Friday, January 24, 2014

Bubble Watch: January 24

This week there are 23 locks and 7 near-locks, leaving 16 bids for the 28 teams on the bubble.

The first five teams left out of this week's bracket are Dayton, Boise State, Clemson, North Carolina, and Providence.

American Athletic (5 projected bids)

Locks: Louisville (100%), Cincinnati (98%)
Near-Locks: Memphis (96%)
Good Shape: Connecticut (88%), SMU (85%)
A week ago, all five of these teams were in the near-lock category. Louisville beat UConn, bumping the Cardinals up to a full lock and dropping the Huskies temporarily into the Good Shape category. SMU won both its games this week, but saw their magic number for staying in the RPI top 40 bump up a win from 22 to 23.

Atlantic 10 (4 projected bids)

Locks: Massachusetts (100%), Saint Louis (100%)
Near-Locks: VCU (96%)
Good Shape: George Washington (81%)
On The Bubble: Dayton (31%), Richmond (29%)
Work To Do: La Salle (10%)
Long Shots: St. Joseph's (8%), St. Bonaventure (6%)
The A-10 teams continued to beat up on each other this week. VCU looks to have solidified its status a little bit, but the other five teams will probably bubble up and down for the remainder of the season. Those six teams are in a game of musical chairs for probably 1 or 2 bids, and whoever's able to win a few at the end of February and beginning of March will find themselves in the Tournament.

Atlantic Coast (5 projected bids)

Locks: Duke (100%), Syracuse (100%), Pittsburgh (100%), Virginia (99%), Florida St. (98%)
On The Bubble: North Carolina (30%)
Work To Do: Clemson (18%), Maryland (16%)
Long Shots: Wake Forest (6%), N.C. State (4%)
The ACC's bubble teams aren't doing the league any favors. North Carolina is better than their conference record, but they've dug themselves a mighty big hole to climb out of. Clemson can't win away from Littlejohn. And Maryland, Wake, and NC State just aren't very good basketball teams.

Big 12 (7 projected bids)

Locks: Kansas (100%), Oklahoma St. (100%), Iowa St. (100%)
Near-Locks: Oklahoma (91%)
Good Shape: Baylor (85%), Kansas St. (79%)
On The Bubble: Texas (50%)
By the end of the season, all ten of the teams in the Big 12 will have RPI schedule strengths ranked in the national top 50. If you're wondering why middling teams like Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State, and Texas are in such good shape for the Tournament, there's your answer.

Big East (3 projected bids)

Locks: Villanova (100%), Creighton (100%)
Good Shape: Xavier (79%)
On The Bubble: Providence (35%)
Long Shots: Georgetown (8%), Marquette (4%)
Two weeks ago, Providence had a 3% chance of reaching the NCAA Tournament. Four wins later, they're better than a 1-in-3 shot to Dance. The Friars' have improved their TAPE rank from #92 to #65 over that time, and their offense has improved from #130 nationally to #65. 

Big Ten (6 projected bids)

Locks: Michigan St. (100%), Wisconsin (100%), Michigan (100%), Iowa (100%), Ohio St. (100%), Minnesota (98%)
Long Shots: Illinois (7%), Indiana (6%)
Six Big Ten teams are playing for seeds rather than selection. Illinois and Indiana can only hope to improve their NIT seeds at this point.

Conference USA (1 projected bid)

On The Bubble: Southern Miss (58%)
Southern Miss built their schedule beautifully this year. Their best wins out of conference came against Georgia State and at North Dakota State, and they lost the only game they played against a good team when Louisville beat them by 31 points. So despite having a TAPE ranking in the mid-60s, the Golden Eagles should finish the season with an RPI in the top-30. That might be too good for the committee to ignore should they fall in a rematch with a much better Louisiana Tech team in the C-USA championship.

Horizon (1 projected bid)

Long Shots: Wis. Green Bay (8%)

Mid-American (1 projected bid)

Work To Do: Toledo (19%)
Long Shots: East. Michigan (2%)

Missouri Valley (1 projected bid)

Locks: Wichita St. (100%)
Long Shots: Indiana St. (3%)

Mountain West (2 projected bids)

Locks: San Diego St. (99%)
Good Shape: New Mexico (84%)
On The Bubble: Boise St. (36%)
Long Shots: Utah St. (3%)
Boise State's two best wins this season have been a two-point loss to Iowa State on Christmas Day in Hawaii and a three-point loss at San Diego State. The Broncos have to go 9-3 the rest of the way to make the NCAA Tournament, and even that might not be enough unless that includes a win or two against San Diego State or New Mexico. The first and second Wednesdays in February will make or break Boise State's season when those two teams travel to Idaho.

Pacific 12 (7 projected bids)

Locks: Arizona (100%), UCLA (100%)
Near-Locks: Colorado (95%)
Good Shape: California (87%), Oregon (80%)
On The Bubble: Stanford (68%), Arizona St. (47%)
Long Shots: Oregon St. (7%), Utah (2%)
How bad was Washington's non-conference season? So bad that despite now being projected to finish in the top half of what has generally been regarded as the best or second-best conference in the country, the Huskies have just a 0.6% chance of finishing with a top-40 RPI. But if Washington gets to at least 10 or 11 wins in the Pac-12--something they have a 31% chance and 13% chance of doing, respectively--you'd have to think they'd at least have the attention of the committee.

Southeastern (5 projected bids)

Locks: Florida (100%), Kentucky (100%)
On The Bubble: Tennessee (74%), Arkansas (58%), Missouri (53%)
Work To Do: LSU (21%)
Long Shots: Alabama (4%), Mississippi (4%)
Ole Miss is 4-1 in the SEC--and they'll probably be 5-1 by Saturday evening--but those wins have come against Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt. The lesson here is, don't start talking a team up to the bubble without first checking to see just exactly who their nice-looking record came against.

Summit (1 projected bid)

Long Shots: North Dakota St. (6%)

West Coast (2 projected bids)

On The Bubble: Gonzaga (66%)
Work To Do: BYU (24%)
Long Shots: St. Mary's (2%)
College basketball is way more fun when St. Mary's and Gonzaga are both good. This year they're losing to Santa Clara and Portland and it's not even worth staying up late here on the east coast to watch some WCC games.

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