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Chalk Watch

Update 3/3: A handful of bids have already been secured. If all you want to see is what automatic bids have been secured, just scroll to the bottom of the post. You'd really be missing out on some great writing though.

Update 3/4: Creighton took home the only auto bid on the line today. Iona fell to Fairfield in a loss that may damage their resume badly enough to keep them from stealing a bid.

Update 3/6: With the possible exceptions of VCU and Iona, no at-large worthy teams have stumbled into bid-stealing range so far. There is still plenty of time left for bids to be stolen, though, as the bigger league's tournaments are just getting going. Stay tuned.

Update 3/7: Three more auto bids were handed out in one-bid leagues. The next wave of conference championship games comes on Saturday and Sunday, so catch your breath while you can.

As Brad so astutely Tweeted just minutes after I texted it to him, it's time for Xavier fans to cheer for the chalk. Upsets in conference tournaments make for great theater, but they also give teams who aren't going to get at-large bids a shot at pulling in an automatic ticket to the NCAA tournament. The more upsets occur, the more good teams hit the at-large mix. For teams that are clinging to the bubble (i.e., your Xavier Musketeers), that is not good news.

Other than perhaps good TV ratings, there's nothing the NCAA likes more than handing out automatic bids. We're going to update this running feature we'll call Chalk Watch as the bids are secured. For now, the breakdown of each conference will show who heading into the current phase of the tournament with the inside line towards the automatic bid, as well as the danger of the potential of stolen bids if an underdog sneaks in and takes it. Ongoing tournaments can be found beginning just below in the "still to play" section. The "done and dusted" section at the bottom contains the summaries the tournaments that have already wrapped.

Still to play:
ACC
Championship date: March 11
Current leader: Duke/UNC
Potential for bid thievery: High. Duke, UNC, Florida State, and Virginia are all looking like good bets to make the tournament, and Miami has a pretty solid argument for inclusion depending on how the rest of the regular season and the tournament plays out for them. With four teams in and one on the bubble, the ACC has a chance to snag one more bid if an underdog goes on a run and grabs the automatic ticket. Cheer hard for the chalk in this one, and it probably wouldn't hurt X for Miami (FL) to take a dive early.

America East
Championship date: March 10
Current leader: Stony Brook
Potential for bid thievery: None. Stony Brook has the league's highest RPI at 153rd. If they spit the bit on the automatic bid, Vermont (160) and Boston U (184) are the next two teams in line. Ken Pomeroy doesn't see anyone from the conference as in the meaningful mix for an auto bid, either. Don't stay up nights worrying about this one.

Atlantic Ten
Championship date: March 11
Current leader: Temple
Potential for bid thievery: Moderate. The A-10 has been tight all year and still is, with seven teams sitting between 7 and 9 wins heading into the final weekend of conference play. Temple and tempo-free darling Saint Louis are probably in no matter what happens, and Xavier, Dayton, and St. Joseph's all sit between 57 and 66 in the Pomeroy ratings and 53 and 70 in the RPI. It seems improbable that all three of those teams contrive to wash out early, but it's equally unlikely that they all are still in the running come Selection Sunday. Pick your favorite of those three (Xavier) and cheer for the other two to gag in the first round.

Big 12
Championship date: March 10
Current leader: Kansas
Potential for bid thievery: High. The Big 12 has five teams (Kansas, Baylor, Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas State) pretty solidly in and Texas hanging on the good side of the bubble. The bottom of the conference is weak, but OK State has two top 50 RPI wins and Oklahoma has three of them. If someone from the lower tier of the league gets hot and runs the table, they could make the Big 12 a seven-bid conference. Pull hard for the chalk in this one, and it might not hurt to hope Texas takes a really bad loss as well.

Big East
Championship date: March 10
Current leader: Syracuse
Potential for bid thievery: High. Almost every college basketball team in the country plays in the Big East, so it stands to reason that they are going to pick up a lot of bids to the tournament. They're also deep in talent, with three teams in the RPI top 10 and nine in the top 51 (I know). Seton Hall, UC, and West Virginia will all head into the tourney looking to solidify their respective positions, and there's always a chance a team from outside the tournament (underachieving Pitt? talented but tallow St. John's?) goes bananas and takes the bid like UConn did last year. Like in most of the big conferences, play it safe and pull for the top seeds here.

Big Ten
Championship date: March 11
Current leader: Michigan State
Potential for bid thievery: High. Joe Lunardi has seven Big Ten teams in the tournament, which seems about right. Northwestern probably needs another win or two to really solidify their hold on an at-large invite. Keep an eye out for Iowa; they are 124th in the RPI and 86th in KenPom's estimation, but they're 4-3 against the RPI top 25. They have the potential to get hot, knock off a couple of giants, and poach an auto bid. Pull for N'western to lose early (unless you like a good story, which they have) and chalk the rest of the way.

Big West
Championship date: March 10
Current leader: Long Beach State
Potential for bid thievery: Moderate. Long Beach State is 28th in the RPI and 38th in the KenPom ratings. After them, the Big West does not have a team within reasonable shouting distance of an at-large bid. As long as Long Beach State takes care of business, the Big West will be a one-bid league. They're in line for an at-large bid if they lose, however, which means a second team poaching a bid if LBSU stumbles. Definitely pull for the 49ers in this one.

Conference USA
Championship date: March 10
Current leader: Memphis
Potential for bid thievery: Moderate. Southern Miss and Memphis are in, regardless of if they win the conference tournament or not. Central Florida is 94th in the Pomeroy ratings and 62nd in the RPI. They are too far removed from the at-large mix, but they have a puncher's chance at taking home the automatic bid. There are nine other teams in the conference scrapping for that bid as well. Root for Southern Miss and Memphis to make the tournament final and then put your mind at ease.

Mid-American
Championship date: March 10
Current leader: Akron
Potential for bid thievery: Very low. Akron, Ohio, and Buffalo are all in the 70s in the RPI, but none of them are as well rated by KenPom. No matter who takes home the automatic bid, it's insanely unlikely that any of those three teams improves its resume enough to be considered for at-large status. Don't worry about bid piracy in this league and instead cheer for Dante Jackson's Ohio Bobcats.

Mid-Eastern
Championship date: March 10
Current leader: Savannah State
Potential for bid thievery: None. Nobody from this league has an at-large resume worth examining. Norfolk State's two RPI top 100 wins shine by comparison to anyone else in the conference. No matter who takes home the automatic bid, it's likely that this conference only sends two teams to any sort of post-season tournament. There's no reason to pull for the chalk here.

Mountain West
Championship date: March 10
Current leader: New Mexico/SDSU
Potential for bid thievery: Mild. UNLV, Colorado State, SDSU, and New Mexico all have resumes that are worthy of consideration of at-large inclusion. Colorado State and SDSU aren't so strong, however, that they could withstand a bad loss in the conference tournament. Even if an underdog comes from the bottom of the conference and poaches the bid, I think they will do so at the expense of one of the teams they knock off to get there. Chalk's not a bad way to go here, but neither is pulling for an underdog to beat one of the weaker top teams. Update 3/3: Not much has changed here in terms of bids being stolen, but SDSU dodged a bullet with an OT win over TCU in their last regular season game. The conference could have lost a contender for a bid if SDSU had lost, but they've still got the same setup as above.

PAC-12
Championship date: March 10
Current leader: Washington
Potential for bid thievery: Moderate. The PAC-12 looks good for three bids right now, with three of Cal, Washington, Arizona, and Oregon figuring to feature in the tournament. Even if a fifth team from the conference slides through to take the auto bid, it's likely that such an event would damage two of the resumes of the aforementioned teams badly enough that the league ends up with only three bids. Even so, pull for Arizona or Oregon to fold badly and early and pull for the higher seed from there on through.

SEC
Championship date: March 11
Current leader: Kentucky
Potential for bid thievery: Moderate. The SEC has six teams in the top 60 of the RPI and nine in the top 100. It's not inconceivable that a team could get hot and play its way into the big dance without even winning the conference tournament. Joe Lunardi has five teams in right now, which seems about right. Realistically though, UK's going to win this automatic bid with no problem... right? I harbor no love for Calipari or the Wildcats, but it's hard to see anyone pirating a bid from this tournament.

Southland
Championship date: March 10
Current leader: Texas-Arlington
Potential for bid thievery: None. As of this writing, UT-A was undefeated in conference... and 95th in the RPI. Only four teams in the conference are even in the RPI top 200, and that's counting McNeese State at 200th. You can root shamelessly for anyone in this tournament, safe in the knowledge that nobody's getting an at-large bid no matter what.

SWAC
Championship date: March 10
Current leader: Mississippi Valley State
Potential for bid thievery: None. No team in this league has an RPI in the top 150. Nobody has 20 wins, everyone has double-digit losses. Incredibly, only Mississippi Valley State is even at or above .500. Not an at-large bid kind of league.

WAC
Championship date: March 10
Current leader: Nevada
Potential for bid thievery: None. Nevada has a decent RPI (52), but they're not even in the top 100 in the Pomeroy ratings. I don't see how the committee could put a second team from this league in the tournament, regardless of who takes the auto bid. Cheer for Idaho, just because.

***********************

Done and dusted:
Atlantic Sun
Championship date: March 3
Current leader: Belmont
Potential for bid thievery: Moderate. Belmont is in good position at this point, but the A-Sun tournament is hosted by #2 seed Mercer. Mercer's not going to take an at-large bid, but there's a chance they can make it to the final (they're playing in the semis as I write this) and beat Belmont. That puts Belmont in an interesting bubble position; they're 69th in the RPI but KenPom has them at 23rd. That's not great position, but it is good enough to be worthy of consideration for an at-large bid. For Xavier's sake, hope the Bruins take home the conference tournament championship. Update 3/2: Mercer just lost in the semi-final, and so will not face Belmont in the championship game. Update 3/2: Belmont rallied from trailing at the half to earn their way into the conference final. One more win and the Bruins keep everything in order in the Atlantic Sun. Update 3/3: Belmont handled things in the final. No auto bid will be stolen here.

Big Sky
Championship date: March 7
Current leader: Montana
Potential for bid thievery: None. Montana currently leads the way with their 15-1 conference record and first-round conference tournament bye. No matter who takes the automatic bid, however, the Big Sky is a one-bid league. Weber State is 74th in RPI and 128th in Ken Pom. Nothing worth worrying about is going to happen here, so you might as well pull for Northern Arizona. Update 3/7: Montana and Weber State went blow for blow for about 28 minutes, then Montana opened up a can an pulled away. One-bid league here, obviously.

Big South
Championship date: March 3
Current leader: UNC-Asheville
Potential for bid thievery: None. After UNC-Asheville, nobody in the league has more than 16 wins or an RPI rating in the top 150. The league has two RPI top 100 wins, one of which is Presbyterian's victory over the University of Cincinnati. I'd go ahead and cheer for Presby, but this isn't going to make much of a difference either way. Update 3/3: UNC-Asheville won the auto bid, so there will be no drama from the Big South this year. Not that there was much risk of that anyway.

Colonial
Championship date: March 5
Current leader: Drexel
Potential for bid thievery: Mild. This one involves two teams that are right on the edge of the bubble; Drexel currently has the lead in the conference, but VCU is neck and neck with them. Drexel's RPI is 64th, VCU's is 61. Drexel ranks 47th in the Pomeroy ratings, one spot ahead of VCU. Lunardi currently has Drexel in and VCU in the first four out. If those two teams meet in the conference tournament final, the fate of the loser depends on how many other bids are stolen. Pull for one of those two to drop early if you're hoping for extra at-large bids to be available on Selection Sunday. Update 3/3: VCU and Drexel are both still in the mix at this point. None of the other teams matter, unless one of them knocks off Drexel or VCU. Update 3/5: VCU held off a furious charge from Drexel to win the auto bid. The Dragons drop to the bubble and are now sweating out Selection Sunday.

Horizon
Championship date: March 6
Current leader: Valparaiso
Potential for bid thievery: None. Valpo has the number one seed in the Horizon tournament, and none of the teams in the league have a reasonable at-large resume. This is going to be a one-bid league, regardless of who wins the tournament. Go ahead and root with your heart on this one. Unless your heart tells you Butler. Then root with a different organ, doesn't matter which. Update 3/3: Valpo is up 20 on Butler at the time of this writing. They figure to be the team to meet Detroit, who is waiting in the final. Update 3/6: Valpo led at the break, but Detroit buried them in the second half to win there conference's automatic bid. No bids being stolen in the Horizon league this year.

Ivy
Championship date: No tournament scheduled.
Current leader: Harvard/Penn
Potential for bid thievery: Moderate None. The Ivy League, for the few of you who don't know, awards its automatic bid to the regular-season champion. Right now, Harvard and Penn are tied at the top of the league with one game left to play. If they tie, they will participate in a one-game playoff to win the auto bid. If they win their last game and lose that one, there's a good chance that Harvard will still get an auto bid (38th RPI, 36th KenPom). Pull for the Crimson for the next week or so. Update 3/6: Princeton knocked off Penn in tonight's game, so the auto bid is safe with Harvard.

Metro Atlantic
Championship date: March 5
Current leader: Iona
Potential for bid thievery: Mild Minimal. Here's another league with one at-large worthy team trying to fight down the rabble in the conference tournament. Iona is 39th in the RPI and 50th in the Pomeroy ratings, which is solidly in the bubble range. If they fail to win the automatic bid, they bring a pretty strong resume to the at-large mix. Definitely cheer for the Gaels to hold it together through the MAAC tournament to keep one of their conference foes from pilfering a bid. Update 3/3: The Gaels used a 52-point second half to destroy Marist today. So far, so good. Update 3/5: Iona went down a round too early to not harm their at-large hopes. They dropped to Lunardi's "Next Four Out" and Loyola (MD) took the at-large bid. Iona's fate is in the hands of the other bubble teams and the bid thieves still playing.

Missouri Valley
Championship date: March 4
Current leader: Wichita State
Potential for bid thievery: None. Moderate and rising. Wichita State and Creighton are most likely in the tournament no matter what happens in this conference tourney. UNI is third in the league and on the outside looking in as far as an at-large bid is concerned. If someone sneaks past WSU and Creighton to take the auto bid, this could be a three-bid league without too big a stretch of the imagination. Pull for the Shockers and the Jays to make the final. Go ahead and watch the final, too; it should be a good game. Update 3/3: Wichita State lost to Illinois State today. Illinois State has no chance at taking an at-large bid; if they win the auto bid, the Missouri Valley is going to steal a bid. Cheer for Creighton. Update 3/4: Creighton took care of business, but only just. The auto bid is secure.

Northeast
Championship date: March 7
Current leader: LIU Brooklyn
Potential for bid thievery: None. Simply put, nobody from this league has done enough to merit at-large consideration. The league has a host of RPI 51-100 wins, but nothing in the top 50. Your best chance for entertainment value is to hope St. Francis (PA) and St. Francis (NY) meet somewhere along the line, and even that proposition is none too exciting. Cheer for whatever team tickles you at the moment, safe in the knowledge that no bubble bids are being stolen here. Update 3/7: LIU-Brooklyn took it home. No news to report here.

Ohio Valley
Championship date: March 3
Current leader: Murray State
Potential for bid thievery: Moderate. Murray State, you may recall, made waves early in the year by being the last undefeated team to fall. They're still sitting pretty for the moment, having secured their place in the tournament final earlier today. If they were to fail to capture the automatic bid, it would be a loss of such magnitude that it would really dent the Racers' resume in the process. The OVC looks like a one-bid league if Murray wins, and their losing would put them right on the bubble. Play it safe and pull for the Racers. Update 3/3: Murray State came back from down in the second half to knock off Tennessee State on their final possession of the game. With the Racers taking the auto bid, the OVC is no longer a threat to steal a bid.

Patriot
Championship date: March 7
Current leader: Bucknell
Potential for bid thievery: None. Even if Bucknell makes the final and loses, they're NIT bound at best. Whoever wins this league's tournament will take the only NCAA bid. Pull for Holy Cross if you love Bill Simmons or a service academy if you love America. Update 3/7: Lehigh took out Bucknell in the championship. No bids were any threat to be stolen here, so there's not much else to say.

Southern
Championship date: March 5
Current leader: Davidson
Potential for bid thievery: None. Davidson has a weak resume for an at-large bid right now, and losing to any of the teams in their conference would kill it. If they don't win the tournament, they're not getting a call from the Selection Committee. This is a one-bid league. Update 3/3: All chalk so far. Semis tip tomorrow. Update 3/5: Davidson knocked off Western Carolina in double overtime to take the auto bid.

Summit
Championship date: March 6
Current leader: Oral Roberts
Potential for bid thievery: Minimal None. Oral Roberts (43 RPI, 90 KenPom) and South Dakota State (57 RPI, 56 KenPom) both have decent arguments to be included in the at-large discussion, but neither has a serious shot at it.Weird things happen in sports from time to time, but I feel pretty safe in calling this one a one-bid league. Update 3/5: Oral Roberts went down in the semis against Western Illinois, all but officially killing any chance they had to make the NCAA tournament. Update 3/6: Despite a 5-22 night from leading scorer Tony Wolters, South Dakota State survived an OT grind to take home the auto bid. No bid being stolen here.

Sun Belt
Championship date: March 6
Current leader: Middle Tennessee
Potential for bid thievery: Mild None. Middle Tennesse has an interesting resume, sporting a KenPom rating of 51, an RPI of 48, and three wins in the top 75 of the RPI. All three of those wins came at home, however, and I can't imagine losing to anyone in their league is going to sit very well with the committee. If they lose to Denver in the final, however, they still have a slim shot at an at-large. Pull for Middle Tennessee to win or simply Denver to lose and you should be safe. Update 3/4: The loss to Arkansas State kills MTSU's resume. This is a one-bid league. Update 3/6: Western Kentucky knocked off North Texas in a thriller to take home the auto bid. No chance of a bid being stolen at this point.

WCC
Championship date: March 5
Current leader: St. Mary's
Potential for bid thievery: Moderate None. Gonzaga and St. Mary's are probably in regardless of just about anything that could happen in the conference tournament. If BYU makes the final and loses to one of those two or any other team in the league wins the thing, there's a potential for a three-bid league here if everything else around the bubble falls right. Pull for BYU to fall early and St. Mary's and Gonzaga to meet in the final and you're looking at two bids.Update 3/3: St. Mary's edged San Francisco and Gonzaga beat the brakes off of BYU. BYU is really pulling hard for chalk in every other conference tournament at this point. The WCC's automatic bid is safely in the hands of two teams that were going to make the NCAAs either way. Update 3/5: St. Mary's took the auto bid, but both they and Gonzaga will be comfortably in the tournament.

That's the outlook for every league in the nation as it stands right now. If you cheer for Xavier or any other bubble team, now you know for whom you should be cheering if you want to maximize your team's chances of making the tournament as an at-large bid. Check back here every day, as we will continue to update the page as bids are sealed and conference tournaments progress.

Tickets punched:
Big South:
UNC-Asheville
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Atlantic Sun: Belmont
Missouri Valley: Creighton
Metro Atlantic: Loyola (MD)
Colonial: VCU
WCC: St. Mary's
Southern: Davidson
Ivy: Harvard
Sun Belt: Western Kentucky
Summit: South Dakota State
Horizon: Detroit