Star-Watching

Star-Watching

Ty Lawson led North Carolina to a come-from-behind victory at Duke. (ESPN)

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By Michael Klopman
MichaelKlopman@gmail.com

Friday, February 13, 2009

Chance to Dance takes a look at where every team with a legitimate chance at making the NCAA tournament stands right now. Ready to Dance means that team will be in the dance unless they essentially lose the rest of their games. Heading for the Dance Floor means a team looks good to earn a bid, but needs a few more wins to be sure of its position. If your team is Looking for a Dance Partner, they still have some work to do if they want to make the field.

Last week was filled with upsets as half of the ranked teams lost. That has put a few teams that looked to be in very good shape in some question, while other teams have taken big steps forward.


ATLANTIC 10

Xavier remains a lock despite losing its first A-10 game. St. Joe's is now just a half game back, earning the Hawks a spot on this list. Had Duquesne not lost to Saint Louis, it might be joining the list as well. Temple won an important game, while Dayton and Rhode Island took big steps back. With the weakness in some of the major conferences the A-10 would normally expect to get at least two teams in the tournament, but while there are several candidates after Xavier, none look like clear cut NCAA teams right now.

Ready to Dance:

Xavier (20-3, 8-1) RPI: 5 SOS: 17 Vs. Top 50: 6-2
A top seed is likely off the table after losing to Duquesne on Saturday, but X is still in position for a protected seed. Their profile includes neutral site wins over Virginia Tech and Memphis and road wins at Virginia, Cincinnati and LSU. They travel to Dayton for a huge A-10 game on Thursday. A win over the Flyers would be a nice victory to add to Xavier's resume and would put the Musketeers two games ahead of Dayton in the A-10 standings.

Looking for a Dance Partner:

Dayton (21-3, 7-2) RPI: 31 SOS: 147 Vs. Top 50: 1-0
Dayton was saddled with a dreaded 'bad loss' when the Flyers went down at lowly Charlotte (RPI 166). The loss means Dayton has a lot to ovecome to get into the tournament. The Flyers' gaudy record belies one of the weakest schedules of any team in at-large contention. Dayton does have a marquee win over Marquette in Chicago that looks better every day, but that is about it on the non-conference slate. They host Xavier on Thursday in a game they suddenly really need. They do have another shot at X in March on the road, but if they cannot get one of those they can look forward to a nervous Selection Sunday.

Temple (13-9, 5-3) RPI: 45 SOS: 37 Vs. Top 50: 1-4
The Owls won a game they desperately needed against fellow dance hopeful Rhode Island on Sunday. Temple is still a long shot to make the tournament, but if they keep winning they could have a case. They do battle with rival St. Joe's on Thursday in another clash with a team that also really needs the win. The Owls do have a win over Tennessee, as well as a victory at Penn State. Although the have lost nine games, the only bad losses are at Umass (RPI 154) and at Long Beach State (RPI 155).

Rhode Island (16-8, 5-4) RPI: 63 SOS: 106 Vs. Top 50: 1-5
The Rams lost at Temple on Sunday and that probably just about does it for their at-large hopes. They missed on all of their opportunities for a signature win, losing to Duke, Oklahoma State, Providence and Xavier by a combined 10 points. They have picked up victories over Penn State, VCU and Temple. They could have a case if they win out and win some games at the A-10 tournament.

St. Joseph's (14-8, 7-1) RPI: 64 SOS: 69 Vs. Top 50: 0-4
The Hawks still have a long way to go to make the tournament, but it seems like a possibility now that they are 7-1 in the conference. They play Temple twice more, as well as Xavier at home. If they can win all three of those key games they could have a strong case. Even if they lose once or twice they may still be able to squeeze in with a strong run in the A-10 tournament.


ACC

Things remain very tight and muddled in the ACC, however Wednesday's monster clash between North Carolina and Duke will still be for first place in the league. Because several of the mid-level teams have upset the elite teams there are plenty of marquee wins to go around that other at-large candidates do not have. That conference strength, combined with the weakness in the SEC and Big 12 makes eight bids seem like a strong possibility.

Ready to Dance:

Duke (20-3, 7-2) RPI: 2 SOS: 8 Vs. Top 50: 7-2
It took overtime, but the Cameron fortress held as Duke recovered from their beating at Clemson to hold off Miami. Duke may now be back in position for a number one seed, although they might be just behind Pitt. They could snatch UNC's top seed on Wednesday.

North Carolina (20-2, 7-2) RPI: 6 SOS: 38 Vs. Top 50: 4-1
The Heels are probably a number one seed now and are rolling like they were expected to at the start of the season. They head into Cameron on a seven game winning streak with first place in the ACC and a number one seed, at least for the time being, on the line.

Wake Forest (18-3, 5-3) RPI: 14 SOS: 58 Vs. Top 50: 4-2
Wake thumped BC at home on Sunday to right their ship. They are probably in position to grab a protected seed right now, but will need to get back to their winning ways to maintain that position.

Clemson (20-3, 6-3) RPI: 7 SOS: 16 Vs. Top 50: 6-3
The Tigers had a let down loss on Saturday, falling to Florida State at home. However, the Tigers recovered quickly and rolled BC in the second half of Tuesday's game to win by ten in Chestnut Hill. They do not play the other big three again except for a season-ending trip to Wake Forest. That means they will have plenty of opportunities to solidify an excellent seed before postseason play begins.

Heading for the Dance Floor:

Florida State (19-5, 6-3) RPI: 20 SOS: 36 Vs. Top 50: 4-4
Florida State's win over Clemson on Saturday really improved the 'Noles overall profile. That marquee win adds to a couple nice wins over Cal and Florida in the non-conference. FSU took care of business by beating Virginia on Tuesday and now concludes the season with seven games against other teams with tournament aspirations. The Seminoles probably only need to win three of those games to feel safe, but there will be no easy wins.

Looking for a Dance Partner:

Boston College (18-8, 6-5) RPI: 51 SOS: 43 Vs. Top 50: 3-6
Make or break time for Boston College. The 6-5 ACC record helps cover up a seriously lacking profile. The Eagles could not handle Clemson at home, next Duke comes for a visit. If BC loses that one they will be 6-6 in the conference and in a very precarious position. BC did record the huge win at North Carolina, but their awful non-conference record that includes losses to Harvard and Saint Louis. BC may be the only ACC team that needs nine conference wins to make it.

Virginia Tech (15-7, 5-3) RPI: 36 SOS: 33 Vs. Top 50: 2-4
Virginia Tech kicked off their four games against weak ACC teams with a very shaky overtime win at home against NC State. They need to win these games because the schedule turns tough for the last five with Clemson, Duke and North Carolina sandwiched between a home and away with Florida State. The Hokies do not have much in their non-conference profile and have a bad loss to Georgia (RPI 217) to overcome, so eight conference wins might leave them sweating a little.


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