Down the stretch they come...

Let's get to it -- 

Big East Conference

Right now, Buffetology has 7 bids projected for the Big East (with 8 teams left in the tournament with last night's results: St. John's over Georgetown and Xavier, saving their tournament hide with a win over DePaul). Let's get right into those teams still playing for a invitation into the Buffet, or looking to upgrade seeding (St. John's must win the tournament)

  • 7 Xavier: We discussed the Musketeers a bit yesterday, beating DePaul was a MUST.  But, it doesn't change the fact that this team has won 4 games since February 4th - and 3 of them are over DePaul. Losses to every tournament team has put this team's worthiness into question. Injuries are the culprit, but they are also the reality - Edmond Sumner isn't coming back.  Trevon Blueitt is back, and propelled them to their win last night. Losing to Butler can never be considered a deathstroke -- but it's incumbent upon X to be competitive and leave as little doubt as they can that they belong. A win and there's no question Sunday will include their name, a loss and they'll be left anxious, a blowout loss and they'll be super anxious... A championship run at they could sit in 8/9 territory, a championship game appearance could push them to the 10 line...
  • 6 Creighton: Creighton is getting in. A 7 seed in the latest Buffetology and online consensus, losing in their BE opener to Providence isn't knocking them from the tournament. But, I'm not bullish on the Bluejays without Mo Watson -- if this version play the entire season, they'd be a Waiting Line... team at best, and if they lose to the Friars here, would not be surprised to see them wearing Away jerseys on the 9 line next week. Now, a little run? Maybe 5/6 is possible, showing they've coalesced following the injury...
  • 5 Seton Hall: The Pirates have been hanging out around 10 for weeks now, they all but sealed their tournament bid with their regular season closing road win at Butler. Now they try to climb to a single digit seed (although, do you want to? If you can beat Butler on the road, you can beat a 7 seed, then you face a 2 seed and not potentially Kansas)... but, I digress -- 
  • 4 Marquette: The Golden Eagles hit a 2 game win streak to close the season, and finish winning 4 of 5, which locked their bid as well -- they, too, sit in 10-seed territory and a little run could get them into 8/9, especially if they can upset Villanova in the semis, that would get them their 2nd top 25 win, now they go on a beat Butler too? 3 top 25 wins, 9-6 record versus the top 50, can serve to erase the memory of their pair of loss to 100+ teams, and maybe 7 is in reach...
  • 3 Providence: the odd situation where a team who via tiebreaker, is seeded above 3 teams in a strong invitation position than they are. But, providence hasn't down the same work of others, only 4-7 on the road, and non-BE SOS of 178, and 3 resume dragging losses. The Buffet has them among the last 4 in, the Online Consensus has them a bit safer at 10. Losing to Creighton isn't elimination per se, but with so many major conference teams alive and playing for their spot, it would, in this blogger's opinion, imperil them greatly.  Beating Creighton + Butler, 10 seed WILL be their floor.  In fact, given the traffic, I don't see them rising higher than 9, but let's allow the run to play itself out...
  • 2 Butler -- The Bulldogs finally had the Buffet believing, with their back to back road wins over Villanova (doesn't get much better than sweeping the #1 team in the country) and Xavier.  We had vaulted them to 2, forgetting the late January stretch where they lost a pair of games to Georgetown and Creighton.  They draw Xavier, who is playing for their tournament inclusion, then Providence/Creighton's winner -- really the only way to push up their profile is winning the BET, bc the rest are nice wins but all they should get. Online consensus as them at 4, we've got them at 3, on the strength of those Nova wins -- they are the #2 overall seed and you beat them twice?
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  • 1 Villanova: The defending champs are getting a 1 seed - full stop. 

ATLANTIC 10

Twelve teams remain in the Atlantic 10 tournament -- but this is down to a 4 bid league (5, if Rhode Island loses in the championship game to Geo Mason, Fordham, Geo Washington and Saint Louis.  As a result, we'll push the discussion of those 4 until tomorrow, when they actually get going.

BIG 10

12 teams remain here as well, but unlike the A10, things get interesting on the Waiting Line right away.  Well, most it -- Rutgers has to win the tournament, Penn State will have to get to the final (beating Michigan St, Minnesota & Purdue), Indiana will have to do the same (beating Iowa, Wisconsin & Maryland) but, from there...

  • 9 Illinois - The Illini sat 13-11 and 3-8 in conference before catching fire and thrusting themselves into the tournament discussion, a 5-2 finish, including 4 in a row but the #2 was a potential tournament eliminating loss at Rutgers. They sit 54 in the BOOP, which means a Big10 run could vault them into the mid 40s (they sit below a group that includes Vanderbilt, Marquette, Rhode Island, Clemson, Seton Hall, Kansas State, Houston, Providence, USC, Illinois State, and Georgia - the Waiting Line teams you've come to know and love, all at varying degrees of tournament safety) -- it starts with a bit of luck, getting Michigan in an early tip, after Michigan's awful flight scare that caused them to arrive in DC this AM for the tournament, play in their practice unis: 
  • it's been also pointed out elsewhere, if this win is truly what would tip the scales for Illinois -- will the circumstances around it come into play for the Committee? Fair question, but seems like an unfair position for Illinois - my guess is the win wouldn't be downgraded -- though, we don't see it that way, believe Illinois needs this and a strong showing against Purdue, at a minimum.
  • 8 Michigan - Michigan -- the Wolverines are in, and thank goodness 100% all safe and uninjured after last night's airplane madness. I don't think I'd be able to get on airplane again, which would make getting home to LA from Atlanta very difficult.  A win over Illinois, in these circumstances would cement them as an 8 (they probably stick right there anyway), but a second win over Purdue in less than two weeks? They could be looking at a 7.
  • 7 Iowa - Iowa is another late B10 pusher. 4 wins to close the season, including a pair of road wins at Maryland & Wisconsin have pushed them right in the discussion.  But they were swept by Illinois, which puts them below the Illini in the pecking order for now, (also losses to Memphis, Nebraska and Omaha loom) -- they sit 60th in the BOOP, 58th in computer average, with a tough non-conference strength of schedule (178) and Northern Iowa on a neutral floor in mid-December as their best work out of conference. Beating Indiana is a must, but also they'll need to beat Wisconsin again to get into the Buffet's field.
  • 6 Northwestern - The Wildcats are going to get their first-ever invite in the NCAA tournament. Here's the problem, they seemingly went into "we made it mode" after winning at Wisconsin on Feb 12 - the buzzer beating goodness against Michigan notwithstanding -- and lost 3 of 4. Online consensus has them at 9 - I see them more in a 10 slot. There's only 1 win versus the top 25 to go with 6 losses.  And a 4-3 record versus 51-100, which means most of the teams barely in, barely out, or all the way out has played them even up.  I think that's a 10 seed with their recent play, but they can put themselves in that 8/9 game with a nice convincing win over Rutgers, and a strong show versus Maryland.
  • 5 Michigan State - talk about resume rehab, the Spartans were 12-9, with losses to every top team they played (Duke, Baylor, Arizona, Kentucky, Purdue) and some not so top (Northeastern, Penn State, Ohio State and Indiana), but they got healthy and back to as full strength as you could hope, won 6 of 8, capped by a win over Wisconsin (yes, there's a pattern developing here, more on the Badgers in a second).  A pair of road losses resettled them for the Buffet at 10, which mirrors online consensus.  Given their inconsistent season, failure to beat a top 25 team not named Minnesota, 8 is probably their ceiling, except they're Michigan State, so a Big10 run probably gets them in the 7 discussions
  • 4 Maryland - Maddening Maryland. At least to the Buffet. This team has Melo Trimble and a host of talent, but a 12-1 start against middling competition turned into a 12-7 finish, with losses against their toughest tests, except Minnesota (a Big 10 trend is coming, just wait).  And a textbook definition of average February (5-5, with a 3 game losing streak mixed in), made that Melo 3 at the gun so critical to balance Maryland back into 6 (Online consensus)/7 (Buffet) range. I think a first game loss to Northwestern/Rutgers (ESPECIALLY Rutgers) would put them in danger of an 8 seed, but getting through to the final (beating Wisconsin + potentially Purdue) and 5/6 may be their home -- though 6/7 seems what their profile dictates (unless that championship happens, and a 5 is super attainable) 
  • 3 Minnesota - Minnesota has something in common with the next team on the list - while hot as any team in this conference (or the country, for that matter) in February - 8 straight, bookended by losses to Maryland/Wisconsin -- they do seem to be every's good win (Michigan St & Wisconsin sweep, Maryland win against them on their court). A road win at Purdue in early January put them squarely on the radar - their top end win list is limited in non-conference (Texas-Arlington & Vandy is it), but wow that SOS (22 overall, 26 non-conference), they've avoided the bad loss, and have a .500 or better record against every bucket of competition (2-2 versus top 25, 4-4 versus 26-50 and 6-2 versus 51-100, for a 12-8 overall record versus the top 100).  But this looks like a 5 seed to me, ready to jump to 4 with a Big10 tournament run.
  • 2 Wisconsin - strange season in Madison ... this was 21 win team, 10-1 in the Big 10.  Then came 5 losses in 6 game (Bronson Koenig did miss time with injury, but that can't be explain), and suddenly they were the big win for Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State (though that didn't help the Buckeyes), and Michigan State. At what point are you the problem not the solution for others? On the strength of their pre-Feb 9, they seem to be hovering at a 6/7 seed. But look deeper -- they failed to win at Creighton (full strength Creighton), versus UNC, at Purdue, and are seemingly most propped up by sweeping Minnesota (see Michigan State for the trend, one team, with great numbers is swept by the same team, thus providing the justification for that team's seeding: Big 10 PATTERN ALERT.  
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  • Wisconsin beats the Iowa/Indiana winner and they'll stay in favored seed range, with a chance to get to 5 or 6 (6 is likelier, if they move at all), but lose in that spot? 8 seed or even 9 seems more justified given their profile...
  • 1 Purdue - Purdue has a great road (Maryland) and neutral win (Notre Dame) at the top of their resume, but a weak non-conference SOS (143) and a loss at Nebraska pulling some weight down. But their won the big ten by 2 full games, come in winning 8 of 9, and 10-4 away from home.  This is a 3 seed (online consensus thinks them a 4, but I sense a bit of overplayed B10 backlash there).  Probably too much traffic to get them in 2nd seed land, unless a current 2 seed totally flames out in their tournaments.