Conference Tournament Primer: Horizon League

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 4th, 2014

Championship Fortnight is under way, and what better way to get you through the next two weeks of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s conference tournaments as they get started. Today, the Horizon League and Atlantic Sun tip things off.

Dates: March 4, 7, 8, 11
Site: First Round: Campus sites; Quarterfinals and Semifinals: Resch Center (Green Bay, WI); Championship: Campus site (higher-seeded team hosts)

Horizon

What to expect: Green Bay was far and away the best team in the regular season, amassing a 24-5 overall record and notching a high-profile non-conference victory over ACC regular season champion Virginia. Led by 7’1’’ center Alec Brown — an NBA prospect with an outside shot — and high-flying point guard Keifer Sykes, the Phoenix should take care of business on their home floor. Brian Wardle’s bunch has been playing some of its best basketball of the season since losing to Milwaukee in early February, securing four its final five wins on the road and dominating opponents by more than 15 points per contest. Still, watch out for Cleveland State and its lights-out three-point shooting — fourth-best in the country at 40.8 percent — as well as defending champion Valparaiso; the Crusaders took down Green Bay earlier in the year. The top seed stumbling at home is not unprecedented for this tournament, but seems unlikely this time around.

Favorite: Green Bay. The team is confident, talented and playing at home. Put simply, anything short of a championship would be hugely disappointing for the Phoenix.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Bracketology: March 3 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on March 3rd, 2014

Selection Sunday is almost here and the field is starting to take shape. Everything will obviously clear up a lot more when conference tournaments get underway this week and next as teams play themselves into and out of the 68-team field. This time of the year is like a whirlwind, though. It’s hard to keep up with all of it because there are still so many things we do not know. But if we focus on what we do know, things get a lot easier. Let’s do that with today’s RTC Bracketology.

  • Unless  something unbelievable happens down the stretch, Wichita State is going to get a No. 1 seed. The Shockers are basically a lock for the top line and Florida and Arizona are very close to it as well. I think if the Gators and Wildcats win both of their games this week, they will be No. 1 seeds regardless of what happens in their conference tournaments. This is the clearest the top line of the bracket has ever been at this point. Of course, losses by the Shockers, Gators and Wildcats in the next  two weeks would muddy that picture, but let’s count those three teams as No. 1 seed locks at this point.
  • The fight for the fourth No. 1 seed is insane. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the possibility of Wisconsin earning the final No. 1 seed, and as of today, I think the Badgers have the nation’s fourth-best profile. For now, I’m leaving Syracuse on the top line, because that’s what I think the Selection Committee would do, but in my opinion, both Kansas and Wisconsin have better resumes. We know that the fight for the last No. 1 seed is really unclear right now, because there are so many teams still alive for it: Syracuse, Wisconsin, Kansas, Villanova, Duke, Virginia, Michigan, Creighton, and and San Diego State. Obviously some of those teams are long shots.
  • The bottom of the bracket is a complete mess. Arkansas moves in with a sweep over Kentucky, and Tennessee hangs on to the last spot in, which gives the SEC a surprising four teams. It’s still very possible that both the Hawgs and Vols could miss the field, leaving the conference with only two teams playing in the NCAAs. I will say this, though: Tennessee was the only team I got incorrect last year. I picked the Vols over Middle Tennessee last season, and although that won’t factor into the decision on my final field of 68, I won’t be too happy if Cuonzo Martin’s team costs me  a perfect field again. Luckily, there is still a lot of basketball to be played before a final field is seeded.
  • I’ve got 32 locks at  this point. I realize some other websites are more patient on their locks, but there are only 13 days left until Selection Sunday. It’s time to lock teams up. Here are the teams I have locked in the field right now: Arizona, Florida, Wichita State, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Kansas, Duke, Villanova, Virginia, Creighton, Michigan, San Diego State, Iowa State, Michigan State, Louisville, North Carolina, Saint Louis, Cincinnati, UCLA, Texas, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Kansas State, VCU, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Iowa, Ohio State, George Washington, Memphis, Arizona State  and New Mexico.
  • Teams moving down the seed list in a hurry this week include Michigan State, which lost at home Saturday to Illinois, and Kentucky, which lost at South Carolina. Ohio State is also on the decline after a loss to Indiana on Sunday.

Bids by Conference: Big 12 (7), Big Ten (6), Pac-12 (6), Atlantic 10 (6), ACC (5), AAC (5) SEC (4), Big East (4), Mountain West (2).
First Four Out: Providence, Missouri, BYU, Oregon

Complete bracket after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

AAC Bracket Watch: 02.25.14 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on February 25th, 2014

As the season sprints to its finish, it appears clear that the American is going to be a five-bid league. It’s hard to envision a scenario in which any of the top five teams in the league could miss the NCAA Tournament, even by losing out the rest of the way. Each has at least three wins against the RPI top 50, including one or more on the road, and that’s more –- much more -– than the teams on the bubble can claim. In fact, it’s more than teams like Virginia, Kentucky, Wichita State or San Diego State, among others, can claim. Because the league backloaded the schedule with so many match-ups between what ended up being the best five teams, there’s relatively little to lose at this point, because any defeat between the group are going to be considered “good” losses.

Russ Smith's game-winner has Louisville fans wondering if last season's champs can earn another #1 seed. (Cincy Enquirer)

Russ Smith’s game-winner has Louisville fans wondering if last season’s champs can earn another #1 seed. (Cincy Enquirer)

So the focus necessarily shifts to seeding. It seems possible that if the quintet of AAC contenders can simply avoid bad losses and maybe not all gang up on one of their own, all five could end up in the top half of the NCAA draw, seeded at #8 or higher. That’s how Joe Lunardi lists them as of Monday; a #4 (Cincinnati), a #5 (Louisville), two #7s (SMU and UConn) and a #8 (Memphis). There’s a lot of basketball left to be played, but all five teams staying that high remains a strong possibility. So let’s take a look at what each team faces the rest of the way.

  • Cincinnati: 24-4 (13-2), 6-4 vs. RPI top 50, RPI #21, KenPom # 21, BracketMatrix #4 (3.73). Despite absorbing a home loss against Louisville, the Bearcats still have perhaps the best resume of any AAC team, but one that’s still in flux. As of this writing, they have six top 50 wins and no losses outside it, but both numbers are at risk. They lost to #50 Xavier and have wins over #44 Pitt, #49 Nebraska and #58 NC State, so they might become the best example for the arbitrariness of the cutoff of the top 50. Seems like anything from a #2 to a #5 seed remains in play for Cincinnati.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Breaking Down the Big East Bubble Teams

Posted by Todd Keryc on February 25th, 2014

Last week we examined the two-horse race between Creighton and Villanova to determine the Big East regular season champion. Today we take a look at the teams on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament, those who currently sit on what is commonly referred to as the bubble. As crazy as it seems, the two co-leaders are the only Big East teams currently assured of making the NCAA Tournament. At the other end of the spectrum, teams such as Butler, DePaul and Seton Hall can only get in by winning the conference tournament. That leaves five teams — half of the league — sitting in various positions ranging from “in but not out of the woods” to “we have to run the table.” Let’s take a look at the status of each.

XAVIER

Chris Mack is Safe For Now But Shouldn't 'Get too Comfortable (Getty)

Chris Mack is Safe For Now But Shouldn’t ‘Get too Comfortable (Getty)

Current Status: In But Be Careful. The Musketeers are the likeliest third Big East team in the field. They have 18 wins and sit tied for third in the conference standings. They have a strong early-season win over Cincinnati but that is their only RPI top 50 victory. On the flip side, they only have one loss against a team outside of the RPI top 150 and only two total against teams below the top 100. Xavier also has wins against fellow bubble-mates Tennessee, St. John’s, Providence, Georgetown and Marquette. Of course, they’ve also lost to all of those teams except St. John’s.

Looking Ahead: Crunch Time. There are two ways of looking at Xavier’s remaining schedule. One is that they have several chances to register big wins that could seal their bid. The other way is to say they have a very difficult schedule down the stretch. The Musketeers get both Creighton and Villanova at home, which gives them a huge chance to score a second marquee win and lift their RPI into the top 50. They also have St. John’s on the road in a bubble game and Seton Hall in a chance for revenge after the Pirates beat them in Ohio earlier this season.

Prediction: In. Xavier has the kind of home court advantage that could pull off one, if not both, of the big upset chances remaining on their schedule. Look for them to upset a Big East big boy and big-time it back to the Big Dance.

ST JOHN’S

Current Status: Square on the Bubble. The Johnnies have used a recent run to work their way very much into NCAA Tournament consideration. They have won nine of their last 11 games and the only losses are at Creighton by three and at Villanova by three. Next to the dynamic duo at the top of the Big East standings, the Red Storm have been the best team over the last month. However, their RPI sits in the 50s, they are only 1-5 against the RPI top 50, and they have losses to Penn State and DePaul sitting as black eyes on their resume. What they have going for them is a terrific win against Creighton and they have been red hot (pun intended) over the last month of action.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Bracketology: February 24 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) on February 24th, 2014

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is Rush the Court’s resident bracketologist. He will update his brackets at least twice a week through the rest of the regular season here at RTC, but his updated brackets can be viewed daily at Bracketology Expert. As we approach March Madness, he’ll also provide occasional blind resumes. Evans has been ranked by the Bracket Matrix as the nation’s 11th-best bracketologist out of hundreds of entries. 

This weekend was supposed to clear up the NCAA Tournament picture, but it didn’t really help much at all. However, a couple of things are obvious right now. Florida had moved to my No. 1 overall seed with Syracuse’s loss to Boston College last week and another Gators’ win over the weekend did nothing to change that. Syracuse‘s second straight loss moved the Orange down to the No. 3 overall seed, and Duke, despite a Thursday loss to North Carolina, remains a solid No. 2 seed.

The movement in this week’s bracket involves Wisconsin, which is a common theme this year. It seems like the Badgers have been on every protected seed line over the course of the last month. The Badgers are now back at a No. 2 seed, and if they can win the Big Ten Tournament, they might still have an outside shot at a No. 1 seed.

Moving down the bracket, the bubble is a headache waiting to happen. Actually, it’s a headache happening right now, as I type this. I haven’t changed the teams at the bottom of my bracket very much lately, because I still feel firm in the best at-large resumes and nothing lately has really changed anything.

If you want an example of how crazy it is around the bubble cut line, look at Arizona State.  A week after beating Arizona, the Sun Devils were blown out by Utah on Sunday night. Yet, I still have the Sun Devils as a No. 8 seed. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh, which may have the worst profile of any consensus top 30 team in history, continues to slide after a bad loss to Florida State. Seeding the Panthers is a  huge guessing game right now. Will the committee seed them based on their profile, which clearly makes Jamie Dixon’s team one of the last teams in or out of the field, or based on the way most observers view the team (not including this one): As a Top 25 team that has had a few bad breaks, like the last second Syracuse buzzer-beater? I’m guessing it will be somewhere in the middle right now.

The complete bracket is after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Bracketology: February 20 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) on February 20th, 2014

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is Rush the Court’s resident bracketologist. He will update his brackets at least twice a week through the rest of the regular season here at RTC, but his updated brackets can be viewed daily at Bracketology Expert. As we approach March Madness, he’ll also provide occasional blind resumes. Evans has been ranked by the Bracket Matrix as the nation’s 11th-best bracketologist out of hundreds of entries. 

With Syracuse‘s surprising loss to Boston College Wednesday night, the Orange are still a top seed but they are no longer the top overall seed. I now have Florida, which has won 18 straight games after last night’s overtime victory over Auburn, as the top overall seed. The Gators have not lost this season while at full strength and their worst loss is at Connecticut on a buzzer-beater. Compared with a loss to a bad BC team in the Carrier Dome, that sounds very forgiving. Arizona also survived at Utah on Wednesday night  and remains on the top line,  although the Wildcats are playing with fire recently.

The biggest loser Wednesday night was Minnesota, which lost to Illinois at home. The Gophers remain in the bracket, but barely. Baylor enters the field after a win over Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys hung on to their slot, although I’m not confident either one of those Big 12 teams will be in the field come Selection Sunday.

Last Four In: Oklahoma State, Saint Joseph’s, Baylor, Tennessee (note: #12 Georgetown was slotted down for bracketing reasons)
First Four Out: Dayton, BYU, West Virginia, Oregon

Bids by Conference: Big 12 (7), Pac-12 (6), Big East (6), Big Ten (6), Atlantic 10 (5), ACC (5), SEC (4), AAC (4), Mountain West (2)

bracketfeb20

Share this story

Big East M5: 02.18.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on February 18th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Butler freshman Rene Castro has decided to transfer from the program after being suspended twice and failing to see much time on the court. His roommate on the road, senior Erik Fromm, told Zak Keefer, “It didn’t have anything to do with who he was. Sometimes, things just don’t work out. Rene’s future is bright, and it’s not a bad thing that it’s not with Butler.” Castro was seen as someone who could come in and eventually take the starting spot from Alex Barlow, but it never materialized as he failed to see the court in 13 games this season. This will hurt going forward as Brandon Miller loses depth at the point guard position heading into the last few weeks of the regular season and the Big East Tournament.
  2. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi published his latest NCAA Tournament projectionsand he has five Big East teams in the field. Villanova and Creighton currently sit as #3 seeds, while Xavier, a #10 seed, Providence, a #11 seed, and St. John’s, a #12 seed, are fighting for space on the positive side of the bubble. Georgetown is his first team out, while Marquette was his seventh team out. After losing its first five league games, St. John’s has experienced quite the turnaround to get to 7-6 in Big East play and are surprisingly now considered in the field. The reality is that the league is likely to get five of its 10 teams into the NCAA Tournament this season, a very good number in its first year of existence.
  3. DePaul has had another tough season and some are calling for head coach Oliver Purnell’s dismissal at the end of it. David Webber of the DePaulia argues that with Cleveland Melvin’s recent departure, it is time for a change. Webber is not happy with athletic director Jean Lenti-Ponsetto’s results in her 12th year in Chicago, as the program has gone from a respectable Conference USA team into a Big East laughingstock. Her two hires, Jerry Wainwright and Oliver Purnell, have failed to improve the program, and Purnell only has eight conference wins in four seasons. A new arena and a coach who is familiar with and can recruit the Chicago area will help invigorate a proud but hurting program.
  4.  St. John’s is rising and earning some attention from the press as it fights for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament. Zach Braziller of the New York Post takes a look at the Red Storm’s “big three” of D’Angelo Harrison, JaKarr Sampson and Rysheed Jordan. Harrison has been clutch the past month, shooting well from the outside and not forcing the action. Jordan struggled early but he has helped Harrison and Sampson play better in recent weeks. Braziller sums up Sampson’s recent play nicely, writing, “He’s developed into a more efficient offensive player. He’s thinking less and reacting more. Even more impressive has been his defense, previously considered a weakness in his game.” Sampson is athletic, but at times hasn’t played smart and forced the action all too often. Who knows what is in store next for this red-hot team.
  5. Doug McDermott is becoming quite the college basketball legend. With two more amazing performances last week, he passed Larry Bird for 13th place on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list. Instead of writing about his play on the court, Omaha.com‘s Tom Shatel followed McDermott around after the game. McDermott signed countless autographs and smiled for pictures with strangers and some old friends. McDermott said, “How do I want to be remembered? I want to be remembered as someone who treated people well. A good guy.” For a player with so many accolades already received and many more to come, it is great to see him focused on being a good person and a role model for young people. The one thing he needs, though, is a deep run in March. Luckily, his team is in great position to do just that to top off his remarkable four-year career.
Share this story

RTC Bracketology: February 13 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) on February 13th, 2014

With Selection Sunday getting closer every second, below is a second batch of bracketology for this week. West Virginia is the team making the biggest move after the Mountaineers dominated Iowa State Monday night. Florida and Syracuse also survived big games this week, although each in very different ways.

First Four Out: West Virginia, Baylor, Dayton, Missouri
At-Large Bids by Conference: Big 12 (6), ACC (6), Big Ten (6), Pac-12 (6),  AAC (5), Big East (5), SEC (4), Atlantic 10 (4), Mountain West (2), WCC (2)

bracketfeb13(2)

Share this story

AAC Bracket Watch: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on February 12th, 2014

We have now entered a dangerous period for the five AAC contenders, which to this point look to have secured spots in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. We’ve written a lot about how the conference has five good and five bad teams, with a vast gulf in between the two tiers. Between now and February 21, there will be only one game between those top five teams: Memphis at UConn on ESPN at Noon on Saturday. During the same period, there will be 12 games between teams in the top half of the standings and those in the bottom half. And therein lies the danger, because any loss by a top-half team to a bottom-half team would do great harm to the losing team’s resume for seeding purposes. So far, those top five teams are 26-2 against their less successful league mates, and reaching the end of this period at 38-2 would be in their individual and collective best interests.

Cooper Neill/Getty Images Larry Brown and celebrates with SMU fans after his Mustangs beat Cincinnati to shake up the league standings.

Larry Brown and celebrates with SMU fans after his Mustangs beat Cincinnati to shake up the league standings. (Cooper Neill/Getty)

A key reason for this odd period of haves vs. have-nots was a scheduling decision that has worked out about as well as the AAC home office could have hoped. In the 15 days from February 22 to March 8, the top five teams will play each other eight times. Those games – which include three straight Saturday CBS appearances for Louisville (at Cincinnati, at Memphis, UConn) – will determine which team wins the league and will go a long way toward determining seeding for what appear to be five tournament-bound teams. That, too, has to have exceeded conference officials’ most optimistic expectations, but here we are.

  • Cincinnati: 22-3 (11-1), 5-3 vs. RPI top 50, RPI #14, KenPom #24, BracketMatrix #3 (3.45). The Bearcats finally dropped an AAC game, getting run out of a lively Moody Coliseum by SMU over the weekend. They still have the best profile among AAC teams – possessing no bad losses, and of their five top 50 wins, one on a neutral court (Pittsburgh at MSG) and two on the road (Louisville and Memphis) – as reflected by the fact that the Bracket Matrix still shows them with the highest average seed. They still have games vs. Louisville, at UConn and Memphis to go. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

RTC Bracketology: February 10 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on February 10th, 2014

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is Rush the Court’s resident bracketologist. He will update his brackets at least twice a week through the rest of the regular season here at RTC, but his updated brackets can be viewed daily at Bracketology Expert. As we approach March Madness, he’ll also provide occasional blind resumes. Evans has been ranked by the Bracket Matrix as the nation’s 11th-best bracketologist out of hundreds of entries. 

The movement in my latest bracket is not at the top.

  • The No. 1 seeds remain the same with Syracuse, Arizona, Florida and Wichita State on the top line. After winning at Northern Iowa, the Shockers have survived all of their major regular season hurdles and appear destined to be an outstanding 34-0 going into the NCAA Tournament.
  • Most of this week’s changes are at the bottom. The difference between the last eight teams in and the first eight teams out is minimal. For instance, LSU, Missouri and Tennessee are all among the last few teams in, while Ole Miss is among the last four out. That’s how close the SEC is to only having two teams — Florida and Kentucky — make the field this year.
  • A big winner this week includes SMU, a team that dominated Cincinnati Saturday night. On the flip side, Oklahoma State is now a No. 8 seed following another loss and the Marcus Smart situation, which leaves the Cowboys without their best player for the next three games. Of course, I’m not projecting those games (potential losses) into the field here.

Bids by Conference: Big 12 (6), ACC (6), Big Ten (6), Pac-12 (6), SEC (5), AAC (5), Big East (4), Atlantic 10 (4), Mountain West (2), WCC (2)

First Four Out: Dayton, Oregon, Georgetown, Ole Miss

The full bracket is after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East NCAA Bracket Watch

Posted by George Hershey on February 6th, 2014

With a little over five weeks to go until Selection Sunday, most Big East teams have about eight games left before the Big East Tournament to solidify their standing for the NCAA Tournament. Eight teams have somewhat realistic hopes of making it into the 68-team field, but all but two still have plenty of work to do if they want to impress the selection committee. Here we will take a look at each of the 10 teams with a quick snapshot of what they have done, where they are, and what they need to do to hear their name called on March 16.

Steve Lavin and company have lots of work to do if they want to be dancing in March. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

Steve Lavin and company have lots of work to do if they want to be dancing in March.
(AP Photo/Al Behrman)

#6 Villanova, 20-2 (8-1)

  • Key Stats: #4 RPI, #7 Pomeroy, #7 BPI, #14 Strength of Schedule
  • Projections: Lunardi #2 seed; RTC #2 seed; Bracket Matrix #2 seed
  • Good Wins: #8 Kansas, #17 Iowa, Providence, Xavier
  • Bad Losses: None

Villanova is all but a lock at this point. The Wildcats started the season with two huge wins in the Bahamas against Kansas and Iowa and they continued their great play into conference play. Their only two losses are understandable — at Syracuse and against a Creighton team that could have beaten the Knicks that night. They have rolled through conference play and look like they will have no problem the rest of the way. The one game remaining that can help solidify a #2 seed will be at Creighton on February 16. Going 8-1 or even 7-2 with a potential loss to St. John’s or Providence should be enough to finish with no worse than a #3 seed, leaving the Wildcats in a great position for March.

#12 Creighton, 18-3, (8-1)

  • Key Stats: #8 RPI, #3 Pomeroy, #12 BPI, #27 SOS
  • Projections: Lunardi #3 seed; RTC #3 seed; Bracket Matrix #3 seed
  • Good Wins: @ #6 Villanova, California, Arizona State, Xavier
  • Bad Losses: None

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

An Early Glimpse at ACC Bracketology

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 5th, 2014

ESPN.com’s most recent bracketology update has six ACC teams making the Big Dance, with Florida State firmly on the bubble and projected into the #8/#9 game. The division between the elite and the rest of the ACC has become clear and it now appears to be a two-team race for the ACC regular season title (although things could spice up considerably if Virginia knocks off Syracuse). With Pittsburgh’s soft strength of schedule and inability to capitalize against Duke and Virginia, look for the Panthers to obtain a gaudy win total but not much substance on their résumé. North Carolina’s up-and-down season seems to have steadied recently and the Tar Heels’ quality wins rival any team in America as they seem to be firmly entrenched barring a complete collapse (you never know with this group). Syracuse is pushing for a number one seed overall and as this week’s unanimous top team in the national polls; the Orange are well on their way to that goal. Virginia continues to trend upward thanks to its elite-level defense and corresponding ACC success, as the Cavaliers have only one ACC loss at Duke and are within striking distance of the Orange. Duke has a good number of losses (five) for a projected #2 or #3 seed, but the Devils also have some good wins and impressed many supporters in their tight loss at the Carrier Dome last weekend.

The Two Winningest All-Time Coaches are Hugging it Out For Bracketology (credit: SI.com)

The Two Winningest All-Time Coaches are Hugging it Out For Bracketology (credit: SI.com)

The final development to keep your eyes on is whether Clemson can find a way of sneaking into the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers have three difficult games on the horizon — at Syracuse and Notre Dame, vs. Virginia — but if they can make it out of that stretch at 1-2, they could win the next five in a row until their season finale versus Pitt. If the Tigers finish out their season strong they could end up with 11 or 12 ACC wins and a seat firmly on the bubble. A win or two in the ACC Tournament could then result in a dance card. With that in mind, here is a snapshot look at the six ACC teams currently projected into ESPN’s Bracketology and their respective profiles.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story