Feb 19, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs forward Markus Kennedy (5) encourages fans during a game against the Temple Owls at Moody Coliseum. Southern Methodist won 67-58. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
Here we are. March. This is the month that provides so many things for sports fans. The NHL and NBA are jockeying for playoff spots. The official beginning of the NFL “year” is here, and so are the cuts and trades that will form next year’s championship landscape. The Cubs have hopes of ending their championship drought. And the 2015 NCAA tournament is just a little less than a week away.
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Here at Fantasy CPR, we will keep you up to date on which teams are fighting for a tournament berth, which teams are in, and which teams should be in. We will go conference by conference for the major conferences. The traditional one bid conferences will all get their day in print as well. Follow along as we unveil our projected teams up until Selection Sunday!
Next we head to the American Conference, which formed when the great Big East split of 2013 occurred. This hybrid conference of the Big East and Conference USA has made some waves in the basketball landscape this year. How many teams will get in to the Big Dance? Can there really be four teams from this conference without Memphis and Connecticut making it in? Let’s find out!
SMU (24-6, 15-3 American, RPI:13, SOS: 39)
Big Wins: at (31)Temple 60-55, at (44)Tulsa 68-57, vs. (31)Temple 67-58, vs. (44)Tulsa 67-62
Bad Losses: NONE
The Mustangs hung with Indiana, and beat other top 100 RPI teams in Wyoming, UC Santa Barbara, Eastern Washington, and Michigan out of conference. Perhaps the most impressive thing is that SMU is 7-2 against the other five top six teams in the conference.
Yanick Moreira is one of the few centers left in the college game, and he is a dominant force inside for the Mustangs. Paired with Markus Kennedy, the Mustangs have one of the best frontcourts around, and are going to be tough for smaller teams to handle. Nic Moore is a good facilitator of the offense, and the whole team shoots well from the field. They shoot 48.4% from the field, which is 18th in the country.
SMU is a sure thing no matter what happens in the AAC tournament. Four wins combined against Temple and Tulsa assure them a ticket. If they win the AAC tournament, they could climb as high as a five seed. Right now, they look firmly entrenched as a six, regardless of if they lose today or not.
Projected seed: 6
Mar 8, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats forward Octavius Ellis (2) and forward Jermaine Sanders (15) react during the second half against the Memphis Tigers at Fifth Third Arena. The Bearcats won 77-65. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati (22-9, 13-5 American, RPI: 32, SOS: 59)
Big Wins: vs. (27)San Diego State 71-62, at (46)North Carolina State 76-60, vs. (13)SMU 56-50, vs. (31)Temple 84-53, at (13)SMU 62-54, at (44)Tulsa 56-47
Bad Losses: at (152)Nebraska 55-56, at (231)East Carolina 46-50, vs. (204)Tulane 49-50
They had SMU’s number this year, and that is likely what is keeping their RPI high enough to consider them safe. Of course, big OOC wins against San Diego State and NC State don’t hurt. Those are the best scalps collected by the AAC outside of their own conference.
6’10” forward Octavius Ellis is the only person on the team that averages ten points a game, and he is right at ten. The Bearcats would make Princeton proud. They slow the game down, and would just as soon beat the hell out of you as play with you. They have the size to not get pushed around inside, and play good defense across the board. It will be interesting to see who Cincy gets paired with in their bracket. They could really give a one or a two seed problems if they wind up in the 7-10 range.
Their six wins against the RPI top 50 is the best in the conference. They likely won’t move any higher than a seven seed even if they win the AAC tournament, but it could also depend on who they beat en route to the title. If they took out UConn, Tulsa, and SMU, they may get up to a six, but we will worry about that when it gets here.
Projected seed: 8
Next: Who Will Be Sweating On Sunday?
Feb 19, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Temple Owls guard Quenton DeCosey (25) reacts after making 3-point basket against the Southern Methodist Mustangs during the first half at Moody Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
Temple (22-9, 13-5 American, RPI: 31, SOS: 69)
Big Wins: vs. (50)Louisiana Tech 82-75, vs. (3)Kansas 77-52, vs. (32)Cincinnati 75-59
Bad Losses: vs. (104)UNLV 50-57, at (170)St. Joseph’s 56-58
Both of their bad losses were within the first eight games of the season. The blowout of Kansas helped announce that Temple wasn’t going anywhere.
The Owls are a lot like Cincinnati. They like to slow the game down. They rebound the ball well because they are athletic. They have to since they are one of the worst shooting teams in the country. They shoot just 38.5% from the field. That makes them prone to low scoring brawls. Junior guard Quenton DeCosey makes this team go. He is the best outside shooter on the team, the second leading scorer, second leading rebounder, and is second in assists as well. Add in senior PG will Cummings, and the Owls can be tough to contain.
The win over Kansas has taken them a long ways. They only have one win against the other three top four teams in the conference. That could put them in a precarious situation come Sunday. If they lose to Memphis today, they might be out. If they advance and beat SMU, they have to feel very good about their chances. Even a good win over Memphis could make them a lock.
Projected seed: 11 (play-in)
Nov 24, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tulsa Golden Hurricane guard James Woodard (10) dribbles the ball during an NCAA basketball game against Auburn at MGM Grand. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Tulsa (21-9, 14-4 American, RPI: 44, SOS: 89)
Big Wins: at (31)Temple 63-56, vs. (31)Temple 55-39
Bad Losses: at (169)Oral Roberts 68-77
The loss to Oral Roberts was in the season opener, so you can forgive that. They also played Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Wichita state out of conference. The bad news? They lost those three games by an average of 18 points.
James Woodard, the brother of Oklahoma PG Jordan Woodard, is cut from the same mold. He is a good shooter from outside, and leads the team in scoring. Junior G Shaq Harrison is an all-around threat. He leads the team in assists, and is second in points and rebounds. Tulsa is a little undersized, which explains their issues with SMU and Cincinnati this year.
The wins against Temple are the only thing keeping them above water right now, and they will likely need to reach the AAC final to get in. That would mean a win over Cincinnati or UConn, and that would likely be enough. Texas A&M and Texas losing on Thursday will help their cause. Now they just have to hope that no one else steals a berth.
Projected seed: OUT
Stay tuned for more conference by conference NCAA tournament picks!
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