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 III and Part IV, only the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, Seton Hall Pirates and Texas Tech Red Raiders have not failed me.
A = Away, H = Home, N = Neutral
Team: St. Bonaventure Bonnies
Best Win(s): Davidson Wildcats (H), Rhode Island Rams (H), St. Joseph’s Hawks (A), George Washington Colonials (H), Dayton Flyers (A)
Bad Loss(es): Hofstra Pride (H), Siena Saints (A), Duquesne Dukes (A), La Salle Explorers (A)
Note: On Saturday, the Bonnies put themselves in the conversation as an “At-large”, as they took down the Dayton Flyers on the road. It was yet another solid win, in a stretch where they’ve gone 6-1 in their last seven games. The only loss was a suspect one against the La Salle Explorers, who are by far the worst team in the Atlantic 10 conference. Oddly enough, the only win the Explorers had up until beating the Bonnies, was against the Dayton Flyers (Go Figure). Anyways, the Bonnies upcoming schedule is favorable, as they start a three game homestand against the Duquesne Dukes, Massachusetts Minutemen and St. Joseph’s Hawks. The game against the Hawks is a big one, as they will go for the season sweep and hope to add another quality win to their resume. The Bonnies then finish up the regular season on the road against the St. Louis Billikens, in what they need to avoid as another head scratching loss. If the Bonnies win out, I have no question in my mind that they are worthy as an At-large team.
Team: Tulsa Golden Hurricanes
Best Win(s): Wichita St. Shockers (H), Connecticut Huskies (H), Houston Cougars (H), SMU Mustangs (A), Cincinnati Bearcats (H), Temple Owls (H)
Bad Loss(es): Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (H)
Note: The Golden Hurricanes have gone through the motions this season, with plenty ups and down. A 4-0 start to the season, with a solid win over the Wichita St. Shockers had the outlook of the season looking like a trip to March Madness. However, the Golden Hurricanes would drop six of their next ten games, falling to a measly 8-6 record. This was concerning, as the Golden Hurricanes are the most experienced team in the nation. To lose to the Oral Roberts Eagles at home, is just plain ole embarrassing and reminiscent of last year when they lost to a Division II team (well not quite because that was just sad). The Golden Hurricanes bounced back though and emphatically, going 11-3 in their next fourteen games. In the process they’ve added a ton of quality wins, beating the likes of the Connecticut Huskies, Houston Cougars, SMU Mustangs, Cincinnati Bearcats and Temple Owls. Upcoming, the Golden Hurricanes have only two games left, starting with a road game against the Memphis Tigers. After that, the regular season is finished at home against the South Florida Bulls. Like the start of the season, a trip to March Madness is looking good right now. I have no doubt they are currently an At-large team, but they must avoid losing any of their last two games to keep the moniker.
Team: San Diego St. Aztecs
Best Win(s): California Golden Bears (N), Long Beach St. 49ers (A) Boise St. Broncos (H)
Bad Loss(es): San Diego Toreros (H), Grand Canyon Antelopes (H), Fresno St. Bulldogs (A)
Note: The Aztecs non-conference schedule was not kind, in terms of both strength of schedule and how they fared. They played the likes of the Utah Utes, Arkansas Little Rock Trojans, California Golden Bears, West Virginia Mountaineers and Kansas Jayhawks. The Aztecs only managed to beat the California Golden Bears, which is a quality win, but they dropped the ball on boosting their resume. However and I can’t wrap my head around it, they managed to lose the San Diego Toreros (currently 8-19). Twelve days later, the Aztecs would drop a home game against the Grand Canyon Antelopes. A game that is less of a head scratcher than the San Diego Toreros if you know the Antelopes, but still one that shouldn’t result in a loss considering it’s at home. They wrapped up a dismal non-conference schedule with a record of 7-6, including two of the wins against Division II schools. As far as I’m concerned, I can’t recall the last time the Aztecs were in this type of territory. A season that was seemingly in a downward spiral, began conference play and it all turned around from there. The Aztecs managed to reel off eleven straight wins, which couldn’t of been more imperative that they did such. The Fresno St. Bulldogs would snap the winning streak, as the Aztecs fell by one point on the road. They’ve since won two straight and upcoming have four games remaining against decent Mountain West conference opponents. At this moment, it’s safe to say that the Aztecs are the favorite to win their conference tournament. However, last year they were too and the Wyoming Cowboys wound up playing spoiler. In case that happens again, it would be beneficial if the Aztecs won their four remaining games. If they do, I personally think they wold of done enough to wipe out those ugly non-conference losses out of my mind and confidently deem them At-large worthy.