The two teams leading our March Madness Gala … Florida and Arizona. The Gators and Wildcats both have the opportunity to enter the NCAA Tournament dance as the overall No. 1 seed. Should both win their remaining games – including conference tournament titles – the edge will likely to go Arizona. Not that it’s that critical this year because the two teams are geographically separated. Florida will lead the South Region; Arizona the West. A year ago, when Louisville and Indiana were battling for the top spot in the Midwest, and a route through Indianapolis, that top position meant more.
Wichita State begins Missouri Valley Tournament play today in St. Louis. The Shockers ended the regular season without a blemish. If they win three more under the Arch, expect WSU to be a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday. Kansas continues to hold the final No. 1 slot. Four other teams are chasing the top line: Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, and Villanova. Recent struggles make it difficult for Syracuse to regain a No. 1 seed. Read more…
As the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Tournament opens in St. Louis, unbeaten Wichita State is a heavy favorite to win both the MVC tourney title and capture a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Here’s what else we believe: the Shockers are the only Valley team in position to earn an at-large berth. Which means if someone other than WSU wins the title game on Sunday, one less at-large bid will be available on Selection Sunday.
The most obvious challenger is Indiana State. Before losing ground in league play, the Sycamores put together wins over Notre Dame and Belmont. Belmont has been solid. Notre Dame has struggled. But at the time, the Irish were an NCAA-caliber squad. Just below the Sycamores sits Northern Iowa. The Panthers beat VCU in December. There’s also No. 4-seed Missouri State, which managed victories over Tulsa and Texas AM in non-conference play.
Last year, No. 1 seed Creighton pushed through to claim the league’s automatic bid. The two years prior? Creighton (No. 2 seed) and Indiana State (No. 3 seed) garnered the invitation. By this time you know that Creighton has moved to the Big East, so there’s one less nemesis in Wichita State’s path. But this is March and nothing is guaranteed. Friday, the Shockers take on the winner of Thursday’s game between Drake and Evansville.
Bubble teams everywhere hope there’s nothing shocking under the Arch.
A month ago, Pittsburgh was a no-doubt NCAA Tournament team. The Panthers had battled Cincinnati, Syracuse, and Virginia to the final seconds in close losses. Their efficiency numbers suggested a team that could win in March. All they needed was a couple of notable victories to validate their position. The problem: those victories have yet to materialize.
Bubble Banter – Update
Instead, less than two weeks before Selection Sunday, we find a Pittsburgh resume with only one victory against a projected NCAA team: Stanford (in November). Since then, the Panthers have managed four Top 100 RPI wins: Maryland (twice), Clemson, and NC State. And Monday night, the Wolfpack returned the favor by beating Pitt on its home floor. So where does this leave the Panthers? As a team with some work to do between now and March 16. The one thing helping Pitt beyond those close losses is the absence of any bad losses (to sub-100 RPI teams). Will that hold up if the Panthers take an early exit from the ACC Tournament? Read more…
Championship Week is going to be fun and tension-filled. As this juncture, as many as 15 at-large spots remain uncertain. That’s a high number entering March. Here’s what we do know. Barring an unexpected turn of events, Florida and Arizona will be No. 1 seeds. Although the Gators retain their overall No. 1 seed today, the Wildcats may pass them soon. Either way, it’s about time to lock them in to the South and West regions.
Today’s bracket is also quite unsettled when it comes to the seed list. The first four lines (s-curve spots 1-16) are pretty solid (for now). The middle tier could fluctuate greatly depending on conference tournament results. Teams are that tightly bunched. As for the bubble, it continues to move and shift. Depending on which resume criteria or metrics you prefer, the final teams in and first teams out could be ranked in a variety of orders. Every Selection Committee member will have his or her own viewpoint. Hopefully, a few things will clear between now and March 16.
It’s also worth mentioning the potential for bid thieves – a surprise team winning its conference tournament. For example, if Wichita State were to lose in the Missouri Valley tourney, there would be one less at-large bid available. We saw this happen at the SEC tournament a year ago.
Buckle up, it’s going to be a fun ride.
With March knocking on the door, road wins for Arkansas and Oregon pushed the Razorbacks and Ducks back into the Field of 68 – they are paired against each other in a First Four matchup in Dayton. Missouri and Minnesota are the other at-large participants in today’s Opening Round games. The revolving door, known as the 2014 bubble, continues to churn.
Nothing new at the top of the bracket: Florida, Arizona, Wichita State, and Syracuse retain No. 1 seeds. In fact, there weren’t many changes – other than some regional adjustments – to the first quadrant (Top 4 seeds). St. Louis did drop a seed line, with surging North Carolina now the final No. 4 seed (No. 16 on the s-curve).
Iowa continues to slide a bit, having lost three straight and 4 of 6 games. The Hawkeyes are not in any danger of missing the NCAA Tournament at this point, but they are at risk of finding themselves in the 7-9 seed range without reversing course. A rather weak non-conference schedule isn’t helping: Iowa’s best non-league wins are Xavier, UTEP, and Notre Dame.
Buckle up for a busy weekend of college hoops. Championship Week is right around the corner.