The weird weather in my neighborhood (78 on Friday, snowing on Saturday) seems to mirror the weirdness of the season. The bubble is its weakest in years but the so-called small and mid-majors have been underwhelming at best. March Madness will be its usual chaotic fun time but this march to March has been like torment and torture to call and Spec. Nevertheless, I do my best to bring it to you. Please note the addition of the projected winners of the smaller conferences which will also be fluid and change as their respective tourneys get underway.
Bona Fide Safe UNC, Louisville, Florida State, Duke, Virginia
Solid: Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Miami
Work to Do : Georgia Tech
On The Fringe Wake Forest, Pitt,
Skinny On The ACC: Syracuse moves up after winning a thrilling shootout with Duke on a Buzzer beating 3 by that sent the Carrier Dome crowd into a court storming frenzy. Did that put the Orange over the top? No, but its getting them pretty close. The Canes are coming close and have massive chance to solidify themselves if not go Bona Fide. Clemson can be excused after yet another bonehead loss of a winnable game. Im tired of the pundits trying to make excuses. A team that goes 4-12 in conference should be making plans for the NIT at best. Im waiting for the inevitable Georgia Tech pratfall btu they stay for the moment. Pitt and Wake are just about to follow Clemson out the door.
Key Game: Duke at Miami 4:00 (CBS) The Canes get 20 wins and a ticket up the line if they beat the Devils to bank another top 20 win
Projected Bids: 9
Conference Class- Major
Solid: VCU, Dayton
The A-10 Spec is: The Flyers and Rams are getting safer by the day though the Rams have a tough roadie facing them and need to win it to keep pace with the Flyers for the A-10 lead
Key Game: VCU at Rhode Island Saturday 2p(ESPN2) Guaranteed the Rams will win this one…in seriousness if Rhode Island can get a win they can get back on the sheet
Projected Bids: 2
Bona Fide: Cincy, SMU
Work to do: Houston, UCF
The Bearcats blitzed Memphis and are now at 14-1 in conference with SMU and both are waiting to pounce on the outright regular season title if either stumbles and neither team has an easy road. The Coogs are still on the fringe of contention and have one more shot at Cincy in a week. New to the sheet is UCF who is getting to be a problem to deal with but their numbers are still too weak to get seriously considered but with a weak bubble and a huge shot at gaining street cred
Key Games: Cincinnati at Central Florida 3p Sunday (CBSS) If there ever was a mammoth trap game on the Bearcats docket, its this one. The Cats are stone cold safe but the committee is looking for a reason to jack down their seed and while the Knights are not bad they would hurt the Bearcats profile Projected Bids: 2
Bona Fide Safe: Villanova, Butler, Creighton
Work to Do Marquette, Providence
On The Fringe: Seton Hall
Big East Skinny: While the Wildcats and Bulldogs are safe, the ranked Blue Jays keep fumbling away their chances to really lock it down but I still feel ok leaving them on Bona Fide. The poor Muskies are falling faster than the temp when a cold front passes through. They are still solid but their numerous injuries are hurting their overall play and their profile is getting dragged down. They are still on the right side of the cut line because of a super weak bubble but getting to 20 wins would keep them above serious suspicion. The Friars profile got a boost with their beat the clock win in Omaha but they are still need a couple more wins to get move up
Key Game: Butler at Xavier 3:30p Sunday (FS1) The Muskies will lock it down if they beat the Bulldogs in Cintas
Projected bids: 4
Bona Fide Safe Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern, Maryland,
Work to Do Michigan
On The Fringe: Michigan State.
The Word on the Big Ten Is: The Gophers, I think are good to go as long as they don’t do something really stupid like lose out and get housed in the first round of the Big Ten tourney in Indy. I don’t care what Michael Wilbon keeps whining about the Wildcats are too good and are in no bubble trouble. Michigan keeps hanging around but have they done enough? They might need one more statement win. Just when it couldn’t be timed any better…
Key Game: Purdue at Michigan 4:00 (ESPN2) The Boilers have been Bona fide for a while if the Wolverines can hold serve at home, it would tighten up a so-so resume.
Bona Fide: Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia
Solid: Iowa State, TCU, Oklahoma State
On The Fringe: Kansas State, Texas Tech
Skinny from the heartland: Kansas clinched its 13th straight regular season title and is marking time till selection sunday, they still have a shot at a #1 seed though. While the Clones and Pokes are relatively safe, the Frogs are fading badly.
Key Game: Iowa State at Baylor 4p (ESPN)If the Clones can win in Waco, they will get even closer to Bona Fide
Projected Bids: 5
Solid: Middle Tennessee
Work to do: Louisiana Tech
Oh Say Can You C-USA Spec: The Blue Raiders are getting close to putting the CUSA in the one bids.
Key Game: Middle Tennessee at UAB 1p Sunday (CBSSN) Bartow Arena has long been a trap for CUSA leaders going back to the 90s when the Bearcats dreaded games here. The Raiders had better be careful.
Projected Bids: 1
Conference Class-Mid Major
Solid: Wichita State
Work to do: Illinois State
Missouri Valley Skinny: While the Shockers are ranked and (still) safe. I think Illinois State is doing enough to warrant a serious look. The Redbirds have won 5 straight since getting housed in Wichita and I think will make the Arch Madness finale a must watch next week
Missouri Valley Conference Tournament March 1-5 Scottrade Center, St. Louis
Projected Bids: 2
Work to do: Boise State Colorado State
Spec from the Mountains: Nevada has tried to give their MWC crown away time and again only to be thwarted by the sheer ineptitude of the Rams and Broncos. This is a sad comedown from a conference that used to be a lock for multiple bids but now are passing around their auto bid like a peace pipe.
Key Game: Nevada at UNLV 10p (ESPN3) The Pack need this win to stay ahead of the morass of middling teams
Projected Bids: 1
Bona Fide: Oregon, UCLA, Arizona
Work To Do Cal, Utah
Spec From the Left Coast : Cal blew a big lead and mammoth chance to get on the right side of the cut line. SC is suddenly fading badly blowing 3 straight chances to move to bona fide with signature wins over the top three teams in the conference. Utah? Im just not sold on them and they are running out of time, they may have to win out and get to Pac 12 semis to get a real look.
Key Game: UCLA at Arizona 8:15 Saturday (ESPN) Both teams are bona fide and uber safe, but a clash of top 5 teams isnt one to ignore.
Projected Bids: 4
Bona Fide: Florida, UK,
Solid: South Carolina, Arkansas
Work to do: Alabama, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss
Spec is Down South: The Gators and Wildcats are jostling for the better seed in the SEC tourney. I think the Hogs may need one more win to be totally safe but having the win over South Carolina in Columbia is a massive one up to have. The Gamecocks keep dawdling but I think that they have little to worry on. Lets give a big ol “Bye Felicia to the Vols who I think have played their way out. Bama and Ole Miss are still in the picture but are still too far from 20 and are running out of time ahead of the SEC tourney. The Commodores replace the Vols and while they still need lots of work, after their solid win in Knoxville they deserve some dap.
Key Game: Arkansas at Auburn 8:30p (SECN) The Hogs will learn what its like to be in a trap game as they face a middling Tigers squad
Bona Fide: Gonzaga, Saint Marys
On The Fringe: BYU, San Francisco
Gonzaga just straight eviscerated the Toreros and look to wrap up a perfect season on Saturday. But lets give some love to the Gaels. I think that they might have their best season overshadowed by the Bulldogs. 2 of their 3 losses on the year are to Gonzaga and their other loss is not a bad one against Utah. So I think that even if they lose the WCC title game, they should be good to go.
Key Games: BYU at Gonzaga Saturday 10:15 (ESPN) , Santa Clara at Saint Marys Saturday 10p The Cougars slim slim hopes may rest on doing better than that 10 point lost that they took at the Marriott Center last month. The Gaels host the Broncos as a tune up for the WCC tourney
Projected Bids: 2
There are others in the mix to be sure. Teams from the always dangerous Colonial (UNC Wilmington) and Big South always are in the mix and can send multiple teams. Of course the champions from the following conferences get an automatic bid (projected bids from these conferences are in parentheses): Amer. East (Vermont) Atlantic Sun (Florida Gulf Coast), Big Sky (Eastern Washington), Big West (Cal Irvine), Horizon (Oakland), Ivy (Princeton), MAC (Akron) , MAAC (Monmouth), MEAC (North Carolina Central), Northeast (LIU-Brooklyn), Ohio Valley (Belmont), Patriot (Bucknell), Southern (East Tennessee State), Southland (New Orleans), Sun Belt (UT-Arlington), Summit (North Dakota St), and SWAC (Texas Southern) and Western Athletic (New Mexico State)
Since this is still early spec, nothing here is solid and we haven’t even brought up the possibility of upsets. But those never happen, right?
Next Spec Feb 28