The Other 26: Week 13Posted by IRenko on February 25th, 2012
I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.
Ah, the sweet smell of February Madness in the air. Who says we need to wait until March to start cracking open the brackets? Six TO26 conferences kick things off in February: the Big South (2/27), Horizon (2/28), A-Sun (2/29), Ohio Valley (2/29), Patriot (2/29), and West Coast (2/29). And several other conferences will kick things off just as soon as the calendar turns, including the MVC in what’s sure to be another great iteration of Arch Madness. No automatic bids will be awarded until March 3 (though Harvard is in position to clinch the Ivy bid as early as March 2), but with a number of top 15 TO26 teams with at-large aspirations kicking off tournament play next week (Wichita State, Murray State, Creighton, St. Mary’s, Gonzaga, BYU), there are heavy implications for the nationwide Bubble. Speaking of the top 15 …
Looking Forward: What to Watch
In addition to the conference tournaments that kick off over the next week, here are a few regularly-scheduled games to keep your eye on:
- George Mason at VCU (2/25, 6 PM)– This game doesn’t necessarily have a ton of implications. The two teams are already locked into the #2 and #3 seeds for the CAA Tournament, and neither is likely to push its mediocre at-large resume over the top with a win. But there will be quite a bit of pride on the line, as the two premier CAA teams in recent years face off for the second time in two weeks with a third matchup in the CAA Tournament semis looming next weekend.
- Penn at Harvard (2/25, 7 PM) – This is the biggest game of the Ivy League season. Harvard leads the Quakers by just one game in the loss column, with three to play. A Crimson win clinches a co-championship and puts Harvard on the brink of their first Tournament bid in history, with winnable games at Columbia and Cornell next weekend. But a Penn win ties them for first and raises the specter of another dangerous one-game playoff for the dance ticket.
- Colorado State at San Diego State (2/25, 10 PM) / Colorado State vs. UNLV (2/29, 10 PM) – The Rams are in the middle of a three-game stretch against New Mexico, UNLV, and San Diego State, which they’re trying to exploit to make a case for an at-large bid. It got off to a good start on Tuesday with an 8-point win over New Mexico. They have a strong RPI (25) and a sweep of this week’s contests would put their record against the RPI top 50 at 4-4.
- Akron at Ohio (2/26, 8 PM) / Akron vs Buffalo (2/29, 7 PM) – Early on, it looked like Akron, Ohio, Buffalo, and Kent State would slug it out for supremacy in the MAC all season long. But the Zips stormed to the front of the MAC pack (heh) and leads each of those teams by 3 games in the standings. Now, though, they’ll have to re-prove their supremacy on the court, as they finish the season with three games against … yep, Ohio, Buffalo, and Kent State.
- Weber State at Montana (2/28, 9 PM) — This is the showdown Big Sky fans have been waiting for all season. The two one-loss teams atop the conference will meet to decide the conference championship on Tuesday. You’ve heard of Weber’s Damian Lillard, but keep your eye on Montana’s Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar. This could be the first of two meetings in a short span, as we may see a replay in the conference championship on March 7.
This weekend caps the regular season for several conferences. Here’s a list of those leagues, in approximate order of strength, along with the teams still in the hunt for a regular season championship (or a share of one) heading into the weekend. Teams that have already clinched an unshared conference crown (and the NIT bid that comes with it) are in regular font, teams still battling it out in italics.
- Missouri Valley: Wichita State
- West Coast: St. Mary’s, Gonzaga
- Colonial: Drexel, VCU, George Mason
- Horizon: Valparaiso
- Atlantic Sun: Belmont
- Summit League: Oral Roberts
- Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee State (East Division)
- MAAC: Iona
- Patriot: Bucknell, Lehigh
- OVC: Murray State
- Big South: UNC-Asheville
- Northeast: Long Island, Wagner
- America East: Stony Brook, Vermont