One of the topics that gets a lot of scrutiny come selection Sunday is the number of teams from outside the major conferences that get at-large bids. That is a number that varies from year to year, and often times, the teams that do get at-large bids are those that won their conference regular-season title, but not the tournament.
Here are five teams outside the top seven leagues that have the best chance of an at-large bid.
Conference: West Coast
The defending runner-up is easily the most likely team to get an at-large bid on this list. The Zags have four Tier 1 wins in non-conference play, including victories over Ohio State and Creighton. Don't be fooled by the RPI. Gonzaga played a non-conference schedule of extremes. It has six Tier 1 games and six Tier 4 games. Their league will hold that RPI number down, but do not expect them to be seeded as low as their RPI indicates if they continue to win as they have.
Conference: Atlantic 10
Despite the loss to Nevada, the Rams probably have a better chance at an at-large bid than the Wolfpack because of wins over Seton Hall and Providence and the fact that they do not have a questionable loss. The A-10 is down this year, which means that URI needs to dominate. It has not been a one-bid league since 2005, but if the Rams win the conference tournament, it likely will be this year.
Conference: Mountain West
Nevada is the clear favorite in the Mountain West and played a decent non-conference schedule. The Wolfpack has wins over Atlantic 10 favorite Rhode Island (also on this list) and Big West leader UC Davis. Unfortunately, they had opportunities to win at Texas Tech and against TCU in Los Angeles and came up just short in both cases. Nevada is going to have to win the Mountain West with a gaudy record and avoid damaging losses to give it a chance at an at-large bid.
Conference: Conference USA
For a fleeting moment, Western Kentucky had a five-star freshman committed to play this year. Mitchell Robinson never suited up for the Hilltoppers, but they have managed well without him. WKU has by far the best win on this list, which came over Purdue in the Bahamas. The Hilltoppers also beat SMU, a team they could be competing with for a spot in the field. The trouble for Western Kentucky is that it already has five losses, including a few that are questionable. In Conference USA, as with the other leagues in this list, there are many more chances for damaging losses than helpful wins. Middle Tennessee is the favorite in the league, but WKU gets them home-and-home. For the Hilltoppers, the margin for error is already pretty small.
Conference: West Coast
The Gaels have a better RPI than Gonzaga, but less of a chance of an at-large bid because they lack the higher quality non-conference wins that Gonzaga has. Their best non-league win came over WAC leader New Mexico State. The win over Dayton will not mean as much as Saint Mary's hoped when it scheduled that game. One of its two losses came to Washington State, the worst team in the Pac-12 non named Cal. Fortunately, the Gaels get at least two shots at Gonzaga, including Thursday night in Spokane.