Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 12:00 AM
THE COLLEGE HOOPS WEEKEND NOTEBOOK:
TRACKING BUBBLE TEAMS NAMED MEMPHIS,
PITTSBURGH AND UTEP PLUS MORE
MINI-TOURNEY ACTION TOO …
THE NBA REPORT:
T-BLAZERS THE LATEST TO GET
HIT WITH THE INJURY BUG
AS SWINGMAN MATTHEWS GOES
DOWN FOR THE YEAR
So, let us ask you the following question:
Just how do 75 or 80 teams fit into a 68-team NCAA Tournament field?
The answer … they don’t!
Go ahead and look around at all the leagues that figure to get five, six or even seven teams into this month’s “Big Dance” and then start to slice off the names of the least-worthy because someone out there is not gonna make the cut.
Remember there are 32 automatic bids to be handed out to conference champions (plus the Ivy League regular-season winner) and then compute all those teams you’ve been figuring are “in” simply because they have 20 wins or maybe they own a winning record in a power conference.
Trust us, ladies and gents, we’re now one full weekend before Selection Sunday arrives and we can promise you there will be lots of hootin’ and hollerin’ from teams that don’t make this year’s already-bloated 68-team field.
Here’s some of the “bubble teams” we’re tracking this first full weekend in March:
MEMPHIS (18-12, 10-7 AAC) – The Tigers worked their way back on the bubble with Thursday’s nip-and-tuck 54-53 win at 7-point favorite UConn (remember Memphis had lost four of its last seven games prior to the win against the Huskies) but the big questions here are how many teams does the under-respected American Athletic Conference get in this tournament field and is Memphis worth selecting with no other really big road wins on the docket?
Memphis is at Cincinnati on Sunday (tips at 12 noon ET on CBS) and head coach Josh Pastner’s club – a 63-50 winner against the Cincy Bearcats back on Jan. 15th – really needs to snag this road “W” and maybe even win one game in next week’s AAC Tournament in Hartford to feel a whole lot better about its tournament chances.
P.S., the Memphis RPI (80) doesn’t exactly help the cause, ladies and gents!
PITTSBURGH (19-12, 8-9 ACC) – Gotta wonder where the “cutoff point” is when it comes to deciding what ACC teams make it to the NCAAs and which ones get left by the proverbial wayside.
The Pittsburgh Panthers – who play at frisky Florida State on Saturday – contend that a .500 mark inside one of America’s toughest conferences should be good enough for an NCAA Tourney invite but check out the RPI (60) and the fact Jamie Dixon’s gang isn’t peaking while heading down the stretch with Pitt just three-up, four-down in its last seven overall games.
Ask us and we say Pittsburgh’s on the outside looking in with a win in Tallahassee getting ‘em serious bubble talk but look down the sked and you’ll see the Panthers really beat a bunch of nobodies save for those Saturday matinee home wins against Notre Dame and North Carolina on Jan. 31st and Feb. 14th, respectively.
They were impressive wins against at-the-time ranked teams but not earth-shaking results, so the Panthers don’t get “gold stars” for them.
Hey, even if Pitt finishes regular-season play at .500 in the ACC we say it’s no great accomplishment considering the other wins came against Boston College (twice), Florida State, Georgia Tech and tourney-ineligible Syracuse (twice).
UTEP (20-9, 12-5 C-USA) – Always interesting to check out the so-called mid-major bubble teams that generally get only one or two bids and so what to do with this year’s UTEP Miners who enter Saturday’s home game against lowly Rice having won eight of their last 10 games overall but those two losses happened back-to-back on the road in late February at Louisiana Tech and at – ugh – Southern Miss!
No doubt that loss against the USM Golden Eagles was a killer and could well KO the Miners when the committee folks start rattling around all the results in their “blender”.
The Miners’ RPI is just 74 – nothing to write home about especially when you consider UTEP’s part of a four-team tie right now for second place behind Louisiana Tech and Conference USA mate Old Dominion (also 12-5 in league play) has a spiffy 45 RPI.
In other words, do the NCAA Tournament folks look at Old Dominion and UTEP and basically say to themselves … go ahead and pick one or might a UTEP win here against the Owls and at least one win in next week’s mini-tourney in Birmingham garner Tim Floyd’s defensive-minded squad a spot at the crowded 68-team table?
A quickie prediction … If one of those power conference teams that is a bubble team now loses a mini-tourney opening-round game and UTEP wins one, well, that could be the ticket!
Folks, that’s half the fun because, let’s say, Pittsburgh loses an ACC Tournament opening-round game and UTEP gets into the C-USA semifinal round, that could move the Miners in and move the Panthers out.
Extra, extra …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will keep steamrolling their way through March with loads of College Basketball winners and take special note that The Network March Madness Package includes all of this weekend’s and next week’s/weekend’s best Conference Tournament Games along with all the upcoming NCAA Tournament Games Plus all the other tournaments such as the NIT, CBI and CIT Tournies too.
Get it either right here online at www.jimhurley.com or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 – plus don’t forget we’re banging out lots of NBA Winners too these days and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month.
MORE MINI-TOURNEY ACTION
Let’s zip ‘round the land with more NCAA Basketball Conference Tournament action – otherwise known as the mini-tournies:
COLONIAL – The league wound up with a four-team tie for first place as Northeastern, William & Mary, James Madison and UNC-Wilmington all registered identical 12-and-6 conference marks (note that William & Mary won the honor of being the top seed in the tie-breakers with UNC-Wilmington at #2 and Northeastern the #3 seed).
Yes, sir, it’s gonna be a mad scramble with the championship game set for Monday night in Baltimore and note no matter how you slice it this will be a one-bid league and might we remind you that William & Mary sports the league’s best RPI (99) while Northeastern is right behind (100) but James Madison may be the hottest item on the board with six wins in its last seven games.
The Favorite: William & Mary
The Dark Horse: Drexel
WEST COAST CONFERENCE – Everyone’s wondering whether this league is gonna get two or three bids as Gonzaga (29-2, 17-1 with a RPI rank of 8) and BYU (23-8, 13-5 with an RPI rank of 40) are locks while Saint Mary’s (21-8, 13-5 and an RPI rank of 59) may need to do some fancy foot-stepping in order to make the 68-team field.
The Gaels could well be in that mode where they have to get to the WCC Championship Game or else … again, lots depend on the power conference bubble teams that could play their way out of things if they aren’t careful.
The WCC Tournament tipped off Friday night with a pair of first-round games but we’re not expecting the likes of San Francisco, Pacific, Santa Clara nor Loyola (Ca) to be still standing come the mini-tourney’s always-exciting semifinal round come Monday night in Las Vegas.
The Favorite: Gonzaga
The Dark Horse: Portland
SOUTHERN CONFERENCE – This 10-team league tipped off its mini-tourney with a pair of Friday night games (that was Samford vs. UNC-Greensboro and The Citadel vs. Furman) but those were mere appetizers to what should be a fun weekend in Ashville (NC) as top seed Wofford (25-6, 16-2 with a nifty RPI rank of 49) and Chattanooga (22-9, 15-3 with a more normalized RPI rank of 101) are the belles of the ball here and – interestingly enough – these teams each won on the other guy’s court this year with Wofford nabbing a 68-64 triumph at Chattanooga back on Jan. 5th while the “Choo-Choos” won at Wofford 56-46 back on Feb. 12th.
And may we remind y’all that this is the league the Mercer Bears play in – they’re only 17-14 overall this season and 12-6 in Southern Conference play with an under-par RPI of 202 but they did beat Duke last year before getting beaten by Tennessee.
The Favorite: Wofford
The Dark Horse: Mercer
SUMMITT LEAGUE – This rather mix-and-match 10-team league tips off Saturday night in Sioux Falls (SD) but the meaty stuff comes when we get to the semifinal round ‘cause the likes of South Dakota State (21-9, 12-4), North Dakota State (20-9, 12-4) and Oral Roberts (17-13, 12-6) all should be standing here and this will really be a knockout round with the key trying to get an “easy win” in the quarterfinals.
Note that South Dakota State’s 88 RPI is the only one in the league in the top 100 and Jackrabbits (averaging 73 points a game or second-best in the Summitt League) will count on the one-two scoring punch of Cody Larson and Deondre Parks (combine for 28.3 ppg).
The Favorite: South Dakota State
The Dark Horse: IPFW
THE NBA REPORT
Okay, so this NBA season is a long, long way from being finished but rest assured it’s gonna long be remembered for all the massive injuries to key players – and now we can unfortunately add the name of Portland Trail Blazers swingman Wesley Matthews (ruptured Achilles tendon) to the list.
Matthews went down in a heap in the third quarter of Thursday night’s 94-75 home win against the 3-point underdog Dallas Mavericks – the Blazers can only keep fingers crossed that trade deadline pick-ups Arron Afflalo and/or Alonzo Gee can pick up the slack but remember we’re talking about a guy that was averaging 15.9 ppg for a rampaging club that entered Saturday’s road game in Minnesota riding a five-game winning streak and with a snazzy 41-19 mark overall – at press time that’s good enough for third place in the stellar NBA Western Conference.
Earlier this year the Blazers learned star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (23.3 ppg) had a broken bone in his left (no-shooting hand) thumb that caused him to miss seven games and so while Portland apparently dodged a big bullet there, the Matthews injury is a here-and-now killer.
Yes, we’re heard the rumors that Ray Allen may be talked out of retirement to try and fill Matthews’ spot but, folks, this was one of the great “third wheels” in the league this year behind the Aldridge/Damion Lillard combo.
Too bad we won’t be able to see what this team could do now full strength but, hey, everyone else has had major injuries/ailments this year and so why should Portland be cut any real breaks, right?
In fact, you could have filled up an all-NBA First-Team and Second-Team with all the injuries to “name players” and so the time-worn phrase of “attrition” may be truly applicable for this year’s NBA.
Good luck, Blazers. You’ll need it!
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 week as the real onslaught occurs 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!