Dallas Colleges: Virginia Cavaliers
Big 12 and Atlantic 10 stand out
The Big 12 got the most bids with seven, one more than the ACC, Atlantic 10, Big Ten and Pac-12. The Big 12’s seven bids match its most in any season (it also had seven in 2010).
It’s notable that the Atlantic 10 has twice as many bids as the SEC and the same number as the ACC. The six bids were the most for the Atlantic 10 in conference history, surpassing the previous high of five, done three times, most recently last season.
The top seed
Florida enters the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. The only other time it was the No. 1 overall seed was in 2007, when it won the national title.
The Gators have won 26 straight games, the third-longest active winning streak in the country, trailing Wichita State (34) and Stephen F. Austin (28).
It’s been a long time
Virginia is a No. 1 seed for the fourth time in school history, but the first time since 1983. Virginia is the first No. 1 seed from the ACC not named Duke or North Carolina since Maryland in 2002.
Traditional powers seeded a little low
Kentucky is seeded No. 8, the lowest-ever for a John Calipari-coached tournament team.
Duke is a No. 3 seed, its lowest seed since 2007, when it was a No. 6 seed and lost to VCU in the round of 64.
Duke has never won the National Championship when seeded No. 3 or lower. The Blue Devils have only reached the Final Four once in nine tries as a 3 seed or lower, since seeding began in 1979, in 1990 when it was runner-up.
Quest for a title
Of the 35 national champions since seeding began, 31 of them were 1, 2 or 3 seeds. The other four championships were two by No. 6 seeds, and one each for No. 4 and No. 8 seeds. Villanova was that No. 8, the lowest to win the national title, in 1985.
The last time a team seeded worse than third won the national title was fourth-seeded Arizona in 1997.
The biggest snub from a statistical perspective was SMU. The Mustangs were hurt by only having four wins against teams in the RPIs top 100 and by their non-conference strength of schedule ranking (303rd).
The state of Indiana also went without a team being selected. This is only the second time in the last 40 seasons that a team from Indiana hasn’t made an NCAA Tournament.
Thanks to Wildcats, Panthers, and Tigers, the cat family has 11 entries in the tournament. The bird family (Blue Hens, Bluejays, Ducks, Cardinals, and variations on Hawks) has nine. The dog family includes the Bulldogs, Great Danes, Huskies, and Terriers.
Three states put all their eligible Division I teams in the tournament—Kansas (3), Nebraska (2—note that Nebraska-Omaha is still provisional Division I) and New Mexico (2).
There will be at least four games in which teams with the same nickname will face each other. Mercer and Baylor will meet in the battle of the Bears. The American-North Carolina Central matchup pits a pair of Eagles head-to-head. The Pittsburgh-Milwaukee game is the Panthers versus the Panthers. And Memphis faces Texas Southern in a battle of the Tigers.
Marquette at West Virginia (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): West Virginia has to win this game, right? The Mountaineers have lost six of their past eight games. The only wins were over lower-level teams (Providence and Pitt) on the road. Marquette has been on a tear of late and may have the Big East Player of the Year in Jae Crowder or Darius Johnson-Odom.
Vanderbilt at Kentucky (noon ET, CBS): Kentucky has three games left to finish off an undefeated SEC regular season. No offense to Georgia, but the Cats should take care of the Bulldogs. If Kentucky takes out Vandy, the only obstacle left is a game at Florida to end the regular season. If Kentucky can accomplish an unblemished mark, it would go down as one of the most impressive regular seasons in coach John Calipari’s career.
Iowa State at Kansas State (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3): Wins at Baylor and Missouri have changed the complexion of Kansas State’s season. The Wildcats have finally finished games by playing smart in the final possessions. Iowa State has a tough slate to finish the season with games at Kansas State and Missouri and then hosting Baylor. Not an easy road for a bubble team.
North Carolina at Virginia (4 p.m. ET, ESPN): UVa has had injury issues and hasn’t been able to find consistency against the league’s elite (Duke and North Carolina). But the Cavs have a shot to re-establish themselves. This could turn into an ACC Player of the Year-type game as Tyler Zeller of the Tar Heels matches up with Mike Scott of the Cavs. UVa must ensure that it controls the tempo to have a chance.
Mississippi State at Alabama (6 p.m. ET, ESPN): Mississippi State has stumbled down the stretch and has no momentum going into the SEC tournament. The Bulldogs have lost to the bottom of the SEC and now to Kentucky at the top. Meanwhile, Alabama has done a tremendous job, despite player suspensions, to be in the hunt for an NCAA tournament berth. The win at Arkansas was one of the more impressive for the Tide this season.
George Mason at VCU (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2): George Mason was going to be in position to possibly catch Drexel and win the conference. But an overtime loss at Northeastern has pushed the Patriots into a second-place tie with VCU. The winner will get the No. 2 seed in the CAA tournament and potentially set up for a final matchup against Drexel.
Temple at Saint Joseph’s (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU): Temple has emerged as the class of the A-10. Saint Joe’s had some fleeting hopes of getting a bid, but the Hawks lost at home to Richmond and scored only 49 points in the process. This is a huge rivalry game but the toughness of the Owls should prevail.
Penn at Harvard (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3): If Harvard gets by Princeton on Friday night, a win against Penn could give the Crimson a share of the Ivy League title and a chance to clinch it outright the following Friday at Columbia. Harvard is trying to get to the NCAAs for the first time since 1946.
Syracuse at Connecticut (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): The Huskies have new life after Shabazz Napier’s 3-point heave went in to beat Villanova on Monday night. The Orange have been as good, if not better, on the road than at home -- other than at Notre Dame. Syracuse should dominate the bench scoring. The Huskies have a chance if Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi can win the post, and Napier and Ryan Boatright can get into the zone with floaters to score. UConn is in desperate mode to get this win.
Wisconsin at Ohio State (4 p.m. ET, CBS): The Badgers lost at Iowa on Thursday night and now have to go to Ohio State? Yikes. Iowa let Wisconsin back in the game, but then the Badgers couldn’t finish and lost by one. OSU, save the game against Michigan State, has been as dominant at home as any team in the country. The Badgers have to find a way to score and avoid the droughts that can decimate their chances of pulling off an upset like this one.
California at Colorado (5:30 p.m. ET, FSN): Colorado had a chance to make some noise down the stretch in the Pac-12, but losing at home to Stanford took some of the energy out of this game. The Buffaloes had overachieved to that point. Cal needs to get a sweep of the mountain area to win the Pac-12 regular-season title, assuming Washington doesn’t stumble.
Florida State at Miami (6 p.m. ET, ESPNU): The Seminoles lost their shot to win the ACC regular-season title by dropping a home game to Duke. Miami desperately needs this game to prove to the selection committee that it is tourney-worthy. This game will have ACC tournament seeding implications.
Iona at Loyola (ESPNU, 7 p.m. ET): Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos was peeved that his squad was left out of the TV BracketBusters games. Well, this one is on TV and it’s a shot for the Greyhounds to let the rest of the country know that the more publicized Gaels aren’t the only team in the MAAC. The teams are tied atop the league. This should be the MAAC tournament final, with one of the two earning the bid in Springfield, Mass., next month.
Louisville at West Virginia (ESPN, noon ET): The Cardinals are rolling while the Mountaineers haven’t been the same since losing to Syracuse and failing to get that goaltending call on Jan. 28. If West Virginia doesn’t stop Louisville in transition, the Mountaineers are in serious trouble. But you have to expect WVU will get this win at home.
Virginia at North Carolina (ESPN3, 1 p.m. ET): The Cavaliers can disrupt the Tar Heels and control the tempo. The key will be how the Heels respond to their disheartening loss Wednesday to Duke. UNC is the more talented team, but are the Tar Heels mentally tough enough to bounce back and beat a disciplined Cavs squad?
Miami at Florida State (ESPN3, 1 p.m. ET): The Seminoles had to take care of business against the bottom of the ACC. But they didn’t for the second time when they were stunned at Boston College on Wednesday. Miami comes in on a roll after following up its win Sunday over Duke with a victory over Virginia Tech on Thursday. This could be one of the most evenly matched ACC games -- not involving Duke or Carolina -- the rest of the conference season.
Connecticut at Syracuse (1 p.m. ET): The Huskies need to show some pride and play well at Syracuse. Orange coach Jim Boeheim wasn’t at all pleased with his team’s effort Wednesday against Georgetown. UConn, meanwhile, is coming off a brutal performance Monday at Louisville. The Orange have more talent, depth and experience. UConn needs to create havoc on the defensive end to have a shot and Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi better play one of their best games to control the post.
Baylor at Missouri (ESPN3, 1:30 p.m. ET): The Bears got worked over by Kansas at home; Missouri is coming off a gritty victory at Oklahoma after beating Kansas in Columbia last Saturday. Separation has occurred in the Big 12, with Missouri and Kansas a game ahead of Baylor. The Bears had better find a way to defend. Missouri already proved it can win against a taller set. If Missouri wins, Baylor would not have beaten Mizzou or Kansas this season.
VCU at Old Dominion (2 p.m. ET): This should come as no surprise: VCU is on a roll and atop the CAA with Drexel and George Mason. ODU is a game behind after losing last week at Mason. If the Monarchs want a shot at the CAA title, they probably have to win this game. ODU gets one more shot at one of the leaders, hosting Drexel to end the season. All four are postseason teams, but only one might be in the NCAAs.
Wyoming at New Mexico (3:30 p.m. ET): The Lobos won where UNLV could not -- at Wyoming. New Mexico has quietly put together a potential MWC title season. UNM is tied with UNLV and a game behind San Diego State. This is another chance to stay in stride with the Rebels and Aztecs.
San Diego State at UNLV (4 p.m. ET): The Aztecs knocked off the Rebels in the final second Jan. 14 at Viejas Arena. Each has suffered a surprising road loss since, at Colorado State and Wyoming, respectively. Thomas & Mack will be rocking. The key will be if the Aztecs can again keep the Rebs off the backboards in key moments.
Wichita State at Creighton (ESPN2, 5 p.m. ET): The Bluejays are reeling, by their Missouri Valley standards, after losing two straight. Wichita State lost at home to Creighton on Dec. 31, and if the Shockers want to win the Valley regular-season title, they need to win this game. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being game two of three between these two Valley favorites. A meeting in St. Louis seems inevitable.
Kentucky at Vanderbilt (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET): The Wildcats have reached the toughest part of their road schedule -- at Vandy, at Mississippi State and at Florida before the end of the regular season. The Commodores certainly have the talent, experience and some beef to deal with Kentucky. But can they finish against UK, or any elite team? Vandy isn’t going to win the SEC. But this is a huge confidence game for the NCAAs.
Xavier at Temple (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET): The Musketeers have been erratic. Temple hasn’t always been healthy. The Owls appear to be the front-runners in the A-10 -- at least at this point -- but X can upstage Temple with a victory in Philadelphia. This could be a decisive win for the Owls in their quest to win the league outright.
TCU owns the nation's longest streak in terms of consecutive years for a school from a non-automatic qualifying conference to beat an opponent from an AQ conference. The Frogs have won 13 games against one of the teams from the supposed big-boy conferences in each of the past eight years.
Against the Pac-10, TCU is 3-0 in that span. It beat Stanford twice in a home-and-home set in 2007 and 2008, and the Frogs won at Arizona in 2003. Go back to coach Gary Patterson's days as TCU's defensive coordinator and the Frogs' 1998 Sun Bowl victory over USC takes the record to 4-0.
TCU has just two losses two AQ-conference teams in the past eight years, both on the road. The Frogs lost at Texas, 34-13, in 2007, and 35-10 at Oklahoma in 2008.
Here's TCU's wins over AQ schools since 2002:
Sept. 7, 2002: at Northwestern, 48-24
Sept. 20, 2003: Vanderbilt, 30-14
Sept. 27, 2003: at Arizona, 13-10 (OT)
Sept. 2, 2004: Northwestern, 48-45 (2OT)
Sept. 3, 2005: at No. 5 Oklahoma, 17-10
Dec. 31, 2005: vs. Iowa State, 27-24 (Houston Bowl)
Sept. 3, 2006: at Baylor, 17-7
Sept. 16, 2006: No. 24 Texas Tech, 12-3
Sept. 1, 2007: Baylor, 27-0
Oct. 13, 2007: at Stanford, 38-36
Sept. 13, 2008: Stanford, 31-14
Sept. 12, 2009: at Virginia, 30-14
Sept. 26, 2009: at Clemson, 14-10
TCU coach Gary Patterson was asked about whether TCU and other non-BCS teams could compete in some of the bigger conferences. Patterson was quick to point out TCU's non-conference schedule.
"Through the years, we've played Texas, Oklahoma. This year we went to Clemson, which is a hard place to play," said Patterson on his weekly conference call Tuesday afternoon. "I've never felt like it did you any good to talk up your team. You have to talk on the field, but we've been highly competitive and I think we'll be there in years to come with whoever we play."
Patterson added that critics need to look at how well many of the top non-BCS teams have played against BCS conference opponents the last few years. He also said TCU is going to continue to play good teams, like Oklahoma and Virginia in 2012 and LSU in future schedules.
"We haven't backed down from anybody," Patterson said. "We try to schedule home-and-homes and a lot of school will say, 'You can come to our place.'"