This weeks column is just going to be the spec sheet...
The Hoodwood dedicates this column to the lasting, enduring and loving memory of Lorene Hare, my Grandmother who passed away 21 years ago today. She is always never far from my thoughts and has been the one of the foundations and encouragements for my writing.
Spec Sheet 3-4
Now this is where the fun starts. The opening round games of the Patriot League tourney started on Monday and the conference tournaments will be going wall to wall for the next 13 days, right up until selection Sunday March 16th. The first automatic bid will go out as early as Friday as Harvard has clinched a tie for the Ivy League crown and at worst will have a playoff game for the bid but can clinch the title outright and the automatic berth with a win at Yale. The bigger conferences are still playing out the regular season and will start their respective tournaments in a week. You soon note the locales of each of the conference championship listed with their respective conferences.
Lock: Syracuse, Duke, Virginia
Looking Good: Pitt, North Carolina
Work to do: North Carolina State, Florida State, Clemson
Skinny on the ACC: Virginia housed the now badly slumping Orange to claim their first outright, non-shared ACC title since 2007. All the Orange are doing is costing themselves a 1 or 2 seed with this slide but could get it back if they run the table in ACC tourney. Duke is bulletproof as well. North Carolina is streaking to bulletproof status with their winning streak. Pitt is still pretty safe but their tendency to skylark is costing them seeding but that’s it. Clemson, Florida State and NC State are fighting for one spot left.
Key Game: Georgia Tech @ Syracuse Tuesday 7p (ESPN3/ACCNet) The Orange need to break out of this skid in time for their first ACC tourney.
Projected Bids: 6
Conference Class- Major
Lock: Saint Louis, St. Joes, VCU
Looking Good: UMass, George Washington
Work to do: Dayton
The A-10 Spec is: This went from a Billikens victory parade to a horse race as Saint Louis has stumbled badly and the Hawks have come charging down the stretch, I have moved them up as well as VCU and UMass. The former housed the front running Billikens badly in Richmond but the latter got housed in Dayton and haven’t earned their Kevlar yet. Returning to the list is the aforementioned Flyers who is quietly building a decent resume. But the Richmond Spiders are out after getting squashed by Rhode Island
Key Game: Dayton at Saint Louis Wednesday 9p (NBCSN) The Flyers will greatly strengthen their outside chances with a signature win at a suddenly vulnerable Billikens
Projected Bids: 5
Lock: Cincy, Louisville, UConn, Memphis, SMU
All-American Spec: The Bearcats and Cards are now tied atop this conference, and SMU is playing the dark horse role to a T. Memphis bounced back strong from a dispiriting defeat to Houston to whip the Cards and return to the top 25. All five ranked teams are bulletproof and playing for as good a seed as possible
Key Game: Memphis at Cincinnati 7p Thursday (ESPN) The Bearcats try to break out an ill-timed slump and try to hold on to the #1 seed in the American tourney
Projected Bids: 5
Solid: Creighton, Villanova
Looking Good: Xavier
Work to do: Providence, Marquette, St. John’s
Big East Skinny: Xavier is making it harder and harder to shrug off their tourney viability with another signature win, this time outgunning Creighton in front of rowdy Cintas Center crowd. That gets the Muskies to 20 and I think you can draw the cut line there. Barring a deep run by the Friars, Eagles or Johnnies, I cant see more than 3 going, but the trip to MSG will have something to say here. And this key game could be an elimination game of source
Key Games:Providence @ Marquette Tuesday 9p (FS1) Both these teams need this win in the worst way to stay in the conversation, the loser might be reduced to the dreaded win it to get in it status
Projected bids: 3
Lock: Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa
Looking Good: Ohio State
Work to do: Nebraska, Minnesota
The word on the Big Ten is: Now things are starting to get silly here. Illinois zapped another tourney bound team and Im hearing some wonks scream that this league should send nine teams Stop the insanity, the cut line here is five. Ohio State is trying to fritter away what should be a 5 seed with another head scratching loss, this time to Indiana. Now the Hoosiers think that they should be in serious talk for a tourney bid themselves. They aren’t. Iowa earns its ticket uptown with a solid home win over Purdue that gets them to 20. That’s a number the Gophers cant get to unless they win out and get a win in Indy. Nebraska is still stung from that loss to Illinois and may really need to win out and get a couple wins in the Big Ten tourney, they will likely not get a first round bye
Key Game: Nebraska @ Indiana Wednesday 7p (BTN) The Huskers need the win to stay in the conversation, do the Hoosiers have a realistic shot? They need to keep on winning clear to the Big Ten finale in 13 days
Projected Bids: 5
Lock: Kansas, Texas, Iowa State, Oklahoma
Looking Good: Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Work to do: Baylor, West Virginia
Skinny from the heartland: The Jayhawks, Horns, Sooners, and Clones are pretty much bulletproof. The Wildcats keep letting other teams pass them in the standings but as it stands now they are still safe. The Pokes have suddenly rebounded to look like a very very dangerous team coming down the stretch. They look better than the two teams in front of them Baylor and West Virginia who are fading badly but still have chances to get signature wins
Key Game: Iowa State @ Baylor Tuesday 7p (ESPN2) The Bears could really get themselves a signature win here.
Projected Bids: 6
Solid:Southern Miss, La. Tech, Middle Tennessee
Work to do: UTEP, Tulsa
Oh Say Can You C-USA Spec: Could this conference get any rowdier? Four teams at 12-3 (UAB, La. Tech, MTSU and Tulsa), and another (UTEP) at 11-4. The teams that get wins in their final regular season game snag a coveted double bye and sit out until the CUSA quarterfinals. You wonder how much just that extra game will go to be a benefit or hindrance.
Key Games: Louisiana Tech @ Rice, Middle Tennessee @ UAB, UTEP @ UTSA, Tulsa @ North Texas, Southern Miss @ Tulane 8p Thursday Five games that will set the order of the upcoming CUSA tourney and in an interesting quirk all five teams vying for the coveted double bye to the quarterfinals are the visitors. Wins for La. Tech, MTSU, UTEP or Southern Miss get them a share of the regular season title and a double bye, UTEP is the only team that needs to win and get help to get a double bye but can only earn a title share if the other four road teams all lose and they win.
Projected Bids: 2
Conference Class-Mid Major
Lock: Wichita State
Work to do: Indiana State
Missouri Valley Skinny: The Shockers hit the regular season finish line tape at 31-0, its their tourney to lose and if they win 3, will have the most wins heading into the tournament since UNLV in 1991. Indiana State is likely the team that they will face in the MVC tourney finale next Sunday. The Shockers are bulletproof and have made their case for a #1 seed.
Key Drake vs Evansville Thursday 7p (ESPN2). Winner gets to be the next victim of Wichita Stat
Missouri Valley Conference Championship aka “Arch Madness” March 6-9 Scottrade Center, St. Louis
Projected Bids: 1
Solid: San Diego State, New Mexico
Work to do: Boise State, UNLV
Spec from the Mountains: The Aztecs bounced back nicely to whip the lowly Spartans, I think that they are way safe but are now even with a Lobos teams that is growing more and more confident each game. Luck of the schedule has them facing off in a regular season ending showdown for the regular season crown, but the higher stakes game will likely be a week from Saturday in Vegas for the tourney title. Stay tuned...
Key Game: San Diego State @ UNLV Wednesday 11:05p (CBSSN) If the Aztecs aren’t careful and get the look aheads to their showdown with New Mexico, they will get zapped
Projected Bids: 2
Lock: Arizona, UCLA, Colorado, Cal,
Work to do: Stanford, Arizona State, Utah
Spec from the left coast: Arizona clinched another Pac-12 title and is bulletproof. UCLA is impressing no one with their tendency to wander mentality but a barring a total collapse in Washington and a first round loss (after getting a first round bye) they are safe. The Buffs and Golden Bears are pretty safe themselves. So that leave I figure one or two spaces. I think that the Sun Devils have the inside track. The Cardinal and Utes have too many holes in their resume and need to keep stacking wins to strengthen their resume
Key Games: Colorado @ Stanford Wednesday 9p (ESPN2) The Buffs and Cardinal are looking to firm up their resume
Projected Bids: 5
Solid: Florida, UK
Work to do: Arkansas, Tennessee, Mizzou, Georgia
Spec is Down South: The Gators are prepping for their #1 seed coronation and marking time till they get announced as such on the 16th only a lose out and bounced in the SEC quarters on Friday afternoon would be jeopardize that. UK shouldn’t be bulletproof but back to back awful losses, including an inexcusable loss to South Carolina where their coach got ejected after a tantrum. The Bulldogs are in 3rd but Im still not considering them unless they get to the SEC finals, period (You’re on the list and that’s me being generous, so shaddap!) Arkansas is making a string move toward getting safe, winning 5 straight and 7 their last 8. They have more of my confidence at present than Tennessee or Mizzou The cut line is generous at 4 and Im still gonna need to have a real reason to increase that.
Key Game: Ole Miss @ Arkansas Wednesday 7p (SECNet/ESPN3) The Hogs are getting close to safe if not bulletproof especially if they win out to SEC tourney and get a double bye
Projected Bids: 4
Conference Class- Mid Major
Work to do: BYU, San Francisco, Saint Mary’s
West Coast Spec: The Bulldogs thrashed the Gaels to finish the regular season on a high note and virtually eliminated any chance the Gaels had of sneaking in as an at-large berth. The Cougars and Dons are pretty much in the same boat but will likely be playing an elimination game in the WCC semis against one another with the winner trying to play bid stealer. I think Gonazga is safe barring a loss in the quarters or semis
Key Game: Pacific vs Santa Clara Thursday 11p (ESPNU) The winner gets the honor of likely getting poleaxed by Gonzaga on Saturday
Projected Bids: 1
There are others in the mix to be sure. Teams from the always dangerous Colonial (Delaware) and Big South (VMI) always are in the mix. Of course the champions from the following conferences get an automatic bid (projected winners in parentheses): Amer. East (Vermont), Atlantic Sun (Mercer), Big Sky (Weber State), Big West (UC Irvine) , Horizon (Green Bay, Ivy (Harvard), MAC (Toledo) , MAAC (Iona) , MEAC (NC Central), Northeast (Robert Morris), Ohio Valley (Belmont) , Patriot (Boston U.), Southern (Davidson), Southland (SF Austin), Sun Belt (Georgia St.) , Summit (IPFW), and SWAC (Alabama State) and Western Athletic (New Mexico St). Note: Southern U is leading the SWAC but is currently ineligible for the automatic bid along with Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valley State and Grambling State pending an NCAA mandate on their academic compliance progress
Remember that this is still speculation, nothing here is ever solid and we haven't even brought up the possibility of upsets. But those never happen, right?
Next Update Friday
Until next post fellow sports fans!