Let this serve as everyone’s annual friendly reminder that conferences don’t earn NCAA tournament berths, teams do.
So when someone asks “Will Virginia Tech or Maryland get a spot in the 65-team field,” the correct reply is both could, neither could or one of the two could.
It’s not a quota system, much to the chagrin of the “We should get 10 teams” Big East and the “We got hosed with four berths last season” ACC.
Of course, a conference glance provides some organization to the mess of analyzing the selection process. So that’s why this rundown a little more than two weeks from Selection Sunday is done that way.
* ACC (6-8): North Carolina, Duke and Clemson are in regardless of what happens the rest of the way, and Florida State and Wake Forest are a victory away. Boston College would be wise to win twice more just to be safe, while Maryland, Miami and Virginia Tech are still scrambling to shore things up.
* Atlantic 10 (1-3): Xavier’s done enough, and Dayton was until consecutive hiccups. It’s possible a third team could win the conference title. More than possible, actually; seems like a darkhorse wins every year. Chances are, the A-10 sends two.
* Big 12 (4-7): Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma are solidly in, and Texas just needs to avoid a freefall. Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are also chasing berths, but are far from sure things.
* Big East (7-9): The supposed Greatest Conference Ever possesses six solid options at the top, and Syracuse looks safe, too. Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Providence still have work to do.
* Big Ten (5-7): There’s a mess of teams that can play their way in or out in the next few weeks: Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.
* Conference USA (1-2): A multi-bid league only if Memphis loses in the conference tournament.
* Horizon (1-2): Check out the last line and replace “Memphis” with “Butler.”
* Mountain West (2-3): Utah and Brigham Young look reasonably safe at this stage. UNLV is 3-1 against those teams and also beat Arizona and Louisville, but has some clunkers as well. Both New Mexico and San Diego State are capable of winning the conference tournament.
* Pac-10 (5-6): Arizona State, California, UCLA and Washington look like sure things, and Arizona is dealing from strength. Southern California could make it a half-dozen, but a weak closing schedule means a good showing in the Pac-10 tournament is needed.
* SEC (3-5): No one save Louisiana State should feel good about its tournament hopes. South Carolina has a gaudy record, but the Gamecocks are just like Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee —- a three-game slide away from the NIT.
* WAC (1-2): Utah State’s RPI sure looks nice, but the threadbare resume (a home defeat of Utah) makes it a tossup as to whether the Aggies will get good news should they stumble in the conference tournament.
* WCC (1-2): Gonzaga is in good shape even as its defeats of Tennessee are devalued. Saint Mary’s might have a remote at-large chance if it reaches the league title game and gets point guard Patrick Mills back. Might.
One-bid leagues (19): America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt, SWAC.
Basically, there’s 46 spots for those dozen leagues broken out. Roughly 37 spots seem secure enough, for now there’s about 54 possibilities poised to seize a spot and obviously there’s plenty still to unfold in the coming days.
—- Patrick Stevens