Circle of March: Vol. XII

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2015

Thursday was a huge day for the Circle of March, as 47 more teams were shaved from its facade. Over the next three days we’ll cut another 56 from the remaining group of 124, but the bloodbath of the last two days is now behind us. There were no champions crowned yesterday nor will there be any today — for that, we await Saturday’s nonstop festival of 14 title bouts.

2015_CircleofMarch_V12Eliminations (03.12.15)

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Championship Week Primer: Bid-Stealers and Teams to Watch

Posted by Henry Bushnell on March 10th, 2015

Championship Week is upon us. And while some mid-majors have already locked up their spots in the Big Dance, it’s time for the major conference tournaments to get under way. Here’s a brief look at each of those upcoming tournaments with a description of one team in each that is primed to use the postseason as the catalyst for a run and one potential bid-stealer.

AAC

SMU is Flying Under the Radar Somewhat (USA Today Images)

SMU is Somewhat Flying Under the Radar (USA Today Images)

  • Team to Watch: SMU – This one might seem obvious as SMU is the top seed and the best team in the conference. But such is the state of the AAC that the Mustangs are really the only team with a shot to make some noise in March. Temple is an NCAA Tournament team but isn’t anything special, and the same could be said for Cincinnati and Tulsa, if either cracks the field of 68.
  • Potential Bid-Stealer: UConn – Hey, we’ve certainly seen the Huskies get hot before. There haven’t been many indications that Kevin Ollie’s team can put together a run, but its draw is favorable — SMU is on the opposite side of the bracket — so a Sunday date with the Mustangs with an NCAA Tournament bid on the line is a distinct possibility.

ACC

  • Team to Watch: North Carolina – The Tar Heels have amazingly lost six of their last 10 games en route to a fifth-place finish in the ACC. But since an ugly loss to NC State a couple weeks ago, they’ve looked decent and are capable of exploding at any time. North Carolina has elite athleticism and a guard in Marcus Paige who is one of college basketball’s best when he’s locked in. The Heels — playing in front of the always-friendly Greensboro crowd — should be favored against Louisville in the quarterfinals before meeting a Virginia team that could still be at less than full strength.
  • Potential Bid-Stealer: Miami – Miami isn’t a bid-stealer, per se, because the Hurricanes don’t have to win the ACC Tournament to earn entry into the Dance. They probably only need two victories but they’ve been given an intriguing road as the #6 seed. Provided the Hurricanes win their Wednesday game against Wake Forest or Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and then potentially Duke await. Miami has already gone toe-to-toe with both this year in their buildings, and even beat Duke at Cameron. If Jim Larranaga’s team were to pull off those two upsets, anything could happen in the championship game.

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Circle of March: Vol. VI

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2015

We’re already through the first “week” of Championship Fortnight, and some 58 eligible teams have been eliminated from contention from the Circle of March (and National Championship contention). Friday night was particularly busy, with 18 more schools removed after losses in their conference tournaments. Saturday will be a very busy day, as the Summit League tips off its tournament and seven others are in action. The focus of today will be in the OVC, as Murray State will battle Belmont for the the league championship (and accompanying automatic bid), and the Ivy League, where Yale will attempt to wrap up its first conference championship in over 50 years (1962) with a road game at Dartmouth. Note that it’s our standard that we do not remove teams until their seasons are over — therefore many Ivy League squads and several other teams that will not qualify for next week’s conference tournaments will remain with us for a little longer.

2015_CircleofMarch_V6 Eliminations (03.06.15)

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Circle of March: Vol. V

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2015

As we head into the first weekend of Championship Fortnight, the holes in the Circle of March are already becoming apparent. Starting with 333 eligible teams, we’re now down 293. Nine conference tournaments have already tipped off, and three more — the Colonial, Southern and WCC Tournaments — get things started today. Another 13 teams fell off our CoM last night and we’re really going to start divesting ourselves of the bottom of Division I basketball in the next three days. Note that it’s our standard that we do not remove teams until their seasons are over — therefore many Ivy League squads and several other teams that will not qualify for next week’s conference tournaments will remain with us through the weekend.

2015_CircleofMarch_V5

Eliminations (03.05.15)

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Circle of March: Vol. III

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2015

Championship Fortnight got under way last night as the Atlantic Sun, Horizon League and Patriot League tipped off their postseason tournaments. Seven more teams were eliminated from contention for the 2015 National Championship, with Army, Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Loyola (Maryland), Stetson, Wright State and Youngstown State riding off into the basketball sunset. Those three conferences will take a break tonight, but the starts of the America East, Big South, Northeast and Ohio Valley Tournaments will keep us engaged as another group of eliminations are scheduled. As of this morning, there are still 320 schools eligible for the ring. Note that it’s a CoM standard that we do not remove teams from the Circle of March until their seasons are over — therefore many Ivy League squads and several other teams that will not qualify for next week’s conference tournaments will remain with us through the weekend.

2015_CircleofMarch_v3

Eliminations (03.04.15)

  • Army
  • Jacksonville
  • Kennesaw State
  • Loyola (Maryland)
  • Stetson
  • Wright State
  • Youngstown State
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RTC Weekly Primer: Regular Season Championships and Potential Cinderellas

Posted by Henry Bushnell on March 3rd, 2015

The bubble is everywhere. You can’t escape it. Pick any site that covers college basketball, and one word inevitably appears when you visit it: “bubble.” Blind résumés are all the rage; Joey Brackets has taken over our TV screens; coaches inevitably plead with the Selection Committee in postgame press conferences. The bubble consumes us all. But as we hit the home stretch of the regular season, it’s important to not lose sight of what’s going on outside of those 15-20 teams that comprise the globule of uncertainty. Sure, it’s nice to make the NCAA Tournament, but just getting there only to get blown out doesn’t compare to winning championships. Winning the NCAA Tournament is the ultimate goal for any Division I program. Reaching a Final Four is a close second. The third and most attainable in the hierarchy of goals, though, is to win a regular season conference championship.

These Guys Know Something About Conference Championships (USA Today Images)

These Guys Know Something About Conference Championships (USA Today Images)

Regular season championships have become criminally devalued. Conference tournaments get all the buzz and corresponding attention because it is through those that teams punch their tickets to the Big Dance. But anybody can get hot and make a three- or four-game run next week. True champions are crowned over the course of a couple of months of games. This year we enter the final week of the regular season already with three outright champions among the power leagues: Kentucky has locked up the SEC; Virginia clinched an outright ACC title on Monday night; and Villanova is your Big East champion. Kansas has already clinched at least a tie in the Big 12, and barring something unforeseen, Wisconsin and Arizona are on track to win their respective conferences too. There are a few others, however, that should garner some of your attention.

  • AAC. The watered-down AAC has been pretty poor this year but it could end up with as many as four NCAA Tournament teams. Two of that group — Tulsa and SMU — are in contention for an outright conference title. The Golden Hurricane have been the surprise package, sitting atop the standings at 14-2. SMU, the preseason favorite, sits a half-game back at 14-3. Tulsa hosts Cincinnati on Wednesday before the perfect scenario could play out in Dallas on Sunday: Tulsa at SMU. The winner will be the top seed in the AAC Tournament in Hartford, and if Tulsa falls to the Bearcats in the midweek, this weekend’s game will be for an outright title.

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Circle of March: Vol. I

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2015

Welcome to the fourth annual Circle of March.

If you’ve been around with us for a while, you already know the premise behind this series; and if you’re not familiar with it, thanks for checking in! What we try to do with this series is to celebrate that March is now here and it’s time for postseason basketball to envelop our bodies and souls for the next five weeks until the sport crowns a new champion. As of today — the first Monday of Championship Fortnight — 333 of the nation’s 351 Division I men’s programs are eligible to win the 2015 National Championship. Those schools can be found somewhere on the below circle. Eighteen other schools are ineligible for the NCAA Tournament because they have low APR scores, are on a self-imposed probation, or are still transitioning into Division I. We have already removed those names and wish each of them the best of luck in making it onto the CoM in future seasons. Because we want every eligible team to get at least one day of run on the Circle, though, we have chosen not to formally remove any of the other already-eliminated schools until Tuesday’s Vol. II edition ahead of the start of conference tournament games. Bubble teams also won’t be removed until they’re officially disregarded by the NCAA Selection Committee in two weeks. It just seems nicer this way.

In previous years you might recall we added a game component to Volume I of the CoM (scroll through the last three Circles of March here). This year’s version is no different and so we’ve once again added a crossword puzzle element to it. See if you can locate the 10 names of coaches and players hidden within the Circle likely to make some noise in March (note: make sure to click on the image for a larger and clearer view). The first 15 people who tweet at us (@rushthecourt) or e-mail us (rushthecourt@yahoo.com) with the 10 correct hidden words will receive a free RTC t-shirt. For a bonus challenge, there are also four groupings of schools surreptitiously clustered in areas of the CoM that refer to the following: 1) the unbeaten national champions; 2) the schools currently riding a streak of two or more consecutive automatic bids; 3) the national champions with 10 or more losses; 4) the __________ (see if you can figure out the fourth cluster — it relates to NCAA Tournament appearances and Final Fours). Have fun!

Here is the 2015 Circle of March. Welcome to March Madness.

2015_CircleofMarch_1

Maybe next year for this group.

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The RTC Podblast: Mountain West Tournament Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2014

The regular season is over, Championship Week is here, and it’s now or never for all of the teams that have talked a rather big game but haven’t necessarily backed it up with their play on the court. To that end, we’re going to be rolling out nine RTC Podblasts this week, one to preview each of the seven power conference tournaments as well as the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West (to scroll through all that have been released, click here). In this, our Mountain West Tournament edition, RTC correspondents Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) and Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) join us to discuss what appears to be a two-horse race in Las Vegas. The Big EastAACSEC and Big 12 Tournament pods were released on Monday, and the Big TenPac-12 and ACC Tourney previews came out yesterday. Today we finished off the series with the Atlantic 10 Tournament pod and this one. Enjoy!

Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record.

  • 0:00-3:09 – San Diego State’s Place in the National Picture
  • 3:09-9:04 – Boise State, UNLV and the League as a Whole Disappoints in 2014
  • 9:04-11:48 – Mountain West Superlatives
  • 11:48-13:42 – The Inevitability of San Diego State-New Mexico, Part III
  • 13:42-16:14 – What to Expect In a Potential Aztec/Lobo Rubber Match
  • 16:14-18:15 – MW Tournament’s Impact on NCAA Tournament
  • 18:15-20:35 – San Diego State and New Mexico’s Chances For a NCAA Tournament Run
  • 20:35-22:12 – Best Parts of the MWC Tournament
  • 22:12-25:17 – Final Thoughts on a Week of Hoops in Vegas
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The RTC Podblast: Atlantic 10 Tournament Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2014

The regular season is over, Championship Week is here, and it’s now or never for all of the teams that have talked a rather big game but haven’t necessarily backed it up with their play on the court. To that end, we’re going to be rolling out nine RTC Podblasts this week, one to preview each of the seven power conference tournaments as well as the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West (to scroll through all that have been released, click here). In this, our Atlantic 10 Tournament edition, RTC microwriter Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) joins us to discuss the week ahead in Brooklyn. The Big EastAACSEC and Big 12 Tournament pods were released on Monday, and the Big TenPac-12 and ACC Tourney previews came out yesterday. Today we’ll finish off the series with this blast and the Mountain West releasing a bit later. Enjoy!

Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record.

  • 0:00-4:33 – Measuring the True Talents of Saint Louis
  • 4:33-6:35 – Which Team Is Actually the Best?
  • 6:35-8:50 – Surprise Teams in the A-10
  • 8:50-10:58 – LaSalle Falls Victim to Sweet Sixteen Hangover Season
  • 10:58-14:23 – First Team and POY Discussion
  • 14:23-21:00 – Teams Outside the Top Two That Can Make a Run
  • 21:00-21:01 – What the A-10 Bubble Teams Need to Do
  • 23:01-25:03 – A-10 Loses Teams and Keeps on Ticking
  • 25:03-26:26 – Dayton’s Potentially Curious NCAA Tournament Situation
  • 26:26-29:35 – Final A-10 Tournament Thoughts
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Circle of March, Vol. V

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2014

With four days of Championship Fortnight now behind us, we have breached the magical 300-team mark. As of this morning, some 298 teams are unofficially still alive for the 2014 national championship, represented below on the Circle of March. Nine tournaments are in varying stages of progress at this point, with the CAA and SoCon tipping off today. Yesterday we removed only 11 teams from the CoM, but with nearly every league finishing up its regular season this weekend and a number of tourneys picking up fast and furiously, we’ll get below 200 in no time. Note: In order to respect the integrity of the regular season, we will not remove teams until their schedules are finished regardless of their current status (i.e., as of today, six Ivy League teams cannot win the conference’s automatic bid).

circlemarch_3_6 Teams Eliminated From National Title Contention (03.06.14)

  • Monmouth
  • East Tennessee State
  • Tennessee Tech
  • Drake
  • Fairfield
  • USC Upstate
  • Portland
  • Bradley
  • Southeast Missouri State
  • Marist
  • Santa Clara
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Conference Tournament Primer: Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 6th, 2014

Day four of Championship Fortnight means three more conferences tipping off today, so 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. Today, the MAAC, MVC and WCC get started.

Dates: March 6, 8-10
Site: MassMutual Center (Springfield, MA)

MAAC

What to expect: The highest seed has not won this tournament since 2010, but that could change this year with Iona atop the league standings. The offensive-minded Gaels have advanced to the Big Dance in each of the last two seasons – including as an at-large bid in 2012 – and look poised to make a return, winning 13 of their final 14 games and playing steady, efficient basketball along the way. The one loss in that span was to Manhattan, the Gaels’ most likely challenger in Springfield. George Beamon’s 20 points per game leads the Jaspers offensively, but it is on the defensive end where Steve Masiello’s squad has the distinct advantage – center Rhamel Brown is a long, game-changer in the paint who boasts the highest block rate in the country. If Manhattan and Iona meet up in the conference championship on Monday night, it will be must-watch television. And don’t ignore Canisius, either — the team’s electrifying point guard, Billy Baron, averages more than 25 points per outing and is capable of catching fire at any moment.

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The RTC Podblast: Other 26 Conference Tourney Preview Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2014

Welcome to March Madness. With the tip-off of the opening round games of the Patriot League Tournament on Monday night — hey, Colgate and Lafayette — Championship Fortnight is already here. To prep ourselves for all of the action among the nation’s Other 26 leagues, the RTC Podblast crew welcomed O26 microwriters Tommy Lemoine (@hoopthink) and Adam Stillman (@adamstillman87) to walk us through some of the top storylines to follow both this week and next. The guys had a good discussion about whether Wichita State will ultimately #cheerfortheears at Arch Madness, which tourneys might produce the most interesting match-ups, and named some players to keep an eye on as we ultimately head toward the NCAA Tournament. Among other things. If you’re at all interested in the non-power leagues, definitely give this preview a listen!

We’re going to be dropping podcasts/podblasts like crazy over the next five weeks of action, so make sure to subscribe to the show on iTunes so that you’ll get all of the episodes immediately downloaded to your listening device.

  • 0:00-4:03 – #cheerfortheears – Three Games Left
  • 4:03-8:55 – Top Five O26 Teams
  • 8:55-10:25 – Conference Tournaments To Be Excited About
  • 10:25-12:03 – Another Year, Another WCC Championship for Gonzaga?
  • 12:03-13:42 – Leagues Primed For Some Conference Tournaments Upsets
  • 13:42-15:38 – Championship Match-Ups to Hope For
  • 15:38-17:33 – Potential Bid Stealers
  • 17:33-19:34 – Future Cinderellas
  • 19:34-21:55 – Players the Nation Will Fall in Love With
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