"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
Obviously, it would be a big boost to Michigan to wind up as the top seed in the Grand Rapids regional. Besides the kind-of-home-ice advantage, there would be a decent chance that the first-round game would be against a team like Air Force or Bemidji State if U-M can pick up a top-two seed.
Unfortunately, there is one little problem: Notre Dame. We have to finish ahead of the Irish in the Pairwise rankings to get that spot. Thanks to some interesting officiating a few weeks ago, we are far behind the Domers in the Pairwise, and have really no hope of passing them in a head-to-head comparison.
So how do we pass them? Well, we let a few "friends" do it for us: Vermont and Denver. Right now, we win 21 out of 24 comparisons among the top 25, while ND wins 22. We don't need to win 2 more as long as the Irish lose 2 more.
The key is in Notre Dame's TUC record -- that's Teams Under Consideration for those not steeped in Pairwise nerdness. The Irish are 6-5-0 against teams in the top 25 in the RPI; a hair better than Vermont's 7-7-3. Currently, Vermont loses the RPI and TUC comparisons, and wins against common opponents. A swing in the TUC lifts the Catamounts over Notre Dame. Vermont has two home games this weekend against UNH, followed by the Hockey East tournament. If they get a sweep this weekend and get to the finals of the Hockey East tourney and lose, they will have a record of, at worst, 10-8-3 against TUC for a percentage of 0.548. If ND gets to the Joe and splits either way, their record will be 7-6-0,for a percentage of 0.538. Vermont wins the comparison without even winning their conference tournament.
That gets us into a tie with ND, but we need one more. Denver has a head-to-head win over ND, but that doesn't count in the TUC. They are currently tied against common opponents, and ND wins the RPI. Denver is 13-9-3 in TUC compared to 6-4-0 for ND. Denver has a home game left against Colorado College, followed by the WCHA tourney. Let's say they beat CC, then lose in the finals of the WCHA. That boosts their TUC record to 15-10-3, for a percentage of 0.589. If ND again gets to the Joe and splits, they fall to 7-5-0, or 0.583. Denver wins the comparison.
The only fly in this hypothetical ointment is the Common Opponent comparison. Denver and Notre Dame have common opponents in Ohio State and Minnesota-Duluth. If Notre Dame beats OSU in the CCHA tournament (very possible), or Denver loses to Minn.-Duluth (very unlikely), that gives common opponents to ND, and they tie the comparison. With ND ahead in RPI, they get the win, and the Grand Rapids Regional.
So here's what we root for:
Michigan wins the CCHA tournament, or at least splits at the Joe. You were probably rooting for that before anyway.
Vermont and Denver win this weekend and at least make their conference tournament finals.
Important: Ohio State loses without getting to the Joe.
And, oddly enough, Notre Dame gets to the Joe and loses. I don't think getting knocked out in the quarterfinals, as unlikely as it is anyway, drops their RPI low enough that they get passed.
If all of this happens, we are looking at a probable 3rd overall seed, possibly second overall, at Grand Rapids. Winning the CCHA would probably give us 2nd.
As Brian pointed out in today’s UV, last night was a crazy night on the NCAA Bubble. Bubble teams from heavy favorite Kentucky to the heavy underdog Virginia Tech lost last night. The upshot for Michigan being a whole heck of a lot of elbow room being created in what had been one of the most crowded bubble pictures in recent seasons.
Does it change the tournament math for Michigan? No, not especially. But, it pretty much ensures that the oft-quoted formula of ‘.500 in the Big 10, plus one league tourney win’ will get the Wolverines in the final Field of 65.
How crazy was last night’s action? Without playing, the Wolverines may have been the biggest winners of the night as they saw two teams ahead of them in the Bracket Matrix final cut list lose, not to mention a Matrix 12-seed (UK) and Matrix 11-seed (Florida) as well.
How crazy was last night’s action? The most impressive win of the night by a team already on the bubble was a road win by Texas A/M at Colorado. The Buffaloes are in dead last place in the Big 12 with a 1-14 record.
How crazy was last night’s action? Northwestern, of all teams, thanks to their wonderful upset at Purdue, have stepped strongly into the void left behind from the other bubble failures to stake a legitimate and strong claim for an at large bid.
How crazy was last night’s action? Thanks to both Kentucky and Florida taking the gas pipe last night, their game against each other on Saturday has gone from being a play-in game to a game that will only determine who can survive another day on the bubble. The winner still will be on the outside looking in when the regular season ends. Do you think my buddy Billy Clyde Gillespie is feeling some heat today on the Bluegrass airwaves and blogs?
How crazy was last night’s action? I went 3-0 on my predictions. Ok, that’s not crazy, just pure awesome.
As for tonight, it’s a light overall on the schedule, but the games that are on the docket carry huge import:
Tennessee at South Carolina, 7pm, ESPN. Line USC 02
The SEC East Division Title is on the line tonight. At the same time, the loser might find itself in need a couple more wins to get into the Tournament. According to the Matrix, this is an 8-seed (UT) versus a 9-seed (USC). Based on that, both teams appear secure. The loser tonight, however, can’t afford to lose this weekend and feel safe about any at large bid. The slate works in both of their favor as the Vols host Alabama and the Gamecocks travel to Georgia on Saturday, but after last night, nothing in the SEC can be taken for granted.
Providence at Villanova, 7pm, ESPN2. Line, Nova -11
Michigan fans have found an ally in the Villanova Wildcats, haven’t we? That’s great because they owe us for that tank job Michigan gave them in the 1985 second round. I’m still shaking my head about that game. Did the Wolverine players just want to party with Dwayne McClain and his stash? Were they just trying to get in his good graces? Who knows? Anyway, for the third time in less than a week, the Wildcats will attempt to put a serious dent in the resume of one of the bubble teams battling Michigan for one of the final spots in the tournament. They could not get the job done against Georgetown on Saturday, but they delivered a death blow to Notre Dame on Monday. Tonight, we’ll find out if there’s any sharpness left in their dagger when Villanova hosts Providence. The Friars sit as the last team cut from the Bracket Matrix field. As of last night’s update, they are on a bracket line in about one-third of the total fields compiled by the Matrix. Even with a loss, Providence will still end with a nice looking 10-8 Big East record. However, they played a weak conference slate and have next to nothing on their OOC resume. A .500 team from a power league with nice OOC wins would surely merit more consideration that Providence when it’s all said and done. Are we familiar with any teams that fit that bill?
Dayton at Xavier, 9pm, ESPN2. LIne, XU -10
Xavier is playing for an outright A10 crown and for a better seed in the Big Dance. The Flyers are trying to cement an at large bid. They will do that with a win tonight as it will give them a season sweep over the Musketeers. Dayton looks to be in good shape for a bid. They receive unanimous support in the Bracket Matrix and currently sit on their 9-line. But, like a lot of teams in their position, the Flyers can’t afford to go the rest of the way without at least one more win. After tonight’s tough test at XU, Dayton closes the season Saturday night hosting a better-than-it-looks Duquesne squad. The Flyers have been masters at surviving close calls all season. If that skill dries up this week, the Flyers might need to win at least one game in the A10 Tournament to avoid a snub.
Illinois at Penn St, 9pm, ESPN. Line, PSU -1
Ah, yes. After the 38-33 treat they gave us a few weeks ago, I can’t wait to watch this one. What’s the O/U on number of years this game will set back basketball? Brian dissected the PSU situation yesterday. I don’t really have much more to add. Clearly, Michigan fans would like to see a PSU collapse down the stretch. They close at Iowa Sunday afternoon. That won’t be a picnic. If the Lions lose tonight, they will face a must win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
California at Arizona, 10:30pm, FSN. Line, AU -4.5
Perhaps the biggest game of the night takes place in the dessert tonight between the Golden Bears and Wildcats. The Cats have been a roller coaster. They were dead in the water in late January. In February, they picked themselves off the mat, played some brilliant hoops and injected themselves back in the NCAA hunt. As the first week of March closes, however, Arizona is sliding again, having lost three games in a row. They’re only 8-8 in the Pac 10 right now and sit as a 10-seed in the latest Bracket Matrix. It’s not hard to sketch the trouble they could be in should the losing streak hit four games. They do have a winnable home game against Stanford over the weekend, but I don’t think a 9-9 Pac 10 mark will be enough. If they don’t sweep the Bay Area teams at home this week, the Cats will have a lot of pressure on them heading into the Pac 10 Tournament. At 9-9, they would likely face Cal again or Arizona State in their first game. Their bid will be on shaky footing if they lose tonight. So, with the league's fifth bid still up in that air, why are Pac 10 bloggers debating a sixth bid?
Jeff Fryar Haunts My Dreams
You remember Loyola Marymount, don’t you? Don’t worry; you can come out from under the table. Jeff Fryar, the Human Bruise, is not in the building pulling up for break-away three pointers. Nor, is Bo Kimble around pumping through left-handed free throws. The Ghost of Hank Gathers is not in the building. Nobody will score 149 points on the Wolverines tonight. Of course, if any of those moments cause a small of vomit in your mouth, then you recall the absolute tail whipping the Lions put on Michigan in the 1990 Second Round. I’d rather not go into any more detail.
Anyway, if you want to see their modern incarnation, tune into the Big South semifinals tonight, beginning at 6pm on ESPNU. You’ll see their style of play in the VMI Keydets. No shot clock is needed with the Keydets. Games played in the 80s are slow affairs. They match up tonight against Liberty, a team led by freshman sensation Seth Curry. Yes, he’s the little brother of Stephen. Hopefully, we’ll get a few Cougar shots of his mother in the stands tonight.
In the second game, top seed and host Radford will play UNC Ashville. Don’t expect Radford to roll through this field by virtue of home court. They lost at home to both Liberty and VMI this year. The JCCW has a more in-depth preview on this tournament, so check the link out for a better primer on tonight’s games.
I expect these games to be dogfights, or in the case of the VMI/Liberty game a serious track meet. These four schools rarely sniff the NCAA Tournament, so the next couple of days (the finals are Saturday on ESPN2) will be an exciting time for the players, students, and towns involved.
I know there is a contingent of folks out there who do not like the fact clubs like these are included in the Field of 65. That’s flat hogwash, IMO. The essence of March Madness will be laid out on the court in this tournament and the other mid major ones taking place throughout this weekend. Do they have any chance at cutting the nets down next month in Detroit? No. But the players on one of these Big South teams will likely go down as some of the best in school history if they can pull out two more wins. To me, the beauty of March Madness is the ability to define different levels of success and achievement. Sure, only one big dog will be left standing, but along the way there are going to magical moments that will make the players feel like champions, even if they’re not on the roster of the eventual national champion.
Some of those moments may happen tonight. And, while none of the Big South action tonight will impact Michigan’s place on the bubble, I will be as glued to those games as any other this evening.
Predictions to make me look like a genius or an idiot tomorrow morning
Hey, we’re 5-2-2 this month. Let’s keep it rolling.
South Carolina -2 over Tennessee. While the SEC is weak this season, I’ve really come to enjoy watching a couple of their teams play, notably LSU and this Gamecock squad. They will complete an undefeated SEC home season in style tonight.
Penn State -1 over Illinois. I know we want the Illini to win this, but my brain says PSU will get it done. This may sound strange, given the 38-33 score these two labored too earlier in the year, but I think the Nittany Lions will have too much scoring tonight for an Illini team that may be running out of gas.
VMI beats Liberty in the Big South Semis tonight. Strangely, I am having a hard time finding a line on this one. But, as any real gambler knows how to do, I found a way to find action. I have a bar tab bet going with Jerry at the JCCW, who is flat convinced Liberty not only gets it done tonight, but wins the whole Big South Sectional. He has all sorts of fancy, KenPom anecdotal evidence in his favor. I have my heart as I really want to see the VMI show continue. Brains versus Heart, eh? I don’t see what can go wrong.
OK, so earlier, I presented a playoff idea which was pretty radical. I still think the only major-major problem with it was that it made a giant mess of conference championships, but that's not easily overcome.
Still, I'm gonna keep trying. I still hate the idea of a playoff pretty passionately, because typical playoff ideas like the MWC's yesterday aren't well thought out IMO. The effect they would have on what I like best about college football - the importance of the regular season and the excitement of bowl season - are brushed aside in favor of the narrowminded crusade toward crowning a "true" national champion. I think quite a few people who call themselves in favor of a playoff would change their mind if they actually grasped what the side effects would be, because they have their "perfect" one in mind.
That said, I recognize that the tide is against me here. Sooner or later there will be one, whether simply because the commissioners' thinking evolves or because Congress rams a shitty, poorly-thought-out playoff down our throat in the interest of scoring cheap political points with voters.
So I want to keep trying ideas that I think will continue to preserve both an entertaining regular season and keep the bowl season intact. (If we drop a lesser bowl or two - Papajohn's.com Bowl, say - I'm not distressed.) Keeping in mind two things of course, which I consider absolute truisms of a playoff: It must be big (12 team minimum, 16 more likely), and it must be played primarily at home stadiums.
So. The Big East basketball tournament is set up as follows:
#9 vs. #16
#10 vs. #15
#11 vs. #14
#12 vs. #13
#'s 5-8 get a bye and await opponents from the first round. #'s 1-4 get two byes. Thus a HUGE advantage to teams that performed well in the regular season. This would be multiplied in a college football playoff, as these teams would get weeks off to practice before playing.
So part 1 is accomplished: the regular season remains meaningful.
Part 2 - the bowl season must not be emaciated by losing all the best teams - means the playoff takes place mostly in December, and the early losers are to be snapped up by the bowls. Instead of conference affiliations, certain bowls would contract to get, say, the loser of the 11-14 game or the 6-11/14 game. I envision all losers could go to a bowl except for those losing in the Football Final Four.
This season, the conference championship games are December 5. The playoff could be on successive Saturdays: 12th, 19th, 26th. The Football Final Four would be played January 2 - my proposal being that, like the current BCS CG, the two games would be rotated among current BCS bowls.
The championship game would be January 9, and I envision, though I'm not married to the idea, that the game would be in one city permanently, much like the CWS is always in Omaha.
The BCS standing would be scrapped and the seedings would be chosen by selection committee, just like basketball.
Using the BCS standings from last year as an example only, as well as conference champions seeded the way I think they should be, the playoff last year might have looked like this:
#16 Troy at #9 Boise State
#15 Ball State at #10 Ohio State
#14 East Carolina at #11 TCU
#13 Virginia Tech at #12 Cincinnati
#12 Cincinnati at #5 USC
#11 TCU at #6 Utah
#10 Ohio State at #7 Texas Tech
#9 Boise State at #8 Penn State
#8 Penn State at #1 Oklahoma
#7 Texas Tech at #2 Florida
#6 Utah at #3 Texas
#5 USC at #4 Alabama
Football Final Four in Pasadena and New Orleans
#4 Alabama vs. #1 Oklahoma
#3 Texas vs. #2 Florida
Championship in wherever:
#2 Florida vs. #1 Oklahoma
(Full disclosure: Example edited after I remembered most of the point of having 16 teams is to allow for autobids, which I think are absolutely inseparable from a playoff.)
- Playoff! Y'all can stop whining.
- Regular season and bowl season mostly intact.
- Likelihood that teams would actually play fewer games than a standard playoff. The 9-16 teams would need to win five games to win, but that is not guaranteed. Chances are the champion only plays three. In a standard bracket, two teams must play four games.
- More teams get to host a playoff game. It's guaranteed that 12 teams would play host at least once, whereas the max guaranteed in a standard bracket would be eight. Spreading the money around makes everyone happy.
- Bowl contracts trickier, but not too hard, and traditional rivalries (Rose Bowl) might be hard to keep around. Bowl scheduling would have to adapt rather heavily especially for the third round losers.
- Compressed season and difficulty with final exams. Jumping straight into the postseason might be considered difficult for the college athlete.
- Still not convinced a team and their fans can viably travel twice, but the Big Event nature of a Final Four could overcome that.
Thoughts? I look forward to hearing them.
You know what you don’t want to do if you are sitting on the NCAA Bubble?
You certainly don’t want to lose to a 20-loss team that’s lost six straight games by more than double digits. And, you definitely don’t want to barf away a double digit lead in the closing minutes and lose to a team with twice as many league losses as wins.
Yet, that’s exactly what Cincinnati and Georgetown did in stunning losses last night that sliced a near lethal dagger through the heart of their at-large hopes and helped clear up a lot of elbow room on the NCAA Bubble.
The Bearcats could not contain the Bulls Dominque Jones, who dropped 30 points on CU for the sophomore’s 22nd career game with 20 or more points. Georgetown, meanwhile, inexplicably frittered a way a big lead en route to losing in overtime to St. John’s. The Johnnies missed 14 straight shots in the second half, yet still were able to come back and spring the upset. Did they find a way to sneak Chris Mullen and Mark Jackson into the game somehow? I don’t know. I do know the loss drops the Hoyas into 12th place in the Big East. I don’t care how tough the Big East is perceived to be, their 12th place team wont sniff the final field of 65.
Those outcomes, as well as Kansas State’s loss to Oklahoma State, put serious dents in the resumes of the three teams directly behind Michigan in the current Bracket Matrix in the quest to break into the field. Throw in Matrix 12-seed Maryland’s home loss last night to Wake Forest and it was a pretty solid night on the out-of-town scoreboard for the Maize and Blue. If only Iowa had pulled through to kick a leg out from underneath Ohio State’s resume, the night would have been perfect.
First Upset in the Books
The out-of-town scoreboard also revealed the first official upset of March Madness when 7-seed Illinois-Chicago went on the road to beat 6-seed Youngstown State in the opening round of the Horizon League Tournament. I have a feeling we’ll see several more upsets between now and the end of the month that will resonate louder than that one.
In addition to YSU, 11 other teams saw their dream die last after being eliminated last night in various league tournaments. See you later, High Point, Tennessee State and Coastal Carolina. I feel like we barely knew you. Better luck next year. Sorry, Detroit, your dream to play the Final Four in your city ended last night at the hands of Cleveland State. We’re down to less than 320 remaining to be the last one standing in four weeks at Ford Field. That number will shrink further tonight with elimination games in the Patriot and Sun Belt conferences. Fellow Hoops Junkie Jerry has a primer on all that action in part one and part two of his series looking ahead to a big weekend in mid-major hoops.
The few league tournament games tonight will impact Michigan or the rest of the bubble. Here’s a sketch of the action tonight that will impact the bubble:
As The ACC Turns
We’ve tracked five bubble teams from the ACC, but in the final week of the season little has been determined yet regarding their fates. Only one of those teams, Florida State, has separated itself from the pack to get off the bubble and lock in a bid. While the Noles dropped a tough one on the road to Duke last night, they’re on their way to a top-4 finish in the ACC. They also covered the spread (as predicted, WOOT!) and are now 10-4-1 against the number in the ACC this season. Don’t forget that factoid next week when the league field convenes.
That leaves Maryland, Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech still trying to ensure a bid. The Terps lost last night to Wake, dropping them a game below .500 in league play. Through all the ups and downs, Maryland finds itself in the very same position as last year, needing to cobble together at least two more bids to feel safely about getting a bid.
Boston College is the most secure of all these teams. They’re a consensus 8-seed in the Bracket Matrix. But, if they don’t win another game the rest of the way, they probably would be left out. After their road game at NC State tonight, they host last place Georgia Tech to close the season Saturday. If BC were to drop those games, they would be .500 in ACC play. They can’t afford a 0-2 week against those lightweights and then go 0-1 in the ACC Tournament and still expect a bid. The Eagles, barring total collapse, are in the field. Is it possible said collapse could begin tonight in Raleigh? I’m not sure, but the Pack have played better since making a lineup change in their first games with the Eagles this year.
Miami and Virginia Tech are different stories. Both clubs need at least two, if not three, wins from here on out to sneak back in the field. As of today, both clubs are just ahead of Michigan among the final eight left out in the Bracket Matrix. The Hokies and Canes are in 22 and 20 brackets respectively.
The Hokies have a chance at a big scalp this evening when North Carolina invades Blacksburg. These teams have not played each other since last year’s ACC semifinals, an absolute classic won by the Heels on a Hansbourogh buzzer beater. That loss kept the Hokies out of the Field of 65. A win tonight would go a long way towards earning a big this season. The Hokies might seem at a talent disadvantage tonight, but don’t sleep on them. They have a way of turning most games into nail biters. A total of 68 games since Seth Greenberg took over have been decided by five points or less or in Overtime. That’s more than one-third of the games since he took over the Hokie program. On Senior Night, when they’re bidding adieu to one of the more successful classes in program history and the Puerto Rican Assassin, the Hokies could be a very live dog.
As for Miami, the Canes were mired deep in the league standings a couple of weeks ago. But, if they take care of business against Georgia Tech tonight and NC State over the weekend, they will have crawled back to even in ACC play. They would be a on a nice winning streak, but since most of those wins will have come at the expense of second division teams, they would still need a grab a win next week in the ACC tournament.
It boils down to this in the ACC: Some combination of Miami, Virginia Tech and Maryland will end up as the 7-8-9 seeds in the ACC Tournament. Can either of those teams strengthen their cases between now and then? At this point, it looks like a good bet that none of these three will be any better than 8-8 in league play and none will have more than 20 overall wins when the ACC convenes next week. Two of these teams will square off in an 8-9 game to start the tournament next Thursday afternoon. At worst, it will be an elimination game. At best, it will be a play-in game. As for the third team that gets the 7-seed? I suggest not losing that 7/10 game (likely foe: NC State) that will wrap up the night session of the first round.
Down south, the focus tonight is on a pair of reeling SEC teams: Kentucky and Florida. Both clubs are rapidly playing themselves out of the tournament equation and need to stop the bleeding before they play each to close the season over the weekend. Both have been hemorrhaging support from the Bracket Matrix in recent updates.
Kentucky has the easier chore tonight, traveling to last place Georgia. The Cats are clinging to a 12-seed in the Matrix, and almost half of the bracketologists have left them out of their fields. The Cats have lost two in a row, three of four and six of their last nine games. That’s no way to enter March.
The Cats are on the verge of missing the NCAAs for the first time since the Eddie Sutton, Chris Mills, Shaun Kemp-induced probation sunk the program, prohibiting their participation in 1990 and 1991. The folks down in Bluegrass Country are not taking it well. Billy Clyde Gillespie is on the hot seat, mainly because this is not how UK basketball seasons are supposed to look like. Not only are the Wildcats in disarray, but their coach is saying they aren’t a better team than Georgia, tonight’s opponent. That’s last place Georgia for those not up on the SEC standings.
For this Hooiser alum, no tears are shed when there is panic in Lexington. For the time being, it even makes me forget our own problems down in Bloomington. That does bring a tear, so let’s move on, shall we?
Florida, meanwhile, looks to be in slightly better shape with an 11-seed and placement in approximately two-thirds of the brackets. However, they have a much tougher hill to climb tonight traveling to Starkville to play Mississippi State. Like UK, Florida comes in off back-to-back losses. The Gators have lost four of their last six games and are just 5-6 in their last 11 games, the same record as Michigan during that span. However, by all accounts, Michigan plays in a tougher league than Florida and included in that stretch was a non-conference game on the road against top-ranked Uconn. Gator observers admit it's easier to make a case leaving Florida out of the field, and they might need four wins from here on out to make the field.
Here’s the deal with both of these teams: Can either feel secure if they go 2-2 from here on out? We know one will lose this weekend. Can the loser of that game get in with just one SEC Tournament win? I don’t think so. Every road map into the field for these teams becomes even rockier should either lose this evening.
Does the winner get a fancy axe?
Are we interested at all in the Wisconsin-Minnesota game? Um, yeah. Wisconsin is likely in the field, but like Boston College, probably won’t get in if they don’t win another game. Considering they host woeful Indiana (dammit!!!) over the weekend, a Badger collapse is not likely to happen. Still, in Badger Country, its being billed as one of the league’s marquee games of the season.
As for the Gophers, even with a win, they can’t afford to lose to Michigan on Saturday. I’d rather Minnesota come into that game with as sparkly a resume as possible. For the Gophers tonight can be a win-win-uh,win situation against the rival Badgers.
Even with a Minnesota win tonight, Michigan can earn the 7-seed in the Big 10 conference with a win on Saturday. Anyway you shake it, Saturday’s game between the Gophers and the Wolverines will determine which team only has to win one Big 10 Tournament game and which team has to advance at least two rounds in order to snag an at large bid. I don’t think tonight’s game will alter that scenario.
A New Threat Emerges in the Mountain West
Out in the Mountain West Conference, your guess is as good as mine as to what’s going on. I’ve been railing all winter on people including 4 MWC in their fields.
We’ve seen some attrition in that line of thought with San Diego State garnering next to no support these days. The Aztecs are only in a grand total of 4 brackets in the Matrix. UNLV, meanwhile, is a 10-seed, but the Rebels are garnering near unanimous support, putting them on stronger footing, on the surface at least, than teams like Florida and Kentucky. Neither of those positions will change tonight as each hosts one of the league’s worst teams with UNLV playing Air Force and SDSU welcoming Colorado State. Conveniently, the Rebels and Aztecs play each this weekend and it’s looking more and more likely they will see each other again next Thursday afternoon in the 4/5 quarterfinal of the MWC Tournaments.
Elsewhere in the league, BYU seems secure barring a complete collapse and a three-game losing streak to end the season. They do play a tougher-than-it-looks game tonight on the road at Wyoming, so maybe the first strike in said collapse is coming. But since they host winless-in-the-league Air Force this weekend, don’t get your hopes too high for a Cougar choke job. Utah is a home win from the regular season title and probably won’t be left out of the field either.
So, BYU and Utah look; UNLV and SDSU still have some work to do and any bid between them may come down to back-to-back games each other beginning Saturday night in Vegas. So, this league is easy to figure out, right? Not when New Mexico is added to the discussion. Say what you will about Steve Alford (awesome player, so-so coach) he has the Lobos on fire. They notched a big win over Utah last night and are one win away from sharing the league crown with the Utes. However, as of today, the Lobos are in exactly one bracket along the comprehensive Matrix. I wonder how this will change between now and next Monday? Maybe the MWC will net four bids after all.
I still think the number is three. It may be the most intriguing league tournament all of next weekend. My guess? If seeds hold, the two semifinals winners will get a bid as well the next best team. I still don’t see four teams, but if it happens, rest assured a team from one of the power leagues will be left out in the cold.
For amusement purposes only, I offer the following predictions for tonight. Hey, I am 2-2-1 making calls in March Diaries, but we're only beginning.
Minnesota -2 over Wisconsin. No team that loses at Iowa will win at the Barn. Well, until Saturday, that is.
Mississippi State beats Florida, but I'll take the +1 anyway.
Va Tech +10 over UNC......remember a few years back when Duke's Sean Dockery beat the Hokies on a half court shot? They stewed for an entire year waiting for revenge. Expect the same kind of effort tonight out of Va Tech, who are still fuming over last year's clash in the ACC semifinals. They might not win, but they'll keep this withing single digits.
So there I was, shooting around earlier this afternoon in the IM building with my roommate. I scanned the courts to see if there were any worthy challengers for some two and two. Besides IM building employees cleaning up instant scheduling for racquetball, and a couple kids per hoop, there were a couple guys at the far end of the courts throwing a football. I took a closer look at the taller guy of the two. He was decked out in michigan gear and he had that familiar grizzly beard. At this point I was not mistaken it was Steven Threet. He could tell that I recognized him as I kept looking over. Sadly, his throws looked no better than those dying ducks he was throwing against Toledo. At first I felt a twinge of sadness for this guy. He goes from the starting quarterback of Michigan to tossing a ball around with his friend hoping to not lose that feeling of throwing the ball. He gradually extended his distance to the court I was playing on, but his throws did not improve. I really do hope Threet finds a school that fits his skill set. He has had a terrible run of luck with coaching changes. Even though Threet gave us a mix of highs and lows he really does seem to have a passion for the game and I think he should go to a school that has a stable coaching situation.
Michigan and all the other teams on the NCAA bubble saw some chips fall their way last night with the Irish losing on their home court to Villanova. The 17-point loss likely drops ND out of any serious at-large contention save for a major run in the Big East Tournament that involves upwards of three wins when the field convenes in New York City next week. According to the latest BE Tourney projections, those wins would have to come against, in order, Rutgers, Syracuse and Louisville, with those last two foes both coming off a bye. Impossible? No. But, it would still be improbable.
The only negative of the outcome was to my bank account. My prediction of an ND win went down in flames, as did the profit I made on Michigan's pointspread cover Sunday afternoon. Sigh. At least I took one for the cause. Kinda like Brian and the abololition of the Live Blogs, right?
That brings us to tonight. While there are several games that will impact the bubble, it's bound to be a frustrating night for Michigan fans. Their fellow bubble mates tipping off tonight are mostly playing second division teams or favored in their game. Or, both. If form holds, Michigan won't gain much traction in the chase.
But, its March. The possibilities are endless, and there is no better time than now to be pulling for the underdog.
Ohio State at Iowa, 9pm, BTN. Line, OSU -1
What happens if Ohio State keeps losing? They’ll be hosting a NIT game, that’s what. For the second straight season, the Buckeyes tournament hopes come down to the final week of play. The Bucks, a solid NCAA pick all winter, are finding their bid in jeopardy as they slump to close the season. After losing four of five games, Ohio State can’t really afford to drop too many more and stay in anybody’s good graces. Winning at Iowa should be a cakewalk, right? Tell that to Badger and Wolverine fans. If OSU can’t take care of business tonight, they will be facing a must win home game this weekend against a Northwestern them that just beat them. Ohio State is a 9-seed according to the Matrix, but they need to do the same thing Michigan needs to do in order to get into the field: Win 2 more games between now and the end of the league tournament.
Cincinnati at South Florida, 7pm, ESPN U. Line, Cincy -2.5
Georgetown at St. John's, 7:30pm, ESPN 360. Line, GT -6.5
I link these games together because of how similar the situations are to one another: Favored Big East bubble team hits the road to play a league lightweight.
On one hand, I recall USF upsetting Marquette and handing the Eagles their first league loss. On the other hand, I see the Bulls have not won a game since. And, in all those games, the margin of defeat exceeded double digits. If the Bearcats lose tonight, it would be much worse than Michigan’s loss to Iowa last month and a fatal blow to their at large hopes. After being run out of the Carrier Dome two days ago, the Bearcats are out of excuses and need to start impressing the tournament committee. As of now, the Bearcats are fifth-to-last out according to the comprehensive Bracket Matrix, one slot ahead and in two more brackets overall the Michigan.
With Georgetown, a deeper look into the Matrix reveals how valid a threat the Hoyas are to steal an at-large from Michigan or any of the other bubble teams. While the Hoyas are only placed in six total brackets (putting them at eighth-to-last out and two spots behind Michigan), all six of those brackets have been updated since the weekend. Compare that to Michigan and Cincinnati which remain in just 6 and 5 respectively of the most recently updated brackets. Translation: The Hoyas aren’t yet getting the overall support of the Bearcats and Wolverines, but they are getting at least as much more recent support. They wont gain any additional support in their game tonight against St. John’s, but they lose all that they do have with a loss.
Both CU and GU close at home against more league patsies (CU hosts Seton Hall, GU hosts Rutgers) this Saturday. Finishing 2-0 to close out probably won’t elevate them into the field, unless massive bubble chaos ensues. However, winning both games this week sets both schools up to advance only as far as the Big East quarterfinals to likely get a bid. Taking a look at the projected Big East Tournament brackets shows both playing more lightweights in the opening round. Wins there would advance both in the second round to play in the afternoon session next Wednesday with the Hoyas playing Villanova and the Bearcats playing West Virginia. Could those be play in games for both schools? I don’t know. But, I do know that each has to win out until that game for it to happen in the first place.
Wake Forest at Maryland, 9pm, no TV. Line, Wake -1.5
Somebody needs to explain to me why this game is not on television? http://www.testudotimes.com/2009/3/2/778436/maryland-wake-forest-previ
“>Deacons vs. Terrapins should be a blast and worth tuning in to, if only to see if Greivas Vasquez can continue to shoot the Terps to a tournament berth. Without him, the Terps don’t beat NC State the other night, let alone their show stopping upset over UNC 10 days ago. But, because of those efforts, Maryland not only controls its own tournament fate, but probably does not need to notch this win tonight to make the Dance. A win might lock them in, but even with a loss, the Terps have a chance at a .500 ACC record with a win at Virginia on Saturday. Like Michigan, two more wins from here on out may do the trick. Maryland is a 12-seed according to the Matrix consensus, but unless they get completely embarrassed tonight, I don’t think they’ll fall out of too many brackets with a loss.
Kansas State at Oklahoma State, 7:30pm, ESPN2. Line, OSU -6
The Bubble Game of the Night takes place in Stillwater when Kansas State hooks up with Oklahoma State. The Cowboys currently sit as a 10-seed in the overall Bracket Matrix. Kansas State, meanwhile, is one spot behind Michigan as the seventh-to-last team out. I tend to think Michigan fans need to pull for KSU in this one. The Wildcats do close with a lay-up at home against Colorado this weekend, but by every metric available, I think Michigan’s resume remains stronger. A win in Stillwater would be impressive, but Michigan can match that by winning at Minnesota later in the week. The Wildcats would still have to advance farther in their own league tournament than Michigan does in theirs to pass Michigan. The Cats will need a big game out of Denis Clemente if they want win this one tonight. Oklahoma State is a different situation. They play at Oklahoma on Saturday. Folks, they are not winning that game. A loss tonight will mean a 0-2 final week. That’s never good for a bubble team. Its senior night in Stillwater, and its hard to believe they’re highly touted 2005 recruiting class is about the . A win tonight will go a long way in preventing that from happening.
Blantantly stealing a trick from Brian and his football game previews, but here goes......Three things to make me look stupid in the morning:
*Iowa beats Ohio State
*Oklahoma State beats KSU, but closer than the experts think.
*And, in a game not featured above, take Florida State +12.5 over Duke. Dont sleep on FSU. They've won twice for me in recent weeks in games against Miami and Clemson. They will give Duke all they can handle this evening. The games tips at 8 and is on ESPN Full Court.