Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Atlantic 10 Ruling; Mountain West Drooling

Of all the mid-major conferences (defined as conferences that are not the Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10, Atlantic Coast and Southeast Conference), two of the 26 (counting the Great West) rank higher than all others in terms of the number of at-large bids garnered over the past few years: the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. It seems like it's a rare year when the Atlantic 10 doesn't get three teams into the NCAA tournament, and the Mountain West is so full of parity that the annual conference tournament is often completely up for grabs.

But this year there is no question as to which conference is better. The Atlantic 10 is having a great year as a whole. As of right now, eight teams from the 14-team conference are ranked in the top 75 of RPI. Three Atlantic 10 teams are in Charlie Creme's field of 64, and two more are on the cusp. While the College Women's Hoops S-Factor only lists two, the S-Factor is unreasonably stingy to mid-major conferences at this point in the year. Xavier is being talked about as a 2 seed; Duquesne has been on everyone's list since they beat Ohio State; Temple, Charlotte and Dayton are all very close to being in the big dance; and St. Joseph's, St. Bonaventure, and Richmond have all been competitive in their biggest games.

The Mountain West, however, has been pretty weak as a conference whole. Many of the traditional powers are having off years. Both the Utes of Utah and the Lady Lobos of New Mexico lost a lot of games in a difficult non-conference schedule, but kept losing once the conference season began. San Diego State has achieved an 8-8 record so far with their best win coming against Dayton and a loss to the non-aligned Roadrunners of Cal State Bakersfield. BYU and Wyoming are the only two challengers to what is looking like a dominant run by TCU this year. Wyoming was crushed by TCU last week, and BYU travels to Fort Worth to play the Horned Frogs tonight. With only a single top-50-RPI win in the entire conference this season (that being TCU's victory over 50th ranked Oklahoma earlier this year), the Mountain West is looking like a one-bid conference this year.

Now in: Vanderbilt
Now out: Missouri State

Conferences with multiple bids:
Big East: 9
ACC: 7
Big Ten: 7
Big 12: 6
SEC: 5
PAC-10: 4
Atlantic 10: 2

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