As it’s most likely become apparent, I am always going to argue for the mid-major over the middling power five team. And this week is another rallying cry for such teams.
It seems like it happens every year. Bubble teams continue to lose. At some point, teams such as Florida and Indiana need to right the ship or they will have accumulated too many losses to hope to make the field. However, most bracketologists have these teams in their latest bracket or just outside while small schools receive no love. Mid-majors who have only a few losses have accumulated a lot of road wins. Something teams at or below .500 in their conference rarely have. Typically, a team does not make the tournament if they have thirteen losses or more, and a few teams are coming dangerously close. Nor does a conference record well below .500 deserve much consideration. No matter if they have beaten a couple good teams over the course of the season, at some point winning matters.
And that is why, in this latest bracket I have awarded the last spot to a team who only has three losses. No, this team has not beaten any teams that are likely to make the NCAA tournament, but they hung tough on the road against LSU and their only other two losses are to Kentucky and Wofford. At some point, winning should outweigh the losses from power teams. Welcome to an at-large bid UNC-Greensboro!
ACC: Locks – Virginia, Duke, North Carolina Should be in – Louisville, Virginia Tech, Florida State Work to do – Syracuse, North Carolina State, Clemson
No major changes for the ACC. Louisville, Virginia Tech, and Florida State are all trending in the right direction. Clemson joins the field this week after picking up the best win of their season over Virginia Tech this past week, and now having won four straight.
Big 12: Locks – Kansas Should be in – Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas State Work to do – Baylor, TCU, Texas, Oklahoma
Kansas State continues to roll along and looks like they could actually put an end to Kansas’ stranglehold on the conference title. Baylor continues to surprise and is looking more and more likely to be a tournament team. TCU got a huge win on the road against Iowa State to feel much better about their resume. Oklahoma continues to slide and is closing in on the cut-line rapidly.
Big East: Lock – Marquette Should be in – Villanova Work to do – St. John’s, Seton Hall, Butler, Creighton
Marquette grabbed a huge win over Villanova this weekend and had locked themselves into the bracket. They have a chance to snag a very high seed and position themselves well to make a run in the tournament. At some point, St. John’s is going to need to show they can beat more than Marquette and Creighton. Speaking of the Blue Jays, they are barely hanging onto hope at this point.
Big Ten: Locks – Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue Should be in – Wisconsin, Iowa, Maryland Work to do – Ohio State, Minnesota, Indiana, Nebraska
I’ll admit, I didn’t think Purdue was going to be challenging for a top 4 seed this year after losing four starters from a season ago. They have a legitimate shot to win the Big Ten this year too. Wisconsin, Iowa, and Maryland have all bounced back from missing an at-large spot a season ago as well. Indiana has fallen to the first team out, but with two more losses they might be done. Nebraska might have to win out the regular season to have a shot.
Pac-12: Work to do – Washington, Arizona State
Arizona suffered a terrible loss to Washington State and now has to win the Pac-12 tournament to likely have a shot. Arizona State also got tripped up against the Cougars and slide to the cut line, managing to stay in after a win over Washington. Not much room for error in the Pac-12, which keeps Washington as a team with work to do as well.
SEC: Locks – Tennessee, Kentucky Should be in – LSU, Mississippi State Work to do – Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama, Florida, Arkansas
Auburn is feeling like a safer bet to make the tournament, but still has avoid losing every other conference game. Florida continues their slide out of the bracket and is another of those teams that had already amassed a bunch of losses. At 12-11, the Gators record is no longer deserving of a bid.
American: Lock – Houston Work to do – Cincinnati, UCF, Temple
Houston locks themselves into a spot in the latest bracket after taking care of their toughest week with two wins. Cincinnati dropped their game against Houston, but they have three more chances to solidify themselves with strong wins and just need to take care of business elsewhere. UCF is hanging onto one of the last four spots right now, while Temple’s chances are quickly dwindling.
Others: Locks – Gonzaga Should be in – Nevada Work to do – Buffalo, Wofford, VCU, Lipscomb, UNC-Greensboro, Utah State
When the NCAA committee revealed their top 16 teams, Nevada was a four seed. Despite just one loss, apparently wins against Quadrant 1 teams are more valuable to obtaining a higher seed. However, with the way the Wolf Pack has been rolling through the Mountain West, they may only have one loss come Selection Sunday. All of the rest of these hopefuls (minus, perhaps Buffalo) have to be near perfect for the rest of the season to have a chance.
First Four Out: Indiana, Florida, Butler, Utah State
*Large conference winners are in bold.
16. Monmouth/St. Francis (PA)
6. Kansas State
14. Northern Kentucky
2. Michigan State
8. Ohio State
9. North Carolina State
5. Iowa State
12. Seton Hall/UNC-Greensboro
14. South Dakota State
7. Mississippi State
15. Texas State
16. Sam Houston State
9. St. John’s
5. Virginia Tech
12. New Mexico State
4. Texas Tech
14. UC Irvine
2. North Carolina
16. Norfolk State/Prairie View A&M
9. Ole Miss
12. Arizona State/UCF
6. Florida State
14. Old Dominion