HAPPY MARCH MADNESS EVERYBODY!!!!
-The Big South and Horizon League Conference tournaments get underway today, which means we are officially in the win and advance stage of the season. Check in daily between now and the end of the year for Chad’s programming guide for all the conference tournament action.
304 TEAMS REMAIN!!!!
-There are seven conference tournament games today, and I think it is safe to say all are elimination games because no one is anywhere close to getting an at-large, so we’ll be down to 297 tomorrow.
-Opening round action in the Big South today gives us six teams with losing records, and only one team with a winning record in UNC Asheville. The Big South has always been at the bottom of the standings, but this year it’s weak even by Big South standards, and the winner will most likely be headed to Dayton. Charleston Southern and High Point were the two division winners, but Gardner Webb will likely be a force as well.
-The Horizon League opening round is today. The top two teams (Detroit and Valpo) bye into the semifinals, which will be played at Valpo. The third place team is Wright State, and they bye into the quarterfinals. We do get the two Wisconsin schools (Green Bay vs Milwaukee) facing off tonight. Green Bay had a rather strong finish to the season, and would likely be favored in the quarterfinal game as well.
-OHIO STATE AT INDIANA (Big Ten). Ohio State still hasn’t beaten a tournament caliber team in a true road game, so a win in this one would be enormous for their profile. Indiana is trying to get their NCAA Tournament bus trip set up. If they want to play in Dayton for the first two rounds, and Indianapolis for the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, they need to finish strong and lock up the #1 seed.
-VIRGINIA TECH AT DUKE (ACC). Duke has been unstoppable at home and is on pace to get a #1 seed with a strong finish. They shouldn’t have any trouble tonight.
-ARKANSAS AT MISSOURI (SEC). Missouri is inside the bubble despite being awful on the road this year. Arkansas is a home court hero, but has just one true road win and that was against South Carolina. No one has ever received an at-large bid with so few road wins, so tonight is huge for them. They need a win like this to even be considered. Former Mizzou coach and current Arkansas coach Mike Anderson returns to Missouri for the first time. I would not anticipate a warm welcome.
-SAINT JOHN’S AT NOTRE DAME (Big East). The fact that the Johnnies are in the discussion at all is a testament to how weak the bubble currently appears. They need big wins, and more than just one. Notre Dame is safely in and has just two home losses so I don’t think they’ll have too much trouble today.
-MARQUETTE AT RUTGERS (Big East). Marquette is safely in the field, and perhaps even a protected seed, but the one glaring deficiency on their resume is road wins. This would be their fourth true road win and although Rutgers is not a tournament team, it would still boost up Marquette’s profile a little.
-MIAMI, OH AT AKRON (MAC). Akron had their long winning streak snapped against Buffalo, which is their second loss on the year to a sub-200 RPI team. Rarely do teams get at-large bids with two losses as bad as that. I think they’ll be on the bubble if they win out and lose in the championship game, but anything short of winning the conference tournament and they’ll really be sweating. The committee left out Drexel last year. They’ll leave out Akron this year. Fair or not.
-SOUTHERN MISS AT MARSHALL (Conference USA). Southern Miss continues to hover around outside the bubble. If they want any chance in the world of landing on it or in it, they cannot afford to lose the rest of the way.
-ILLINOIS AT IOWA (Big Ten). Illinois has struggled at times, but overall their profile is very strong and they could add another road win to it tonight. Iowa has been home court heroes, but has struggled away from home. Teams that schedule as weak as they did out of conference and struggle on the road in conference typically get left out even if they do manage several good wins at home.
-TCU AT KANSAS STATE (Big Twelve). A huge mismatch here. K State should win easily.
-MEMPHIS AT UTEP (Conference USA). UTEP has just two home losses and managed a win over Oregon at home, so Memphis needs to be on upset alert. Memphis isn’t in any danger of missing the field, but they do lack quality wins. Considering how strong UTEP is at home this would actually be one of Memphis’s better wins of the season.
-ALABAMA AT OLE MISS (SEC). Both Teams are outside the bubble and need this win to even get a look, much less get in.
-BOISE STATE AT UNLV (Mountain West). I think Boise is currently inside the bubble, and they can pretty much lock up a bid if they’re able to pick up one more big win, especially if it’s in a game like this on the road.