Rundown of March Madness, Volume 2
The defending NCAA champion Tar Heels and the Huskies, both a year removed from NCAA Final Four berths, would be NIT-bound if the season ended today.
Thankfully for the Tar Heels and Huskies it doesn't, but for NIT executive director Jack Powers the end of the season can't get here soon enough. The NIT would salivate over a matchup between the Tar Heels and Huskies for the NIT title on April 1.
And if the Tar Heels and Huskies don't get hot -- extremely hot -- in the final few weeks of the regular season, they will have to adjust their goals from being NCAA champs to NIT champs.
The Tar Heels (13-8, 2-4 ACC) are a game out of last place in the ACC. They've lost four of their last five, including Sunday's 15-point home loss to Virginia.
The Huskies (13-9, 3-6 Big East) are two games out of last place in the Big East. They've lost three in a row and six of their last eight and also have lost coach Jim Calhoun for an undetermined amount of time due to health reasons.
Ironically, the Huskies played another ACC team, losing to Duke in the Preseason NIT in November in Madison Square Garden. Unless, UConn can pull off some major upsets at Syracuse (Feb. 10) and Villanova (Feb. 15) or home against West Virginia (Feb. 22), the Huskies will at least get the chance to improve on their Preseason NIT runner-up finish in the postseason NIT.
Here is a look at FanHouse's NCAA Tournament projected field of 65 if the season ended Monday. This does not attempt to predict future results. All records are through Monday's games.
ACC (6): Duke, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Clemson, Maryland.
Breakdown: Barring a total collapse down the stretch, Duke, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Clemson all appear NCAA Tournament bound. They all have Top 30 RPIs, except for Clemson at 36. Maryland (13-6, 4-2 ACC) has a dangerously high 50 RPI but currently is in a second-place tie in the league. The Terps only have one win against a Top 30 RPI team (Florida State) and they meet again Thursday at FSU. A sweep of the Seminoles would strengthen the Terps' NCAA hopes. Virginia (13-6, 4-2) is tied for second with Maryland, but currently has an RPI of 88, which puts the Cavs on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble. Also, non-conference losses to South Florida, Stanford, Penn State and Auburn don't help. North Carolina (13-8, 2-4) has two of the league's top non-conference wins against Ohio State and Michigan State, but has little margin of error the rest of the way if they're going to spend March in the NCAA Tournament instead of the NIT.
Atlantic 10 (6): Temple, Xavier, Rhode Island, Charlotte, Dayton, Richmond.
Breakdown: Last week, we asked if the Atlantic 10 could actually get six bids? Based on last week's results, it's looking more like it could happen. Charlotte (16-5, 6-1 Atlantic 10) strengthened its case with a 74-64 win against Temple on Wednesday and the 49ers have now won five consecutive games. Dayton (15-6, 4-3) has lost three of five, but can make a big statement with consecutive home games against Xavier on Saturday and Charlotte (Feb. 10). Richmond (16-6, 5-2) has won four of five and plays host to Temple on Saturday. Stay tuned. This league could be in line from anywhere from four to six bids when March Madness rolls around.
Big East (8): Villanova, Syracuse, West Virginia, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, Seton Hall.
Breakdown: Louisville and UConn played what felt like an NCAA Tournament elimination game Monday, with the Cardinal winning 82-69. The Cardinal (14-8 overall, 5-4 Big East) are only 2-4 in their last six, but those losses were by eight to Villanova, five at Pittsburgh in overtime, three at Seton Hall and three at West Virginia (thanks to some officiating errors that the Big East admitted to). Seton Hall currently sits in 12th place in the league, so obviously it must move up to eighth or ninth to earn a bid. But through Monday, the Pirates have four Top 50 RPI wins (at Cornell, Cincinnati, Louisville and Pittsburgh). Tuesday night, the Pirates visit Villanova followed up by a Saturday visit to Pittsburgh. If Seton Hall can avoid getting swept, it would do wonders for the Pirates' NCAA hopes. Louisville also must continue winning, and how the Cardinal and Pirates -- and also Cincinnati (14-7, 5-4) -- fare down the stretch will determine if the Big East gets as few as six bids or as many as eight. That number could increase to nine if UConn (13-9, 3-6) can survive remaining games against Syracuse, Cincinnati, Villanova, West Virginia and Louisville.
Big Ten (4): Michigan State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Ohio State.
Breakdown: This continues to look like only a four-bid league. Minnesota (13-8, 4-5 Big Ten) has (had?) an outside chance to make it a five-bid league, but the Gophers' 22-point loss at Ohio State on Sunday didn't help matters. Northwestern (14-7, 3-6), which was also trying to become the fifth Big Ten team to get in the NCAA, has lost three of its last five and four of its last seven, despite the win over Michigan Tuesday night. Illinois (14-8, 6-3) ended a three-game losing streak with consecutive wins against Penn State and Indiana. The Illini's NCAA Tournament hopes likely will be decided in a three-game stretch home against Michigan State (Saturday), at Wisconsin (Feb. 9) and home against Ohio State (Feb. 14).
Big 12 (7): Kansas, Texas, Kansas State, Baylor, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M.
Breakdown: Last week, I had Texas Tech in the NCAA Tournament field, but not this week. The Red Raiders still have an impressive RPI of 39 but have lost their last two games. Tech is 14-7 overall, 2-5 in the Big 12 so far, but has no wins against Top 100 RPI teams and no losses against non-Top 100 RPI teams. Kansas, Texas and Kansas State have no worries about making the NCAA field (Baylor also appears an NCAA lock), but the same can't be said of Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. The Tigers (16-5) appear in the best shape of those three with four wins against Top 50 RPI clubs. The Cowboys (16-6, 4-4 Big 12) don't have any quality non-conference wins, so they must get as many league victories as possible. The Aggies can improve their NCAA resume this week, visiting Missouri on Wednesday and playing host to Baylor on Saturday.
Colonial (2): George Mason, Old Dominion
Breakdown: These are two precarious bids and based strictly on George Mason winning the league tournament. George Mason currently holds a one-game lead over ODU and Northeastern. The only way this league gets two bids is if someone other than ODU wins the league tournament. If the Monarchs, who currently have a 45 RPI, don't win the Colonial Tournament, they should still earn an NCAA at-large bid based on wins at Georgetown and home against Charlotte.
Mountain West (3): BYU, New Mexico, UNLV.
Breakdown: For now, this is still only a three-bid league. That could change if San Diego State (13-6, 37 RPI) can pull off an upset at New Mexico on Saturday. The Lobos picked up a big victory last week, edging BYU 76-72 and ending the Cougars' 15-game winning streak. Besides facing San Diego State on Saturday, New Mexico visits UNLV on Feb. 10 in a key Mountain West contest. This league is clearly split between the haves (BYU, New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State) and have-nots (Colorado State, Utah, TCU, Wyoming and Air Force).
SEC (5) : Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Florida.
Breakdown: Just like last week, this is still a five-bid league. However, I've replaced Mississippi State with Florida. The Bulldogs may lead the SEC West, but they've dropped two of their past three games Mississippi State's next three games will give the Bulldogs ample opportunities to get back on the right side of the bubble when they visit Vanderbilt on Wednesday and Florida on Saturday and then play host to Ole Miss on Feb. 11. The Gators, who have been playing better recently, had their four-game winning streak snapped with Sunday's one-point loss at Tennessee. Despite a 13-8 record, South Carolina (62 RPI) got into NCAA Tournament consideration with last week's upset of Kentucky. The Gamecocks can improve their at-large hopes by winning Saturday at Tennessee and Feb. 10 at home against Florida.
West Coast (2): Gonzaga, St. Mary's
Breakdown: This league is still only worthy of two bids. Gonzaga had put together one of the nation's top NCAA resumes with quality wins against Wisconsin, Cincinnati and St. Mary's and only its only three losses to projected NCAA teams (at Michigan State, Wake Forest and Duke). But then the Bulldogs lost in overtime at San Francisco (6-14 with a 237 RPI), a head-scratcher of a loss if there ever was one. The loss won't knock the Bulldogs out of the NCAA Tournament, but it will damage their seed. St. Mary's has won four consecutive games and nine of its last 10. They should pick up two more wins this week when the Gaels play host to Santa Clara Thursday and San Francisco on Saturday.
America East: Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun: Jacksonville
Big Sky: Weber State
Big South: Coastal Carolina
Big West: Pacific
Conference USA: UAB
Metro Atlantic: Siena
Mid-American: Kent State
Mid-Eastern: Morgan State
Missouri Valley: Northern Iowa
Northeast: Robert Morris
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Southern: College of Charleston
Southland: Sam Houston State
Sun Belt: Arkansas State
SWAC: Jackson State
Western Athletic: Utah State
Contact FanHouse senior writer Brett McMurphy at email@example.com