Thursday, March 1, 2007

Bubble Watch

Welcome back to the Bubble Watch. With only ten days remaining until Selection Sunday, plenty of teams are making moves, in both directions. Some teams picked up statement-making wins, while others are losing games that they need to start winning to garner serious at-large consideration. Over the next week and a half, dozens of teams will have their resumes dissected from all angles, and you will hear the terms “RPI”, “SOS, “Last Ten Games”, and “Road Record” until you go numb. Still, many 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, most conference tournaments haven't even started yet, so there is still lots of basketball left to be played.

According to the numbers, there are 28 locks, plus 7 other teams that would be in as of today, from the major conferences. In other words, combine those 35 bids with 23 automatic bids (and another at-large for Butler), and there are only six bids up for grabs, with 21 teams vying for them.

Here is the breakdown going into Thursday, March 1st:

Locks from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC, Missouri Valley, Mountain West: 28

Bids from the other conferences: 24—23 automatic bids plus Butler (Memphis and Nevada are “locks”)
52 Locks Overall

ACC (6): North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Virginia, Duke, Boston College
Big East (5): Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame

Big Ten (2): Wisconsin, Ohio State
Big 12 (3): Kansas, Texas A&M, Texas
Pac-10 (5): UCLA, Washington State, USC, Oregon, Arizona
SEC (4): Florida, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Kentucky

Missouri Valley (1): Southern Illinois
Mountain West (2): UNLV, BYU

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 (7):
Michigan State
Air Force

Here are the teams that still have a chance to get an at-large bid (Note: Xavier, VCU, Winthrop, Davidson, and Gonzaga are not included, as they are the leaders or the #1 seed in their respective conferences. If they should lose, they will be moved onto the Watch):

Georgia Tech (18-10 (6-8), RPI: 52, SOS: 41, vs. Top 50: 6-8, Last 10: 5-5, R/N: 5-9): The Yellow Jackets looked to be completely out of the at-large race when they were 2-6 through the first of the ACC season. However, they have since won five of seven, and are back in the mix. They still only have one true road win all season, but GT has victories over Memphis, Duke and fellow bubble-dwellers Clemson, Florida State (twice), Purdue, and Georgia. With a game tonight at home against North Carolina, Tech could make a statement heading to the committee. They also play at home this weekend, against Boston College. They need at least a split.

Clemson (20-9 (6-9), RPI: 47, SOS: 49, vs. Top 50: 4-7, Last 10: 3-7, R/N: 7-5): The Tigers are going in the wrong direction at the wrong time. Prior to their home win Wednesday night over Miami (Fl.), they had lost four in a row and nine of their last eleven. They are 9-8 against the Top 100, with wins over bubble teams Florida State (twice), Georgia Tech, Old Dominion, Appalachian State, Georgia, and Mississippi State. They close at Virginia Tech in what is a must-win for Clemson. If they fall in Blacksburg, a 6-10 ACC record won’t garner a bid.

Florida State (18-11 (6-9), RPI: 48, SOS: 14, vs. Top 50: 4-9, Last 10: 4-6, R/N: 4-8): The Seminoles are also trying to play themselves back into the at-large mix. They dominated North Carolina State this past weekend after losing five in a row. Point guard Toney Douglas has missed the past several games with injury, but he should be back for the ACC Tournament, which is something the committee has to look at. They have no bad losses, and knocked off Florida, Duke, Maryland, and Virginia Tech. They absolutely need to win at Miami on Saturday.

West Virginia (19-8 (8-7), RPI: 55, SOS: 96, vs. Top 50: 2-5, Last 10: 5-5, R/N: 7-7): The Mountaineers have lost four of their last six, and are struggling. Their win over UCLA is very nice, but they have nothing else appealing on their non-conference resume. Their SOS is terrible, and their two best wins in Big East play are over Villanova and DePaul. The committee said they are going to look at unbalanced scheduling, and WVU could be a direct casualty of that. If they knock off Cincinnati this weekend to get to 9-7, WVU will still need a good showing in the Big East tourney.

DePaul (16-12 (8-7), RPI: 62, SOS: 21, vs. Top 50: 4-8, Last 10: 5-5, R/N: 4-10): The Blue Demons are making a late run at an at-large bid after starting only 3-5 in conference play. They have won four of five, including wins over Notre Dame and Marquette. DePaul also has victories at Villanova and against Kansas. Their overall record is not impressive, but if they get to 9-7 this weekend against South Florida, and win two games in the Big East tourney, it will be tough to leave them out.

Providence (18-10 (8-7), RPI: 66, SOS: 45, vs. Top 50: 2-8, Last 10: 5-5, R/N: 2-7): The Friars might have killed their hopes with a home loss to Syracuse this past weekend, but their road victory over South Florida gave them a flicker of hope. Despite wins over Boston College, Marquette, and West Virginia, PC’s resume might have too many losses. Their RPI is one of the worst among the at-large candidates, and their Top 50 and road record are terrible. Their road game at St. John’s Sunday is a must-win.

Illinois (21-9 (9-6), RPI: 32, SOS: 22, vs. Top 50: 4-9, Last 10: 7-3, R/N: 7-6): The Fighting Illini are staying alive despite the off-court incidents. The car crash, Brian Carlwell’s ensuing injury, Jamar Smith’s leaving the team—and they are still in third in the Big Ten. Illinois has won six of seven, improving their RPI drastically. Their SOS is also very good, and they have no bad losses. However, the Illini had one of the easier Big Ten schedules, and don’t have many good wins in their resume. A win at Iowa would give them 10 Big Ten wins.

Purdue (19-10 (8-7), RPI: 43, SOS: 39, vs. Top 50: 5-6, Last 10: 6-4, R/N: 4-9): The Boilermakers could be an interesting case come Selection Sunday. Provided they beat Northwestern this weekend, they will be 9-7 heading into the Big Ten Tournament. Purdue doesn’t have an impressive road record, but their power numbers are decent, and they own wins over Virginia, DePaul, Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois. However, they have two bad losses—to Minnesota and Indiana State. They need at least a win the conference tourney.

Michigan (20-10 (8-7), RPI: 50, SOS: 46, vs. Top 50: 4-8, Last 10: 4-6, R/N: 3-8): The Wolverines are actually playing well down the stretch—the exact opposite of previous years. They have won four of six, and picked up a couple of huge wins over Indiana and Michigan State. UM has a great chance to get a statement-making win this Saturday at home against Ohio State. If they win there, and get a win in the Big Ten Tournament, it will be tough to keep them out. Their road record is still not impressive, and they have been blown out in several big games this year.

Texas Tech (19-11 (8-7), RPI: 46, SOS: 15, vs. Top 50: 4-7, Last 10: 4-6, R/N: 4-8): The Red Raiders are developing a great case for an NCAA bid. They have won four of their last five, have swept Texas A&M, and also beat Kansas. Not to mention the fact that they beat fellow bubble team Kansas State on the road, and also knocked off Oklahoma State. Their poor non-conference resume and unimpressive road record could cost them, though. At Iowa State Saturday is a must-win for Bobby Knight and co.

Oklahoma State (19-9 (6-8), RPI: 41, SOS: 30, vs. Top 50: 5-6, Last 10: 4-6, R/N: 5-7): The Cowboys did their best to throw away a sure NCAA bid only a few weeks ago. They have lost six of their last eight, and still don’t own a single road victory all season. OSU does have chances to pick up a couple of road wins, though, when they go on the road to face Baylor and Nebraska. However, star Mario Boggan is suspended for the Baylor match-up.

Kansas State (20-10 (9-6), RPI: 60, SOS: 90, vs. Top 50: 1-6, Last 10: 6-4, R/N: 8-8): The Wildcats are similar to West Virginia in the fact that they don’t have many quality wins, but have a good conference record despite awful computer numbers. KSU has lost four of their last seven since starting Big 12 play 6-2. If they beat Oklahoma this weekend to get to 10 Big 12 wins, they will make an intriguing case. However, they have only one good win in all those conference wins—at Texas.

Georgia (16-11 (8-7), RPI: 54, SOS: 19, vs. Top 50: 2-8, Last 10: 5-5, R/N: 4-8): The Bulldogs seem to always be one of the last teams out of the weekly Field of 65. They have a great SOS and an above .500 SEC record, but their RPI is not impressive, and their Top 50 and overall records aren’t helping them. UGA missed a chance to pick up a big win at Kentucky last night. Playing at home against Tennessee this weekend is a must-win. A loss there, and their at-large chances are essentially shot.

Alabama (20-9 (7-8), RPI: 38, SOS: 50, vs. Top 50: 2-4, Last 10: 5-5, R/N: 6-7): Will any SEC West make the Big Dance? Right now, it seems like Alabama is the only team with a chance—and that’s not a good sign. The Crimson Tide are still below .500 in the SEC, and own only two true road victories all season. They have lost four of their last six, and have to go to Mississippi State in the season finale. ‘Bama needs a win there. Yes, they have wins over Xavier and Kentucky, but that is not nearly enough to overcome their profile deficiencies.

Missouri State (20-9 (12-6), RPI: 37, SOS: 40, vs. Top 50: 3-5, Last 10: 7-3, R/N: 9-5): The Bears look to be in the same position as they were last season. However, this year’s bubble crop is weaker, meaning that MSU is still in good shape. Despite their nationally-televised loss to Winthrop, MSU is playing well lately and finished in third place in the Missouri Valley. They have a very good road record and solid computer numbers. If they pick up a win in the conference tournament, I can’t see the committee leaving MSU out.

Bradley (19-11 (10-8), RPI: 42, SOS: 23, vs. Top 50: 1-7, Last 10: 6-4, R/N: 7-8): Unlike their MVC brethren, Bradley is not in good shape heading into the conference tournament. They won at VCU but turned around the next game and lost at home to slumping Northern Iowa. They have good power numbers, but they have only one win all year against a Top 50 team, and don’t have a very good non-conference resume. I think the Braves need to make a run in the MVC Tournament to have a chance at an at-large bid.

San Diego State (18-9 (9-6), RPI: 56, SOS: 71, vs. Top 50: 3-5, Last 10: 7-3, R/N: 6-7): The Aztecs are another team making a late run at an at-large invitation. They are playing their best basketball of the season, but the loss at Utah on Tuesday was crippling. However, with Air Force’s recent struggles, San Diego State can move into the third seed in the MWC tourney with a victory at home against TCU this weekend. There is nothing impressive on their non-conference profile, and their computer numbers are not attractive.

Old Dominion (23-7 (15-3), RPI: 36, SOS: 93, vs. Top 50: 3-2, Last 10: 10-0, R/N: 8-5): The Monarchs are one of the hottest teams in the country, and are riding that to a potential at-large bid. They have won eleven in a row heading into the conference tournament, and have a chance to win the CAA tourney. However, their SOS is one of the worst in the at-large group, and they have only six top 100 wins. The road win at Georgetown in the non-conference season will hold up well, as will the second-place finish in the Colonial.

Drexel (21-7 (13-5), RPI: 44, SOS: 100, vs. Top 50: 3-2, Last 10: 7-3, R/N: 13-4): The Dragons have one of the most interesting profiles of any team in the country. If one looks at their good non-conference wins (at Syracuse, at Creighton, at Villanova), their play of late, and their road record (the most wins away from in the country), Drexel would likely be in. However, they finished only fourth in the CAA, and have losses to Rider and William & Mary. Moreover, they went only 1-4 against the top three teams in the conference. They will likely have another chance in the CAA semi-finals, though, against VCU.

Appalachian State (12-6 (15-3), RPI: 53, SOS: 153, vs. Top 50: 2-2, Last 10: 9-1, R/N: 12-5): The Mountaineers are another interesting team heading into Championship Week. They own wins over Vanderbilt, VCU, Virginia, and Davidson, but have losses to Elon, Furman, and UNC-Greensboro. They are terrific away from home and are playing well lately, but their SOS is terrible and 16 of their 21 wins are against sub-100 teams. They need to reach the SoCon final (and hope it’s against Davidson) in order to get a bid.

Massachusetts (22-7 (12-3), RPI: 58, SOS: 132, vs. Top 50: 1-4, Last 10: 8-2, R/N: 11-5): The Minutemen might not be feeling so happy on Selection Sunday. If they knock off St. Joseph’s on the road this weekend (no sure thing), UMass will tie for the Atlantic-10 title. Will that be enough for an at-large bid? Based on the rest of their profile, probably not. They have only one Top 50 win (at Louisville), and 18 of their 22 wins are against sub-100 teams. Moreover, the Minutemen have some bad losses on their resume. They need at least a run to the A-10 title game.


  1. Yours is a pretty good assessment.

    However, no conference deserves more than 6 bids.

    ACC > Drop GT & BC
    Big E > Drop S'Cuse & WVA
    Big 10> Good to go
    Big 12> Add K State
    Pac 10> Good to go
    SEC > Good to go
    MVC > Add Bradley
    MWC > Add San Diego State
    CAA > Add Drexel
    Horiz > Good to go

  2. How do Bradley and San Diego State deserve a bid more than Syracuse, Boston College, and Boston College?

    And Kansas State? How many good Big 12 wins do they have? One, over Texas.