NCAA Basketball March Madness Field set Sunday
March 17, 2019 9:00 AM
by Ramon Scott
How will the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament committee approach this year’s separation between the success of several mid-major teams that didn’t automatically qualify by winning their conference tournament and the teams in the Power Five and other high-major leagues?
It’s easy to be cynical given the previous moves of the group in year’s past, which seem to favor selecting the bigger schools that might have more fans travel to games or that have larger television markets and fan bases.
But this year, more than in any other, there are more than reasonable arguments to include some teams which wouldn’t even merit consideration from the oft-criticized group.
Teams like Belmont, Lipscomb, Saint Mary’s and Furman could easily be considered over teams like North Carolina State, TCU, Clemson and Ohio State, not to mention, bubble team Indiana, which lost 12 of 13 games at one point this season.
And let’s not even get into the awkward, poorly-thought-out play-in games, especially the at-large matchups between those last four teams in.
The other two play-in matchups between the last four automatic qualifiers is also a waste.
In a tournament that publicizes Cinderella runs and long-shot seeds upsetting title contenders, having two of those teams knock each other out defeats the purpose.
Here’s a look at this week’s conference tournaments and who could upset the apple cart to create some possible bubble implications:
America East: Vermont, which went 18-10-2 ATS is the favorite for Saturday’s final, while second-place Stony Brook was eliminated on Saturday by Binghamton.
MEAC: The nation’s lowest-rated conference was won by Norfolk State (14-2) by one game over North Carolina A&T (13-3). Both teams covered 16 of 28 games during the regular season.
SWAC: Regular-season champ Prairie View A&M was dominant with a 17-1 record, but consider a play on Jackson State, which had a league-best 18-10 spread mark. Texas Southern will be a hot underdog should it face the Panthers in the final.
Mountain West: Nevada gets all the attention, especially after the drama with co-champ Utah State, but Fresno State had the best ATS record in the MWC with an 18-11 mark, although the Wolf Pack went 18-12-1 ATS.
Big 12: Kansas was dethroned by co-champs Texas Tech and Kansas State, which received first-round byes. The Wildcats are 18-13 against the number, but consider Oklahoma with its 19-9-3 ATS mark.
Big East: Villanova still managed to claim the regular season title and despite analysts’ downgrades from previous editions, the Wildcats still finished a league-best 19-12 ATS, although second-place Marquette went 18-13 ATS.
Mid-American: Buffalo is the known commodity and will dance even if it is upset in Cleveland. Central Michigan (10-4-1 ATS away from home) and Toledo (10-5 ATS away from home) loom as contenders.
Big Sky: Montana may have won the regular season title by one game over Northern Colorado, but the Griz went 12-17 ATS. Montana State has the league’s best spread record at 17-12.
ACC: Virginia and North Carolina shared the league title and both were terrific against the number away from their home venues. The Cavs went 12-2 ATS away from home, while the Heels went 11-4 ATS in the role.
Conference USA: Old Dominion won CUSA by two games but was 4-11 ATS away from home this season. Take a look at Western Kentucky, which finished 12-4 ATS when not playing at home.
Southland: Sam Houston State won the conference crown by two games and also finished with one of the nation’s best spread records at 20-8. New Orleans (16-9 ATS) and Southeast Louisiana (20-11 ATS) get first-round byes.
WAC: New Mexico State won the WAC with a 15-1 season, but second-place Utah Valley, the only team to knock off the Aggies in conference play, were a league-best 20-10 ATS.
Pac-12: The maligned Pac-12 was led by regular season champ Washington and little else, or so it’s been deemed by most analysts. Oregon State, which received a bye, is an interesting proposition in the later rounds after going 7-2 ATS as a ‘dog this season.
Big West: One-loss conference champ UC Irvine could miss the tournament if it doesn’t win in Anaheim, but the Anteaters could be that one West Coast sleeper come next week. Cal State-Northridge comes in with a 19-9-3 ATS mark.
Ivy League: Only the third Ivy League Tournament but JUST the top four get in here, including co-champs Yale and Harvard. Penn, which finished three games back, may be close to even in the semi against the Crimson.
Atlantic 10: Virginia Commonwealth maneuvered through the huge conference to finish first at 16-2. VCU also went 10-4 ATS away from home this season and 15-7 ATS as a favorite.
SEC: For all the talk Tennessee and Kentucky talk, it was LSU that won the league title but at what cost. Will Wade is out for now as the Tigers’ head coach but the storyline is ugly. The Tigers were great to gamblers with a 10-5-1 spread mark away from home.
Sun Belt: This one is wide-open with champ Georgia State besting three others, including slight tournament-favorite Georgia Southern. The Eagles went 11-5-1 ATS away from home.
American: Not only did Houston win the conference by two games but it also went 9-2 ATS when not at home. Central Florida also boasts a 9-4 ATS mark away from home.
Big Ten: The country’s top-rated league plays for the last automatic bid, including co-champion Michigan State, which went 21-7 against the spread as a favorite this season. Michigan is getting the public sentiment to upset the Spartans but it may have to face co-champ Purdue first.
Here are some conference tournament games to look at as things kick into high gear this week:
Arizona vs. USC: The early contest in the Pac-12 Tournament here in Las Vegas should show the Wildcats as the slightest of favorites. Both teams were poor ATS but consider the Trojans were 0-11 as underdogs this season. ARIZONA
Stanford vs. UCLA: The Bruins could come the slightest of favorites here as both come into T-Moblie with two-game losing streaks. UCLA allowed a season-high 104 points to the Cardinal but the team’s split the season series. UCLA
San Diego State at UNLV: Another close one in the Mountain West quarterfinals in a 4 vs. 5 game, but the Rebels could come in as a small favorite. The Aztecs were 4-9-1 ATS away from the comfort of home this season. UNLV
Last week: 3-1
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