Cleat Geeks

Setting the Plate for 68

It’s been a season full of madness so why not some more. No team in the top 25 has fewer than 4 losses. The #1 team has changed hands enough times that there is no clearly dominant school (sorry, Kansas). USC sweeping UCLA? Wooden’s rolling in his grave. Duke dropping out of the rankings? Haters everywhere love that. We don’t want to see this season end, but end it must, and if the regular season in any indication this will be a wild postseason. Will this be the year a #16 seed takes down a #1? If I could wish for that or Kanye West shutting his face…..tough call. It’s only a matter of time, City College of New York won the whole thing once so we can dream.

Now before I get carried away, big conference teams are still going to dominate brackets, but with 68 teams in the competition there will be surprises. Some conference tourneys are under way with most starting next week and selection Sunday on March 13th this year. There shouldn’t be many cases of conference winners bumping many bubble teams with automatic bids, but we’ll take a look at some potential scenarios. Firstly, here is a list of teams that, barring an SMU style catastrophe, will make the field;

Wichita State
Kentucky
Texas A&M
Arizona
California
Utah
Oregon2016-NCAA-Final-Four-590x481
Indiana
Iowa
Purdue
Michigan State
Maryland
Xavier
Villanova
Texas
Baylor
Iowa State
West Virginia
Oklahoma
Kansas
Notre Dame
Duke
North Carolina
Virginia
Miami
Dayton

Conference tourneys with automatic bids yet to be determined;
AAC (would be SMU, but they are ineligible)
America East
Atlantic Sun
Big Sky
Big South
Big West
Colonial Athletic
Conference USANCAA Logo
Horizon
Ivy
MAAC
MAC
Mid-Eastern
Mountain West
Northeast
Ohio Valley
Patriot
Southern
Southland
Southwestern
Summit
Sunbelt
West Coast
WAC

That brings us to forty nine teams leaving nineteen spots to be fought over.

Let’s start with one of the bigger story lines, Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s has been coming hard after these guys’ West Coast crown for a while now and seem to have snatched it away. My money is on the Zags to win the conference title and keep their NCAA Tourney streak of 17 seasons alive. I know Saint Mary’s swept them but it’s pretty tough to beat a determined team three straight times and I expect them to compete in the conference final. Gonzaga has three more losses than the Gaels, which skews the RPI greatly in SMC’s favor, but those losses are less worse in my opinion. A one point loss for Gonzaga to Texas A&M compared to a four point loss to Cal for SMC, not to mention being swept by an average Pepperdine team while the Zags faced four Pac-12 opponents and a very strong SMU squad.

Arkansas-Little Rock was having a stellar three loss season before dropping their last game to a poor Appalachian State team, an awful loss. Their SOS was never very strong so I never had them going far if they make the tourney field, but they should win the Sun Belt to get in. Valparaiso has put together a solid five loss season although their schedule is relatively weak. Wright State may have their number and challenge for the Horizon league title. The Akron Zips are interesting as the leader of the MAC conference in that they are second in the country in three point attempts and makes, while making 40%. They were handled easily by Villanova early in the season in their only major conference matchup.

If you are looking for a Cinderella you could do worse than Monmouth. The Hawks may have already done enough to lock up an at-large bid with wins over USC, UCLA, Notre Dame, and Georgetown, with a very close loss on the road to an outstanding Dayton team. How that team loses to Canisius, Army, Iona, and Manhattan I do not know. An at-large spot in the dance is not a given, especially the weight given to RPI by the committee, which would favor worse teams in major conferences due to the strength of the competition. I would be seriously disappointed to see a bubble team such as Florida at 17-13, near the bottom of the SEC rankings with a home win over West Virginia as their only significant victory get in ahead of a school like Monmouth with 6 total wins.

Look for more Notes next week as we get closer to selection Sunday!

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