Tuesday saw three more bids handed out as LIU-Brooklyn and South Dakota State repeated as Northeast and Summit Champs and return to the NCAA tourney. The Blackbirds are making their third straight trip. Valparaiso held off Wright State to earn its first tourney bid since 2004. Little has changed on the sheet aside from some minor corrections and updating the teams that have secured a NCAA tourney bid. There is only one championship being played on Wednesday as the Patriot League title is on the line in Lewisburg, PA with host Bucknell and Lafayette facing off at 7:30. The Big East, Big 12, Southeast, Pac-12 and Mountain West are some of the major conferences starting play with the Big East, Mountain West and Pac-12 playing an all day slate of games most of which start around Noon. Today and tomorrow will be the busiest college basketball days of the year. With apologies to the festive holiday season, for a basketball junkie this is the most wonderful time of the year.
Safe: Miami Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State
Playing Their Way In: Virginia
Hoping for the Best:Maryland
Skinny on the ACC: Miami clinched its first ever ACC title regular season or postseason and have the #1 seed headed to Greensboro, but the Dukies are the team to beat after punishing Carolina in front of a sullen Chapel Hill crowd. Could we see a Miami-Duke ACC title game next Sunday with a #1 seed on the line? Virginia secured a 1st round bye with a taut win over Maryland and may be just about safe. The Terrapins on the other hand are in real trouble after a late season slide they may need to get to Saturday at least to get back on the right side of the tourney equation.
Atlantic Coast Conference Championship: Mar 14-Mar 17 Greensboro Coliseum; Greensboro, NC
Key Games: Wake Forest vs Maryland Thursday 7p (ESPNU) The fading Terrapins had better not rely on the fact that they have beaten the Demon Deacons twice, if they slip up they have no shot at a tourney bid.
Projected Bids: 5
Safe: Va. Commonwealth,Saint Louis, Butler
Playing Their Way In: Temple
Hoping For The Best: LaSalle, Xavier
The A-10 Spec is: St. Louis will head to the Barclays center in Brooklyn and the A-10 tourney as the top seed after steadily pulling away from a fading LaSalle squad. While VCU and Butler are way safe. Temple just went safe after routing the Rams in front of a rabidly happy home crowd and a national TV audience who is getting a glimpse of how dangerously good this team is.
Atlantic 10 Conference Championship: Mar 14-17 Barclays Center, Brooklyn
Key Games: St. Joseph’s vs Xavier Thursday 6:30p (NBCS) The Muskies need to string together wins in Brooklyn to play bid stealer.
Projected Bids: 4
Safe: Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame, Pitt ,Cincinnati
Playing Their Way In:Villanova,
Hoping For The Best: Providence
Big East Skinny: The Hoyas blasted the Orange in front of happy home crowd in DC and will head to MSG as the #1 seed. There are plenty of safe teams here, Cincy isn’t totally rock Safe safe, but beating Providence will further that end. The Friars took a tough loss against UConn and have more or less faded into a win it to get in it Also the badly fading Johnnies who lost a heartbreaker to Marquette are in need to get to no less than the Semis on Friday to stay in the conversation.
Big East Championship: Mar 12-16 Madison Square Garden, New York
Key Game: Cincinnati vs Providence Wednesday Noon (ESPN) The Bearcats are a lot safer than the Friars who are needing to make a lot happen to get tourney consideration.
Projected bids: 8
Safe: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin
Hoping For The Best: Minnesota, Iowa
The word on the Big Ten is: Indiana won a thriller against Michigan in Ann Arbor and head to Chicago as the #1 seed. Where the Gophers looked like they were home free, they take yet another hit on their resume, losing to Purdue. That combined with the steady improvement of Iowa means the Gophers are now looking up at not only the Hawkeyes but the Illini and Boilers have passed them in the standings. The Gophers may need a couple wins in Chicago to get back safe. If any bids get stolen, that may snatch the bid that just ten days ago looked to be in the bag.
Big Ten Conference Championship: Mar 14-17: United Center, Chicago
Key Game:Minnesota vs Illinois Thursday Noon (BTN) The Gophers might feel a lot safer if they beat the Iliini
Projected Bids: 7
Safe: Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Kansas State
Playing Their Way In: Oklahoma
Hoping For The Best:Baylor
Skinny from the heartland: Just when you are about to write Baylor off they not only knock off Kansas and prevent them from winning the Big 12 title outright, they laid a frightening woodshed job on them that makes you wonder what this team can do if they put it all together. They still need to put in work to get in. Oklahoma took an abject inexcusable loss to TCU and really needs to get a win over Iowa State to be totally safe.
Big 12 Conference Championships: Mar 13-16 Sprint Center, Kansas City
Key Games: Baylor vs Oklahoma State Thursday 9:30 (FSN) The Bears need to get at least to semifinal Saturday to push their way in, beating the Pokes is crucial to that end
Hoping For The Best:Central Florida, Southern Miss
Oh Say Can You C-USA Spec: The Tigers ran the table in the C-USA and are safe, though I still think that this a one-bid conference unless Southern Miss or UCF plays bid stealer.
Conference USA Championships: March 13-16 BOK Center, Tulsa
Key Game: TBD vs USM Thursday (CBSS) The Eagles will face the winner of the UAB/SMU and had better not even think of losing if they want to retain what slim tourney hopes that they have.
Projected Bids: 1
Conference Class-Mid Major
Missouri Valley Skinny: Bravo to the Bluejays! They edged the Shockers in a thrilling finale and clinch the auto bid, Im pretty sure that Shockers will garner an at large bid. Northern Iowa is off the sheet and will not get a bid after losing in their first game.
Missouri Valley Conference Champions: Creighton
Projected Bids: 2
Safe: UNLV, San Diego State, Colorado State, New Mexico
Playing Their Way In: Boise State
Spec from the Mountains: The Lobos are safe, as are the Rams, Rebels and Aztecs. Im thinking that the Broncos could use another win to pad the win column. But im seeing 5 coming out here. All deserving.
Key Games:San Diego State vs Boise State Thursday Midnight (CBSS) The Broncos could Solidify their status with another win.
Mountain West Conference Championship: Mar 13-16 Thomas & Mack Arena, Las Vegas
Projected Bids: 5
Safe: Oregon, UCLA, Cal, Arizona
Hoping For The Best: Colorado, Arizona State
Spec from the left coast: Arizona and UCLA finished tied for the regular season title, Oregon took a shocking rout from the lowly Utes but did nothing to jeopardize their tourney status. Cal has been watching the other teams shuffle around them but Im thinking that they are pretty safe barring a bad loss in the Pac-12 quarters to the USC/Utah winner. Colorado didn’t get one of the four coveted byes and needs only to avoid a 1st round loss to secure their dance ticket.
Pacific 12 Conference Championship: MGM Grand Arena, Las Vegas Mar 13-16
Key Game: Colorado vs Oregon State Wednesday5:30 (PAC-12Net) The Buffs need only to not take an embarrassing pratfall against the Pac-12 cellar dwellers to be good to go. Keep in mind that the Buffs lost their season finale…to these same Beavers.
Projected Bids: 5
Safe: Mizzou, Florida
Playing Their Way In: UK
Work to do: Ole Miss, Alabama
Spec is Down South:Just when you are about to send the Wildcats to NIT oblivion they up and drop a stunna on Florida. Big Blue Nation sits back with a smug look on its face as even those that most ardently despise the Wildcats (your humble scribe as an example) can not deny that they earned a huge boost to a very shaky resume. In a weak SEC they have but to avoid a first round embarrassment and they are good to go. Get past them and the chaff is pretty easy to weed out. Ole Miss and Bama are ahead of Mizzou I know but lack real weight to their respective resumes. I have 3 teams but knowing the committees tendency to kowtow to the noisy SEC patrons will likely give a 4thbid. But they both don’t get one.
Southeastern Conference Championship: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville Mar 13-17
Key Game: TBD vs UK Thursday It would behoove the Wildcats to follow up their mammoth win against Florida with a win in their conference tourney game. They go right back to the wrong side of the cut line if they lose.
Projected Bids: 4
Conference Class- Major
Safe: Louisiana Tech
Work to do: New Mexico State, Denver
Spec on the WAC: Are the Bulldogs in trouble??? After cruising through a majority of the WAC schedule they take a pair of damaging routs the latter to a Denver squad that is peaking at the absolute right time. This crew has one loss in the calendar year and are riding a 10 game win streak into Vegas. Now the Bulldogs hang on to the #1 seed for the upcoming WAC tourney with a better RPI (WAC tiebreaker) but the Pioneers look bound and determined to have some say so in who gets the auto bid. Do not sleep on Denver…they are the wild card that the big boy conference are now deadly afraid of. If they play bid stealer, and especially if they beat La. Tech in a winner take all WAC final this week it could make for a few sleepless nights for the big boys ahead of selection Sunday. Stay tuned.
Western Athletic Conference Championship: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas Mar. 13-16
Key Game:TBD vs Denver Thursday TBA (ROOT/FSN) The Pioneers need to get to the finale to stay in the conversation. They will play the winner of Texas St./Seattle first round game.
Conference Class- Mid Major
Safe: St. Marys
West Coast Spec: The Bulldogs are simply waiting to see where they go and there better be an uproar if the 31-2 WCC champs are not only a #1 seed but waiting to see who they play via a Dayton First Four. Ignore the noisy wonks that say St. Mary's is a bubble team, I think that they are good to go.
West Coast Conference Champions: Gonzaga
Projected Bids: 2
There are others in the mix to be sure. the champions from the following conferences get an automatic bid: (Projected winners in parentheses/bids earned in bold) Amer. East (Vermont), Atlantic Sun (Florida Gulf Coast), Big Sky (Weber St.), Big South (Liberty), Big West (Long Beach St.), Colonial (James Madison), Horizon (Valpo), Ivy (Harvard), MAC (Akron), MAAC (Loyola-MD), MEAC (Norfolk St), Northeast(LIU-Brooklyn), Ohio Valley (Belmont), Patriot (Bucknell), Southern (Davidson) , Southland (S.F. Austin), Sun Belt (Western Kentucky), Summit (South Dakota St.), and SWAC (Southern)
Since this is still spec, everything here isn't in stone yet and we haven't even brought up the possibility of upsets. But those never happen, right?
Next Spec Sheet: Thursday (All 6 power conferences in action!)