Could the A-10 get five teams to the NCAA tournament?

Bill Self's Kansas team has its first losing streak in seven years after defeats to TCU and Oklahoma State. AP
Bill Self's Kansas team has its first losing streak in seven years after defeats to TCU and Oklahoma State. AP
Posted: February 09, 2013

So will the Atlantic Ten Conference wind up with more NCAA bids than either the ACC or the SEC? It could happen. In the current opinion of our two favorite bracketologists, ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi and CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm, the A-10 is deserving of five invitations, including La Salle and Temple, while the SEC should get four. The two disagree on the ACC: Lunardi has four spots reserved, while Palm has five. But two of Palm's ACC teams, North Carolina and Maryland, are each a 12 seed participating in a play-in game. Lunardi has two A-10 teams on shaky ground, with Temple and St. Louis both a 12 seed and the Owls needing to play their way in.

Rock Chalk - what?

We were one of the many who couldn't stop rubbing their eyes after seeing the ESPN crawl declare: "TCU 62, Kansas 55." Going into Wednesday's game, the fifth-ranked Jayhawks were No. 6 in the RPI and the Horned Frogs were 210, and Palm said on Twitter that wide difference made the result "the biggest upset in the 20 years I've been tracking numbers." And how about these? Combined with a Saturday loss to Oklahoma State, it marked Kansas' first back-to-back losses in seven years, dating back 264 games. The team's 29.5 percent field-goal shooting vs. TCU was its worst since Bill Self took over as coach in 2003.

Gators chomped

The other shocking result of the week came Tuesday, when Arkansas hit 15 of its first 20 shots from the floor in taking a 23-point lead at home and rolled to an 80-69 win over No. 2 Florida. The Gators had won 10 straight games, holding those 10 opponents to an average of 50.8 points with a victory margin of 25.0 points per game. "To me, just because our defensive numbers have looked like they have, every game is different," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "Clearly we did not play the level of defense like we have played."

Lovin' the Belmonts

Belmont, an Ohio Valley Conference school from Nashville, finally got a vote in the AP Top 25 this week, but it has been deserving of more attention for a long time. The Bruins entered Thursday night's OVC showdown at Murray State with a 10-game winning streak, a 19-4 overall record, and an RPI of 18. They rank in the top 50 in 10 NCAA statistical categories, including sixth in steals. Senior Ian Clark leads the nation in three-point percentage (51.4 percent) and knocks down an average of 3.2. Clearly the Bruins are a team no one would want to face in the NCAA tournament.

Red Storming

When St. John's began its conference season 1-3, the team was thought to be too young to be able to survive the brutal Big East schedule. But the Red Storm have proven otherwise, winning six of their last seven games to stand in a tie for fifth and in sight of a top-four spot and a double-bye in the Big East tournament. Coach Steve Lavin works with a rotation of five freshmen, four sophomores, and a junior transfer. "We have a better understanding of what it takes to win basketball games on both sides of the ball," Lavin said. "But it's just about us continuing to improve."

Bird would be proud

If you're looking for a sleeper to come out of the competitive Missouri Valley Conference, take a peek at Indiana State, which knocked off Creighton for its first home win over a top-25 team since 2006. The Sycamores (15-8), who have an RPI of 42, also have defeated Miami (Fla.) and Mississippi while taking No. 15 New Mexico to overtime before losing. Larry Bird's alma mater is tied for second in the MVC, one game out of first.

Expat of the week

In his seventh straight start for 20th-ranked Georgetown, sophomore Jabril Trawick, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Abington Friends School, had arguably his best game of the season - 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals - in a 68-56 win last weekend over St. John's. It was his highest point total in a Big East game this season. Overall, Trawick is averaging 5.6 points and 3.0 rebounds and is third on the team in steals with 21.


Games of the Week

Top Choice

Indiana at Ohio State, Sunday at 1 p.m., CBS3: It's getting to be a regular occurrence that the week's best game matches teams from the Big Ten. The top-ranked Hoosiers take to the road with one of the nation's best players in Victor Oladipo, who shoots 51.4 percent from three-point range and 67.8 percent from inside the arc. Buckeyes point guard Aaron Craft will hound the Indiana ballhandlers and try to disrupt the Hoosier offense.

Starting Five

Michigan at Wisconsin, Saturday at noon, ESPN: The Wolverines will have their hands full dealing with a Badgers team that is very good at dictating the tempo, especially on its home court.

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, Saturday at 6 p.m., ESPN: The annual mad scramble for a top-four seed in the Big East is under way with the Panthers and the Bearcats just on the outside of those berths at the moment.

Kansas State at Kansas, Monday at 9 p.m., ESPN: The Jayhawks' shocking loss at Texas Christian dropped them into a tie with the Wildcats in the Big 12 entering weekend action.

Kentucky at Florida, Tuesday at 7 p.m., ESPN: Just when the Gators were threatening to leave the SEC in the dust, they were stunned at Arkansas, leaving the Wildcats within striking distance of first place.

North Carolina at Duke, Wednesday at 9 p.m., ESPN: Don't let the Tar Heels' six losses distract you; they are still ultra-dangerous when someone wearing a Blue Devils uniform is on the same floor.

- Joe Juliano


Contact Joe Juliano at jjuliano@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @joejulesinq.

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