BracketEliminators: Yet another weekend of carnage for mid-majors
In the classic 1983 film
Another year of BracketEliminators has come and gone and the carnage left behind looks familiar. The Missouri Valley's dreams of an at-large? Wiped out in 24 hours when Wichita State, Missouri State and Northern Iowa all lost, two at home. Saint Mary's at-large safety net? Torn by desperate Utah State, which still isn't assured of its own safety despite an impressive road rally. Horizon leader Cleveland State? Well, the Vikings did need to try to get a quality win, but couldn't do it at Old Dominion.
Besides the Colonial Athletic Association, which is rolling toward a landmark three-bid season after all of its top teams notched important wins, you know who else is laughing? Butler, Gonzaga and a host of other middling high-major teams that watched as a handful of bubble competitors ate a crippling loss. You know, the teams that didn't play in the event.
Scheduling is difficult at this level and the enticement of national TV time and a next-season rematch is significant, but year after year, seemingly more harm than good is done to the marquee teams that participate. A full weekend of good, quality mid-major basketball may be good for us viewers, but it sure doesn't seem like smart business for those involved.
Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) and SOS (Strength of Schedule) data are from Sunday's collegerpi.com RPI report.
GW = good wins
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Duke was a primary beneficiary of the nationwide upset parade, slipping into
Both Big 12 heavyweights took unexpected road body blows and the race for No. 1 seeds in the NCAAs has gotten very muddled. Equally confusing is the middle of this league for at-large purposes. It's the most variable high-major league left in the nation. Texas A&M joins the lock fun after squeaking past Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Even somehow losing out now probably wouldn't knock them out of the Dance.
Time to conserve paper. The top nine teams in the Big East are all clearly going dancing. Now can Cincinnati and/or Marquette make it 10 or 11? Pitt is the best candidate for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs, but is the going too tough for anyone to hold on as teams in other conferences may run the table?
The Buckeyes have lost twice in three games, but with the defeats coming at Wisconsin and at Purdue, their overall profile for a No. 1 seed remains fairly solid. Like the Big 12, the more confounding part of the story is in the middle of the conference, where teams are backsliding like it's their job.
Arizona held off Washington in a terrific game on a sensational block (that may have been a goaltend, but it was a 52-48 call and I was fine with a no-call in that situation) by Derrick Williams. Lock 'em up, as the Wildcats are strongly positioned now to win the league, especially after UCLA's OT loss at Cal that puts the 'Cats a full two games ahead heading to L.A.
Alabama is continuing to make itself into an intriguing bubble debate. The Commodores get locked up. They'll finish above .500 in the league and have enough good wins to sail into the NCAAs. Kentucky more or less confirmed its NCAA spot with two strong home wins, but the remaining schedule is rough, so one more week won't hurt to see how the Wildcats handle the road again.
The two best teams in a league that will get at least two bids will get locked up as they keep doing what they need to do. Richmond is pushing for a third slot, but that bad effort at Temple won't help.
The beat goes on for the two best teams in the league, with San Diego State keeping the inside track on the league title by winning at UNLV and keeping pace with BYU with the home rematch still in its pocket. Below them, though, there's a shake-up underway. UNLV fans, start to get nervous.
BracketEliminators forced a thorough shuffling of the order in this category, with a couple of CAA teams moving up a level and heading toward safety. Could two brand names in this category be on their way to sneaking into the bracket after being left for dead several weeks ago?