- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2012

With less than a week to go before Selection Sunday, there still is plenty that can unfold. And with 16 regular-season conference winners not yet underway in their league tournaments after this past weekend, there are plenty of places for havoc.

A rundown:

Atlantic Coast: The top four teams - Duke, Florida State, North Carolina and Virginia - are safely in the field of 68. But there’s a lot on the line for Miami and N.C. State, both of which might need to pull a quarterfinal upset to solidify their credentials.

Atlantic 10: Temple’s the only sure thing, with Saint Louis (no top-50 wins among its 24 victories) probably in as well barring total chaos. Xavier and Dayton are the best hopes for another at-large, and they’ll meet in the A-10 quarters if the Flyers can knock off George Washington.

Big 12: There’s only one bubbler here, and it is Texas. The Longhorns are an ugly 4-10 against the top 100 but split their only two games against the second 50. Rick Barnes’ team would be well-served to knock off Iowa State in the quarterfinals.

Big East: No one has more to prove than Seton Hall, which stumbled in the final week against Rutgers and DePaul to cap a 4-9 slide to end the regular season. Cincinnati, South Florida and West Virginia sit in far less precarious places, while Connecticut’s profile should earn it an at-large bid regardless of its results in New York.

Big Sky: Montana and Weber State went a combined 29-3 in conference play and are the teams most likely to meet in Wednesday’s title game in the one-bid league.

Big Ten: Six teams are safely in the field, with Northwestern on the spot this week. The underpinnings of the Wildcats’ resume are beating Michigan State and not absorbing any bad losses. They might need more than that. A loss to Minnesota to open the league tournament would be crippling.

Big West: Long Beach State is the overwhelming favorite in the one-bid league.

Conference USA: Memphis and Southern Mississippi are likely at-large teams, with Memphis much more secure. Anyone else will need to win the tournament, which happens to be played at Memphis. Good luck with that.

Mid-American: The last three MAC tournament champs won an average of 8.7 league regular-season games, so expect some more bedlam. Akron, Buffalo and Ohio were the top regular-season teams and will chase the conference’s one bid.

Mid-Eastern: Savannah State is the top seed and Norfolk State is talented, but this is one-bid territory.

Mountain West: There are three exceptionally secure at-large teams (New Mexico, San Diego State and UNLV) and another in decent shape (Colorado State). If all win in the quarterfinals, the possibility of a bid thief will be extinguished.

Pac-12: Who knows what will happen. Only one team (California) probably can flop and hope to earn an at-large nod, and the Golden Bears aren’t particularly overwhelming. Arizona, Oregon and regular-season champ Washington still have work to do.

Southeastern: The conference tournament is anti-climactic; Kentucky went 16-0 in the regular season and should coast. Mississippi State could use a win to feel safe, while Mississippi and even Tennessee are on the fringe of the at-large conversation.

Southland: Texas-Arlington lost its attempts for a perfect conference regular season, but the Mavericks remain a strong possibility for the league’s lone bid. Pat Knight’s Lamar team also could be an interesting possibility.

Southwestern Athletic: Mississippi Valley won the regular season. The league’s winner looks like it will receive a ticket straight to Dayton for one of the play-in games.

Western Athletic: Hard to believe it’s been five years since Nevada reached the NCAA tournament. The Wolf Pack is the top seed, with New Mexico State also a contender for a single berth.



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