Sunday, March 13, 2016

Final Championship Week Predictions

Guys, we made it.  Selection Sunday is here.  At 5:30 Eastern on CBS, some dreams will be realized, while others will be eternally crushed.

Yesterday, another 6 1-seeds lost, bringing the total number of 1-seeds that have lost thus far to 20 -- well over half of the conference regular season champs, which is kind of insane and maybe calls into question why we have conference tournaments.  Below are the highlights from yesterday, when fourteen bids were clinched.  Note that, for my list of bubble teams that won and lost yesterday, I consider the "bubble" to be a little more expansive than others might, so I included some teams that are relatively safe to get into the NCAA Tournament ("high bubble" teams), some teams that need to win a few games to make the Big Dance ("low bubble" teams), as well as mid-major 1-seeds that I think might still have a shot at getting an at-large bid if they don't win their conference tournaments.  Some teams that fit into my definition of the bubble may play themselves off the bubble with a win (or two or three).
  • Two teams clinched their first-ever NCAA Tournament bids.  In the America East finals, 1-seed Stony Brook finally planted its flag on the mountaintop, beating 3-seed Vermont 80-74 to clinch the Seawolves' first invite to the Big Dance.  Meanwhile, in the wiggity wiggity wiggity wiggity wiggity wiggity WAC, in a pretty significant upset, 2-seed Cal State Bakersfield beat 1-seed New Mexico State 57-54.  The Roadrunners will be playing in their first NCAA Tournament bid since becoming a D-1 member in 2007.  Is it pure kismet that a show set in Bakersfield called Baskets debuted this year?  Absolutely.  But it needed to be called out.  Congrats to the players on both teams.  They will forever be the first ones to make the NCAA Tournament, which is pretty awesome.
  • In the ACC, 1-seed North Carolina beat 2-seed Virginia, 61-57.  The Tarheels will be going to their 47th NCAA Tournament and 6th in a row.  Both UNC and Virginia are probably going to get 1-seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
  • In the Big 12, 1-seed Kansas dropped 2-seed West Virginia, 81-71.  The Jayhawks are also going to be a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and they'll be playing in their 45th tourney and 27th in a row.
  • In the Big East, top seed Villanova was upset by 3-seed Seton Hall, 69-67, potentially costing the Wildcats a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament (but probably not).  The Pirates will be playing in their 10th NCAA Tournament and first since 2006.
  • In the Big Sky, 1-seed Weber State downed 2-seed Montana, 62-59.  The Wildcats will be playing for their 16th NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2014. 
  • In the Big West, top seeded Hawaii beat 3-seed Long Beach State, 64-60, to clinch the Rainbow Warriors' 5th NCAA Tournament and first since 2002.
  • In Conference USA, 2-seed Middle Tennessee State squeaked by 5-seed Old Dominion, 55-53. The Blue Raiders will be playing in their 8th NCAA Tournament and first since 2013.
  • In the miggity miggity miggity miggity miggity miggity MAC, 3-seed Buffalo upset top seed Akron. The Bulls will be playing in their 2nd NCAA Tournament after making the Big Dance for the first time last year.
  • In the MEAC semis, 1-seed Hampton beat 3-seed South Carolina State pretty handily, 81-69.  The Pirates will be playing in their 6th NCAA Tournament bid and second in a row.
  • In the Mountain West, 2-seed Fresno State upset top seeded San Diego State, 68-63, potentially costing the Aztecs a trip to the Big Dance.  The Bulldogs will be playing in their 6th NCAA Tournament and first since 2001.
  • In the Pac-12, 1-seed Oregon just demolished 2-seed Utah, 88-57, putting the Ducks in the conversation for a 1-seed.  They will be playing in their 14th NCAA Tournament and 4th in a row.
  • In the Southland, top seed Stephen F. Austin trounced 2-seed Texas A&M-CC, 82-60, to cap the Lumberjacks' undefeated season in conference play (the only such team in D-1 to do that this year).  They will be playing in their 4th NCAA Tournament and 3rd in a row.
  • In the SWAC, 4-seed Southern upset beat 3-seed Jackson State in a 54-53 thriller.  The Jaguars will be playing in their 9th NCAA Tournament and first since 2013.
  • In the AAC semis, 5-seed UConn all but shored up a bid by beating top seed Temple, while 6-seed Memphis dominated 10-seed Tulane, 74-54.  The Huskies will be playing in their 33rd NCAA Tournament and first since 2014, when they won the whole damn thing.  The Tigers will need to win to get in and, if they do, they will be playing in their 27th NCAA Tournament and first since 2014.
  • In the Atlantic 10 semis, 1-seed Dayton was upset by 4-seed St. Joseph's.  The Hawks are now pretty much a lock for the tournament, and will be playing in their 21st NCAA Tournament and first since 2014. In the other semi, 6-seed Davidson's chances of making the tourney likely ended, with a 76-54 thrashing at the hands of 2-seed VCU.  The Rams have likely put themselves in the Big Dance win or lose.  They will be playing in their 15th NCAA Tournament and 6th in a row.
  • In the semis of the Big Ten Tournament, 4-seed Purdue beat 8-seed Michigan, and 2-seed Michigan State beat 3-seed Maryland.  La-di-frickin'-da.
  • In the SEC, the only two teams who deserve an NCAA Tournament bid (Kentucky and Texas A&M) won, but who really gives a shit about the SEC?
  • In the Sun Belt, top seeded Arkansas-Little Rock downed 4-seed Louisiana Lafayette, while 2-seed Louisiana Monroe beat 3-seed UT-Arlington.  The Trojans will be playing for their 5th NCAA Tournament and first since 2011, while the Warhawks will be playing for their 8th NCAA Tournament and first since 1996.
  • Bubble teams that won yesterday:  Arkansas-Little Rock, Connecticut, St. Joseph's
  • Bubble teams that lost yesterday:  Akron, Davidson, Dayton, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, San Diego State, Temple
Here are the tournaments with games today, bids up for grab today, who has already clinched an automatic berth, and my predictions for the remaining conference tournaments.

Tournaments with games today
-Atlantic 10
-Big Ten
-Sun Belt

Bids up for grabs today (all times Eastern)
-Atlantic 10:  (4) St. Joseph's vs. (2) VCU (12:30 p.m.; CBS) 
-SEC:  (1) Texas A&M vs. (2) Kentucky (1 p.m.; ESPN) 
-Sun Belt:  (1) Arkansas-Little Rock vs. (2) Louisiana Monroe (1 p.m.; ESPN2) 
-Big Ten:  (4) Purdue vs. (2) Michigan State (3 p.m.; CBS) 
-AAC:  (5) Connecticut vs. (6) Memphis (3:15 p.m.; ESPN)

Already clinched automatic berths (in parentheses is the NCAA tournament appearances, including the bid just clinched)
-ACC:  North Carolina (47)
-America East:  Stony Brook (1)
-Atlantic Sun:  Florida Gulf Coast (2)
-Big 12:  Kansas (45)
-Big East:  Seton Hall (10)
-Big Sky:  Weber State (16)
-Big South:  UNC-Asheville (4)
-Big West:  Hawaii (5)
-Colonial: UNC-Wilmington (5)
-Conference USA:  Middle Tennessee State (8)
-Horizon:  Green Bay (5)
-Ivy League:  Yale (4)
-MAAC:  Iona (11)
-MAC:  Buffalo (2)
-MEAC:  Hampton (6)
-Missouri Valley:  Northern Iowa (8)
-Mountain West:  Fresno State (6)
-NEC:  Fairleigh Dickinson (5)
-OVC:  Austin Peay (7)
-Pac-12:  Oregon (14)
-Patriot League:  Holy Cross (13)
-SoCon:  Chattanooga (11)
-Southland:  Stephen F. Austin (4)
-Summit:  South Dakota State (3)
-SWAC:  Southern (9)
-WAC:  Cal State Bakersfield (1)
-WCC:  Gonzaga (19)

Remaining Tournaments (all times are Eastern)

AAC (March 10-13; Orlando)
3/13 – Finals
3:15 p.m. (ESPN) (5) Connecticut vs. (6) Memphis.  Predicted winner:  Connecticut

Atlantic 10 (March 9-13; Brooklyn)
3/13 – Finals
12:30 p.m. (CBS) (4) St. Joseph's vs. (2) VCU.  Predicted winner:  VCU

Big Ten (March 9-13; Indianapolis)
3/13 – Finals
3 p.m. (CBS) (4) Purdue vs. (2) Michigan State.  Predicted winner:  Michigan State

SEC (March 9-13; Nashville)
3/13 – Finals
1 p.m. (ESPN) (1) Texas A&M vs. (2) Kentucky.  Predicted winner:  Kentucky

Sun Belt (March 10-13; New Orleans)
3/13 – Finals
1 p.m. (ESPN2) (1) Arkansas-Little Rock vs. (2) Louisiana Monroe.  Predicted winner:  Arkansas-Little Rock

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