College Basketball Bubble Watch

Updated: February 10, 2006, 1:33 PM ET
By Andy Glockner | ESPN.com


With a month left, who's on the bubble?

Welcome to Bubble Watch, the ever-changing, ever-fascinating exercise that focuses solely on which teams will grab the precious 34 at-large slots in the 2006 NCAA Tournament.

First a word to the wise: Bubble Watch is a compilation of the likely bubble candidates as if today were Selection Sunday. With a month left, it's not practical to list every team that has the slightest bubble chance. As the season progresses and teams improve their profiles, you'll see them on this list. If your school isn't here, it is not considered a truly viable at-large team at this point.

So how does the initial snap shot look? There is pretty good news for the mid-majors out there that feel the power conferences gobble up too many of the bids.

Being fairly strict, here is the current power conference distribution (including locks and teams that are considered likely to be in):
• ACC: 4 bids
• Big 12: 3
• Big East: 5
• Big Ten: 7
• Pac-10: 1
• SEC: 3

Figuring in the relative status of the current teams "on the bubble" (and being fairly generous in a couple of cases), the best current estimate looks more like this:
• ACC: 5 bids
• Big 12: 4
• Big East: 7
• Big Ten: 7
• Pac-10: 4
• SEC: 5

Making the fairly safe assumption that the automatic bid winners in each conference will come from the pools of teams below (and therefore not potentially "steal" an extra bid for the conference), the six power conferences are taking 26 of the 34 at-large spots (32 total projected bids minus six auto bids).

That still leaves eight spots open, with few viable ways for the power conferences to get more than this allocation. Those eight spots also are dependent upon teams like Bucknell and Gonzaga winning their conference tournaments, so the Patriot and WCC don't get an extra team. Memphis would also be in that mix, unless UAB (the only viable C-USA bubble team at the moment) wins the auto bid.

Who looks best set to fill that void? The MVC, which has four very strong at-large candidates that have shown minimal separation from each other. The A-10 probably will grab one or two, as well. The MAC? It looks like another one-bid season.

Without further ado, the bubble ...

(Note: Bubble Watch will be updated twice weekly until late February, when it will be updated daily through Selection Sunday. Records are D-I only.)