Random thoughts on the state of intercollegiate athletics from the editor of SouthernCollegeSports.com...
< WEDNESDAY :: 02.15.06 :: 10:05:00 PM >
ON THEIR WAY OUT
A number of teams are currently in the process of playing their way out of the NCAA Tournament...
Indiana: The Hoosiers are 13-9 overall and 5-6 in the Big Ten after Wednesday's loss at Penn State. IU has lost four straight and six of their last seven.
Syracuse: After being blown out by Cincinnati at home on Wednesday, the Orange is 17-8 overall and 5-6 in Big East action. SU has won just two of its last eight and has three teams ranked among the top 20 in the country still remaining on their schedule.
Arkansas: The Hogs dropped a big one at Mississippi on Wednesday, meaning the Hogs are now 16-8 and 5-6 in SEC play. UA has won two straight SEC games only once all season and still has two teams ranked in the top ten left on their schedule.
Iowa State: If the Cyclones weren't out before, they probably are now. Wednesday's home loss to Nebraska drops ISU to 4-7 in the Big XII and just 14-10 overall. Iowa State has now lost four of their last five games.
Maryland: The Terps' Tuesday night loss at Clemson dropped the team to 15-9 overall and 5-6 in ACC play. UM has dropped five of their last six and will play three of their last five regular season games away from home.
Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton is truly a college basketball legend, and it's a shame to seem him (apparently) leaving the game in the manner that he is. In case you missed the story, the Cowboy coach wrecked his vehicle last week and was later charged with DUI. In a late Wednesday night press conference, Sutton admitted he has an alcohol problem and will seek treatment immediately. Sean Sutton, Eddie's son, will take over the team as has been expected for a number of years. Although the elder Sutton deserves great respect for his accomplishments as a coach, he also deserves criticism for the example he set for his players, especially considering what a young squad Oklahoma State has on the floor this year. In a day and age where every mistake high-profile athletes make is in the national spotlight, how can you expect players to act responsibily when their head coach is not doing the same?
< SATURDAY :: 02.11.06 :: 10:20:00 PM >
YOU GOTTA LOVE THE MVC
As we approach another week of college hoops action, we again have a four-way tie atop the Missouri Valley Conference standings. Saturday saw Creighton lose at Southern Illinois, Wichita State beat Indiana State, and Northern Iowa get upset by Missouri State. So at the day's end, all of the aforementioned squads except the Bears are tied for the MVC lead with matching 11-4 records. MO State is a couple games back at 9-6. This conference has been as competitive as any in the country this fall and a joy to watch. And what's better? Just think about what the conference tourney is going to be like!
KENTUCKY BACK ON THE BUBBLE
With the Wildcats' loss at Vanderbilt on Saturday, UK is now squarely back on the NCAA bubble after three straight losses. Kentucky is 5-5 in SEC play, and the general rule is that you must finish at .500 in your conference to go to the Dance. With that in mind, consider the Cats' last six games: vs Georiga, at South Carolina, vs Mississippi, at LSU, at Tennessee, vs Florida. The home games against the Dawgs and Rebels, while not easy, should both be wins. The road games at LSU and UT don't looking promising. So assuming UK splits those four, they must win at least one, whether it's UF at home or USC on the road. Wow. Is it really possible that the NCAA Tournament could be played without the Kentucky Wildcats?
IOWA WON...ON THE ROAD?!
The Hawkeyes have proven to be dominant (14-0) at home, but things haven't been so great on the road (i.e. losses at Purdue and Northwestern). But Iowa pulled off a huge victory away from home on Saturday, going to Bloomington, IN and knocking off the Hoosiers. The victory will leave the Hawks in a tie for first place with either Illinois or Ohio State heading into the new week after those two teams meet on Sunday.
< THURSDAY :: 02.09.06 :: 08:10:00 PM >
SEC IN THE NCAA
IN: Tennessee, Florida, and LSU all look like NCAA locks at this point. If the Vols can keep winning and claim the SEC regular season title, they could work themselves into a two seed....or possibly even better.
IN FOR NOW: Kentucky's recent success after their slow start puts the 'Cats in the Dance for now. The same could be said for Alabama, though the Tide's hopes are probably a bit more shaky. Which is saying a lot since both of these teams have a ton of work to do over the next four or five weeks if they wish to go dancing in 2006.
ON THE BUBBLE: Arkansas is just a game under .500 in league play, but the Hogs' RPI is in the 60's. Still, UA is the SEC's best chance to get a sixth team into the Big Dance.
ON THE BUBBLE: No other SEC team is at .500 in league play or has an RPI among the top sixty in the country. However, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Georgia, and Mississippi State have all shown brief flashes of brilliance and could be dangerous in the league tourney.
< WEDNESDAY :: 02.08.06 09:00:00 PM >
PAC-10 IN THE NCAA
IN: UCLA looks to be the only team guaranteed a spot in next month's bracket. The Bruins clearly have the best overall record in the league, and the team's RPI is among the top twelve in the country.
IN FOR NOW: Washington looked like a sure bet about a month ago, but the Huskies have stumbled to a 5-5 start to league play, and UW's RPI is outside the top 50 nationally. California's RPI is a bit better than the Huskies', and the Bears are a much better 8-3 in Pac-10 action. Both would be in today, but each has plenty of work to do over the next few weeks.
ON THE BUBBLE: Arizona, like Washington, has found the Pac-10 road a bit bumpy, stumbling their way to a 6-5 start to conference play. The Wildcats' RPI, however, is among the top 20 in the country, which is certainly in their favor. Stanford was pathetic in non-conference action but has sprinted out to an 8-3 mark in Pac-10 games. The Cardinal's RPI, thanks to that bad out-of-conference showing, is in the 70's, however. Southern Cal is the only other league team with a .500-plus record in league play, and though the Trojans have some nice wins on the resume, their triple-digit RPI is likely to bite them in the end.
ELSEWHERE: Oregon has disappointed, and though Oregon State, Washington State, and Arizona State have all picked up a few nice wins here and there, each's NCAA hopes lie in the Pac-10 Tournament coming in March.
< TUESDAY :: 02.07.06 :: 10:10:00 PM >
Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl has to be the SEC's coach of the year. The first year head man who came from Wisconsin-Milwaukee has guided the Vols to an 18-3 overall record and an 8-1 start to SEC play. After UT's most recent victory on the road at Kentucky Tuesday, Pearl's squad has now won five straight and ten of their last twelve overall. The Volunteers are making a serious run at a two or three seed in the NCAA Tournament, and with recent wins over both Florida and UK, the Vols have a great shot at winning the overall SEC title.
Northern Iowa picked up a big Missouri Valley win at home against Wichita State Tuesday. With the loss, the Shockers fall a game back in the standings, while the Panthers remain tied atop the MVC with Creighton, a Tuesday come-from-behind winner over Evansville. WSU is now even with Southern Illinois, who picked up a win against Missouri State on Tuesday. SIU will visit Creighton this Saturday.
MAC East-leading Kent State fell hard Tuesday on the road at at Toledo, who had won only four conference games coming into the night. That loss means the Flashes are now just a half-game ahead of Akron in the standings. A Zips win over Western Michigan on Wednesday would even the two squads atop the conference standings once again.
What can you say? The Devils again showed why they're ranked as one of the nation's best teams, J.J. Redick made another case for national player of the year honors, and this rivalry is still arguably the greatest in all of college hoops. It's official now: the ACC is Duke's to lose.
< TUESDAY :: 02.07.06 :: 04:50:00 PM >
CONFERENCE USA IN THE NCAA
IN: The Memphis Tigers have been one of the nation's best teams all year and are battling for a number one seed.
IN FOR NOW: UAB has clearly been the second best team in CUSA all season long. The Blazers have lost just one conference game all year, that a hard-fought defeat on the road at Memphis last month. Assuming the Blazers can finish with ten to twelve league wins, UAB's RPI is decent enough to get the squad in the Tournament.
ON THE BUBBLE: UTEP has had a solid season and is currently tied for second place in the conference with UAB. The Miners' RPI, however, is well past 100, so there is much work to be done. UTEP will likely need to avoid more than one loss from here on out to have an at-large chance. Houston started off the season well, but the Cougars have cooled off. Though UH's RPI is better than the Miners', the Cougars also need to avoid losing more than once between now and the end of the regular season to have a chance.
ELSEWHERE: Only one other CUSA team is above .500 overall, so the rest of the league should begin preparations for the league tournament in March.
MISSOURI VALLEY IN THE NCAA
IN: Northern Iowa, Creighton, and Wichita State are all tied atop the MVC standings with 10-3 records, and each team's RPI is among the top 25 in the country. As long as those two factors stay in place for these the three teams, no member of the trio should have any problem earning an at-large berth come March.
IN FOR NOW: It's tempting to put Southern Illinois in with the group above, but the Salukis have a few bad losses on their resume, and thus a worse RPI that is still among the top forty in the country. As long as SIU stays at or near the top of the MVC standings, they should earn a berth to the Big Dance.
ON THE BUBBLE: Missouri State's RPI is actually better than SIU's, but neither the Bears' conference or overall records are as good as those of the Salukis. Still, there is time for MO State to make their move and earn a berth. At this point, they'd probably be left out, however.
ELSEWHERE: Bradley is the only other MVC squad with a nice record, but the Braves' RPI is a good bit worse than their follow conference members. It would likely take a conference tournament title for Bradley, or any of the rest of the conference's teams, to earn a Tournament berth.
< MONDAY :: 02.06.06 :: 07:35:00 PM >
BIG TEN IN THE NCAA
IN: Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan State are all virtual locks, and each is also in competition for one of the top seeds in the bracket. Michigan and Ohio State also look like very good bets right now, and each should easily make the field if they avoid a late-season meltdown.
IN FOR NOW: Indiana has lost three of their last four, and the Hoosiers' overall record is not as good as the other Big Ten teams mentioned above. However, IU's RPI looks good right now, so if they can finish at or above .500 in league play, Mike Davis's team should be in the Tournament.
ON THE BUBBLE: Wisconsin has stumbled around the last few weeks and dropped to 5-4 in Big Ten games and 15-7 overall. The Badgers RPI, however, is third best in the conference and top ten nationally. UW still has to win some games down the stretch, but their high power rating will likely get them into the bracket.
ELSEWHERE: Penn State, Northwestern, Purdue, and Minnesota should set their sights on the upcoming conference tournament.
BIG XII IN THE NCAA
IN: Texas is the lone Big XII squad locked in to the NCAA Tournament, and the 'Horns are a legitimate candidate for a number one seed.
IN FOR NOW: Kansas's recent win streak has propelled the Jayhawks into the Tournament for now. Oklahoma and Colorado would also be in the Dance if the season ended today, but all three have to take care of business over the next month.
BUBBLE: Iowa State has been one of the most inconsistent teams in the country this season, so the Cyclones' fate is still very much up in the air. If the season ended today, ISU would probably find themselves in the Tourney. Nebraska's record is good, but the Huskers' RPI is astrocious. NU needs to compile a number of high-quality wins, both in the regular season and the conference tournament.
ELSEWHERE: Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas State, and Texas A&M could all work themselves onto the bubble if they can win about a half-dozen games between now and the Big XII Tournament. Missouri and Baylor should make upset plans for the league tourney.
< SUNDAY :: 02.05.06 :: 09:50:00 PM >
ATLANTIC 10 IN THE NCAA
IN: With their victory at Xavier last week, George Washington proved that they're far and away the A-10's best team and a certain lock for the NCAA Tournament.
IN FOR NOW: Xavier...maybe. The Musketeers' midweek loss to GW is not bad, but the Sunday defeat at St. Louis hurts their NCAA hopes a great deal. It's time to put up or shut up for XU.
ON THE BUBBLE: Charlotte looks like the next best bet for a NCAA bid, but there's still plenty of work to do. If the 49ers can win 10 league games, that should help their cause.
ELSEWHERE: Temple could make a run, as could St. Louis. The Owls' RPI is favorable, while the Bilikens' is not. As for the rest of the league, it's time to prepare for the league tournament in March.
BIG EAST IN THE NCAA
IN: West Virginia, Villanova, Georgetown, Connecticut, and Pittsburgh are all locks. All but the Hoyas are potential number one seeds if they stay hot down the stretch.
IN FOR NOW: Marquette is a couple games above .500 in league play and has that big win over UConn in their back pocket, so if the Eagles remain steady, they should earn a bid. Syracuse and Cincinnati started off the season looking like NCAA squads, but each has faltered over the past month. As of now, they'd probably be in, but not by much. Both have a lot of work to do. Often-overlooked Seton Hall would likely be in as well. The Pirates are above .500 in league play and have a NCAA-worthy RPI.
ON THE BUBBLE: Rutgers and Louisville are the only teams that really fit this category at the time. The Cardinals have the potential to get there, while the Knights' chances have shrunk with losses in five of their last six games. Both UL and RU have major league work to do before March. The good news, however, is that both teams have plenty of tough competition left on the schedule, meaning there are plenty of chances for quality wins down the stretch.
ELSEWHERE: No remaining Big East squad has won more than three conference games, and all are at or below the .500 mark overall, meaning making, and then winning, the league tournament is their only hope at this point.
< SUNDAY :: 02.05.06 :: 4:45:00 PM >
ACC IN THE NCAA
Over the next week or so, I'm going to take a look at a number of high- and mid-major conferences and who in each is looking good, so-so, and not-so-good in terms of NCAA hopes. At this point, here's how the ACC is shaping up:
IN: Obviously Duke, currently ranked #2 in the nation, is in, and the Devils are fighting for a number one seed. At 7-2 in ACC play, NC State looks to be the only other sure-fire bet at this point.
IN FOR NOW: Miami and North Carolina are both playing well, and each is well above .500 in conference play. At this point, both would be in the Tournament, though neither can afford a late-season slide.
ON THE BUBBLE: Maryland and Boston College are both above .500 in league play, but each has also struggled against quality competition this season. Both would likely be in if the season ended today, but there's still plenty of work to be done.
ELSEWHERE: Virginia and Florida State are 5-4 and 4-5, respectively, in ACC games. Both have a couple nice wins, but each has also dropped a few games they shouldn't have along the way. At this point, neither would be in the Tournament, but a winning ACC record at season's end would give either an excellent shot. Clemson, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest all appear to be out of the running.
< SATURDAY :: 02.04.06 :: 10:00:00 PM >
GETTING IT DONE
A number of teams got big wins on Saturday to help get a slight bit of breathing room near the top of their respective conference standings:
...It took two overtimes, but Wichita State knocked off Southern Illinois on Saturday. The Shockers are now tied with Northern Iowa and Creighton atop the MVC standings, while the Salukis find themselves a game behind that trio...
...Kent State topped MAC East rival Akron by six, giving the Flashes a one-game lead in the division at 10-1. The two teams will meet in each squad's season finale in March, likely to decide who takes home the MAC regular season title...
...UCLA downed Arizona by eleven, keeping the Bruins in the top spot out west in the Pac-10 standings...
...Iowa knocked off fellow tri-Big Ten leader Michigan Saturday, meaning the Hawkeyes now lead the Big Ten standings after Illinois's upset loss to Penn State Saturday evening...
...Miami won its third straight game, the most recent coming at Georgia Tech. The Hurricanes are now 6-3 in ACC play and 15-8 overall. Three more wins, and UM should be NCAA-bound...
...Utah State picked up a huge road win at Louisiana Tech, evening the Aggies with the Dawgs in the WAC standings. Each team is now a half-game back of league-leading Nevada...
...George Mason avenged an earlier loss to UNC-Wilmington with a seven-point victory on Saturday, leaving the Patriots a game ahead of the pack in the Colonial heading into the new week...
...Florida halted Kentucky's win streak, the Gators capturing their third straight win while also remaining just one game behind Tennessee in the SEC East.
NOT GETTING IT DONE
And moving in the opposite direction:
...Notre Dame. What can you say? Eight Big East losses by a combined 26 points. You have to feel for the Irish...
...Missouri lost at Texas Tech on Saturday. When has Quin Snyder gotten it done lately?...
...Washington dropped their second game of the year to in-state rival Washington State on Saturday. That certainly puts a dent in the Huskies' Pac-10 title hopes...
...Vanderbilt dropped a stunner at home to Georgia in the SEC. The 'Dores missed a chance to get back to .500 in league play and have now lost five of their six (two of those at home)...
...Southern Cal could have moved to 7-4 in Pac-10 play but instead dropped a home game to lowly Arizona State. That's not the way to impress the NCAA selection folks...
...It was a bad day for both Illinois and Wisconsin, that pair each dropping games to teams who had won a combined three conference matchups this year. The Illini was upset by Penn State at home, while the Badgers fell on the road at Purdue.