Saturday, March 10, 2012

Clock is about to strike midnight for many

The Madness is mere moments away. The conference tournaments have provided a suitable preview to the big dance as we've seen some top teams go down. That said, I tend not to judge those big and powerful teams that lose in the conference tournament (ie: Syracuse, Kansas, Georgetown, etc.) because I'm convinced the extra rest is more important to teams that are already a lock to go dancing than a conference "title." Plus, remember what they say… it's tough for college teams to win that third straight game against that one opponent in the same season. Sometimes we indeed see the higher seed lose to a team they beat twice in regular season play. I wouldn't read into it too much.

Speaking of locks for the tournament, here's how they stand as of Saturday morning:

Automatic Qualifiers by way of the Conference Championship
Belmont (Atlantic Sun)
Montana (Big Sky)
UNC Asheville (Big South)
Detroit Mercy (Horizon)
Harvard (Ivy)
Loyola (MD) (Metro Atlantic)
Creighton (Missouri Valley)
Long Island (NEC)
Murray State (Ohio Valley)
Lehigh (Patriot)
Davidson (SoCon)
South Dakota State (Summit)
Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)
St. Mary’s (CA) (West Coast)

Will Call
TBD (Big West)
TBD (Southland)
TBD (America East)

There are plenty of bubble teams (NC State, Mississippi St., Seton Hall, Drexel, UMass, Miami, FL, Marshall, etc.) that are desperate to make the Tourney, but as always, the limited number of spots always leaves several teams high and dry (and watching from home). 31 teams get in automatically as conference champions leaving 37 at-large berths chosen by the selection committee.

The biggest problem for the bubble teams could be the Pac12. As an Arizona Alum, I am the first to admit the Pac has had a down season this year. Some call it parody, which I think is a euphemism at this point, but regardless, somebody from the Pac12 will be dancing this year, it's just a matter of who… or whom.

Washington and Berkeley finished No. 1 and No. 2 in regular season play, but failed to answer the call in the conference tournament putting them in quite a predicament. The top-dog Huskies lost to 9-seed Oregon St. in the first round (oops!) and the Golden Bears went down in the semis to Colorado, who I must say, looked impressive in that game.

Saturday's final is between Colorado and Arizona, and this one is a toss up. Interestingly enough, the fate of today's winner is far less interesting than that of the conference tourney's losers, Washington and Cal. Will they, or won't they make the tournament as an at-large team?

In what could be a cruel coincidence, the Huskies might find themselves in a place familiar to their forefathers. The last time the conference's regular season champion was not invited to the national tournament was in the 1943-44 season when Washington was left out in the cold. OUCH.

Do Washington and Cal deserve to go dancing? Based on their play, I'm not sure but the Pac12 tourney champ, either Arizona or Colorado is no more deserving in my opinion. I think Cal and Washington would be good for the tournament in general as their fans travel well and they have both had tourney success in the past.

As always, the selection committee has its work cut out for them Sunday, especially considering the fact that you can never make everyone happy.
Likely Locks based on Regular Season play:

North Carolina
Florida State
St. Louis
Notre Dame
West Virginia
Ohio State
Michigan State
Kansas State
Iowa State
Wichita State
New Mexico
San Diego State
Colorado State
Southern Mississippi

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