Welser Wonders: Big East Bids?
…who benefited the most from BracketBusters Saturday?
The answer is an easy one. Kent State went from an outside the bubble team to a Top 25 group that has a legitimate chance at an at-large bid. The Golden Flashes traveled to Moraga, California and knocked off St. Mary’s 66-57.
The rest of Coach Jim Christian’s schedule is pretty difficult with games at Bowling Green and Akron and a senior night hosting Miami (Ohio). Assuming Kent State can win those three, which might be a little too much to assume, the Flashes will head into the conference tournament with a 26-5 record. Those five losses were against Detroit on the opening day of the season, against Xavier, at North Carolina, at Ohio and a heartbreaker at Toledo. That’s not too shabby and certainly deserving to be on the bubble.
…who else was a big winner on BracketBusters Saturday?
They would get an at-large bid either way, but the Drake Bulldogs suddenly became a legitimate Sweet Sixteen contender…or even more [Ed: Note that Drake lost to Missouri State shortly after this article was submitted]. After a home loss to Bradley, the Bulldogs went to Butler and played extremely well, winning the battle of the Bulldogs 71-64.
The issue that remains is how they well they can play against a team with a more traditional big man. Against Butler, it was really a battle on the perimeter. Would Drake’s style of play work as well against a team that was not so much like their own? At the least, I’m one step closer to being sold on Drake as a Sweet Sixteen team than I was last week.
…when the ACC will sort itself out?
After North Carolina and Duke, the Atlantic Coast Conference remains jumbled. Clemson, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Miami and Wake Forest are all at least .500 in conference, but the ACC is not going to get seven teams into the NCAA Tournament. With four games left for most teams, there are plenty of opportunities left for separation to occur, but the way things have been going, it won’t happen. Amazingly, none of those five teams play Duke or North Carolina the rest of the regular season. That leaves a ton of great games against the other teams fighting for an at-large berth.
…whether the Big East could end up as a five bid league?
Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Connecticut and Marquette are all virtual locks. West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Villanova and Syracuse are pretty much on the bubble.
West Virginia is 8-6 in conference with a 19-8 overall record. Not too shabby, but there is not a big win on the schedule right now besides beating Marquette at home. The Mountaineers travel to Connecticut and host Pittsburgh in March and they need to win at least one of those games to feel good heading into the Big East Tournament.
Pittsburgh is 19-8 overall and 7-7 in conference. What hurts the Panthers the most is their three game losing streak. All those games were against better teams, but they need to turn it around this week when they host Cincinnati and take a trip to Syracuse.
Villanova started out strong, but are just 7-8 in conference. The win over Connecticut on Saturday was big, but beating Louisville on the road on Sunday would be even bigger.
Like Pitt, Syracuse is on a tough losing streak. Somehow they lost to South Florida a few days before beating Georgetown. With Pittsburgh and Marquette coming to town and a trip to Seton Hall remaining on the schedule, it will not be easy for Syracuse to end up with a .500 conference record. Sometimes that would be enough, but the Orange non-conference losses to Ohio State, Massachusetts and Rhode Island do not sound as impressive as they did a month ago.