Sunday, January 27, 2008

If Today Were Selection Sunday

A weekly feature of the The Fan Blog, from here on out, If Today were Selection Sunday...does just that. It looks at the 34 at-large spaces available in the field and and determines who are the best candidates for those spots as of right now. It does not attempt to project or predict what will happen in the future and whether or not these teams will actually appear in March when the real committee makes its selections. But it does base this on the 65 team field and will only include that many teams each week.

Another crazy week in college basketball. It seems like more teams want to be out than be in. On the last Sunday of January, there are a lot of teams that are in contention for the tournament selection. That makes the final month of the regular season so pivotal before we get to March.

This week we find 42 teams that have to be included in the tournament. They span 13 different conferences so that means from our grouping of 42, they take up 29 of the 34 at-large slots. We'll first take a look at those 42 teams, breaking them into two categories, and then we'll debate who gets the final five slots.

We don't think anyone can have an argument with any of these teams.

Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA, Georgetown, Washington State, Michigan State, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Indiana, Drake, Texas, Marquette, Xavier, Arizona, Stanford, West Virginia, Butler, St Mary's, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt, Mississippi, Dayton, Gonzaga, Connecticut, Clemson, Massachusetts, Ohio State, USC, Notre Dame

That is 31 of the 42 teams that I would expect would have to be included at this point, they are the so called locks. Obviously, there are some that might need to solidify things down the stretch, but if you picked today, you'd have to include them.

Now here are the 11 teams that I think should be discussed but ultimately would have to be included.

Kansas State - The Wildcats are 13-4, undefeated in the Big 12 and have an RPI of 39. At this point that all gets them in. The reason they are even a consideration is that they have failed in every non-conference non-home attempt against a postseason caliber team.

Virginia Commonwealth - Rest of the field is hoping that they take the CAA's automatic bid, because they are too good to ignore if they don't.

Illinois State - Pair of losses this week has Redbirds teetering on NIT. But we still think that the Valley is deserving of two at the moment.

Louisville - The 'Ville is nearing lock status. The question becomes how are the early season injuries viewed. If the full body is looked at they are a bubble type team at the moment, if those losses are ignored they are in easily.

Arizona State - Not quite as solid a case anymore after the two home losses to the Washingtons in Pac-10 play this week. But they still get in.

Providence - You've got to like the Friars strength of schedule. That's an asset for them. But they can't get beat up by other bubble teams at home. Probably a play-in game with Syracuse at the Dome this afternoon if the decision were really later today.

Texas A&M - Aggies certainly cold at the moment, but you can't ignore the start. Probably saved the bid with the win yesterday in Stillwater.

Mississippi State - Bulldogs are starting to play like a lot of us thought they would at the start of the season. They are the hot team in the SEC right now, and can't be denied.

Villanova - Truth is the Cats might not be in Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament if it started today. But I'm going to keep the Cats in for now.

Davidson - If Davidson doesn't win the Southern Conference tournament, this is going to be one of the committee's all-time tough decisions. Davidson is 11-0 at the moment in the Southern, but just overscheduled early in the season. They did the things the committee asks. They played Duke, North Carolina and UCLA, all of which could be top seeds when it shakes out. Definitely top two at the moment. They also have road losses at Charlotte, NC State and Western Michigan which might be the downfall. But I'd take them over a lot of people.

St. Joseph's - The Hawks got a crazy win Saturday night at Temple. Big three by Calathes to win it with about 5 seconds left and then a block at the other end to preserve it. Plus they've won twice against UMASS and they've played the committee's game. I think they are in right now.

That leaves us with five slots. And before we even debate the rest, I'm giving one of those spots to Baylor. The Bears have done enough right now to get in. I think there are plenty of question marks on their resume and I think they are a bubble team. But for me, for now, they dance.

So let's look at the contenders for the final four bids. From the Atlantic 10, you still have to consider Rhode Island. The Rams did too much early to let this midseason slide take them out of consideration. The ACC is full of bubble teams. The teams worth considering right now are Miami, who like Rhode did too much early to be eliminated, NC State still with a mid-level RPI at 48 and some real disappointing losses that can't be ignored, and then Boston College which has home losses to Virginia Tech, Robert Morris and UMASS and a neutral court loss to Providence in Boston. Purdue with its big win over Wisconsin yesterday and its play in the Big Ten is starting to do enough to ignore the start to the season. Oregon lost a pair of home games this week and just feels like an NIT team. Oklahoma is #28 in the RPI and got the big win over Baylor at the Bears court yesterday, so I'll take them.

So my final five are Baylor, Rhode Island, Miami, Purdue and Oklahoma.

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