Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Do the majors get less bids than they're accustomed to this season?

There is no doubt that more and more parity is reigning in college basketball. This is especially evident when a conference like the West Coast could get three bids and the Sun Belt may get two. One of those two scenarios is likely to happen.
Most of the season, it was believed that the Big East would receive seven bids to the Big Dance. However, with the regular season having wrapped up, it's looking more like half of the conference may qualify for the NCAA playoffs, especially if Syracuse can beat Villanova in the first round of the Big East tournament.
Six teams- champion Georgetown, Louisville, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Marquette and Pittsburgh- are definitely in, while West Virginia is all but qualified. Both Syracuse (19-12, 9-7, low-40s RPI) and Villanova (19-11, 8-8, mid-50s RPI) are on the bubble, and conveniently for the selection committee, they play each other in the first round. The Orange are most definitely in with a first-round win, while the Wildcats may need to both beat the 'Cuse and possibly either show well or win the second round too.
Among the ACC, both Virginia Tech and Maryland are vying to be the fifth ACC team to make it. Va. Tech has come around strong to end the regular season, earning them consideration. Conversely, the Terrapins have been shaky down the stretch, and lost a bad one against Virginia on Sunday. Only one club will qualify, to be sure, and if both bow out in the first round, then the ACC may only be a four-bid league this season.
The SEC is intriguing, because right now it features more bubble teams than it does locks, in four to three. Arkansas (low-40s RPI) and Kentucky both can't feel completely safe about where they stand in the committee's eyes, though after a win over Florida the Wildcats can feel better if they can at least make the semifinals of the SEC tourney. As for Ole Miss and Florida, things are looking bleak, especially for the defending national champion Gators. With an RPI in the mid-60s, an SEC tourney title may have to be the key to giving them a shot to defend their championship.
The Big XII has a great chance to field six teams this season. Two are locks- Kansas and Texas- while two are near-locks- Oklahoma and Baylor- while Texas A&M (22-10) and Kansas State (19-10) are on the inside track of the bubble. I don't know if the selection committee could actually keep K-State freshman phenom Michael Beasley from the Big Dance.
The Big Ten should only get four teams in this season, unless Ohio State (18-12) can somehow upset Michigan State for a second consecutive game. If they can't, with a low-50s RPI the Buckeyes, who like Florida lost four starters last year, including three to the NBA, should be NIT-bound.
The Pac-10 has been rumored to have up to seven teams qualify for the Dance this season, but with the quality of mid and non-majors abounding this season, they really shouldn't get more than five. Four are locks, while Arizona, Oregon, and Arizona State are battling for what may be as few as one berth. Arizona (18-13, 7-9) has plenty of losses, but with a strength of schedule of #1 in the nation, they get an RPI in the low 30s. That is ridiculous. The Wildcats can hardly even win a game the last three weeks, as they have lost eight of 11. That is a fact that should tarnish their resume enough to force them out of the Dance, especially when you consider that their rivals for the bid, ASU and OU, swept them this season. Oregon most recently got a win over the 'Cats, last Saturday, to put their record at 18-12 and 8-8 in the conference. With an RPI of 49, the Ducks might be the lucky ones here, especially considering that ASU (18-11, 8-8) has an RPI of 75.

My Picks: Big East (8), Big XII (6), ACC (5), SEC (5), Pac-10 (5), Big Ten (4)

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