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Non-conference opponents update for 2/22

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My apologies for a later update today, but I was working on some freelance stuff from home all while fighting a sinus infection. It has made for a fun day, but there is still some good stuff out there as we wait for Wednesday's game at Minnesota. There was a new Bracketology today on ESPN.com, and we were naturally picked as a #1 seed. We also moved up to #3 in both polls, most likely as a result of Villanova losing twice last week. Keeping both spots depends greatly on our overall profile.

As a sidebar to the Bracketology, you would think Joe Lunardi would know that we can't be put as a one seed in the same region where Wisconsin is a five under current rules. Even Mrs. T-Mill knows that.

Fortunately, we continue to get help from a solid non-conference schedule. Our big wins have stumbled a bit of late (I'm looking at you West Virginia and Wake Forest) but they are still solid. We're also starting to get some very small boosts from the mid to low majors we played. Most of these teams won't give us a significant jolt unless they win their conference tournaments, but many are in position to do just that. Here is what everyone is up to:

Cal State Northridge (10-17, 5-7 Big West) RPI: 245 - I suspect that the only reason the Matadors were invited to this year's BracketBusters was because they made last year's NCAA's and they scared the crap out of Memphis. They lost to Drake in this year's event 90-80 and have won once in their last five games. One was a particularly epic 113-112 triple overtime loss to Cal State Fullerton in which they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

South Dakota State (13-14, 9-7 Summit) RPI: 229 - The Jackrabbits sit in 4th place in the Summit League, but Oakland and IUPUI are the heavy favorites for the conference tournament. SDSU has lost three straight by 6 points or less and will close the regular season this weekend against IUPUI. Their coach is awesome though for coaching a game barefoot to benefit Haiti.

Saint Joseph's (9-18, 3-10 Atlantic 10) RPI: 193 - We missed a chance for a small boost this weekend when the Hawks fell in overtime to a very good Temple team. They have now won just once in their last eight games and it would be a shock if they advanced very far in a loaded Atlantic 10 Tournament. The A-10 has seven teams in the discussion for an at large bid, which is quite impressive. For the record, St. Joe's was 3-0 before facing us and is 6-18 since.

Tennessee (20-6, 8-4 SEC) RPI: 15 - After losing a pair of games to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, the Volunteers got back on track recently. They beat Georgia at home and earned a nice road win at South Carolina. Currently, they are tied for third in the SEC and we have an excellent chance for a nice boost when they host Kentucky on Saturday. A win there helps our profile, and it may move us into the #2 slot in the polls.

Central Michigan (13-13, 7-6) RPI: 202 - The Chippewas have lost four of their last six to fall off the pace in the MAC race. They did get a BracketBusters win over Tennessee State, but that is hardly noteworthy. The only way they will dance is with the automatic bid, which is possible in a wide-open MAC.

Wake Forest (18-7, 8-5 ACC) RPI: 21 - I am the most upset at the Demon Deacons. After helping us all season long they have picked now to go into a funk. Blowing a late lead at Virginia Tech sucks, but at least that is a good team. Getting drilled by last place North Carolina State is awful. They finish ACC play with Florida State, North Carolina, and Clemson, so they need to win at least two of those to hold on to fourth place. This is still probably an NCAA team, but if they lose all there of those they may slip out.

Buffalo (16-9, 8-5 MAC) RPI: 86 - The Bulls have been hot again and their RPI has risen correspondingly. This is a surprise top 100 for us as of right now, so let's keep it that way. The Bulls have won five in a row and they are currently tied for third in the MAC with Ball State and Miami (OH). They also have wins over conference leaders Akron and Kent State, with another game against Akron Wednesday night. If not for a bad middle portion of the season, this would be a fringe at large team.

Valparaiso (15-15, 10-7 Horizon) RPI: 168 - The Crusaders are the only thing that stands between Butler and a perfect Horizon League season. They lost their Bracketbsuters game against Bowling Green by 17, but have won 4 of 5 in league play. With a win over Butler they can finish as high as second in the league, giving them a bye to the semifinals and improving their chances of stealing the auto-bid from the Bulldogs. They already lost by 17 to the Bulldogs, but that was on December 5th.

Alabama (14-12, 4-8 SEC) RPI: 104 - I had such high hopes for the Crimson Tide going into SEC play, but they continue to be a team that simply cannot close other teams out. They have lost five of their last six games and the RPI has now slipped under 100. With no true powers left on the schedule an 8-8 finish in league play is possible, but I don't trust this team anymore. Of their 12 losses, nine have been by 10 points or less. Three of those came by one point. This is so close to being a fantastic road win.

Ball State (15-11, 8-5 MAC) RPI: 173 - The Cardinals are officially a team that could be very good next year. It is still a young team, but they have come together in MAC play and they stand primed to get a #2 seed in the MAC tourney because they are in first place in the West Division. They have won three in a row over Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, and Tennessee-Martin. They should be favored in their final three regular season games as well. They will be a threat to take the MAC auto-bid, but their only two losses in the last nine games came against conference co-leaders Akron and Kent State.

SIU-Edwardsville (4-22) RPI: 318 - The Cougars have actually won a game over a Division I opponents recently, and I even came on the road! SIU-Edwardsville won at fellow independent North Dakota 91-76 last week. It was their first win over a D-I team since beating Texas-Arlington on December 5th. They play at IPFW tonight before mercifully ending their season Thursday at home against a non-DI team.

West Virginia (21-5, 10-4 Big East) RPI: 5 - The recent chaos in the Big East has opened the door somewhat for the Mountaineers to get back in the race. They are currently two games back in third place, but they still have a game left against second place Villanova. They are playing at Connecticut tonight in a must win for the Huskies. Their final two home games are against an equally desperate Cincinnati team and Georgetown. I, for one, hope they win out and damage the bubble hopes of Connecticut and Cincy. In my world, neither team would be eligible because they have a league record under .500. To me, no team that can't even finish at .500 in its own league deserves to go to the NCAA Tournament.