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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.

Filling In the Brackets: 2011 NCAA Tournament

Bracket Gold!

I’m going to take my annual futile stab at bracket prognostication. There might be more letters in the last word of the first sentence than I will have correct picks. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve overloaded on college basketball this season, but my picks look a lot like those TV guys.

In the East Region, I’m picking Ohio State to roll through it. The Buckeyes might not win a game by less than double digits as they should beat George Mason, West Virginia, and North Carolina to get to Houston. The Buckeyes haven’t shown any true weaknesses, except playing against top 15 Big Ten schools on the road. While freshman forward Jared Sullinger gets most of the attention, their three man backcourt of David Lighty, Jon Diebler, and William Buford are stellar. When March rolls around, the teams with the best backcourts advance and the Buckeyes might have the best in the country.

As for the rest of the region, I like West Virginia to beat Kentucky, mostly because Huggins destroys Calipari head-to-head. In nine meetings, Huggins has won eight, including last year’s Elite Eight matchup in Syracuse. On the bottom of the East, I like UNC to beat Xavier in a tough Sweet 16 matchup. Holloway is really good for the X-Men, but freshmen Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall have been spectacular over the past six weeks. Xavier will beat Syracuse and UNC will beat Washington to get to the Sweet 16.

In the West, I like San Diego State. There might not be a more complete defensive team in the tournament than the Aztecs. They have a number of players who can switch and defend different positions and when they beat Connecticut in the Sweet 16, it will be because of forward Billy White. They will have White hound the smaller Kemba Walker all game and it won’t be a mismatch in favor of Walker. White was used by Coach Steve Fisher on Jimmer Fredette in their matchups and his agility and length gave The Jimmer problems when they were matched up. The Aztecs will also beat Temple and Texas to make the Final Four.

The rest of the West will have Texas beating Arizona and then Tennessee in the Sweet 16 before falling to the Aztecs. Tennessee might save Bruce Pearl’s job by beating Duke on Sunday. The Vols have big wins and crazy losses on the season and beating Duke would be consistent with their inconsistency. Texas and Tennessee, I believe, are destined to meet each other. There aren’t two teams in the tournament who have shown more promise and then bombed out like these two. As for the biggest first round (or is it second) upset? It will be Missouri over Cincinnati.

The Southwest Region will be won by Kansas. The Jayhawks are clearly one of the two best teams in the tournament, along with Ohio State. They will beat UNLV, Louisville, and Notre Dame to get to Houston. That road will not be easy. Unlike Ohio State, Kansas will have to play really well in each of their games to avoid an upset. The Big East has been incredible this season, as their record eleven tournament bids would indicate. Every game is a slugfest and Kansas could be worn down by the time they reach Houston. The biggest advantage they have is their depth and balance. They have ten players who average over 11 minutes per game and have eight players who average at least 5 points per game.

The rest of the Southwest will see the highly anticipated game between Notre Dame and Purdue with the Irish winning. That might be the most anticipated Sweet 16 game next week. Notre Dame will have to beat Texas A&M to get there and Purdue will knock off VCU. Yes, the Rams of VCU will use their opening round momentum to upset Georgetown, who hasn’t been the same without Chris Wright and will struggle to regain their pre-injury form even if he returns. VCU’s cross town rival, Richmond will beat Vanderbilt in the 12-5 upset and then lose to Louisville on the weekend.

The Southeast Region will be won by Pittsburgh. I know three #1 seeds. But if Jamie Dixon is to lead the Panthers to the Final Four, this is the season. The Panthers have a favorable draw as they will beat Old Dominion, Kansas State, and BYU to get to Houston. The Monarchs of ODU could be the Cinderella team with a deep tournament run, but the Panthers might be the worst matchup for them because of their similar styles. Physical play, defense, and intangible play by Brad Wanamaker will be the key to Pittsburgh’s overall success.

The rest of the Southeast will have Jimmer and BYU beating Florida and Gonzaga before falling to Pitt. Kansas State will benefit from Belmont’s upset of Wisconsin to get to the Sweet 16. Florida will beat Michigan State before falling to BYU.

The Final Four matchups are these: Ohio State versus San Diego State and Kansas versus Pittsburgh. Ohio State will beat San Diego State in a close game. This will be closer than any game they play in the entire tournament up to this point. While the Aztecs are really good defensively, the Buckeyes have too many weapons and they typically don’t have anybody on the court that can’t score. In addition, the overall size of the Buckeyes backcourt will take its toll on the small backcourt for San Diego State.

In the other semifinal, Pittsburgh will upset Kansas as the Jayhawks will not be able to beat a Big East team in three straight games. This game might not be that easy on the eyes, but it should be tight and come down to the end. The Panthers have the size and toughness to matchup with the Morris twins and unless Josh Selby finally shows up, the Panthers are good enough defensively to shut down the Jayhawks backcourt. The bottom line with this pick is that I said a month ago that I didn’t think a team could beat three Big East teams in a row and that’s what Kansas will have to do to win it.

That leaves a championship game between Ohio State and Pittsburgh. These are the regular season champions of the two best conferences during the season. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the Buckeyes are just too good. They have too many weapons for even Pittsburgh’s staunch defense to shut down. Barring an incredibly rough shooting night for Diebler and Buford, the Buckeyes should win this game by 6-8 points.

There’s the bracket breakdown, please don’t send me a bill for your poor bracket results.

Making the Case against the Teams Whose Bubbles Burst

March 14, 2011 1 comment

Maybe Colorado won't play 7 sub 295 RPI teams next year

This isn’t meant as a defense of the selection committee or any of the questionable teams that were selected to the NCAA tournament. In reality, only 50-something teams really deserved to be selected to the 68-team Big Dance. This is about those controversial teams that were left out and the reasons why these schools do not have any reason to complain.

Virginia Tech: Yes, America’s bubble team had its hopes shattered again. For starters, the Hokies were only 9-7 in the 5th ranked conference. They were swept by Virginia (RPI 139) and NIT-bound Boston College, added a bad loss at Georgia Tech, and suffered a crippling season ending loss at Clemson. In addition, they beat FSU based on an overturned game winning basket in the ACC quarterfinals that was debatable. The only top 50 RPI team in the ACC that they beat was Duke.

The Hokies OOC schedule was ranked 180 out of 340. They played 6 teams with RPIs of over 230. They went 2-3 against top 100 teams OOC. How difficult would it be for Seth Greenburg to replace UNC-Greensboro (RPI 297), USC Upstate (313), Mount St. Mary’s (231), and Longwood (320) on his schedule? If he played and beat Virginia NCAA tournament schools like Old Dominion, VCU, George Mason, and Richmond, they would have been a lock for selection.

VCU went 3-6 against the top 50 and Tech was only 2-5. How does a CAA team play more top 50 games than an ACC team? Only cowardly scheduling sent the Hokies back to the NIT.

Colorado: The media would have you think that the Buffaloes survived a gauntlet of difficult games throughout the season. They are wrong. The Buffaloes OOC schedule was ranked 331 out of 340. They only went 10-4 against that group of teams. Their best win was against a bad Indiana (RPI 190). They played 7 teams with a RPI of 295 or more. In games against teams with a RPI of less than 295, they went 13-13. They won half and lost half.

Lowering the RPI threshold, the Buffaloes went 10-13 against the top 150 teams. Is that really at-large material there? Sure, they beat a few good teams, including Texas and Kansas State three times. But it’s not about head-to-head results and a splashy win or two for the selection committee. It’s about the overall profile.

Schools like Colorado have more choices than their mid-major counterparts when selecting OOC opponents. Instead of scheduling better teams, they scheduled gimme games to pad their win total. If they played 7 OOC teams between 100-150 in the RPI instead of 295 and over, they would be headed to the Big Dance. It’s that plain and simple.

Alabama: Don’t let the fact that the Crimson Tide is in the SEC fool you. The SEC West as a standalone conference would have easily been ranked behind every mid-major conference that received an at-large bid. The SEC West is home to Auburn (RPI 255), LSU (224), Arkansas (124), and Mississippi State (119). With 8 games against those schools, it’s no wonder that this team went 12-4 in SEC play. In addition, all of their key SEC wins were against vulnerable teams. Kentucky was awful away from Rupp, going 4-7 in true road games. Tennessee didn’t have Bruce Pearl for their loss to Alabama and were a poor home team all season.

The Tide schedule was ranked 294. They went 8-6 against those teams. The highest RPI of an OOC team that they beat was Lipscomb at 131. Overall, Alabama went 10-11 against the top 200 teams in the RPI. Is that really the mark of a quality at-large team? Have the standards dropped that much? They only had one win OOC against top 200 teams. I rest my case, your honor.

Saint Mary’s: The Gaels were a mid-major “snub” that many in the national media love. The problem is that many talking heads don’t follow the games as closely as you would expect an “expert” would. The issues for the Gaels began back on February 16 in San Diego. That night the Gaels lost to USD on national television by eight. The trouble is that USD won only 4 games against Division 1 schools all season, including the St. Mary’s win, and they have a RPI of 318. This was easily the worst loss of any prospective at-large candidate that made it in front of the selection committee.

In addition to losing in San Diego, the Gaels followed that with home losses to Utah State and Gonzaga. For a mid-major school like St. Mary’s to receive an at-large bid, they have to schedule and win against good teams OOC and take care of business in their own league.

The Gaels only quality OOC win was against St. John’s in Steve Lavin’s coaching debut. They lost to BYU, San Diego State, Vanderbilt, and Utah State. But with only one top 50 win all season, it was tough for the Gaels to overcome their horrible loss to San Diego. They also played 5 OOC teams with RPIs over 240. At the end of the day, the Gaels didn’t beat enough good teams and lost to a really bad one.

Harvard: The case against Harvard became easy when the brackets were announced. Their two best wins were against Boston College and Colorado. They now have a chance at a rematch with both in the NIT.

The message from the selection committee should be clear. Teams need to schedule better to improve their at-large chances and seeding for the NCAA tournament. There are teams that made the tournament with similar records, but their schedules were the difference. Why does 22-10 Kansas State have a 5 seed and 23-10 Missouri have an 11 seed? They are both in the Big 12 with Colorado. It’s the schedule.

The bottom line is that tougher scheduling and avoiding poor losses goes a long way to eliminating a team’s question marks that could burst their bubble on Selection Sunday. Maybe next year Virginia Tech will actually schedule some CAA teams and Alabama will play UAB to decide their fates on the court. Or maybe they’ll play Russian roulette with their tournament chances again.

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 7

ODU's Frank Hassell

Welcome to the Road to Selection Sunday for March 7

News and Notes:

Here’s a story on ODU’s Frank Hassell, the best low post player playing tonight.

Shaka Smart is looking to lead the Rams to their first NCAA tournament since taking over for Anthony Grant two years ago.

The WCC will refrain from playing their tournament games on Sundays starting next season when BYU joins the conference.

Cousins will be battling each other in tonight’s MAAC championship game between Iona and St. Peter’s.

Weekend Winners:

Automatic Qualifiers:

  • Atlantic Sun: Belmont
  • Big South: UNC-Asheville
  • Ohio Valley: Morehead State
  • Missouri Valley: Indiana State

Ohio State: The Buckeyes will be a #1 seed even if they don’t win a Big Ten tournament game and just need to match Kansas this week to be the #1 overall seed.

Kansas: The Jayhawks are the same as Ohio State. The Buckeyes have a slight edge for the #1 overall seed.

UNC: Big win over Duke gives the Heels the ACC regular season title. Kendall Marshall is becoming one of my favorite players. Simply exciting, like a lefty Rajon Rondo. The Heels now have an outside shot at a #1 seed.

Pittsburgh: The Panthers won the outright Big East championship and are now a win or two away from sealing a #1 seed.

Michigan: The Wolverines swept the Spartans for the first time since beating them in their only matchup in 2003. Once 1-6 in the Big Ten the Maize and Blue fought back to 9-9. A win over Illinois on Friday would seal their bid.

Notre Dame: The Irish hung tough in Storrs after Ben Hansbrough fouled out with more than 8 minutes left. Not sure how they did it, but Notre Dame has the “Luck of the Irish” this season.

Florida: The Gators completed the quietest good conference championship by taking out Vandy in Nashville. Chandler Parsons is the pick here for SEC POY after leading the Gators to a 13-3 record.

Cincinnati: Yes, they beat up on poor Georgetown, but Mick Cronin’s crew did what most bubble teams don’t; seal their bid with wins. The Bearcats are playing for a seed this week in MSG. Who saw 11-7 in the Big East coming?

Clemson: The Tigers beat Virginia Tech to keep their at-large hopes alive and get the 4 seed in the ACC tournament. They still need another win or two.

Harvard: The Crimson clinched at least a tie for the Ivy League title by beating Princeton and will face them again next weekend if Princeton beats Penn on Tuesday night.

Marshall: The Herd is the one bubble team that nobody’s paying any attention to. They have a very good win over West Virginia and their RPI is top 50. If they lose in the CUSA championship game, they’re probably going to be in as an at-large.

Kentucky: The Cats finally got another road win and against a decent team, too. Cal has a lot more work to do in Atlanta if he wants a good seed next Sunday. SEC Most Improved: Josh Harrellson – is there another choice?

Virginia Commonwealth: The Rams stumbled down the stretch but avenged an earlier loss to George Mason and look to win the CAA tonight in their hometown. A loss and they’re still a bubble team. It will be interesting if they lose by a hoop if they can still get in.

Penn State: Still alive, at least until Friday.

Old Dominion: The Monarchs might not have been a lock when they arrived in Richmond on Friday, but they will leave a lock, win or lose, after tonight’s game. The right draw could lead them to the Sweet 16.

WCC finalists: Gonzaga and St. Mary’s have to feel a lot better about their at-large chances by getting a chance to play each other tonight. The loser gets another “good” loss and should be in the discussion next Sunday.

Losers:

Bubble teams with bad losses group: Here they are: Miami, Baylor, Virginia Tech, Wichita State, Oklahoma State, Washington State, Cleveland State, Marquette, and Southern Miss. All of these teams could have taken steps to get into the tournament or at least keep their hopes alive. Only the atrocious bubble situation keeps some of them alive. Wichita State and Cleveland State don’t have any more opportunities to improve their situation and will hope to go to the NIT.

Lost in their tournament, but get NIT auto-bid group: Coastal Carolina, Missouri State, and Fairfield are all heading to the NIT as regular season champions who are likely to miss out on an at-large bid.

Missouri: The Tigers stumbled home in the Big 12 with an 8-8 record. This team is better than that, but their failure to win road games was their downfall. They don’t get any more road games, but they have to win away from home for them to achieve any kind of success.

Villanova: The Cats are in possession of the second biggest collapse in college basketball behind Minnesota. The Cats are still NCAA worthy, but will need to win a game in MSG in order to be wearing their whites in their first tourney game.

Connecticut: The brutal Big East schedule claimed both Villanova and UConn. It just looked like these teams just ran out of gas at times going against great competition every night. The Huskies need to win a couple of games in MSG to solidify a Sweet 16 seed and then take a day or two to recharge to get ready for the Madness.

Michigan State: The Spartans are arguably the most disappointing team in the country this season. They were preseason #2 and are now fighting on the bubble. They might have to beat a very good Purdue team to get in.

Purdue: The Boilers chances for a #1 seed ended in Iowa City on Saturday. One down performance in a month isn’t anything to be alarmed at. They still look like a good bet to go deep in the tournament. But they’ll be farther from home.

Colorado State: The Rams RPI is still tournament worthy, but they lack the quality wins needed. They might have to beat New Mexico AND BYU to get in.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores struggled to end the season and are now looking at a middle seed next Sunday. None of the big boys would like to see these guys on the first weekend, but unless Vandy wins a few in Atlanta, they are heading to a 7-10, 8-9 type game.

Washington: I’m not sure the Huskies would be bubble worthy in most years, but this year is like no other. They can’t be one and done in Staples later this week.

Tennessee: Bruce Pearl almost looked like “dead man walking” in the handshake line after the game yesterday. One wonders if Pearl’s job will hinge on his ability to have success in the NCAA’s. I don’t see them firing a Sweet 16 coach. First round loser? Who knows?

Monday’s Notable Games: RPI in ()

CAA Championship: (48) Virginia Commonwealth vs. (24) Old Dominion: ESPN at 7 EST

MAAC Championship: (103) St. Peter’s vs. (65) Iona: ESPN2 at 7 EST

WCC Championship: (43) St. Mary’s vs. (62) Gonzaga: ESPN at 9 EST

Southern Conference Championship: (117) Wofford vs. (67) Charleston: ESPN2 at 9 EST

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