It Is College Hoops Crunch Time



For men’s basketball fans, all eyes will be on the various conference tournaments being played this week. With Selection Sunday this weekend, how well some teams play in their respective tournaments will determine whether they receive an NCAA berth or have to settle for the NIT.

65 Teams, Many Automatic Berths

Nearly half of the 65 slots in the annual tournament are set aside for conference champions. Most conferences choose a champion, not based on regular season performance, rather on the three or four game tournament immediately following the regular season.

That means that the Ivy League will get to send Cornell this year, while the Atlantic Sun Conference will be represented by Belmont University. These lower-tiered schools are already in thanks to early tournaments or being selected league champion based on their regular season schedule.

Let The Battles Begin!

With 31 of the slots accounted for prior to Selection Sunday, that leaves 34 positions for at-large schools. For some conferences, such as the Big East, at least four of their schools will probably receive at-large invitations, something that schools in the Big Ten, Pac 10, Southeast Conference, ACC, and Pac 12 can also expect. That leaves about 10 spots open to schools who did not win their conference championships, but are considered good enough to get invited.

On The Bubble And Bracketology

As the season progresses, it soon becomes apparent which schools are on “the bubble” and which ones are a lock for the tournament. Bubble teams are those who will only get in if their tournament run includes several wins before exiting. Thus, a team like the Maryland Terrapins who are 18-12, will have to win at least two games in order to be considered for the NCAA tournament. Should the Terrapins win the conference, they’ll be in automatically, forcing the NCAA selection committee to push another bubble school out.

Last month, I talked about the Science of Bracketology and how schools are selected — as of this moment, the following men’s programs need to have a fantastic tournament run in order to get beyond the bubble:

Syracuse — as many as 7 Big East teams could be invited this year as the top seven teams in the conference already each have 21 wins. That means the 18-12 Orangemen will probably have to win three games in order to be considered by the committee.

Kentucky — Four SEC teams are a lock for the tournament but perennial power Kentucky isn’t one of them. The Wildcats are 11-4 in conference play but are 17-11 overall. If they finish strong, they’re in — but that might mean getting to the SEC championship, not an easy feat!

Ohio State — the Buckeyes lost the NCAA championship last year, but are in danger of not being invited this year. The Big Ten has four teams which are a lock, but a place for a fifth team depends on how well one of the also-ran qualifiers does in the tournament.

Illinois State — Despite a 22-8 record, the Redbirds aren’t likely to get in without some help. They must beat conference leader Drake in order to guarantee a spot, but keeping Kentucky, Syracuse, and Ohio State out increases their chances.

Boise State — although they are the cream of the Western Athletic Conference, the Broncos will not be NCAA bound if they lose their conference tournament. In year’s past the WAC has fared rather well, sending several schools to the NCAA, but not this year. Unless the Broncos win it all, the NIT is their next best bet.

You can be sure that a lot of people won’t be getting much sleep this week as the tournaments unfold. Come Sunday evening, when the schools are announced, there will be a lot of fans basking in triumph but just as many who will be deeply disappointed.

Yep, Selection Sunday will do that to you.

Further Reading

ESPN Bracketology

Few and far apart in NCAA homestretch

Victory margin plays key role in tourney overachievement


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Categories: NCAA Basketball