One thing to point out is that even though it is early, and even though a lot of these games are in remote locations as part of some exempt tournament, and even though they’re being played in small arenas that are mostly empty, these are HUGELY important games. It is too early to say for certain how much the committee will look at these games in the end, but when tournament teams square off against each other, they look at those games to measure how good teams are. Last year Murray State played Southern Miss up in Alaska in a game that was sparsely attended and sparsely watched or noticed by the public, but it ended up being a hugely important game for both teams. Much of what we’re seeing this week and next is along those same lines.
-NC STATE VS OKLAHOMA STATE (Puerto Rico Shootout Championship). Both teams are unbeaten and both have looked impressive so far. I didn’t think NC State was worthy of a top twenty ranking, much less the #6 ranking, but if they win decisively today I will be forced to recant that thought.
-COLORADO VS MURRAY STATE (Charleston Classic Championship). This is one of the few remaining games against a quality opponent that Murray State has, so it is hugely important for them. I didn’t think Colorado was on the same level as Baylor, but this young team looked very good in their win against the Bears the other day. Colorado was awful in one aspect, and that was from the freethrow line. Had they shot even 50% from the line they would have won more decisively. It’s hard to say how good Colorado will be, but they are already off to an incredible start. Because they have a strong remaining schedule, they don’t need this nearly as badly as Murray does.
OHIO STATE VS WASHINGTON (Hall of Fame Championship). This could be Ohio State’s toughest test so far. Afterall, the game against Marquette was a rainout. For Washington, it’s a chance to get a huge quality win on their profile.
-TENNESSEE VS UMASS (Puerto Rico Tipoff, 3rd place). These appear to be two solid teams who are looking to add a notable early season win to their resumes.
-GEORGE MASON VS NEW MEXICO (Paradise Jam). Both teams already have wins of note. You never know who will be on the bubble, inside the bubble, or outside the bubble at the end, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or both of these teams in the mix. If one or both of these teams end up in the discussion, this will be a game that is closely looked at by the committee.
-BAYLOR VS SAINT JOHN’S (Charleston Classic, 3rd place). This is a quality early season match-up and will be a good win for whoever pulls it off.
-MIDDLE TENNESSEE VS FLORIDA. This game is being played in Tampa. Both teams come into the game unbeaten, but Florida has looked much more impressive early on. I believe MTSU is a tournament caliber team, but they won’t have too many chances at quality wins. They may be in over their heads today, but if they somehow did pull it off it would give them a huge boost.
-RICHMOND AT MINNESOTA. Very interesting early season game between two 3-0 teams.
-DAYTON VS AUBURN (Charleston Classic, 5th place). Neither is expected to do much, but both are 2-1. I have a feeling Auburn will crash and burn, so Dayton will really want to avoid a loss in this one.
-VALPARAISO AT KENT STATE. Both teams are 2-1. If either of them has at-large hopes these are the kinds of games they need to win.
-SAVANNAH STATE AT UCF. These teams are probably not at-large material, especially with UCF still being on probation, but both are off to good starts. Savannah State was a first place finisher in the MEAC a year ago, and is off to a 3-1 start this year. This is following a stretch where they were without question the worst div1 program. The turnaround has been amazing.
-WOFFORD AT OHIO. Ohio can stay perfect on the year if they can hold off what looks to be a pretty solid Wofford team.
-WESTERN MICHIGAN AT SOUTH FLORIDA. Not much was expected out of Western Michigan this year, but as of now they are 3-1 and can add an impressive road win to their profile if they can pull this off. South Florida got out of the gate slow, but has won two games since dropping their opener to UCF.
-DELAWARE STATE AT ILLINOIS STATE. Both teams enter this game without a loss. I think Illinois State is good enough to earn an at-large spot in the field, so they’re worth keeping an eye on.
-Texas Southern at Michigan State.
-University of DC vs South Dakota State. At a modest 2-2 start, SDSU is still a good team that we should see in the dance.
-West Alabama (nondiv1) @ Bucknell. Bucknell can improve to 5-0 on the year.
-Central Connecticut State @ La Salle. La Salle can improve to 2-0
-North Carolina A&T @ Cincinnati. Cincinnati can remain unbeaten.
-North Florida @ Kansas
-Fairleigh Dickinson @ Northwestern. Northwestern can improve to 3-0.
-Presby @ Creighton
-Miami, OH @ Louisville
-South Dakota @ Gonzaga
-UFGC @ Duke
-Eastern Washington @ Saint Mary’s