Just like a college grad presenting his resume to get a new job, all of the college basketball teams are presenting their resumes to the selection committee hoping they will be chosen. In the end it will all come down to perception.
If the committee’s objective is to get the best teams in and they use the same criteria, then you may be able to disagree with one or two, but not many. In order to get the best teams you have to look at the conference strength, as well as how they performed against the best teams in their conference and the country.
Conference strength is a tricky thing, but it has to be part of the equation, especially when dealing with the power conferences. Let’s look at how they break down.
Big Ten Conference
No one denies that Michigan State is the class of this conference, and that they are probably a two seed in the tournament. Illinois, Purdue, and Ohio State are in the tournament as well, but if you look at the conference as a whole it looks mediocre at best.
Penn State has 22 wins, but no signature wins. The best thing you can say about them is that they beat Illinois twice. The same with Wisconsin. There isn’t a real big win on their resume that sets them apart.
Minnesota and Michigan finished with identical 9 - 9 conference records in the conference. Even though they have 22 wins, Minnesota has lost 9 of their last 15 games overall, all to conference foes. That is not worthy of an at large bid.
Michigan has a win over UCLA early in the year, but they have lost 10 of their last 17 games, so they have limped to the finish line as well and are not in a position to get an at large bid.
Penn State is firmly on the bubble. Losses to Temple at home, and to Rhode Island early in the year at a neutral site don’t help, as well as a loss to Iowa on the road to Iowa that they needed, but they should be able to sneak in.
The conference is evenly balanced and pretty competitive but that can be deceiving. Is it because there are a lot of good teams that keep knocking each other off, or is it because they are all mediocre? I will go with mediocre, and only slot five teams from this conference for the tournament.
South Eastern Conference
The SEC is the weakest it has been in recent history. Florida was the class of the conference, but they are no longer championship material. When you see Vanderbilt and Kentucky close to the bottom of the conference standings, you know they have fallen on hard times.
Florida is out. No signature wins, and they played a weak schedule, so their 23 wins are without merit. Vanderbilt and Kentucky are also out.
Auburn has been playing better of late, even though they lost to Tennessee in the conference semi-finals. They are firmly on the bubble, and probably will be rooting for Tennessee to beat Mississippi State in the championship game so State doesn’t eliminate another at large bid.
It would be a nice story if MSU wins and qualifies for the tournament, but at this point the SEC would be fortunate to get three teams in. LSU is in, and the winner of Tennessee and MSU is in, but after that it doesn’t look good.
The conference is too weak this year to take a chance on another team. Tennessee possibly, but you would be better off taking a bubble team from a better conference because of the level of competition.
Arguably the best conference in college basketball. Two of their teams will be one seeds. Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Connecticut are the cream of the crop. Villanova, Marquette and Syracuse are not far behind and will have a chance to strut their stuff in the tournament.
West Virginia is on the bubble, but they had a good showing at the Big East tournament beating Pitt. Other than beating Villanova their resume might be a little wanting, but 23 wins in this conference will be enough.
Providence has a victory over Pitt as well, but early losses to Northwestern and Saint Mary’s don’t look good, so they are pretty much out of the mix.
Seven teams should make it from the Big East. Anything less than that would be a surprise.
Atlantic Coast Conference
Along with the Big East, the ACC can also lay claim to being the best conference. The usual suspects will qualify for the NCAA’s. North Carolina (probably a one seed), Duke, and Wake Forest are the cream.
Florida State has had a very good season and is a lock, along with Clemson and Boston College. Maryland is a question mark in peoples mind, but they do have wins over Wake Forest and North Carolina.
What we have here is another strength of conference issue. I think Maryland should get the benefit of the doubt here. Even though they have bad blow-out losses early on to Georgetown, and Gonzaga, and have a recent loss to a bad Virginia team, it might not matter in the end.
I think the ACC should get seven teams in, along with the Big East.
Pacific 10 Conference
The USC Trojans are in as a result of upsetting Arizona State in the conference championship game. That is bad news for Arizona, and I don’t think they have a prayer. Losing five of your last six games won’t impress anyone.
Washington, UCLA, Arizona State, and California are also in. This has been somewhat of a down year for the PAC 10, as some of the names we are used to seeing at the top of the conference standings are having down years.
Stanford and Arizona will miss the NCAA’s this year, but look to rebound next year. Arizona State has improved and is a lock after being wrongfully snubbed last year.
Big Twelve Conference
This conference may have turned out to be the most competitive of them all. Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri are all ranked in the top twenty, so they are locks.
What we are not used to seeing is Texas having to scramble just to get an at large bid. They beat Oklahoma the last time they played, but had to go to overtime to beat the worst team in the conference (Colorado) last month, and lost to Baylor in their conference tournament.
The problem is that Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Texas A&M have the same conference record as Texas (9-7). What do you do? Do you put them all in the tournament, or leave a couple of them out? There is not much between the four teams.
I think they will get six, but one will be left out. My guess is that it might be Kansas State, but you never know.
Selection Sunday will be interesting, and there will be surprises and hurt feelings for sure, but at least in the end we will have a worthy national champion.