It's been a while. With two and three games a week from January to early March, this is the first weekend I have been able to contribute to Basketballforum.com. So here goes...
This post, part of a weekly series from BlackandGreen on BasketballForum.com, can be found at the weekly blog here.
Conference tournament week is the first of four straight weekends of non-stop college basketball. Simply the best time of the year. These tournaments provide small schools automatic bids to the Big Dance and strong middle-of-the-pack sides the opportunity to move up on the bubble.
The Bracket Project is a compliation of the 52 best bracket predictions nationwide. It's final four at-large teams in the tournament are Illinois State (Missouri Valley Conference), Arizona State (Pac-10), Ohio State (Big Ten), and Villanova (Big East). The last four teams out of the tournament are Oregon (Pac-10), St. Joseph's (Atlantic 10), New Mexico (Mountian West), and Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial). Who has done their best to improve their position on the bubble and who has hurt their chances in the final week of the season?
Illinois State- Took care of business until the Missouri Valley finals. Getting blown out by 30 against Drake leaves a poor final taste in their mouths, but did what they needed last week to stay on the right side of the bubble- B-
Arizona State- A phantom foul call against USC killed their chances for the upset. They needed to win that game to feel safe on Sunday- C-
Ohio State- Played Michigan State tough, but needed a win to be safe- C-
Villanova- Beat Syracuse to make their case as the 8th Big East team. An upset of Georgetown would have made the Wildcats feel safer, but losing to a top 10 team was expected- B-
Oregon- Needed to beat Washington State to make the tournament. 1-8 against four best teams in league- D+
St. Joseph's- The 5 seed in the Atlantic 10 Conference made the best case of any team in the nation in the final week. Beating Xavier in the Semis could put them over the top. A win tomorrow completes their improbable run through the tournament and snatches up an automatic bid.- A-
New Mexico- Lost in overtime to Utah and needed to make a better run to have a chance- D+
Virginia Commonwealth- Getting knocked off in the semis by William & Mary means the Rams could not pick up the league's automatic bid. Now must wait it out on Selection Sunday. Not looking good- D+
Lots of bubble teams struggling to make strong final impressions in the final week means that no one can be fully counted out. Only St. Joseph's has really seen their stock rise. Look for Villanova and Illinois State to hang onto final bids by doing the bare minimum. Oregon, New Mexico, and Virginia Commonwealth all may have played their way out of the tournament.