Monday, March 9, 2015

Bubble Babble: Tourney Time

Usually, the bubble picture is crystallizing by this point, but this year it seems that the bubble is actually expanding as we enter Championship Week. There's lots of movement at the top, where the top two seed lines--and who gets the dreaded #2 seed in the Midwest opposite Kentucky--will be decided by who wins their conference Tournaments. Right now, after Virginia's loss at Louisville over the weekend, Villanova, Arizona, and Wisconsin would seem to have the inside track on #1 seeds ahead of Duke and Virginia.

Locks (29):

Near-Locks (10):

San Diego St. (99%), Oregon (99%), Texas (99%), Cincinnati (98%), Georgia (98%), St. John's (98%), N.C. State (98%), Boise St. (96%), Oklahoma St. (95%), Colorado St. (94%)

Good Shape (2):

BYU (91%) - Avoid a loss to Portland this evening, and the Cougars will be dancing.

Temple (81%) - The Owls are probably in even with a loss to Memphis in the AmCon quarters, but I'm sure they'd rather not test that hypothesis.

On The Bubble (11 teams for 5 spots):

Dayton (79%) - The Flyers' win at VCU last week filled in a big hole on their resume. So long as they're able to avoid an embarrassing loss to St. Bonaventure or St. Joe's, they'll be dancing.

LSU (70%) - After taking a home loss to Tennessee, things looked bleak for the Tigers; a road win at Arkansas brightened their prospects considerably. 

Mississippi (63%) - A matchup with South Carolina could be a tough test for the Rebels in the SEC Tournament. Pass and they'll earn a trip to Dayton.

Old Dominion (61%) - Teams with top-35 RPIs are usually dead-ceartain locks for inclusion, but the Monarchs, whose best wins are a neutral-site victory over LSU and a home win over VCU--both in November--might be an exception to that rule.

Indiana (50%) / Purdue (50%) - The cut line is right here as of today, with room for only one of these teams. With a sweep of the season series, Purdue would likely have the edge if it came down to these two for the final bid.

Stanford (47%) - Losing 7 of 10 to close out the season is a fine way to move oneself from near-lock status to the wrong side of the bubble. Without a run to the championship game in Las Vegas, the Cardinal will be NIT-bound.

Tulsa (32%) - Ten days ago it appeared that winning one of their final three games would be enough to push Tulsa into the dance; an overtime win at Memphis and two losses later, though, that doesn't seem to be the case. They absolutely cannot afford to lose their opening game in the AmCon Tournament against Tulane or Houston, and they likely need to show well against Cincinnati in the conference semis as well.

Stephen F. Austin (30%) - The Lumberjacks get a bye all the way to the semifinals of the Southland tournament, and thus only need to win two games against vastly inferior competition to earn the automatic bid. A loss in either of those games would essentially disqualify them from consideration. It's auto-bid or NIT.

UCLA (27%) - The Bruins kept the bubble in sight by winning their final three games of the season, but home victories over Washington, Washington State, and Southern Cal impress absolutely no one. The real work begins in Vegas, where the Bruins must win their quarterfinal matchup against Arizona State in order to set up a must-win game against Arizona in the semifinals.

Buffalo (23%) - There are probably 80 teams better than Buffalo this season, but the Bulls have gamed the RPI beautifully and will, unless they flame out early in the MAC tournament, have an RPI ranking in the top 35. Their best win is a loss at Kentucky; their second-best win was a loss at Wisconsin; their third-best win was a win in the season opener against South Dakota State. The Bulls won't be dancing without winning the MAC championship, but their high RPI ranking ought to be held up as Example A in the case against the NCAA's preferred metric.

Work To Do:

Texas A&M (14%) - The Aggies likely need to reach the SEC finals to earn an at-large bid. That would require a victory over Kentucky.

Miami (FL) (13%) - The Hurricanes' victory at Pittsburgh essentially meant that the two ACC schools traded places in the bubble conversation, but there 

Richmond (10%) - This year's "Atlantic 10 team who gets hot at the end of the season to insert themselves into the Bubble discussion" is Richmond. Winners of their final six games of the regular season, the Spiders could earn a trip to Dayton with a trip to the A-10 championship game.

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