(Ed. Note: As neat as it is to be able to file from a moving train going through Connecticut, it appears that the gentle rocking isn't helping my suddenly spiking error rate. Edits inline below. Thanks for your patience.--JSS)
It was not my intention to slight the Mid-American Conference, a group I enjoy watching. Kent State is one of my favorite programs in college basketball, and I am glad to see that the MAC is in good shape to pick up two bids if Akron, Ohio or Western Michigan can knock off Kent State in the tournament this week.
With that said, I made two errors in 24 hours that offended some MAC supporters. First, in yesterday’s 341 to 65, I left the conference out of the discussion. I just missed them when assemblng the list. Had I included them, it would have looked like this:
Mid-American Conference. Bubble: Kent State. Ohio and Miami (Ohio) both had at-large hopes at various points, but neither belongs on the bubble at this time.
Kent State’s more-dramatic-than-it-should-have-been win at Akron yesterday gave them the outright MAC title and pushed them close to a bid. I don’t know if they can afford a quarterfinal loss, but even a loss in the semis should leave them safe.
Let’s sum up yesterday’s overview and see where that leaves us heading into Monday night’s games.
In: North Carolina, Duke, Xavier, Kansas, Texas, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Connecticut, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, Memphis, Butler, Brigham Young, UCLA, Stanford, Washington State, USC, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s.
Those 27 teams represent 11 conferences, which means that group has to take 16 at-large bids at minimum, and could account for as many as 27. Realistically, it will take 22 to 24. For now, we’ll keep calling it 27. That number drops Friday and Saturday, mostly, although Gonzaga and Butler could knock it down over the next two nights.
Automatic Bids: Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Winthrop (Big South), Cornell (Ivy League), Drake (Missouri Valley), Austin Peay (Ohio Valley). Remaining certain one-bid leagues include the America East, Big Sky, Big West, MAAC, Northeast, Patriot, SWAC, Southland, Summit and WAC.
Bubble: Clemson, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech, Massachusetts, St. Joseph’s, Temple, Dayton, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova, Ohio State, VCU, George Mason, UAB, Houston, Illinois State, UNLV, New Mexico, Arizona State, Arizona, Oregon, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, Davidson, South Alabama, Western Kentucky. (And Kent State. Sigh.--JSS)
After yesterday’s action, Clemson (getting to 10-6 in ACC), Pittsburgh (getting to 10-8 in Big East) and Kentucky (12-4 in SEC) moved off the bubble in the good way. No one moved off the bad way yet, although the losses by Maryland, Virginia Tech, VCU and Florida were pretty damaging. Illinois State’s loss was bad as well, in a different kind of way.
Having made those adjustments, we have 30 teams in, and those teams will take up between 19 and 30 at-large berths. That leaves between four and 15 at-large berths for the 30 teams on the bubble.
Tomorrow, we’ll start sifting through that mess to see which teams may have locked up one of the four, and which may have no shot at the top 15.
Two very big games could affect things tonight. Davidson, which caught a huge break when Elon knocked off UNC-Greensboro (College of Charleston, actually; Davidson beat UNCG all by itself.--JSS), can save themselves six sleepless nights by beating the Phoenix in the Southern Conference final. Gonzaga, already in and playing for seeding, also avoids the toughest matchup as San Diego, not St. Mary’s, meets them in the West Coast final. It is a home game for San Diego, which is 13-3 in conference and went 2-1 against the Gaels this year. A win for San Diego would likely mean a three-bid year for the WCC.
Elsewhere, South Alabama can improve its standing by winning its Sun Belt semi, and Western Kentucky plays a must-win game in the other semi. George Mason, a bubble team for me if for no one else, plays William and Mary for the Colonial crown. The Tribe is playing its fourth game in four days after upsetting, and perhaps ruining the season of, VCU.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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