Illinois State, the alma mater of Irish Trojan contributor Mike Quinn (a.k.a. “isuquinndog”), is fighting for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in the Missouri Valey Conference tournament championship game on CBS right now. I assume Mike is at the game; he goes to Arch Madness every year. Anyway, if he is there, he can’t be happy that Drake has the early lead.
Even with a loss, though, Mike’s Redbirds have a pretty decent chance of getting an at-large bid — which is pretty amazing, considering that they had previously been an MVC bottom-feeder (as had Drake, for that matter) during the conference’s recent rise to glory. But Drake’s a lock, ISU is a bubble team, and everyone else is out. (NIT-ology has Southern Illinois and Creighton as NIT teams and Bradley as a CBI team.)
[UPDATE: Drake wins, 79-49. Ouch! Andy Glockner, who writes ESPN’s Bubble Watch, wrote this morning that “[b]arring a disaster against Drake, the Redbirds should like their chances [of an at-large bid] at this point.” I’m thinking that a 30-point loss in a nationally televised game would qualify as a “disaster,” and Illinois State will have a looong seven days watching other bubble contenders play and wondering what the committee will do.]
In other mid-major action later today, Gonzaga plays Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s plays San Diego in the West Coast Conference semifinals at 9:30 PM and midnight, respectively, on ESPN2. Both the Zags and Gaels are almost certainly NCAA-bound, so bubble teams around the country need to root against Santa Clara and San Diego, who could potentially crash the party and turn the WCC into a three-bid league.
Speaking of bubble teams, Kentucky got a huge win over Florida today. The loss probably eliminates the Gators from at-large contention, barring a deep SEC tourney run. Meanwhile, the Wildcats improve to 12-4 in the SEC and 18-11 overall. If they happen to flame out early in the conference tournament, they’ll make for fascinating debate fodder on Selection Sunday. Which matters more: their horrible non-conference start, or their strong performance in the (admittedly weaker than usual) SEC?