- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2007

While it bears repeating that teams — and not leagues — earn NCAA tournament berths, it is worth taking a look at just how precarious a situation one of the power conferences finds itself in.

The Southeastern Conference is up to seven bids in this projection — one more than a week ago. But it is a bit frightening that there’s a case to be made vouching for Vanderbilt and Georgia as the non-Gainesville-based entries playing the best out of anyone.

Sure, seven teams are in this field, but three (Arkansas, Georgia and Vanderbilt) were among the last four in. Alabama has been drilled on the road three times this month, and point guard Ronald Steele’s balky knee isn’t going to get any better as he tries to carry the Crimson Tide. Tennessee is struggling and its star (shooting guard Chris Lofton) has his own injury issues. And Kentucky is a paper tiger, a top-10 team in the RPI no one should seriously view as a threat for a deep March run.

That doesn’t even include Louisiana State, which probably is better than its sub-60 RPI but has the resume of a guy who worked at a fast-food joint for 10 years rather than going to college and climbing the corporate ladder. Sure, he’s done good with the troubles he’s faced, but it’s no way to go about earning the corner office — or an NCAA tournament berth.

Will seven SEC teams (including, obviously, defending national champ Florida) reach the tournament? Probably not. More importantly, can more than one survive the first weekend of the NCAA tournament? That’s a more curious question, and one that should earn a resounding “no” at this juncture of the season.

EAST RUTHERFORD BRACKET

Winston-Salem, N.C.

(1) ACC/North Carolina vs. (16) NEC/Sacred Heart

(8) Tennessee vs. (9) Northern Iowa

Sacramento, Calif.

(4) Arizona vs. (13) SUN BELT/Western Kentucky

(5) C-USA/Memphis vs. (12) ATLANTIC 10/George Washington

Columbus, Ohio

(3) Marquette vs. (14) MAC/Toledo

(6) Kentucky vs. (11) Missouri State

Chicago

(2) Ohio State vs. (15) MID-CONTINENT/Oakland

(7) Texas Tech vs. (10) Maryland

SAN ANTONIO BRACKET

New Orleans

(1) SEC/Florida vs. (16) OVC/Austin Peay

(8) Villanova vs. (9) Stanford

Buffalo, N.Y.

(4) Oklahoma State vs. (13) PATRIOT/Holy Cross

(5) WAC/Nevada vs. (12) Florida State

Winston-Salem, N.C.

(3) Duke vs. (14) BIG SOUTH/Winthrop

(6) Texas vs. (11) Creighton

Spokane, Wash.

(2) Oregon vs. (15) BIG SKY/Idaho State

(7) Michigan State vs. (10) Syracuse

ST. LOUIS BRACKET

Chicago

(1) BIG TEN/Wisconsin vs. (16) ATLANTIC SUN/East Tennessee State-SWAC/Jackson State

(8) Boston College vs. (9) WCC/Gonzaga

Columbus, Ohio

(4) HORIZON/Butler vs. (13) SoCON/Davidson

(5) Washington State vs. (12) Arkansas

New Orleans

(3) Texas A&M; vs. (14) BIG WEST/Long Beach State

(6) Virginia Tech vs. (11) Vanderbilt

Buffalo, N.Y.

(2) BIG EAST/Pittsburgh vs. (15) AMERICA EAST/Vermont

(7) Southern California vs. (10) UNLV

SAN JOSE BRACKET

Sacramento, Calif.

(1) PAC-10/UCLA vs. (16) MAAC/Marist

(8) Georgetown vs. (9) Georgia Tech

Spokane, Wash.

(4) MWC/Air Force vs. (13) IVY/Penn

(5) Indiana vs. (12) Georgia

Lexington, Ky.

(3) Clemson vs. (14) SOUTHLAND/Texas A&M-Corpus; Christi

(6) MVC/Southern Illinois vs. (11) CAA/Virginia Commonwealth

Lexington, Ky.

(2) BIG 12/Kansas vs. (15) MEAC/Delaware State

(7) Alabama vs. (10) Notre Dame

Last four in: Missouri State, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Arkansas

Last four out: Bradley, Drexel, Louisiana State, Illinois

Next four out: California, West Virginia, Michigan, Kansas State

Moving in: Creighton, East Tennessee State, George Washington, Georgia, Gonzaga, Oakland, Vanderbilt

Moving out: Belmont, Bradley, Louisiana State, Massachusetts, Oral Roberts, San Francisco, West Virginia

Multiple-bid leagues: ACC (8), SEC (7), Big East (6), Pac-10 (6), Big 12 (5), Big Ten (4), Missouri Valley (4), Mountain West (2)

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