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Hey! Pay Attention!

Publication Date: May 1, 2001

They're Playing Out There Now

I've now had half a dozen people ask when I'm going to do another look at the postseason. I don't mind folks asking, but all of you people who are focusing on the postseason are missing some darn good races, and I wish you'd cut it out. I realize that this is a personal quirk of mine, this distaste for the postseason, but it's my Web site, so you can indulge me on this minor matter.

The way I look at it, I can spend my energy right now focusing on one particular contest (the national championship) which is short-lived, three weeks away, and designed so that the best team involved, whoever that may be, has relatively little chance of winning, or I can follow a couple of dozen different races, most of which are still fairly tight, and which have had tension building in them for a couple of months now as the teams actually try to find out which one's best. So, this week, rather than throwing out yet another guess at a tournament field (there are several out on the Web already; the one with the best chance of being accurate is on Alasport), I want to take a look at a handful of conference races that still look interesting. I'll take another look at the tournament field in a couple of weeks, when we'll be close enough to the end of the season that reasonable guesses can be made. For today, I'll stick to conferences where there's still some doubt and where there are teams with a shot at an at-large bid or no conference tournament.


                   W  L  Remaining

Florida State     15  3  Maryland, Duke (13-27)
Clemson           12  6  North Carolina State, Virginia (17-25)
Wake Forest       16  8  Done
Georgia Tech      12  9  North Carolina (7-14)

Until last weekend, FSU appeared to have this one locked down. Since all of the big boys are through playing each other, that's probably still true, but the Seminoles showed a few cracks last weekend. I think they'll get at least four of six against Maryland and Duke, though, so we'll go ahead and call this one.

Big Ten

                   W  L  Remaining

Ohio State        15  5  Indiana, Michigan (13-22)
Purdue            16  6  Iowa (7-14)
Minnesota         15  8  Northwestern (8-12)

Both Purdue and Minnesota are out of conference this weekend, a truly annoying feat of scheduling, but this one could come down to the wire. Each of the remaining series are the usual Big Ten four-game sets, so there's plenty of room left for movement. On the surface, at least, the schedule favors Purdue, but OSU could pull far enough ahead this weekend to seal it up.

Big Twelve

                   W  L  Remaining

Nebraska          16  6  Oklahoma State, Iowa State (22-22)
Baylor            16  8  Texas Tech (17-9)
Texas Tech        17  9  Baylor (16-8)
Texas             17 10  Texas A&M (12-12)

And still more teams scheduling essentially (or actually, in Texas's case) off weekends in the last two weeks of the season. Sheesh, haven't you people ever heard of drama? Anyway, the schedule here favors Nebraska (and the fact that they're unlikely to be snowed out against Iowa State the way Baylor was will unfortunately affect the race), but I could see them potentially having problems with OSU this weekend, just because both teams have been a bit uneven at times. When you add to that the fact that ISU will be playing for a conference tournament bid in the program's last series, there's plenty of chances for Nebraska losses. Texas needs help, but could get it if Nebraska stumbles and Baylor and Tech beat each other up.

Conference USA

                   W  L  Remaining

Houston           16  5  St. Louis, South Florida (21-21)
Tulane            16  5  Memphis, Louisville (22-20)
South Florida     13  8  Charlotte, Houston (22-20)

This has been a nice two-horse race with a stalking darkhorse for the whole year, and it's going down to the wire. I honestly have no idea how this will play out from this point, and I really like that.

Missouri Valley

                   W  L  Remaining

SW Missouri State 18  6  Creighton, Northern Iowa (23-25)
Evansville        13  7  Wichita State, Indiana State (28-23)
Wichita State     15  9  Evansville, Creighton (24-20)

How many years has it been since this race was still in doubt at this point? (That's rhetorical, son, go away.) Looking at the ISR's, it looks more like WSU has dropped back to the pack rather than the other way around, but it still looks likely that someone else will win the MVC for the first time since 1986 (OK, curiosity got the better of me and I looked it up). It's definitely Southwest's race to lose with eight games to go.

Pacific Ten

                   W  L  Remaining

Southern Cal      13  5  Washington State, Oregon State (14-19)
Stanford          12  6  Arizona, Washington State (14-22)
Oregon State       8  7  Washington, UCLA, Southern Cal (24-24)
California        11 10  UCLA (6-9)

There's no conference tournament, so there's a long way to go on this one (I didn't bother with the Big West for the same reason; they're only half way through their schedule). The schedules are essentially even for the top two, so that one game edge for USC looks big right now.


                   W  L  Remaining

Louisiana State   17  7  Arkansas, Auburn (20-28)
Mississippi       16  8  Tennessee, Mississippi State (27-21)
Georgia           15  9  Vanderbilt, Kentucky (14-34)
Mississippi State 14 10  Alabama, Mississippi (26-22)

Yes, I know they play divisions, I just don't care. Georgia will most likely but not definitely win the East.

This race finally took shape last weekend, with LSU putting themselves in the driver's seat to win their first SEC title since 1997 (since 1994, LSU has won three national championships and 1 1/3 SEC championships. I have no idea what the significance of that fact is). However, it's not quite over yet, since I could easily imagine Georgia running the table from here and LSU being hard-pressed against an Auburn team that's been better than their record for most of the season.

Sun Belt

                   W  L  Remaining

South Alabama     14  7  Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State (22-19)
FL International  13  8  Arkansas State, Arkansas-Little Rock (18-24)
Middle TN State   13  8  Western Kentucky, South Alabama (26-16)
Western Kentucky  12  9  Middle Tennessee State, Louisiana Tech (22-19)

None of these teams have been consistently great, but they've all had flashes of greatness stuck in among some good play, and they're all worth watching. Some good scheduling (you listening, Big 12?) has left several good series among the conference leaders remaining, meaning that any of these four could still win it.

Western Athletic

                   W  L  Remaining

Rice              22  8  Fresno State, Texas Christian (36-21)
Texas Christian   20 10  Fresno State, Rice (38-19)
Fresno State      16 11  Texas Christian, Rice, San Jose State (54-31)

A couple of weeks ago, this looked like a runaway, but recent poor play by Rice (or the expected resurgence of Nevada, take your pick) has closed things up quite a bit. There's more good scheduling here, so everyone has a shot left at this point. There may be something to be said for this twice-around-the-league schedule.

Parting Shots

There, now, that's nine good races without even touching a couple of the smaller ones that contain quite a bit of drama if you ignore the conference tournament, like the Atlantic Ten or Metro Atlantic. Now, go watch some baseball, and pay attention to what's happening rather than worrying about things a month from now.

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