February 27, 2012
We have a couple weeks to go before the NCAA tournament begins and even though we will have more teams qualified than ever before, there are going to be quite a few teams that get left out. Every year, one of the great debates among fans is who was left out that deserved an invite and who made it that was undeserving. Here's a look a couple of squads that some of the major conference teams will be thrilled they might not have to face because of the possibility of being left out.
Drexel (16-2 CAA, 25-5): They currently lead the Colonial and have won 23 of their last 24 games -- including 17 in a row, but will have to win the conference tournament to get in according to many experts. VCU and George Mason will both be tough games for Drexel in their tournament and if Drexel does lose, the NCAA suits making decisions may cite Drexel's lack of a quality win against a top-50 RPI team.
It would be a shame if at least two teams from the Colonial teams weren't given bids as we've seen them wreck bracketology twice in the last few years with George Mason and VCU both making the Final Four. The quality of play in their conference may be the most underrated of any in the land.
As for bettors around they world, they already know how good Drexel is when their money is on the line. They have covered 14 of their last 17 games, and three in a row, despite a rapidly increased rating on them along the way. If the oddsmakers got to hand out invitations for the NCAA's, Drexel would be a lock to make it as an at-large bid.
Harvard (10-2 Ivy, 24-4): The Crimson looked to have the automatic bid for winning the Ivy League in the bag, but a loss to Penn on Saturday gave them both two losses with Harvard having two games left (at Columbia and Cornell) and Penn having three. Since there is no conference tournament, should the two teams end in a tie there would be a one-game playoff to decide who represents the Ivy in the NCAA's. Even though Harvard has been ranked and has big wins against Florida State and St Joseph's this year, if they lost the one-game playoff, getting an at-large bid may be a tall task.
Dayton (8-6 A-10, 18-10): Just when it looked like we stuck a fork in Dayton's chances of making the NCAA's after a four-game losing streak, they've gone on to win four of their last five, including a 33-point drubbing of UMass on Saturday. At the moment, three teams (Temple, Xavier, and Saint Louis) figure to get invitations. But with a good showing to close out the season and possibly one upset in the A-10 tournament, Dayton may have a shot at sneaking in. In addition to quality wins within the A-10 against all the top teams, they also have wins against major conference teams like Alabama, Mississippi, Minnesota, and Wake Forest.
Colorado State (7-5 MWC, 17-10): Top to bottom, there may not be a tougher conference in college basketball and it's nice to see the RPI reflect it with the Mountain West at No. 5 overall. With three teams looking like they'll get a bid for sure, there is a small chance that Colorado State could get some love from the committee as a fourth entry, but it might take a win against UNLV Wednesday night to do so and then maybe even a win against one of the MWC big-3 in the tournament.
The team making a hard charge to the top that could do some damage to the Rams chances is TCU, who has won four of their last five games (covered the spread in all five), including wins against Colorado State, UNLV, and a 19-point win against New Mexico Saturday. Their RPI doesn't stack up with CSU, but TCU's outside shooting gives them a shot against anyone and could be a great team to back early on in the MWC tournament. The Horned Frogs close out the regular season at Wyoming and at home against San Diego State.
The losses within the MWC by the top teams doesn't take much away from them compared to the boost that it gives the conference's overall value come selection day. When middle tiered conference teams are taking the best to the brink with wins and narrow losses, coupled with huge wins against other major conferences, it tells everyone who matters that the Mountain is quality basketball.
Hot and Cold Streaks Against-the-Spread:
Utah: The Utes are still a miserable team within the woeful Pac-12 despite beating Stanford on Saturday for their third conference win, but they've gotten the money over their last five games. They've been double-digit dogs in their last nine games, losing the first four, but have played better than their rating over the last five. We'll see how the streak fares this week as they're at the two Oregon schools this week and will again be large 'dogs.
Duquesne: The Dukes had a challenge issued to them three weeks ago where their future play could get them into the big dance and as they proceeded to fail, they got progressively worse as the inevitable became apparent to all on the team. They have lost four of their last five and haven't covered any of the games over that stretch. Up next to close out the season is a game at Charlotte and at home against Saint Louis.
Marquette: They've covered their last five and nine of their last 11 and have been just as good on the road as they've been at home. They've rolled through the Big East with only 3 losses and look to be a strong long shot candidate to win the NCAA's at 50-to-1.
West Virginia: They might be one of the most disappointing teams this season, struggling at home (4 straight losses) and losing seven of their last nine. They've only covered once in their last seven games and don't look to be too excited about making things any better going into Big East tournament play.
Syracuse: The Orange may only have one loss one the season, but their inflated power rating has surpassed their ability over their last six games. They've failed to cover the number in their last four and five of the last six.
Villanova: One of the better bi-weekly teams to bet against is the 'Cats. They've failed to cover their last eight games going 1-7 straight-up.