So I'm going to make a little change in the format and style of this column this week. This weekend was a huge weekend for mid major programs trying to force their way into the At-Large bid conversation. Also, I've listed nine teams already that are making tournament waves, and frankly, there aren't very many more that have a reasonable shot to get into the tournament outside of an automatic bid at this point. Therefore, instead of giving you two new teams, I've decided to recap the teams I've listed up until this point, and give my opinion on their postseason hopes.
Here's a reminder on the 9 teams I've discussed so far. There's a possibility that next week I might go after three more, but who knows.
Feb 3rd: Cleveland State, Virginia Commonwealth, North Dakota State.
Feb 9th: Siena, George Mason, Creighton
Feb 16th: Miami (OH), Niagara, Illinois State
Recaps after the jump...
Cleveland State: The Vikings are a team that I had pulled off of here after failing to gain much ground despite winning every game since I wrote about them. However, after knocking off Wisconsin-Green Bay I decided to add them again to the watch. I mentioned that they would have to win out and advance to the Horizon League finals to be considered a possible at-large team. They didn't, losing their BracketBuster game this weekend at #140 Wichita State. That was a must win game at this point for them, and now even if they win their last game of the year at Butler, they still will most likely miss the tournament without a conference win. They come in at #72 in the Pomeroy Ratings and #73 in the RPI, which just isn't going to do it.
VCU: This is another team that has really played themselves out of At-Large contention recently. Since I discussed the Rams they have dropped games at #306 UNCW, at #100 ODU, and at #108 Nevada in their BracketBuster game. Their best win was beating #136 James Madison at home in OT. For these teams, winning the BracketBuster is integral, and a 19-9 record for a CAA team just isn't enough for an At-Large bid. These Rams really underperformed this season in my opinion. They have a first round draft pick PG in Eric Maynor and a great PF in Larry Sanders. They played a weak out of conference schedule and 4 losses in a down CAA isn't going to cut it. The last two CAA teams to get at large bids were 15-3 GMU in 2006, and 15-3 ODU in 2007. VCU is 73 in the Pomeroy Ratings and 71 in the RPI. Not good enough.
North Dakota State: I love this team. They lost a terrible home game to #222 Southern Utah which really hurts their At-Large chances, but they did win their BracketBuster game at#148 UW-Milwaukee. The problem with this team is that their best win is still at home against #75 Oral Roberts. This team is 41st in Offensive Efficiency and boasts five players with top 110 Efficiency Ratings. However, they have not beaten one real good team, which will hurt them. They are #58 in the Pomeroy Ratings, but are way down at #104 in RPI, which will keep them out unless they take the Summit.
Siena: They are in, and there isn't much more to say about it. However, I will say more about it. They are only #64 in the Pomeroy Ratings...but unfortunately for some of these teams, the Pomeroy Ratings aren't relied on as much by the selection committee. This will benefit Siena, as they are way up at #26 in the RPI. A win in their next game at Niagara will further cement their status, but will hurt the MAAC's chances for two bids. They won their BracketBuster game, beating #90 UNI at home. They have a 22-6 record with the 73rd ranked schedule in the country. It will be a shame if they aren't playing in the Big Dance.
George Mason: Sorry Patriots, you're out. Mason is an 11-5 CAA team, 18-9 overall. They will most likely finish 20-9, with two pretty easy games left. That said, they lost their BracketBuster game against Creighton, which was a must-win for this CAA team. With only two top-100 wins against Vermont and Northeastern, the Creighton game would have bolstered their resume, but they just couldn't get it done. They now drop to #79 in the Pomeroy Ratings and #54 in the RPI. This team will be in the NIT, but nowhere near the NCAAs as I would take Northeastern or VCU over this team in the CAA tournament.
Creighton: The Jays really solidified their place in the NCAA tournament with their win over George Mason. That win gives them nine RPI top-100 wins with just two questionable losses. They jumped to #52 in the Pomeroy Ratings and #48 in the RPI. A loss at home to Illinois State could hurt their chances, but that's a game I think the Jays will take. They haven't lost since January 24th, and are peaking at the right time. I don't see how the committee can overlook a team playing so well. My prediction: 10 seed in the tournament, could be higher if they win the MVC tourney.
Miami (OH): I wasn't sure about the RedHawks when I wrote about them last week, and they lost both of their games since then. They had a great out of conference schedule, and play a solid, fundamental, defense based brand of basketball, but 10 losses does not equal an At-Large bid. They lost at #91 Akron and at #114 Evansville in their BracketBuster game. That puts them at #89 in the Pomeroy Ratings and #74 in the RPI. If they don't turn things around, they might miss the NIT as well, but don't look for them in the NCAAs. Instead, look for Akron or Buffalo out of the MAC.
Niagara: The Purple Eagles are a team that I really liked and thought had a great shot at making the NCAAs. Then, like other MAAC powerhouse Siena, they lost to #166 Rider. They did beat a good Illinois St. team in their BracketBuster game, but the loss to Rider will keep them out as an At-Large. Winning out would put them at 24-7 (14-4), which won't cut the cake in the MAAC. They'd need some big slip-ups from other teams (Creighton, Davidson, St. Mary's) and early exits by some bubble BCS teams in their conference tournaments to have a shot even if they made the MAAC finals. That said, this could happen, but isn't likely. They sit at #69 in the Pomeroy Ratings and #63 in the RPI.
Illinois State: The Redbirds might be hurt by Niagara's loss to Rider just as much as the loss hurt Niagara. Illinois St. dropped their BracketBuster game to Niagara, and now sit at #71 in the Pomeroy Ratings and at #58 in the RPI. Of a team to lose their BracketBuster game, they may be in the best shape, but I feel like the only scenario that gets the Redbirds into the tournament is winning out (#90 UNI at home, at #52 Creighton), and then losing to Creighton in the MVC finals. That would give them six RPI top-100 wins. That said, I don't see this team in the tournament. they are a solid team, but they needed to top Niagara, especially knowing that Niagara just lost a questionable game.