Bracketology 301: Conference Tournament Edition

Good morning, or afternoon my virtual class.

And just in time for spring’s real arrival–not so fast, it is only happening for one afternoon in my world.

(The ladies all shrug their shoulders while wearing their fashionably new spring dresses).

Last week in this space, I touched on a term commonly used by the media.  We saw five examples of this term being applied this past weekend:

The term is automatic qualifiers (or bids).

Basically, this time of year–every conference with the exception of the Ivy League has postseason tournaments.  I am sure you have been keeping up, and more updates can be found daily in the Clip/Print and Save blog below for easy reference.

The winner of the postseason tournament, regardless how well their season was in the regular season–winds up in the NCAA Tournament.

Harvard clinched on Friday night because their in-conference record was better than Yale.

Other teams get in by playing mini tournament style brackets.  Whomever emerges on top wins the automatic bid.  Thus far, four other schools have made it in:  Coastal Carolina from the Big South, Mercer from the Atlantic Sun, Eastern Kentucky from the Ohio Valley, and one of the biggest fish of all, Wichita State from the Missouri Valley.  It was the first time that the Shockers won the MVC postseason crown since 1987, four years before the actual creation of “Arch Madness.”  But I am getting a bit ahead of myself.

With the regular season in the rear-view mirror, there will be hundreds of games involving 92 percent of the schools.  27 games will end with conference championships, some more meaningful than others.  Why do I say that?

It is because the general belief is, amongst the at-large teams that make up the upper echelon of Division One men’s and women’s college basketball, that a combination of their RPI, strength of schedule, who they beat, when they beat them (especially if that win was on the road), and how they would stack up against teams with similar resumes from other conferences–could prove to be very costly, or very meaningful in some respects.

This is the main job of the Selection Committee.  They watch games and study Excel and Access spreadsheets to quantify teams and figure out the balance upon implementing the S-curve.

As far as the seeding of teams and the bracketing, most of that will be done on Sunday.  Sometimes, if there is a .500 or worse team still playing, that could really throw the brackets out of whack.  But if we are all figuring that it will be safe to say that Ohio State or Wisconsin will take on Gang Green and Michigan State at the Big Ten final, then it will be just a matter of waiting until 6 p.m. Eastern time on CBS for the announcement of the 68 team field.  On the other hand, there was one year in the mid-2000’s when Luke Recker of Iowa hit a dramatic shot at the buzzer to knock off the school he once attended at Indiana in a Big Ten semifinal.  The next day, Iowa’s dreams of stealing the final at-large bid were halted and they were the closest team to shaking up the brackets.

The best way to prepare for this crazy week is for me to do one final edition of “Stock Up, Stock Down” for 2013-2014, then I will dive into the key games of the week and give my daily summary of the key mid-major conference tournaments slated for today:

STOCK UP:

  • Florida, for winning the SEC regular season title without a loss.  Barring a first-round loss in Atlanta later this week, the Gators are in prime position for the overall Number 1 seed in the South Region.
  • Wichita State, what else can I say–but what a remarkable season it has been.  Their motto of “Play Angry” has worked so well up to this point.  Even Clark Kellogg of CBS Sports said in one halftime segment on Sunday afternoon, “The Shockers not only have a legitimate chance to make it back to the Final Four, but they have a great chance to win the national championship.”  Head Coach Gregg Marshall in post-game comments to Kristine Leahy simply remarked, “We are glad to be in the conversation…there are at least 15 other teams that have a great chance to win the whole thing.”  The key for them is to avoid a Princeton-type offense, where a team slows the game down to a crawl and it becomes a possession by possession type of contest.  But as we all saw in the middle of the second half, they feed off turnovers.  No, they are not replicating what UNLV used to do every time up and down the court, that offense was very dizzy to watch by comparison.  To Shocker Nation, a 12 point lead would be more comfortable than a 5 or 6 point that most other schools would easily shrug off because of either having a deeper bench or just simply having coaches who have been there before and navigated safely through the landmines, so-to speak.
  • Villanova, for clinching the top seed in the Big East.  They are in the conversation for that fourth and final Number 1 seed.
  • Oregon and Pittsburgh, for staying alive in winning key games over the weekend to keep their bubbles popping at least for a few more days.

STOCK DOWN:

  • Virginia, for losing in overtime on Sunday at Maryland.  A game the Cavaliers should have won, but didn’t.  More than likely, they will be a number 2 seed.
  • Wisconsin, for losing on Sunday in Nebraska.  They would have to win the Big Ten conference title to be in that 1 seed line discussion.  Same goes with Michigan State.
  • Kansas, for having eight losses during the season.  Since the expansion of the brackets in 1985, no number one seed has had fewer than 7 losses.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were several bubble teams that had a great chance to improve their tournament resumes–but in the end, could not provide much of an argument.

Those teams include, but not limited to:
Florida State, Xavier, Tennessee, BYU, California, Georgetown, Minnesota, Missouri, and St. John’s of New York.

With those explanations out of the way, time to get to the games at hand:

AUTOMATIC BIDS TO BE DECIDED TODAY:  3

Southern, 9 p.m. Eastern ONLINE on ESPN3 (please note starting time change)

5. Western Carolina vs. 3. Wofford

Colonial Athletic, 7 p.m. on NBCSN
3. William & Mary vs. 1. Delaware

MAAC, 7 p.m. on ESPN2

2. Manhattan vs. 1 Iona

Other tournament action begins in the MAC on campus sites, and the MEAC with two games each on Monday and Tuesday.  Also, with the Summit League has their semifinals taking place.  As the week goes on, I will try to highlight some key games involving bubble teams that might be worth watching amongst the power conferences.

Again, the other games are updated at the Clip/Save and Print link.

Please enjoy your Monday.

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