The March before the Madness

We’ve seen a lot of different games ending with surprise upsets, or surprising teams we may or may not have expected to see in the tournament by this time.

If you have been following me along the journey through this season, you might have heard about some of those moments. As we approach the ending of the regular season, many teams are looking to clinch their way into a berth in the tournament. A berth in the tournament is available to 68 teams, and 32 teams are looking to be automatic bids. That leaves more than half the field left to be determined.

I will tell you about some of the smaller schools who could be in the tournament, and this article will focus solely on those teams and what they may need to do to get their chance to dance.

“Savage Arena” by Jon Ridinger is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

We will take a look at each team and their tournament history ahead of selection Sunday. I will also be giving you each team’s RPI and where they should be seeded in the tournament. RPI (rating percentage index) is used to rank teams based on their wins, losses, and strength of schedule.

Let’s take a look at Wofford first! I didn’t rank them this week as the Associated Press did, but they are in the top 25 as of now, and they could have been in mine too. I split on this one, as Wofford has won 16 straight games. That’s the second largest active winning streak behind No. 1 Gonzaga.

Let’s see how they got here.

Wofford (26-4):

Key Losses: North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Mississippi State (All ranked at the time)

Key Wins Furman (twice) and N.C. Greensboro (twice)

Last appearance: 2015 (second round)

Projected seeding: 8th seed

RPI: .0629

 

Belmont (24-4):

Key Losses: Purdue and Jacksonville State (twice)

Key Wins: Murray State (twice) and Lipscomb (twice)

Last appearance: 2015 (first round)

Projected seeding: 11th seed

RPI: 0.5772

 

Central Florida (21-6): 

Key Losses: North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Mississippi State (All ranked at the time)

Key Wins: Furman twice and N.C. Greensboro

Last appearance: 2004 (second round)

Projected seeding: 9th seed

RPI: .6018

 

New Mexico State (25-4): 

Key Losses: Kansas, Cal Baptist (not in tournament), Drake

Key Wins: Utah Valley twice

Last appearance: 2017 (first round)

Projected seeding: 12th seed

RPI: .5937

 

Davidson (20-8):

Key Losses: Purdue, Temple, North Carolina, Dayton, La Salle and UMass (both bad losses)

Key Wins:  VCU, Wichita State, and Northeastern twice

Last appearance: 2015 (first round)

Projected seeding: 14th seed

RPI: .5710

 

Temple (20-8):

Key Losses: VCU, Villanova, UCF, Cincinnati, Houston, and Memphis

Key Wins: Davidson, Houston (first team to do so), Memphis, South Florida twice

Last appearance: 2011 (second round)

Projected seeding: 13th seed

RPI: .5972

 

UC Irvine (24-5):

Key Losses: Utah State, Toledo, Butler, and Long Beach State

Key Wins: St. Mary’s, and CSU Fullerton twice

Last appearance: 2015 (first round)

Projected seeding: 13th seed

RPI: .5650

 

Toledo (22-6):

Key Losses: Wright State, Buffalo twice, Kent State,  Eastern Michigan (not in tournament)

Key Wins: UC Irvine and Central Michigan

Last appearance: 1980 ( first round)

Projected seeding: 12th seed

RPI: .5859

 

VCU (22-6):

Key Losses: St. John’s, Old Dominion, Virginia, and Davidson

Key Wins: Temple, Texas, Wichita State, and Dayton twice

Last appearance: 2017 (first round)

Projected seeding: 10th seed

RPI: .6157

 

Old Dominion (23-6): 

Key Losses: St. Joseph’s, Northern Iowa, Oregon State, and UTSA

Key Wins: VCU, Syracuse, UTSA, and North Texas

Last appearance: 2011 (first round)

Projected seeding: 13th seed

RPI: .5605

 

Murray State (24-4): 

Key Losses: Alabama, Auburn, Belmont, and Jacksonville State

Key Wins: Wright State and Austin Peavy

Last appearance: 2018 (first round)

Projected seeding: 14th seed

RPI: .5601

 

Lipscomb (23-6): 

Key Losses: Belmont twice, Louisville, Clemson, Liberty, and Florida Gulf Coast

Key Wins: TCU, Vermont, Florida Gulf Coast, and N.J.I.T

Last appearance: 2018 (first round)

Projected seeding: 11th seed

RPI: .5618

After looking at all 12 of these teams and their road to the tournament, do you think any of them will make some noise in the big dance? Could any of them be a Cinderella in this year’s tournament? Who could pull of the ultimate upset and bring mayhem to the madness? Let’s keep an eye on these teams as they wrap up their season and look to position themselves for a better seed in the tournament before selection Sunday in two weeks.

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