227 teams remain. That includes Utah Valley, who will be on the board due to being a first place finisher in the Great West, BYU who is out of the conference tournament, but still under consideration, and Wichita State, who is out of the conference tournament, but a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament. Chad Sherwood has, as he always done, but together a list of today’s conference tournament action.
– Three teams punched their tickets yesterday. The final outcomes weren’t surprising, but the games themselves were. Florida Gulf Coast, in their first ever conference tournament, made it to the finals and had a lead at the half over heavily favored Belmont, who had crushed them twice during the regular season. In the end, Belmont was just too much and captured the automatic bid. They will be a dangerous first round opponent for whoever they face. Belmont’s profile isn’t the best and they did stub their toes multiple times throughout the year, but when they play up to their maximum ability they can beat top 25 caliber teams.
– Murray State got a scare from Tennessee State, but hit a game winning shot in the final seconds to win the Ohio Valley and the automatic bid. They really didn’t need the automatic bid, so because they managed to hold on, another bubble team will now make the field.
– VMI, who was just 8-10 on the season, played well for a half, but then UNC Asheville took over in the second half and won the Big South’s automatic bid. They’ll probably end up on the #16 line, but with the MEAC, SWAC and America East champions looking to take three out of four spots in the opening round, they should be able to avoid it and go straight into the round of 64.
– Some really good games yesterday, but again, it was mostly chalk. Georgia State put up a fierce fight against George Mason, but lost in the final seconds. The Colonial now has its top four teams in the semis in Drexel, Old Dominion, VCU and George Mason, and it the automatic bid really is up for grabs.
– Oral Roberts got a huge scare, and like Murray State, was the beneficiary of a call at the end that could have gone either way. (All right, I’ll come out and say it. It was a crappy call that went their way). Nevertheless, they held on to beat 8th seeded IPFW. I think ORU has a shot at an at-large, but only if they lose in the finals. Losing to a team as bad as that would have likely sunk them.
– One upset was Illinois State’s win over Wichita State in the Missouri Valley semis. My feeling is that if a team wins a league outright, which Wichita did, and beats a team twice during the regular season, which Wichita did to Illinois State, they really shouldn’t be punished that much for not beating a third time. I mean, they’ve already finished first, and beaten them twice. I don’t know if the real committee will see it that way, but I thought Wichita was in the #3/#4 range before the game, and I still do.
– Creighton had no trouble at all with Evansville, and will face Illinois State this afternoon.
– In the West Coast Conference, the big game between BYU and Gonzaga turned out to be a snoozer with Gonzaga winning fairly easily. They’ll face their big rival, Saint Mary’s, tomorrow, who got a scare in an emotionally intense game with San Francisco in the semis, but managed to win. I always thought of SMC and Gonzaga being the big rivals, but there is quite a bit of bad blood between SMC and San Francisco as well.
– Butler will not be going back to the Final Four for a third straight year. Valpo beat them handily, and will host Detroit for the championship, who beat a Cleveland State team that got off to a great start this season, but flamed out down the stretch.
– Iona advanced to the semis of the MAAC, and Davidson is in the semis of the SoCon. Both are potentially dangerous NCAA teams if they can win the automatic bids.
LAST DAY OF THE REGULAR SEASON
– ARIZONA AT ARIZONA STATE (Pac Twelve). I don’t think Arizona will be a lock, but they could still get on the bubble with a strong finish. They don’t want to end the regular season with a poor loss like this.
– KENTUCKY AT FLORIDA (SEC). I really don’t see Kentucky dropping below the #1 line even if they lose today. Florida has been schizophrenic. They’ve looked great on some nights and horrible on others. This is certainly a win that would boost their profile.
– CLEMSON AT FLORIDA STATE (ACC). Florida State is safely in the field and is now playing for seeding. A win against Clemson won’t help so much as a loss would hurt.
– PURDUE AT INDIANA (Big Ten). This probably means more off the court than on. Indiana looks to be a protected seed, and Purdue appears to be safe. Both are looking for another quality win, but being that it’s a rivalry game, bragging rights are what’s at stake more than anything else.
– VIRGINIA AT MARYLAND (ACC). I think Virginia is in, but their profile isn’t the best. Adding another road win to it would help.
– OHIO STATE AT MICHIGAN STATE (Big Ten). If Michigan State wins, they will have an outright first place finish, and still be in contention for a #1 seed. Ohio State could also end up with a #1, but I think they need to win this and win the Big Ten Tournament.
– MICHIGAN AT PENN STATE (Big Ten). Michigan could end up with a share of first place if they don’t slip up here and if Ohio State pulls the upset.
– CALIFORNIA AT STANFORD (Pac Twelve). Cal will tie Washington for first place in the Pac Twelve, and because they beat Washington during the regular season will capture the #1 seed in the conference tournament. I also believe they’ll be very safely inside the bubble with a tie for first place.
– NC STATE AT VIRGINIA TECH (ACC). NC State can still play their way onto the bubble with a win today and a strong showing in the ACC Tournament. They would need to take down some heavyweights, though.
– ILLINOIS AT WISCONSIN (Big Ten). Illinois has crashed into the mountain. Wisconsin is a protected seed looking to maintain their status.