Sunday, February 22, 2009

God's Bubble

With only a few weeks to go until Selection Sunday and this year's God's Bracket, here is a look at the religiously affiliated schools whose men's basketball teams have a good shot of earning a spot in this year's NCAA Tournament:

Roman Catholic

Locks: Marquette, Xavier, Villanova, Gonzaga

On the Bubble: Siena, St. Mary's, Notre Dame, Providence, Georgetown

Siena has an excellent RPI rating and an impressive non-conference strength of schedule. (They also demolished my Vanderbilt Commodores in the first round of last year's dance.) But they lack a signature win and have no remaining opportunities to get one. The Saints have a good shot of earning an at-large bid, but need to win the MAAC tournament to be safe. St. Mary's helped itself this weekend, getting a big win over a ranked Utah State team and doing so without star guard Patty Mills. Notre Dame, Providence, and Georgetown likely are on bubbles that will soon burst, but all three have opportunities to pick up some impressive wins before Selection Sunday.

If you're Roman Catholic, you should also keep an eye on Mount St. Mary's. The Mountaineers are currently in second place in the Northeast Conference and have a good chance to earn the league's automatic bid for the second consecutive season.

United Methodist

Lock: Duke

Probable: Syracuse

Conference Leader: American

No real bubble teams for the United Methodists, as Syracuse needs only one or two more wins to finalize its post-season plans. American has a good chance to represent the Patriot League for a second consecutive season; Boston University (from the America East Conference) may be the only other UM school with a realistic chance of winning an automatic bid. Of course, I'm holding onto hope that Evansville, my alma mater, can win the Missouri Valley Conference tourney, but I'm not counting on it.


Lock: Wake Forest

Bubble: Baylor

Wake Forest, which maintains a tenuous connection to the Baptist Church, may be the only Baptist school to be immersed in this year's NCAA Tournament. After losing seven of their last eight games, the Baylor Bears' hopes of earning an at-large bid are slim or non-existent. A couple Baptist schools—Liberty (Big South) and Belmont (Atlantic Sun)—have a reasonable chance of winning their conference tournaments.

Latter-Day Saints

Bubble: Brigham Young

BYU has twenty wins and impressive computer numbers (#30 RPI; #49 strength of schedule); but the Cougars' one signature win, over Utah State, looks less impressive now than it did a few weeks ago. Winning Tuesday at San Diego State and winning two games in the MWC tourney would put BYU in good shape for an at-large berth.


Bubble: Davidson

If you expected Davidson to beat Butler in this past weekend's Bracket Buster showdown, you probably weren't very familiar with Butler. That said, Davidson may have needed a win over Butler to keep its bubble afloat. To its credit Davidson has a road victory over West Virginia, a neutral-site win against NC State, and a close loss to Oklahoma. The Wildcats also have Stephen Curry, which might give them a slight edge in the minds of Selection Committee members over teams with comparable résumés. But Davidson has a couple bad losses and its RPI and overall strength of schedule aren't impressive.

The only other Presbyterian school with even an outside chance of earning a bid is Tulsa, which could win the Conference USA tourney if someone else can upset Memphis.


Christians of a Charismatic bent can put their faith in Oral Roberts, currently in second place in the Summit League behind a North Dakota State team that has never had the pressure of playing in a conference tournament with a Big Dance invitation on the line. For Church of Christ folks, Lipscomb winning the Atlantic Sun tournament would be unlikely but not unheard of. If you're Lutheran (whether ELCA or Missouri Synod) or United Church of Christ, you'll most likely be without a team in this year's bracket. (But you can always hope for a conference tournament miracle for Wagner, Valpo, or Elon.)

Update: I confess that I neglected to mention the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). This year's TCU Horned Frogs aren't terrible but are stuck in the bottom half of a very competitive Mountain West Conference and have little hope of winning that conference's tournament.


Anonymous Brandon Gilvin said... left out the DOC! what about TCU or Butler?

6:56 PM  
Blogger Tinley said...

You're right. That was an oversight on my part, at least with regard to TCU. I'm of the understanding that Butler is unaffiliated.

3:54 AM  

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