By Marc Lawrence
Get your dancing shoes out. With just three weeks remaining in the regular season portion of the 2009-10 college basketball campaign talk of the NCAA Tournament becomes more and more a matter of serious discussion.
For teams that are sitting ‘on the bubble' it becomes crunch time and with it the pressure begins to mount. As Elvis said, "it's now or never." And while there are always post-season conference tournaments for most teams to impress the NCAA tournament committee, the truth is most teams' fate are virtually sealed well before these events tip off. Let me explain.
Outside of winning a conference tournament the fact of the matter is unless teams own both a winning overall and winning conference record for the season the chance of being invited to the ‘dance' is slim and remote. Teams who post 20 wins for the season often times find that unless they were a ‘double-winner' the NCAA is likely to kick them to the curb. And for a lot of the right reasons, we might add. They recognize the fact that 20-win teams that ended up the season with a losing record in conference play likely picked up the bulk of the victories against inferior non-conference competition and it just doesn't cut the mustard in the panel's eyes.
With this thought in mind, I present of group of nine teams from lined conferences that all have a shot at 20 wins this season who are all currently .500 or worse in conference play in games through February 21. They are:
ACC - Georgia Tech
Big East: Connecticut, Notre Dame, South Florida
BIG 10 -Minnesota, Northwestern
CUSA: Southern Mississippi
Missouri Valley: Missouri State
SEC - Mississippi
Notice that any of the nine teams outlined above could catch fire and close out the season a double-winner (20 wins and winning conference log). Their performance to date, however, says otherwise. Collectively, this unit has posted a sterling 96-20 SU and 54-30 ATS outside the conference this season. In conference play, though, they are just a combined 55-67 SU and 59-58-5 ATS.
Worse, in conference games as a ‘pick' or favorite these wannabes are just 28-35-2 ATS this season, including 6-14-1 ATS when facing an opponent off a spread loss of five or more points. Put these same group of guys up against a foe that scored 77 or less points in its last game and they nearly drop off the radar screen, going 2-13-1 ATS this season.
Thus, unless they suddenly change their ways - and I can't recall the last time a leopard changed its spots - its likely this group of nine will perform not-so-great under the pressure of laying points and having to win over the course of the next three weeks. The heat is on. Let's watch and see...