Bracket Preview

3 Weeks and Counting Until Selection Sunday

            Selection Sunday is less than three weeks away, but it's never too early to start previewing the teams that will fill your brackets. The BracketBusters weekend came and went- securing some teams' hopes of receiving an at-large bid, while others had their dreams crushed with losses.

        This week will mark the first week of several weeks in which we will delve into the conference players and pretenders, teams looking to lock up a top seed and those battling on the bubble.

Conference Leaders

There are 31 Division I conferences that receive automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, beginning March 16th. 30 of those auto bids are given to the winners of the respective conference tournaments, while the Ivy League does not have a postseason tournament and therefore the regular season champion will lock up that automatic birth.

The selection committee evaluates the nation's other teams' resumes and the top 34 teams come away with a spot in the 65-team field.

Here is a list of teams that currently are in first-place in their league with their conference in parentheses:

At-Large Contenders

        If the season ended today and there were no post-season conference tournaments, these 31 teams would receive an automatic invite to March Madness. Last season, just four of 34 at-large bids went to teams outside of the six power conferences: ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC. With the Pac-10, ACC and SEC being noticeably weaker than in years past, numerous non-BCS schools have seized the opportunity and jumped into the national picture. With the success of these Atlantic 10 and Mountain West schools, how many of these teams can fill the 2010 bracket? The 34 next-best teams we can expect to find in the NCAA tournament field are (list by conference):


Maryland is one of the hottest teams in the country as of late, winning five of their last six games and nine of their last 11. Sweeping Florida State and beating Georgia Tech last week bolster their resume for the league's first at-large… Wake Forest was a difficult team to figure out prior to this last week. They have wins over Gonzaga, Richmond, Xavier, and Georgia Tech, but then lost to Virginia Tech and lowly North Carolina State last week. They could win out and a win or two in the ACC Tourney would help their seeding… Virginia Tech's poor non-conference schedule could come back to kill the Hokies if they don't perform well down the stretch. Their thrilling win over Wake Forest last week was the best of the season, which they followed up with a valiant effort, coming short against Duke in Durham. A marquee win would really help…Georgia Tech's latest slide has really hurt them. Just two weeks ago, the Yellow Jackets were the ACC's second-best team, but have lost their last five road games. They could really use a strong showing in the conference tournament to improve their chances…Clemson is still in the hunt because of a wins against Butler, Maryland and Florida State. They spent most of the season in the Top 25 before suffering a three-game losing streak. The Tigers bounced back winning four of their last five games… Florida State is right on the edge, but would really benefit from winning a few games down the final stretch. They swept Georgia Tech, while also defeating Marquette and Virginia Tech this season. The final four games will really help/hurt the Seminoles stock…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids
Big 12

Kansas State is a lock for the Tournament and despite Texas' mid-season skid, the Longhorns are in too… Baylor has a very good RPI and a solid strength of schedule which bodes well for them in the committee's eyes. They beat tournament teams like Iona, Xavier, Morgan State and Oklahoma State once. A win against Texas A&M and/or Texas in its final regular season games would really help their seeding… The Aggies of Texas A&M has boasted their chances as of late, sweeping Texas Tech, winning on the road at Missouri and knocking off Baylor. Early wins against Clemson and Minnesota help, as do the remaining regular season chances at Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma… Oklahoma State has some key wins to show in Big 12 play- beating Kansas State on the road, and Texas A&M and Baylor at home in the last month. There isn't too much else on their resume but they have the ability to pick up an at-large bid…Missouri still has some work to do and must prove it can win on the road, but for now, they're in. Their best wins are huge ones against Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas at home- not too shabby… Texas Tech is a long-shot…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids
Big East

The nation's best conference boasts four teams that have a shot at a number one seed depending on the Big East Tournament. Syracuse is the conference leader, but Villanova, West Virginia, Georgetown and Pittsburgh have done more than enough to secure at-large bids. The rest of the league is essentially on bubble watch because of their ability to win big games and fall in others. Any team could play themselves into the NCAA Tournament with their Big East postseason play… Despite losing key players from last season's Tournament team, Marquette has played themselves into the field by winning six of their last seven. They have beaten the likes of Georgetown at home, and traveled to beat Xavier, UConn, and Cincinnati this season. Their second-to-last Big East game against Louisville will be of help if they can win… Louisville won its marquee game on the road at Syracuse, shocking the nation. It has close losses to West Virginia and Pitt on the road, but moral victories don't count in March. They need a strong run to finish in the field… UConn played themselves right out of the field with three losing streaks and missing out on some winnable games. But after a defeating West Virginia this week, the Huskies have beaten three Top 10 teams on the season. They have the nation's second most difficult schedule and have pulled off some key wins… Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Seton Hall and South Florida are still afloat…

Conference Leader
At Large Bids
Big Ten

Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin are locks to be in the field, while Illinois is closing in on that territory as well. They have a big win against Michigan State (though discredited a bit because the Spartans were without Kalin Lucas), Vanderbilt, Clemson, and did the unthinkable by beating Wisconsin on the road. They have four regular season games remaining, and could use a win against Ohio State on the road or Wisconsin at home to bolster their seeding… Minnesota resume is a bit questionable; with showings of wins at home against Ohio State and a neutral-court win over Butler, but have been unable to win on the road (2-6 on the season, 3-8 including neutral court games). With a very strong finish to the Big Ten season, they can defy the odds… After a solid start to Big Ten play (win at Michigan and Purdue at home), Northwestern has played themselves off of the bubble. They've lost to Iowa, and Penn State in the past few weeks. They can run the table down the stretch against the bottom-feeders of the conference, but these are the same ones NW couldn't beat earlier this season…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids

The team that wins the league tournament could likely be the only Pac-10 team making the NCAA tournament, with the possibility of the regular season and tournament champion getting in. It's been such a erratic league all season long that eight teams have between 5 and 8 league losses. Any team could potentially take home the crown, leaving others to sit and wait for next year. Washington is the league's second-best team despite sitting in fourth in the Pac-10 standings, but troubling losses have made them a questionable at-large pick…
Conference Leader

Kentucky is the Conference leader. Vanderbilt and Tennessee seem to be a lock for the Tournament with the way they've played all season long… Florida has a pretty good shot at securing an at-large big after missing the NCAAs each of the last two years. They knocked off Florida State and Michigan State early on before struggling on the road. They likely need one more "good" win to get in and have the shot to do so with Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky still on the schedule… Mississippi State, the SEC West's leader will need a strong showing down the stretch to make their way into the field of 65. Sweeping Ole Miss helps, but the Bulldogs have lost to three teams outside of the RPI top-100… On paper, Mississippi is one of the best team's in the conference, but they've been on an extremely poor losing streak as of late, losing five of six, putting them in the bottom half of the SEC. They'll need to win out, which is extremely possible, but will need to upset a few teams in the league tournament…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids
Atlantic 10

Richmond sits atop the current league standings, but barring a late-season collapse, Temple will join the Spiders in the Tournament field. The Owls knocked off the nation's former-#3 team, Villanova, when the two met in the Big 5 matchup of Philadelphia's best teams. Temple has also taken down the likes of Siena, Virginia Tech and lost narrowly to Georgetown early in the season… Xavier has a shot to get in as the A-10's third team depending on how the Musketeers perform down the stretch in their remaining regular season games and postseason tournament. They have impressive out-of-conference wins against Cincinnati and Florida (on the road), and close losses to Tournament hopefuls like Marquette and Wake Forest… Rhode Island was one of the first teams out of our field because they don't have a marquee victory. They defeated Oklahoma State, Northeastern as well as Dayton on the road, but the Rams have a daunting task ahead of them against top A-10 foes. Next week, they could be further outside the bubble… Dayton, Charlotte and Saint Louis are on the outside looking in…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids
Mountain West
Current conference leader, New Mexico, is a lock to get in with its perfect 5-0 mark against top 25 teams, while BYU is another team that's sure to get in. It has a quality win over UNLV, UTEP (on the road) and Arizona State…. After spending a week in the top 25, UNLV could find their way into the Tournament. They beat Louisville early on, as well as New Mexico State on the road, and San Diego State and BYU at home during conference play. By winning out against the league's worst three teams, and a reasonable showing in the conference tournament, the Runnin' Rebels should make it back to March Madness… San Diego State is on the outside looking in but still has a shot at an at-large bid. Their wins over UNLV and New Mexico help, but a 32-point loss at St. Mary's early-on does not. They're on a bit of a hot streak now, but a win over BYU this week would be a impressive victory to highlight on their resume…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids
The C-USA is much better and much more competitive than in years past which could benefit the league, especially when the three of the six power conferences are not at their usual strength… UTEP is the conference leader, but Memphis is right on their tail. They've played a difficult schedule against Kansas, Tennessee and Syracuse. The Tigers would feel much more secure if they had been able to pull off a win against one of these teams, but instead will rely upon a 10-2 conference record and more wins down the stretch to help their case… UAB is making a case for themselves, especially with a non-conference thrashing of Cincinnati and 10-point win over Butler. Avoiding losses down the stretch will be huge… Although Tulsa sits in fifth place in the league, the preseason favorites could still have a great late-season showing and make it into the Tournament. A win over Oklahoma State helps, as would wins over Memphis or UTEP last week, but the Golden Hurricanes couldn't pull those two out. Other than OK State, there isn't much to Tulsa's profile. They'll need to beat Duke at Cameron Indoor or blow out teams on the way to the C-USA finals to make the NCAA Tournament….
Conference Leader
At Large Bids
Northeastern is the current conference leader and could be the league's only Tournament team this year… A BracketBusters loss to Northern Iowa on the road hurts Old Dominion's chances, but a December win in Georgetown could outweigh the latest loss. If Old Dominion makes it to the CAA Tournament finals, it has a nice shot at heading to the NCAAs… William & Mary had their chance this season. They beat Wake Forest and Maryland on the road, but the Tribe lost to Iona pretty handily in the BracketBusters Tournament. They have a slim-shot, but a solid CAA Tournament could push them in… VCU is another team that has a slim chance to make the NCAA Tournament with a good late-season showing. They beat Rhode Island and Richmond earlier this season at home, as well as William & Mary and Old Dominion once in CAA play. They looked excellent in their BracketBuster game over Akron, but the Rams' chances will be decided later on…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids
West Coast
St. Mary's of the West Coast Conference are in the discussion, like usual, for a team on the bubble. They couldn't beat Gonzaga this season, but helped themselves with a win over fellow-bubble teams, San Diego State (by 32), Utah State, and Northeastern. Making the finals against Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament would keep the Gaels in…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids
Key Matchups This Week
West Virginia's play has put them in contention for a top seed, while UConn is just trying to keep its hopes alive.
West Virginia at UConn
The Hoyas look to end their recent skid, while Louisville looks to win another marquee game and push for a top-four finish in the Big East.
Georgetown at Louisville
With a win, Florida can pass Tennessee in the overall SEC standings, but also help assure themselves of an at-large bid.
Tennessee at Florida
Although Purdue is clearly the better team and gunning for a #1 seed in the Tournament, Minnesota is hungry for another win over a Top 25 team and beef up their resume.
Purdue at Minnesota
Villanova's recent losing streak has pushed them out of the talk for a #1 seed in March, but they must look to bounce back against Dominique Jones and the dangerous South Florida Bulls.
South Florida at Villanova
San Diego State is on the outside of the bubble, looking in, while BYU is looking to keep up with New Mexico atop the Mountain West.
San Diego State at BYU
This A-10 matchup features the preseason pick (Dayton) and the team that led in the standings most of the year (Temple). Dayton needs this one.
Dayton at Temple
James Anderson and the Cowboys could really pad their Tournament resume with a win over the Longhorns in Texas.
Oklahoma State at Texas
James Anderson and the Cowboys could really pad their Tournament resume with a win over the Longhorns in Texas.
Texas A&M at Baylor
This Patriot League matchup is for 1st place in the league and will determine who has home court advantage throughout the conference Tournament.
Bucknell at Lehigh
A battle between two of the top teams in the A-10, both vying for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.
Xavier at Saint Louis
If Tulsa can pull this one off, their chances of making the Tournament as an at-large are exponentially greater. Lose and the Golden Hurricanes will probably have to win their conference tournament.
Tulsa at Duke
This one could be for a massive amount of momentum heading into the postseason tournament and help alter the pecking order of chances at obtaining a #1 seed.
Villanova at Syracuse
This top 25 matchup could potentially determine the regular season champion in the MWC.
New Mexico at BYU
Who doesn't love the up-and-down teams of the Pac-10? This one is for the regular season championship.
Arizona State at California
VCU is playing to get in, while Old Dominion is trying to stay in.
VCU at Old Dominon
Akron (Mid-American)
Kentucky (SEC)
Richmond (A-10)
Bucknell (Patriot)
Jackson State (Southwestern Athletic)
Robert Morris (Northeast)
Butler (Horizon)
Morgan State (Mid-Eastern Athletic)
Sam Houston State (Southland)
Coastal Carolina (Big South)
Murray State (Ohio Valley)
Siena (Metro Atlantic Athletic)
California (Pac-10)
New Mexico (Mountain West)
Stony Brook (America East)
Campbell (Atlantic Sun)
North Texas (Sun Belt)
Syracuse (Big East)
Charleston (Southern)
Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley)
UC Santa Barbara (Big West)
Cornell (Ivy)
Northeastern (CAA)
Duke (Atlantic Coast)
Oakland (Summit)
Utah State (Western Athletic)
Gonzaga (West Coast)
Purdue (Big Ten)
Weber State (Big Sky)
Kansas (Big 12)