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Sunday, February 17, 2008

If today were Selection Sunday

A weekly feature of the The Fan Blog, from here on out, If Today were Selection Sunday...does just that. It looks at the 34 at-large spaces available in the field and and determines who are the best candidates for those spots as of right now. It does not attempt to project or predict what will happen in the future and whether or not these teams will actually appear in March when the real committee makes its selections. But it does base this on the 65 team field and will only include that many teams each week.

As we get closer and closer to the committee's announcement of the pairings, I think the field starts to seperate itself. Right now, I've got 35 teams that I think you have to include in the tournament field. That grouping comes from 13 different conferences, so if you assume they win the conference tournaments and the at-large bids for those conferences then you can assume we need another 12 teams.

Here are the teams that I don't think there could be any arguments over: Duke, Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina, UCLA, Georgetown, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Stanford, Xavier, Marquette, Drake, Indiana, Michigan State, Louisville, Butler, Washington State, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Clemson, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, Vanderbilt, Purdue, St. Mary's

Those are the first 29 teams of my field. I don't think anyone could argue would any of those selections. They have all proven worthy. The next six, I fell have to be included, but I could see how someone could make an argument the other way. Still, I don't think that argument could be very persuasive.

Davidson - If the Cats stay unbeaten in regular season conference play, I'd give them a free pass in the conference tournament.

West Virginia - Mountaineers are sliding towards the bubble but remain in for now.

Virginia Commonwealth - I think a lot of teams on the bubble should root for the Rams.

Dayton - Some of the Flyers struggles are explained by some injury issues.

Ohio State - Buckeyes have been mediocre enough to stay away from real question.

Rhode Island - Rams won't be given free pass in the room, but they have to get in.

So that leaves us with 12 slots. Some of which probably won't be available because of a surprise in the conference tournaments. But here are the teams that are fighting for the spots that remain as of now.

BYU, Mississippi, Maryland, Syracuse, Oklahoma, NC State, UNLV, South Alabama, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Florida, Baylor, St. Joseph's, Massachusetts, Oregon, Arizona State - are the 16 teams that I would consider for the last slot. I'm going to quickly say that both UNLV and BYU deserve to be in the field and with one of them getting the Mountain West bid, we're left with 14 teams and 11 bids. Let's also give the Sun Belt automatic to South Alabama - who probably gets in either way, and we're left with 13 teams for 11 slots.

Mississippi - The Rebels are in the field courtesy of their early season success and their performance in the SEC.

Maryland - The Terps will be one of those teams sweating out the performances in the Mid-Major tournaments.

Syracuse - A win at South Florida and the Orange would have been just about lock status, now they are one of the last few in. Road games at Notre Dame and Louisville this week, and they might need a win to secure status.

Oklahoma - Not a lot of great wins to the Sooner resume. A couple of mid-level wins over Arkansas, Gonzaga, West Virginia and Baylor is enough to earn inclusion.

NC State - Wolfpack loss at Boston College was the final straw, and didn't respond with the bounce back needed yesterday versus Clemson.

Mississippi State - The Bulldogs are getting things done in the SEC at 8-2. Sort of a cheaper version of Purdue.

Arkansas - Hogs have enough strength in the resume to survive a pair of SEC losses this week.

Florida - If we're picking between the two-time defending champ and someone else for the final slot, the Gators are going to get it.

Baylor - Three game losing streaks have a way of killing hopes but the Bears did enough building early to sustain that.

St. Joseph's - Probably can get away with two more losses down the stretch in the A-10, but I wouldn't want to push it past there.

I think the last three teams are really fighting for the last two spots in my bracket.

Massachusetts - The Minutemen keep on sliding and at below .500 in the Atlantic 10 they are hard to recommend. Playing as we speak against St. Louis.

Oregon - The Ducks have played a very tough schedule. My problem with Oregon is they haven't won many of those tough games.

Arizona State - As soon as you are ready to punch the Devils ticket after another win over Arizona and one over Stanford, they fall at home to California.

I'll take the Pac-10 in both cases to complete the field. Arizona State has the best total resume of the three and UMASS and Oregon are very similar. Therefore, I'll take Oregon's Strength of Schedule.

I omitted USC earlier, so that means it comes down to Oregon and Arizona State fighting for one last spot. I'd take the Sun Devils at this juncture.

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