Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bubble Watch: The Second Season Nears A Close

I haven't been able to do these (or much of anything with the site, for that matter) as much as I would like this year because, well, life. But we're 15 days away from Selection Sunday, and now's as good a time as any for a better-late-than-never look at where things stand.

Locks (29):

Near-Locks (7):

Oklahoma St. (99%), San Diego St. (99%), N.C. State (99%), Georgia (98%), Davidson (97%), Stanford (96%), St. John's (93%)
Stanford is this high because the laptops--which essentially act as a proxy for the "eye test" in the STAPLE formula--love the Cardinal. Real eyes, probably not so much. Johnny Dawkins's team is probably in the field, just because they've got to scrounge up 68 teams from somewhere, but they're overvalued here.

Good Shape (3):

Colorado St. (88%) - Avoid a loss in Reno tonight, don't wet the bed against Utah State or flame out too early in the MWC Tournament, and the Rams are fine.

Texas (88%) - The Longhorns' recent freefall would be much more problematic for their chances of making the field if the rest of the teams below them on this list weren't doing their damndest to make UT's landing as soft as possible.

Tulsa (87%) - The Golden Hurricane finish up the regular season with games at Memphis and at SMU sandwiching a home game against Cincinnati. That's about as tough of a three-game stretch as the AmCon can offer this year, and Frank Haith's team can't afford to strike out; win one of three, though, and they'll punch their ticket.

On The Bubble (10 teams for 8 slots):

BYU (78%) - The Cougars' position is not really as strong as their numbers here would indicate. Win or lose, they'll get an RPI bounce from playing Gonzaga tonight and they'll be right around the #50 mark at the conclusin of the WCC regular season. But then they'll get a team with a losing record in the WCC quarters and it'll drop back 10 or so spots again.

Cincinnati (73%) - While Tulsa was able to navigate the AmCon's minefield of lousy second division teams without taking a loss, the Bearcats' slips at East Carolina and against Tulane in Cincinnati could come back to haunt them. They can't afford another loss to Tulane today.

Iowa (70%) - The Hawkeyes need two more wins to punch a ticket to Dayton for the second time in as many years. A third win would put them in the Tourney field proper.

Oregon (63%) - By winning 9 of their last 11 games, the Ducks are in position to need just one more win to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

Boise St. (59%) - TAPE thinks the Broncos are the best team in the Mountain West, and they're in the bracket above as the league's auto-bid. They can take the pressure off themselves heading into Vegas by winning at San Diego State tonight. The two games after that--at San Jose State and a home game against Fresno State--are must-wins.

Mississippi (59%) - Kentucky's dominance of the SEC has obscured the fact that there are some pretty good teams in that league from 2 through 11. If Ole Miss can win 2 of their final 3 regular season games and show well in Nashville, they'll be deserving of a bid.

Dayton (50%) - A top-40 RPI is a nice thing to have. That and the Flyers' Elite Eight run of a year ago are what likely have them higher on most boards than they are here, where they're the last team in the field. A strength of schedule outside the top-100 and no quality wins are big obstacles to overcome.

Temple (49%) - The Owls destroyed Kansas before the Jayhawks found themselves, and they avoided taking a bad loss in the AmCon. But they're also just 1-5 against the other nationally-relevant teams in their own conference.

LSU (48%) / Texas A&M (46%) - If either of these teams had been able to close the deal against Kentucky they'd be breathing easy. Instead, they both need to keep winning and have a lot of things go right.

Work To Do:

Purdue (19%) - The Boilermakers dug such a deep hole for themselves with losses to Gardner-Webb and North Florida that it's taken an 8-1 stretch in Big Ten play just to get themselves back within shouting distance of the bubble. They'll need to keep it up and win at least three more games to earn a bid.

Pittsburgh (15%) - The Panthers need to win their next four games.

UCLA (12%) - The Bruins' RPI will drop several spots even with wins in their final two regular season games. They'll need a deep run in Vegas--probably to the Pac-12 Championship game--in order to earn an at-large bid.

Long Shots:

Stephen F. Austin (7%) / Buffalo (4%) - It's hard to see either of these teams earning an an invitation even with losses in their respective conference championship games. But the Lumberjacks will have a gaudy record, and the Bulls will have an RPI ranked in the top-40, so if the Committee decides to give the last spot to a true mid-major, they'll be able to justify either of these selections without having to do too many gymnastics.

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