With more than a week until selection day for men’s regionals, the picture is becoming more clear on who may be in and who may be out.
Eight conference championships remain to be played and with that, eight automatic qualifying spots will be handed out, which brings the total AQ count to 28. Add to that number the 53 at-large spots, and that will make up the postseason field.
65.) Central Arkansas
66.) Eastern Michigan
67.) New Orleans
69.) Coastal Carolina*
70.) Wichita St.*
71.) East Carolina
73.) Washington St.
66.) East Carolina
67.) Eastern Michigan
68.) Washington St.
69.) UNC Wilmington
70.) Wichita St.*
74.) Kansas St.
- *clinched a spot via AQ
In the past few days, another at-large spot was taken away from South Alabama – the winners of the Sun Belt Conference Championship and that league’s AQ. The Jaguars rallied to beat favorite Middle Tennessee State in the final round.
This puts the magic number in the vicinity of 70. I say that because it appears the Missouri Valley Conference winner – Wichita State – might need MVC’s AQ to get in. The Shockers currently sit at No. 70 in both computer polls. Assuming they do win that conference title, the magic number falls to 68 and could easily drop lower.
One thing appears to be certain. We will not see any teams miss out on regional play because of the .500 Rule. This will be the first time in the three year existence of the guideline that no team gets crossed of for not having a winning head-to-head won-loss record.
It’s clear the winners of the Northeast Conference and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference will relay on the AQ to get into the postseason, but all bubble teams will be pulling for the favorites to hold serve and win their league titles.
• Atlantic 10: If any team except Charlotte wins, the number will be reduced.
• Big Ten: Several teams from the Big Ten expect to in the postseason already, but if a team from the bottom of the pack rises to the top, it will drop the number.
• Mid-American: Interesting league and a lot of folks will be watching. This should be a conference that sends two teams: Kent State and Eastern Michigan. But, fans of bubble teams will be pulling for a Kent State victory and an Eastern Michigan collapse. Things would hold form if either of these two win and even better if we see a 1-2 finish by these two teams (in either order).
• Big West: Any team, other than UC Irvine, winning will not cost a bubble team, but don’t be surprised if UC Irvine were to win this conference.
• Mountain West: Highly unlikely to see an upset here. This is a league that will send six teams to regional play.
• Western Athletic: Very similar to the Big West Conference. Fresno State is the favorite, but a victory by any other and the number will be reduced.
It looks like my original prediction of 69 is going to fall to 68 with Wichita State likely falling outside the number and if we see any upsets it will go lower. We might see 67 before its all said and one.
Stay tuned …