Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 9:05 AM
Okay, with all the talk about "bubble teams" and "strength of schedule" and "RPI" and "BPI" these days we'd like to take a moment and set the record straight when it comes to a trio of power conference teams ...Hey-we're talking to you Illinois, Colorado and Iowa State-y'all still have work to do in order to get an invitation to this year's NCAA Tournament bash!
Maybe you've seen all those "Last Four In" and "First Four Out" lists that the ESPN family of networks assaults us with every few minutes during these last few weeks of games-what, is bracketologist Joe Lunardi on 24-hour call or something?-but the fact of the matter is none of the above-mentioned trio of teams should be resting easy right now on their respective won/loss records because we say all of'em must tack up at least a couple of more "W's" or else they could be part of this year's dreaded NIT field.
We'll get to the team-by-team forecasts in just a moment here in today's Jim Sez plus we'll clue you in on the Colonial Athletic Conference Tournament that tips off Saturday afternoon in Richmond but first this very important reminder ...
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Here's those "work-to-do" teams that we mentioned above:
ILLINOIS (21-10, 8-9 Big 10) - Forget for a moment the concept that any team with a below-.500 record in its conference doesn't "deserve" to get a spot in the NCAA Tournament field because we wouldn't want that to be some cut-and-dried 100 percent "rule".
Still, the fact does remain that entering play last night the Fighting Illini were in seventh place in the 12-team Big 10 and they could drop to as low as ninth place by the time the conference tourney in Chicago rolls around beginning March 14th and than the question comes does a ninth-place team in a power conference really belong in the NCAAs?
Illinois-following Tuesday's 63-55 loss at 5-point favorite Iowa -- has dropped two of its last three games after a scintillating five-game SU (straight-up) winning streak that did feature wins against Indiana and at Minnesota but with a road game at Ohio State on tap for Sunday (note Illinois won the first meeting with Ohio State 74-55 back on January 5th) the picture is pretty clear than the Illini must win at least two games in the Big 10 Tourney or else beat the Buckeyes this weekend and nab at least one win in the mini-tourney fray.
So, let's not see all those hoop "experts" out there including Illinois into the NCAA Tourney field just yet ... okay?
COLORADO (19-9, 9-7 Pac-12) - Gotta admit that the 2012-13 CU Buffaloes have passed our personal "eye test" more than once with a recent 65-63 upset road win at Stanford convincing us that Tad Boyle's club is the real deal but the numbers don't lie and the numbers say this Colorado club still has work to do.
Listen up, guys and gals:
Consider that right now Colorado's tied with USC for fifth place in the league and the general assumption is that only five teams from this conference will make it to this year's "Big Dance" and so the regular-season-ending home games against Oregon (tonight) and Oregon State (on Saturday afternoon) are true "must-win" games in our book -- or at the very least the Buffs can do no worse than a split here and than take at least one game in the Pac-12 Tournament that starts up Wednesday in Las Vegas.
Colorado's best out-of-league wins are against Baylor, Dayton and Murray State-that's right, NBD (no big deal) -- while the 90-54 loss at Kansas still stings and ditto for a non-league loss at Wyoming earlier this round-ball season.
True, Colorado is a rock-solid 8-3 SU in its last 11 games overall-that's a help in getting into the tourney, for sure-but work's still to be done to seal the deal. Trust us!
IOWA STATE (20-10, 10-7 Big 12)-Yes, we were watching last night when the Cyclones battered the visiting and 3-point underdog Oklahoma State Cowboys 87-76 as do-everything guy Will Clyburn registered his nifty stat-sheet stuffing line of 20 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds and we give Iowa State a round of applause for earning win #20.
Still hear us out:
No doubt the I-State Cyclones have a good-news/bad-news deal going when it comes to making this year's NCAA Tournament:
The good news is Fred Hoiberg's squad now owns wins against the likes of Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Baylor. The bad news is all of'em came at home as Iowa State really/truly doesn't own a signature road win this year unless you believe the 87-82 win at Baylor back on February 20th was something to write home about (and it wasn't!).
And that's the catch with the'Clones:
They have a winning record in a Big 12 that's admittedly top-heavy this year but is that enough when you appear to be a one-dimensional side with only success at home?
The sked calls for a tilt at free-falling West Virginia on Saturday-a win there for Iowa State ices the deal and even though you saw everyone back-slapping last night in the closing moments of the win against Okie State, we say there's still work to do for the Cyclones.
In other NCAA Basketball News & Notes ...
Here's a couple of headliners from last night's action'round the land:
Georgia Tech's wild and wacky 71-69 last-second win at 13-point favorite Miami not only prevented the Hurricanes from clinching an outright ACC regular-season crown but it spread more doubt as to whether or not Jim Larranaga's crew may be running low on fuel.
The'Canes (23-6, 14-3)-who were outscored 39-26 after intermission by an offensively-challenged Georgia Tech squad-did shoot an efficient 24-of-50 from the floor (that's 48 percent) and PG Shane Larkin pup up his usual stat line with 12 points and 7 assists but that little extra zip in Miami's game has disappeared with losses to Wake Forest, Duke and Georgia Tech all coming the past couple of weeks. Might this team that once-upon-a-time dreamed of being the #1 overall seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament now be eyeballing a major slide down to the #3 seed line? Could be the case ...
Major blow last night for the UCLA Bruins (22-8, 12-5) who lost at Washington State 73-61-a game the Uclans trailed 17-2 right out of the proverbial chute.
The Bruins had won their last eight consecutive games against Wazzau and couldn't win despite the fact the Cougars played without Mike Ladd (knee) and DaVonte Lacy (knee) who represent WSU's second- and third-leading scorers, respectively.
P.S., UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad shot a woeful 4-of-19 from the floor for 14 points in the road tilt and so maybe all that chatter in recent days regarding his soon-to-be NBA future served as a major distraction for he and his team.
And UCLA head coach Ben Howland-who broached the subject in an interview last week-is as much to blame as Muhammad or any other UCLA official/player who chose to discuss the matter.
MORE MINI-TOURNEY PREVIEWS-THE COLONIAL CONFERENCE
COLONIAL ATHLETIC CONFERENCE-at Richmond Coliseum, Richmond VA
The Colonial Athletic Conference sports a new look this year with #1 seed Northeastern (19-11, 14-4) drawing a first-round bye but this will be a wide-open battle royal for three days with #2 seed Delaware sporting the best backcourt starring Devon Saddler (20.2 ppg) and ever-active Jarvis Threat (13.1 ppg and 5.7 rpg) and keep in mind Delaware's penchant to play every single opponent close with a slew of one- and two-point final scores in recent weeks while #3 seed James Madison should not be ignored.
Still, if Northeastern-averaging a CAA-best 70.1 ppg-can get guard Joel Smith (16.5 ppg) cranking than the Huskies should get "mission accomplished" here.
The Favorite: Northeastern
The Dark Horse: James Madison
NOTE: Stay on top of all the College Basketball action all week long right here at Jim Sez and get our weekend previews in the next Jim Sez column.