As we all know, the #TheBigBBQ is a pretty exclusive party. If you win your conference tournament, you're all set and have nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if you don't win your conference's golden ticket, you'll find yourself with the rest of
the unwashed masses D1 battling it out for an at-large bid. Needless to say, the velvet rope at #TheBigBBQ can be a brutal place if your game isn't tight.
Before we begin, let's review some preliminary stuff. Even though they don't have the necessary six members, as Corey McLaughlin from Lacrosse Magazine noted back in 2014, the NCAA Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet confirmed that the ACC is still an AQ conference for 2016. So we'll see 10 conference AQ bids and 8 at-large bids at the NCAA Tournament. With 70 teams playing this year, 60 squads will be battling it out for the remaining 8 at-large bids. Yea ... brutal, amirite? But remember, YOU chose to move to a land of wolves, so you might as well enjoy the ride.
Let's get after it!
- Conference: Metro Atlantic, Northeast, Southern Conference, America East, Patriot League, Colonial Athletic (and Independents).
At-Large Prediction: 0.
I love these conferences (and the independents, I see you Hampton & NJIT!), and each of them has several teams capable of taking down a big name. But I don't see any at-large bids coming from the 6 conferences above. I hope I'm wrong though, because there are a few teams in each of these conferences that can really ball and it would be fun to see them get a chance to dance in May.
- Conference: Ivy.
At-Large Prediction: 1.
Besides Yale's win over Maryland last year, the Ivy had a pretty dismal inter-conference regular season record against the other major conferences in 2015. Despite a bad out of conference record, the Ivy still got 2 at-large bids last year, just like they did in 2014 (the Ivy went 0-3 in the 2014 & 2015 tournament). While I think the Ivy is a strong conference, right now I really only see Brown and Yale as real tournament contenders and if the conference has a similar out of conference record in 2016 as they did in 2015, I don't think the committee will give them the benefit of the doubt like in years past.
Conference: Big East.
At-Large Prediction: 1.
I was THISCLOSE from putting 2 up there, but then I'd have to take one away from either the Ivy or the Big Ten and I just couldn't pull the trigger. Make no mistake, I think this will be a big year for the Big East. They have the defending champ, a good Marquette, and a hungry Georgetown. Moreover, Villanova looks like they are building something special and low-key might be the under the radar team to watch this year. But I need to see some games before I think the Big East is a 2 at-large bid conference.
Conference: Big Ten.
At-Large Prediction: 2.
I like everything that's going on in the Big Ten. Hop, Maryland, and Ohio State should all be tournament contenders this year. I can even see Penn State making a little noise after a disappointing end to 2015. The Big Ten had a great 2015 tournament and I believe the conference is going into 2016 with a lot of momentum. While it is not the ACC (yet), I think this conference will get 2 at-large bids on Selection Sunday.
At-Large Prediction: 4.
It's the ACC, smart money says everyone gets in. Nevertheless, there were points last year when UVA and even Duke's tournament chances were a little shaky. Still, I think provided there are no major upsets on their resume, all four ACC non-tournament winners should get an at-large bid. Having so many good teams in one conference ensures every member a high strength-of-schedule at the end of the season, which helps immensely on Selection Sunday.
So that's Part 1 of the #TheBigBBQ2016GuestList series; 4 for the ACC, 2 for the Big Ten, and 1 at-large bid each from the Big East and Ivy. We'll check back in once a month. I can't wait for the Southern Conference to get 2 at-large bids on Selection Sunday and for everyone to tweet this back at me (while laughing). Anyway, until then, let us know your thoughts below.