The Madness begins, and a host of Wildcats are terrified

We come to you with a special postseason edition of the weekly College Basketball Insider. Already there’s a good chance the NCAA tournament could commence without: The nation’s winningest program; the school that won consecutive titles not so long ago; the school that has graced every edition of March Madness since 1985 and the little team that came within a missed three-pointer of the 2008 Final Four. How’s that for a rejection list?

Endangered Wildcats (Part 1)

Arizona enters the Pac-10 tournament having lost four of five and is ranked 52nd in the RPI, leaving its streak of 24 consecutive NCAA appearances in peril. Then again, what would you expect? Lute Olson missed last season due to health concerns, pronounced himself fit to return this fall and then quit in October, leaving the team in the hands of interim coach Russ Pennell.

Three No. 1 seeds from one conference?

It could happen. Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Louisville are ranked among the nation’s top five in both polls. At least two of those will lose this week in the Big East tournament, but each has compiled a mighty body of work: UConn was ranked No. 1 last week; Pitt swept UConn and has been ranked No. 1 itself, and Louisville won the league’s regular-season title.

Endangered Wildcats (Part 2)

Last March’s darling it figures to be playing in the NIT next week. Davidson lost to College of Charleston, coached by Bobby Cremins, in the Southern Conference semifinals and must hope the NCAA committee can find a way to invite a team ranked 69th in the RPI. (Anything above 40 is considered iffy for an at-large hopeful.) The Madness will be less mad without Stephen Curry.

A sobering scenario for the SEC

The conference that produced the NCAA champion in 2006 and 2007 could wind up with only three tournament bids. Auburn (64th in the RPI) probably needs to win the SEC tournament. Florida (48th) could go from consecutive national titles to consecutive NITs, and even South Carolina, which tied for first in the SEC East, isn’t a lock. (It’s 50th.) And then there’s …

Endangered Wildcats (Part 3)

Kentucky hasn’t missed the NCAA tournament since 1991 but, with an RPI of 80, needs a big showing in St. Pete just to make it back atop the bubble. Two years after replacing Tubby Smith, Billy Gillispie is already fielding questions about his job security, and both Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson, Kentucky’s best players, could leave early for the NBA.

Fearful Turtles

When last Maryland played in the Georgia Dome, it won the 2002 NCAA title. The Terrapins arrive for the ACC tournament having followed their massive upset of North Carolina by losing three of four, including a flop against 11th-place Virginia. With an RPI of 67, Maryland needs to reach the ACC final to have an NCAA shot, and it could have to beat both Wake Forest and Duke to get there.

Is there a Georgia in anybody’s house?

It could be the team that plays Georgia on Thursday. Mississippi State lost five of its final six games in February but finished the regular season with two victories. The winner of Bulldogs-versus-Bulldogs would then play South Carolina. And let’s be honest: Winning four games in four days wouldn’t be all that tough in this season’s SEC.

Mid-major angst

Creighton lost to Illinois State by 24 points in the Missouri Valley semifinals and must hope its RPI of 39 is good enough. Saint Mary’s lost the West Coast final to Gonzaga and, with an RPI of 45, could be out. And bubble teams from major conferences are praying Utah State doesn’t get upset in the WAC tournament and that either Xavier or Dayton wins the Atlantic 10.

Bubble boys

ACC: Boston College, Maryland, Miami, Virginia Tech.
Big East: Providence.
Big Ten: Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin.
Big 12: Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M.
Mountain West: New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV.
Pac-10: Arizona, Southern Cal.
SEC: Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina.

Projected NCAA seedings

East Regional
1. Pittsburgh
2. Duke
3. Missouri
4. Xavier

South Regional
1. North Carolina
2. Oklahoma
3. Washington
4. Villanova

Midwest Regional
1. Memphis
2. Louisville
3. Kansas
4. Florida State

West Regional
1. Connecticut
2. Michigan State
3. Wake Forest
4. Butler

And now for the really terrifying part!

I, Mark Bradley, being of less-than-sound mind and a deteriorating body, will blog live from Georgia Tech’s first (and perhaps last) game of the ACC tournament Thursday afternoon. We’ll get started around noon and keep going until the Tech game, which begins around 2:30, is done. A good time will be had by some, I assure you.

32 comments Add your comment

mark

March 10th, 2009
2:53 pm

This March Madness national champ will be North Carolina. that’s my take. The Tar Heels have all the factors to win it all the way. They are a major conference team. they have a good point guard, great depth, rebounds, very good play defense, great in free throws. I think North Carolina will be the number one team when the final buzzer sounds at the final four. If you think who will really win then make your pick prediction at http://pickmarchmadnesswinner.tk/

Mark Bradley

March 10th, 2009
2:58 pm

Oh, and another Bradley plug. We are, for the 22nd consecutive year, doing the Final Four Fiasco. Check back here Sunday to enter and win a fabulous prize. (That’s assuming you consider a sweatshirt fabulous. Which I do, especially one with a hood. Me and Bill Belichick, we love our hoodies.)

wxwax

March 10th, 2009
3:02 pm

After seeing Kentucky’s head coach twice be needlessly rude to an ESPN sideline reporter at halftime of two different games, I’m rooting for him to get fired. No class.

Mark Bradley

March 10th, 2009
3:05 pm

Those were not Billy G.’s finest moments. Then again, he hasn’t had many fine moments of late.

lakerat

March 10th, 2009
3:06 pm

Wow – how the mighty have fallen FSU is a 4 seed! Clemson has continued their yearly swoon at the end of every season, so I see Tech beating them in the first round of the ACC tourney.

Mark Bradley

March 10th, 2009
3:15 pm

I would not be shocked if Tech beat Clemson. The shock to me is that Tech lost 14 ACC games with Lawal, Clinch, Shumpert, Aminu, Peacock, Morris and Storrs. That’s a pretty talented group.

gdawginkalamazoo

March 10th, 2009
3:21 pm

What’s this March Madness business? College basketball? I thought the NIT was the place to be in March. That is if you can get in. I hear its tough to do.

Mark Bradley

March 10th, 2009
3:23 pm

Pretty tough, yes. All you have to do is win as many as you lose. Kind of like being bowl-eligible.

[...] The Madness begins, and a host of Wildcats are terrified | Mark … [...]

gdawginkalamazoo

March 10th, 2009
3:54 pm

Bowl eligible? Ouch that make it sound even worst than it is when put into that perspective. Actually I guess it can’t get any worse.

Hubert

March 10th, 2009
4:19 pm

Mark, you’re shocked that Tech lost 14 ACC games with a “talented group”? You forgot to consider their untalented coach. How Hewitt could lose that many games with a roster of obviously capable players in a weaker ACC than we’ve seen in recent years is a greater testimony to his total lack of coaching ability than anything I could say (and I just did).

Mark Bradley

March 10th, 2009
4:26 pm

I’ll admit it took some doing to lose 14 ACC games. I mean, come on.

DawginLex

March 10th, 2009
4:34 pm

Mark,

Billy G is in serious trouble. Short of winning the SECT, he is probably gone or at least on a very short “Bobby knight” kind of leash. There is rumor of 7.5 big ones being raised to hasten his departure. President of UK Lee Todd has made a statement to the press that an evaluation will be done after the season.

IMO, he has blown it. Short of a miracle run, he is back to Texas……….

James

March 10th, 2009
4:35 pm

Excuse me Mark if this is rather long, but Auburn needs to win the tournament? Why? Have you checked South Carolina’s OOC schedule? The bottom 30 of the entire NCAA. Why any different for them? Florida’s overall schedule also 15 spots or more worse than Auburn. Yeah, I believe you when you say winning 8 of 9 to end the year and then beating solid RPI Florida in the quarters and Tennessee in the semis isn’t even enough to get a would-be 45 or so RPI team, hottest team in the league into the tournament having lost in the finals. I also believe you’re sadly ignorant on that. I’d like to see you explain why a team finishing the SEC (young/down or otherwise, it doesn’t matter) 10 of 12 with a 45-48 or better RPI losing in the finals should not be taken over the darlings like Penn St getting free rides. You just said Auburn probably had to win the tournament right?

All the ‘expert’ bracket guys have MIAMI as one of the last ones out. Really? What about Penn St? A legit bubble team destined for the tournament doesn’t lose to the 2nd worst team in their league to end the season. Their schedule is also worse than Auburn’s, RPI the same, and OOC being worse than ANYONE’s in the SEC. Miami’s nice wins are canceled out and just weren’t good enough with the way they finished the year (Cincinnati like, is 4-7 good enough for the tournament?) and losing to your Jackets on a 9 game or so skid or whatever they were on. Tournament teams are supposed to take care of business at the end. Auburn is one of the VERY few schools that have done that. They didn’t just beat 5 or more RPI 100 teams in that stretch. They blew them out. The 1 point win against Tennessee was won by a team not yet hitting their peak and had just started to mesh and believe in themselves. 4 out of their last 6 games were on the road. People usually take kindly to things like that around this time. Not so with Auburn. Not even margin of victory is being mentioned like with every other bubble team, good or bad.

And why doesn’t Florida have to do the same as Auburn to make it? They finished 4-6 to end the year and 9-7 in such a ‘horrible’ league, getting SWEPT by consensus top teams in the league, LSU and Tennessee. They finished 6th overall in the league having been killed by Miss State to end the year with the same record. Their sweeping of a Kentucky team on a patch of their season where they couldn’t win has been seen as a better feat than Auburn sweeping the same Miss State team by more than 15 each time, even with Miss St having a better RPI now than Kentucky. I can make a seriously similar counter argument for just about any bubble team you dare say should already be in with Auburn being forced to win their tournament. Watching the games would help. It seems no one is watching any of the current Auburn team. Maybe that’s the problem. If you’ve seen this team play lately, people should be jumping up and down hoping they get in. They’re not just one of the hottest 20 teams in the country. They play smothering defense AND play at a faster, entertaining pace. What mediocre, inconsistent, slow paced 10-8/9-9 Big 10 team can say that?

Against the RPI top 50:

Tenn – 5-6
LSU – 2-3
Auburn – 2-4
South Car – 1-5
Florida – 1-5

Mark Bradley

March 10th, 2009
4:40 pm

South Carolina is 50th in the RPI, which isn’t good if you’re looking for an at-large bid. Auburn is 64th, which is all but out of the question. Auburn needs to win the SEC tourney.

Mark Bradley

March 10th, 2009
4:40 pm

And if I were Billy G., I’d hurry up and sign that contract.

James

March 10th, 2009
5:11 pm

Mark, a win against Florida and Tennessee would move the RPI a good 17-22 spots or even better considering what everyone else does, as well as passing the idle mid majors. Now please tell me why making it to the finals beating those 2 teams isn’t enough? For that matter, how is Penn St considered in right now with an RPI of 63, but Auburn has to win their tournament? Your assessment doesn’t add up. Auburn will pass Penn St just by beating Florida. What is Penn St’s opening round win over Indiana going to do for them? Just another sad notch in their SOS. RPI is not everything as I’m sure you’re thinking. But that’s not what you said.

I’m sure you’re right. Auburn will end up back at a 60 or so RPI even if they get to the finals. You win.

Gen Neyland

March 10th, 2009
5:20 pm

Isn’t Tennessee’s SOS ranked at #2 and a RPI within the magic #64..? Also, they played 13 teams with a RPI of 50 or better, winning 7 of those. They scheduled up but the losses they suffered in the process will/can/may hurt them. At 19-11 OA, 10-6 SEC, it’s a long shot but they will get an invite if they show well in the SEC Tourney. Other than that, my prediction as of last week was the SEC would be fortunate to get 5 into the Dance…

Gen Neyland

March 10th, 2009
5:31 pm

Correction : Tennessee has 7 wins over TEAMS with a RPI of 50 or better as of the latest ratings. They have played 13 GAMES against teams with a RPI of 50 or better as of the latest ratings…That is all.

James

March 10th, 2009
6:00 pm

Tennessee is in anyway. Even if they lose in the first round and end up 19-12. They won the SEC East and any team with a 1-5 SOS that ends up with an 18-13 record or better is likely to be in without any problems. Not to mention a top 25 RPI, top 30-35 if they were to lose in the quarters of the tournament.

Mark Bradley

March 10th, 2009
7:33 pm

I don’t believe I ever said Penn State was in. I’d be surprised if Penn State gets in. (Though it does sport that victory over Georgia Tech.)

I think the SEC gets three teams: LSU, Tennessee and somebody else.

Boston Williams

March 10th, 2009
7:35 pm

Jeff Lebo is the best coach in the SEC. He will probably end up at UNC. UGA should go after him and steal him away from Auburn like UK stole Tubby from the dawgs.

Mark Bradley

March 10th, 2009
7:43 pm

Jeff Lebo is the best coach in the SEC? And we know that … how? By his 28-51 record in conference play?

I’d agree he has done a nice job this season, but I believe there’s a man in Gainesville who has won two NCAA titles. And don’t forget Billy G.

I’m kidding about Billy G. But not about Billy D.

Rob

March 10th, 2009
8:59 pm

Too bad that the Yellow Jackets have zero chance to get to the NCAA and probably will never go again as long as Paul Hewitt is the coach. The man should just resign.

James

March 10th, 2009
9:15 pm

Mark, I’d like to see your bracket because it must lack the full 64 teams, or full of some puzzlers. I never said you had Penn St in. The ‘expert’ bracket nerds that tout that they know more than people like you and me have said that. Doug Gottlieb however seems to have changed his tune a bit. Claims an Auburn/Florida quarterfinal winner would likely be in. Now I do think Penn St is more deserving than the Miami/Va Tech winner and eventual loser against a Lawson-less Carolina.

Ted Striker

March 10th, 2009
9:23 pm

## Mark: Let your daughter know I’ll send her 50 bucks if she’ll email me her ‘Final Four Fiasco’ tournament picks. And don’t you try to trick me by sending yours instead. (After all, I’d know, come tournament time)

Snoop

March 10th, 2009
9:23 pm

Kentucky is NOT on the bubble, Homer.

Mark Bradley

March 10th, 2009
9:56 pm

Elizabeth will be happy to share her picks come Sunday, Ted. Thanks for asking.

And this little article was never meant to be a full bracket. That comes Sunday morning. (Or Saturday afternoon for you cool folks on the Internet.)

[...] Wildcats everywhere are struggling to get into the tournament.  At least Bradley didn’t take more shots at Kentucky. [...]

spotts

March 11th, 2009
10:38 am

I’ll admit it took some doing to lose 14 ACC games. I mean, come on.

It took us in Athens a few seasons to lose almost all your conference games, but I think we’ve finally got it.

oldkentucky

March 11th, 2009
12:12 pm

Billy G will stay at Kentucky and win big time in the coming years!!!

Chuck Uga

March 14th, 2009
9:24 pm

Tech won’t dismiss Hewitt and he won’t resign for one reason: One season of Derrick Favors. That is unless the new UGA coach steals him away from Tech. Anything is possible.