It has become very evident over the last weeks that the national media outlets will continue to deny Conference USA the credit it deserves. Thank God they aren't on the selection committee. With as weak as the bubble is this year, combined with the expansion of the tournament and the overall quality of Conference USA, there is no way this conference gets only one bid. Or at least, I hope the committee sees it that way. There are now five C-USA teams ranked 54 or higher in the RPI, including three in the top 40. That in itself should be enough to garner at least one at large bid. In reality, three teams remain alive for at large bids, and although their resumes may be a bit incomplete, it shouldn't take away from the quality of those teams. Here are the resumes.
UAB Blazers (20-7, 10-4) RPI: 31, SOS: 64, Last 10: 7-3, Pomeroy: 55, Sagarin: 51
The Blazers' numbers are right on par with any other teams that are "worthy" of an at large bid, but they might still have a little work left to do. They are 7-6 vs the top 100 RPI, but lack in the wins vs the top 50 department. There they are 0-5. The Blazers are currently working without their star F, and second leading scorer Cameron Moore (broken hand). He should be back in time for the NCAA tourney, and that almost certainly will be taken into consideration. An outright conference title will go a long way, and included with that would be their first win over a top 50 opponent (UAB is at So. Miss Wed.). That should be enough to solidify their spot.
OUTLOOK: The Blazers are undoubtedly one of the best 68 teams in the nation. Unfortunately, that's not exactly how things work. They've still got some work to do, but if they take care of business they'll find themselves dancing. As of right now, they are teetering on the last four in/first four out border. If the tournament started today, the Blazers would just make the cut. A C-USA championship, and great computer numbers would be enough to get it done.
Memphis Tigers (21-8, 9-5) RPI: 34, SOS: 43, Last 10: 6-4, Pomeroy: 93, Sagarin: 72
Other than their Pomeroy and Sagarin ratings, the Tigers have a great resume. Their RPI and SOS are great, they are 9-6 vs the top 100, and 4-3 vs the top 50. If not for their recent collapse, the Tigers would be locked into the NCAA tournament. However, the blowouts losses at Rice, and at UTEP in the last week have put them in an entirely different situation. They certainly must beat ECU and Tulane to finish the regular season, then at the very least make it to the semifinals (if not the finals) in the C-USA tourney to put themselves back in.
OUTLOOK: The Tigers not only have the best RPI/SOS combination in the conference, but they own 4 top 50 wins, and wins over Miami (FL), and fellow bubbler Gonzaga (neutral court in Spokane). They, like the Blazers are right there bordering the in/out line. They do however have a leg up with the season sweeps of UAB and Southern Miss. If the tournament started today, the Tigers would have to be in. The two recent losses hurt, but show me any other bubble team with a better resume than this.
Southern Miss Golden Eagles (18-7, 9-5) RPI: 39, SOS: 89, Last 10: 7-3, Pomeroy: 65, Sagarin: 57
The Golden Eagles have slowly crept their way in the top 40 RPI, and the top 100 SOS. Those are almost musts for at large hopefuls. They are 6-6 vs the top 100 RPI, and 1-3 vs the top 50. The loss to UCF doesn't hurt too much, but a win there would've surely been a great help. They still have a home game tomorrow against UAB, and then finish up against Tulsa. They definitely have to win their last two, and make it to the conference championship game in order to be a serious at large threat. Even then, I'm not sure that would be enough.
OUTLOOK: In my opinion, these guys are good enough to beat some teams in the NCAA tournament, but unfortunately my opinion doesn't mean much. Wins against teams like Ole Miss, and Colorado State would've put the Golden Eagles in much better shape, but that's not the case. If the tournament started today, the Eagles would probably be somewhere between 8-10 teams out of the tournament. They've still got some time to change that though.
These are three very good ball clubs here that certainly deserve to at the least be in conversation for bids to the NCAA tournament. Especially in a year like this, when the bubble is so weak, its hard to find higher quality teams than these here. The only thing holding these guys back, well UAB and Southern Miss, is their lack of quality wins. Regardless, these are good teams, and anyone who taken any time to watch them will know that. Let's hope the NCAA tournament selection committee are basketball fans.
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