Bracket Preview

Less than 1 Week Until Selection Sunday

         Selection Sunday is now less than a week away. The regular-season has come to a close and conference postseason tournaments are underway. For some teams, the NCAA Tournament cannot come quick enough, while other teams are hoping to make a run in their respective conference tournament to ensure a NCAA berth or even streaking through the postseason to gain the automatic ticket. Teams like UConn, Illinois, Arizona State, Georgia Tech, Florida, Saint Mary's, Rhode Island and San Diego State, just to name a few, still need some Ws to help their Tournament fate, while teams like Cincinnati, South Florida, Seton Hall, Minnesota and UAB may need to make it to their postseason tournament finals, or maybe even to win it all. But that's the beauty of it this time of year. Anything is possible.

As Championship week kicks off this Monday for the major conferences, several teams have already punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Cornell clinched the Ivy League title last week, and was later joined by East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun), Murray State (Ohio Valley), Winthrop (Big South) and Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley). By Tuesday night, champions from the CAA, MAAC, Southern Conference, Summit League, Sun Belt, Horizon, and WCC will secure their status among the field of 65. By the time Selection Sunday rolls around, 31 teams will have their automatic bids, and the remaining 34 will have their fate resting in the hands of the selection committee.

In the remaining 26 conference tournaments, some teams are winning and keeping their Tournament hopes alive, while others' postseason dreams will be crushed with just one devastating loss.

This week, we will update our Tournament preview everyday as we look into the conference tournament battles, teams looking to lock up at-large seed and those battling it out on the bubble.

Conference Leaders

There are 31 Division I conferences that receive automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, beginning March 16th. 5 conferences have already named their postseason champion: the Atlantic Sun (East Tennessee State), Big South (Winthrop), Ivy (Cornell), Missouri Valley (Northern Iowa) and Ohio Valley (Murray State). That leaves 26 more conference champs to be named this week. We will take a deeper look into the teams that should win their conference championships this week.

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 are currently the top seed (or top remaining seed) in their conference tournaments with their conference in parentheses. Teams with asterisks after their name have already clinched an automatic bid:

At-Large Contenders

As March Madness is just a week away and conference tournaments are underway, we have a much greater feel for who the 34 at-large teams might be. Leaving the conference champions (or predicted postseason champions) aside, has come up with 25 locks for the NCAA Tournament; that leaves 9 teams to fill the 34 openings in the eyes of our selection committee. These teams will need anywhere from one win to several wins in their postseason tournaments to reach NCAA Tournament Status. We take a look at the Tournament field and predict who you can expect to find in your 2010 March Madness brackets.

Duke and Maryland split their season-series and ended up sharing the regular-season title, but the Blue Devils ended up securing the #1 overall seed in the conference tournament… Florida State's regular-season body of work has been impressive, yet inconsistent. The Seminoles have beaten potential Tournament teams: Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, but lost to NCAA "locks" such as Ohio State, Maryland (twice), Duke, while also dropping games to bubble teams Florida, and Clemson (twice). They are 0-5 against RPI Top 25 foes, but 10-2 against RPI teams 26-100. Their 10-6 conference record and 9-5 record in games away from home help Florida State's stock. They are looking at an #8 seed right now… Wake Forest has been dreadfully inconsistent throughout the season: beating teams like Xavier, Richmond, Maryland (all in overtime), while also taking down Georgia Tech, Clemson, but sported a four-game losing streak near the end of the regular-season. They neared "lock" status, early on, but their recent slide really hurt their seeding. Winning their opening round game against Miami is a must, but after that, the Demon Deacons are in for good… Clemson will make their way into the NCAA Tournament because of their early-season body of work, entering the Top 25. Their best win of the season could be their win against Butler in the 76 Classic in Anaheim. But the Tigers also boast wins against Maryland, Georgia Tech and a season-sweep over Florida State. They have an RPI of 23 and strength of schedule ranking in the low 20s. Clemson has a first-round matchup against NC State, before potentially facing the Seminoles for the third time this season. By winning these two games, the Tigers will surely be in. One win and Clemson is right on the inside of the bubble and could be pushed out by a streaking team… Virginia Tech played excellent basketball in their non-conference schedule. Unfortunately for them, their out-of-conference play ranked 344 out of 347. However, they were able to carry over some momentum into ACC play, beating the likes of Clemson, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. Their 10-6 conference record will help their case, but the Hokies are still looking at being the lower seed in their 1st round matchup. Rallying off a few wins in the ACC Tournament could really help them… The Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech were a team that looked to be in early this season, and even though they can still make it in, they are looking dependent on their ACC Tournament play. They have knocked off Duke, Clemson, and Wake Forest all at home, but post a 5-9 record away from home. The toughness of their schedule helps them dramatically (the nation's 18th most difficult schedule), but the committee will have wanted to see more wins against bottom-feeders (losses to Georgia and Virginia, both on the road). Georgia Tech faces North Carolina in the opening round, who they have beaten twice, potentially setting up a matchup against Maryland, where the Yellow Jackets lost on the road by a buzzer-beater. Winning against UNC is necessary, and beating Maryland would certainly help their cause….
Conference Leader
At Large Bids

Big 12

In the nation's toughest conference, a handful of teams have competed throughout the season, picking up key league victories and helping them near lock status for next week's field of 65. Kansas, the nation's #1 team, will likely win the Big 12 Tournament, as they posted a 15-1 regular-season record against these teams. Kansas State was making a run for a potential #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before falling to Iowa State. Even as the #2 seed, the Wildcats face a tough test by likely facing the conference player of the year, James Anderson and his Oklahoma State team in the 2nd round (who have beaten K-State once already), before matching up with #3 Baylor or #6 Texas… Baylor is always dangerous, but especially as of late, rattling off four straight wins, and 7 of 8. They have three all-league performers, which could make them a nightmare matchup in the Big 12 Tournament. The Baylor Bears are looking at #5 seed if they can win two games in the conference tournament and a likely #6 seed if they can only win one… Texas A&M is another Big 12 team with a strong resume. They boast a 22-win season with an RPI of 12 and a strength of schedule ranking at the nation's 6th most difficult. Most recently, they have beaten Texas and Oklahoma State, two impressive victories, although both came in College Station with the Aggies have been fantastic all season long… Although Texas has been on a bit of a slide in the second-half of the season, (6-8 in their last 14 games), they still have quality victories over Pittsburgh, Michigan State, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State (twice). The Longhorns are a lock for the NCAA Tournament and will be a dangerous threat in the Big 12 Tournament… Missouri has done enough for themselves to enter "lock" status, mainly because of their wins at home. They have knocked off Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas all at home this season. One stat to keep an eye on is their record against RPI Top 25 foes; the Tigers are just 1-7. They have proven their ability to beat teams outside the RPI Top 25 posting 21-2 record, but do not expect the Tigers to make a run through the NCAAs or Big 12 even against the nation's elite teams… Led by the conference's best player and All-America candidate, James Anderson has Oklahoma State in the NCAA's field of 65. Their best win of the season is a win in Manhattan, Kansas, where the Cowboys knocked off Kansas State or even a win over the nation's #1, Kansas at home. They have an RPI in the top 30 and a strength of schedule ranking similarly. The Cowboys are a lock…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids

Big East

Syracuse seemingly had the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament sealed up prior to the conference tournament, but then the Orange fell to Louisville for the 2nd time this season. Either way, Syracuse should be a top seed in the Tournament, pending they don't lose early on in Big East postseason play… West Virginia is quietly competing for one of the NCAA Tournament's top seed and despite flying under the radar in this discussion, they are certainly deserving. They have the nation's third most difficult schuedule, and have an RPI of 5. Since losing to Syracuse in mid-January, the Mountaineers have beaten Big Ten Champ, Ohio State and other Top 25 foes including Pitt, Villanova and Georgetown. A #2 seed is more likely, but don't count them out for a late-March run… Pittsburgh is the Big East's 3rd best team, despite being predicted to finish 8th in the preseason polls. They are ranked 10th in the RPI and have the 13th most difficult schedule in the nation. They have excellent at home and streaky on the road, winning their first three Big East contests, including one over Syracuse. But Pitt has won 8 of their last 9 games, giving them some momentum heading in the Big East Tournament. They are looking at a likely #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament… In mid-February, Villanova stood 22-4 and were in 1st place in the Big East. Since then, the Wildcats have dropped four of their last six games, including crucial games to the Big East's elite at home (Pitt and Syracuse). Depending on the Big East Tournament performance, Villanova is looking like a #3 seed after being in the discussion for a top seed… Georgetown is another team that has faded down the stretch, but has wins over Temple, Butler, Pittsburgh (on the road), Duke, and Villanova on the season to boast. With a 1st round bye, the Hoyas will likely be taking on South Florida who has already beaten Georgetown at home this season… Marquette was a late-season addition to the field of 65. They won 9 of 10 games down the stretch, with their lone loss to Pittsburgh before dropping the season finale last week. Although they struggled against RPI Top 25 teams (2-6), the Golden Eagles have the fire power and leadership by Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler to make some noise… Despite losing the conference's best player, Luke Harangody, Notre Dame has won four straight games over potential tournament teams to gain admission into our field of 65. The Irish boast a winning record against RPI Top 25 teams (3-2), but struggle on the road (4-7 in road/neutral court games). A win in the Big East Tournament will ensure their Tournament status, while going 0-1 could put their fate back on the bubble… Louisville ensured a tournament berth by knocking off Syracuse…twice this season. Aside from those two victories, the Cardinals don't have a single victory over RPI Top 50 teams, so winning their 1st Big East Tournament game against the winner of Cincinnati vs. Rutgers will bring on West Virginia, which could definitely help Rick Pitino's squad… South Florida is the first of three Big East teams needing postseason tournament victories. After their first 4-game winning streak in team history earlier this season, USF is going for #4 yet again in the opening round against DePaul. The Bulls knocked off fellow bubble team, UConn, to end the regular-season. Wins in their favor: Pittsburgh, @ Georgetown, UConn… Losses that could be much-needed wins: South Carolina earlier this season, St. John's at home. USF has a respectable, and much-improved 3-4 record against RPI Top 50 teams and an 8-7 record in games away from home. Winning games in the Big East Tournament is imperative, that includes DePaul and Georgetown in the 2nd round. Can the Bulls shock Georgetown again?... UConn can't decide if they want to be in the NCAA Tournament or not. Since knocking off #1 Texas, the Huskies are 4-8 overall. They went on a 3-game winning streak, boasting top 10 wins over Villanova and West Virginia, but then promptly entered a 3-game skid against three bubble-teams. As of now, the Huskies are on the wrong side of the bubble, but could take St. John's in the opening round and Marquette in the 2nd round, setting up a quarterfinal match against Villanova. Winning the first two games are a must, but that would push UConn to 19-14 overall and just 9-11 in Big East play. Knocking off Villanova again will prove to be crucial, giving the Huskies 20 wins, but still a sub-.500 record in Big East play. Jim Calhoun & Co. will need an exceptional week from UConn to re-enter the field… Seton Hall is another Big East team that has an outside shot at making the field of 65. They sit at 18-11 overall and 9-9 in the conference. They'll match up with Providence in the 1st round of the Big East tournament, who the Pirates just beat in the regular-season finale. With a win there, Seton Hall will take on Notre Dame, who the Pirates also beat earlier this season. But Seton Hall will probably need more than just those two wins. They post an abysmal 1-7 record against RPI Top 25 teams and are 5-7 in road/neutral court games this season. Behind the perimeter shooting of Jeremy Hazell, anything is possible, but Seton Hall will need at least three Big East Tournament victories and probably a fourth, putting them in the Big East finals. They are a real long shot for the Tournament…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids

Big Ten

At some point or another during the Big Ten's regular-season, Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin have all lost their best player. The only difference now is that the Buckeyes, Spartans and Badgers have theirs back, while Purdue is still missing Robbie Hummel for the remainder of his junior season. Even without him, the Boilermakers earned a share of the conference title with OSU and MSU. All three teams should be looking at possible #2 or #3 seeds when the brackets are released depending on the conference tournament. Wisconsin was just a game back of these three, and ended the regular-season with an emphatic victory over Illinois in Champaign. They now open the Big Ten Tournament with Illinois. If Wisconsin wins, they will likely go on to face #1 seed Ohio State, with seeding implications at stake… Illinois' schedule was back-loaded and the Fighting Illini really struggled down the stretch, losing five of their last six, and now open the Big Ten Tournament facing Wisconsin. Another loss will make Illinois 18-14 and possibly outside of the bubble. They have an RPI of 73, a bit low for a Tournament team. The Illini sport a 3-2 record against RPI Top 25 teams, but just 1-5 against teams in the RPI 26-50. Their neutral court record (0-5) makes them an even more unlikely pick amongst the selection committee. Win against Wisconsin and they're in. Lose? And well, Illinois will likely be ousted from the field before the Tournament even begins… Minnesota has played themselves onto the bubble over the last few weeks, but that seems to be as close as the Golden Gophers will get to the 2010 NCAA Tournament. They have a lower RPI and a weaker strength of schedule than their Big Ten competition, Illinois, in fact, they have the lowest RPI out of any bubble team this year. They'll need to beat Penn State in the opening round before trying to take down Michigan State. Beating the Spartans would give Minnesota 20 wins on the season, and perhaps an inside track to the Tournament, but are still a long shot… Northwestern is out of the NCAA Tournament and their only chances remain in winning the Big Ten Tournament…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids

California, despite the down season, has made a case for them to be considered as an at-large team if they don't win the Pac-10 this season. They are an RPI Top 20 team and their #7 most difficult strength of schedule is aided by the Golden Bears #1 ranked non-conference schedule. They went 8-4 in their non-conference run, but lost to Tournament locks such as Ohio State, Kansas, New Mexico and Syracuse. They have won seven of their last eight league games, led by Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher's return to stardom for Cal… Arizona State is a debatable team with a shot to make the field this year with a strong Pac-10 performance. The Sun Devils have won eight of their last 10 games, losing only to Washington and Cal on the road. By picking up a win against one of those teams, ASUs resume would look much better than it currently does. The Sun Devils are just 3-7 against RPI Top 100 teams, including a 0-5 record against RPI Top 25 teams. Another win in their non-conference schedule against Duke, Baylor or BYU would also greatly help… Washington is the only other Pac-10 team that bears consideration for an at-large bid. The Huskies' best wins this season are Texas A&M and Cal at home, but the team struggled early and often away from home, losing their first 7 road/neutral court games before winning four straight. Washington has won 9 of their last 11 and face Oregon State in the opening round of the Pac-10 Tournament, who they have swept this season. With a win there and then beating the winner of Arizona State/Stanford in the semifinals, the Huskies could make a case for themselves…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids

Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Tennessee are locks to get invitations to the NCAA Tournament, but no other SEC teams have emerged. Florida missed out on two big opportunities: at home against Vanderbilt and on the road at Kentucky. Despite losing three in a row to this point, the Gators are playing better, but will still need a boost from the SEC Tournament to get into the NCAA postseason. An early-season victory against Michigan State was impressive, but a non-conference loss to South Alabama certainly is not. The Gators have had plenty of opportunities to impress, but went just 2-8 against RPI Top 25 foes. They'll need to win their opening match up against Auburn, then knock off Mississippi State in the 2nd round and possibly take out Vanderbilt in the next round, depending on how other bubble teams fare… Mississippi is another one of the intriguing SEC teams, playing in the considerably weaker SEC West, the Rebels went 2-4 against the teams from the East and were swept by rival Mississippi State. Two non-conference wins (Kansas State, UTEP) will help the Rebels, but it won't be enough. The Rebels will have to knock off Tennessee in their first game of the SEC Tournament and put up a strong performance against likely-opponent, Kentucky in the next round… Mississippi State will need a nice run in the SEC Tournament to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume. The Bulldogs went 3-5 in SEC road games, but suffered disappointing defeats regardless of the court- losing to Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn- all of which have a sub .500 record in SEC play. If Mississippi State can knock off Florida in their first game and then Vanderbilt in the next, they have greatly improved their chances of making the field, however, they might just need more than that…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids
Atlantic 10

Temple and Xavier shared the regular-season crown, finishing just one game ahead of the surging Richmond Spiders and the A-10 Player of the Year, Kevin Anderson… Rhode Island looked to secure their status as NCAA bound, but dropped five of their last seven games. Their best win on the season is a neutral court victory over Oklahoma State, but couldn't build upon that win in A-10 play. The Rams are 0-5 against the A-10's top four teams this season, but they are helped by an RPI in the top 40. They played the nation's 31st most difficult non-conference schedule, surging to a 12-1 record in that time. By defeating St. Joe's in the opening round and then Saint Louis later on, Rhode Island could set up a semifinal matchup with Temple that would surely help the Rams' status… Dayton could possibly be the most disappointing team this season outside the Pac-10. They were a preseason Top 25 pick and knocked off Georgia Tech early, before just missing out on Ws at Villanova and on the neutral court against Kansas State. The Flyers recorded a very par 8-8 record in A-10 play. They have an RPI just outside the Top 50, but they also lack quality wins of sorts, going 1-6 against RPI Top 25 teams. Dayton is also just 5-9 away from home and are falling quickly down the stretch (losing five of their last seven). Knocking off Xavier and Richmond would help greatly, but again the Flyers might need the whole A-10 Tournament to get in… Saint Louis finished the A-10 regular season in fourth place, but an RPI of 83 and a record of 4-7 against fellow RPI Top 100 teams does not bode well for the Billikens. They will need to beat the bubblicious Rhode Island Rams, and then knock off top-ranked Temple en route to the A-10 finals; they'll probably finish just outside the bubble, unless they can find a way to win it all in their conference tournament…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids
Mountain West
New Mexico and BYU have been in the Top 25 rankings nearly all year and both have an RPI in the top 25 (NM: 7, BYU: 23).  New Mexico is shooting for a #3 seed, while BYU can get a #4 seed if their conference tournament plays out as expected… After a brief three-game slide, UNLV is back on the winning track and could be the third team in the MWC to make the field of 65. They have beaten both New Mexico and BYU this season, and also Louisville in their non-conference schedule. They have a good shot to make the NCAA Tournament because of their 4-4 record against RPI Top 50 foes and 10-4 record on the road/neutral court games this season… San Diego State is one of our last teams in. Saint Mary's blew the Aztecs out by 22 on the road, which definitely hurts their profile; They lost a tough one to New Mexico, on the road, in overtime, which would have been a huge building game on their resume, but as it sits now, the Aztecs have won six of their last seven, and will need to continue winning into the MWC Tournament to enter the field of 65…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids
After running through C-USA play, sporting a 15-1 record, UTEP will make the NCAA Tournament no matter what… Memphis is looking to join the Miners as the conference's 2nd team. They lost to Kansas (on a neutral court) by 2 points, before losing to UMass by just 1 point. Losses to ranked teams in Tennessee and Syracuse followed. But all season long, the Tigers have played good basketball against top tier opponents and that should continue into the C-USA Tournament. If Memphis can make it to the finals, they will be in. If they lose to UAB in the semifinals, the Tigers can still get a bid, but losing any sooner than that has Memphis out… UAB was in the field of 65 to begin last week, but may now be on the outside looking in after Memphis and UTEP completed their season-sweeps of the Blazers. They lost on a last-second dunk to regular-season champion, UTEP in the season-finale. UAB has a poor record against RPI Top 50 opponents (1-5), but they don't have a single "bad" loss. In fact, everyone of their defeats has been by less than 10 points. For UAB to have a shot, they'll need to knock off Memphis on their way to conference finals…
Conference Leader
At Large Bids
West Coast
Gonzaga is a lock for the NCAA Tournament… 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. They are likely in the NCAA Tournament after making the WCC finals against Gonzaga, but a win would really bolster their seed.
Conference Leader
At Large Bids
Butler (Horizon)
Road to Success: Double-bye; will play #5 Cleveland in semifinals
California (Pac-10)
Road to Success: Will play the winner of play-in game: #8 Oregon vs. #9 Washington State
Cornell (Ivy) *
Road to Success: Won regular-season crown
Duke (Atlantic Coast)
Road to Success: 1st round bye; will play the winner of #8 Boston College vs. #9 Virginia
Gonzaga (West Coast)
Road to Success: Double-bye; defeated Loyola-Marymount; will play #2 Saint Mary's in the finals
Kansas (Big 12)
Road to Success: 1st round bye; will play the winner of #8 Colorado vs. #9 Texas Tech
Kent State (Mid-American)
Road to Success: 1st round bye; will play #9 Ohio in the quarterfinals
Kentucky (SEC)
Road to Success: 1st round bye; will play the winner of East #5 South Carolina vs. West #4 Alabama
Jackson State (Southwestern Athletic)
Road to Success: Will play #8 Grambling State in the 1st round
Lehigh (Patriot)
Road to Success: Defeated #8 Army, #4 American; will play #3 Lafayette in the finals
East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun) *
Road to Success: Defeated #4 Campbell, #8 Kennesaw State, #6 Mercer
Morgan State (Mid-Eastern Athletic)
Road to Success: 1st round bye; will play the winner of #8 Howard vs. #9 North Carolina A&T in the quarterfinals
Murray State (Ohio Valley) *
Road to Success: Defeated #8 Tennessee State, #4 Eastern Illinois, Morehead State
New Mexico (Mountain West)
Road to Success: 1st round bye; will play the winner of #8 Wyoming vs. #9 Air Force in the quarterfinals
Troy (Sun Belt)
Road to Success: Defeated #9 South Alabama; will play #4 Western Kentucky in the semifinals
Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley) *
Road to Success: Defeated #8 Drake, #5 Bradley, #2 Wichita State
Oakland (Summit)
Road to Success: 1st round bye; will play IPFW in semifinals
Old Dominion (CAA)
Road to Success: Defeated #8 Towson, #5 VCU, will face #3 William & Mary in the finals
Ohio State (Big Ten)
Road to Success: 1st round bye; will play the winner of #8 Michigan vs. # 9 Iowa
Quinnipiac (Northeast)
Road to Success: Defeated #8 Monmouth, #4 Long Island; will face #2 Robert Morris in the finals
Sam Houston State (Southland)
Road to Success: Will play #8 Nicholls State in the 1st round
Siena (Metro Atlantic Athletic)
to Success: Defeated #9 Manhattan, #5 Rider; will face #2 Fairfield in the finals
Syracuse (Big East)
Road to Success: Double-bye; will play in the quarterfinals
Temple (A-10)
Road to Success: 1st round bye; will play the winner of #8 St. Bonaventure vs. $#9 Duquesne
UC Santa Barbara (Big West)
Road to Success: Double-bye; will play in the quarterfinals
Road to Success: 1st round bye; will play the winner of #8 Southern Methodist vs. #9 Central Florida
Utah State (Western Athletic)
Road to Success: Will play #8 Boise State in the 1st round
Vermont (America East)
Road to Success: Defeated #7 UMBC, #6 New Hampshire; will face #4 Boston in the finals
Weber State (Big Sky)
Road to Success: 1st round bye; will face #6 Portland State in the semifinals
Winthrop (Big South) *
Road to Success: Defeated #6 Liberty (80-72), #2 Radford (61-46), #1 Coastal Carolina (64-53)
Wofford (Southern)
Road to Success: defeated North #4 UNC-Greensboro, North #2 Western Carolina; will face North #1 Appalachian State in the finals
Last 5 In

Georgia Tech, Illinois, Memphis, Arizona State, San Diego State

First 5 Out

Washington, Mississippi, Rhode Island, UAB, Dayton