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The Madness Is Closing In
- Updated: March 4, 2013
Well it’s officially March everybody! We’ve still got plenty of basketball before selection Sunday even with a little over a week of regular season play left. Let’s just say those bubbles teams are really working hard to build that resume needed to get an invitation to the dance. We can feel that March pressure and some teams are handling well, while others are collapsing. We thought we might finally see some top teams coast and stop losing, but the mix of things are only continually getting more interesting.
This week we had a great number of upsets. We saw losses from #12 Syracuse, #1 Indiana, #19 Memphis, #4 Michigan, #11 Arizona, and #3 Duke. There are a number of teams that currently have the chance to get the invite but can’t blow it in the final week. Others are trying to earn that invite. Let’s see what some of our bubble teams must do to hear their name called come selection Sunday.
Butler (22-7 9-5)
It was hard for me to qualify Butler as a bubble team, but then again I was almost going to put the entire Atlantic 10 contenders in here. Saint Louis should be more a lock than the Bulldogs at this point though. They don’t have anything to worry about unless a freak of nature happens and cellar dwellers from every conference possible wins their respective tournament. Even then it probably wouldn’t be enough. The Bulldogs have wins over Marquette, North Carolina, Indiana, and Gonzaga. They should be good.
VCU (23-6 11-3)
The Rams have made the tournament five times since 2004 and 11 times total. For most fans these days the Rams became a household name back in 2007 after their amazing first round upset of Duke. Well they’re ready for more. They don’t have as impressive of a preseason as they could, but they did play Memphis (win), Duke (loss), and Missouri (loss). They did also beat Butler over the weekend which marks a very big win considering the Bulldogs current resume this season. The Rams play Richmond and Temple this week, they really need to stand out to solidify their reason. A couple losses from other bubble teams around the country could only benefit them as well.
La Salle ( 20-7 10-4)
Unless you are an avid follower of the Atlantic 10 you may have not even heard of La Salle before their back to back wins over Butler and VCU where they really got some attention. They also beat Villanova and played pretty well against Miami. The Explorers have made it to 11 overall tournaments in their history though — the last coming in1992– they even have two final four visits. They also won the National Championship in 1954. However currently they probably don’t have the resume to go dancing, but a final weekend game could change that. Of the great A10 schools this year they have yet to play conference leading Saint Louis, that is until this weekend. If they can manage that win, it might just be enough to get by. It’s going to be very dependent on the rest of the bubble teams again as they need some losses. Never a fun spot to have your fate in others hands.
Temple (21-8 9-5)
Temple has the most impressive wins in our A10 bubble talk — aside from Butler– they hosted a great couple of foes in their preseason, taking down a couple of them. They played Villanova (win), Duke (loss), Syracuse (win), and Kansas (loss). They also have wins over La Salle and Saint Louis. The Owls are set to play Fordham on the 6th and VCU on the 10th a game they must win.
North Carolina State (21-8 10-6)
The Wolfpack has definitely done enough to find their name called come selection Sunday. However they still aren’t a lock. NC State went 21-8 and 10-6 in the ACC. Need we forget about their big win that continued the #1 Saturday losing streak back in January. They also beat Connecticut and North Carolina. They don’t have any too worrying losses that sour their record this year, losing primarily to top 25 or prior top 25 teams. They did lose to some of their fellow ACC bubble teams North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia. They did struggle on the road for the most part, but when you’re playing neutral games for the entirety of the tourney they shouldn’t worry about that. North Carolina while being a bubble team technically seems to be a lock. They have two games this weeks that at least one must be won.
Virginia (20-9 10-6)
Virginia was the talk of their town after their “upset” win over Duke on Thursday. It notched their 2nd top 25 win this season and was of course big news as it was only 1 of 4 losses for Duke. They also have a great win over North Carolina State back at the end of January. Another big memento was how they took their game against Miami in south beach right down to the buzzer. They do have a couple bad losses including Old Dominion, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and as of tonight Boston College. The Cavaliers have a solid chance depending on how the final week plays out, they play Florida State and Maryland and need to win both.
North Carolina (21-8 11-5)
This year was basically deemed a major let down for the majority of people that follow the Tarheels. There year is not over though and they have made a great final run into March to back their name up. Currently riding a 5 game win streak recovering for the blown win they nearly had in Indoor Cameroon Stadium. In reality UNC has actually had a pretty good year, record of 21-8 and 11-5 in the ACC. Their only losses this year coming from Butler, Indiana, Texas, Virginia, Miami X2, NC State, and Duke. The Tarheels probably have the best shot to claw their way into the tourney. They also do have one final shot to get a big win as they as always face Duke in their final game of the year.
Maryland (20-8 8-8)
Maryland is right in the same mix as their ACC brethren. Maybe a few more losses that hurt their name, but all in all the majority are to good teams and their bubble buddies. They have two big wins over NC State and Duke. The road forward for the Terrapins is a tough one, probably needing both their wins this week, and they are pitted to go against two foes who are in need of wins as well, North Carolina and Virginia. If they can manage both wins not only do they hinder their ACC foes chances of dancing they could almost guarantee their invite. Otherwise at this point Maryland is looking to miss the dance.
Villanova (18-2 9-8)
The Big East as always has one of the larger amount of teams expected to be in the tournament. Despite the Big Ten being declared the best conference in the country this year, the Big East will send possibly more teams to the tournament than the mighty Big Ten. One of those teams who could sneak their way into the tourney is the Wildcats of Villanova. The Wildcats were looking like a possible lock to with two weeks to go. However the events of this last week and weekend might have bumped them out. On Feruary 25th the Wildcats lost to Seton Hall on the road in a last minute shocker. With two games to go it was a big weekend for Villanova, they were to travel to Pittsburgh where the Panthers have rightfully earned the #23 rank in the country. They took them to the wire before losing a heart breaker on the road. With essentially their finals hopes dashed the Wildcats have to win their final game on the 6th versus #7 Georgetown to even get back into the talk of things. Otherwise a Big East tournament win will be needed.
Pittsburgh (23-7 11-6)
Speaking of making the tournament in the prior Villanova description we talked about the Panthers and their big win over the weekend dashing the hopes for Villanova essentially. The Panthers are 23-7 and 11-6 in Big East play. Some of their notable wins are Georgetown, Syracuse, Cincinnati, and Connecticut. They didn’t lose to anybody substantial, their most surprising loss to Rutgers back on January 5th which is a big plus. Their other 6 losses coming from teams that are currently or at one point were in the top 25. They have a final game against Depaul on the 9th, and a while a win there isn’t necessarily needed it will seal the deal, and they should be an easy choice.
Notre Dame ( 22-7 10-6)
The Fighting Irish had a lot of promise earlier in the year. By mid January the hits started to come at them. Their losses aren’t really bad, having lost to Saint Joseph’s, Connecticut, Saint Johns, Georgetown, Syracuse, Providence, and Marquette. They are as close to a lock a technical bubble team can be. If they can avenge their loss to Saint Johns they should be good, even if they lose to Louisville in their final game of the year they should be good.
Cincinnati (20-9 8-8)
The Bearcats made had an impressive win over their future pals Connecticut this weekend. They prep along with the Huskies for an unknown future, the Big East is essentially done and before the two teams were expected to carry the weight of the conference and bring forward a new rivalry. Instead now the two teams are looking for new conferences as the Catholic Seven look to claim the Big East name. Cincy in the meantime is looking at the present time where they are fighting to earn an invite to the tournament. The Bearcats might have struggled a little bit in Big East play, but their losses were respectable for the most part. Cincy plays Louisville tomorrow and USF on Saturday.
Connecticut (19-9 9-7)
Yes I know they are not eligible to play in the tournament but it’s a damn shame for UCONN. If they were eligible they would be a bubble team right now. Their wins would probably get them in as they’ve beaten Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Cincinnati. Their losses are also very respectable with their only two notable losses being to New Mexico and Saint Johns. The strength of their schedule with a couple of great preseason games and of course fighting for their lives in the Big East, the Huskies would be in the tournament if they could.
Minnesota ( 20-9 8-8)
Minnesota was looking great though the first few months of the their campaign. They had 1 loss in 2012 and that was to Duke. They opened up their Big Ten play 3-0 taking down then #18 Michigan State, Northwestern, and #12 Illinois. January 12th started their gradual down hill slid though, starting off with a tough loss to #5 Indiana, that loss started a 4 game losing streak before they finally got their foothold back against Nebraska. The Big Ten was easily the most competitive conference in the country, Minnesota had one if not the toughest schedule in the coutry and the Gophers got in a couple good shots including their recent win over reappointed #1 Indiana last week. We should hear Minnesota’s name called for selection Sunday but they cannot afford to drop their remaining games against Nebraska, and Purdue.
Illinois (21-9 8-8)
Another Big Ten team that looked on top of the world early and got taken down a couple too many times in this great conference. The Illini had only 1 loss before the new year — to Missouri 82-73– once Big Ten play started things started going downhill. 6 losses in the month of January and opening February with another one before they finally got that foothold again. From there they went on a 5 game win streak including beating #1 Indiana, and #18 Minnesota. Again with one of the top 10 toughest schedules the Illini got in enough shots to deserve an invite. They have 2 remaining games on the road, first in Iowa and then in Ohio State. To be on the safe side of things the Illini need to win in Iowa and then from there it’s all but done.
Wisconsin ( 20-9 11-5)
The Badgers for many probably are a lock just because of the number of big wins they claimed in the ultra competitive Big Ten. However a loss to Minnesota and Purdue in the month of February drops them to have to be considered for me. Yes in this entire article they are my favorite to dance, but still they are going to be looked into a little more so than they would have without the loss this weekend. They have a tough game in East Lansing before their season can conclude. The Spartans are going to be angry after their loss to Michigan and that win won’t come easy, but if they manage will seal their fate to a definite. They also have to face a Penn State team that has finally collected a Big Ten win when they beat Michigan back on Wednesday, a loss there could hurt big time, can’t let that slip.
Iowa State (19-10 9-7)
The Cyclones were the dark horse of the Big 12 this season. They were a team you had to worry about playing against if beating you could be beneficial to them. They were a tough foe and took the majority of their games down to the wire. Unfortunately they didn’t win as many of those close games as they needed to, including two close losses to Kansas last week and Oklahoma over the weekend. They climb a little more into the conversation again as some of the remaining bubble teams have all but lost on their final chances. They must win at home against Oklahoma State to really come back into the conversation again. They also cannot afford a meaningless loss to West Virginia in their final game.
Oklahoma (19-9 10-6)
The Sooners are right there with the Cyclones, putting up a lot of tough fights but falling short on the majority of them. They do have a very differing win over #5 Kansas. They did lose to Texas last week which hurt their resume. An important win over the weekend against fellow bubble team Iowa State. The fact of the matter is the losses Oklahoma took this season were all very respectable minus Stephen F. Austin and Arkansas. The majority of experts are ticking the Sooners as dancers, but it’s not a sold deal, hence the reason they’re in this conversation to begin with. They’ll likely hear their name come selection Sunday though.
Baylor (17-12 8-8)
The Bears who were in the conversation a whole more throughout the last couple weeks have sizzled out a little. A big couple of opportunities on the table for the Bears in the month of February including multiple games against Iowa State, and Kansas State plus matchups with Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. They failed to come through on any of their big chances and find themselves in this situation. With only two notable wins on the year against #8 Kentucky before they dropped off the map before reemerging, and Oklahoma State. Baylor has one last chance before the end of the season to tack on a much needed notable win, their final game pits them at home against Kansas. Without that win the Bears shot is seemingly dashed.
UNLV ( 22-7 9-5)
Our most deserving MWC team, if any of our Mountain West bubbles deserve to go it’s the Rebels. They had a pretty good preseason schedule as a Mountain West team, attracting some good foes to come play in Vegas. Some of those including Oregon, Iowa State, Hawaii, Cal, and North Carolina. They lost to both Oregon and UNC but hung with them right to the wire. This team would be a lock if in any other conference but in the easier Mountain West they have to get scrutinized. Well this year the MWC proved quite a challenge for all the teams. They split series with New Mexico and Colorado State, but swept San Diego State. Luckily for them those teams got to play each other twice each and got in some good games. One thing they must watch out for in their final two games is a Boise State team who’s desperately in need of a win. The Rebels should dance as they usually do.
Colorado State (22-7 9-5)
The only thing that separates the Rams from the Rebels here is the more challenging games in favor of UNLV. The Rams who didn’t bring in as tough of foes still had some good games including Washington (win) Colorado (loss) and Virginia Tech (win). They split series with SDSU and UNLV but were swept by the Lobos. I would understand why this team would miss an invite as their schedule just doesn’t seem very hard. At this point though the Rams should be looking to dance.
San Diego State ( 20-8 8-6)
The Aztecs did a great job bringing in talent for preseason games. They played Syracuse (loss), USC (win), UCLA (win), and Arizona (loss). They split series with New Mexico and SDSU but were swept by UNLV. In a lackluster MWC for the most part those out of conference wins are going to help a ton. Surprisingly the Mountain West could have the same amount if not more teams than the SEC at this point. I personally would have them out but it’s looking like they should be in.
Boise State (20-8 8-6)
The Broncos pose an identical record to the Aztecs but at this point find themselves on the other side of the fence as the party. A little bit weaker of a preseason schedule nets them currently being held out from the dance. They have two more games and boy are they important. They are against UNLV and SDSU. While UNLV is essentially a lock they can possibly disrupt the mix of things with a win over SDSU which would split the series. Still both wins are gonna need to happen if they want in on the tournament.
Colorado (19-9 9-7)
It seems what defines bubble teams is losing tough close games. They are competitors and when you define competitors, the Buffaloes match that description. Their Pac-12 play started off with a questionable loss to Arizona on the road, some poor officiating aided in that matter, but at this point it’s beside the point. Colorado seemingly stumbled and looked as though they might not recover as they went 1-4 in their opening 5 games. They went on a 3 game win streak to break .500 in Pac-12. They beat Oregon on the road and redeemed themselves at home against Arizona in an impressive fashion. Let’s not forget their close win over then #16 Baylor in preseason play. They might have been spanked on by Kansas and had a unforgettable loss to Wyoming, other than that their wins aren’t anything bad. They are one of the most likely to go of the Pac-12 bubble teams, they also have another notable win to possibly add as they host Oregon on the 7th as they could potentially sweep the Ducks. It’d be tough not to hear the Buffalo get called come that Sunday.
UCLA (22-7 12-4)
The Bruins were a bubble team last week but as of today they seem to be a lock. They beat fellow bubble buddy ASU on Wednesday in overtime and handed an ass whooping to Arizona on Saturday. The Bruins find themselves tied for the Pac-12 lead but lose that tiebreaker thanks to them losing to Oregon. Even without winning the conference UCLA should have not sweat come selection Sunday. If the Bruins don’t dance that’ll be the worst snub ever.
California (20-9 12-5)
The Golden Bears could be dominating this conference as they’ve won all the games that matter. They struggled a little bit against their better out of conference foes such as Wisconsin, UNLV, and Creighton, but did well to beat up on the Pac-12 power dogs. They have wins over Oregon x2, Colorado, and Arizona. They only have one game remaining in their schedule, at home against Stanford. The Bears are looking good to get the call, but a loss at Stanford could bring that into question as they aren’t a lock bubble. You never know who upsets a conference tournament and snubs some available spaces.
Arizona State ( 20-10 9-8)
The Sundevils who struggled a little bit in conference play this season had the unfortunate easier preseason schedule which will probably at this point come back to haunt them. Without a tremendously competitive Pac-12 their in conference struggle cannot be overlooked. Their most notable wins coming to fellow bubble teams Colorado, UCLA, and Cal. They have lost a couple too many in Pac-12 play which makes their preseason schedule stand out even more as easy. The last chance for the Sundevils comes in what would you know their final game, where they make the trip south to Tucson to face their instate rivals. Arizona who will likely drop after the weekend’s loss should still be notable win that might just maybe have them in the conversation at all. At this point they’re an easy pass as no.
Missouri (21-8 10-6)
The SEC did a weird thing this year and instead of hiding behind embarrassingly easy preseason games they went head to head with some of the best schools around the country. Aside from their usual Big East games they all respectably had other great matchups including ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, and Big 12. Missouri took on out of conference foes Stanford who they beat, Louisville who they lost to, VCU who they beat, Illinois who they also beat, and UCLA who they lost to. When you look at their schedule you see a lot of tough games and not a whole lot of bad losses, the worst of them being LSU and Texas A&M. They also got stomped on by Florida in a game that made them look like a junior high squad. They face Arkansas and Tennessee in their final games and probably need at least one win of the two.
Kentucky (20-9 11-5)
Kentucky was a school who’s preseason endeavors hurt them early in the season. They had losses from Duke, Notre Dame, Baylor, and Louisville. Their only big non conference win came to Maryland in their season opener which they barely claimed. They had a tough schedule and that alone might help them out. They did well in a lackluster SEC so it doesn’t say much. Their only notable conference win coming over Ole Miss while they were still ranked. They lost to Florida over the weekend, but still get one more shot in their final matchup, they also get another go at Ole Miss before then on the 5th. At this point if I was on selection committee I wouldn’t have Kentucky in. We’ll see how their toughness of schedule benefits them as well as if they can scrap another big win for their resume before the season concludes.
Ole Miss ( 19-11 11-5)
The Rebels had one of the easier preseason schedules which will hurt them. They took two bad losses before conference play to Middle Tennessee and Indiana State. Their only real notable win came over Missouri while they were ranked #10 back on January 12th. They took a couple bad losses in SEC play including South Carolina and Mississippi State this most recent weekend. Without any big opportunities left in their two final games it’s really going to come down to the SEC tournament for the Rebels. At this point they are an out for me.
Tennessee ( 17-11 9-7)
The Volunteers had a pretty inviting preseason lineup that featured Oklahoma State, Georgetown, Virginia, Wichita State, Xavier, and Memphis. They lost all but two of those games — Xavier and Wichita State– kudo points for trying, but coming up short on their chance to add notable wins. Unlike a number of their fellow SEC bubble buddies (I’m starting to really like that term) the Vols had some good conference wins. They beat Kentucky, and Florida. While not enough to per say get the invite the Vols at least challenged themselves and that always looks good come selection Sunday. Still just not enough in my books to get the invite, they pay Auburn and Missouri in their final games.
Arkansas (18-11 9-7)
No team in the SEC is making it easy to put them in. They only one team from the whole conference is considered a lock unless a surprise wins the SEC tournament. Which in a competitive season like this I think we can all hope we don’t get some deadbeat SEC team in that doesn’t belong. The Razorbacks make a good case for a bubble team but that’s about it. They brought in a number of great preseason foes including ASU, Wisconsin, Syracuse, Oklahoma, and Michigan. They only won one of those games — Oklahoma– before going on to less than stellar SEC season. Sure they beat Florida but that’s about it. They also lost to South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and LSU. They play Missouri next but I don’t even think a win there brings them enough kudos to get back into the conversation. At this point it’ll take and SEC title and for the sake of the little schools out there capable of winning in big games, please don’t win that.
Alabama ( 19-10 11-5)
Now I don’t personally think Alabama even deserves to be considered a bubble team, but because they are somehow talked about between a number of analysts I couldn’t resist but to throw a few low blows in. Sorry Bama fan (although I am not really). The Tide had one of the more lackluster preseason showcasings featuring Oregon State, Villanova, Cincinnati, and VCU. Sure they beat Oregon State (big deal) and Villanova (their most impressive win on the season) which just doesn’t say much. I’m sure you could argue “But they only lost 5 games in SEC” which I would counter with congrats on winning in this years weakest power conference. They don’t have one notable conference wins. We could include Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas but let’s be honest again that just doesn’t say much. I’ll shoot myself in the foot if the Tide get an invite to the big dance, that’s how undeserving they are of it.
OTHER AT LARGE BUBBLE TEAMS
Memphis (25-4 14-0)
It seemed Memphis’ conference troubles were coming to an end as they were eyeing a move to the Big East. The future of their hopeful future conference looks bleaker than ever, as it would seem the Catholic Seven schools who declared leaving the conference now look to retain the name. Unless UCONN and Cincinnati look to start a new conference Memphis will continue to play in the Conference USA where they dominant without any real competition. Even if they don’t win the Conference USA tournament the Tigers should have no problem making the tournament this year. While yes they did have a weaker than usual preseason they still stand out. The Tigers shouldn’t have an issue.
Creighton (24-7 13-5)
These guys have earned an at large bid to say the least getting out of conference wins such as Wisconsin, ASU, Boise State, Nebraska, Akron, and Cal. The best shooting school in the country would be a horrible snub that would blow people’s minds to be left out. Their regular season is over and now only have their conference tournament and waiting. The Bluejays should be good without an auto bid though, odds are they’ll win their conference too.
Belmont ( 24-6 14-2)
The Bruins are the heavy favorite to win the Ohio Valley, but even without could be considered on an at large. They sit in the bubble spot with their season all wrapped up. They have some fierce competition coming their way from both Murray State and Eastern Kentucky who are no strangers to the tournament. They have wins over Stanford, and Northeastern as their notable wins. They did lose to both Kansas and VCU. Looking at the resume the Bruins aren’t looking like they’d have the mark to get in, and need their conference win.
Murray State ( 20-9 10-6)
The Racers don’t have an outstanding resume this year, and stand as a final challenge to Belmont for the Ohio Valley auto bid. Their wins over Auburn, Saint Johns and Western Kentucky just cannot be enough to get an at large. I suppose they earn their bubble spot as sheer likelihood they snatch a sure thing away from Belmont.
Middle Tennessee ( 27-4 19-1)
It’s a shame when you work so hard all season and get beat out in your conference tournament. The majority of these remaining at large bids are here for that very possibility. The Blue Raiders have had a good year on paper. While their out of conference matchups might look dismal they dominated their league. They hung well enough with Florida despite losing, and have wins over UCF, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt. It would be hard to think they would be able to get an at large but you never know, they’re got the record, just not the opponents.
Saint Mary’s (26-5 14-2)
It’s crazy to think Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s play in the same league when you consider how much better foes the Zags attract. For Saint Mary’s they had a very quiet out of conference year with highlights being Utah State and Georgia Tech, so nothing much. They hung for second in a conference that is essentially a three horse race between the Zags, themselves, and BYU. Saint Mary’s better capitalize on their own tournament and earn an auto bid, because they won’t be afforded that opportunity any time soon again as they have been banned from post season play for 4 years due to “failure to monitor” a sanction handed down by the NCAA.
Akron (23-5 13-1)
The Zips did good work of the Mid-America this season and it would be a shame to see them fail to earn the auto bid. They don’t nearly have a good enough schedule to claim an at large when there are some great teams lurking out there. Their wins over Penn State, Middle Tenn, and Princeton cannot be enough to earn an at large.
Louisiana Tech (26-3 16-0)
Another team that did work of their minor conference but fail to showcase any great non conference wins. Unfortunately like so many of these potential at large teams that could lose their conference tournaments the Bulldogs just don’t have the strength of wins to provide a back up plan. They would be out without an auto bid at this point.
Valparaiso (24-7 13-3)
Same story different tune, great play within conference but nothing to back up. They had potential money makers against New Mexico, Nebraska, and La Salle, but lost all three games. Without an auto bid, this team just won’t have enough to showcase as an at large.
Wichita State ( 24-7 12-6)
It seemed this Shockers just weren’t meant to hold onto the early season success that had them ranked. They had fallen off after some in conference losses they could not go on with. They do have some good wins compared to some of the others on this short list though including Air Force, VCU, Depaul, Iowa, and a close loss to Tennessee. With enough working in their favor — and I mean a lot– the Shockers might just barely earn an at large.
Bucknell (25-5 12-2)
The Bison have a couple out of conference wins that might be able to earn them an at large. They have beaten Purdue, New Mexico State, and La Salle. They have a couple more quality games that resulted in losses than the rest including Penn State (not really), Princeton (again), and Missouri. They have one game remaining against Navy, but at this point just don’t earn that at large, needing that auto bid.
Robert Morris (22-9 14-4)
Sorry I didn’t want to leave any possible contenders out of this list, but it’s going to sound redundant now that I’ve done so. The Colonials just don’t have a resume that could earn them that at large. They lead the Northeast Conference by 2 games and should look to win their conference tourney for a bid. Without they might as well be shit out of luck. Not big games that they competed well in, as they didn’t play any impressive out of conference.
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