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UW Guide to Conference Tournament Week

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An exhaustive look at every remaining conference tourney and its effect on UW’s NCAA/NIT chances

NCAA Basketball: Washington at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

This week would be a lot more fun if the Huskies had pulled off an epic comeback against Oregon on Saturday. Instead, Washington will almost certainly have to win the Pac-12 tournament to qualify for the NCAA tournament. However, there’s still a slim chance that an appearance in the finals might do it if everything else breaks their way. In general the rule of thumb for bubble teams is to root for the higher ranked team. That eliminates bid thieves and keeps more spots available for the NCAA. Regular season champs that get their bids stolen also automatically qualify for the NIT which means it takes away not only an NCAA spot but also an NIT spot. It’s the worst of both worlds. But just in case you want more detail than that, here it is. After the Pac-12, conferences are ranked in order of highest to lowest in KenPom’s overall conference rankings.

Pac-12 Tournament (starts Wednesday 3/7)

Obviously we are rooting for the Huskies to win each of their games. A win on Wednesday would bring a matchup with USC. Washington beat the Trojans in L.A the sole time they squared off against one another this season. However, that was more than two months ago and both teams have changed greatly since then. Otherwise, the Huskies are rooting for chaos. #3 Utah, #4 UCLA, and #8 Arizona State are also all on the bubble so the earlier they lose, the better. Lower ranked teams winning also means an easier path for UW to the finals.

# of Locks: 1 of 12

# of Bubble Teams: 5 of 12

Key Early Round Games:

#7 Washington vs. #10 Oregon State- Wednesday 3/7, 6p, P12N

#8 Arizona State vs. #9 Colorado- Wednesday 3/7, 12p, P12N

Big 12 Tournament (starts Wednesday 3/7)

The Big 12 was the best conference in the country this season and it’s technically possible for the entire conference to make the NCAA tournament (though very unlikely). At this point it appears that Texas, Baylor, and Oklahoma State are the only teams that could be called on the bubble. It’s possible for all 3 to lose in the first round so that’s the outcome UW is rooting for.

# of Locks: 6 of 10

# of Bubble Teams: 3 of 10

Key Early Round Games:

#7 Texas vs. #10 Iowa State- Wednesday 3/7, 6p, ESPNU

#9 Oklahoma State vs. #8 Oklahoma- Wednesday 3/7, 4p, ESPNU

#6 Baylor vs. #3 West Virginia- Thursday 3/8, 6p

ACC Tournament (starts Tuesday 3/6)

The Huskies don’t have to worry about a bid thief here. At least 7 teams from the ACC and as many as 9 will make the tournament. There are three teams from the league squarely on the bubble: Syracuse, Louisville, and Notre Dame. All of these squads will need to win at least one and possible multiple games to get to the Big Dance. Root for all of them to lose early. Notre Dame gets the easiest matchup with 0-18 in league play Pitt. Syracuse starts out against Wake Forest where they’ll be favored while Louisville gets a bye but will be a coin flip against Florida State

# of Locks: 8 of 15

# of Bubble Teams: 3 of 15

Key Early Round Games:

#11 Syracuse vs. #14 Wake Forest- Tuesday 3/6, 4p, ESPNU

#10 Notre Dame vs. #15 Pittsburgh- Tuesday 3/6, 11a, ESPN2

#8 Louisville vs. #9 Florida State- Wednesday 3/7, 9a, ESPN

Big East Tournament (starts Wednesday 3/7)

The Big East has a pair of teams that aren’t quite assured of NCAA berths yet. Providence is generally considered to be on the right side of the bubble and a single win is probably enough for them. Marquette needs to get to the semifinals to feel good about their chances.

# of Locks: 5 of 10

# of Bubble Teams: 2 of 10

Key Early Round Games:

#7 Marquette vs. #10 DePaul- Wednesday 3/7, 6:30p, FS1

#5 Providence vs. #4 Creighton- Wednesday 3/7, 11:30a, FS1

SEC Tournament (starts Wednesday 3/7)

Realistically, Alabama is the only team on the bubble barring a miraculous run. Mississippi State is the other school that might be able to secure an at large with a trip to the finals. Georgia and LSU both have better resumes than their win-loss record would indicate so I’d get nervous if either team made it to the finals as well.

# of Locks: 7 of 14

# of Bubble Teams: 1 of 14

Key Early Round Games:

#9 Alabama vs. #8 Texas A&M- Thursday 3/7, 10a, FS1

#7 Mississippi State vs. #10 LSU- Thursday 3/7, 4p, SECN

American Athletic Conference Tournament (starts Thursday 3/8)

I don’t really see there being any chance that anyone other than the top-3 of Cincinnati, Wichita State, and Houston gets an at-large berth and all 3 are locks. #4 Tulsa, #6 UCF, and #7 Temple are all good to pretty good teams so we’re rooting against them as the most likely bid thieves. You don’t have to pay attention unless one of them makes the final.

# of Locks: 3 of 12

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 12

Mountain West Conference Tournament (starts Wednesday 3/7)

Nevada is a lock and it doesn’t seem likely that anyone else can get an at-large berth after Boise State lost to San Diego State last week. The Broncos are the #2 seed and it’s possible but doubtful a loss in the finals to Nevada could get it done for them. Both #4 San Diego State and #5 Fresno State are good enough to win it all but they play each other in round one which greatly limits the chances of one of them being a bid thief.

# of Locks: 1 of 11

# of Bubble Teams: 1 of 11

Key Early Round Games:

#4 San Diego State vs. #5 Fresno State, Thursday 3/8, 2:30p, CBSSN

West Coast Conference Tournament (concludes Tuesday 3/6)

The finals of the this tournament take place tonight with #1 Gonzaga facing off against #3 BYU. The Zags are a lock no matter what but the only way BYU gets in is with a victory in Las Vegas tonight. Saint Mary’s was put in a sort of dangerous position by losing to the Cougars last night. The Gaels are just 4-3 in quadrant one or two games and have losses to both Washington State and San Francisco despite a great win-loss record. Their loss was good news for UW as long as Gonzaga takes care of business.

# of Locks: 1 of 10

# of Bubble Teams: 1 of 10

Finals:

#1 Gonzaga vs. #3 BYU- Tuesday 3/6, 6p, ESPN

Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament (starts Wednesday 3/7)

Rhode Island is a stone cold lock and I think at this point that St. Bonaventure gets in even if they lose their first conference tourney game although it will make it closer than they’d like. The potential bid thief to watch out for is #3 Davidson. Their last two regular season games were a 3OT loss to St. Bonaventure and a win over Rhode Island so they have what it takes to come out on top. You don’t have to start paying attention until Friday when the top 4 seeds play.

# of Locks: 2 of 14

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 14

Conference USA Conference Tournament (starts Wednesday 3/7)

We arrive at our first conference without a lock. Middle Tennessee is the favorite and they would probably make the tournament if they lost in the finals but it would be close. UW will be rooting for them to take care of business and leave open a spot in the NIT. #2 Old Dominion and #3 Western Kentucky both might be NIT teams if they don’t steal a bid and both have the talent to pull off a title run.

# of Locks: 0 of 14

# of Bubble Teams: 1 of 14

Summit League Conference Tournament (concludes Tuesday 3/6)

And just like that we reach a conference that will have no NCAA impact on the Huskies. The finals happen tonight with the fierce rivalry of #2 South Dakota and #1 South Dakota State. Neither team would qualify as a bubble team although both are good enough to pull an upset in the NCAA’s. If South Dakota State (led by former UW assistant T.J Otzelberger) wins it leaves an NIT spot open so go Jackrabbits.

# of Locks: 0 of 8

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 8

MAC Conference Tournament (concludes Saturday 3/10)

#1 Buffalo is the favorite here and they’d get a #13 seed in the NCAA tournament but aren’t a bubble team. We’re rooting for them to keep an NIT spot open and win it all. #2 Toledo is a solid team but a clear tier below.

# of Locks: 0 of 12

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 12

Sun Belt Conference Tournament (starts Wednesday 3/7)

The Sun Belt is just like the MAC above where #1 Louisiana is a good team but doesn’t have a good enough resume to actually get an at-large bid. They’ve got good computer numbers but are just 1-3 in combined quadrant one and quadrant two games so they’ve killed inferior competition all year. #2 Georgia State is lurking with the potential to steal an NIT spot but Louisiana is a heavy favorite.

# of Locks: 0 of 12

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 12

Big Sky Conference Tournament (starts Tuesday 3/6)

The Huskies have multiple reasons to root for the top seed here as #1 Montana played UW very tight earlier and a unanimous conference title would make that game look better for the Huskies. #2 Idaho and #3 Eastern Washington are the only two Big Sky teams to beat Montana this year and could both relegate Montana to the NIT on the right night.

# of Locks: 0 of 12

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 12

Colonial Athletic Association Conference Tournament (concludes Tuesday 3/6)

This one is already down to the finals between #1 Northeastern and #2 College of Charleston. Rooting for Northeastern to open up a potential NIT spot.

# of Locks: 0 of 12

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 12

Finals:

#1 Northeastern vs. #2 College of Charleston- Tuesday 3/6, 4p, CBSSN

WAC Conference Tournament (starts Thursday 3/8)

The Huskies should be rooting for the New Mexico State Aggies. One, in solidarity with CreatureoftheNight. Two, it’s my mom’s alma mater. And most importantly, New Mexico State is a legitimate bubble team with a loss in the finals. UW needs them to take care of business and open a spot on the bubble and in the NIT. #2 Utah Valley beat the Aggies at home and are a top-100 analytics team.

# of Locks: 0 of 8

# of Bubble Teams: 1 of 8

Key Early Round Games:

#1 New Mexico State vs. #8 Chicago State- Thursday 3/8, 6p, ESPN3

Big West Conference Tournament (starts Thursday 3/8)

Another conference tournament where the #1 seed is a UW non-conference opponent. UC Davis’s best player got suspended for the year a month ago but they still fought on for a surprising Big West regular season title. It’s a 3-way race between UC Davis, UCSB, and UC Irvine and any of them could win it. The Huskies are rooting for UC Davis both to open an NIT spot and to help boost their own resume.

# of Locks: 0 of 9

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 9

Key Early Round Games:

#1 UC Davis vs. #8 UC Riverside- Thursday 3/8, 12p

Ivy League Conference Tournament (starts Saturday 3/10)

#1 Harvard won the tiebreaker over #2 Penn for the league regular season conference title and so that’s who we’re rooting for here.

# of Locks: 0 of 8

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 8

Key Early Round Games:

#1 Harvard vs. #4 Cornell- Saturday 3/10, 9:30a, ESPNU

America East Conference Tournament (concludes Saturday 3/10)

The semifinals take place tonight with the finals happening on Saturday. The highest remaining seed gets home court. #1 Vermont (RPI of 56) is a very good team that just didn’t play a schedule quite good enough for them to threaten as an at-large. We’re rooting for the favorite starting tonight.

# of Locks: 0 of 8

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 8

Key Games:

#1 Vermont vs. #5 Stony Brook- Tuesday 3/6, 4p, ESPN3

Horizon League Conference Tournament (concludes Tuesday 3/6)

We’re too late on this one. The finals are happening tonight between #2 Wright State and #8 Cleveland State as top-seeded Northern Kentucky was upset early and so gets an automatic NIT bid. Root for whoever you want. Which at this point be 12-22 Cleveand State just because it’d be hilarious.

# of Locks: 0 of 10

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 10

Finals:

#2 Wright State vs. #8 Cleveland State- Tuesday 3/6, 4p, ESPN

Patriot League Conference Tournament (concludes Wednesday 3/7)

The finals will happen tomorrow night between #1 Bucknell and #2 Colgate. We’re rooting against the toothpaste here which is good because the Bison are a significantly better team.

# of Locks: 0 of 10

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 10

Finals:

#1 Bucknell vs. #2 Colgate- Wednesday 3/7, 4:30p, CBSSN

Southland Conference Tournament (starts Wednesday 3/7)

#1 Southeastern Louisiana won the tiebreaker over #2 Nicholls State so they get our allegiance here. No one in this league has even a top-125 RPI.

# of Locks: 0 of 13

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 13

Northeast Conference Tournament (concludes Tuesday 3/6)

Our horse in the race is still alive as #1 Wagner takes on #4 LIU Brooklyn tonight. Wagner is a 10-point favorite and gets to play at home so it seems like things should go UW’s way.

# of Locks: 0 of 10

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 10

Finals:

#1 Wagner vs. #4 LIU Brooklyn- Tuesday 3/6, 4p, ESPN2

MEAC Conference Tournament (starts Tuesday 3/6)

#1 Hampton won the tiebreaker and so Husky fans should be rooting for them but UW did pound #2 Bethune-Cookman into dust earlier in the year. Even if they did win the tournament though it wouldn’t suddenly make that win impressive. BC still has an RPI over 275.

# of Locks: 0 of 13

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 13

SWAC Conference Tournament (starts Tuesday 3/6)

We’ve arrived at the worst conference in the land with the SWAC. #1 seed Grambling State is ineligible which I guess means we’re rooting for #2 Arkansas Pine-Bluff. No team in this conference has an RPI better than 250. It’s the wasteland of D1 college basketball.

# of Locks: 0 of 13

# of Bubble Teams: 0 of 13

If you actually made it this far, congratulations. You have a problem. I was not expecting this to hit 2,500 words. As a reward I spoke to the refs for the Pac-12 tournament and they’ve agreed to try reading the rulebook before Wednesday night. They couldn’t make any promises though.

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