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Sunday, March 06, 2005

NCAA Basketball: Wild Sunday Tips off Championship Week

Championship week got jump started on Sunday with 2 of the top 3 teams losing and Duke pushing #2 UNC to the limit in Chapel Hill. Illinois has been toppled, but can't be cast aside based on a road loss on senior day, and niehter can Kansas or Oklahoma St., two others that suffered bad losses this weekend. One thing we do know is that there are already, these conference champs already have their tickets to the Big Dance: Central Florida, Penn, Winthrop, Eastern Kentucky and UT-Chatanooga. None of these teams figure to factor at all in the tourney, but can relax a lot more than some power conference teams who sit squarely on the bubble. The key for the teams like Maryland, Georgia Tech, Indiana etc. is for favorites in smaller leagues to win their tournaments, so a mid-major cinderella doesn't steal their spot at the dance by giving a league like the MAC, MVC or America East an extra bid. Perfect example is Southern Illinois being bounced out of the Missouri Valley tourney by Southwest Missouri St. By this time next week we will have the brackets in front of us and the real debate will be on. Until then, Illinois remains on top, and this is how the rest of the top 10 shakes down.

Top 10 (*previous ranking)
1. Illinois (30-1) (1)
2. North Carolina (26-3) (2)
3. Wake Forest (26-4) (3)
4. UCONN (21-6) (5)
5. Louisville (26-4) (7)
6. Boston College (24-3) (4)
7. Kentucky (23-4) (8)
8. Gonzaga (24-4) (NR)
9. Kansas (22-5) (6)
10. Duke (22-5) (NR)

just missed: Oklahoma; Arizona; Pacific; Oklahoma St
dropped: (9) Oklahoma St.; (10) Syracuse

Mid Major Power 5
1. Pacific (24-2) (2)
2. Utah (23-4) (4)
3. Nevada (24-5) (5)
4. Southern Illinois (26-7) (3)
5. Vermont (23-6) (NR)

Bubble Trouble
You can't avoid talking about the bubble this time of year, and everyone has their opinions on who is in and who is out. As of right now these are the teams I feel have solidified LOCK status for the NCAA tourney:
ACC - UNC, Wake Forest, Duke
Big East - UCONN, BC, Syracuse, Villanova, Pitt
Big 10 - Illinois, Michigan St., Wisconsin
Big XII - Oklahoma, OK St., Kansas, Texas, Texas Tech
CUSA - Charlotte, Cincy, Louisville
Pac 10 - Arizona, UCLA, Washington, Stanford
SEC - Kentucky, Alabama, Miss St, LSU, Florida
Other Locks - Gonzaga, Southern Illinois, Nevada, Pacific, Utah

Here are some teams from major conferences that I believe still have more work to do in their conference tournaments to earn a bid.(next to the team is what I feel they need to solidify a tourney birth)

- Indiana (15-12) + Minnesota (20-9) (needs to make Big 10 Final)
- West Virginia (18-9) (2 wins in Big East tourney)
- Depaul (18-9) (maybe one win, 10-6 in CUSA this year should be enough)
- St. Mary's (24-7) (should be in, but making WCC final would be real nice)
- Notre Dame (17-10) + Georgetown (16-11) (very least make Big East final)
- Texas A&M (19-8) (2 wins in Big XII tourney)
- Maryland (16-11) + Georgia Tech (17-10) (at least one ACC win)
- Virginia Tech (15-12) (2 ACC tourney wins)

If a team was not on either list, then that means I think the selection committee sees the only way of any other team getting in, is winning their conference tournament.

Next week I will have my awards for the season as well as tourney upsets and hot teams to look for.

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