Three weeks remain before Selection Sunday. Time to consider ‘the last four in’, ‘the last four out’, and maybe even “four score and seven years ago.”
Okay, so the last one was irrelevant.
After the conferences determine their automatic bids, 34 spots remain for the tournament selection committee to decide.
This year has the makings for multiple bids from conferences outside the big six conferences.
The Pac-10 has no team with less than eight losses. The SEC has one very good team (Kentucky), one pretty good team (Vanderbilt), and a team that could win a game in the tournament (Tennessee).
The ACC even looks pedestrian. Syracuse is the best of the five strong Big East teams. After that? There is a drop-off.
Kansas is the best team in the country. Kansas State is pretty good. But Texas and Baylor each have six losses. The Big 12 might only get five teams.
Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin should claim spots after Purdue takes the Big Ten.
That leaves plenty of bids for the taking.
The Atlantic 10 looks in position to get a few of those spots as is the Mountain West, Conference USA, and the West Coast.
When all the seeds have shaken down, could the Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference get two teams in the NCAA Tournament?
Two MAAC schools in The Dance is not completely unheard of. Since its inception in 1982, the MAAC has received one at-large bid. After St. Peter’s won the 1995 MAAC tourney, the NCAA tournament selection committee awarded Manhattan an extra spot. The Jaspers proved the committee correct by defeating Oklahoma in the first round.
Recently, MAAC schools have won a game in each of the last three NCAA Tournaments. Niagara won the 2007 play-in game by defeating Florida A&M, 77-69. Since then, Siena has taken two games. The Saints downed Vanderbilt, 83-62 in the 2008 tournament. Villanova beat Siena by eight in the next round. Last year, Fran McCaffery’s squad trimmed Ohio State by two before bowing to Louisville, 79-72.
The conference, and in particular Siena, has had recent success.
Niagara has come on of late. The Purple Eagles record of 16-13 is deceptive. Joe Mihalich’s bunch have fought through a string of injuries and are playing their best basketball at the right time.
Niagara ended Siena’s 15-game unbeaten string with a resounding 87-74 triumph. The Purple Eagles have continued with two more wins. Instead of getting caught up with ending the longest winning streak in the nation, Niagara has used the opportunity to show that win was an accurate representation of their capabilities.
Niagara could be the favorite to take the conference tournament.
Where does that leave Siena?
Opponents will point to Siena’s loss at Butler and their lack of wins against ranked teams. But the Saints have not hid from anyone. Their losses have all come on the road: at Georgia Tech, at Temple, at Northern Iowa, and at Niagara, and Butler.
Siena’s only shortcoming is the inability to bring a ranked team to their barn.
Niagara is playing their best hoops of the season. Siena has proven themselves worthy.
Can the MAAC get an at-large bid?