Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: This week will be March Madness for many

Conference tournaments are fun.

They provide a few teams a chance to be called Cinderella by winning their tournament and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Usually somewhere between 23 and 25 leagues go into their tournament knowing they are a one-bid conference for March Madness.

There are 32 automatic bids and 36 at-large, which are generally hogged by seven or eight conferences.

So this week is the only March Madness some teams will know first hand.

Going into Tuesday night's games, five teams had punched their ticket to the Big Dance. Three of those were regular season conference champions.

Murray State swept the Ohio Valley in the regular season and tournament and is looking to be a No. 7 or No. 8 next week.

Longwood won the Big South and its tournament. Tennessee-Chattanooga won the Southern and its tournament.

Georgia State was the No. 3 seed but eliminated No. 2 seed Appalachian State before winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament by knocking off No. 8 Louisiana-Lafayette, which beat No. 1 seed Texas State.

Loyola Chicago finished second in the Missouri Valley but won the tournament, although with a NCAA NET ranking of No. 24 ,it may have made the field anyway.

Five more teams punched their ticket Tuesday night.

If there was ever a year when there might be more Cinderellas, it is this year.

As of today it looks like this:

The Big East will get one automatic and four at-large bids.

The Big Ten will get one and six.

The SEC one and five.

The Big 12 one and three.

The ACC one and six.

The Pac-12 one and two.

Mountain West one and two.

West Coast one and two.

That's just 30 of the available 38 at large berths.

That doesn't mean the Sun Belt needs to get its hopes up because like the majority of the teams, their NET rankings aren't good enough.

The NET rankings are just part of the criteria the selection committee will use this week, but it is hard to imagine a team with a 100-plus ranking getting in before a Florida with a No. 54 or Texas A&M with a No. 56 ranking.

Critics of the NET have always said it eliminates the chances of mid-major teams getting an at-large berth.

This would have been a good year to have scheduled Quad 1 and Quad 2 teams to help your rating.

The rating is in dire need of being tweaked anyway.

Just look at the SEC. The team with the best rating is Kentucky at No. 4, but it lost to No. 10 Auburn, split with No. 8 Tennessee and lost to No. 20 Arkansas. The Wildcats did beat No. 16 LSU 71-66 (at Rupp Arena).

Again, the NET is just part of what the committee looks at in making its selections and seedings.

According to the NCAA, the selection committee uses a number of factors to place teams on the S-curve, including record, strength of schedule and the NET for the Division I men's tournament. Relative subjective comparison of individual teams close on the S-Curve are also considered.

The S-curve does not stand for super conferences, although it could.

Regardless, it appears the SEC Tournament will be lightly attended in Tampa, Fla. -- except for Kentucky fans -- but it should be a competitive tournament that could be won by Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky or Tennessee. Or even a wildly talented LSU.

None of those teams can probably help or hurt their seeding unless they lose their first game.

Here's one man's guess how the SEC will do when the bracket is announced Sunday: Auburn will be a No. 1 seed, Kentucky a No. 2 seed, Tennessee a No. 3, Arkansas a No. 4, LSU a No. No. 6 and Florida a No. 8.

Upcoming Events