College Basketball Bubble Watch
Bubble fans unite to root on Winthrop's Eagles
If you are a fan of Purdue or Georgia Tech or Kansas State or any other team harboring at-large dreams, you'll want to tune in at 2 ET on ESPN2 and root your tail off for Winthrop to win the Big South title.
Some good fortune has smiled upon the bubblers already. With 13-18 VMI's unlikely march to the Big South final from the 6-seed, a loss for the Eagles would be much, much more harmful for their at-large profile than had they lost to High Point, the conference's No. 2 team. Still, the best result for every team in the tables below is for Winthrop to get the auto bid and remove itself from at-large contention.
There was one other large development from Friday night that also helped the bubble teams -- App State's tough 89-87 OT loss to College of Charleston in the SoCon semis.
A rough pre-game calculation of App State's profile exclusively with transfer Donte Minter in the lineup showed the Mountaineers at 19-3 with an RPI in the high 30s and away/neutral wins over Virginia, Vanderbilt, VCU and Wichita State. That is a profile worth very serious at-large consideration, especially as it held up in a modest conference.
Now? The Mountaineers almost certainly are done, victimized by a sensational performance by CofC guard Dontaye Draper (38 points, including 29 after halftime) and an awful shooting night from guard D.J. Thompson (1 of 15 before a meaningless 3 at the buzzer). Saturday's Bobby Cremins-back-to-the-NCAAs angle against Davidson is nice, but being denied the battle of the SoCon titans, possibly with an at-large in the offing, is a bit disappointing -- for everyone but fans of bubble dwellers. Yes, Davidson is 26-4, but a lack of real profile heft makes them an at-large long shot if they lose to the Cougars.
Here's the updated look at the bubble. Make sure to check out the newly created bubble scoreboard each day for all the important games on one page.
Here's the latest bubble picture, compliments of the chef:
|The Bubble Breakdown|
|CONFERENCE||LOCKS||SHOULD BE INS||AT-LARGES TAKEN (OUT OF 34)
(assuming no auto bid outlier)
If your team's not on here, there's probably a good reason (or three) -- start with the RPI and SOS numbers and work your way down.
(Please remember, per selection committee criteria, that records displayed are Division I only. Next update: Mar. 2)
If you have a legitimate grievance, or just like talking bubble, send an e-mail. Polite ones with fact-based arguments have a much better chance of receiving a response. I apologize in advance if I can't get back to all of you.
|Atlantic Coast Conference|
|Work left to do: Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech|
Bad news for FSU and Clemson as Georgia Tech took full advantage of a home chance against a shaky UNC squad. The W puts the Jackets at the head of the current three-team race, although I'll hold off from a status bump for now. Six ACC teams are locked up at this point.
Work left to do:
Clemson [16-15 (8-10), RPI: 103, SOS: 64] The Tigers got the first piece of the puzzle -- barely -- by edging Miami in OT. Now the Tigers' season very well could come down to the game at Virginia Tech on Sunday. As with FSU, I can't see 6-10 getting it done. That would be 10 losses in 13 games to close out the regular season. Clemson's been very competitive in most of the losses, but there's no really positive way you can spin the skid. Unless they beat the Hokies, who are in play for a league title, they very well could be left out. There are no great nonconference wins, but ODU, App State, Miss. State, South Carolina and Georgia are all respectable W's.
Florida State [17-16 (8-10), RPI: 111, SOS: 71] It's worth noting that the Noles' recent skid came without PG Toney Douglas, who should be back for the ACC tournament. That should be taken into account in a bubble situation. It's also worth noting that FSU was swept by both Clemson and Georgia Tech, which could be very damaging. The game at Miami on Saturday is basically an elimination game for FSU. You can make a case for the Seminoles at 7-9 in ACC play (and some work in the ACC tourney), but 6-10 is not going to cut it. Wins at Duke and over Florida will resonate, but the computer numbers remain questionable. Beyond Florida, FSU thrashed bubble buddy Providence, but there's not a ton beyond that in the nonconference schedule that will help. They didn't show well in big-time opportunities against Pitt and Wisconsin (before the Florida win).
Georgia Tech [12-19 (3-15), RPI: 151, SOS: 24] The enormous home win over North Carolina Thursday is a huge boost to the Jackets' at-large hopes. With a shot at BC at home on Sunday to get to 8-8 and a good number of Top 50 wins, the Jackets are pushing to be ACC team No. 7. GT is now 7-8 against the RPI Top 50, which looks very solid, but the NonConf SOS of 169 doesn't. Could it be a "Rob Base situation" for the Jackets, where it might take two to make a thing go right? They can take care of that either by downing BC and winning their first ACC tourney game, or getting two in the tournament. The Jackets swept FSU and split with Clemson, losing by a point on the road. A nonconference win over Memphis helps, and the RPI and SOS are improving (albeit still not great).
|Big 12 Conference|
|Work left to do: Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech|
Texas Tech backed up its good fortune from Tuesday by handling Baylor to put itself in solid position. Kansas State's loss to Oklahoma State weakens the Wildcats' position relative to the Red Raiders. Will the Big 12 be stuck at four bids?
Work left to do:
Oklahoma State [17-13 (8-10), RPI: 46, SOS: 18] The Cowboys thumped K-State at home Tuesday to stay alive. Now they need to go get road wins at Baylor and Nebraska. Getting both would increase OK State's season road win total to two, which is a lot of the problem (although it has won five neutral-site games). Can the Cowboys save their season? It's hard to recall a team (OK, other than Clemson) falling so precipitously from lock status to out of the NCAAs. There are some good nonconference performances to lean on, specifically beating Missouri State and Syracuse on neutral floors and Pitt in OK City, but it might not be enough.
Kansas State [15-17 (8-10), RPI: 96, SOS: 20] The Wildcats were beaten soundly at Oklahoma State on Tuesday night, which was a very bad impression to make. Yes, they could beat Oklahoma at home to get to 10-6 in the Big 12, but the league wins would be over Colorado (twice), Missouri (twice), Iowa State (twice), Baylor, Nebraska, Oklahoma and (a good one against) Texas. Look, conference wins are always good, but that crew and a middling nonconference schedule helps explain the weak computer profile. The win over USC is nice, but there's not a lot else there. If they don't do much in the Big 12 tournament, the Cats could become the third Big 12 North team to get to 10 wins and miss the NCAAs.
Texas Tech [13-19 (3-15), RPI: 179, SOS: 57] An important win over Baylor Wednesday night leaves the Red Raiders a win away from feeling pretty good about their chances. Get the game at Iowa State on the weekend and the Red Raiders likely are good to go, fueled by the strength of the three wins over Texas A&M and Kansas. There's not a lot in nonconference play (against Arkansas in Little Rock being the best win, by far) to lean on, either, so getting one more win to close things out might be key.
|Big East Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Villanova, Syracuse|
Work left to do: Providence, West Virginia, DePaul
Villanova took an important step forward by winning at UConn. The Cats join Syracuse in the next level up -- which is funny, because they meet in the season finale, meaning one almost certainly will be good to go after that. Will anyone else get there? West Virginia isn't in great shape after losing at Pitt, DePaul's lacking the wins, and Providence is lacking more.
Should be in:
Villanova [32-2 (16-2), RPI: 4, SOS: 52] Nova fans need to thank Indiana for hiring Kelvin Sampson and freeing up Scottie Reynolds to come to the Main Line. The freshman erupted for 40 much-needed points as the Wildcats scraped past UConn on the road. Now a home win over Syracuse should be enough with the strong computer numbers and a host of wins away from The Pavilion. The Cats have beaten Texas and swept the Big 5 (never easy in Philly), but have a couple of losses to bubble teams (Xavier, Drexel), too. I still think they'll be OK, possibly even at 8-8, but why risk it?
Syracuse [18-13 (9-9), RPI: 67, SOS: 35] The Orange get a bump up after the big home win over Georgetown got them to 10 league wins, but they probably need one more W to feel completely safe. They end at desperate Villanova, so it might have to wait until the first round of the Big East tournament. The relative lack of nonconference heft and the weakish computer numbers are still concerns, but the Orange have won five in a row and have a legit go-to player in Demetris Nichols.
Work left to do:
Providence [22-11 (11-7), RPI: 23, SOS: 5] Underpubbed Friars star Herbert Hill almost single-handedly kept the Friars alive, posting a 28 and 15 in a tight win at South Florida. Barring an unexpected run to the Big East semis or beyond, it's probably too little, too late, though. The RPI, bad already, won't be helped by playing St. John's in the final league games.
West Virginia [23-9 (11-7), RPI: 24, SOS: 39] The Mountaineers came up short at Pitt and may very well need to win three games in a row to make it. They can still get to 9-7 in the Big East by beating Cincinnati, but the nine wins would be against UConn, Villanova, St. John's, South Florida, DePaul, Rutgers, Seton Hall twice and the Bearcats. Beating bubble foes and minnows is fine, but where's the beef? Outside of beating PG-less UCLA in nonconference play (still a top-quality win), there's not a lot to fall back on (besides maybe NC State). WVU is now probably (at best) eighth in the pecking order in a conference that might get only seven NCAA bids.
DePaul [12-20 (6-12), RPI: 195, SOS: 95] The Blue Demons should get past South Florida to get to 9-7, but then what? They have beaten Kansas and Cal (right after the DeVon Hardin injury) earlier this season, but also have lost to Bradley and Purdue, among others. They'll likely need a couple of BE tourney wins, too, but we'll see ...
|Big Ten Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Michigan State, Indiana|
Work left to do: Purdue, Illinois, Michigan
Thanks to the four million Illinois fans who wrote in to "correct" the most recent Illinois-Purdue debate. To sum up for everyone else: 1) If Purdue beats Minnesota, the Boilers will also have five wins against the league's bottom three, but they also lost at Minnesota; 2) Many Illinois fans would have preferred to have played OSU and Wisconsin on the road in exchange for easier home games, as no one wins on the road in this league anyway; and 3) Purdue also beat Missouri. Bottom line: Illinois is ahead of Purdue, but it's pretty close. Iowa drops off the watch after losing at Penn State, but Indiana eked out a critical win at Northwestern. Michigan State might have really hurt itself Tuesday night by losing at Michigan. Meanwhile, the Wolverines have a pulse. They still have some ground to make up, but a win over Ohio State would be a wonderful start.
Should be in:
Michigan State [23-11 (12-6), RPI: 22, SOS: 7] The lack of any road performance is why Michigan State was not considered a lock after its recent four-game home sweep, and Tuesday night proved that again in spades. The Spartans dented their own at-large hopes and might have resuscitated in-state rival Michigan's with the loss in Ann Arbor. MSU is now only 1-7 on the road, which is a big red flag for the committee. What's more, the Spartans close at Wisconsin, which will be looking to lick some wounds of its own. Beating Texas early will hold up well, as will the rout of Bradley and the win over BYU -- which now has at least a share of the MWC crown -- but will 8-8 be enough? It very well could be, as the computer numbers are good, but it's far from a lock heading into the conference tournament, should that be the case.
Indiana [20-13 (9-9), RPI: 58, SOS: 23] The Hoosiers are not exactly cruising to the finish line, but at least they got the close win at Northwestern and should be in good shape for the finale against Penn State. IU might want to get that one to feel completely safe after dropping its third of four. Who knew the best nonconference win would be over Southern Illinois, which is a gift that keeps on giving for the Hoosiers? The win over Wisconsin also looks good on the mantel.
Work left to do:
Purdue [21-12 (12-6), RPI: 53, SOS: 68] The Boilers beat down Minnesota to get halfway to 9-7. Now they must handle Northwestern. After that? We'll see where the bubble pool sits. They have some solid nonconference wins over Virginia, DePaul, Missouri and Oklahoma, which is more than Illinois has, and Purdue thrashed the Illini in the only meeting (in West Lafayette). They also have a better RPI Top 50 record. The Boilers very well might need an upset in the B10 quarters to have a legit claim, but the slugfest with the Illini is very interesting.
Illinois [19-13 (9-9), RPI: 72, SOS: 73] As explained in part above, the fact that the Illini did not have to play at either Ohio State or Wisconsin may actually have made the Illini's schedule <i>harder</i> as only one team in the league's middle six has a league road win this season against someone other than the bottom three. Either way, Illinois really needs to go to now-demoralized Iowa and take care of business. If they end up in a cluster of teams at 9-7, it's very possible the Illini won't have the best profile. In nonconference play, Illinois beat Bradley and Missouri but lost to Xavier. A 9-7 mark and a semifinals trip in Chicago could be enough with the computer profile hanging in there, but it would be better not to mess around.
Michigan [15-16 (8-10), RPI: 81, SOS: 8] Kudos to the Wolverines, who won an elimination game Tuesday night, handling Michigan State. Now they get the chance for a marquee win against an already-wrapped-up-the-league Ohio State squad. Win that one and we can start talking about what they would need in Chicago. There is no marquee win yet in the profile, and the Wolverines were splattered in several games against name opponents. A mediocre computer profile fueled by a lack of road wins isn't helping, either, but things look significantly better than they did two games ago.
|Teams that should be in: Stanford|
Stanford moves one step closer to the dance after getting past Arizona State. The Cardinal look in very good shape to make it six from this conference. Arizona got the road win at Cal, rendering the disaster scenario moot.
Should be in:
Stanford [19-13 (9-9), RPI: 61, SOS: 51] Stanford handled Arizona State Thursday night and looks very well-positioned to be the sixth Pac-10 team in. It would be very nice (and clinching) to beat Arizona to close out the regular season and get to 11 Pac-10 wins, but 10's probably enough this season. The Cardinal have nonconference wins over Texas Tech and at Virginia to lean on, although they also lost badly to Air Force and Santa Clara at home and also were beaten at home by Gonzaga.
|Work left to do: Georgia, Alabama|
Both Mississippi schools dropped off the watch Wednesday with losses to Alabama and Arkansas. It still looks possible that no one from the SEC West will make the NCAAs. Kentucky can now take a deep breath. No full-on collapse for the Cats ...
Work left to do:
Georgia [21-11 (11-7), RPI: 37, SOS: 33] Bad time for Levi Stukes to get suspended, as the shorthanded Bulldogs lost at Kentucky and now are in some significant bubble trouble. They do close home to Tennessee, which would be a nice RPI boost with a win. Finishing at least 9-7 is now an absolute must. They also beat Gonzaga, but lost to ACC bubblers Georgia Tech and Clemson, and likely need a deep SEC tournament run -- maybe the finals to have a legit claim.
Alabama [17-14 (8-10), RPI: 84, SOS: 59] The Tide pulled away after halftime to handle Ole Miss, but they need more wins. There's still no signature victory on the profile (no, Kentucky doesn't count), and the computer profile is middling. The Tide very well could win at Miss. State to get to 8-8 and clinch at least a share of the West crown, but that's probably not enough right now. The Tide will need to do some work in the SEC tourney.
|Other at-large contenders|
|Teams that should be in: Air Force|
Work left to do: VCU, San Diego State, Xavier, Davidson, Old Dominion, Massachusetts, Hofstra, Winthrop, Drexel, Appalachian State
The ultimate SoCon throwdown was derailed by CofC and Dontaye's inferno, and we've likely said goodbye to App State as a serious at-large. That's kind of a shame, because the Mountaineers' profile with Donte Minter was very good.
Calls for Utah State after the home win over Nevada are premature. The Aggies are always tough at home (12-0 this season) but can finish no better than third in the WAC and are 3-6 against the Top 100.
In other news, Xavier's creeping closer to a bid. Would two more wins be enough? BYU joins the list of locks after clinching at least a share of the Mountain West regular-season title with an impressive win at Air Force, ending the Falcons' 30-game home winning streak. It's now fair to wonder what would happen to AFA should it lose its MWC quarterfinal. Memphis, Butler, UNLV and Nevada remain locks.
Beyond that, here's the best approximation of the teams that have a reasonable shot at an at-large bid at this point.
Worth noting: There's no reasonable at-large candidate in the MAC or C-USA (outside of Memphis). Can Gonzaga get out of the WCC without the auto bid? That's a very tough question at this point and would be hotly debated (and might be dependent upon Josh Heytvelt's status). The CAA has some sort of a legit claim to at least two bids, although it's hard to parse among the regular-season champ (VCU), which has a light nonconference slate; second-place Old Dominion, which won at Georgetown and finished a game back with a much harder conference schedule; and Drexel, which has the best nonconference performance but finished fourth. Beyond that? It could be a big year for the middling high-majors; this field is not terribly inspiring.
Should be in:
Air Force [12-17 (6-12), RPI: 241, SOS: 187] Air Force's third straight loss, this time at home to BYU, puts the Falcons definitively third in the MWC pecking order and puts a huge amount of pressure on its quarterfinal game in the conference tournament. Losing at TCU might be crippling if the Falcons end their season on a four-game skid. The RPI is getting worse, and the nonconference schedule, though littered with routs of "name" opponents, doesn't have a ton of significant heft. Rolling at Stanford and beating Texas Tech in KC definitely will help. I still think Air Force will be OK, but the Falcons had better not test the committee too badly.
Work left to do:
VCU [26-9 (12-6), RPI: 14, SOS: 9] The Rams will be a very interesting at-large case. The computer numbers are extremely questionable, but how do you neg the regular-season champion of the CAA? I think that would be wrong. Then again, it's fair to note that VCU only played four games against the CAA's other big three (going 2-2) while second-place ODU had to play home-and-home with the three other heavyweights (going 4-2). The home loss to Bradley in BracketBusters could really hurt, as there's no real heft anywhere in the nonconference win column. Should they make it to the CAA finals, I think they should get in, but we'll see how the entire picture unfolds.
San Diego State [25-8 (14-4), RPI: 27, SOS: 79] The Aztecs suffered a loss at Utah that very well could have ended reasonable at-large hopes. That will hit the RPI pretty hard, too. They still could win the MWC Tournament and possibly steal a bid, but that might be their most reasonable path now.
Xavier [21-13 (9-9), RPI: 30, SOS: 10] X is on a roll and is rolling toward an at-large bid. That's now seven wins in a row after toppling Saint Joseph's on Wednesday. Still a co-leader in the A-10 with UMass, Xavier has beaten VCU, Villanova, Illinois and K-State in nonconference play, so the profile is pretty well-rounded. If it wins a share of the league's regular-season title and doesn't flame out in the conference tourney, it could happen.
Davidson [23-7 (14-4), RPI: 33, SOS: 122] The App State loss may have hurt Davidson, too, as the Wildcats now draw the homestanding CofC Cougars in the SoCon final and lost the safety net of App State's better profile should they lose. They won the league at 17-1, but have two non-Div. I wins. They did win Arizona State's Christmas event (also beating Ohio from the MAC), and beat the MAC's Western Michigan and pasted disappointing Charlotte by 28 in their best nonconference moments. They also lost by 28 at Duke, but have won 24 of their last 25 games.
Old Dominion [24-7 (13-5), RPI: 45, SOS: 146] The Monarchs did win out but finished second behind VCU in the CAA, which leaves them in an interesting position. None of the nonconference losses is bad, and the win at Georgetown (on campus) was very nice. A trip to the CAA finals should get this team a bid, in my opinion, but anything short of that could see the dream end.
Massachusetts [17-15 (10-8), RPI: 80, SOS: 36] Stephane Lasme keeps posting triple-doubles and UMass keeps staying in the at-large mix. Minutemen fans have asked -- fairly -- why I am so much more bullish on VCU than on the A-10 co-leaders (who also have a win at Louisville). Part of it is that I might have moderately oversold VCU. The perception that the CAA is better doesn't really hold up in the conference RPI comparison, but I think the top four in the CAA are better than the same in the A-10. Would be an interesting challenge, though. For now, the Minutemen need to keep winning games. The last one (at Saint Joe's) is difficult but gettable, and that would give UMass a share of the regular-season crown. Beyond the win at the 'Ville, the Minutemen don't have much else to push as evidence from their nonconference slate.
Hofstra [20-13 (10-8), RPI: 173, SOS: 290] Ended up third in the CAA, and with the fourth-place team having a much better at-large profile, it looks like auto bid or bust for the Pride.
Winthrop [16-13 (12-6), RPI: 211, SOS: 323] Winthrop rolled after halftime in its Big South semifinal and now is one step away from an auto bid and rendering the at-large debate moot. And what a weird last step it is, as the opponent will be No. 6 seed VMI and its insane uptempo system. Or at least that's what the Keydets did during the regular season before throttling back to merely fast in the conference tourney to great offensive efficiency improvement. If you're looking for a hoops fix on Saturday at 2 p.m. and like offense, tune in. Winthrop <i>averaged</i> 109 points a game in the home-and-home with the Keydets in conference play. Should Winthrop lose, would the damage caused by VMI's poor profile cost Winthrop an at-large? The computer numbers wouldn't be there, but anyone who watches this team knows it can play -- and knows it could win a game or two in the NCAAs. Torching MO State in the Friday night BracketBusters main event was very big for a team that lacks a real marquee win. The four non-Div. I wins might haunt the Eagles, although no one in his right mind would come and play in Rock Hill this season. Missing on all four marquee nonconference chances also didn't help matters, although two (UNC and Wisconsin) were extremely close and a third (Maryland) was competitive.
Drexel [11-18 (9-9), RPI: 246, SOS: 188] The kings of the road are still alive, but with a fourth-place finish in the CAA, they have some work to do in the conference tourney. The good news is that they get league kingpin VCU in the semis, so they can make a statement there. The Dragons have a number of very good wins (including at Syracuse, at Villanova, vs. Saint Joe's) and several curious losses (at Penn by 19, at Rider) in nonconference play. They also have 13 road wins, which is a huge number. A very interesting at-large case, especially as they have a much better profile than Hofstra despite finishing a game behind the Pride for third in the CAA.
Appalachian State [12-17 (9-11), RPI: 250, SOS: 274] Losing by two on a night when CofC got a career night from its leading scorer and App State got a career (worst) shooting night from its has to sting. The Mountaineers probably saw their at-large crushed by the hailstorm of 3s from the Cougars' Dontaye Draper. They do have wins at Wichita State in BracketBusters, at VCU, and against Virginia and Vanderbilt on a neutral floor, but those probably won't be enough now.