With Championship Week and the beginning of March Madness officially here, the bubble continues to be wide-open and fairly weak overall. However, this week has seen several teams attempt to play themselves into the NCAA Tournament field with huge wins over Top-10 teams and/or their respective conference leaders. There are still plenty of teams that, in most seasons, wouldn't be anywhere close to the bubble. This season, though, these types of teams still have chances to make the Big Dance. It makes for an exciting stretch run, that's for sure. According to the numbers, there are still 11 bids up for grabs, with 21 teams seriously vying for them, as of now.
Here is the breakdown:
Locks from the Big Six conferences (and the Missouri Valley): 30
Locks from the mid-major conferences: 24
54 Locks Overall
ACC (4): Duke, North Carolina, Boston College, North Carolina State
Big East (6): Connecticut, Villanova, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Georgetown, Marquette
Big Ten (6): Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan
Big 12 (3): Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas
Pac-10 (3): UCLA, Washington, Arizona
SEC (6): LSU, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas
Missouri Valley (2): Wichita State, Creighton
One-Bid Conferences (24): America East, Atlantic-10, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Conference USA, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, Mid-Continent, MEAC, Mountain West, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, SWAC, Sun Belt, West Coast, WAC
Teams from the one-bid conferences likely to get an at-large bid: George Washington, George Mason, Memphis, Bucknell, Nevada, Gonzaga
Here are the teams that still have a chance to get an at-large bid and what they need to do in order to get a bid:
Florida State (18-8 (8-7), RPI: 54, SOS: 81, vs. Top 50: 1-5, Last 10: 6-4): One of the numerous teams who helped themselves out with a big win over a highly-ranked team. In the Seminoles' case, it was over #1 Duke. With that win, FSU now has a victory to hang their hat on. However, they still have a lot of work to do. Beating the Blue Devils gives the Seminoles exactly one win over a team like to be in the NCAA Tournament. They have one game left before the ACC Tournament--at Miami (Fl.) on Sunday. If FSU beats Miami and then gets two wins in the ACC Tournament (including one over either NC State or BC in the quarterfinals), they should be a lock.
Maryland (16-11 (7-8), RPI: 52, SOS: 12, vs. Top 50: 2-7, Last 10: 3-7): The Terrapins still have a slim chance to get an at-large bid after knocking off Miami (Fl.) at home on Wednesday. One more win at Virginia on Sunday would get Maryland to 8-8 in the ACC, which is usually the magic number in power conferences. However, this season, the ACC does not look like it is getting 6 teams. Therefore, the Terrapins most likely have to win two games in the ACC Tournament and hope for some other bubble teams to lose. On a qualitative basis, though, Maryland does not look like they belong in the Big Dance.
Syracuse (19-10 (7-8), RPI: 36, SOS: 13, vs. Top 50: 2-8, Last 10: 4-6): The Orange took a huge step back with a 39-point loss in a must-win at DePaul. Yes, 39 points (they allowed 108 points?!). Yes, to 12-14 DePaul. That loss could leave more of a mark on the committee than anything Syracuse has done this season. However, Villanova is coming to the Carrier Dome on Sunday for Gerry McNamara's last game and Senior Day. Syracuse needs a win over the Wildcats if they want to get a bid. If they lose, it is going to be tough. Moreover, they are going to need at least a win in the 8-9 game of the Big East Tournament next Wednesday. What was positive momentum earlier this week is going the other way.
Cincinnati (17-11 (7-8), RPI: 33, SOS: 3, vs. Top 50: 3-7, Last 10: 4-6): Another Big East team that has lost some of its positive momentum. The Bearcats lost to fellow bubble team Seton Hall on Tuesday and are now 5-9 in their last 14 games. They have one game left--vs. West Virginia this weekend. That is a must-win. However, that victory alone won't get them in. Cincinnati is also going to have get at least one win in the Big East Tournament next week. The Bearcats' power numbers are great, but they have struggled recently and need to turn it around.
Seton Hall (17-10 (8-7), RPI: 57, SOS: 38, vs. Top 50: 4-4, Last 10: 6-4): The lone Big East team to make positive strides this week. The Pirates defeated Cincinnati at home on Tuesday, and now are looking like the best bet to get a 7th bid from the Big East. On the other hand, though, they too are lacking a NCAA Tournament-worthy resume. Seton Hall had lost 4 of 5 before the win, including defeats at the hands of Notre Dame, St. John's, and DePaul. The Pirates head to Pitt on Friday to wrap up their season. If they get a win, they are a lock for the Tournament. A loss, though, means that they are going to likely need two wins in New York City next week.
Indiana (16-10 (8-7), RPI: 44, SOS: 25, vs. Top 50: 5-7, Last 10: 4-6): The Hoosiers continue to look like a solid bet for the Tournament even with all of the movers and shakers this past week. They have won 3 in a row and are now above .500 in the conference. Indiana ends their season on Saturday at Michigan. A win there would cement a bid for the Hoosiers. A loss, though, likely means that they would need at least one win, most likely two, at the Big Ten Tournament. They have made a nice run the past two weeks, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
Texas A&M (19-7 (9-6), RPI: 50, SOS: 77, vs. Top 50: 1-4, Last 10: 7-3): The Aggies are another team that is going to try and ride the wave of a win over a Top-10 team in the last week of the season. In their case, it was Texas. Similar to Florida State, they now have a truly quality win that they can point to. A&M has won six in a row and are going to finish 4th in the Big 12. They close the season on the road against Texas Tech. A win there would put the Aggies in great shape heading into the conference tournament. A loss would lessen the impact of the win over Texas, because A&M would likely need two wins in the tournament.
Colorado (18-8 (8-7), RPI: 53, SOS: 91, vs. Top 50: 2-4, Last 10: 5-5): All the negative momentum that the Buffaloes have had over the past two weeks came to a head on Wednesday, when they were blown out by Kansas and Texas A&M defeated Texas. Now, Colorado is behind A&M in the Big 12 standings, but more importantly, in the race for at-large bids. The Buffs have lost their last 5 road games, which is obviously something the Committee will notice. The NCAA Tournament is obviously not played in Boulder, and Colorado has not proven they can win away from home. They have one more game left--at home against Iowa State. A win there would keep their hopes alive, while a loss would completely knock them out of consideration. They need to get at least two wins in the Big 12 Tournament, no matter what.
California (17-9 (11-6), RPI: 62, SOS: 75, vs. Top 50: 3-4, Last 10: 7-3): The Golden Bears had a chance to lock up a bid at home against UCLA, but blew a second-half lead and lost. A win would have given them a sweep of the Bruins and would have also given them first place in the Pac-10 standings with one game left. Now, Cal is tied for 3rd in the conference and their RPI in the 60s is looking worse and worse. They close their season at home against USC in what is obviously a must-win if they want a bid. Moreover, the Golden Bears are going to likely need two wins at the Pac-10 Tournament. A loss to the Trojans and they are done.
Vanderbilt (16-10 (7-8), RPI: 60, SOS: 39, vs. Top 50: 3-7, Last 10: 4-6): The Commodores still hold a very slim chance of getting an at-large bid. They have won their last two games and three of their last four, all on the road. They wrap up their season at home against a slumping Tennessee team. A win there would get them to .500 in the SEC and leave them in decent shape heading into the SEC Tournament. Still, if they beat the Vols, Vandy is still going to have to get one or two wins in the conference tourney. A loss in either of their next two games would knock them from consideration.
UAB (20-5 (11-2), RPI: 47, SOS: 142, vs. Top 50: 1-1, Last 10: 8-2): Just like Florida State and Texas A&M, the Blazers are going to point to a win over a Top-10 late in the season as proof that they are NCAA Tournament-worthy. And just like FSU and A&M, UAB's win over Memphis was their only truly quality win yet this season. They have won 17 of their last 19 and should finish with a 12-2 conference record. Their SOS is absolutely awful, but they own wins over decent teams like Old Dominion, Virginia Commonwealth, and Nebraska. If they win their season finale against Marshall and then grab one or two wins in the C-USA Tournament, the Blazers should get a bid.
UTEP (17-7 (11-2), RPI: 65, SOS: 118, vs. Top 50: 1-3, Last 10: 8-2): The Miners' chances took a hit when UAB beat Memphis on Thursday night. Conference-USA was likely to get two bids, and UTEP was hoping that their second-place finish would be enough. However, they don't have an attention-grabbing win like UAB does in the Memphis victory. The Miners best non-conference victory is over Pacific. They still hold a slim chance of making the Tournament. UTEP ends the season on the road against Central Florida this weekend. If they get a win there and make a run to the conference tournament championship (which would include a second win over UAB), the Committee would have to give some thought to the Miners.
Missouri State (20-7 (12-6), RPI: 18, SOS: 44, vs. Top 50: 4-7, Last 10: 8-2): The team on this list that is the closest to "lock status", the Bears have an excellent RPI, a solid SOS, and very good momentum. They are one of the hottest teams in the MVC and have won 8 of 9. The only negative on their profile is that they don't have any quality non-conference wins outside of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on the road. They did not beat any of the "Big Six" teams in the pre-conference portion of their schedule. Other than that, though, the Bears' profile is as good as it gets this season. They open the MVC Tournament against Northern Iowa. If they get a win, they are a rock-solid lock. A loss and they could sweat a little come Selection Sunday. Either way, I think they are in.
Northern Iowa (20-8 (11-7), RPI: 27, SOS: 46, vs. Top 50: 7-6, Last 10: 5-5): If you had told me three weeks ago that the Panthers would be on this list, I would have laughed. However, UNI has lost four of their last five and finished 6th in the Missouri Valley Conference. They own wins over LSU, Iowa, Bucknell, and also swept conference champion Wichita State. That will likely be enough to get them an at-large bid. Just to be safe, though, it would be in their best interest to beat Missouri State in the quarterfinals of the MVC Tournament. If they lose, could the committee really leave them out based on their 1-5 finish considering how good the rest of their profile is? I wouldn't want to even test that out if I were Northern Iowa.
Southern Illinois (19-9 (12-6), RPI: 42, SOS: 62, vs. Top 50: 6-4, Last 10: 5-5): The Salukis kept themselves in contention with a one-point win over Northern Iowa last weekend. That victory also gave them the #2 seed in the MVC Tournament. SIU has lost five of their last eight, but still own six Top 50 wins. However, each of those Top 50 wins came against teams within the conference. Their best non-conference win is over Kent State--a solid victory, but not the most impressive. They need to beat Evansville in the quarterfinals, and then a win over the Missouri State/Northern Iowa is also probably necessary. In other words, if the Salukis make a run to the title game, they are in.
Bradley (18-9 (11-7), RPI: 45, SOS: 66, vs. Top 50: 5-5, Last 10: 8-2): Unlike Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois, this Missouri Valley Conference team is rising. The Braves have won 9 of 11 and finished 5th in the MVC. They have a solid all-around profile with five Top 50 wins and a hot finish. However, Bradley also has three sub-100 losses and are only 5-8 on the road. Moreover, they don't own any big-time non-conference wins like Northern Iowa does. They open the MVC Tournament against Creighton. If they beat the Bluejays and then upset Wichita State, they will get a bid. If they go 1-1, the Braves are going to sweat it out come Selection Sunday. A loss might kill their chances.
UNC-Wilmington (22-7 (15-3), RPI: 38, SOS: 108, vs. Top 50: 2-3, Last 10: 9-1): The Seahawks are pretty close to locking up a bid due to the fact that they won the regular-season title to go with a very good RPI and a hot finish. They have won 13 of their last 15 and own a 10-6 record away from home. However, UNCW has bad losses to East Carolina and Charleston. If they can get to the finals of the wide-open CAA Tournament, it will wrap up a bid. A loss in the semi-finals could keep them sweating until the field is announced.
Hofstra (22-5 (14-4), RPI: 40, SOS: 161, vs. Top 50: 2-1, Last 10: 9-1): With a profile slightly worse than UNC-Wilmington's, the Pride could be the one mid-major left complaining on Selection Sunday. They have won 10 of their last 11 and own wins over George Mason and UNCW as well as a sweep against Old Dominion. However, they played an exremely easy schedule, meaning that their best non-conference win was over either La Salle or St. John's. Neither of those wins are going to jump out at the committee. If they can make a run to the CAA title game, meaning that they would have to defeat (most likely) Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason, they will get a bid. A loss before then could knock Hofstra to the NIT.
Air Force (22-5 (11-4), RPI: 41, SOS: 154, vs. Top 50: 0-1, Last 10: 9-1): Air Force seems like the team most negatively affected by this week's results. They have been one of the last teams in or out for about a month and now have to deal with teams that just defeated Top-10 clubs. AFA has won five in a row and own a gaudy record and a decent RPI. On the other hand, though, they have not beaten anyone that is a lock to make the NCAA Tournament and have played an atrocious schedule. Their best non-conference win is over Miami (Fl.). If they win on the road against Colorado State to finish the season and then reach the MWC title game, Air Force should get a bid. However, a loss against CSU will knock them from consideration, as will an early exit from the conference tournament.
BYU (18-7 (11-4), RPI: 55, SOS: 124, vs. Top 50: 1-2, Last 10: 9-1): Most people aren't talking about the Cougars as a potential Tournament team, but those people should pay attention. BYU has won 9 of their last 10, including victories over Air Force and San Diego State. They have a weak RPI and SOS but could finish 12-4 in the Mountain West Conference. The one thing that could kill them, though, is the fact that their best non-conference wins are over Washington State and Eastern Washington--not exactly powerhouses. If they win their finale against New Mexico and then make a run to the conference tournament title game, the BYU could be one of the last teams in on Selection Sunday. A loss on the way there is likely to relegate them to the NIT.
Utah State (19-7 (10-5), RPI: 49, SOS: 94, vs. Top 50: 1-1, Last 10: 7-3): If only the Aggies had just defeated Nevada at home over the weekend. A win over the Wolfpack would have given them a sweep against an RPI Top 25 team. Now, they have lose 3 of their last 8 and continue to move down the ladder with each win by a fellow bubble team. USU's best non-conference wins are over BYU and Northwestern State. Both are solid wins over quality opponents, but neither are Top 50 teams. The Aggies close their season with a home game against San Jose State. Obviously, that is a must-win. In the WAC Tournament, a run to the title game is a necessity. Even if they get there, it is not guaranteed that they will get a bid.
San Diego State (18-8 (13-3), RPI: 61, SOS: 105, vs. Top 50: 1-1, Last 10: 8-2): The Aztecs have an interesting case. They went 5-5 in non-conference play, with losses to sub-100 teams Illinois-Chicago, San Diego, Washington State, and Providence. However, since then, they have gone 13-3 and won the Mountain West regular season title. In most season, a title in a top 10 league is enough to get an at-large bid. SDSU's profile is far from impressive, though. Their best non-conference win is over Albany and they have five losses to teams ranked in the sub-100 range. Moreover, they have played a very weak schedule, both overall and in the non-conference season. On the postive side, the Aztecs have won 12 of their last 14 and are above .500 on the road. They finish the season at home against South Dakota State (why?). If they win there and make a run to the MWC Tournament Championship Game--a tournament in which they are the favorite--will a regular-season title be enough to warrant a bid? Or will their bad play in the non-conference season catch up to them?
I agree that not team should get in just because of one HUGE win. But I don't think you are giving FSU's body of work enough credit, and yes I know they played some absolutly terrible teams, most from even worse conferences, in the early part of the season. But, you give UAB credit for beating Nebraska yet no mention of FSU doing it by 14 on a neutral court. They also beat Purdue (yes they are last in the big 10 but they have beaten some of the big boys) by 40. Lastly, they did beat Maryland, only one spot out of the RPI Top 50, by double digits and swept fellow bubble team, Virginia. So, while I agree they probably need one or two more wins, I don't think they HAVE to beat Miami and win two games in the ACC tourney just to make the field. Ask yourself this: If they won at Miami and their first round game against Wake, but lost in the second, who else would go ahead of the? You have to find 65 somewhere...ReplyDelete
I agree that no team should get in just because of one HUGE win. But I don't think you are giving FSU's body of work enough credit, and yes I know they played some absolutly terrible teams, most from even worse conferences, in the early part of the season. But, you give UAB credit for beating Nebraska yet no mention of FSU doing it by 14 on a neutral court. They also beat Purdue (yes they are last in the big 10 but they have beaten some of the big boys) by 40. Lastly, they did beat Maryland, only one spot out of the RPI Top 50, by double digits and swept fellow bubble team, Virginia. So, while I agree they probably need one or two more wins, I don't think they HAVE to beat Miami and win two games in the ACC tourney just to make the field. Ask yourself this: If they won at Miami and their first round game against Wake, but lost in the second, who else would go ahead of them? You have to find 65 somewhere...ReplyDelete
I have FSU in the Tournament as of today. I think that a win at Miami and an ACC W would LOCK up a bid so they don't have to sweat it out in Selection Sunday.ReplyDelete