Posted on: October 19, 2009 11:37 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2009 11:22 pm

Dantheman's SEC Preview

John Calipari joined the SEC and everything we know about the conference changed in an instant.

Last season the SEC was the laughingstock of the college basketball world with only three teams selected to the NCAA Tournament. Three years before that it was Florida, not Kentucky, celebrating back to back championships while Wildcat fans were promised that Billy Gillespie would turn their program around.

Meanwhile Calipari sat at Memphis, dominating Conference USA, reaching Final Fours, and bringing in top recruit after top recruit. The Tigers reached the national championship game against Kansas two seasons ago and led late before free throw shooting gave the Jayhawks a chance, and eventually the national championship. That was the Tigers one chance to change their mid-major label and become a true elite program.

That's why when Kentucky came calling, Calipari answered. Who wouldn't? Well there is Billy Donovan, Florida's head coach who turned down the Wildcats twice in four seasons, but honestly who wouldn't want the Kentucky job?

I don't want you to believe that SEC coaches are coaching harder just because of what Calipari has been able to do at Kentucky, because that's not true. It is true that the rest of the league knows big blue is back, will not go around soon, and is the team to beat in the conference this year. All that without even coaching a game at Kentucky.

Don't expect the rest of the league to just sit back and let Kentucky run through the league though. This year the SEC is back in a big way. There's a quiet murmur among SEC basketball fans discussing just how good this conference will be next season. Three SEC tournament teams this season? No way. Think more like five, at the minimum. On paper there are eight teams that appear to be potential NCAA Tournament teams for the SEC, but in this conference there's always the chance that another "Georgia" Cinderella run could take place in the Georgia Dome (site of the NCAA Tournament) to add another team to the mix.

And if you're looking for stars, look no further than the SEC. Jarvis Varnado, the big man you don't want to see when you get to the basket, Tasmin Mitchell, Patrick Patterson, and Devan Downey are among the players that will make highlight reels every night among the nation.

Here's my SEC preview (be sure to check out my preseason bracketology as well), along with a prediction of whether each team will be playing in March:

SEC East

1. Kentucky Wildcats: Let's be honest, Kentucky is loaded. Forget Patrick Patterson for a minute, the Wildcat big man that averaged 17.9 PPG and 9.3 RPG last season. Don't think about Perry Stevenson, the X-factor in a lot of Wildcat wins last season. In marches John Wall, the most anticipated freshman guard since Derrick Rose led Memphis to the national title game two seasons ago. In comes DeMarcus Cousins, the aggressive shot blocker that will join Patterson down low.

Biggest Question: We know that the Wildcats will be the most talented team in the SEC next season, by far. The only question in Kentucky is how the new players gel under Calipari. With Wall, Cousins, and Eric Bledose--all gifted freshman joining one of the nation's most prolific programs--the problem might be that there aren't enough basketballs on the floor at once for all the talent.

Key Non Conference Game: Vs North Carolina (December 5th)
Anytime you host the national champions and you're trying to get back to elite status the game can be used as a measuring tool for how far your team is away. The Tar Heels are less talented than they were less season and as vulnerable as the Tar Heels are ever going to be.

Key Conference Game: At Tennessee (February 27th)
Last year Jodie Meeks torched the Volunteers for 54 in Knoxville. This season Meeks isn't on the Wildcats roster. Tenneesee will have revenge in mind at home against the Wildcats. Make sure you tune in for this one. It could decide the SEC East champion.

Key Player: John Wall
Wall hasn't even played a game but has nearly reached legend status for the Wildcats already. All offseason he's been the talk of college basketball. If he lives up to expectations then Kentucky will be extremely good. From what I've seen of Wall, there's no way he doesn't become a star right away in Lexington.

Postseason: Elite Eight (NCAA Tournament)

2. Tennessee Volunteers: What Bruce Pearl has been able to accomplish in Knoxville is pretty remarkable. This offseason his Volunteers are flying under the radar with a roster flooded with talent due to Calipari's storylines at Big Blue. With J. P. Price, Wayne Chism, Bobby Maze, and Tyler Smith back hopes are very high in Knoxville.

Biggest Question: Last season Tennessee's defense allowed 72.5 points per game. That's the nature of the full court press, but can Pearl's defense force more turnovers and allow less easy baskets this season? If they can then Tennessee will likely get a lot of easy wins, something they didn't have a whole lot of last season.

Key Non Conference Game: Vs Kansas (January 10th)
The preseason number one team in the country against a team that looks, on paper, like a top 15 team. This is what college basketball is all about. While a NCAA Tournament bid is not likely to be on the line, seeding for the tournament will be.

Key Conference Game: At LSU (February 4th)
There's a tough stretch for Tennessee in SEC play, following what looks to be a schedule allowing the Vols to get off to a great start in conference.  From January 27th to February 13th the Vols play six games against potential NCAA Tournament teams: Vanderbilt, Florida, LSU, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Kentucky. The game against LSU is sandwiched in the middle of that stretch. Going to Baton Rouge and winning could be the key to avouding a February letdown.

Key Player: Tyler Smith
There's a reason he's mentioned as one of the top players in the SEC.

Postseason: Sweet 16 (NCAA Tournament)

3. Florida Gators: Just two summers ago, Billy Donovan's Florida Gators were the talk of the sports world. They had just completed back to back national championships, a feat almost unheard of in the common era, and looked poised to stay an elite program. Fastforwarding to the current state of Florida basketball starts a barrage of questions. How could a team so dominant two years ago fail to make the NCAA Tournament the last two years? The talent level has fallen off, Nick Calathes is gone, and there are more questions than answers in Gainesville.

Biggest Question: Can Dan Werner actually become a dependable player for Donovan? Werner will be the lone senior for the Gators this season, but most Gator fans cannot wait until he leaves campus for good. That's how bad he's been in his career at Florida.

Key Non Conference Game: Vs Michigan State (November 27th)
If Florida wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament, they've got to get nice wins outside of SEC play. The last two seasons the Gators haven't even given themselves an opportunity to get those wins because they've chosen not to schedule tough teams.

Key Conference Game: At Vanderbilt (January 9th)
The Gators opener against the Commodores will be huge for their season with Kentucky and LSU up next. The last thing Florida needs on their mission to get back to the Big Dance is three straight losses to begin conference play.

Key Player: Kenny Boynton
It seems as if the entire existence of the Gators basketball program is hanging in the balance, and Boynton is really the only player left to give Florida fans hope this year. Everyone is expecting big things from Boynton.

Postseason: First Round (NCAA Tournament)

4. Vanderbilt Commondores: With A. J, Ogilvy back last season, the Commodores were expecting to go dancing. Instead, the SEC turned into the worst BCS conference in basketball by far, and Vanderbilt finished as one of nine teams sitting at home and watching the NCAA Tournament. With only George Drake gone, and notables like Ogilvy and Jermaine Beal back, Vanderbilt is expecting to make a push for the NCAA Tournament again this year.

Biggest Question: Can A. J. Ogilvy get tougher? Ogilvy has been a great player for Vanderbilt during his first two seasons, but he's also been a slight disappointment. Vanderbilt needs him to be tougher inside, grab more rebounds, and even become more of a scoring threat after averaging 15.4 PPG last year. How did Ogilvy respond this summer? Reports are that he spent the offseason working on his strength and conditioning. If he did, Vanderbilt will be a tough out in the SEC East.

Key Non Conference Game: Vs Missouri (December 2nd)
The Commodores need to beat other teams that could potentially be on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. After playing Cincinnati on November 23rd, Vanderbilt gets a large nine day break before taking on Mike Anderson's Tigers. There's no excuse for losing that one, even with Thanksgiving smack in the middle of that break.

Key Conference Game: At Tennessee (January 27th)
When you begin SEC play with Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, and Auburn--four teams that figure to be decent but not overwhelming--then you've got to like your chances of a 3-1 or 4-0 start in conference play. The next two, at Tennessee and at Kentucky, might decide whether Vanderbilt is potentially playing for a higher NCAA Tournament seed in February, still on the bubble, or completely out of the tournament picture.

Key Player: A. J. Ogily
I don't want to pick the best player on every team at this spot, and I refuse to, but it's obvious that Ogilvy is the key to Vanderbilt's season. If he ups his game then Vanderbilt might be able to overachieve the expectations most "experts" have for them.

Postseason: NIT

5. South Carolina Gamecocks: Devan Downey might be the best player in the entire SEC, and he's also the main reason a lot of people think the Gamecocks can make a run at the NCAA Tournament.  With his sidekick Dominique Archie back too, and only Zan Fredrick gone, South Carolina is a gigantic sleeper in the SEC. It's hard to rank them in the absolutely loaded SEC East, but at this point I think the Gamecocks overachieved last season and will take a step back this season.

Biggest Question: How big of a role will Brandis Raley-Ross play for the Gamecocks this season? Last season he was the SEC's sixth man of the year. Now he's expected to get an expanded role in the offense while taking Fredrick's place.

Key Non Conference Game: At Clemson (December 6th)
If I told you I was impressed with South Carolina's out of conference schedule then I'd be lying. If the SEC wants to get back to being a conference taken seriously off the gridiron then its teams need to start playing good teams. Clemson, Boston College, and Baylor are the three BCS conference teams the Gamecocks play in the non-conference. All three are expected to be down this season, although the Tigers should still be a NCAA Tournament caliber team. I must also note that playing in the Charleston Classic gives the Gamecocks another chance to play a couple of good teams OOC.

Key Conference Game: At Vanderbilt (March 6th)
It's just a guess, because I could be wrong, but something tells me that the NCAA Tournament picture only has room for either Vanderbilt or South Carolina. Whoever wins this game, the Commodores' final regular season game, will likely stay in the picture. Obviously this is assuming a lot, but I can't see either team being completely out of the picture early in March.

Key Player: Dominique Archie
Archie will be overshadowed by Downey all offeason, and rightfully so. Downey will make the big shots and he will be the guy that helps the Gamecocks get where they go this season, but Archie is the man who will be expected to be the scorer when Downey isn't producing. For the Gamecocks to be tournament bound this year Archie is going to have to up his game to an even higher level than last season (when he averaged 10.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG) with Frederick gone.

Postseason: NIT

6. Georgia Bulldogs: New Georgia coach mark Fox looks up from the cellar of the conference at John Calipari, Bruce Pearl, Billy Donovan, and superstars everywhere. His team has no success to count on in tough moments and absolutely no experience in big games. Yet he expects to win, quickly. Two years ago the Bulldogs made an incredible run to the NCAA Tournament by winning the SEC Tournament, but last season the program fell back off the map with a 3-13 conference record.

Biggest Question: Will Troy Thompkins continue to develop into a dependable big man for the Bulldogs? Last season, a freshman, Thompkins averaged 12.5 PPG and 7.4 PPG. With Terrance Woodbury gone the scoring duty will now be put on Thompkins, Dustin Ware, and Albert Jackson. Thompkins represented the USA in the Under-19 World Championships this summer.

Key Non Conference Game: Vs Illinois (December 19th)
Let's be honest: Nobody sees Georgia making the NCAA Tournament, not even Georgia fans. It doesn't mean it can't happen. That's what is great about college basketball. If it is going to happen (and like I said chances are it won't) the Bulldogs have to find a way to win nice out of conference games. More than likely games like the one vs Illinois and Georgia Tech will probably have an impact on whether Georgia makes the NIT or CBI.

Key Conference Game: At Kentucky (January 9th)
Georgia wants to show the world it's on its way back. What better way to do that than by beating Kentucky, in Lexington, to begin SEC play? Who knows, in this crazy world of college basketball parity it might even mean something come March, should it happen.

Key Player: Troy Thompkins
With Woodbury gone, the scoring output might be more than Thompkins can handle as a sophmore. His experience this summer will help, but without huge performances from him in key games it's very unlikely that Mark Fox's team will be anything more than a spoiler in mid-February.

Postseason: None


1. Mississippi State Bulldogs: Last year the Bulldogs won the SEC Tournament and saved the SEC from a great deal of embarrasment. This season the expectations in Starkville are higher than they've been the few seasons. With Jarvis Vanardo, the shot blocker extraordinaire, back along with Ravern Johnson, Bulldog fans want a Sweet 16 run (at the very least). If freshman Renardo Sidney is cleared to play then Mississippi State could be one of the nation's elite teams.

Biggest Question: Outside of Sidney's clearance (which Missisippi State cannot control) the key for the Bulldogs is whether Vanardo can develop offensively. Vanardo has been the best shot blocker in the country (this side of NBA bound Hasheem Thabeet anyways) for years. Now Rick Stansbury and Mississippi State are hoping he do more on the offensive end and produce big numbers on both sides of the floor. If he can then he will likely have NBA scouts salivating.

Key Non Conference Game: At UCLA (December 12th)
Any time you play at UCLA, one of the nation's most storied programs, it's a big deal. As a conference this is a huge game for the SEC in general, but it's also a gigantic test for Mississippi State. A win would likely propel the Bulldogs into a lot of December bracketologies and help them overcome some bad losses that are likely to occur over a long season.

Key Conference Game: Vs Kentucky (February 16th)
What a nice schedule the Bulldogs got from the SEC scheduling crew. They avoid any of the big dogs from the SEC (KY, TN, FLA, SC, VAN) until February. The first major game (not counting LSU January 30th) is when the Wildcats come to Starkville in what could be the best team in the East against the best team in the West.

Key Player: Barry Stewart
Stewart hasn't been mentioned thus far, but he is the leader for the Bulldogs. He scored 12.4 PPG last season and should add to that total a little this season. Ravern Johnson, another good choice for this spot, is hte sharpshooter for Missisippi State and will be trusted to take some big time shots.

Postseason: Second Round (NCAA Tournament)

2. LSU Tigers: Last season I correctly predicted that the Tigers would win the SEC West. This year I think the Tigers will once again be in the running to be the best team on the SEC's "lighter" side. With Tasmin Mitchell back to lead the way this team could be very good, or it could miss Marcus Thornton, Garrett Temple, and Chris Johnson as much as it looks like they will on paper. I feel like LSU will be the surprise of the conference, just like they were last season. While everyone continues to pick exactly what the media picks, I will mix things up since I've never seen a conference finish the way the media believes it will.

Biggest Question: How far can Tasmin Mitchell carry the Tigers? With the talent cellar running dry in LSU due to three of the team's best four players gone, it's going to be all on Mitchell and Bo Spencer offensively. Mitchell has shown us what he can do (16.3 PPG) and has to take his game to the next level (if that's even possible).

Key Non Conference Game: At Washington State (December 22nd)
After not playing any teams of note in their first seven the Tigers finally play a noteworthy opponent. The game against the Cougars begins a three game stretch of games against BCS, non conference foes: Washington State, Xavier, Utah.

Key Conference Game: At Mississippi State (January 30th)
Does the SEC West still go through Baton Rouge? If it does the Tigers will show the rest of the conference by winning in Starkville against the Bulldogs.

Key Player: Bo Spencer
With Thornton, Temple, and Johnson gone Mitchell is going to need some help. Who else is better to spotlight than the only other returning starter from Trent Johnson's squad? Last season he averaged 11.4 PPG, but he might have to take that total up to 15 PPG if the Tigers don't find some scoring help and hope to be competitive.

Postseason: First Round (NCAA Tournament)

3. Mississippi Rebels: Chirs Warren is back after blowing out his knee last season, and he's joined by two other guys with injuries that kept them off the court: Eniel Polynice and Trevor Gaskins. With everyone finally back and healthy, Andy Kennedy is expecting the Rebels to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2002.

Biggest Question: Can Ole Miss stay healthy? I know this is a big question for every team nationwide, but it's a big if for Mississippi. As I mentioned, Warren, Polynice, and Gaskins were all lost by the twelth game last season and it really hampered a Rebels squad that went 7-9 in a down SEC. If Mississippi can keep everyone on the court they will likely leave it with a lot more victories.

Key Non Conference Game: West Virginia (December 23rd)
The Rebels are one of eight SEC teams that look to have a defnitite shot at making the NCAA Tournament. Like I've stated many times in this article the first thing the conference has to do is establish itslef so that its wins will be taken seriously. A win over West Virginia would be great for Mississippi and give them a boost heading into conference play.

Key Conference Game: At Tennessee (January 16th)
Following what should be a sure win in Athens against Georgia, the Rebels get a chance to knock off the Volunteers in Knoxville. Games against South Carolina, LSU, Auburn, Arkansas follow this one, so a great start in conference is likely with a win.

Key Player: Terrice White
While all the talk is focused on Warren and the other injured players returning, the key to Mississippi's season might just be White. Last season he averaged 13.7 PPG and will likely take David Huertas place in the backcourt.

Postseason: NCAA Tournament (First Round)

4. Arkansas Razorbacks: Last season I had the Razorbacks ranked dead last in the SEC West, but quickly made corrections in my bracketology after Arkansas knocked off Texas and Oklahoma early in the season. Then, almost as quickly as it began, Arkansas fell off the map with a 2-14 conference record and became the team most "experts" thought they would be. This year they have to be considered a sleeper due to their big early wins last season and desire to get better.

Biggest Question: Can Courtney Fortson grow up and become one of the SEC's elite talents? Even head coach John Pelphrey said that Fortson was going to have to become an all-league player for the Razorbacks to have success this season. If he does Arkansas could exceed expections and have an outside shot at making the Big Dance.

Key Non Conference Game: At Louisville (November 17th)
Get ready for this early season gem. Not only do we get to see how Rick Pitino's Cardinals deal with a decent BCS league opponent after a turmoil-filled offseason, but we also get to watch Arkansas try to knock off another elite program. If Arkansas can pull off some non-conference upsets like they did last year, the hope in Fayetteville is that they won't go to waste this year.

Key Conference Game: Vs Alabama (January 16th)
It's tough to mark one game for a team with limited expectations. A win in their opener against Alabama would give a team that won only two conference games all of last season a taste of conference success and might propel them into a top three finish in the SEC West. A loss could send them flailing to another under .500 season.

Key Player: Michael Washington
With all five starters back, the Hogs really feel like they can make a big leap this year. While Fortson will get the headlines, Washington (15.5 PPG, 9.8 RBP) is the big man NBA teams want, and will lead the Razorbacks as far as they go. If he takes another step forward this Arkansas team can be very good as long as Fortson takes a step along with him.

Postseason: CBI

5. Auburn Tigers: Last season the Tigers were one of the last teams left out of the NCAA Tournament, but the overall strength of the SEC was the main reason why they weren't invited to the Big Dance. With Korvotney Barber, Quantez Robinson, and Rasheem Barrett gone the Tigers basically have to rebuild the team that took them to the fringe of the tournament last year. The good news is that DeWayne Reed, Tay Walker, and Lucas Hargrove return so the talent is still there.

Biggest Question: Can point guard DeWayne Reed get everyone involved and help the Tigers avoid what looks to be a year where they take a step back? It's not all on Reed, but he's got to be the leader when on the court for Auburn this year. Last season he averaged 13.2 PPG and 3.7 assists but with Barber on the floor his job was easier then it will be this season.

Key Non Conference Game: At Florida State (December 17th)
The Tigers play the worst non conference schedule of any SEC team this year with their biggest games being N. C. State, Florida State, and Virginia. If you're going to play the ACC, at least avoid playing North Carolina and Duke, right?

Key Conference Game: Vs Alabama (January 30th)
With Nick Saban in town and Auburn's football team becoming the state's second best team, Tiger fans will take any win over the Crimson Tide they can get. While this could conceivably be to avoid last place in the SEC West, it's not completely crazy to believe one of the two Alabama teams will compete for the West crown.

Key Player: Frankie Sullivan
With Robertson and Barrett gone in the frontcourt, Auburn will attempt to find a replacement that can score in bunches. Sullivan was one of the top high school players in Alabama two years ago and could break out this year.

Postseason: None

6. Alabama Crimson Tide: When I made my SEC preview for last season, I really felt like the Crimson Tide could compete for the West crown and a NCAA Tournament spot. Unfortunately the disappointing, injury-filled career of former star point guard Ronald Steele finally came to an end and left Alabama without anyone to lead the team on the floor. Without Steele, Alabama won only seven games in league play. With new head coach Anthony Grant, the forgotten man behind the scenes when Florida built their championship teams, the Crimson Tide have high hopes. For starters, they'd like to avoid the SEC West basement.

Biggest Question: Who will play point guard for Alabama? After Steele left the team last season, Mikhail Torrance became the main figure at the point. Grant will have to find a floor leader before he can venture into the season. A better question might be: How many dunks will Senario Hillman have on Sportscenter this year? Hillman is a dunker made for television and with the talent-well coming up dry in Tuscaloosa (at least on paper) he might be the single highlight off a bottom-feeding team.

Key Non Conference Game: Vs Purdue (December 12th)
If Alabama wants to compete for a postseason birth then it has to find a way to win some of their bigger out of conference games. The NCAA Tournament may be out of reach on paper, but a win over Purdue (even though it may sound unrealistic) might change expectations in Tuscaloosa quickly. Plus, it might be December 12th before Alabama football fans realize basketball season has started. Seriously.

Key Conference Game: At LSU (January 9th)
When your first conference game is a road game in Baton Rouge, it's best not to look too far ahead. It's not exactly LSU football on a Saturday night, but it is still a tough place to play for SEC opponents. If Alabama wins this one it might be best to blow up my SEC West predictions completely.

Key Player: JaMychal Green
To be honest, a lot of Alabama players are going to have to be a lot better than they were last season if the Crimson Tide expect to compete game in and game out in the SEC. With Alonzo Gee gone and Demetrius Jemison lost for the season, it will be guys like Green, Anthony Brock, Torrance, and Hillman that decide where this program is at the end of the year.

Postseason: None

Posted on: February 28, 2009 11:59 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2009 12:15 am

Bubble Watch: After Saturday's Games

There were a few big bubble winners on Saturday night and a few big bubble survivors. Survivors include Penn State, who trailed late to Big Ten bottom dweller Indiana before coming back to capture its ninth conference win.

A couple of bubble teams missed out on big chances to solidify at large berths. Virginia Tech missed a big chances to knock off Duke on its home floor, Arizona failed to knock off Washington the road, and Kentucky lost to LSU in Lexington to drop yet another SEC game. California also missed a very big opportunity to defeat UCLA at home with the world watching and College Gameday in apperance.

Florida State was the only team that moved into lock status after today's games. The Seminoles win over Clemson was enough to wrap up a NCAA Tournament profile. BYU landed a large win over Mountain West leading Utah, while New Mexico was able to survive a double overtime marathon against Colorado State. One other big winner on Saturday was Oklahoma State, who took advantage of an opportunity to knock off Texas in Stillwater. Georgetown stayed alive by knocking off Villanova in Philadelphia.

Bubble losers included Notre Dame, Arizona (as already mentioned), and Kentucky (also already mentioned). The Fighting Irish had a chance to knock off the soon to be #1 Connecticut Huskies but fell late in the game.

All of these games have helped make the bubble picture clearer in some places and murkier in others. Let's break it down mathematically.

At Large Spots: 34
Locks: 26
Locks (minus teams projected to win conference tournament): 26-7=19
At Large Spots Remaining: 34-19=15

My math shows that I am projecting that 15 at large spots remain .

I have 38 teams listed on the bubble below to fight for those spots. If your team isn't on the list below they probably need to win their conference tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament, but it is possible that a few teams can still win their way onto the bubble.

Here's today's bubble watch:


Locks (5):

Boston College (20-9, 8-6): The Eagles have wins over Duke, Wake Forest, and North Carolina this season so it's going to be hard for the selection committee to leave Boston College out of the Big Dance. The last two are very winnable so a 10- 6 finish in conference play is very likely.

Remaning Schedule: N. C. State, Georgia Tech
Nice Wins: UAB, Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia Tech
Bad Losses: St. Louis, Harvard

Virginia Tech (17-11, 7-7): The Hokies have wins over Clemson & Wake Forest, but they haven't helped themselves lately outside of their road win over the Tigers. On Saturday the loss to Duke at home was costly because the Hokies had a chance to really solidify their resume.

Remaning Schedule: North Carolina, Florida State
Nice Wins: Boston College, Wake Forest, Clemson
Bad Losses: Georgia, Seton Hall

Maryland (17-10, 6-7): The Terps win over North Carolina was shocking, mainly because they had been blown out by good competition in most meetings this year. The victory tremendously helped Maryland because it brought wins they had early in the year over both Michigan and Michigan State back into the fray.

Remaning Schedule: N. C. State, Wake Forest, Virginia
Nice Wins: Michigan State, Michigan, North Carolina, Miami (FL)
Bad Losses: Morgan State

Miami FL (17-10, 6-8): The Hurricanes have played a lot of good teams this season, including Connecticut and Kentucky out of conference. The key is that their computer numbers are fantastic and they have two very winnable games remaining on their schedule against Georgia Tech & NC State.

Remaning Schedule: Georgia Tech, N. C. State
Nice Wins: Kentucky, Boston College, Maryland, Wake Forest, Boston College
Bad Losses: N. C. State

Big East

Locks (5):

Providence (17-11, 9-7): The Friars were really a forgotten bubble team before their huge win over #1 Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. Now the entire college basketball world is in shock and Providence is the talk of the bubble world. If Providence beats Rutgers (very likely) then they will have 10 Big East wins. That's important.

Remaining Schedule: Rutgers, Villanova
Nice Wins: Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Cincinnati (2),
Bad Losses: Northeastern, Baylor

Syracuse (20-8, 8-7): Orange fans are starting to feel uneasy after missing the NCAA Tiurnament the last two seasons, but let me do some re-assuring for just a second. I don't see how Syracuse can miss the Big Dance at this point unless they lose out. This is mainly for precausionary reasons.

Remaning Schedule: Cincinnati, Rutgers, Marquette
Nice Wins: Memphis, West Virginia, Kansas, Florida, Notre Dame
Bad Losses: Cleveland State,

West Virginia (19-9, 8-7): The Mountaineers great computer numbers have them within range to capture an at large bid (just like Syracuse). West Virginia's loss to Cincinnati on Thursday night wasn't exactly what they needed, but it didn't hurt them too bad just yet. Two of the last three are very winnable.

Remaning Schedule: South Florida, DePaul, Louisville
Nice Wins: Providence, Notre Dame, Ohio State
Bad Losses: None (did lose to Davidson & Kentucky though)

Cincinnati (18-10, 8-7): The Bearcats are looking for that gigantic win that pushes a resume over the top (like Providence over Pittsburgh). Beating West Virginia was nice but it wasn't the kind of win that gets you into the NCAA Tournament. Beating Syracuse on Sunday would probably do the trick.

Remaning Schedule: Syracuse, South Florida, Seton Hall
Nice Wins: UAB, UNLV, West Virginia, Georgetown
Bad Losses: None

Notre Dame (16-12, 7-9): Things are starting to look bleak again for the Fighting Irish. Coming into Saturday they had renewed hope after wins over Providence and Louisville had helped counter a seven game losing streak. Connecticut outlasted Notre Dame for the win on Saturday though, leaving ND's main hope relying on a 9-9 Big East record.

Remaning Schedule: Villanova, St. Johns
Nice Wins: Providence, Louisville, Georgetown, Texas
Bad Losses: St. Johns

Georgetown (15-12, 6-10): How many lives the do the Hoyas have? Every time they seem gone for dead they find a way to stay alive. On Saturday they knocked off Villanova to keep their chances of a miracle finish alive. Still wins over St. Johns and DePaul are absolutely necessary before a decent run in the Big East Tournament. The Hoyas have the #1 SOS.

Remaining Schedule: Villanova, St. Johns, DePaul
Nice Wins: Syracuse, Providence, Maryland, Memphis
Bad Losses: Seton Hall

Big Ten:

Locks (3):


Ohio State (18-9, 8-8): Ohio State has now lost four of five games to fall squarely back on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Winning out would give Ohio State a 10-8 Big Ten finish, which will probably be enough with the list of good wins they have. The problem is one of those games comes against pesky Northwestern, a team OSU has already lost to once.

Remaning Schedule: Iowa, Northwestern
Nice Wins: Penn State, Michigan, Purdue, Miami (FL), Notre Dame, Butler
Bad Losses: Northwestern

Penn State (20-9, 9-7); Whew! That's the sound of Penn State fans after their comeback to knock off Big Ten bottom dwellar Indiana. Another win over Indiana (hopefully not as ugly as last time) and a win over Indiana would give the Nittany Lions a total of 11 Big Ten wins. That certainly may do it.

Remaining Schedule: Illinois, Iowa
Nice Wins: Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan
Bad Losses: None (did lose to Rhode Island)

Wisconsin (17-10, 8-7): Wisconsin's resume reminds me a lot of Notre Dame's resume (except they lost six straight games compared to seven), but the Badgers have much better computer numbers. Before losing to Michigan State the Badgers have won five straight games to get back into relatively safe territory.

Remaning Schedule: Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana
Nice Wins: Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Virginia Tech
Bad Losses: Iowa

Minnesota (20-8, 8-8): The Golden Gophers appeared destined for an at large bid early in the season after a 18-3 start to the season that included a win over Louisville. Since then the Gophers are 2-5 with losses to Penn State & Michigan included.  The last two aren't easy but winning at least one is very necessary.

Remaining Schedule: Wisconsin, Michigan
Nice Wins: Louisville, Wisconsin, Penn State, Ohio State
Bad Losses: Northwestern

Michigan (18-11, 8-8): The Wolverines are up and down as evident by their wins over Duke & UCLA and losses to Maryland & Iowa. Still, how many teams have ever been left out of the NCAA Tournament when having wins over Duke and UCLA in the same season? I'm guessing it's a short list. Nine Big Ten wins might be enough.

Remaining Schedule: Wisconsin, Minnesota
Nice Wins: Purdue, Minnesota, Duke, UCLA, Illinois
Bad Losses: Iowa


Big 12

Locks (4):


Kansas State (20-9, 8-6): The Wildcats are quietly very alive in the bubble picture. Kansas State knocked off Nebraska on Saturday and moved farther towards an at large bid. The next two games against Oklahoma State and Colorado are going to be must wins for Kansas State to get an at large. The downside is they defeated nobody of importance outside of conference.

Remaining Schedule: Oklahoma State, Colorado
Nice Wins: Texas
Bad Losses: Baylor, Nebraska, Oregon, Iowa

Oklahoma State (19-9, 8-6): Finally the Cowboys won an eye opening game to back up their fantastic computer numbers. I'm not sure if Texas knows what hit them. The Cowboys have a huge bubble game against Kansas State next week before finishing with a chance to add a huge win to their resume versus rival Oklahoma.

Remaning Schedule : Kansas State, Oklahoma
Nice Wins: Siena, Nebraska, Texas A&M
Bad Losses: Texas A&M, Baylor

Texas A&M (21-8, 7-7): The Aggies seem like the forgotten team that just won't fade away. Texas A&M can't afford a slipup against Colorado before playing Big 12 monster Missouri. Winning out would make the committee think twice about leaving the Aggies out, especially with a split against Oklahoma State and a win over SEC champion LSU.

Remaining Schedule : Colorado, Missouri
Nice Wins: Nebraska, Oklahoma State, LSU
Bad Losses: Baylor, Kansas State


Pac 10

Locks (3):


California (21-8, 10-6): The Golden Bears missed a huge chance to lock up a bid on Saturday night against UCLA. The Bears have Arizona and Arizona State left on the schedule. A win in either game would probably be enough to lock up an at large bid. Even if Cal loses out it's going to be tough to deny them a bid with 10 conference wins.

Remaining Schedule : Arizona, Arizona State
Nice Wins: Washington (twice), Arizona, Utah, UNLV
Bad Losses: Oregon State (2)

Arizona (18-11, 8-8): Arizona has lost three straight games to Arizona State, Washington State, and Washington. A win over the Huskies on Saturday would've immensely improved their profile. Instead Arizona has to look at the plus side, which is two games remaining against mediocre conference foes. Wins over Gonzaga, Kansas, UCLA, and Washington are all nice.

Remaining Schedule : California, Stanford
Nice Wins: UCLA, Washington, Gonzaga, San Diego State, Kansas
Bad Losses: None (did lose to USC though)

USC (16-12, 7-9): USC's inconsistency has left the Trojans needing a deep run in the Pac Ten Tournament. Even winning their last two games will not be enough after losing to Stanford, which is inexcusable at this point in the season. Two wins and at least two more in the Pac Ten Tournament (maybe even reaching the Pac Ten finals) is needed.

Remaining Schedule : Oregon, Oregon State
Nice Wins: California, Arizona, Arizona State
Bad Losses: Oregon State, Seton Hall



Locks (1):


Tennessee (17-10, 8-5): A lot of people are calling the Volunteers locks, but things are not that simple in Knoxville. Games against Florida and South Carolina won't be easy with at large bids on the line. It's very possible that 9 SEC wins could be enough as long as they don't lose early in the SEC Tournament.

Remaining Schedule : Florida, South Carolina, Alabama
Nice Wins: Siena, Georgetown, South Carolina, Florida
Bad Losses: Auburn, Mississippi (also lost to Kentucky twice)

South Carolina (20-7, 9-5): I spent last night explaining how games against Vanderbilt and Georgia left South Carolina staring at 11 SEC wins at the minimum. Nobody expected Vanderbilt to whoop them, especially after South Carolina's murdered Kentucky on Wednesday. The profile is iffy now, even with wins over Florida and a sweep of Kentucky.

Remaining Schedule : Tennessee, Georgia
Nice Wins: Florida, Kentucky (2)
Bad Losses: Mississippi State, College of Charleston, Vanderbilt

Florida (21-7, 8-5): The Gators have feasted on a soft out of conference schedule and aside from beating Washington & South Carolina they have struggled to beat good teams. Florida missed chances to knock off both Syracuse, Kentucky, and LSU. Their remaining games against Tennesee and Kentucky are huge.

Remaining Schedule : Tennessee, Mississippi State, Kentucky
Nice Wins: Washington, South Carolina
Bad Losses: Georgia

Kentucky (19-10, 8-6: Well, well, well what do we have here? I really can't figure out if this is a team that wants to go to the Big Dance or a team that is okay being the first UK team since 1991 to miss the NCAA Tournament altogether. Back to back losses to South Carolina & LSU have left the Wildcats in big need of two wins to close their season.

Remaining Schedule: LSU, Georgia, Florida
Nice Wins: Tennessee (2), Florida
Bad Losses: Mississippi State, Mississippi


Mountain West

Locks (1):

BYU (22-6, 10-4): Another bubble team apparently wants to go dancing, and that team is BYU. The Cougars knocked off the only Mountain West team that was locked into the field, Utah on Saturday. Wyoming isn't an easy win but a win there paired with a win over Air Force would give BYU a 12-4 MWC record going into the MWC Tournament.

Remain ing Schedule: Wyoming, Air Force
Nice Wins: San Diego State, Utah
Bad Losses: None

New Mexico (19-10, 10-4):  Somehow the Lobos keep getting forgotten in all of this bubble talk although they are in a tie for second place in the conference. New Mexico came from behind to knock off Colorado State in double overtime, setting up a huge game with Utah.

Remaining Schedule: Colorado State, Utah, Wyoming
Nice Wins: BYU, UNLV
Bad Losses: UCF, Texas Tech, UTEP

San Diego State (19-8, 9-5): Knocking off TCU in overtime was really important for the Aztecs at large hopes. A win over Colorado State would set up a huge potential bubble elimination game between San Diego State & UNLV just a few nights before the start of the Mountain West Tournament.

Remaining Schedule : Colorado State, UNLV
Nice Wins: UNLV, Utah
Bad Losses: Wyoming

UNLV (20-8, 8-6): The Rebels have been one of the most disappointing teams in the country thsi year, but all is not lost. With four teams in the Mountain West with a chance to get to 10 conference wins (the maximum for UNLV) the Rebels probably need to win their remaning two and then at least one in the MWC Tournament to feel safe.

Remaining Schedule : Air Force, San Diego State
Nice Wins: Louisville, Utah, BYU, New Mexico
Bad Losses: Colorado State, Wyoming, TCU



Locks (4):


Dayton (24-5, 10-4):  The Flyers were in great shape before dropping back to back games to Saint Louis and Rhode Island. On Saturday their win over Temple got them back on track. If the Flyers can beat Xavier again this week then I don't see any way they get left out of the big dance.

Remaining Schedule : Xavier, Duquense
Nice Wins: Xavier, Marquette, Temple
Bad Losses: St. Louis, Charlotte, Massachusetts

Rhode Island (21-8, 10-4): The Rams just keep staying alive. Since starting the season 12-7 Rhode Island has won 9 of 10 games. The next two are very winnable (Duquense, Massachsetts) before the Atlantic Ten tournament. If they win their next two games they will avoid Xavier until the finals.

Remaining Schedule : Duquense, Massachusetts
Nice Wins: Dayton, Temple, Penn State
Bad Losses: Saint Josephs

Temple (17-11, 9-5): The Owls are probably going to need to win the Atlantic Ten Tournament to get into the Big Dance. The wins over Tennessee & Penn State look good on the resume but back to back losses to La Salle & Dayton have really affected their chances of getting an at large.

Remaining Schedule : Saint Josephs, George Washington
Nice Wins: Tennessee, Penn State
Bad Losses: Buffalo, Miami (OH), La Salle

UAB (20-9, 10-4): The Blazers really need to knock off Memphis to have any chance to get into the field, but that fell apart. They do have one more chance to knock off the Tigers, but it will likely be in the Conference USA Tournament final unless they fall to the #4 seed in the standings. In that scenario they'd meet the Tigers in the semifinals.

Remaining Schedule : East Carolina, UTEP, Marshall
Nice Wins: Arizona
Bad Losses: Tulsa, Houston

Siena (22-7, 15-2):  For all intensive purposes losing to Niagara on Friday night pretty much ruined the Saints at large hopes, along with losing to Rider earlier this week. Siena should plan on winning the MAAC Tournament to claim a NCAA Tournament bid, unless a lot of other bubble teams start to fall apart.

Remaining Schedule : Canisius
Nice Wins: Northern Iowa
Bad Losses: Rider, Niagara

Creighton (25-6, 14-4): The Blue Jays are making a huge run towards the Big Dance. After a 5-4 start in conference play Creighton has now taken the lead in the Missouri Valley by winning ten straight games. Beating George Mason in the bracketbuster game was pretty much the capping of a nice profile. If Creighton loses in the MVC final they have a compelling case for an at large.

Remaining Schedule : Illinois State
Nice Wins: George Mason, Northern Iowa, Dayton
Bad Losses: Illinois State, Drake

Davidson (24-6, 17-2): The Wildcats knew their game with Butler was probably for their at large hope lives, and they lost. Grabbing an at large bid would mean the Wildcats had lost three Socon games this year, which is not really an achievement after the way they've run through the conference in past years. Davidson better win the Socon.

Remaining Schedule : Georgia Southern, Elon
Nice Wins: West Virginia
Bad Losses: The Citadel, College of Charleston

St. Marys (23-5, 9-4): The Gaels case is going to be one of the more interesting on Selection Sunday. Will the committee cut them some slack because they lost Patty Mills in a game against Gonzaga where they were in control at halftime? Or will three losses (including one in the WCC Tourney) to the Zags be the doom of them?

Remaining Schedule : Loyola-Marymount
Nice Wins: Utah State, Portland
Bad Losses: Santa Clara, UTEP

Utah State (26-4, 13-2): The Aggies loss to St. Marys in the bracketbusters really killed their at large mojo, and following it up with a loss to Nevada didn't really help the situation any. I will leave Utah State on the list due to their decent RPI and guady record, but unless they lose an incredibly competitive WAC final I think anything short of an auto won't be enough.

Remaining Schedule: Nevada, San Jose State
Nice Wins: Utah
Bad Losses:
Boise State




Posted on: February 25, 2009 1:49 am
Edited on: February 25, 2009 1:53 am

CBB Nightly: 10 Thoughts & Providence's Shocker

1. Providence, 81, #1 Pittsburgh 73: If you saw this coming please raise your hand. Actually stand up, raise both hands, do the macarena, turn yourself around, and take a huge bow. And then go buy yourself something really nice, because you are either the luckiest gambler on earth, a descendent of the great Nostradamus, or you thought Providence was the "p" team with 1 beside its name.

In all seriousness what about what the Friars just did? Not only did they go from afterthought to potential at large berth winnner, but they also shook up the entire national championship picture. Maybe this is what it takes to beat the Panthers. A few hot shooters, a frustrated Dejuan Blair, and an ecstatic crowd. A lot of teams are throwing that formula together right now, and it probably won't work the majority of the time against one of the nation's most phyically gifted teams. Tonight it did though, and for Providence that's all that matters.

Is Providence in my field right now? I honestly can't say for sure since I haven't created my new field after tonight's games just yet, but I do think they are. And I know whar your thinking. Wait a minute Dan this team is 17-11 overall and you are putting them in the NCAA Tournament? Look closer. The Friars now have wins over #1 ranked Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and they swept Cincinnati. That pushes them above the Bearcats in the pecking order and puts them above Georgetown & Notre Dame at this point.

2. LSU is one of the most athletic teams in the country. Laugh when you see the Tigers in your team's bracket on Selection Sunday but be warned. This team is a matchup nightmare. They have the length of Tayshaun Prince everywhere and a player that can absolutely take over any game in a split second, Marcus Thornton.

3. Florida's loss pushes them farther towards the NCAA Tournament bubble. I keep asking for heart from bubble teams and aside from Providence, Maryland, and Arizona I've been let down. The Gators are probably still in at this juncture, but fourth best in the SEC East may not be good enough on Selection Sunday. You are reading it here first, so remember I said this. Do not be surprised if Florida makes a run over the next few games, including a deep SEC Tournament run. Billy Donovan has got the youngesters buying into his system and slowly but surely it will churn out some results.

4. Boston College looks safer and safer as every day goes by. The Eagles now have wins over North Carolina, Duke, and Florida State in ACC play, which should be more than enough to get them into the field barring a collapse. At this point I don't see how anyone can keep them out.

5. BYU put together a tremendous second half comeback against hungry San Diego State. For the Cougars it means the line for dance tickets is getting shorter. The Aztecs are about to get a "sold out" sign unless they do something spectacular or win the Mountain West Tournament.

6. Everybody seems to keep sleeping on Creighton, but don't be surprised if the Blue Jays sneak into the at large field ever so quietly on Selection Sunday if they lose in the Missouri Valley Tournament.  The Blue Jays win over Missouri State pushed their overall record to an impressive 24-6.

7. The Texas A&M-Nebraska finish was the best of the night. Josh Carter hit a three at the buzzer to win the game for the Aggies, and keep alive their slim at large hopes in the process. Texas A&M is now 6-7 in conference play but still in need of big wins.

8. Baylor's hopes of reaching back to back NCAA Tournaments now relies on the Big 12 Tournament. Losing to Iowa State is unacceptable, especially when you barely have a pulse as it is.

9. I can't really say I've done my job unless I mention Ohio State's win over Penn State in tonight's first round of games. The Buckeyes jumped out to a quick lead before allowing the Nittany Lions to come back. Eventually Ohio State pulled away, enlarged its at large chances, and damaged Penn State's NCAA Tournament hopes all in one package.

10. One more thing I don't want to forget to mention is conference tournaments. On March 3rd the Big South & Ohio Valley tournaments start, so stay tuned for coverage of those on this blog. Radford will more than likely be the #1 seed in the Big South while the Ohio Valley race is still up in the air.

March Madness on Demand : This is one of the really cool features CBS has for us college basketball lovers during the NCAA Tournament. This season there are new features including High Quality live streaming video of the entire NCAA Tournament. I have used it in the past and I cannot wait to do so this year. Click the link and sign up!


Posted on: February 19, 2009 12:39 am
Edited on: February 19, 2009 12:44 am

CBB Nightly: Your Nightly Hoops Fix

Tonight's 10 college basketball thoughts:

1) Remember when St. Louis only scored 20 points last year in a game? Well if they had played Illinois tonight (who lost by five despite only scoring 33 points) they would've only lost by 13. How about that? How does a potential NCAA Tournament top six seed lose while only scoring 33 points?

2) LSU stormed back to knock off Arkansas tonight. The Tigers are for real if there are any doubters left. They lead the SEC and have played well, despite the lack of national attention the entire conference is getting.

3) UNLV lost AGAIN on Wednesday, this time to Wyoming. Coming in the Cowboys had lost three straight games and were reeling faster than Luke Harangody on a bicycle with a Georgetown bumper sticker. The Rebels are now in big NCAA Tournament trouble. I had them in coming into tonight but that might change when my new bracket comes out.

4) Boise State knocked off Utah State on Saturday, ending the nation's longest winning streak. The Broncos lost by two against Idaho on Wednsday while the Aggies bounced back to destroy Cal State Bakersfield. This just proves how crazy this college basketball season has been (but aren't they all).

5) Northwestern lost three straight games in which they blew leads to Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan before ending their losing streak to Ohio State. Remember the Wildcats are STILL the only team in a BCS league that has never made the NCAA Tournament. If not for those three straight losses the Wildcats would probably be on the good side of the bubble right now.

6) Why does Tennessee keep getting a free pass? After their blowout loss to Ole Miss they've now lost 5 out of 11 and 3 of their last 7 games.  Do wins over Marquette, Florida, Georgetown, and Siena really mean you're a lock? No it doesn't, but for some reason people are giving the Volunteers a free pass into the tournament. Their computer numbers are good, and this is a very talented basketball team but they aren't playing well. Bruce Pearl needs to rally his guys before the home stretch begins.

7) Virginia Tech lost again tonight, blowing another chance to win a game before closing with a tough remaining ACC schedule. I don't see any give me wins in a schedule that includes Florida State (twice), Duke, North Carolina, and Clemson. Don't worry though VT fans, because Miami (FL) is not helping themselves out either. Another loss, this time to FSU, has the Hurricanes at 4-8 in the ACC and playing themselves out of a NCAA Tournament bid.

8) Other teams that missed big chances tonight (not including MIA) include Providence (who lost to Louisville), Notre Dame (who lost to West Virginia), and South Carolina (who lost to Mississippi State). UAB, Utah, and Georgetown are all bubble teams that stay won games they couldn't lose tonight.

9) My new bracketology will be out sometime tomorrow afternoon/tomorrow night. I am sorry it's not out tonight but there's just too much to change/factor in after tonight's lowly peformance by bubble teams.

10) I haven't mentioned this in a while because I figure people will get bored with it, but March Madness on Demand is really awesome. I have been told it's got some new features this year. Sign up here and be ready for when the NCAA Tournament starts (less than a month away). Also be thinking of excuses to get off work ahead of time!

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com