Conference Tournaments – Bid Stealing 101

Every season, bids are stolen by teams of one-bid leagues that lose in their conference tournaments. Example: If Butler were to lose in the Horizon League tournament, and the automatic bid is taken by a team that has no shot at an at-large otherwise. Butler, the Horizon League favorite, would then take at-large. These teams “steal” bids from at-large teams that would otherwise make the field. If you are a fan of a bubble team, root for the following teams to win their conference tournaments.

Conference: Atlantic Sun
School: Belmont
Record: 27-4 (19-1)
Why: Belmont is pretty much the Murray State of last season. Belmont has no Top 50 wins, two Top 100 wins (E. Tenn St), and what would be nearly a Top 50 RPI if they lose in the Atlantic Sun final.
Chance to Dance: 5% – Not much, if any, meat on their resume besides three close losses to SEC foes Tennessee (x2) and Vanderbilt. Maybe if Belmont had finished 20-0 in conference play they’d have a better shot. A sub 200 SOS and two bad losses aren’t helping their case.

Conference: Horizon League
School: Butler
Record: 20-9 (13-5)
Why: 3 Top 50 wins, 5 Top 100 wins (3 away from home), Top 50~ RPI, Top 100 SOS.
Chance to Dance: 40% – Might depend on who the Bulldogs lose to (RPI). Either way, could Butler withstand 6 losses to Horizon League teams with 3 (maybe 4) of them being “bad losses”?

Conference: Ivy League
School: Harvard
Record: 19-5 (10-2)
Why: Harvard beat Colorado and Boston College in their OOC play and all of their losses are on the road, only one to a sub-100 RPI team. Top 50 RPI.
Chance to Dance: First, the hypothetical. Harvard would need to beat Penn and Princeton in their remaining two games, while Princeton beats Dartmouth and Penn. They two teams would then tie and have to play in a playoff game. Obviously, Harvard would have to lose for them to not get the auto bid. If this scenario were to somehow happen, their Chance to Dance would be: 20%

Conference: Summit League
School: Oakland
Record: 21-9 (17-1)
Why: No Sub 150 losses, 1 Top 50 win, Top 150 SOS (battle tested OOC), Top 50~ RPI.
Chance to Dance: 10% – Oakland would likely lose to IUPUI or Oral Roberts in the Summit League final, which wouldn’t add a sub-150 loss, but would add another sub-100 loss. They can hang their hat on a Top 50 win over Tennessee and a stacked OOC slate.

Conference: Western Athletic Conference
School: Utah State
Record: 25-3 (13-1)
Why: Top 20 RPI, Top 125 SOS, two Top 100 wins, possibly 1 Top 50 on the road (SMC).
Chance to Dance: 35% – A lot will depend on whether or not Saint Mary’s stays in the Top 50. Utah State would have two sub-100 losses if they lose in the WAC tournament.

Summary: Butler and Utah State are the real teams to worry about. If the Ivy League situation is to somehow play out, it would be interesting to see how much consideration Harvard is given. Belmont and Oakland have outside shots.

You may be wondering why I didn’t mention Saint Mary’s or Gonzaga. Since both teams are on the bubble, the WCC isn’t really a “one bid league.” Its tough to see any team outside of these two winning the WCC. If Saint Mary’s beats Gonzaga in the finals, Gonzaga might steal one of the last at-large bids. Its tough to say at this point.

As always, there could be a team that snags a bid in a major conference like Georgia in 07-08 or USC in 08-09. I wouldn’t be surprised if such a feat occurred in the Atlantic 10, Pac-10 or SEC. All three are pretty weak this year.

Here are two guides to track all of the action: ESPN Championship Week & Bracket Project’s Guide to 2011 Conference Tournaments

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