As we head into conference tournament season there are plenty of spots up for grabs in terms of NCAA bids. It is very nice to be a team that is solidly in the field even if we should give up just because we don't have Robbie Hummel. I mean, since we're not going to make the Sweet 16 (and who could with four former all-Big Ten players) shouldn't we give up our spot to more deserving teams anyway? According to the most recent Bubble Watch, Connecticut, Seton Hall, and Cincinnati should all still be considered with awful records, so I guess we'll give it up to them. I don't know how we'll ever compete with those sure Sweet 16 teams even though they shouldn't even be considered for at large consideration in my book.
Those who think we have no chance of making the Sweet 16 know absolutely nothing about college basketball. We're still getting at least a top 3 seed, if not a top 2. By getting a top 2 we'll be heavily favored in both of our first game and probably favored int he second. Do you really think a 15 seed can beat us just because we lost Robbie? How about a Texas team that has been fading fast since being #1? We still have talent, and we're still likely going to the second weekend. Deal with it.
That said, here is the final look at our non-conference opponents. I don't know how much the committee will credit these games in our profile, but they still have to count for something. That is especially true considering we won all of these games without a player we have now: LewJack.
Cal State Northridge (10-19, 5-9 Big West) RPI: 245 - The Matadors have had an awful season after making last year's NCAA's. If they lose Thursday against UC-Davis and this weekend against Pacific they will go into the Big West Tournament with the worst seed. That tournament starts next Wednesday and UC-Santa Barbara is the favorite, though the winner will be hard pressed to avoid a 16 seed.
South Dakota State (14-15, 10-8 Summit) RPI: 228 - The Jackrabbits are the #4 seed in the Summit League Tournament and will face IPFW in the opener. That tournament begins on Sunday and SDSU split a pair of close regular season games with SDSU. Oakland, IUPUI, and Oral Roberts remain the favorites in this conference. Oakland may be the only team in the conference that can avoid being a 16 seed, but there is a chance we would play them in round one as a 15 or 14.
St. Joseph's (10-19, 4-11 Atlantic 10) RPI: 182 - Thanks to Fordham being an atrocious 0-15 in league play and 2-25 overall, the Hawks are not in last place in the A-10. St. Joe's will face LaSalle this weekend before beginning A-10 Tournament play on Tuesday. They did win their last game 80-71 over George Washington to break a five game losing streak.
Tennessee (22-7, 10-5 SEC) RPI: 16 - Is there a team in the country that has done more with less? They have lost more than we have with Robbie, but they have only beaten two of the likely number 1 seeds without those players. Yeah, they've lost some other random games, but I am not counting this team out against anyone after they beat Kansas and Kentucky. They will likely be the #3 seed in the SEC Tournament, and will battle for a top 3 seed in the NCAA's.
Central Michigan (14-14, 8-7 MAC) RPI: 207 - The Chippewas finish MAC play Thursday night against Eastern Michigan and it is a big one for MAC seeding purposes. With a win and a Buffalo loss the Chips can finish as high as third in the conference. Akron and Kent State are heavily favored in the MAC Tournament as the two best teams, but the Chips played both within five points.
Wake Forest (18-9, 8-7 ACC) RPI: 34 - This win has taken a big hit of late. The Demon Deacons have lost four in a row and are on the Bubble going into a critical home against Clemson on Sunday. Losses to NC State, Miami, and William & Mary are not helping them at the moment. Miami and NC State are the two worst teams in a pretty mediocre ACC. Beating Clemson would help a lot because the Tigers are just barely ahead of them in the ACC standings.
Buffalo (17-10, 9-6 MAC) RPI: 86 - Every plus-100 win helps, so as long as the Bulls are in the top 100 I'll take it. They are a pretty hot team going into the MAC Tournament, having won 6 of 7 before facing Miami (OH) on Thursday night. The one loss was a 10 point defeat at Akron, the current league leader. At the very least, the Bulls are playing for an NIT or CBI bid, so they will likely be playing in the postseason somewhere.
Valparaiso (15-17, 10-8 Horizon) RPI: 178 - The Crusaders' season is already over. Valparaiso lost Wednesday night in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament to Detroit 89-82. They did manage to push Butler quite a bit in the regular season finale, but they ultimately finished the season preparing for next year. Leading scorers Brandon Wood and Cory Johnson both return. I know they are regularly on the schedule, so we could see them again.
Alabama (15-14, 5-10 SEC) RPI: 103 - As usual, the Crimson Tide is hanging around the magic 100 mark. They recently beat South Carolina on the road to break a three game losing streak. It was only their second win in the last nine games, but six of those seven losses were by less than 10 points. They host Auburn this weekend and will try to avenge a one point loss from earlier in the season. There is enough talent here that they could get hot and steal the SEC auto-bid, but I wouldn't count on it.
Ball State (15-13, 8-7 MAC) RPI: 208 - There is very little separating the Cardinals from the Chippewas right now in terms of overall profile. Central Michigan is one spot ahead of them, and both are ahead of Indiana at 218. Ball State closes with Western Michigan Thursday night, but they can be the #2 seed in the MAC Tournament by winning the Western Division. They would need a win and a Central Michigan win over Eastern Michigan.
SIU-Edwardsville (5-23) RPI: 321 - The Cougars finished their season at home with a win, but it was their second over a non-division I team this year. Things will get much better in a few years once they join the Ohio Valley Conference and stop playing a vagabond independent schedule.
West Virginia (23-6, 12-5 Big East) RPI: 6 - The Mountaineers have already clinched a double bye in the Big East Tournament before going to Villanova this Saturday. A win there would give them a number 2 seed in the conference tournament behind Syracuse. Robbie had 18 against the Mountaineers, but we won by 15 and JJ was the big story, so it will be interesting to see how the committee views this game since we're very close in seeding. West Virginia has one loss, Connecticut, to a team that shouldn't be in the NCAA discussion.