The Bracket Big Board takes into consideration past returns, current performance and expected future gains in determining who should be included among the field of 65 (31 automatic and 34 at-large bids). Essentially, the Bracket Big Board is a cheat sheet designed for amateur bracketologists if they were filling out a Tourney Pick ‘Em ’09 bracket pool entry today. The Bracket Big Board is updated every Monday until the dance card is officially unveiled March 15.
After a year marred by turmoil, redemption tastes orange sweet to Illinois.
Thwarted by recruiting botches, horrendous free throw shooting and just plain bad luck, Bruce Weber's club has done a complete 180. Winning close games they would've painfully dropped a year ago (see Northwestern highlights), the Illini have quietly emerged the victors 21 times and are a mere 1.5 games behind Michigan State for the Big Ten lead.
More remarkable about Illinois' turnaround is Weber. Idiotically panned by delusional "fans" last season, the Big Ten Coach of the Year frontrunner has molded a young, unheralded team into a top-20 juggernaut. Hardnosed defense (7th in defensive efficiency), unselfishness (first nationally in A/FGM), scoring balance (four starters averaging 10-plus points per game) and resurgent charity stripe performance (71.4 FT%) have been their hallmarks. It's safe to say, the under-the-radar Illini will be a very difficult tourney out come March.
*For games played through Sunday, February 15
*RPI data provided by Rivals
*Efficiency stats from kenpom.com
*Team in red = Baller of the Week
*Team in blue = Faller of the Weak
*Teams in orange = moving up
*Teams in blue/gray moving down
On the Bubble: Kansas St. (17-8), Miami (FL) (15-9), Penn St (18-8), Michigan (16-10), Georgetown (13-10), UAB (17-8), Providence (16-9), Maryland (16-8), Creighton (21-6), Nebraska (15-8)
Dropped Out: Miami (FL), Northeastern, E. Tennessee St., Long Beach St.
Conference Breakdown: American East (1), ACC (7), Atlantic Sun (1), Atlantic 10 (2), Big 12 (4), Big East (8), Big Sky (1), Big South (1), Big Ten (6), Big West (1), Colonial (1), Conference USA (1), Horizon (1), Ivy (1), Metro (1), Mid-American (1), Mid-Eastern (1), Missouri Valley (1), Mountain West (4), Northeast (1), Ohio Valley (1), Pac-10 (6), Patriot (1), SEC (5), Southern (1), SWAC (1), Summit (1), Sun Belt (1), West Coast (1), WAC (1)
Image courtesy of Associated Press