A number of the conference tournaments have already started and the rest will start today and tomorrow. Except for Whitworth, I don’t think we have a confirmed NCAA Tournament team as of yet. So, that’s 63 spots still open!
We know that 42 more spots will go to conference tournament winners and one independent team will get the Pool B bid. That leaves 20 precious at-large bids left and I was curious how many of those spots really seem like they are up for grabs and how many teams are still trying to grab.
Using my mock selection from last week and the recent regional rankings, I determined that there were probably only 6 spots up for grabs out of the 20 at-large bids. We know teams like Emory, Colorado College, St. Benedict, Ohio Northern, Carnegie Mellon and the like will get an at-large spot if they don’t win their conference. Well, I counted right around 14 teams that I think are in the same position as those teams.
With 6 spots potentially open, here are the teams that I think have a chance at grabbing one of them (teams in bold were the one’s that received an at-large in my mock):
Central: Washington-St. Louis
Great Lakes: Otterbein, Mount Union and Heidelberg
Mid-Atlantic: Franklin & Marshall
New England: Bowdoin and Endicott
New York: Ithaca and Stockton
South: Hendrix and Washington & Lee
West: UT-Dallas, Chapman and Mary Hardin-Baylor
That’s 15 teams fighting for 6 spots…sort of. Looking at the West, we know the probability is high that either UT-Dallas or Mary Hardin-Baylor will win the ASC so that’s one we don’t have to worry about. I also threw in some teams that will most likely win their conference tournament (Aurora, Endicott and Stockton). If they all do win their Pool A bid then we’re down to 11 teams for 6 spots. On the flip side, I assumed that some bubble teams would win their conference tournament like Johnson & Wales (RI), Randolph-Macon and Wittenberg.
In the end, 11 teams fighting for 6 spots is about the best we can do. We always have the chance of a slam dunk NCAA Tournament team losing their conference to a team that wouldn’t have received a bid. Sort of like Trinity and Colorado College are going to do with Southwestern this year. (A man can hope, right!?!) The last couple of years this really hasn’t happened too much. Maybe just once a year for the most part. Still, every at-large bid is important and it hurts to waste them like that. Of course, it also hurts to waste them on teams that are not deserving and odds are that one or two teams not mentioned above will get a bid because that’s what happens every year.
Bottom line, if you are a supporter of one of the teams above then congratulations! There are more fans for teams that are already out of it that wish they could changes places with you. Still, as we move into the conference tournament weekend, you need to be rooting for the top seeds to win. Every upset takes one more spot away and reduces your chances of selection.
If you are wondering what teams I think are most likely in the tournament you just have to look at the regional rankings. The teams ranked higher than the bubble teams mentioned above are the ones I think are getting an at-large or are winning their conference.