pressure to make at least the Sweet 16 every year. Dixon will have to answer questions about annually coming up short in March until he reaches a Final Four. While not under the same scrutiny as his mentor, Dixon will have the stigma of an underachiever until he guides his team to that final weekend.

Worst Host City

Hello, Tucson, you have the NCAA tournament in town this week. The fans in the desert didn’t show up and there were over 3,000 empty seats for yesterday’s session. Evidently exhibition baseball is more compelling in Arizona this time of the year. None of the other host cities had attendance problems.

Look ahead to Sunday:

Remember About the Gus Johnson Special:

Gus surely will be involved in another buzzer beater this weekend and there are two games to choose from. First will be George Mason and Ohio State at 5:15 EST on Sunday and that will be followed by Marquette and Syracuse. One of those games is GUARANTEED to have a great ending. I’m offering a free subscription to my blog to anybody who doesn’t get their money’s worth out of those two games on Sunday.

Schedule:

(7 East)Washington vs. (2 East) North Carolina on CBS at 12:15 EDT

(8 West)Michigan vs. (1 West) Duke on CBS at 2:45 EDT

(8 East)George Mason vs. (1 East) Ohio State on CBS at 5:15 EDT

(5 West)Arizona vs. (4 West) Texas on TNT at 6:10 EDT

(11 Southwest)Virginia Commonwealth vs. (3 Southwest) Purdue on TBS at 7:10 EDT

(11 East)Marquette vs. (3 East) Syracuse on truTV at 7:45 EDT

(9 Southwest)Illinois vs. (1 Southwest) Kansas on TNT at 8:40 EDT

(10 Southwest)Florida State vs. (7 Southwest) Notre Dame on TBS at 9:40 EDT

NCAA Tournament First, um, Second Round Breakdown

At least somebody is excited

The first, um, second round was so underwhelming that I don’t really want to recap it. But, I’ll try to highlight a few items.

Best Finish

There’s a couple to choose from, mostly from the first games of Thursday. Butler over Old Dominion, Temple over Penn State, and Morehead State over Louisville headline the group. Kentucky doesn’t get any credit for their overall mediocre performance. As for Friday, George Mason over Villanova and Arizona over Memphis were the only good finishes. The Georgia loss to Washington was almost as bad to watch as the Michigan State near comeback over UCLA. Just Pac 10 teams showing what they have (or not). But the best goes to Butler as the red light was on when the unheralded Matt Howard got the put back at the buzzer.

Best Performance – Team

Gonzaga: St. John’s looked like a potential Final Four team three weeks ago and Gonzaga didn’t even appear headed to the tournament. Three weeks later and the talking heads are picking the Bulldogs to beat BYU after their dominating performance against the Johnnies. Marquise Carter continues to improve since being inserted into the starting lineup over a month ago as he scored a career high 24 points. The relatively young Bulldogs continue to improve and could be a sleeper pick to make it to Houston.

Best Performance – Player

Kenneth Faried of Morehead State didn’t shoot the lights out, but he willed his team to the upset victory over Louisville on Thursday. The modern era rebound king of college basketball pulled down 17 boards and made the game winning defensive play by blocking the shot of Mike Marra as time expired. When the final score is 62-61, defense plays a big role and nobody came up bigger in the first round both defensively and on the boards than Faried.

In the shadow of the Big East

The CAA and Atlantic 10 have two of their three teams remaining going into the weekend. With Richmond playing 13th seeded Morehead State, the A-10 might keep their Sweet 16 streak alive even with Xavier out. The last time an A-10 missed out on the Sweet 16 was 2007. The Spiders should keep that streak alive. If the CAA advances, it would be impressive against either Purdue or Ohio State. Beating the Buckeyes this season would be an even greater feat than beating #1 seed UConn in 2006 for George Mason.

Coach Who Made the Most $$$

Tie: Both Shaka Smart of VCU and Buzz Williams of Marquette are reportedly hot candidates and improved their negotiating position with impressive wins in the first, um, second round matchups on Friday. Both would make tremendous choices as Smart, embodying his last name, actually turned down Harvard, Yale, and Brown to go to a Division III school to play basketball. Williams has been rock solid in his three seasons since taking over for Tom Crean at Marquette with NCAA tournament appearances in all three seasons. There might not have been a better coaching job than Williams’ ability to get his team to completely shut down Atlantic 10 POY Tu Holloway. Holloway didn’t score until there was about 10 minutes remaining in the game and the result wasn’t in doubt.

Player Who Declared for the 2011 NBA Draft at Halftime of His Game

Tobias Harris of Tennessee went to halftime of their game against Michigan with 19 points and the Volunteers were down by only four points. Twenty minutes later and Harris still had 19 points and the Vols had lost by 30.

Look ahead to Saturday and Sunday:

Best Matchup:

Um, there might not be one. Ok, how about Kentucky and West Virginia? It’s a rematch of last year Elite Eight matchup in Syracuse and Huggins owns Calipari. Owns as in Huggins is 8-1 against Cal. If Cal can’t win this one, well, he might never beat Huggy again.

Upset Special:

Strictly by seeding, Marquette beating Syracuse would be a repeat of their regular season matchup. That’s how ridiculous it was to have Marquette as an 11 seed, especially when Michigan got an 8 seed. Another game would be Gonzaga over BYU, but everybody seems to be picking that. I’m going to give you Kansas State over Wisconsin in another Big Ten game that might involve peach baskets. Jacob Pullen seems to be willing this team over the past month and Curtis Kelly has finally started to play like the player K-State thought they were getting when he transferred from UConn two years ago. Kelly is getting about 15 points and 8 rebounds per game over the last 5 games.  

Gus Johnson Special:

Gus surely will be involved in another buzzer beater this weekend and there are two games to choose from. First will be George Mason and Ohio State at 5:15 EST on Sunday and that will be followed by Marquette and Syracuse. One of those games is GUARANTEED to have a great ending. I’m offering a free subscription to my blog to anybody who doesn’t get their money’s worth out of those two games on Sunday.

Road to Selection Sunday for March 9

Future Knick?

Welcome to the Road to Selection Sunday for March 9

News and Notes:

Robert Morris looks to become the first team to win three straight Northeast Conference titles tonight.

Northern Colorado is looking to go dancing for the first time tonight against Montana.

The Hoyas are looking to stabilize their seed with a win against the Huskies today.

Kemba Walker is interested in playing for the hometown Knicks when he’s done at UConn.

Oklahoma State’s Page doesn’t want to come up short in the Big 12 tourney.

Winners:

Automatic Qualifiers:

  • Sun Belt: Arkansas-Little Rock
  • Horizon: Butler
  • Summitt: Oakland

Bubble Hopefuls: The win by Butler could keep another spot alive for the mediocre bubble teams out there. Butler was a possibility for an at-large if they lost to UW-Milwaukee last night, but the win gave them the auto bid. That’s what this bubble need is more open spots for mediocre teams.

Princeton: With the win at the Palestra last night, the Tigers head to New Haven looking for Crimson blood on Saturday.

Losers:

Venoy Overton: The Washington guard was charged with providing alcohol to a minor and was suspended for the Pac 10 tournament by Coach Lorenzo Romar. Dumb act by the player and one has to look cynically at how Romar handled this situation.

Villanova: Is this collapse for real? They’ve now lost 9 of 13 and Steve Lappas is warming up in the bullpen. Just kidding.

Derek Kellogg: The Massachusetts coach just completed his third straight losing season (they have one non division 1 win) in his three seasons at his alma mater. It’s looking like the Steve Lappas era all over again as the Minutemen lost by 28 points at home last night in the first round of the Atlantic Ten tournament. The 28 point margin of defeat was the most by the school in an Atlantic Ten tournament game. Hey Derek; Lou Roe isn’t walking through that door, Marcus Camby isn’t walking through that door…

Wednesday’s Notable Games: RPI in ()

 (24) Connecticut vs. (11) Georgetown: ESPN Noon EST

(64) Oklahoma State vs. (79) Nebraska: ESPN3 12:30 EST

Northeast Championship (102) Robert Morris vs. (81) Long Island: ESPN2 at 7 EST

Big Sky Championship (103) Montana vs. (109) Northern Colorado: ESPN2 at 9 EST

(63) Marquette vs. (15) West Virginia: ESPN 9:30 EST

Click here for conference breakdowns on This Week in College Basketball.

Most Disappointing College Hoops Teams of 2011

This was supposed to be The Year for Lucas and the Spartans

With the completion of college basketball’s regular season, the time has come to take a look back at which teams have fallen short of their expectations during the season. The good news for these teams is that they are still alive for the NCAA tournament and can erase the memories of an underachieving season with a run through the brackets later this month.

1. Michigan State: The Spartans were ranked #2 in both polls at the beginning of the season. With five returning players who averaged over 20 minutes per game from last year’s Final Four team; expectations in East Lansing were for a run at Coach Tom Izzo’s second national championship. But junior guard Korie Lucious got suspended for their season opener and was eventually kicked off the team two months later for conduct detrimental to the team. On the court, the Spartans played their typically tough OOC schedule, but failed to beat any good teams. The only significant opponent to fall to the Spartans was Washington, who underachieved enough to show up below the Spartans on this list. Going into the Big Ten tournament, the Spartans weren’t expected to be 17-13 with a 9-9 conference record. That might be eight games off what was expected in October. While Michigan State could still get their name called next Sunday, they were hoping to be one of the #1 seeds going into the NCAA tournament, not a bubble team.

2. Washington: The Huskies were ranked in the top 20 coming into the season and their early season blowout wins had the talking heads buzzing about the Huskies. Despite losing to Kentucky and Michigan State in Maui, the Huskies remained ranked and were considered the team to beat in the Pac 10 this season. Analysts frequently mentioned the Huskies as a national contender despite not having a win over an OOC opponent with a RPI of better than 75. This left the Huskies needing a strong performance in conference play to solidify their postseason credentials. But inexplicable road losses to Stanford, both Oregon schools, along with being swept by Washington State have placed the once mighty Huskies squarely on the bubble going into the Pac 10 tournament. With loads of returning talent, the Huskies should have been able to overcome the midseason loss of Abdul Gaddy, but they couldn’t (10-3 with Gaddy, 9-7 w/o). A third loss to Washington State on Thursday could send the Huskies to the NIT.

3. Baylor: Scott Drew’s Bears were an up-and-coming power, a preseason top 20 team that excited everybody. That was with good reason because they had the highly rated freshman big man Perry Jones and the eventual Big 12 all time leading scorer, LaceDarius Dunn. In addition to the stars, they were returning good role players from a team that rolled St. Mary’s in the Sweet 16 and then playing eventual champion Duke tough in the Elite 8 game last season. The Bears were picked to finish 3rd in the Big 12, but finished in a tie for 7th with a 7-9 record. They failed to beat any prospective at-large teams OOC and they are probably not even on the bubble right now. Even though Dunn just became the conference’s all time leading scorer and Jones remains a possible #1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Bears might have to win the Big 12 tournament to earn a return to the Big Dance next week.

4. Butler: The Bulldogs are still alive for the Horizon League automatic bid as they face UW-Milwaukee in the league’s championship game. However, the Bulldogs have been anything but dominating following their great season in which they lost to Duke by a basket last April. Credit is given for their scheduling effort as they faced the 12th ranked OOC schedule designed to offset their typically weak conference slate. Losses were expected to the likes of Louisville and Duke and the purpose of the strong schedule was to insulate the Bulldogs NCAA chances from a potential upset in the Horizon tournament. But conference play started and the Bulldogs lost five games to their Horizon rivals. The Bulldogs had only lost five conference games over the past three seasons COMBINED. A win on Tuesday night can erase a lot of the disappointment that this preseason top 20 team has to feel about their season.

5. Villanova: The Wildcats are going through the second biggest in-season collapse behind Minnesota. After starting the season ranked just outside of the top 5, ‘Nova jumped out to a 16-1 record and looked like a potential championship contender. Then the wheels fell off. Starting with a loss on MLK Day to UConn, the ‘Cats went 5-9 to end the season at 21-10, including four straight losses to complete the regular season. While the Big East schedule is brutal, with most games involving two ranked teams, this type of collapse wasn’t expected from a team with solid senior leadership and Final Four expectations. Getting South Florida on Tuesday should end their losing streak, but how they fare against Cincinnati on Wednesday will be a better indicator of what to expect out of this team when the NCAA tournament begins.

6. Virginia Tech: So THIS is now America’s Bubble Team? Great. The Hokies only have themselves to blame for another March on the bubble as they ducked quality in-state opponents and underachieved against the teams that they did play. Their only decent OOC wins are against mediocre Penn State and Oklahoma State. Neither of those teams is likely to receive an at-large bid on Sunday. In the top heavy ACC, the Hokies were swept by triple digit RPI rival Virginia, lost to Georgia Tech, and then lost their final two games of the season to fellow mediocre bubble dwellers Boston College and Clemson. At 19-10 overall with 9 ACC wins, Tech could be a solid NCAA team right now. But they refuse to get challenged by any instate opponents OOC. By ducking solid CAA schools like George Mason, Old Dominion, and Virginia Commonwealth, along with Richmond, the Hokies won’t be receiving any profiles in courage awards for their schedule making. It’s going to be tough to justify the fifth best team in Virginia making the NCAA tournament as an at-large. Maybe the Hokies will make it if they expanded the field to 96 teams next season.

Special Nominee: Tennessee: The Volunteers season has been something that you might find at Six Flags over Knoxville. Their roller coaster season began with a 7-0 record, including a Preseason NIT championship and a win over Pittsburgh on the road. Despite the self inflicted distractions brought on by Bruce Pearl’s NCAA violations, it appeared that the players were unfazed by everything going on around them. Then the Vols lost three straight to Oakland, Charlotte, and USC, two of those games at home. Ten days later they dropped another home game to Charleston. Pearl was required to miss the first 8 SEC games, in which they went 5-3. Pearl then returned to guide the Vols to a 3-5 record down the stretch, including losses in their final 3 home games. With an 18-13 record (SEC 8-8), and a difficult schedule, the Vols still look safe on Sunday. But the NCAA has held grudges in the past (remember #25 UNLV getting the shaft in 92-93?) and the embattled Pearl could be their next target.

Other Disappointments:

Memphis 22-9, 10-6 in CUSA: Losses to SMU, Rice, and East Carolina could doom their NCAA chances.

Mississippi State 17-13, 9-7 in SEC West: Suspensions, fighting amongst teammates, players complaining through Twitter about the coaches, and bad losses to Florida Atlantic, East Tenn St, Hawaii, Auburn, and LSU leave Rick Stansbury and the Bulldogs looking at missing the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in six seasons.

Northwestern 17-12, 7-11 in Big Ten: The Wildcats have never made the NCAA tournament and this year’s group will have to overachieve to win the Big Ten tournament to end that streak.

Mid Major Basketball Overview March 8

It's a Cinderella story

Mid Major Basketball Overview March 8

Team Overviews: Records are going into March 8th. RPI is courtesy of rpiforecast.com.

Current NCAA Locks:

Old Dominion Monarchs RPI 23 –CAA Champion

  • 27-6, 14-4 in CAA   Away: 8-4  Neutral:  5-0
  • OOC rundown: 10-2 – Wins: Clemson, Xavier, Richmond, Dayton, and Cleveland State. Losses: Georgetown and Missouri. They also have 4 gimme wins. RPI 13, schedule 16.
  • CAA Wins: at Tow, NE, GM, at Hof, JMU, UNCW, at GSU, Tow, Del, at W&M, at VCU, GSU, at JMU, W&M  Losses: at Del, at Drex, VCU, at GM
  • The Monarchs have won 9 in a row and 13 of 14 in winning the CAA. As for seeding, they should be either a 6 or 7 seed. Anything worse would be an injustice. Profile will be better than Pac 10 and A-10 champs.

Gonzaga Bulldogs RPI 55 –WCC Champion

  • 24-9, 11-3 in WCC  Away: 7-5   Neutral: 3-0
  • OOC rundown: 11-6 – Wins: Marquette, Baylor, Xavier, and Oklahoma State. Losses: San Diego State, Kansas State, Illinois, Washington State, Notre Dame, and Memphis. They also have 3 gimme wins and one non division I win. RPI 79, schedule 37.
  • WCC Wins: Port, Pep, LMU, USD, at Port, LMU, at Pepp, SCU, USF, at SMC, at USD    Losses: at SCU, at USF, SMC
  • The Bulldogs have won 11 of 12 to claim the WCC automatic bid. They look like an 11 seed with the ability to move up or down one line from there. A single digit seed looks like a long shot.

George Mason Patriots RPI 27

  • 26-6, 16-2 in CAA   Away: 10-4   Neutral:  2-2
  • OOC rundown: 9-3 – Wins: Harvard, Duquesne, and Northern Iowa. Losses: NC State, Wofford, and Dayton. They also have 4 gimme wins. RPI 42, schedule 86.
  • CAA Wins: UNCW, Del, at NE, GSU, Drex, at JMU, at Del, Tow, at W&M, Hof, ODU, at UNCW, JMU, at VCU, NE, at GSU    Losses: at Hof, at ODU
  • The Patriots had their 16 game winning streak snapped by VCU in the CAA semis. There doesn’t appear to be a way that they don’t make the tourney, but you never know. Unless something goofy happens, Mason looks like an 8-9 game participant.

 

Bubble Territory:

UAB Blazers RPI 28

  • 22-7, 12-4 in CUSA  Away: 9-5   Neutral: 0-0
  • OOC rundown: 10-3 – Wins: Arkansas and VCU. Losses: Arizona State, Georgia, and Duke. They also have 6 gimme wins. RPI 52, schedule 164.
  • CUSA Wins: UTEP, at ECU, SMU, Mar, at UCF, at Tula, at Mar, Rice, UCF, at Hou, at USM, ECU   Losses: at Tuls, Mem, USM, at Mem
  • The Blazers have to avoid the potential first game upset in the CUSA tournament. After the first game, they are lined up to play Memphis and if the two meet, the winner should be a lock at-large heading to the CUSA finals. That win over VCU could come in pretty handy on Sunday. But the Georgia loss could hurt them.

Utah State Aggies RPI 18

  • 28-3, 15-1 in WAC  Away: 9-3   Neutral:
  • OOC rundown: 13-2 – Wins: St. Mary’s. Losses: at BYU, at Georgetown. They also have 9 gimme wins and 1 non division I win. RPI 20, schedule 111.
  • The Aggies got the solid win at St Mary’s and are now a legit at-large candidate. But they can’t lose until the WAC final to ensure that at-large.

Butler Bulldogs RPI 37

  • 22-9, 13-5 in HOR  Away: 6-6   Neutral:
  • OOC rundown: 8-4 – Wins: Stanford, Washington State, and Florida State. Losses: Louisville, Evansville, Duke, and Xavier. They also have 1 gimme win and a non division I win. RPI 34, schedule 13.
  • HOR Wins: at Loy, Valp, CSU, YSU, at Det, UWGB, at CSU, UIC, WSU, Det, at UWGB, at UIC, Loy  Losses: at UWM, at WSU, UWM, at Val, at YSU
  • The Bulldogs seven game winning streak to end the regular season has to help. Their RPI is high, but they probably have to make the Horizon finals to be an at-large. Last year could help them, although it shouldn’t.

Memphis Tigers RPI 38

  • 22-9, 10-6 in CUSA  Away: 4-6   Neutral:  0-1
  • OOC rundown: 12-3 – Wins: Miami (FL) and Gonzaga. Losses: Kansas, Georgetown, and Tennessee. They also have 5 gimme wins. RPI 63, schedule 119.
  • CUSA Wins: ECU, Mar, at USM, at UAB, UCF, at UCF, USM, UAB, Hou, Tula    Losses: at SMU, at Mar, Tuls, at Rice, at UTEP, at ECU
  • Memphis needs to make the CUSA finals by beating UAB to have a chance at an at-large bid. Their 5-6 finish is entirely unimpressive. They don’t have a win over an at-large team, since Gonzaga the auto-bid and might not have made it. A loss to UAB would be crippling as their sweep is the only thing making them equal right now.

Virginia Commonwealth Rams RPI 48

  • 23-11, 12-6 in CAA  Away: 8-6   Neutral:  2-1
  • OOC rundown: 9-4 – Wins: UCLA and Wichita State. Losses: Tennessee, South Florida, Richmond, and UAB. They also have 5 gimme wins. RPI 57, schedule 110.
  • CAA Wins: W&M, Drex, at UNCW, at W&M, NE, GSU, at ODU, at Tow, Hof, UNCW, at JMU, at Del   Losses: at GSU, at NE, ODU, GMU, at Drex, JMU
  • Tough loss to ODU in the CAA championship game. This is the ultimate bubble team. They have two very good CAA wins over Mason and ODU to go along with their OOC work. A comparison between the Rams and St. Mary’s would seem to indicate a slight edge for the Rams. It will come down to BCS conference mediocrity versus solid mid-majors like VCU. If they do get in, expect them to play in the opening round play-in game.

Saint Mary’s Gaels RPI 47

  • 24-8, 11-3 in WCC  Away: 7-4   Neutral:  3-2
  • OOC rundown: 12-4 – Wins: St. John’s. Losses: San Diego State, BYU, Vanderbilt, and Utah State. They also have 3 gimme wins and Weber State remaining. RPI 41, schedule 36.
  • WCC Wins: at LMU, at Pep, USF, SC, USD, at Gon, Pep, LMU, at SC, at USF, Port   Losses: at Port, at USD, Gon
  • The Gaels are now a coin flip for the Big Dance after losing 4 of 6 going into their final game on Friday against Weber State. A loss there and they’re done. If they do get an at-large, they will probably be playing in the opening round play-in game. We’re going to see how good that opening game win over St. John’s really is.

 

Still Alive:

Texas-El Paso Miners RPI 60

  • 23-8, 11-5 in CUSA  Away: 5-5   Neutral:  1-1
  • OOC rundown: 12-3 – Wins: Michigan. Losses: Pacific, Georgia Tech, and BYU. They also have 5 gimme wins and a non division I win. RPI 82, schedule 168.
  • CUSA Wins: Tuls, at Tula, Rice, at Hou, Tula, at Rice, SMU, Hou, Mem, Mar, at SMU   Losses: at UAB, at Tuls, at USM, UCF, at ECU
  • The Miners would probably need a miracle even if they lost to UAB or Memphis in the CUSA finals. But the bubble is a strange place this season and there might be something in their profile that the selection committee likes. The win over Michigan for instance.

Marshall Thundering Herd RPI 49

  • 21-10, 9-7 in CUSA  Away: 6-7   Neutral:  1-0
  • OOC rundown: 12-3 – Wins: West Virginia. Losses: Chattanooga, at Louisville, at James Madison. They also have 6 gimme wins and two non division I wins. RPI 64, schedule 155.
  • CUSA Wins: USM, Mem, at Hou, at ECU, Rice, at Tula, Tuls, SMU, UCF   Losses: at UCF, at Mem, ECU, at UAB, at USM, UAB, at UTEP
  • The Herd probably needs to make the CUSA finals to have a chance at an at-large. Their RPI is in range, but is the win over West Virginia going to be enough as they have some bad losses? The soft bubble awaits them if they make the finals.

 

Probably Not:

Missouri State Bears RPI 41

  • 25-8, 15-3 in MVC  Away: 7-6   Neutral: 3-1
  • OOC rundown: 8-4 – Wins: No notables. Losses: Tennessee, Tulsa, Oklahoma State, and Valparaiso. They also have 4 gimme wins. RPI 95, schedule 165.
  • MVC Wins: at UNI, Ill St, at Cre, Evan, at Wich St, S Ill, at Brad, Cre, at Dra, Ind St, Brad, Ill St, Dra  Losses: at Ind St, UNI, at Evan
  • It’s highly unlikely that the committee is going to be more impressed by the Bears than any of the CAA teams or St. Mary’s. There will have to be an avalanche of mid-majors selected to get any Valley at-large bids.

Cleveland State Vikings RPI 42

  • 26-8, 13-5 in HOR  Away: 9-5   Neutral: 1-1
  • OOC rundown: 11-2 – Wins: No notable wins. Losses: West Virginia and Old Dominion. They also have 3 gimme wins. RPI 14, schedule 38.
  • HOR Wins: at UWGB, at UWM, Loy, UIC, at YSU, Det, WSU, at UIC, at Loy, Val, YSU, at WSU, UWGB  Losses: at But, at Val, But, at Det, UWM
  • Solid RPI, but who have they beaten? Beating Butler just once might have done it for them. The one thing the Vikings have going for them is that the committee chairman said that he’s more impressed by wins than anything else. Those 26 wins look nice if that’s true.

Wichita State Shockers RPI 61

  • 24-8, 14-4 in MVC  Away: 9-2   Neutral: 2-2
  • OOC rundown: 9-3 – Wins: Virginia and Tulsa. Losses: Connecticut, San Diego State, and Virginia Commonwealth. They also have 4 gimme wins and non division I win over Chaminade. RPI 76, schedule 89.
  • MVC Wins: Evan, at Brad, Dra, at Ill St, at Cre, at Dra, Ind St, at S Ill, Brad, at Ind St, Ill St, at UNI, at Evan, Cre     Losses: Mizz St, UNI, S Ill, at Mizz St
  • Highly doubtful given their late season home loss to VCU and semifinals loss to Indiana State.

 

Keeping an eye on:

Harvard (Ivy) RPI 36 23-5/12-2: Harvard could lose to Princeton in a playoff game and earn the Ivy’s first at-large bid ever. Wins over BC and Colorado make them a legitimate at-large prospect if they lose to the Tigers. It’s a weak bubble year.

Make sure you check in every morning for a review of the previous day’s games on the Road to Selection Sunday.

Road to Selection Sunday for March 8

Mack hopes to lead Butler back to the Dance

Welcome to the Road to Selection Sunday for March 8

News and Notes:

Butler expects to face a hostile environment tonight in Milwaukee.

An eleventh straight Horizon win would give UW-Milwaukee its fourth trip to the Big Dance.

Winners:

Automatic Qualifiers:

  • Colonial: Old Dominion
  • MAAC: Saint Peter’s
  • WCC: Gonzaga
  • Southern: Wofford

Bubble Hopefuls: The loss by VCU could keep a spot alive for the mediocre bubble teams out there. Even though VCU has a solid case, probably better than a lot of bubble teams, it’s not expected that the selection committee will select a third team from the CAA.

Blaine Taylor: If you’re a big conference school looking for a very solid coach for the next 15 years, Taylor and his Big East coaching style is for you. Taylor has won at a better than .667 clip for his 17 year career. He’s also heading to his sixth NCAA tournament, four while at ODU. Somebody is going to get a solid coach if they can convince Taylor to leave the Virginia Beach area. If Taylor stays at ODU, his program could start to rival Gonzaga and Butler nationally.

Losers:

Virginia Commonwealth: The Rams had a spirited comeback against ODU last night, but it’s going to be tough for them to overcome a couple of bad conference losses (at Georgia State and at Northeastern) to be selected for an at-large bid. They also have losses to fellow bubble teams Richmond and UAB. Will beating UCLA, Old Dominion, and George Mason overcome their losses?  Shaka Smart and the Rams hope so.

Saint Mary’s: The Gaels season crashed and burned after losing at San Diego three weeks ago. They lost their next two games to Utah State and Gonzaga. Last night they lost to Gonzaga again and the question now is how does that win over St. John’s stack up since it was the opening game for both teams? Will only two quality wins going to be good enough for the Gaels? VCU has three quality wins. One wildcard with the Gaels is there add-on game on Friday against Weber State. It should be interesting to see how this game will affect their RPI.

Tuesday’s Notable Games: RPI in ()

 (51) Princeton at (166) Pennsylvania: ESPN3 at 7 EST

Sun Belt Championship (200) Arkansas-Little Rock vs. (132) North Texas: ESPN2 at 7 EST

Horizon Championship (37) Butler vs. (93) UW-Milwaukee: ESPN at 9 EST

Summit Conference Championship (126) Oral Roberts vs. (53) Oakland: ESPN2 at 9 EST

Click here for conference breakdowns on This Week in College Basketball.