I have to admit that outside of the University of Arkansas and Virginia Tech, I haven't watched a lot of college basketball yet this season. However, it's pretty easy to figure out that the Big 12 and the ACC are very deep in talent, while the Big 10, the Pac 12 and the Big East are very good at the top. The SEC, while still coming up short against the other major conferences, is much improved, even with Missouri having a down year. The big question is which of the two remaining unbeatens, top ranked Kentucky and number two Virginia, will go down to defeat first. Both have had their share of scares, the latest a three point Cavalier win in Blacksburg against an undermanned Hokie squad. Perhaps the 'Hoos were looking ahead to a #4 Duke, at #13 UNC and back home again to take on #10 Louisville stretch that will certainly test every aspect of their game. Kentucky is almost two weeks away from back to back games at Florida and LSU, and it's a month until they face a dangerous Arkansas squad. Based on those schedules, I would have to pick Virginia to go down first, with neither team running the table.
At this point in the season, I always like to look ahead to see which so-called mid-major teams will be making noise come NCAA tournament time. With their success the last few years, it's hard to call VCU a true mid-major, but their conference, the Atlantic 10, isn't considered elite. But at 16 - 3 and currently third in the RPI, the Rams could end up with a very strong seed when the 68 teams are announced. Dayton and George Washington, also in the A-10, could be difference makers. SMU made an early run, then stumbled a bit, but Larry Brown's squad is currently 16 - 4. In the Horizon, Green Bay and Valparaiso will probably battle it out for the league championship, while Wichita State and Northern Iowa have glossy records out of the Missouri Valley conference. Wyoming and Colorado State are dangerous in the Mountain West, but the rest of that league is not very strong. Gonzaga, sitting at 20 - 1 so far this season, is always a threat, but the West Coast Conference lacks much firepower beyond St. Mary's and BYU.
With more leagues and the growth in conferences, it seems like only a matter of time before we see another jump in the size of the field in the NCAA tournament. With four play in games currently, I could easily see that jump to six or eight, with very little impact on the tournament itself, with the exception of putting more 15 seeds in jeopardy of first, uh excuse me, second round losses. Would a 72 team field really be out of the question? I think not.
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