There is a reason February is the shortest month of the year. It makes March come quicker than we expect and that means BracketBusters is coming soon and the bubble watch is in full swing. This week, those topics dominate what “Welser Wonders…”
…who will step up in the ACC?
At the moment the nation’s best conference has only three NCAA worthy teams. No surprise that North Carolina and Duke are locks, but Clemson is the other team who would be dancing if Selection Sunday were today. At this time last year Clemson was all but a lock too, only to blow it in February and March so we won’t put it past them to do it again.
Of course the ACC will get more than three teams into the tournament, but the other nine teams are simply a mess right now. Coming off a loss to Wake Forest, Miami has taken a step back towards the pack after a solid start. Boston College is actually third in the conference standings at 3-2 and has a decent overall record (12-6), but their RPI is 11th in the conference. Maryland has a nice signature win over UNC, but they also lost to American University. Even Virginia, with a 1-4 conference record, is not out of the running quite yet. A couple home losses to the Tech schools has hindered the Cavaliers conference campaign, but there are plenty of opportunities for big wins.
The ACC should have at least five or six bids to work with, so it will all come down to who can pull it together right now and make a run. If everybody continues to just beat up each other and nobody besides Duke and North Carolina can separate themselves from the pack, the league could end up with fewer teams dancing than they deserve.
…what will come of the most over-hyped event in college basketball this year?
Sure, it is fun to go out and play somebody out of conference in February, but there are more important games going on right now…which nobody cares about. The showcase BracketBusters game this year should be matching up the top two current teams in the field, Saint Mary’s and Drake. Yet, those two teams already played earlier this year. The Gaels won 72-66 and handed Drake their only loss of the year if you don’t remember that November 10th match-up.
Since that game won’t happen again, we are likely looking at Kent State traveling to Saint Mary’s and Drake heading to Butler. There are some other teams who have at-large hopes like Illinois State and George Mason, but really those are the big four at the moment. Unfortunately, it is the visiting teams that need the victory the most for at-large purposes. Barring huge collapses, Saint Mary’s and Butler should be in the tournament with a win or loss on BracketBusters Saturday. So Kent State and Drake can really boost their hopes with a win, but they won’t be devastated with a loss either. Losing on the road to the Gaels or Bulldogs certainly will not be a big blow to the RPI. In fact, even a loss is resume booster compared to beating Evansville or Ball State.
What’s that all mean? It means the BracketBusters probably won’t really bust any brackets at all. Saint Mary’s (unless they keep losing to teams like San Diego) and Butler are in either way, Drake is likely in with a win or a loss and it is more important for Kent State to keep beating who they should beat in conference play. That’s not to say it wouldn’t help if the Flashes win, but it certainly won’t knock them out of contention. Looking ahead to traveling to the west coast and losing on February 19th to Buffalo would knock them out of contention.
…whether the A-10 will get more teams into the big dance than the Big Ten?
Top to bottom the A-10 is not better than the Big Ten, but on the top it is very close. In the A-10, Xavier, Dayton, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are all deserving of an at-large bid at the moment. The Big Ten has Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Indiana that fit into that category. Where it gets interesting is comparing the fifth teams in each conference…St. Joseph’s and Purdue. Both teams have five losses, but it is the Hawks who are more deserving of a bid right now thanks to a healthy dose of non-conference road games. Usually at this time of the year we figure the Big Ten team will get an RPI boost since they play in the Big Ten. But that is not the case this year since the A-10 is hanging with the Big Ten blow for blow as far as the RPI is concerned.
Luckily there is a long way left to go and St. Joe’s has their big games ahead of them and plenty of opportunities to get a signature win or two. The Hawks have yet to play Xavier and also take on Villanova, Rhode Island and Dayton before all is said and done. The Boilermakers just got their big win against Wisconsin and can follow that up with another win over Wisconsin, Michigan State or Indiana in February. If the committee had to pick a team now they should pick the Hawks over Purdue, but who knows if that would really happen.
…when Davidson will be noticed (again) as a team that can do damage in March?
The Wildcats failed to prove they could beat any NCAA Tournament caliber team when they lost to North Carolina, Western Michigan, Duke, Charlotte, UCLA and NC State in November and December. But since then Davidson has found its groove by beating up on fellow SoCon opponents. Bob McKillop’s squad has won the last seven games by an average of over 17 points. The most impressive part is that six of those games were on the road. With the bulk of the remaining schedule in their friendly confines, the Wildcats could very well finally find their comfort zone after spending the first three months of the season playing most of their games on the road.
There is no doubt that the team is very talented. They have already begun to play how we all expected to them in November and it could get even better. Yet, this is not a team that needed time to develop. Everybody from last year is back and virtually playing the same minutes. That is why a big win or two in the non-conference schedule would not have been surprising. What better time to beat NC State when they are still adjusting to life without Engin Atsur?
Davidson may have overscheduled a bit during non-conference play, but it seems like we have completely stopped talking about them since there is not a quality win to be found on the schedule. This is still a deep team with a ton of dangerous weapons who will most likely be in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Southern Conference Tournament. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a three or four seed and see Stephen Curry and Jason Richards on my bracket in the first round.