Photo courtesy of Rich Graessle/Rutgers athletics
A typical college basketball season features many twists and turns, unexpected disappointments and pleasant surprises. This season has been no different.
The most difficult thing to do is look at a program’s resume from a holistic perspective, when their most recent results are fresh in mind.
In this series, we project the overall NCAA Tournament outlooks for each conference. We start with the power conferences:
The only locks in the ACC appear to be Virginia, Florida State, and Virginia Tech. Each of those three would get in over 99% of the time if the season ended today, according to Bart Torvik. North Carolina also is a safe bet, especially considering it is starting to figure out its backcourt problems.
It seems that the projection is three additional teams. The most likely outcome is Louisville, Georgia Tech, and Duke. Clemson may also make a push.
The Tigers’ resume was strong in the non-conference. They could certainly bolster their resume by stacking up more wins. And, of course, what is a college basketball season without Syracuse on the bubble?
The Big East currently looks rather simple. As of now, there would be four locks and one bubble team.
Villanova, Creighton, Connecticut, and Xavier should be in. Seton Hall’s odds are not favorable at the moment, but it could certainly make a run down the stretch.
The Big Ten is certainly a victim of its own success. The conference is stacked with quality teams that continue to beat up on each other.
The Big Ten will undoubtedly produce the most tournament teams, nonetheless. There are eight teams that certainly have more than a strong enough resume: Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Purdue, Rutgers, and Minnesota.
Indiana appears to be that bubble team that we must keep a sharp eye on. The Hoosiers currently sit at 4-5 in the Big Ten. A .500 or better record should be enough.
Additionally, Penn State continues to rack up some quality wins, although a 6-7 overall record leaves a lot of work to be done.
This is the easiest to project as there are no bubble teams. Seven programs are looking at seeds in the better half of the bracket: Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma State.
The rest of the conference — TCU, Kansas, and Iowa State — would require a major turnaround or a conference tournament title.
The teams that are certainly in at the moment are USC, Colorado, and UCLA. Things were looking good for Stanford as well but the Cardinal have lost three of their last five.
The Cardinal remain in the mix, but are trending downward. Oregon is in a similar boat. Its odds are above 50% but it must continue to improve down the stretch.
This is another league that is fairly easy to predict at the moment. Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri, Florida, and Arkansas currently have a great resume, and LSU is a projected No. 8 or 9 seed as well. It is looking more like an NCAA Tournament without Kentucky for the second time in the John Calipari era.
Despite the power struggle at the top, the high-majors have asserted their dominance on college basketball. We will be looking at all six leagues with several programs advancing to the postseason.