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Bruce Pearl Is Reportedly Done at Tennessee

Pearl is done at Tennessee

The University of Tennessee has made the inevitable official. Bruce Pearl was reportedly told that he will not return next season as the coach of the men’s basketball team at the university. On Friday, Pearl coached his final game for the school, guiding the team to a 75-45 loss to Michigan in their first tournament game.

No Tennessee men’s coach can match Pearl’s six NCAA tournament bids and he owns eight of the school’s sixteen tournament wins all time. In the 2007-08 season, the school rose to the #1 ranking in the polls for the first and only time in the history of the program.

In the four seasons prior to Pearl’s arrival in Knoxville, previous coach Buzz Peterson failed to make the NCAA tournament and had losing seasons in two of his four seasons as coach.

Despite the NCAA rules violations, including lying about a barbeque involving recruits at his home and a secondary violation regarding contact with a recruit following the first violations, Pearl remains extremely popular among the supporters of the program. Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton is going to have a difficult time trying to replace the highly successful and energetic Pearl.

The biggest reason for letting go of Pearl was to limit the penalties that will come down from the NCAA later this year. SEC conference commissioner Mike Slive suspended Pearl for the first eight games of the SEC season. Getting rid of Pearl implies that the university expects more sanctions to come and hopes soften the blow by terminating the cause of the problems, Pearl.

The smart move would have been to be proactive and institute penalties when this season went downhill. Slive actually helped them with this by suspending Pearl for the SEC games. In addition, they could have shown good faith by implementing a one year ban on postseason play a month ago when this team was obviously not going to make a long run in March. That gesture, along with a few other minor penalties, might have been enough for the NCAA to leave their basketball program alone and enable the school to keep Pearl.

This isn’t an easy job, as evidenced by only five NCAA bids in the 22 years prior to Pearl’s arrival. The Vols start every season looking up at Kentucky in the SEC East and also the 2006 and 2007 NCAA champion, Florida, resides in the division as well. The SEC is consistently a 5-6 bid league, but with two bids typically gone in November, that leaves only 3-4 bids for the remaining 10 schools. Enticing a coach to compete in the difficult SEC East with looming sanctions is going to be difficult.

Pearl is far and away the most popular coach in the program’s history. Replacing his energy and enthusiasm will not be easy. While Tennessee is consistently among the top 20 programs in attendance each season, their huge arena, Thompson-Boling Arena, is the sixth largest in Division I at a capacity of over 21,000. Even at 15,000 per game, there are a lot of empty seats. Losing a few more thousand per game could make it even worse in the cavernous arena. Getting a new coach to embrace the challenge of filling those seats will be difficult.

Many of the players have implied that they will not return if Pearl is not retained. Freshman forward Tobias Harris was vocal over the weekend about leaving if Pearl was fired. He’ll probably follow through with leaving now that Pearl has been released.

 Who will be the coach to replace Pearl at Tennessee?  One has to figure that they won’t be able to get an “A” list coach to take over a program with sanctions. So it will most likely be a mid-major coach who might have some baggage, a former major coach looking for a second chance, or an assistant like current associate head coach Tony Jones, who coached the team while Pearl was suspended for the first eight conference games.

Would up-and-coming coaches like VCU’s Shaka Smart and Richmond’s Chris Mooney be interested? Both are only located a couple hundred miles away in Richmond, Virginia and could be targeted when their teams are eliminated from the tournament. When you have your pick of jobs, like Smart and Mooney will have, why would you take on a situation like Tennessee? Current assistant Tony Jones might be the best pick as he would be able to provide the easiest transition, especially if they are trying to retain their current players.

One thing to keep in mind is that with looming sanctions, the North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, and Arkansas jobs are all better jobs than this one. Basketball doesn’t take a backseat to football at the ACC schools and Arkansas is historically a much better program on the court and supported more by the fans and alumni than Tennessee. Oklahoma is also a major conference team that is looking for a coach and doesn’t provide the obstacles that the Tennessee job offers. The administrators at Tennessee might think they have a great job to offer, but it’s probably not enough to convince successful mid-major coaches to jump in. They might have to settle for a coach on the rebound, like former Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, to help turn this situation around.

Assuming the school is intent on hiring a coach before the NCAA hearing, the new coach will have to blindly sign on with the hope that the sanctions won’t be too severe and that he doesn’t lose any of the returning players. Otherwise, Tennessee could be looking a major rebuilding job that takes years to fix and it might take a second head coach to be hired down the road to complete the job.

The University of Tennessee’s men’s basketball program might look a lot like Indiana’s did three years ago when Tom Crean took over. Crean has failed to have a winning season in Bloomington since being hired. Think about that. That’s Indiana, home of five national championships and a tremendous statewide following and tradition. It could get much worse than that at football centric Tennessee without Pearl.

The University of Tennessee had a choice in this situation. They got greedy and tried to benefit from Pearl’s coaching this season and try to make a final run in the NCAA tournament when self-imposing a one year tournament ban during a lost season would have proven that they were proactive and serious about the violations. That fizzled out and there might only be the charred remains of a once strong program remaining when this is done.

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.

Road to Selection Sunday for March 13

Done?

Welcome to the Road to Selection Sunday for March 13

Today is Selection Sunday: Finally Home

News and Notes:

It doesn’t look good for Pelphrey to remain as coach in Arkansas.

Paul Hewitt is done as coach at Georgia Tech after being the national runner-up in 2004 and 11 seasons.

Dayton is excited to be playing on CBS in a non NCAA tournament game since 1984.

Josh Harrellson is laying is on the line during his senior season for Kentucky.

The Gators bench was a big factor in their win yesterday against Vanderbilt.

It took a few months, but North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes is playing like the real deal.

Winners:

Automatic Qualifiers:

  • America East: Boston University
  • Conference USA: Memphis
  • MEAC: Hampton
  • Southland: Texas-San Antonio
  • Ivy: Princeton
  • Big 12: Kansas
  • MAC: Akron
  • PAC 10: Washington
  • Mountain West: San Diego State
  • Big West: UC-Santa Barbara
  • SWAC: Alabama State
  • Big East: Connecticut
  • WAC: Utah State

Memphis: The Tigers showed their #tigerblood yesterday by coming back from 62-50 with just over 6 minutes remaining. It appeared that experienced coaching would win out and UTEP would be dancing, while the Tigers would hold their breath for 29 hours. But Joe Jackson stepped up with help from Chris Crawford and led the Tigers back in the hostile Don Haskins Center. While Memphis might not be a major threat next week, making the NCAA tournament during a down season is the mark of a very good program.

Atlantic Ten: The A-10 might have their best case final scenario with Dayton facing Richmond. Dayton’s got the best RPI outside of the top 3 teams and if those 3 are on the right side of the bubble, then Dayton can steal a bid to give the A-10 four bids for the first time since 2003-04. Dayton’s RPI is now 70 so a loss by Richmond might not burst their bubble.

Florida: The Gators look like a 2 seed now and they should be a lock if they beat Kentucky today. If not, they probably drop to a 3 seed, but they’re more dangerous than in most seasons.

Duke and North Carolina: Many feel that the winner of this game will be a 1 seed. I think Duke can get it, but North Carolina might have to win to get a 2 seed. Those top 2 lines are tough and UNC doesn’t have a better profile than Florida, who might still be a 3 seed.

Penn State: It looks like the Lions brought Jerry Sandusky to Chicago. They’ve only given up 81 points in the past 2 games to reach the finals. Is making the finals enough? Grab a coin.

San Diego State: Great performance by the Aztecs as they avenged their only two losses of the season last night in Vegas. This team is deserving of at least a 2 seed, but I’d give them a 1 if Duke loses.

Losers:

Harvard: Tough last second loss to Princeton in the one game playoff at Yale. They are better than at least 5-10 teams that will make it in today. Will they be perceived as good enough by the committee?

UTEP: Tough loss as the Miners blew a 12 point lead with about 6 minutes left on their home court. This team should get better the longer Tim Floyd remains coach.

Alabama: If conference affiliation doesn’t matter and the overall profile is the key, then Alabama is done after losing to Kentucky yesterday.

Virginia Tech: Do you have a coin? Call heads or tails and that’s probably the chances that you hear Seth Greenburg crying to Dick Vitale tonight after being left out again. Remember Seth, if you had played Richmond, VCU, George Mason, ODU, and other Virginia schools, you’re strength of schedule wouldn’t be an issue.

Clemson: The Tigers don’t have any top 50 wins. Good luck on the bubble.

Texas: The national media still loves the Longhorns, but they shouldn’t be anything higher than a 4 seed.

Arizona: The Wildcats will be the highest seeded Pac 10 school, but they might be in an 8-9 game.

Michigan State: You didn’t expect Sparty to all of a sudden get consistent, did you? Expect them to be done by the end of next weekend.

Brigham Young: The Cougars still can’t shake that they’re not a top team without Brandon Davies. Last night’s convincing loss did nothing to dissuade viewers and most likely, the selection committee. I think they should get at least a 3, but the committee will probably make them a 4 seed at best.

Sunday’s Games: RPI in ()

Atlantic Ten Championship (70) Dayton at (44) Richmond: CBS at 1 EST

ACC Championship (4) Duke at (6) North Carolina: ESPN at 1 EST

SEC Championship (9) Kentucky vs. (7) Florida: ABC at 1 EST

Big Ten Championship (39) Penn State vs. (2) Ohio State: CBS at 3:30 EST

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

Atlantic Ten Basketball Overview March 6

Atlantic Ten Basketball Overview March 6

Team Overviews: Records are going into March 7th. RPI is courtesy of rpiforecast.com.

Current NCAA Locks:

Xavier Musketeers RPI 21

  • 24-6, 15-1 in A10  Away: 8-4  Neutral: 2-1
  • OOC rundown: 9-5 with wins over Butler and Georgia. They have losses to ODU, Miami (OH), Gonzaga, Florida, and Cincinnati. They also had 3 gimmes. RPI 38, schedule 14.
  • A10 Wins: at URI, UMass, Day, at SB, Tem, GW, at Rich, SLU, at Duq, at SJU, For, Las, at Day, Char, SLU   Losses: at Char
  • The Musketeers have a chance to get a 4 seed if they win the A-10 tournament. Losing in the finals to Temple or Richmond would most likely put them into a 6 seed. Losing in the semis would give them a 7 seed, or maybe put them into an 8-9 game.

Temple Owls RPI 29

  • 24-6, 14-2 in A10   Away: 9-4  Neutral: 1-2
  • OOC rundown: 10-3 with good wins over Georgia, Maryland, and Georgetown along with losses to Cal, Texas A&M, Villanova, and Duke. They also had 3 gimmes. RPI 39, schedule 58.
  • A10 Wins: at Ford, SLU, SB, Char, at SJU, Las, URI, Ford, at Day, Rich, SJU, at GW, at UMass, Las   Losses: at Duq, at Xav
  • The Owls could climb to a 4 seed if they win the A-10 tournament. Losing to Xavier in the finals should get them a 5 or 6 seed and losing in the semis to Richmond will drop them to a 7 seed. Losing their first game and they will be in an 8-9 game.

 

Bubble Territory:

Richmond Spiders RPI 54

  • 24-7, 13-3 in A10  Away: 10-3  Neutral: 2-1
  • OOC rundown: 11-4 with a big win over Purdue, but losses to Iona, Old Dominion, Georgia Tech, and Bucknell. They also had 5 gimmes. RPI 86, schedule 189.
  • A10 Wins: Cha, at Las, GW, at UMass, at Day, SJU, at For, at GW, SLU, SB, at Cha, at SJU, Duq  Losses: URI, Xav, at Tem
  • The Spiders need to beat the URI-St Louis winner to be safe on Selection Sunday. Beating Temple would get them into a 9 or 10 seed and winning the A-10 tournament could be good enough to get them a 7 seed.

 

Better Win the Conference Tournament:

Dayton Flyers RPI 82

  • 19-12, 7-9 in A10  Away: 5-6
  • OOC rundown: 12-3 with solid wins over Mississippi, George Mason, and New Mexico and losses to Cincinnati, East Tennessee State, and Old Dominion. They also have 5 gimme wins. RPI 32, schedule 54.
  • The Flyers can’t get an at-large and need to win the A-10 tournament.

Duquesne Dukes RPI 97

  • 18-11, 10-6 in A10
  • OOC rundown: 8-5 with no good wins and some solid losses and one bad one. RPI 125, schedule 146.
  • The Dukes hold out hope for some postseason tournament.

Rhode Island Rams RPI 97

  • 18-12, 9-7 in A10
  • OOC rundown: 9-5 with wins over BC and Drexel and some good losses, but two bad ones. RPI 77, schedule 117.
  • The Rams got swept by UMass. Enough said.

Massachusetts Minutemen RPI 145

  • 15-14, 7-9 in A10
  • OOC rundown: 8-5 with no good wins and a couple of bad losses along with a non division I win. RPI 135, schedule 113.
  • Fordham found a team that they are better than.

Saint Bonaventure Bonnies RPI 112

  • 16-13, 8-8 in A10
  • OOC rundown: 8-5 with a win over St. John’s, but two bad losses to Canisius and Niagara. RPI 113, schedule 135.
  • The Bonnies are trying to make a run to the CBI.

LaSalle Explorers RPI 179

  • 14-17, 6-10 in A10
  • OOC rundown: 8-7 with no good wins and some solid losses and one bad one. RPI 204, schedule 164.
  • No NCAA’s this season.

George Washington Colonials RPI 135

  • 17-13, 10-6 in A10
  • OOC rundown: 7-7 with no good wins and lots of bad losses. RPI 223, schedule 245.
  • Is Karl Hobbs done in DC? A new AD might think so.

Saint Louis Billikens RPI 170

  • 12-18, 6-10 in A10
  • OOC rundown: 6-8 with no good wins and too many losses. RPI 195, schedule 65.
  • No NCAA’s in the last 10 seasons, soon to be 11.

Saint Joseph’s Hawks RPI 196

  • 9-21, 4-12 in A10
  • OOC rundown: 5-9 with no good wins and too many losses. RPI 164, schedule 81.
  • The Hawks have lost at least 20 games in consecutive seasons for the first time since Jim Boyle’s final two seasons, 1988-89 and 1989-90. There was a new coach for the next season.

Charlotte 49ers RPI 222

  • 10-20, 2-14 in A10
  • OOC rundown: 8-6 with a good win over Tennessee but a bunch of losses. RPI 161, schedule 234.
  • Season over.

Fordham Rams RPI 248

  • 7-21, 1-15 in A10
  • OOC rundown: 6-6 with a good win over St. John’s but a bunch of losses. RPI 183, schedule 130.
  • Win over UMass stopped their 41 game A-10 losing streak. They will be one of a few teams to end their season with a win.

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