It is the last week of the regular season for some conferences and all others will end the regular season less than two weeks from today. As bubble teams try to enhance their resumes, they also have to keep an eye on the "Bid Stealers" as conference tournaments get underway next week. Bid Stealers are teams that would likely not be an at-large selection that earn automatic bids in conferences with at least 1 at-large team.
The following 21 conferences will qualify only the conference tournament champion (barring a huge surprise). While these conferences do not possess potential bid thieves, the results of the conference tournaments will effect the quality and depth of the NCAA Tournament. The more upsets that happen in these tournaments, the weaker the overall Field will be.
1 Bid Leagues - America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Conference USA, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, SWAC, Summit, Sun Belt and WAC.
The next group of 5 conferences will likely produce a Conference Tournament Champion that is already an at-large quality team. There have been a few exceptions over the years, but the percentage is very low to produce a Bid Stealer from these conferences.
Big 12, Big 10, PAC 12, ACC and American Athletic.
That leaves 6 conferences with Bid Stealing possibilities. Let's take a closer look at these.
SEC - The least likely of the 6 due to the presence of Florida, but if the Gators accidentally mail it in at the Georgia Dome, the SEC becomes a wide-open tournament. It happened last season when Ole Miss stole/secured a bid in the field by winning the SEC tournament. With only Kentucky as a lock outside of Florida, teams like LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Georgia could all make runs that would secure a bid that was headed elsewhere on Selection Sunday.
Atlantic 10 - I currently have the Atlantic 10 as a 6 bid league, but St. Joseph's and Dayton are far from locks. The odds of a bid stealer are less likely than one or both of these teams solidifying the conference as a 5 or 6 bid league. Richmond is right on the outside of the bubble as well and needs to be considered right along with St. Joe's and Dayton. The longshots would be St. Bonaventure or LaSalle, keeping in mind the Bonnies run in 2012 to steal a bid.
Big East - Villanova and Creighton are locks, but I have wavered between the Big East being anywhere for a 3 to a 5 bid league over the past few weeks. The mediocre nature of the league is making for an interesting finish to the regular season and could be an even more interesting Conference Tournament. Villanova seems vulnerable, so it might just take a team knocking off Creighton. Like the Atlantic 10, teams like Xavier, Providence, St. John's and Georgetown would more likely be solidifying a bid rather than stealing it, but without that automatic bid, all 4 teams would be sweating out Selection Sunday. Marquette is the darkhorse that would be the true bid stealer at this point.
West Coast - Despite some recent struggles, Gonzaga is likely an at-large team in the field, although I say that with less certainty today than I did just a few days ago. BYU was new to my Field yesterday, so they are hardly a lock. A run through the WCC tournament by the Cougars would likely make this a two-bid league. St. Mary's and San Francisco need to be watched as well with an outside chance of making the WCC a 3-bid league.
Mountain West - The first thing to know about the Mountain West Conference Tournament is that it is in Las Vegas. With only San Diego State and New Mexico as locks for the NCAA Tournament, that alone makes UNLV a prime threat as a bid stealer. Boise State and Wyoming can also not be discounted, but my eye is on the Runnin' Rebels.
Missouri Valley - With only one at-large lock in Wichita State, the Missouri Valley is the most likely to provide a bid stealer during Arch Madness. Of course, nobody has defeated the Shockers so far this season. All it takes is one game though and someones bid will go to an Indiana State, Missouri State or Northern Iowa.