Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 1:31 PM
Okay, so without exaggerating or anything, there's approximately 85-to-90 College Basketball teams attempting to fit into the 68-team field of NCAA Tournament squads that will be announced to the world next Sunday, March 16th shortly after 6 p.m. Eastern time.
Maybe you're one of the folks who has gotten all caught up in the BPI and RPI and strength of schedule bits that the ESPN folks have been floating your way for weeks now but we'll discard those rather arbitrary numbers/figures and give you "gut feel" opinions/comments here in today's Jim Sez
So, here's three teams that might think that they're in good shape when it comes to entrance into the NCAA but they really should be worried ...
UMASS (23-6, 10-5 Atlantic-10) - No doubt the Massachusetts Minutemen have to be happy that they will enter Sunday's game at Saint Louis having won six of their last eight games but here's a couple of problem spots for the Amherst gang:
Right now they're in fourth place in an Atlantic-10 Conference that could well be a three-bid league when all's said and done and - save for an upset win in Saint Loo this weekend - we believe the Minutemen probably have to win two games in Brooklyn in next week's A-10 Tournament just to gain the NCAA Tournament Committee's attention.
Hey, a win against VCU certainly counts for something but that late-year loss to George Mason hurts. Just have a feeling UMass believes it's "in" and right now we could see that bubble get burst as Saint Louis, VCU and St. Joseph's all get in from the A-10 while UMass does not. Sense of urgency time has arrived, UMass!
MISSOURI (21-9, 9-8 SEC) - The Mizzou Tigers are probably feelin' pretty good about their chances to get into this year's NCAA Tournament field.
After all, the Columbia kids already have banked 20-plus wins and they do play in one of the country's seven so-called power conferences but hear us out for a moment:
The Tigers are a rather ordinary 8-7 SU (straight-up) since the middle of January and the best wins during the past month-plus were a five-point home triumph over Tennessee and a four-point road victory at Arkansas but keep in mind that win in Fayetteville was Missouri's lone conference road win in seven tries since Jan. 15th. Not good.
Plus, Mizzou has hardly passed our own personal "eye test" as two losses to Georgia were abominable and so while the Tigers may think they're on the inside right now, we say between the regular-season finale against Tennessee and the upcoming SEC Tournament in Atlanta that Frank Haith's crew better win a game or two just to prove they can win outside their own back yard.
Don't hand Missouri an at-large bid just yet - despite what the "experts" might be saying these days. The rug may soon enough get pulled from beneath Missouri's collective high-tops!
WISCONSIN-GREEN BAY (24-5, 14-2 Horizon League) - There should always be a fear among mid-major or smaller conference teams that have won their regular-season crowns that the feat alone won't be enough to carry 'em into the NCAAs.
Take the Wisky-Green Bay Phoenix who do boast a significant non-conference win against Virginia this year (see 75-72 back on Dec. 7th) and we applaud the fact G-Bay is 15-2 SU since the start of the new calendar year but to assume Brian Wardle's team is a lead-pipe cinch for the "Big Dance" might be a big mistake and so Green Bay had better win the normally one-bid Horizon League Tournament or they could wind up on that bubble while going against majors Utah, Xavier, St. John's and Baylor for an NCAA Tourney bid.
P.S., you just might see Green Bay be a bit "tight" in this mini-tourney, so don't say you were not warned!
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COLLEGE BASKETBALL NEWS & NOTES
Okay, so we agree with the TV talking heads this week who were selling us on the fact that Villanova head coach Jay Wright has done one of the best under-the-radar great coaching jobs in the land - the Big East regular-season champs enter Saturday's home tilt against old rival Georgetown with a spiffy 27-3 overall mark and the 'Cats are 15-2 in Big East play.
Yes, it ain't the same Big East as yesteryear when the likes of Syracuse, UConn and Pittsburgh gobbled up a slew of mini-tourney titles in New York City (and let's not forget about last year's national champ Louisville) but Wright's been masterful with a team that - trust us - has plenty of warts.
Still, when you dig a little deeper to find who's really done a wonderful job and yet has received next-to-no national notice, we tend to feast our orbs on veteran San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher.
Consider that his SDSU Aztecs (26-3, 15-2 in the Mountain West Conference) actually have won 25 of their last 27 games overall since a mid-November loss to mighty Arizona and did you know that San Diego State's 8-2 SU on the road since Jan. 1st and that, of course, includes the monumental win at Kansas that merely shocked the hoops world back on Jan. 5th.
Okay, so maybe everyone thinks Fisher gets better talent than any/all Mountain West Conference teams but go back to mid-October when it was announced that San Diego State was forecast to finish fourth in the MWC - behind New Mexico, UNLV and Boise State - and yet here we sit in early March and San Diego State is ranked 10th nationally in this week's Associated Press Top 25 and we're fairly certain that the Aztecs will land either a #3 or #4 seed in this month's NCAA Tournament.
Where's the all-knowing hoop folks to celebrate Fisher's fabulous year?
Well, we say "congrats" and maybe this is 1989 all over again for the former Fab Five sideline boss who won the national title that year with pre-Fab Five talent as Michigan snagged a stirring overtime triumph over Seton Hall ... go ahead and "google" it if you don't believe us!
No doubt the coaching jobs done by the likes of current Michigan boss John Beilein, Nebraska coach Tim Miles and Wichita State's Gregg Marshall are tough to top but trust us when we tell you Fisher's job is among the top three- or four-best borides of work done this year and we're sitting up and taking notice even if the public at large has not!
NOTE: Catch all our weekend NCAA Basketball wrap-up information in the very next edition of Jim Sez plus we'll preview a batch of Conference Tournaments too as mini-tournies get revved up next Tuesday in Conference USA and then Wednesday really begins the onslaught as the following league get this tournies underway: The ACC, the Pac-12, the Mountain West, the Big East, the Atlantic-10, the American Athletic, the SEC and the Big 12!