March gladness or sadness?

They call it March Madness for good reason.  It’s that time of year when every NCAA Division I men’s basketball program has a chance to make their case for inclusion in the 65-team championship better known as The Road to the Final Four.

As of this writing, five teams (Cornell, East Tennessee State, Morehead State, Northern Iowa, and Radford) have earned automatic bids.  26 additional bids will be earned this week by conference tournament winners and 34 at-large berths will be awarded and announced next Sunday at 6pm Eastern on CBS.

I’ve got ya covered with a few links to keep tabs on the action this week.

For a quick look at the latest automatic bids throughout the week, check out this link from USA Today.

ESPN is updating the conference tournament schedules and providing results here.  Folks, we’re talking about 164 games in the next 7 days.  Bookmark that site.

And for a great look at the tourney credentials of those teams that are not automatic qualifiers, check out the great work of the stat geeks at Basketball State.

I love this time of year.  And, as previously discussed, I am very interested in the status of the 8 schools with the longest consecutive streaks of tournament appearances.

Kentucky really blew it in a big way.  With a streak of 17 consecutive tournament appearances on the line, they appear to be the odd bunch out in this group after choking their way to a 3-8 record in their final 11 games, including a horrific loss at home to Georgia earlier this week.  Without a deep SEC tournament run and, possibly, an outright championship, this streak is over.

Wisconsin came through with a 7-2 record down the stretch and, while they did surrender 2nd half leads on the road to both Michigan State and Minnesota in games that certainly would have cinched a berth, there have been enough teams to fall off the bubble for the Badgers to expect their name to be called on Sunday for an 11th straight year.

Texas did themselves no favors with a 5-6 stumble at the end of the season, but also appear likely to find themselves extending their streak to 11 years after finishing 9-7 in the tough Big 12 conference standings.

Arizona can point to big wins against Kansas, Gonzaga, Washington, & UCLA to boost their tournament resume.  A late 4-game losing streak won’t help, and a loss in their first Pac-10 Tournament game against Arizona State on Thursday would bring about some sleepless nights, but they look likely to extend their tournament streak to 25 straight seasons.

The other schools on this list are certain to see their names called on Sunday if they are unable to earn the automatic bid with a conference tournament championship title.  For the record, those schools are Kansas (headed for a 20th consecutive season in the NCAA tournament), Duke (14), Michigan State (12), and Gonzaga (11).

But, despite the obvious measured success of these programs, nothing is taken for granted in March.  There are plenty of Cinderella stories yet to be written, and any of these schools could easily find themselves on the wrong side of the ledger once things kick off on March 19th.

Enjoy the week ahead.  It’s the prelude for moments like these.

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~ by acm213 on March 8, 2009.

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