Friday, February 14, 2014

Bubble Watch: Valentine's Day Edition

Selection Sunday is four weeks from Sunday, and if you've been paying any attention to the assembled wisdom of the college basketball media (and, let's be honest here, if you're digging deep enough to read this you probably have been) you might think that the tournament hopes of something close to a hundred teams rise and fall with every game that goes final. These people will try to convince you that Pittsburgh is in danger of missing the tournament because they've been unable to beat any really good teams. They'll fret over Gonzaga's lack of a signature win. They'll talk up the Big Wins scored by Providence and Indiana and pretend that those teams might actually have a chance to be in the Tournament. They'll remind you not to forget about St. Mary's. 

Don't listen to them. These people are not trying to inform you. They're just trying to get you to keep clicking on their articles.

The truth is, there are 15 teams who could lose all of their remaining regular season games and still make the Tournament. Another six will be in with just one more win. And 15 more would have to screw up so unexpectedly and colossally over the next four weeks that it's hard to imagine them not making the Tournament. That leaves just ten spots up for grabs. There are only 23 teams with realistic chances to claim one of those spots.

The last four byes in this week's bracket are Cal, Missouri, Arizona State, and UMass. Xavier, Florida State, Georgetown, and West Virginia are in Dayton. The first five teams excluded are Baylor, St. John's, Arkansas, Dayton, BYU, and Boise State.

American Athletic (5 projected bids)

Locks: Cincinnati (100%), Connecticut (100%)
Near-Locks: Louisville (99%), Memphis (99%), SMU (93%)
There's no drama here. Memphis's comeback win over Gonzaga erased whatever doubts may have surrounded the Tigers, and SMU's romp over Cincinnati solidified the Mustangs' place in the field.

Atlantic 10 (4 projected bids)

Locks: Saint Louis (100%)
Near-Locks: VCU (99%), Massachusetts (99%), George Washington (99%)
On The Bubble: Dayton (22%), Richmond (22%)
Work To Do: St. Joseph's (13%)
Richmond, Dayton, and St. Joe's all need five more wins.

Atlantic Coast (6 projected bids)

Locks: Duke (100%), Syracuse (100%), Virginia (100%)
Near-Locks: North Carolina (97%), Pittsburgh (93%)
On The Bubble: Florida St. (50%)
Work To Do: Maryland (16%), N.C. State (8%), Clemson (7%)
Pittsburgh is not now, nor will they be, a bubble team. Yes, the Panthers' seeding will suffer from a lack of any wins over top-50 teams, but power conference teams with no good wins and no bad losses always make the NCAA Tournament. That's what the 9- and 10-seed lines are there for. FSU is hanging on by a thread as the last team in this week's bracket. The Seminoles need to go 4-2 to finish the season in order to secure a bid. NC State needs to win five of its remaining seven regular season games and Clemson six of its remaining seven to earn NCAA bids.

Big 12 (7 projected bids)

Locks: Kansas (100%), Iowa St. (100%)
Near-Locks: Texas (98%), Oklahoma St. (95%), Oklahoma (94%), Kansas St. (93%)
On The Bubble: Baylor (40%), West Virginia (26%)

West Virginia needs to win five of its remaining six games to post a top-50 RPI ranking, but even a 3-3 record down the stretch should be strong enough to earn the Mountaineers at least a trip to Dayton given the quality of their play in the Big 12. Baylor needs to win four of six to keep their hopes alive.

Big East (4 projected bids)

Locks: Villanova (100%), Creighton (100%)
Good Shape: Xavier (77%)
On The Bubble: Georgetown (53%), St. John's (27%)
Work To Do: Providence (18%)

Xavier just needs to win 3 of its remaining seven games and make sure not to lose to DePaul at home on Wednesday night and they'll be in the field as a dangerous 10- or 11-seed. Georgetown probably sneaks in if they can finish with a .500 Big East record. St. John's dodged a bullet when they snuck out of Seton Hall with a win last night, but the Johnnies can't lose more than one more regular season game.

Big Ten (6 projected bids)

Locks: Michigan St. (100%), Wisconsin (100%), Michigan (100%), Iowa (100%), Ohio St. (100%)
Good Shape: Minnesota (78%)
Long Shots: Nebraska (7%)
If Minnesota can go 3-3 down the stretch and finish 18-11 (8-9) they should be okay. Nebraska needs to win five of their remaining seven.

CUSA (1 projected bid)

On The Bubble: Southern Miss (35%)

Mid-American (1 projected bid)

On The Bubble: Toledo (27%)

Missouri Valley (1 projected bid)

Locks: Wichita St. (100%)

Mountain West (2 projected bids)

Locks: San Diego St. (100%)
Near-Locks: New Mexico (96%)
Work To Do: Boise St. (9%)
Boise State needs to win out, hope that UNLV and Utah State finish strong enough to remain in the RPI top 100, and hope that the committee still considers the Mountain West a strong enough league that they'll treat the Broncos the same way they'll treat Pittsburgh.

Pac12 (7 projected bids)

Locks: Arizona (100%), UCLA (100%)
Near-Locks: Colorado (99%)
Good Shape: Arizona St. (91%), Stanford (91%), California (89%), Oregon (89%)
Long Shots: Oregon St. (5%)
Stanford, Arizona State, and Cal need 3 wins each. Oregon needs four more wins, but with Oregon State and the Washington schools at home and a game at Southern Cal still on the docket, their chances of doing so are good. Oregon State needs to finish 6-1.

Southeastern (4 projected bids)

Locks: Florida (100%), Kentucky (100%)
On The Bubble: Tennessee (74%), Missouri (69%)
Work To Do: Arkansas (16%), LSU (15%), Mississippi (8%)
Tennessee and Missouri both need to go 5-2 to finish out the season in order to go dancing. Lucky for them the SEC's bad enough that their chances of doing so are pretty good. LSU and Ole Miss need 5-2 records as well, but both those teams will face much tougher schedules in the next 3 weeks.

West Coast (1 projected bid)

Near-Locks: Gonzaga (98%)
Work To Do: BYU (14%)
Long Shots: St. Mary's (7%)

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