The Bracketeer

A contributor to the blog, “The Bracketeer” will be providing updated predictions on the NCAA Tournament bracket.  I’ll take this guy over Joe Lunardi any day!

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Now that the dust has settled from Selection Sunday, lets take a look at the good and the bad that the committee put forth.

  • The continued regression of mid-major teams to receive at-large berths is a troubling trend.  Admittedly, the mid-majors did not present many worthy teams to the bubble field this year as compared to the last couple of years.  We have sadly come to a point where .500 in a BCS conference is extremely acceptible to the selection committee.
  • Based on the few decent teams coming out of the western region of the country this year, I was surprised that teams like Utah, Arizona State, Arizona and UCLA were being sent cross-country to Miami and Philadelphia, whereas lower seeded teams (Utah State, Virginia Commonwealth and Portland State) are playing significantly closer to home than their high-seeded opponents (Marquette, UCLA and Xavier).
  • As far as the final projection, I had 64 of 65 teams correct (missed on Creighton as did most others), 28 matching their exact seed, and 56 within one line of their seed.  Overall, that’s not too bad.

Now that the brackets are set and the most anticipated three weeks of college basketball begins, I have a four-part formula taking into account the last 10 NCAA Tournament champions that may help you select this year’s winner.

Part I: RPI top 15 heading into the NCAA tournament…

9 of the last 10 national champions have had an RPI of 15 or better heading into the Big Dance.  Only Florida in 2006 (RPI 21) had a higher rating.  So that gives us a starting point of the following teams: Duke, Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Louisville, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Memphis, Connecticut, Kansas, Utah, Missouri, Syracuse, Villanova, Washington, Florida State.

Part II: Six or fewer losses during the season…

9 of the last 10 national champions have entered the NCAA Tournament with six or fewer losses during the season.  Only the 2000 Michigan State national championship squad entered with more than six setbacks (32-7).  This eliminates: Kansas, Utah, Syracuse, Villanova, Washington and Florida State.

Part III: Zero RPI 100+ losses…

8 of the last 10 national champions had no losses to RPI 100+ teams during the season.  North Carolina in 2005 (at Santa Clara) and Michigan State in 2000 (at Wright State) are the only teams in the last 10 years to win the national title while having a “bad loss” on its resume.  This eliminates: Oklahoma.

Part IV: Win your conference tournament…

Contrary to what many of the experts have said about losing early in your conference tournament being a good thing because it gives you a chance to re-energize, 7 of the last 10 national champs won their conference tournament heading into the Big Dance.  I guess it goes to show that confidence (teams on a winning streak) can cure any type of rest that may or may not be needed.  This eliminates: Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Michigan State and Connecticut.

Based on the above trends over the last 10 seasons, the four teams remaining are: Louisville, Duke, Memphis and Missouri.

Although they have had a great season, I don’t think Missouri has the horses to win the whole thing – so lets eliminate them.

Memphis has been a personal favorite of mine throughout the season, and I have sung the Tigers praises on these pages over the past couple of months.  However, no non-BCS team has won the national title in the 10 year span referenced above either – so Memphis goes by the wayside as well.

That leaves us with Louisville and Duke.  Louisville was tabbed the new #1-ranked team in the country, making the Cardinals a bit of a target.  Over the last 30 years, only six teams have entered the NCAA Tournament ranked #1 in at least one poll and gone on to win the national title.

I can’t believe what I am about to type as I despise most everything Blue Devils.  I do have a great deal of respect for their university, their coach and the way they do things (run a clean program).  Maybe its listening to Dick Vitale scream everytime the word Duke is uttered.  I dunno.  Based on the data presented, I begrudgingly predict Duke as this year’s national champions.  Time for me to go throw up.

Thanks to all for reading “The Bracketeer’s” offerings throughout the last few months.

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Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of “The Bracketeer”.

A few guidelines for everyone looking at the bracket and how I came to my projections (final projection):

  • As the NCAA selection committee is supposed to attempt to do, I avoided matchups that would involve re-matches from this season (until the Sweet 16 or later), teams from the same conference potentially playing each other (until the Elite Eight or later), teams playing in their home arena (e.g., Memphis can’t play in the “Memphis Region”, Dayton can’t play at the “Dayton 1st and 2nd round site”).  If necessary, the committee in the past has allowed for a “one-seed” movement from a teams “true” seed to help in putting together a bracket.
  • I’ve used information from the various RPI/efficiency sites out there (Realtime, Warren Nolan, KenPom) in compiling my somewhat educated guesses.
  • Below the bracket, I’ve also listed the “Last Four In”, “First Four Out” and “Next Four Out”.
  • Although this is my first year publishing my projections, I have “handicapped” the field the past three years as well with the below results:

2008: 63 of 65 teams correct (missed on St. Joseph’s & South Alabama)
31 teams exact seed
54 within one line of exact seed

2007: 62 of 65 teams correct (missed on Arkansas, Stanford & Old Dominion)
24 teams exact seed
46 within one line of exact seed

2006: 62 of 65 teams correct (missed on George Mason [oops], Utah State & Air Force)
25 teams exact seed
50 within one line of exact seed

Now for the bracket projection (Final Projection)

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LAST FOUR IN: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maryland, Creighton

FIRST FOUR OUT: Penn State, Arizona, St. Mary’s, UNLV

NEXT FOUR OUT: San Diego State, Auburn, Providence, Florida

MULTIPLE BID LEAGUES: Big Ten (7), Big East (7), ACC (7), Big 12 (6), Pac 10 (5), A-10 (3), SEC (3), MWC (2), Horizon (2), MVC (2)

AUTOMATIC BIDS:
America East: Binghamton
ACC: Duke
Atlantic Sun: East Tennessee State
A-10: Temple
Big East: Louisville
Big Sky: Portland State
Big South: Radford
Big Ten: Purdue
Big 12: Missouri
Big West: Cal State-Northridge
Colonial: Virginia Commonwealth
C-USA: Memphis
Horizon: Cleveland State
Ivy: Cornell
MAAC: Siena
MEAC: Morgan State
MAC: Akron
MVC: Northern Iowa
MWC: Utah
Northeast: Robert Morris
OVC: Morehead State
Pac 10: USC
Patriot: American
SEC: Mississippi State
Southern: Chattanooga
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
SWAC: Alabama State
Summit: North Dakota State
Sun Belt: Western Kentucky
WAC: Utah State
WCC: Gonzaga

  • From a Creighton perspective, I won’t be surprised either way.  I believe the Bluejays have a decent enough resume to be one of the 34 at-large selections.  At the same time, the Jays had many opportunities throughout the season to solidify its position to the selection committee.
  • I will be posting a “postmortem” tomorrow regarding the bracket and a prediction for a national champion using the last 10 NCAA Tournaments as a guideline.

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Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of “The Bracketeer”.

A few guidelines for everyone looking at the bracket and how I came to my projections (thru games of March 13):

  • I tried to seed teams as if it were actually Selection Sunday.  So some teams may seem a bit high or a bit low compared to what others have presently, however, based on the numbers to date, that’s where I believe they would be seeded when you factor in SOS, Top-50 wins, Top-100 wins, etc.
  • As the NCAA selection committee is supposed to attempt to do, I avoided matchups that would involve re-matches from this season (until the Sweet 16 or later), teams from the same conference potentially playing each other (until the Elite Eight or later), teams playing in their home arena (e.g., Memphis can’t play in the “Memphis Region”, Dayton can’t play at the “Dayton 1st and 2nd round site”).  If necessary, the committee in the past has allowed for a “one-seed” movement from a teams “true” seed to help in putting together a bracket.
  • I’ve used information from the various RPI/efficiency sites out there (Realtime, Warren Nolan, KenPom) in compiling my somewhat educated guesses.
  • Now that we are less than 48 hours to Selection Sunday, the at-large pool has been siginificantly trimmed down…barring conference tournament runs (see Pac 10 and Big 12), the movement at this point is minimal.
  • I anticipate having the final projection completed around 4 p.m., Sunday.

Now for the bracket projection (March 14)

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LAST FOUR IN: Maryland, Penn State, Creighton, Arizona

FIRST FOUR OUT: UNLV, St. Mary’s, San Diego State, USC

NEXT FOUR OUT: Auburn, Florida, Providence, Illinois State

MULTIPLE BID LEAGUES: Big Ten (8), Big East (7), ACC (7), Big 12 (6), Pac 10 (5), A-10 (3), MWC (2),  SEC (2), Horizon (2), MVC (2)

AUTOMATIC BIDS:
Atlantic Sun: East Tennessee State
Big Sky: Portland State
Big South: Radford
Colonial: Virginia Commonwealth
Horizon: Cleveland State
Ivy: Cornell
MAAC: Siena
MVC: Northern Iowa
Northeast: Robert Morris
OVC: Morehead State
Patriot: American
Southern: Chattanooga
Summit: North Dakota State
Sun Belt: Western Kentucky
WCC: Gonzaga

PROJECTED AUTOMATIC BIDS:
ACC: North Carolina
America East: Binghamton
A-10: Temple
Big East: Louisville
Big Ten: Michigan State
Big 12: Missouri
Big West: Cal State-Northridge
C-USA: Memphis
MEAC: Morgan State
MAC: Buffalo
MWC: Utah
Pac 10: Arizona State
SEC: LSU
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
SWAC: Alabama State
WAC: Utah State

  • This is my fourth year doing a bracket projection, and my first year publishing it for all to see.  I have always felt very confident, as most do, regarding the four #1-seeds.  Although I believe Pittsburgh and North Carolina have locked up #1’s, the other two can go to any of the teams from this pool: Connecticut, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Duke and Louisville.  Oklahoma likely took itself out of #1-seed consideration with its Big 12 tournament quarterfinal loss.  I have Connecticut as a #1 for now.  They would certainly fall off this line if both Duke and Louisville were to win each of their conference tournaments, and would be about 50-50 to drop from #1-seed status if either the Blue Devils or Cardinals won their conference tourney.  A lot of bracketologists are touting Memphis as a possible #1-seed.  As much as I like the Tigers, and have written so on these very pages over the past two months, their overall resume gets them a #2-seed at best.
  • My last team in came down to Arizona and UNLV.  Both the Wildcats (5-5 in last 10) and Runnin’ Rebels (4-6 in last 10) have struggled mightily down the stretch and UNLV even owns a late December victory over UA.  Both have very good non-conference victories and were middle of the pack teams in top seven RPI leagues.  However, of the Wildcats last five losses, four have come to teams that will certainly be in the NCAA field (Arizona State [twice], Washington, California) while five of the Rebels last six losses have come against teams that are bubble teams or not in the discussion at all (San Diego State [three times], New Mexico, Wyoming).
  • Bubble teams continue to sweat out the remaining conference tournaments as 16 automatic bids are still to be determined.

So if you are a bubble team and want to see other teams fall by the wayside, here’s a look at what to root for:

  • ACC: Maryland beating Wake Forest likely punched a ticket to the Big Dance for the Terrapins – continuing a disturbing trend of at least one team in each of the last three years to receive an at-large berth despite a sub-.500 regular season league ledger.
  • A-10: This ended up being a disaster for bubble teams as either Temple or Duquesne will now go dancing as they square off in the A-10 championship game.  At this point, it is best to root for Temple as they would still be a bubble contender if they were to lose to Duquesne – who cannot get into the Big Dance unless they win this game.  With Xavier and Dayton safely into the field, the A-10 now becomes a 3-bid league – swiping a bid from would-be bubblers.
  • Big East: Nothing more to see here.  Is Syracuse/UConn still going on??
  • Big Ten: Not much more to root for here, it’s just a matter now of how many of their plethora of bubble teams get in.
  • Big 12: Missouri must beat Baylor to keep the Bears from stealing a bid from other bubble contenders.
  • MWC: Although I still don’t believe San Diego State has an overall resume worthy of an at-large berth, the Aztecs have made their way into “Last Four Out” status on this projection.  Another bid would get snared from fellow bubble teams if SDSU beats NCAA tournament bound Utah in the Mountain West championship game.
  • Pac 10: Arizona State must beat USC.  That’s it.  Despite the Trojans current four game winning streak, they are just 5-5 over their last 10 games and are still likely on the outside looking in at the at-large field.
  • SEC: Auburn, as the SEC’s hottest team, is now being touted for a possible at-large bid.  The Tigers overall numbers don’t quite cut it, but in the SEC this year anything is possible.  LSU and Tennessee facing each other in the SEC championship game would be the best medicine for bubble teams suffering from Selection Sunday anxiety.
  • Lastly, Memphis and Utah State winning the Conference USA and WAC Tournaments, respectively.  No other teams from these leagues have chances at any type of at-large bid.  Memphis will surely get an at-large if it were to lose, but Utah State would be a tough one for the committee as the Aggies are now 28-4 in Division-I games, but 26 of those wins have come against RPI 100+ teams.

Next bracket projection: Sunday, March 15 (Final Projection)

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Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of “The Bracketeer”.

A few guidelines for everyone looking at the bracket and how I came to my projections (thru games of March 11):

  • I tried to seed teams as if it were actually Selection Sunday.  So some teams may seem a bit high or a bit low compared to what others have presently, however, based on the numbers to date, that’s where I believe they would be seeded when you factor in SOS, Top-50 wins, Top-100 wins, etc.
  • As the NCAA selection committee is supposed to attempt to do, I avoided matchups that would involve re-matches from this season (until the Sweet 16 or later), teams from the same conference potentially playing each other (until the Elite Eight or later), teams playing in their home arena (e.g., Memphis can’t play in the “Memphis Region”, Dayton can’t play at the “Dayton 1st and 2nd round site”).  If necessary, the committee in the past has allowed for a “one-seed” movement from a teams “true” seed to help in putting together a bracket.
  • I’ve used information from the various RPI/efficiency sites out there (Realtime, Warren Nolan, KenPom) in compiling my somewhat educated guesses.
  • Now that we are less than a week to Selection Sunday, the at-large pool has been siginificantly trimmed down…barring conference tournament runs (which always seem to happen), the movement at this point is minimal.
  • Below the bracket, I’ve also listed the “Last Four In”, “First Four Out” and “Next Four Out”.  I’ve also done a brief capsule on each conference (even the SWAC, MEAC and Atlantic Sun get a little love from “The Bracketeer”).

Now for the bracket projection (March 12)

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LAST FOUR IN: Minnesota, Penn State, Florida, Creighton

FIRST FOUR OUT: Maryland, Providence, St. Mary’s, Kansas State

NEXT FOUR OUT: New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Illinois State

MULTIPLE BID LEAGUES: Big Ten (8), Big East (7), ACC (6), Big 12 (6), Pac 10 (5), SEC (3), MWC (3), A-10 (2), Horizon (2), MVC (2), WCC (2)

AUTOMATIC BIDS:
Atlantic Sun: East Tennessee State
Big Sky: Portland State
Big South: Radford
Colonial: Virginia Commonwealth
Horizon: Cleveland State
Ivy: Cornell
MAAC: Siena
MVC: Northern Iowa
Northeast: Robert Morris
OVC: Morehead State
Southern: Chattanooga
Summit: North Dakota State
Sun Belt: Western Kentucky
WCC: Gonzaga

PROJECTED AUTOMATIC BIDS:
ACC: North Carolina
America East: Binghamton
A-10: Xavier
Big East: Pittsburgh
Big Ten: Michigan State
Big 12: Oklahoma
Big West: Cal State-Northridge
C-USA: Memphis
MEAC: Morgan State
MAC: Miami, Ohio
MWC: Utah
Pac 10: Washington
Patriot: American
SEC: LSU
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
SWAC: Alabama State
WAC: Utah State

  • A few adjustments to the bracket from Monday, with the main change coming with Cleveland State stealing a bid from the other bubble contenders.  The Vikings gain, for now, ends up being St. Mary’s loss.  The Gaels’ overall resume doesn’t quite stack up to the current “last 4 in” – noticibly lacking in top 100 wins (20 of SMC’s 23 Division-I wins have come against RPI 100+ teams).
  • Arizona State (true #7-seed) and Boston College (true #8-seed) are the only teams I have moved to avoid conference/rematch conflicts.

So if you are a bubble team and want to see other teams fall by the wayside, here’s a look at what to root for:

  • ACC: The Virginia Tech/Miami, Fla. loser is obviously done.  The winner gets North Carolina.  Both the Hokies and Hurricanes need multiple wins (more likely they need to win the ACC Tournament) to get an at-large opportunity.  Maryland opens against North Carolina State.  A loss to the Wolfpack, and the Terrapins can begin preparations for an NIT home game.  A win gets the “Terps” a matchup with Wake Forest.  If Maryland wins this game, then there chances significantly increase for getting into the Big Dance.
  • A-10: Have either Xavier or Dayton win the tournament, also having Rhode Island or Temple avoiding the championship game would be helpful, but I believe the Rams and Owls would each need to win the A-10 Tourney to get a bid.
  • Big East: Have Louisville beat Providence.  That’s it.
  • Big Ten: A Northwestern win over Minnesota could very likely send the Golden Gophers to the three letter tournament.  Same for Penn State with a Nittany Lion loss to Indiana.  Even if Michigan were to lose to Iowa in its Big Ten Tourney opener, the Wolverines non-conference slate will probably carry them into the at-large pool, although it will still be close.
  • Big 12: Have Texas beat Kansas State.  That’s it.  Despite Texas A&M‘s stumble against Texas Tech, they likely have done enough to be one of the 34 at-large selections.
  • MWC: Have UNLV beat San Diego State.  I’d say its pretty likely that the Runnin’ Rebels are in already (not by much, but they are in).  A loss by SDSU would dash any slim hopes the Aztecs have of an at-large.  Have New Mexico not make it to the MWC title game.  Although I believe the Lobos need to win the Mountain West Tournament to get in, getting to the championship game would surely make other “bubblers” feel like the room got a little more crowded.
  • Pac 10: Have USC lose.  That’s it.  Some feel that Arizona is on shaky ground.  Although I can’t see the Wildcats wearing white jerseys in their NCAA opener, they are also pretty safe as well with their non-conference triumphs against Gonzaga and Kansas.  In the end, I don’t think their game against Arizona State in the Pac 10 quarterfinals is that big of a deal.
  • SEC: Florida should be able to win its opener against Arkansas.  The Gators would then face Auburn and a victory over the Tigers would likely punch UF’s ticket to the dance.  South Carolina also needs to win two games in the SEC tourney, with its likely opponents being Mississippi State and LSU.  Anything short of that, and the Gamecocks are NIT bound.
  • Lastly, Memphis and Utah State winning the Conference USA and WAC Tournaments, respectively.  No other teams from these leagues have chances at any type of at-large bid.  Memphis will surely get an at-large if it were to lose, but Utah State would be a tough one for the committee as the Aggies enter the WAC Tourney at 26-4 in Division-I games, but 24 of those wins have come against RPI 100+ teams.

Next bracket projection: Saturday, March 14


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Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of “The Bracketeer”.

A few guidelines for everyone looking at the bracket and how I came to my projections (thru games of March 8):

  • I tried to seed teams as if it were actually Selection Sunday.  So some teams may seem a bit high or a bit low compared to what others have presently, however, based on the numbers to date, that’s where I believe they would be seeded when you factor in SOS, Top-50 wins, Top-100 wins, etc.
  • As the NCAA selection committee is supposed to attempt to do, I avoided matchups that would involve re-matches from this season (until the Sweet 16 or later), teams from the same conference potentially playing each other (until the Elite Eight or later), teams playing in their home arena (e.g., Memphis can’t play in the “Memphis Region”, Dayton can’t play at the “Dayton 1st and 2nd round site”).  If necessary, the committee in the past has allowed for a “one-seed” movement from a teams “true” seed to help in putting together a bracket.
  • I’ve used information from the various RPI/efficiency sites out there (Realtime, Warren Nolan, KenPom) in compiling my somewhat educated guesses.
  • Now that we are less than a week to Selection Sunday, the at-large pool has been siginificantly trimmed down…barring conference tournament runs (which always seem to happen), the movement at this point is minimal.
  • Below the bracket, I’ve also listed the “Last Four In”, “First Four Out” and “Next Four Out”.  I’ve also done a brief capsule on each conference (even the SWAC, MEAC and Atlantic Sun get a little love from “The Bracketeer”).

Now for the bracket projection (March 9)

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LAST FOUR IN: Penn State, Florida, St. Mary’s, Creighton

FIRST FOUR OUT: Maryland, Providence, Kansas State, New Mexico

NEXT FOUR OUT: Virginia Tech, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Illinois State

MULTIPLE BID LEAGUES: Big Ten (8), Big East (7), ACC (6), Big 12 (6), Pac 10 (5), SEC (3), MWC (3), A-10 (2), MVC (2), WCC (2)

In looking at the bracket, a couple of things jumped out:

  • Pittsburgh and North Carolina have locked up #1-seeds…Connecticut and Oklahoma should still be in pretty good shape to hold on to their #1-seeds despite recent struggles…If the Huskies and Sooners falter early in their conference tournaments and teams like Michigan State, Duke, Louisville or Kansas win their conference tourneys, then you could see a change on the seed lines.
  • Due to conference/rematch conflicts, I moved more teams around by one seed line from their true seed in this bracket projection than any other to date.  Arizona State, Ohio State, Arizona, Boston College and Oklahoma State are one-seed line away from their true seed.

Next bracket projection: Thursday, March 12

Conference Capsules:
Instead of the usual “Lock…In…Bubble…Out” type of designations for potential tourney teams, I’ve decided to do something a little different each time I do a bracket projection.  This edition will use quotes from the movie Jerry Maguire.

“You had me at hello.”:  Teams with this designation are at least Sweet 16 bound, even if they are not a top 4-seed in their region (upsets happen in this thing you know).

“Show me the money!”:  These are teams that I believe are in the field of 65 but won’t make it past the first weekend.

“Help me, help you”:  Not in presently, these teams need a little help.

If there is no designation classifying teams for a conference, then the automatic bid winner is the only projected team to make it from that conference.  Enjoy.

All times listed for conference tournament games are CST.

ACC:
“You had me at hello.”:  North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, Florida State
“Show me the money!”:  Clemson, Boston College
“Help me, help you”:  Maryland, Virginia Tech

  • UNC, Duke, Wake, FSU, Clemson and B.C. are solidly into the field (to be extremely safe, the Eagles should win their ACC Tourney opener against Virginia)…The Maryland loss at Virginia on Saturday puts it in a difficult spot for getting an at-large…The Terrapins went 7-9 in ACC play, and are likely the only team from a BCS conference that has a shot at an at-large bid with a sub-.500 league record…Maryland has to win at least two games in the ACC Tournament (N.C. State and Wake Forest) to have a decent shot…Virginia Tech, and Miami, Fla., for that matter don’t have the non-league scalps that Maryland has, so as teams that also went 7-9 in the ACC regular season, the Hokies and Hurricanes need to win the ACC Tournament or they are NIT bound.

2009 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament (all 12 teams qualify)
at Georgia Dome — Atlanta, Ga.
Sunday, March 15 – Championship: (12:00 p.m. – ESPN)

America East:
Projected automatic bid: Binghamton

  • #1-seed Binghamton will face upstart Maryland-Baltimore County for the America East conference’s automatic bid.

2009 America East Championship (all nine teams qualify)
at Home Site of highest remaining seed
Saturday, March 14 – Championship: #1 Binghamton vs. #6 UMBC (10:00 a.m. – ESPN2)

Atlantic-10:
“You had me at hello.”:  none
“Show me the money!”:  Xavier, Dayton
“Help me, help you”:  Rhode Island, Temple

  • At this point, Rhode Island and Temple need to win the Atlantic-10 Tournament to get to the Big Dance, however they would each stand a very slim chance at an at-large if they were to advance to the A-10 championship game.

2009 Atlantic-10 Championship (top 12 teams qualify)
at Boardwalk Hall — Atlantic City, N.J.
Saturday, March 14 – Championship: (5:00 p.m. – ESPN2)

Atlantic Sun:
AUTOMATIC BID: East Tennessee State

  • #2-seed East Tennessee State defeated #1-seed Jacksonville to claim the Atlantic Sun’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  The Buccaneers are making their first NCAA appearance since 2004, and eighth in program history.

Big East:
“You had me at hello.”:  Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Louisville, Villanova
“Show me the money!”:  Syracuse, Marquette, West Virginia
“Help me, help you”:  Providence

  • The first seven in the Big East are safely in and need to do nothing at all in the Big East Tournament…Providence will likely get Cincinnati in its tourney opener…The Friars will be looking for their third win of the season against the Bearcats…The perfect storm to keep the Big East at seven teams – Cincy beats Providence and then gets blown out by #1-seed Louisville…Providence likely just needs to beat the Bearcats to make the NCAA field despite a woeful non-league slate and computer numbers (RPI: 70, SOS: 44) that would only get looked at if you were in a BCS conference.

2009 Big East Conference Tournament (all 16 teams qualify)
at Madison Square Garden — New York, N.Y.
Saturday, March 14 – Championship: (8:00 p.m. – ESPN)

Big Sky:
Projected automatic bid: Weber State

  • Weber State gets to play at home as the #1-seed in the Big Sky Tournament…The Wildcats are looking to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2007 and the school’s 15th appearance overall.

2009 Big Sky Championship (top six teams qualify)
at Dee Events Center — Ogden, Utah
Tuesday, March 10 – Game 3: #2 Portland State vs. #4 Idaho State (6:00 p.m.)
Tuesday, March 10 – Game 4: #1 Weber State vs. #6 Montana State (8:30 p.m.)

Wednesday, March 11 – Championship: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner (9:30 p.m. – ESPN2)

Big South:
AUTOMATIC BID: Radford

  • Radford defeated Virginia Military 108-94 in the Big South Championship game to earn its first tournament bid since 1998 and only its second NCAA appearance in school history.

Big Ten:
“You had me at hello.”:  Michigan State
“Show me the money!”:  Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Minnesota, Penn State
“Help me, help you”:  none

  • Although the Big Ten currently has eight teams in the projection, four will likely not be wearing white jerseys (seeded #9 or lower) and only one, Michigan State, is a legitimate Final Four contender…Of the eight currently in the field, Minnesota (vs. Northwestern), Michigan (vs. Iowa) and Penn State (vs. Indiana) would do well to win their Big Ten Tournament opener or they could find themselves in a lot of trouble…The Golden Gophers are just 4-6 in their last 10 games, and depite a very nice neutral site win against Louisville back in December their non-league slate doesn’t offer much besides the win against the Cardinals…Add to that, Minny went just 1-4 against the leagues top three teams (MSU, Purdue, Ill.)…As much as I have been critical of Penn State’s possible inclusion into the field because of the abysmal non-league slate they played, they did go 4-2 against the Big Ten’s big three…Make no mistake though, if the Nittany Lions get upset by the Hoosiers on Thursday, they will be on the outside looking in…Although Northwestern would be a fantastic story if they made the tournament, its loss to Ohio State yesterday leaves the Wildcats no other option but to win the Big Ten Tournament.

2009 Big Ten Conference Tournament (all 11 teams qualify)
at Conseco Fieldhouse — Indianapolis, Ind.
Sunday, March 15 – Championship: (2:30 p.m. – CBS)

Big West:
Projected automatic bid: Cal State-Northridge

  • Cal State-Northridge enters Big West Tournament play as the #1-seed…The Matadors will likely gets their biggest challenge from Long Beach State and Pacific who finished one game behind CS-N in the regular season standings.

2009 Big West Championship (top eight teams qualify)
at Anaheim Convention Center — Anaheim, Ca.
Saturday, March 14 – Championship: (11:00 p.m. – ESPN2)

Big 12:
“You had me at hello.”:  Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri
“Show me the money!”:  Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State
“Help me, help you”:  Kansas State

  • €€ Texas A&M most likely locked up a bid with its win against Missouri on Saturday…The Aggies have now won six straight heading into the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City…Equally hot Oklahoma State needs to win its tourney opener against Iowa State and then have another respectable showing in its would-be rematch against Oklahoma to secure a bid…A loss to the Cyclones and the Cowboys will be on pins and needles come Selection Sunday…Kansas State has a must win matchup against the Texas/Colorado winner on Thursday…If the Wildcats win that game it may be enough to get them in, however, their computer numbers (RPI: 76, SOS: 97, 5-8 vs RPI top 100) and lack of any marquee wins suggest they might need to get to the Big 12 championship game.

2009 Big 12 Conference Tournament (all 12 teams qualify)
at Ford Center — Oklahoma City, Okla.
Saturday, March 14 – Championship: (5:00 p.m. – ESPN)

Colonial:
Projected automatic bid: Virginia Commonwealth

  • The two favorites in the Colonial square off tonight for the league automatic bid…If you are a Creighton fan, which I would assume most reading this board would be, a George Mason win would help the Bluejays cause for an at-large as they defeated the Patriots 76-63 back on BracketBuster Saturday.

2009 Colonial Athletic Association Championship (all 12 teams qualify)
at Richmond Coliseum — Richmond, Va.
Monday, March 9 – Championship: #1 VCU vs. #2 George Mason (6:00 p.m. – ESPN2)

C-USA:
Projected automatic bid: Memphis

  • The C-USA Tournament is big for everyone except for Memphis for getting into the NCAA tournament…However, the Tigers are potentially playing for a #1-seed (a longshot in reality) and will be tough to beat on their home court – where the C-USA Championship is played.

2009 Conference-USA Championship (all 12 teams qualify)
at FedEx Forum — Memphis, Tenn.
Saturday, March 14 – Championship: (10:30 a.m. – CBS)

Horizon:
Projected automatic bid: Butler

  • Should be a lot of interested viewers from other bubble teams for this matchup as Cleveland State‘s only way into the NCAA Tournament is to beat Butler on the Bulldogs home court.

2009 Speedway Horizon League Championship (all 10 teams qualify)
at Home Site of highest remaining seed
Tuesday, March 10 – Championship: #1 Butler vs. #3 Cleveland State (8:00 p.m. – ESPN)

Ivy:
AUTOMATIC BID: Cornell

  • Cornell is going to its second consecutive NCAA tournament after winning the Ivy League regular season crown with an 11-3 mark.

MAAC:
Projected automatic bid: Siena

  • If Siena does lose to Niagara, the Saints have computer numbers (RPI: 22, SOS: 77, league regular season champion of the #13 RPI conference) to merit a strong look from the selection committee…However, they are 0-4 vs the RPI top 50 and just 4-5 vs the top 100…To however the last however, South Alabama did receive an at-large last year out of the Sun Belt Conference with a very similar resume (RPI: 37, SOS: 117, 3-4 vs. top 100, co-conference regular season champion of the #14 RPI conference).

2009 Citizens Bank Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship (all 10 teams qualify)
at Times Union Center — Albany, N.Y.
Monday, March 9 – Championship: #1 Siena vs. #2 Niagara (8:00 p.m. – ESPN2)

MEAC:
Projected automatic bid: Morgan State

  • Morgan State clinched its second consecutive MEAC regular season title and enter tournament play as the #1-seed.

2009 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championship (top 11 teams qualify)
at Lawrence Joel Coliseum — Winston-Salem, N.C.
Saturday, March 14 – Championship: (6:00 p.m. – ESPNU)

MAC:
Projected automatic bid: Miami, Ohio

  • Seriously, the MAC Tournament might be more difficult to handicap than the Kentucky Derby…Come Saturday, if #7-seed Central Michigan were playing #9-seed Ohio for the title it would not shock me at all…Easily the most wide-open league tournament begins Tuesday in Cleveland for this league’s lone bid.

2009 Mid-American Conference Championship (all 12 teams qualify)
at Quicken Loans Arena — Cleveland, Ohio
Saturday, March 14 – Championship: (7:00 p.m. – ESPN2)

MVC:
“You had me at hello.”:  none
“Show me the money!”:  Northern Iowa (automatic bid), Creighton
“Help me, help you”:  Illinois State

  • Northern Iowa took home the MVC’s automatic bid with a 60-57 overtime victory against Illinois State…The Panthers will be making their fourth trip to the Big Dance in the last six years…It is now sit, hope and wait for both Creighton and Illinois State…Although the Redbirds beat the Bluejays two out of three during the regular season (and in decisive fashion), it is Creighton that presently has the better at-large case although it needs a few things to go their way in other conference tournaments to stay in the field as the Jays are currently my last team in…ISU is likely headed to the NIT, but they are included here in that they, like Siena, have a very similar resume to the one that got South Alabama included as an at-large last year.

MWC:
“You had me at hello.”:  Utah
“Show me the money!”:  BYU, UNLV
“Help me, help you”:  New Mexico, San Diego State

  • In my heart of hearts I really don’t believe San Diego State or New Mexico can get into the tournament unless they win the Mountain West automatic bid (depsite some experts having five MWC teams in the field)…Utah and BYU are safely into the field…UNLV, which was a borderline lock about six weeks ago, finished 5-5 over their last 10 games and placed fifth in the MWC regular season race at 9-7…I presently have the Runnin’ Rebels as somewhat safely in due to their non-league work in wins against Arizona and at Louisville…UNLV could accomplish two things with a win against San Diego State in the Mountain West quarterfinals on Thursday – 1) squash any talk of them not making the field as an at-large, 2) get rid of any more nonsense of San Diego State being considered as an at-large candidate.

2009 Mountain West Conference Tournament (all nine teams qualify)
at Thomas & Mack Center — Las Vegas, Nev.
Saturday, March 14 – Championship: (6:00 p.m. – Versus)

Northeast:
Projected automatic bid: Robert Morris

  • #1-seed Robert Morris will get to host #2-seed Mount St. Mary’s for the right to earn the NEC’s automatic bid…RM swept MSM during the regular season.

2009 Northeast Conference Tournament (top eight teams qualify)
at Home Sites of higher seed
Wed., March 11 – Championship: #1 Robert Morris vs. #2 Mt. St. Mary’s (7:00 p.m. – ESPN2)

OVC:
AUTOMATIC BID: Morehead State

  • #4-seed Morehead State nipped #2-seed Austin Peay 67-65 in double overtime to secure its first tournament bid since 1984.

Pac 10:
“You had me at hello.”:  Washington
“Show me the money!”:  California, UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona
“Help me, help you”:  USC

  • The Pac 10 is pretty cut and dry…Washington, California, UCLA and Arizona State are all safely in…Arizona, despite a 9-9 Pac 10 mark, appears to be on solid ground with the work it did in the non-league portion of its schedule (wins over Kansas and Gonzaga)…It wouldn’t hurt the Wildcats to beat Arizona State in a really good 4 vs. 5 mathcup in their Pac 10 Tourney opener to feel extremely safe about going to the Big Dance…USC must win the Pac 10 tournament or they are NIT bound…The Trojans will certainly merit consideration if they were to make the Pac 10 championship game and lose, but I believe they would still fall short as they had many chances (2-8 vs RPI top 50) to impress during the regular season.

2009 Pacific 10 Conference Tournament (all 10 teams qualify)
at Staples Center — Los Angeles, Calif.
Saturday, March 14 – Championship: (5:00 p.m. – CBS)

Patriot:
Projected automatic bid: American University

  • American University is looking for its second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid…Prior to last year, the Eagles had never been to the NCAA Tournament.

2009 Patriot League Tournament (all eight teams qualify)
at Home Sites of higher seeds
Friday, March 13 – Championship: #1 American Univ. vs. #2 Holy Cross (3:45 p.m. – ESPN2)

SEC:
“You had me at hello.”:  none
“Show me the money!”:  LSU, Tennessee, Florida
“Help me, help you”:  South Carolina

  • Florida won what was essentially an NCAA elimination game when it defeated Kentucky on Saturday…The Gators still have work to do though, as they are just 4-6 over their last 10 games…Florida must win its SEC tournament opener against Arkansas and then follow that up with a win over Auburn to feel secure…Anything less than that and the Gators could go from last four in to out of the field…South Carolina, although held in higher regard by most bracketologists, I feel needs to get to the SEC title game (would likely mean wins over Mississippi State and LSU) to have any chance of getting an at-large bid…The chairman of this year’s selection committee is SEC commissioner Mike Slive, so I guess anything is possible…I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

2009 Southeastern Conference Tournament (all 12 teams qualify)
at St. Pete Times Forum — Tampa, Fla.
Sunday, March 15 – Championship: (12:00 p.m. – CBS)

Southern:
Projected automatic bid: College of Charleston

  • I said right here on this page a week ago that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see College of Charleston win the SoCon Tournament…The Cougars are one win away from making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999 – although they will have to beat a Chattanooga team that will get to play on its home court for the conference’s automatic bid…Davidson and Stephen Curry will have to continue its season in the NIT as there will be no at-large for the Wildcats.

2009 Southern Conference Tournament (all 12 teams qualify)
at McKenzie Arena — Chattanooga, Tenn.
Monday, March 9 – Championship: #3 Coll. of Char. vs. #2 Chattanooga (6:00 p.m. – ESPN)

Southland:
Projected automatic bid: Stephen F. Austin

  • Stephen F. Austin claimed the Southland regular season crown and the #1-seed for what should be a very competitive Southland Conference Tournament.

2009 Southland Conference Tournament (top eight teams qualify)
at The Merrell Center — Katy, Tex.
Sunday, March 15 – Championship: (12:00 p.m. – ESPN2)

SWAC:
Projected automatic bid: Alabama State

  • All I have to say is that the winner of this tournament will be playing on Tuesday in Dayton as one of the play-in game participants.

2009 Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament (top eight teams qualify)
at Fair Park Arena — Birmingham, Ala.
Saturday, March 14 – Championship: (8:00 p.m. – ESPNU)

Summit:
Projected automatic bid: North Dakota State

  • With #2-seed Oral Roberts out of the picture, the North Dakota State Bison are poised to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance in just its fourth year of Division I play.

2009 Summit League Championship (top eight teams qualify)
at Sioux Falls Arena – Sioux Falls, S.D.
Monday, March 9 – Game 5: #1 North Dakota State vs. #5 Southern Utah (6:00 p.m.)
Monday, March 9 – Game 6: #7 South Dakota State vs. #3 Oakland (8:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, March 10 – Championship: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner (7:00 p.m. – ESPN2)

Sun Belt:
Projected automatic bid: Western Kentucky

  • The Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky are still the team to beat in the Sun Belt tournament.

2009 Sun Belt Conference Tournament (all 13 teams qualify)
at Summit Arena — Hot Springs, Ark.
Monday, March 9 – Game 10: #1 Western Kentucky vs. #4 North Texas (6:30 p.m.)
Monday, March 9 – Game 11: #2 Arkansas-Little Rock vs. #6 South Alabama (9:00 p.m.)

Tuesday, March 10 – Championship: Game 10 winner vs. Game 11 winner (9:00 p.m. – ESPN2)

WCC:
“You had me at hello.”:  Gonzaga
“Show me the money!”:  St. Mary’s
“Help me, help you”:  none

  • As I believe St. Mary’s will get consideration for its games without Patty Mills and now that the sophomore guard is back with the team after recovering from a broken hand, the Gaels likely get in despite a woeful strength of schedule (160)…However, if Gonzaga does beat SMC tonight, they will be biting their nails in Moraga, CA, just as they will be in other bubble locales over the next few days.

2009 West Coast Conference Tournament (all eight teams qualify)
at Orleans Arena – Las Vegas, Nev.
Monday, March 9 – Championship Game: #1 Gonzaga vs. #2 St. Mary’s (8:00 p.m. – ESPN)

WAC:
Projected automatic bid: Utah State

  • €€ Another tournament that will have the attention of other bubble teams as Utah State should be able to take home the WAC tournament crown after rolling through regular season play…However, the WAC tourney is being played on league member Nevada‘s home court so it could be difficult for the Aggies to replicate their regular season dominance.

2009 Western Athletic Conference Tournament (all nine teams qualify)
at Lawlor Events Center – Reno, Nev.
Saturday, March 14 – Championship: (9:00 p.m. – ESPN2)

Thanks for reading…Next Bracket Projection: Thursday, March 12

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