As we close in on March, I can’t help to examine several teams that have had great seasons thus far and could possibly earn automatic bids into the big dance. It’s going to be a wide open tournament too, so this year will be imperative for teams to get in, as honestly anything can happen! So far, in Part I and II, only the Stony Brook Seawolves and Monmouth Hawks have not failed me yet.
A = Away, H = Home, N = Neutral
Team: Saint Joseph’s Hawks
Best Win(s): Princeton Tigers (H), Temple Owls (A), Rhode Island Rams (H,A), Richmond Spiders (A), George Washington Colonials (A)
Bad Loss(es): St. Bonaventure Bonnies
Note: I may be wrong, but this seems like the Hawks best season since Jameer Nelson and Delonte West led them to an undefeated regular season back in 2003-2004. They’ve only lost four games this year and despite dropping three of them at home, I wouldn’t necessarily call all those bad losses. The Villanova Wildcats are your current number one ranked team, so take nothing from that one. The VCU Rams are probably heading to the NCAA tournament and even St. Bonaventure has a case, but I think the Hawks should of won that one. Minor blemishes at best though and they’ve done enough otherwise to be in the conversation as an “At-large”. Luckily enough, the Hawks can add to an already solid resume with some upcoming games. They have a huge one at home against the Dayton Flyers, as well as two road games against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies and Davidson Wildcats. If they can win two of those, they are in pretty good shape to be dancing come March!
Team: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Best Win(s): Northern Iowa Panthers (H), UC Irvine Anteaters (H)
Bad Loss(es): Long Beach St. 49ers (H)
Note: At this very moment, it’s safe to say that the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are not a team in the conversation as a possible “At-large”. I however think that if they can close out the season with no blemishes, they could possibly enter the conversation. The Rainbow Warriors have four of their remaining six games on the road, two of them being against good teams in the Long Beach St. 49ers and UC Irvine Anteaters. It’s crazy to think that these Rainbow Warriors almost beat the Oklahoma Sooners, who at the time was the number one ranked team. It would of been a monumental win for the program and certainly would have them in the conversation right now. Unfortunately, they couldn’t pull it out, but I think it showed that they have the ability to hang with the best. Well see what they can do with their remaining schedule…
Team: Creighton Bluejays
Best Win(s): Georgetown Hoyas (H), Seton Hall Pirates (A), Butler Bulldogs (H), Xavier Musketeers (H), Marquette Golden Eagles (A)
Bad Loss(es): Arizona St. Sun Devils (H), Loyola Chicago Ramblers (A)
Note: The Bluejays are starting to get back to their winning ways, something that took a back seat last season. Perhaps, losing their superstar in Doug McDermott and being in the Big East Conference has something to do with that though. However, this season has been somewhat of a roller coaster, with high’s and low’s. The two bad losses were back to back one’s against the Arizona St. Sun Devils at home and then a head scratching one on the road against the Loyola Chicago Ramblers. Luckily enough, the amount of quality wins that the Bluejays have put together kind of puts that at ease. Upcoming though is a slew of tough games. They two home games against the Marquette Golden Eagles and St. John’s Red Storm, but that’s not what I’m referring to as tough. It’s the three road games against the likes of the Butler Bulldogs, Providence Friars and Xavier Musketeers. If the Bluejays can handle their business at home and manage to take two of those three road games, I think it would be tough to deny them as an “At-large”.
Team: UNC-Wilmington Seahawks
Best Win(s): William & Mary Tribe (H), James Madison Dukes (H,A), College of Charleston Cougars (H), Hofstra Pride (A)
Bad Loss(es): East Carolina Pirates (A), Radford Highlanders (A), Northeastern Huskies (H), Towson Tigers (A)
Note: If you asked me about the Seahawks in early January, I would of probably said something about the Seattle Seahawks. I mean, the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks were an afterthought at that point. They had a record of 9-5, beating either Division II schools or the bottom dwellers of Division I. They had lost to some iffy teams, with the exception of a road loss to the Georgetown Hoyas. It wasn’t looking good, but they caught my attention when they beat the William & Mary Tribe, then the James Madison Dukes. The next thing you know, they have rattled off 11 straight wins in a improved Colonial Athletic Conference. One in which is by no means a one headed or even two headed monster, like other conferences. It’s much improved, as the conference combined has victories over the Florida St. Seminoles, St. Bonaventure Bonnies, Richmond Spiders, North Carolina St. Wolfpack, LSU Tigers, Miami (FL) Hurricanes and Stony Brook Seawolves. Anyways, upcoming the Seahawks have four games that can put them on the radar in my opinion. It starts with back to back road games against the likes of the William & Mary Tribe and College of Charleston Cougars, then two home games against the Hofstra Pride and Towson Tigers. If they can win out, then I think we have something here to definitely talk about. It would be 15 straight wins and according to ESPN, 8 wins against RPI teams 51-100.