Written by Chris Canada, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com
Now that we are a little more than half way through the 2009-10 college basketball season, we look at where we are right now, as teams are knee deep in their conference schedules. March madness is seven weeks away, and teams have a ton to play for. Remember, there are 65 spots available, comprised of 31 automatic bids to conference champions and 34 at-large bids. Here is a comprehensive look at the major leagues in Division-I (rankings are current AP poll )...
From the results that follow, I predict that at this point 64 teams are safe, which includes 31 auto-bids and 33 at-large bids. This means that there are ONE remaining bids that will go to the ''bubble'' teams that I have listed. Out of the 64 that I have found, 30 come from major conferences and 34 from minor ones. A lot can change over the next few weeks, as you've already seen since last week .
Projected Champion: #2 Kentucky (26-1, 11-1)
Should be in: #19 Tennessee (20-6, 8-4), #16 Vanderbilt (20-6, 9-3), Florida (19-8, 8-4)
Bubble: #34 Mississippi St (19-8, 7-5), Mississippi (17-9, 5-7)
Analysis: As always we start off with the SEC, as we should because we represent a Florida Gator site !
Great bounce back after a really really rough week following a road loss to South Carolina and getting worked at home against a tough Xavier team. The Gators took care of the Auburn at home on Thursday, and then followed it up with a really good looking bubble-buster win at Ole Miss. The Gators move off the bubble and into the field of 65.
The Gators have some very quality non-conference so far. They've beaten the current #14 Michigan State on a neutral court when the Spartans were #2 nationally. They then defeated Rutgers to take home the tournament title. They are also 2-0 against the ACC with wins over FSU in Gainesville and NC State on the road.
As for their eight losses, they consist of a neutral site loss against current #4 Syracuse and a home loss to current #2 Kentucky where both games were tied late in the secondhalf, a close road loss to current #16 Vandy, a neutral site loss to current #23 Richmond (who's leading the very tough A-10), one point last second loss at current #19 Tennesse, and this weekend's two losses. The only real bad loss was to South Alabama, which was probably a letdown after consecutive losses to 'Cuse and Richmond.
We still have four more games against SEC opponents, including a home game against current #19 Tennessee, a road test at Georgia, a tough but winable game against current #17 Vandy in Gville, and the season finale at current #2 Kentucky
Hopefully they find their stride during conference play. The two remaining home conference games are tough, but coming away with at least one of them will cement their bid. Also barring a meltdown at Georgia, they should be in good shape. They'll probably lose at Kentucky, but unlike previous years, I think Florida has the resume to push them over the edge, but they still have some work to do.
John Calipari has the Kentucky Wildcat program back to it's lofty status of the 90's. They're on a roll right now. It's pretty much a forgone conclusion that they will take the championship. In a related story, I hate Kentucky, but I digress...
Tennessee has started well, and have a really good win at home against Kansas. Vanderbilt looks very good at this point, even with the tough home lose against UK this weekend. Mississippi St is on the bubble, as is Ole Miss. But unlike the Bulldogs, the Rebels are barely holding on.
Projected Champion: #5 Duke (23-4, 11-2)
Should be in: #37t Wake Forest (18-7, 8-5), #40 Clemson (19-7, 7-5), Florida St (19-7, 7-5), Georgia Tech (18-9, 6-7), #28 Maryland (19-7, 9-3), #27 Virginia Tech (20-4, 7-3)
Analysis: Unlike last year when there were three teams with a legit shot at winning the NCAA tournament, this year's ACC doesn't have a dominating team. It looks like Duke is in the best position to win the conference title. However, Maryland is right there only one game back in the loss column.
Clemson, Wake, and FSU all have good enough resumes to get in at this point. Maryland is playing GREAT basketball right now, and have moved themselves into the &should be in& category. GT is a mystery. Sometimes they look great and sometimes they're flat. I still have them in, but if they continue losing, we'll have to reassess. Virginia Tech is in with their 21-5 record.
Big East (7)
Projected Champion: #4 Syracuse (25-2, 12-2)
Should be in: #7 Villanova (22-4, 11-3), #12 Pittsburgh (21-6, 10-4), #11 Georgetown (18-7, 8-6), #8 West Virginia (21-5, 10-4), #33 Louisville (18-9, 7-5), #32 Marquette (17-9, 8-6)
Bubble: Notre Dame (17-10, 6-8), Cincinnati (15-11, 6-8), Connecticut (16-11, 6-8)
Analysis: The Big East is definitely the toughest conference to play in, because it seems like you are playing a top-25 team every night. Villanova, Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia & Georgetown look to be the teams I see going deep in the tourney. I still have Syracuse on top, even though they almost lost a 23 pt second half lead to Georgetown.
I think Louisville and Marquette played their way into the tourney this week.
Notre Dame & Cincy are really pushing it. UConn will have to run the table from here on out to make the tourney. Pretty incredible after bringing back so much talent from a final four team last year...
Big Ten+1 (5)
Projected Champion: #3 Purdue (23-3, 11-3)
Should be in: #14 Michigan St (21-7, 11-4), #9 Ohio St (21-7, 11-4), #17 Wisconsin (20-7, 10-5), #30 Illinois (17-10, 9-5)
Bubble: Minnesota (16-10, 7-7)
Analysis: Purdue took control of the conference this week. Michigan St and Ohio St are tied at one game back. I now think that Purdue will take the title, but three other teams can jump up and grab it. Wisconsin is also a lock at this point.
Illinois should be in with a string of solid wins. Minnesota is the only other team worthy of consideration, but they need a miracle.
Big 12 (6)
Projected Champion: #1 Kansas (26-1, 12-0)
Should be in: #21 Texas (21-6, 7-5), #6 Kansas St (22-4, 9-3), #24 Baylor (20-6, 7-5), #29 Missouri (20-7, 8-4), #22 Texas A&M (19-7, 8-4)
Bubble: #35t Oklahoma St (19-7, 7-5)
Analysis: Kansas is clearly in the driver's seat for conference supremacy. Kansas State will also be battling it out for the conference title. Texas has gone 4-6 since starting 17-0.
Baylor and Missouri have started off very hot. Texas A&M are flying high right now and should bein the tourney as well. Okie State has some work ahead of them, but a couple of big wins could get them in. Last week got them REAL close.
Projected Champion: California (18-9, 10-5)
Should be in: none
Bubble: Washington (18-9, 8-7), Arizona State (19-8, 9-5)
Analysis: This conference is TERRIBLE. Is it possible that the Pac-10 can only bring ONE team to the NCAA tourney? This most certainly seems like the case. Not one team in the Pac-10 has registered one vote for the AP top 25 in a month. Absoultely ridiculous.
This conference is so mediocre it's pitiful. California is on top of this conference at the moment, but Arizona St or Washington could take over. I thought two teams would end up separating themselves from the pack, but every team keeps losing, and losing bad. Ugh...
Other Conferences (34)
Projected Champions (threat teams, 7): #23 Richmond (22-6, 11-2, Atlantic 10), #26 UTEP (20-5, 11-1, Conference USA), #15 Butler (25-4, 17-0, Horizon League), #25 Northern Iowa (24-3, 14-2, Missouri Valley), #10 New Mexico (25-3, 11-2, Mountain West), #18 Gonzaga (22-5, 10-2, West Coast), #35t Utah St (22-6, 11-2, Western Athletic)
Projected Champions (non-threat teams, 18): Stony Brook (America East), Campbell (Atlantic Sun), Weber State (Big Sky), Coastal Carolina (Big South), UC Santa Barbara (Big West), Northeastern (Colonial Athletic), #37t Cornell (Ivy League), Siena (MAAC), Akron (Mid-American), Morgan State (MEAC), Robert Morris (Northeast), #37t Murray State (Ohio Valley), Lehigh (Patriot League), Wofford (Southern), Sam Houston State (Southland), Jackson State (SWAC), Oakland (Summit League), North Texas (Sun Belt)
Should be in (9): #20 Temple (22-5, 10-2, Atlantic 10), #31 Xavier (19-7, 10-2, Atlantic 10), Charlotte (18-8, 8-4, Atlantic 10), Rhode Island (20-6, 8-5, Atlantic 10), UAB (21-5, 9-3, Conference USA), Memphis (20-7, 10-2, Conference USA), Wichita St (22-7, 11-5, Missouri Valley), #13 BYU (25-3, 10-2, Mountain West), UNLV (20-7, 8-5, Mountain West)
Bubble: Dayton (18-8, 7-5, Atlantic 10), St Louis (18-8, 9-3, Atlantic 10), Old Dominion (21-8, 13-3, Colonial Athletic), Marshall (20-7, 8-4, Conference USA), Tulsa (19-8, 8-5, Conference USA), Illinois St (20-8, 10-6, Missouri Valley), San Diego St (20-7, 9-4, Mountain West), St Marys (22-5, 9-3, West Coast), Louisiana Tech (21-6, 8-4, Western Athletic)
Analysis: From the minor conferences, I have determined that 25 different conference champions and NINE at-large spots are safe right now. I have broken the champions into two categories: the first will be those from traditionally tough conferences that should have a splash at the tourney, and the second are those in traditionally small conferences. The ''threat teams'' and ''should be in'' include seven teams currently ranked in the top-25, including Richmond, Northern Iowa, BYU, Temple, Butler, New Mexico, & Gonzaga.
As for the at-larges, I would think Xavier, Charlotte, Rhode Island, Temple, Memphis, UAB, BYU, UNLV, & Wichita St are good enough to make the tourney without winning their conference. Teams on the bubble are hoping that these teams lose along the way because this is where you usually find your bubble busters year-in and year-out.
Notice I have FIVE teams from the Atlantic-10. It's very odd to think about that, but with the Pac-10 having a terrible year, combined with fact that the A-10 teams have some really great wins, it's really possible that this can happen.
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