3 weekends left before Selection Sunday
There are three weekends of changing channels and checking computer ratings before the day the bracket appears: Selection Sunday.
No one knows what's going to be happening when the Tournament Selection Committee gets together in Indianapolis to decide the field of 65. Here are a few things that may help sort out who's in and who's out. Then again, it may just make it all more confusing.
Chairman: Dan Guerrero, UCLA athletic director; Gene Smith, Ohio State athletic director; Laing Kennedy, Kent State athletic director; Stan Morrison, UC-Riverside athletic director; Jeff Hathaway, Connecticut athletic director; Lynn Hickey, Texas-San Antonio athletic director; Mike Bobinski, Xavier athletic director; Dan Beebe, Big 12 commissioner; Doug Fullerton, Big Sky commissioner; and Ron Wellman, Wake Forest athletic director.
The Ratings Percentage Index is used as a supplement by the committee to help determine the 34 at-large berths in the field. The RPI, according to Collegiate Basketball News, uses three component factors: winning percentage against Division I teams (25 percent), schedule strength (50 percent), and opponents' schedule strength (25 percent). Games against non-Division I teams are not used in calculating the RPI.
Kansas and Kentucky, the only one-loss teams, are pretty much assured of being two of the No. 1 seeds with Syracuse, Purdue - which will play the rest of the season without second-leading scorer and rebounder Robbie Hummel - Duke, Villanova and Kansas State in the mix.
Any team with an RPI in the 30s is almost assured of making the field as conference champion or an at-large team. Backing up that are the statistics from Collegiate Basketball News that since 1991, 99.3 percent of the teams ranked 1 through 30 in RPI have made the field. Then the odds start dropping: 31 through 40, 82.9 percent; 41 through 50, 55.1 percent; 51 through 60, 25.7 percent. Since 1991, only 10 teams with an RPI over 61 have made the field as an at-large.
The word ``bubble'' is used this time of year as much as ``trick or treat'' is in late October and then disappears for 11 months. There are plenty of teams considered on the ``bubble'' right now and the big advantage goes to those from the power conferences because they have a chance at a quality win, especially in the postseason tournament, while teams from the mid-major leagues have to avoid losses because quality wins are tough to come by.
The teams from the conferences outside this season's top seven on the power list - Big 12, Big East, Atlantic Coast, Southeastern, Big Ten, Atlantic 10, Mountain West - had their chance at quality wins by playing tough nonconference schedules with Butler, Gonzaga and Northern Iowa the best examples.
The 30 conference tournaments get under way Tuesday with the Big South, Horizon League and Ohio Valley opening things up. The first ones to determine automatic bids are the Big South, Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley, which all end on March 6.
The Atlantic Coast, Atlantic 10, Big Ten, Mid-Eastern Athletic and Southeastern don't have their championships games until Selection Sunday, something which only makes the committee's job harder. If there are any teams not being considered for an at-large berth in the title game - like Georgia in the 2008 SEC tournament - the committee has to have either/or plans ready because of time constraints.
The only conference not to have a tournament to decide its automatic berth is the Ivy league. Cornell entered this weekend's play with a 2 1/2-game lead over Princeton. They play Friday night and Cornell faces Penn, the only conference team to beat the Big Red, on Saturday.
Arizona's streak of 25 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances appears to be coming to an end unless the Wildcats win the Pac-10 tournament. It is two shy of the all-time record set by North Carolina from 1975-2001. The next longest current streak is Kansas at 20, one that will continue.