Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bubble Watch

Welcome back to the Bubble Watch. This week has seen plenty of bubble teams help out their resumes with statement-making wins, while other teams have hurt their status with tough losses. However, most teams are failing to distinguish themselves from one another, meaning a difficult Selection Sunday for the Committee. Additionally, the bubble is extremely weak this season. The mid-majors are not putting forth many at-large candidates, meaning that we could see plenty of major-conference teams (yes, I’m counting the MVC and MWC) teams in the Big Dance this year. Of course, conference tournaments haven't even started yet, so there is still lots of basketball left to be played. According to the numbers, there are 11 bids still up for grabs, with 29 (?!) teams seriously vying for them, as of now.

Here is the breakdown going into Thursday, February 15th:

Locks from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC, Missouri Valley, Mountain West: 22

Bids from the other conferences: 24—23 automatic bids plus Butler (includes Nevada and Memphis, who are locks no matter what)
46 Locks Overall

ACC (4): North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Duke
Big East (3): Pittsburgh, Marquette, Georgetown

Big Ten (3): Wisconsin, Ohio State, Indiana
Big Twelve (2): Texas A&M, Kansas
Pac-10 (5): UCLA, Washington State, USC, Oregon, Arizona, Oregon
SEC (2): Florida, Kentucky
Missouri Valley (2): Southern Illinois, Creighton
Mountain West (1): Air Force

Other Conferences (23): America East, Atlantic-10, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Conference USA, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, Mid-Continent, MEAC, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, SWAC, Sun Belt, West Coast, WAC

Teams that need to keep winning to avoid the bubble (8):
Oklahoma State
Missouri State


Here are the teams that still have a chance to get an at-large bid (Note: Teams like Davidson, Winthrop, and VCU are not in this category, as they are the current leaders in their respective conferences):

Maryland (19-7 (5-6), RPI: 28, SOS: 24, vs. Top 50: 5-5, Last 10: 5-5, Road/Neutral: 5-5): Despite the Terrapins’ poor start in ACC play, they are in great position to grab a bid out of the ACC. They have won two in a row, including a win over Duke and a road victory at North Carolina State. Their power numbers are outstanding, but they don’t have any really great wins out of conference. Their best non-conference wins are over Michigan State, Winthrop, and at Illinois. The Terrapins have three home games left in their final five—if they can go 3-2 down the stretch and get to .500 in the ACC, they should be in.

Georgia Tech (17-8 (5-6), RPI: 43, SOS: 41, vs. Top 50: 6-6, Last 10: 6-4, R/N: 3-7): The Yellow Jackets are another team that is rising in the bubble world. They have won four in a row, and finally won a road game—at Florida State on Tuesday. Their RPI and SOS are okay, but they have the fourth most Top 50 wins in the country (tied with six other teams) and have victories over Memphis, Duke, Purdue, Georgia, and Clemson—plus a sweep of Florida State. They have a tough schedule over their final five games, but finishing .500 and getting a win in the ACC Tournament would lock up a bid.

Clemson (19-5 (5-6), RPI: 29, SOS: 49, vs. Top 50: 5-5, Last 10: 4-6, R/N: 7-4): The Tigers are new to the bubble, as this is the first time they’ve officially been included in bubble talk. Prior to that, everyone seemed to just assume that Clemson was in because of their outstanding 17-0 start. Since then, the Tigers are only 2-6, and are coming off of a defeat at Wake Forest. Their RPI is very good, and they have an outstanding road record. Moreover, the Tigers have several solid wins, including Old Dominion, Georgia, Appalachian State, and Boston College. Getting to .500 in ACC play would lock up a bid—they have three home games in their final five, which could get them the requisite three victories.

Florida State (17-9 (5-7), RPI: 33, SOS: 13, vs. Top 50: 4-9, Last 10: 5-5, R/N: 4-6):
The Seminoles looked to be in very good shape a couple of weeks ago, after improving to 5-4 in the ACC with a win at Duke. However, since then, FSU has lost three straight, including two home losses to Boston College and Georgia Tech. Their RPI is falling, and their record against the Top 50 looks very unattractive on the resume. The Seminoles do have a win over Florida in their back pocket, though. Their next two games will control their season—road games at Maryland, and at Virginia. If they get a split, they could get to 8-8.

Notre Dame (18-6 (6-5), RPI: 56, SOS: 109, vs. Top 50: 4-3, Last 10: 5-5, R/N: 3-6): This is another team that looked solid for a bid just over a week ago. At the time, they were 6-3 in the Big East and had just scored 103 points at Syracuse. Since then, though, they have lost at South Florida and DePaul. Their RPI has dropped dramatically, and their non-conference SOS (297) is glaring. They have only one true road win, and don’t have a win against a definite NCAA Tournament team. The Irish have three of their last five at home, and their two road games (Cincinnati and Rutgers) are manageable.

West Virginia (18-6 (7-5), RPI: 46, SOS: 95, vs. Top 50: 2-4, Last 10: 6-4, R/N: 7-5): Despite the Mountaineers apparent lack of a quality resume, WVU is in position to get a bid to the NCAA Tournament. They knocked off UCLA this past weekend, which will be an excellent ace in the hole for the Selection Committee. However, the only other good team they beat was Villanova. Their RPI and SOS aren’t great, and 14 of their 18 wins are against teams ranked below 100 in the RPI. They have two home games left in their final four, but they could really use a big road win at Pittsburgh, and even at Providence would be nice.

Villanova (17-7 (6-5), RPI: 15, SOS: 8, vs. Top 50: 2-3, Last 10: 7-3, R/N: 9-4): The Wildcats are looking more and more like an NCAA Tournament team everyday. Their power numbers are unbelievable, they are very good away from home, and the Wildcats are playing well lately. ‘Nova has won four in a row, and seven of their last nine. Their marquee wins are over Texas and Georgetown, but they own several other decent victories. The Wildcats lack bad losses, and have 8 wins against the RPI Top 100. With three of their final five at home, ‘Nova is a mortal lock to finish above .500 in the Big East.

Syracuse (18-8 (7-5), RPI: 62, SOS: 50, vs. Top 50: 2-2, Last 10: 6-4, R/N: 4-4): The Orange are back on the upswing after losing four of five a couple of weeks ago. They have won three of their last four, and while none of the wins jumped out at you, ‘Cuse is two games above .500 in the Big East, which counts for something. This could be the year that Syracuse’s infamous soft non-conference schedule comes back to haunt them. Their best win is over Hofstra, at home. However, in conference, they won at Marquette and also beat Villanova. They don’t have an easy finishing stretch, playing ‘Nova and Providence on the road, and UConn and Georgetown at home.

Louisville (17-8 (8-4), RPI: 58, SOS: 35, vs. Top 50: 1-5, Last 10: 7-3, R/N: 4-4): The Cardinals are hitting their stride at the right time. After starting only 4-4 overall, Rick Pitino has his squad rolling. They have won six of eight, and are coming off of a huge road win at Pittsburgh. That could be the win that propels them into the Dance. They really don’t have any other marquee wins, but they are tied for third in the Big East, and finally getting healthy. They have a road game at Marquette this weekend, but besides that, their three other games are winnable. Even getting a 2-2 split down the stretch would get them to 10 Big East wins.

Providence (15-8 (5-5), RPI: 59, SOS: 28, vs. Top 50: 2-5, Last 10: 5-5, R/N: 1-6): The Friars are a team that is flying under the radar a bit when it comes to bubble teams. PC has a mediocre RPI, but a very solid SOS and wins over Boston College and Marquette. However, the Friars are awful on the road, have lost five of eight, and have a home loss to Brown on their resume. Outside of tonight’s road game at Notre Dame, they have three home games and then two road contests at South Florida and St. John’s down the stretch. If they can go 4-2, the Friars will be in the thick of things come March.

Michigan (17-9 (5-6), RPI: 63, SOS: 53, vs. Top 50: 2-7, Last 10: 4-6, R/N: 2-7): The Wolverines are falling fast—but what else is new? Under Tommy Amaker, Michigan always seems to have a solid non-conference season, a decent start to the Big Ten, and then they fade down the stretch. It’s the same thing this year. Michigan was 16-4 overall, and 4-1 in the Big Ten just over three weeks ago. They have lost five of six since then, and are already nearly off the bubble. They have three home games left in their last five, but they are against Indiana, Ohio State, and Michigan State. Don't expect any miracles.

Michigan State (18-8 (5-6), RPI: 36, SOS: 29, vs. Top 50: 4-7, Last 10: 5-5, R/N: 3-7): The Spartans are another team that is not going in the right direction as we head down the stretch. Prior to their home win over Michigan this week, they had lost four in a row after starting 17-4. They have non-league wins over Bradley and Texas, and their power numbers are decent. However, they don't have an easy game the rest of the season. MSU has three home games against Iowa, Wisconsin, and Indiana, and then two road contests at Michigan and Wisconsin. If they go 3-2, MSU might get a bid.

Purdue (16-9 (5-6), RPI: 42, SOS: 18, vs. Top 50: 3-6, Last 10: 5-5, R/N: 3-8):
The Boilermakers had a real chance to make a move towards the NCAA Tournament this past weekend, but they fell late at Ohio State. Despite the loss, Purdue is still very much alive. Their SOS is excellent, and their other power numbers are decent. They have non-conference wins over Virginia, DePaul, and Oklahoma. However, they are not good against Top 50 teams, and are unimpressive on the road. Fortunately, they have a very easy road the rest of the way. I see them going 4-1--putting them firmly on the bubble.

Illinois (18-9 (6-6), RPI: 41, SOS: 19, vs. Top 50: 3-8, Last 10: 6-4, R/N: 6-6): If one was pressed to pick a fourth Big Ten team as of now, the Illini would likely be the pick. They have won three of their last four, and just missed a chance for a big road win at Indiana. They are decent away from home and their power numbers are solid, but their best non-conference win was over Bradley and 13 of their 18 wins are against sub-100 teams. Their final four games are manageable, but they need to go at least 3-1 and then win a game in the Big Ten Tournament to feel comfortable.

Texas Tech (16-10 (5-6), RPI: 35, SOS: 7, vs. Top 50: 4-6, Last 10: 4-6, R/N: 6-7): The Red Raiders are right back in the mix after their enormous road win over Texas A&M at the buzzer this week. Prior to that, Tech had lost five in a row and were on the verge of falling off the bubble. However, combine the sweep of Texas A&M with a win over Kansas, and you've got nice a resume. Their power numbers are solid, and they are acceptable away from home. They don't have many impressive non-conference wins, and they need to go 4-1 in their final five games to give themselves a chance heading into March.

Kansas State (18-8 (7-4), RPI: 54, SOS: 94, vs. Top 50: 1-4, Last 10: 8-2, R/N: 7-7): The Wildcats' profile looked a whole lot more impressive last week. Since then, they beat an RPI-killer in Colorado and lost by 11 at Nebraska. Their power numbers are falling and they still only have two good wins on the season--USC and Texas. On the other hand, though, they have won eight of their last ten, and are in fourth place in the conference. The Wildcats have a huge game coming up on Monday--at home vs. Kansas. If they can pick up a victory, it might be tough to leave KSU out of the Dance.

Wichita State (16-10 (8-8), RPI: 75, SOS: 90, vs. Top 50: 2-4, Last 10: 6-4, R/N: 6-8): The Shockers are right on the verge of falling off the Bubble Watch completely. They have the worst RPI of any team on this list and their SOS, both overall and non-conference, are not good. The Shockers' marquee non-conference wins lost their luster a few weeks ago, and four sub-100 losses don't help their cause. Wichita State will have chances to make a move down the stretch, though. WSU gets Appalachian State and Missouri State at home, and then go to Creighton in the season finale. They need to run the table.

Bradley (17-10 (9-7), RPI: 40, SOS: 23, vs. Top 50: 1-7, Last 10: 6-4, R/N: 6-8): This is one team that absolutely needs to win their Bracket Buster this weekend. The Braves have a solid record, decent RPI and SOS, are playing well lately--but are pitiful against the Top 50 and their only good win is over Southern Illinois at home. However, they have a chance to make an impressive this weekend, when they go to VCU. If they win that one, and hold serve at home in their last two, Bradley will be 11-7 and 20-10 heading into the conference tournament. They could be tough to leave out.

Alabama (18-7 (5-6), RPI: 32, SOS: 45, vs. Top 50: 1-4, Last 10: 5-5, R/N: 6-6): The Crimson Tide really had a chance to cement their at-large status Wednesday night when they had an 18-point lead at Florida. However, they blew that lead and now find themselves in serious trouble. 'Bama is only 2-6 in true road games and is below .500 in the paltry SEC West. Their power numbers are okay, but their only really good win is over Xavier. 'Bama needs to go at least 3-2 in their final five games, but they can't lose both remaining road games. They are going to be an interesting case.

Georgia (14-9 (6-5), RPI: 51, SOS: 17, vs. Top 50: 3-8, Last 10: 6-4, R/N: 4-6): The Bulldogs might not find themselves on the Watch for much longer--and that's not a good thing. Right now, UGA has a very solid resume. They are above .500 in the SEC, have an excellent SOS, and are playing well. However, their RPI is not impressive and they are only 3-6 in true road games. Additionally, their best non-league win is over Gonzaga, a victory that is losing its luster by the day. Oh, and their second-leading scorer, Mike Mercer, tore his ACL over the weekend and is out for the season.

Arkansas (15-10 (4-7), RPI: 47, SOS: 12, vs. Top 50: 4-4, Last 10: 3-7, R/N: 4-8): The Razorbacks are going the way of Wichita State, and looking like they will be off the Bubble Watch in no time. However, that is what happens when you win only three of your last ten games, and drop to 4-7 in the SEC (tied for ninth in the conference). They have two good non-conference wins, over Southern Illinois and West Virginia, but are only 1-7 in true road games. Arkansas might have to run the table down the stretch to put themselves in position for a bid. I don't see it happening, since it includes winning at Auburn and Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt (16-8 (7-4), RPI: 44, SOS: 30, vs. Top 50: 4-3, Last 10: 7-3, R/N: 4-6): Speaking of the Commodores, they are positioning themselves as the fourth-best out of the SEC--which would be good enough for the Committeee. Vandy has won six of their last eight, and owns wins over Georgia Tech, at Kentucky, and vs. Tennessee. On the other side, the 'Dores have bad losses at Wake Forest and to Furman at home (I still can't comprehend this one). Vandy has a chance to clinch an at-large bid this Saturday, when the defending champs come to town. If they knock off Florida, they are in good shape.

Mississippi (17-8 (6-5), RPI: 53, SOS: 71, vs. Top 50: 3-4, Last 10: 6-4, R/N: 4-7): Don't sleep on the Rebels. Ole Miss has won four in a row, and is atop the SEC West, although that doesn't say much. However, their power numbers are rising, and they are playing well when it counts. Their profile does have a lot of holes, though. Their best non-conference win is at South Alabama, and they are only 3-7 in true road games. They have three road games in their final five, but if they figure out a way to get to 10 victories and win the SEC West, it might be difficult not including them in the Field of 65.

Xavier (18-7 (8-3), RPI: 37, SOS: 68, vs. Top 50: 3-2, Last 10: 7-3, R/N: 7-6): The Musketeers were somewhat of a disappointing team back in mid-January, but they have turned it around and are now in position to grab an at-large bid if they don't win the Atlantic-10 Tournament. They are a half-game behind Massachusetts in the standings. Xavier's RPI is good, and their SOS is solid. Moreover, they are 8-5 against the Top 100, and have a host of good non-league wins, including Illinois, Kansas State, Villanova, and VCU. With three home games in their final five, Xavier should be able to get to at least 12 A-10 wins.

Old Dominion (20-7 (13-3), RPI: 50, SOS: 100, vs. Top 50: 2-3, Last 10: 8-2, R/N: 6-5): The Monarchs are another team that has turned around their postseason chances in the past month. ODU was 5-3 in the league on January 20th, but they have since won eight in a row to get to twenty wins. Their RPI and SOS are not overly impressive, but they own a win at Georgetown. Moreover, ODU has a winnable Bracket Busters game at Toledo, and two more winnable CAA games to finish the season. I can't see a 23-7 (15-3) team from the CAA not getting a bid, especially if they get to at least the semi-finals in Richmond.

Drexel (18-7 (11-5), RPI: 55, SOS: 105, vs. Top 50: 1-3, Last 10: 7-4, R/N: 11-4): The Dragons were surpassed by ODU as the team from the CAA with the best chance of getting an at-large bid outside of VCU. Three losses in their last seven might do them in. The only reasons I'm keeping them on the Watch are their road wins at Syracuse and Villanova, as well as their unbelievably good road record. Bad losses to Rider and William & Mary essentially cancel them out, though, as does Drexel's fourth-place position in the CAA standings. Their Bracket Busters game at Creighton should be outstanding, though.

Appalachian State (17-6 (12-3), RPI: 60, SOS: 139, vs. Top 50: 3-2, Last 10: 8-2, R/N: 9-5): The Mountaineers might be a longshot to get an at-large bid given their conference affiliation and plethora of bad losses, but they have one of the best collection of non-conference wins of any bubble team. ASU knocked off Virginia, Vanderbilt, and VCU--in the span of 11 days. However, their RPI and SOS are falling rapidly, and defeats to Elon, UNC-Greensboro, and Furman don't look good on their profile. On the other hand, if they run the table (including a road win at Wichita State) and reach the SoCon Finals, it will be interesting.

San Diego State (16-7 (7-4), RPI: 48, SOS: 57, vs. Top 50: 2-5, Last 10: 7-3, R/N: 5-5): The Aztecs could be "that" team. You know, the team that underachieves the entire season, then turns it on over the last month or so of the season and ends up getting an at-large bid and winning a game or two in the Tournament. SDSU was 11-7 overall and 2-4 in the MWC on January 23rd. Since then, though, they have won five in a row, including dominant wins over Air Force and UNLV. They do have three road games left in their final five, but their power numbers are rising and they are playing well lately.

Gonzaga (18-9 (8-3), RPI: 67, SOS: 87, vs. Top 50: 3-5, Last 10: 7-3, R/N: 8-8): When's the last time Gonzaga was really in danger of not making the NCAA Tournament? Well, this year, it's going to take a huge effort to get them an at-large bid. Their RPI and SOS are very poor, and they are not even winning their own conference. On the other hand, the Bulldogs have wins over North Carolina, Texas, Stanford, and Washington, and a good road record. This Saturday's match-up at home vs. Memphis will make or break their season. If they lose, their at-large chances are pretty much gone. If they win, they have a chance.


  1. Great read, I would love to read another writeup such as this right before conference tournaments.

  2. You'll get to read one next week, if you so choose.

    Every Thursday from here on out.

  3. How do you figure DePaul doesn't have a shot at the NCAA? They are ahead of Nova and Providence in the Big East, and are coming off back to back wins against Notre Dame and Marquette, two other NCAA tourney teams you mentioned. With a strength of schedule at 16 in the nation, and wins against Kansas, Marquette, Notre Dame, Villanova, and Cal, how are they not even being talked about?

  4. They'll be on next week's Bubble Watch, and I'll talk about them in tonight's "Road to Selection Sunday" column.