With Selection Sunday less than a week away, all the experts are making their predictions on which teams will get NCAA bids and how many teams will make it to the Big Dance from each conference.
One of the toughest conferences to figure is the Western Athletic Conference, which has as many as eight teams with credentials good enough to be selected for the NCAA tournament.Of course all eight won't go, but it's likely there will be more than the three teams that were taken from the WAC a year ago with perhaps as many as five selected if things fall right.
Right now, Utah, TCU and New Mexico are locks with impressive records of 25-2, 26-4 and 21-6, respectively. The next two best bets are Hawaii (19-7) with wins over Kansas and Indiana, and Wyoming (19-7) with wins over both New Mexico and Utah.
Colorado State (20-7) looked like a good bet a few weeks ago, but the Rams' home loss to Wyoming was crucial, and they still don't have an impressive win on their schedule.
Fresno State (17-10) has lost to some tough opponents, but the Bulldogs' RPI rating of 70 will hurt them as will Saturday's home loss to Hawaii. Tulsa (18-11) has come on strong late in the season, but likely won't make the NCAAs without a tournament title.
Of course any of 12 WAC teams could make the NCAA tourney by winning the WAC tournament (can you picture a 13-20 BYU team in the NCAAs?).
The guess from here is that the WAC will put five teams in the tournament for the first time in history with Hawaii and Wyoming most likely to pick up the additional spots, unless they lose their first-round games this week. Colorado State, Fresno State and Tulsa will have to be content with NIT berths, while SMU (17-9) and UNLV (16-12) may be going nowhere despite winning records.
RPI METHODOLOGY: Last week we ripped the RPI ratings for not giving accurate rankings of certain team's schedules. We compared Utah's schedule to Wyoming's and found even though they were almost identical in the average RPI rankings of each team's opponents, Wyoming's schedule was 50th in the country compared to Utah's 214th.
We brought that up with Jim Sukup, the man at Collegiate Basketball News who compiles the numbers for the RPI rankings which are identical to the ones used by the NCAA committee (and ironically is a Wyoming graduate).
For 20 minutes he explained how the RPI is determined, which left us as confused as ever at its intricacies. However, the bottom line is this: Schedule strength is determined by the records of the teams you have already played. It doesn't matter where the opponents are ranked in the RPI, just what their current record is.
If you look at the records of the team's the Utes have played, you can see why their schedule ranking is so low. The records of the their preseason opponents include Loyola Marymount (6-20), Cal-Irvine (7-17), Southern Utah (5-19) and the dreadful Wisconsin-Milwaukee (3-24).
What really hurt the Utes was having to play Rice twice as a non-counting WAC crossover opponent. Even the Owls are a decent 194th on the RPI rankings, they have just a 5-22 record. And the Utes had to count that twice.
Here's an example of where the system has a flaw, however. Utah beat Wake Forest, No. 31 in the RPI with a 14-12 record, on the road, but Wyoming's home win over No. 159 Nicholls State helps its schedule ranking more because Nicholls State's record is 16-9. And schedule ranking is 50 percent of the RPI criteria.
By the way, Utah moved up 11 spots to No. 24 in the RPI after beating three teams with winning records, while Wyoming dropped to No. 45 by losing to UNLV and beating an Air Force team with a poor record.
NCAA WATCH: Our final NCAA Watch prior to the official seedings next week have reverted very closely back to the seedings we had three weeks ago.
The top two seeds are the same in each region, except that Duke gets the No. 1 spot in the South instead of the East for beating North Carolina. Mississippi, TCU and Cincinnati have all moved up to No. 3 seeds along with Michigan State, while Stanford has fallen back to a No. 4 seed. New Mexico is way off the list, probably a 6 or 7 now after losing three in a row.
NCAA Tourney Watch
West (March 12 and 14)
Where: Boise, Idaho, Sacramenta, Ca.
Midwest (March 13 and 15)
Where: Oklahoma City, Okla., Chicago, Ill.
East (March 12 and 14)
Where: Hartford, Conn., Washington D.C.
1. N. Carolina
3. Michigan St.
South (March 13 and 15)
Where: Atlanta, Ga., Lexington, Ky.
On the bubble: S. Carolina, UCLA, Massachusetts, Arkansas
*By the Deseret News if the NCAA selections were held today.