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February 17, 2014

Path to the Dance



Selection Sunday looms exactly one month away. On that day, 68 teams will find out they get to continue their seasons in the NCAA Tournament and the rest of college basketball will either be finished or playing for a consolation prize. Will Mizzou make the field? We will take a look at the Tigers' tournament forecast each Monday between now and Selection Sunday.

On Friday morning, we broke down the situation and listed 21 teams as likely tournament at-large locks. We are ready now to take Colorado off that list, meaning there are 20 at-large locks, in addition to 32 automatic bids.

That leaves 16 spots in the field. Four of those 16 will have to play a play-in game (two games between the final four at-large teams in the field).



The latest "Bracketology" from Joe Lunardi had the following at-large teams in the tournament as double-digit seed (this was done prior to weekend games): Arizona State, Colorado, BYU, Cal, Stanford, Minnesota, Tennessee. The play-in games featured Georgetown, West Virginia, Florida State and Providence.

In addition, here are the teams that Lunardi had in as nine seeds or better that still have a chance to play their way out of the tournament field: SMU, Oklahoma State, George Washington, Xavier, VCU, UMASS.

Realistically, we're talking about 20 spots in the field (at-large teams seeded between eight, which is probably Mizzou's ceiling, and 12, which is the floor for the Tigers still to make the field). We just listed 17 teams, meaning there could be three more spots available.

Here are the teams that look to be in the running for those spots, in addition to those we listed: Richmond, St. Joe's, Baylor, Oregon, LSU, Ole Miss, Dayton, Clemson, St. John's, Toledo, Indiana State, Louisiana Tech.

Understand, the math here isn't exact. But we listed 30 teams (including Missouri) competing for 20 spots. That means, if you're in the top two-thirds of that group of teams, you're in. Now, this doesn't include teams that could upset the apple cart by going on a late season run. Teams like Nebraska and Arkansas picked up wins over the weekend and, if they run the table, could play themselves into the field. At this point, that isn't likely, but by next week, they could join the discussion of teams we're talking about being in the running. There are also teams who appear to be in at this point who could play themselves down on to the bubble.

Rather than run through what all 29 of those teams did this weekend, we'll highlight some of the major happenings on the bubble. We'll start with the weekend winners:

Missouri beat Tennessee
St. Joe's beat LaSalle
Indiana State beat Southern Illinois
Baylor beat Kansas State
Florida State beat Wake Forest
BYU beat St. Mary's
Colorado beat USC

And now for some of the losers:

Tennessee lost to Mizzou
LSU lost to Arkansas
Ole Miss lost to Georgia
VCU lost to St. Louis
Oklahoma State lost to Oklahoma
Clemson lost to Virginia
West Virginia lost to Texas
SMU lost to Temple

In other words, it was a bad weekend for a lot of bubble teams. Missouri helped itself. The Tigers have six regular season games left. Five wins should put them safely on the right side of the bubble. Four may do it, but there would still possibly be some work to do at the SEC Tournament in Atlanta.


The Tigers play Vanderbilt at home on Wednesday and are at Alabama on Saturday. Realistically, both need to be wins. If the Tigers lose either, they're quite possibly in a win-out-or-else situation for the final two weeks of the regular season.


Here are other games Mizzou fans will want to be following this week. Not all of them will impact Missouri, but all of them could:

Monday:
North Carolina at Florida State
Oklahoma State at Baylor

Tuesday:

Kentucky at Ole Miss
North Carolina State at Clemson

George Washington at Richmond
Georgia at Tennessee

Wednesday:

St. Joe's at Rhode Island
Mississippi State at LSU
LaSalle at Dayton
Washington at Oregon
UCLA at Cal
Arizona State at Colorado
New Mexico at UNLV

Thursday:
Georgetown at Seton Hall
Toledo at Bowling Green
USC at Stanford

Friday:
VCU at UMASS

Saturday:

Arizona at Colorado
Florida at Ole Miss
San Diego State at New Mexico
St. John's at Villanova
George Washington at St. Louis
LSU at Kentucky
Minnesota at Ohio State
Xavier at Georgetown
Clemson at Georgia Tech
Texas Tech at Oklahoma State
Baylor at West Virginia
Tennessee at Texas A&M
UCLA at Stanford
Louisiana Tech at Old Dominion

Final Analysis: As of today, Missouri is probably in the tournament. That's the best spot in which to be. It means if you keep winning, you don't much have to worry about what these other teams do. However, the Tigers don't have a marquee game left on their schedule. The biggest is the regular season finale at Tennessee. While it would help the Tigers for the Vols to win a few and give Mizzou another top 50 win or two, Tennessee could also be in position to cost Missouri a spot in the tournament by the time that game rolls around. In the vast majority of these games, Missouri wants to cheer for the bubble team to lose. Most importantly, Mizzou needs to win two this week. Beyond that, they just need the teams we listed as their competition for the final few spots in the tournament to take on another loss or two while that's happening.



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