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March 11, 2009
From 344 to 65
The Calm Before the Storm

by Joe Sheehan

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Awesome. Big 11 country knows who we are. Now, letís test ACCland: the conference should only get four bids.

I kid, but the response from Big 11 backers yesterday was forceful and frequent, filling my inbox singing the praises of the conference. For the record, Iím not biased, and as I pointed out in my chat yesterday, I think the Michigan State could make the Final Four and the medium-term future of the conference looks fantastic. In this year, however, the middle tier, and in particular Penn State, hasnít done nearly enough to impress me.

I did make one egregious error in yesterdayís piece, however, mentioning that Ohio State had beaten Wisconsin. That was a misread of my spreadsheet, as that never happened; Wisconsin beat Ohio State. 55-50, on February 14. It doesnít change anything, as the lack of a return game means I canít put too much weight on the single matchup.

Yesterday was a light day. Georgetown played itself off of the bubble with a loss to St. Johnís, finally putting an end to a miserable season for them. Cleveland State broke hearts by winning at Hinkle Fieldhouse, sending Butler into the at-large pool, where they became the first team to claim an at-large bid. Western Kentucky avoided five days of waiting by pulling away from South Alabama at the end. Also, North Dakota State came back to beat Oakland and win the Summit League, which is relevant because it allows me to set the Bisonís total for tournament wins at 1.5, and seriously consider the over.

With Big East and Big 12 bubble teams playing meaningful games today, things will start getting very interesting.

All the RPI data in my pieces come from the fantastic CollegeRPI.com helmed by the talented Jerry Palm.

Hereís how my spreadsheet lays out at 11 a.m. on March 11:

In (13): East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun), Radford (Big South), Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial), Cleveland State and Butler (Horizon), Cornell (Ivy), Siena (Metro-Atlantic), Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley), Morehead State (Ohio Valley), Chattanooga (Southern), North Dakota State (Summit), Western Kentucky (Sun Belt), Gonzaga (West Coast).

One-Bid Conferences

The following nine conferences have no chance at all of getting a team other than their conference champion into the NCAA tournament: America East, Big Sky, Big West, Mid-American, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot League, SWAC, Southland.

Locks

The following teams could lose the rest of their games and still get an at-large bid:

ACC: North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida State
Atlantic 14: Xavier
Big 12: Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri
Big East: Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Marquette, Syracuse, West Virginia
Big 11: Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue
Conference USA: Memphis
Horizon League: Butler
Mountain West: Utah, Brigham Young
Pac-10: Washington, UCLA, California, Arizona State
SEC: LSU, Tennessee

The above teams will take at least 19 and no more than 29 at-large bids, leaving from four to 14 bids for:

The Bubble

In rough order:

Texas
Dayton
Texas A&M
Michigan
Oklahoma State
Ohio State
Wisconsin
Creighton
Boston College
New Mexico
Auburn
San Diego State
UNLV
Minnesota
Temple
South Carolina
Penn State
Florida
Kansas State
Utah State
Niagara
Notre Dame
Maryland
Providence
Virginia Tech
Arizona
Miami (Fla.)
Rhode Island
St. Maryís
Alabama-Birmingham
Tulsa
Nebraska
Kentucky
Mississippi State

Texas is in as long as they beat Colorado today, and itís possible that Texas A&M and Oklahoma State will lock up spots by avoiding the bad loss as well. Notre Dame doesnít clinch a spot by beating West Virginia, but doing so would change the discussion about them. Providence just stays on the bubble by beating DePaul; their status wonít change until after Thursdayís game, one way or another.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Joe by clicking here or click here to see Joe's other articles.

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