March Madness Starts Early: Chaos Among the Elite Tops Weekend Rewind

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IMarch 1, 2010

KNOXVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 27: J.P. Prince #30 of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates after the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Thompson-Boling Arena on February 27, 2010 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee defeated Kentucky 74-65. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Top Five Chaos Leads to Unnecessary Debate Over Who is No. 1

Kansas losing at Oklahoma State and Syracuse romping against Villanova has created quite the stir among college basketball pundits over who should be one and who should be two.

Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports and Gary Parish of CBS have Kansas No. 1 and Syracuse at two. Syracuse fans went irate on Twitter. Seth Davis has them reversed and Kansas fans are letting him have it (to be fair, he's drawing more ire from Purdue faithful over dropping them to 13).

Clearly, no matter what you vote, someone isn't going to be happy.

But guess what? It doesn't matter. If you are a KU or SU fan and you are upset about being No. 2, you aren't being level-headed. And that's not because of the old saying, "polls don't matter," but because there is really no way to differentiate the two teams.

Both schools have near identical resumes and play in two conferences of very similar strengths. The Big East and Big 12 are the top two leagues and it isn't even close. There's equally as strong arguments for and against whether losing two games at home like Syracuse did is better than losing two on the road like Kansas.

At this point, the final two weeks of the season will determine who is the top team headed into the tournament. Both schools have significant tests ahead and grueling conference tournaments. Those results will show who should be the favorite in the NCAA Tournament.

What we did learn this weekend is even with the loss, Kansas and Syracuse are on a different tier than everyone else. Kentucky is a very close third and those teams are head and shoulders above everyone else. There is no dominant fourth team this year now that Purdue lost Robbie Hummel (more on that in a second).

What has developed is a strong second tier of teams that include Duke, Kansas State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Villanova, West Virginia, and New Mexico. Those teams will range from the final one seed down to three seeds, but none of these stand out as a much better candidate to reach the Final Four.

Noticeably absent from that group is Purdue.

Boilermaker Futility

When Robbie Hummel tore his ACL, his loss was likely going to be felt more on the offensive end of the floor than the defensive end. Hummel is a solid rebounder and good defender, but his contributions defensively can be replaced.

His offensive cannot.

That was glaringly apparent Sunday afternoon.

As the nation's 38th most efficient offensive player and significant contributor to the Purdue offense, it was clear Purdue's already not-elite offense was going to fall further towards mediocrity.

Against Michigan State, the Boilermakers put up just 44 points in 65 possessions. To put that in perspective, Purdue dropped 76 points in 64 possessions the first time these two teams met.

Without Hummel, Purdue won't be able to score against the elite teams it will face once it hits the Sweet 16 (assuming Matt Painter's team can even get there). The pre-game talk over whether Purdue could still be a one seed didn't matter because one-seed, two-seed, blue fish, red fish, no matter what Purdue is seeded, it won't be reaching the Final Four.

Atlantic 10 Elite

About 10 days ago, the Atlantic 10 looked like it was elite because possibly six teams might make the tournament from the league. After Dayton, Charlotte, and Rhode Island's recent short-comings, now just Temple, Richmond, and Xavier look like they are tournament bound.

Those three teams look like three teams that can literally beat anybody. Temple beat Villanova out of league while Richmond has a handful of solid victories and Xavier has come on very strong as of late.

The top three showed of their power Sunday afternoon with Temple taking care of business against La Salle. Richmond and Xavier tipped-off in Cincinnati and played one of the best games of the season. The game was so great not because the two teams went to double-overtime (that certainly helped), but the level of basketball played by those two squads tonight was outstanding.

The offenses ran through their sets very well, but at the same time, the defenses operated at a high level, rarely falling asleep against both teams complicated systems.

The A-10's best will likely end up as four to seven seeds and frankly, the two and three seeds that draw this group in the second round should not be happy campers.

Big East Bubble

During the last 10 days, the mid-major bubble significantly shrank. Several of those spots are now occupied by Big East teams, a league that as of a few weeks ago looked like a five or six bid league.

Now the Big East should get eight, potentially even nine bids.

Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Georgetown are locks. Marquette and Louisville are closing in lock status after those schools went to Seton Hall and Connecticut today and came away with wins.

That makes seven teams locks or close to locks.

The next tier of Big East bubble teams includes Connecticut, Notre Dame, and Cincinnati. The Huskies and Fighting Irish have great league wins while the Bearcats were outstanding in the non-conference.

Cincinnati is a stretch at this point because Mick Cronin's bunch will likely finish with 13 losses and its hard to believe even with how weak the bubble is that the selection committee could put a 13-loss team in the tournament.

Notre Dame and Connecticut will play elimination games against each other the next two weeks. First, the two squads play each other Wednesday night. The winner will have a significant edge in getting the league's eighth bid.

However, the two teams are on a collision course to once again meet in the second round of the conference tournament (assuming whichever squad gets the ninth seed can beat DePaul). If they split those two games, they might knock each other out of the tournament, but if one team wins both games, then that team will definitely going dancing.

Regular Season Titles

Congrats to these teams that clinched at least shares of their conference titles:

Stony Brook in the America East

Syracuse in the Big East

Weber State in the Big Sky

Coastal Carolina in the Big South

Old Dominion in the Colonial Athletic Association

UTEP in Conference USA

Butler in the Horizon League

Cornell in the Ivy League

Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference

Oakland in the Summit League

Sam Houston State in the Southland

Wofford in the Southern Conference

Lehigh in the Patriot League

California in the Pac-10

Murray State in the Ohio Valley

Quinnipiac in the Northeast

New Mexico in the Mountain West

Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley

Morgan State in the MEAC

Siena in the MAAC

For more updates on college basketball, follow @JamesonFleming on Twitter.


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