March Madness Bubble Report: (Feb. 27)
With just under three weeks remaining until Selection Sunday, I thought I would throw out a bubble radar.
This report will deal nothing with projections or seedings; strictly what teams are getting in, what teams are heading to the NIT. It will be updated every one to two days and adjusted based on results.
Before proceeding to the bubble picture, we have to decipher what teams already have the body of work to be in the tournament now.
Below are teams labeled as lock teams. These teams could lose every game (with the exception of, say, a Butler, who most likely will not do that considering the schedule) and still make the field of 65.
LOCKS: Pittsburgh*, Oklahoma, North Carolina*, Duke, Michigan St., Connecticut, Clemson, Memphis*, Villanova, Utah*, Kansas*, Louisville, Xavier*, Missouri, Illinois, Wake Forest, Washington*, Butler*, Marquette, Arizona St., Purdue, LSU*, UCLA.
Now, the teams with asterisks are the conference leaders and assumed to be conference champions come tournament time. The 13 teams in bold are teams that will eat into the at-large pool of 34 bids. So that leaves us with 21 bids to give to bubble teams, assuming no upsets in the conference tournaments.
The bubble teams will be broken down by division. All bubble teams are not created equal, some teams needing maybe one more victory, while others need to win out until the conference finals.
So for each team, I'll state what still needs to be done to grab that at large bid. The order the teams are listed is the pecking order, top teams in first, bottom teams out first.
All records are against strictly Division I teams. All RPI and SOS rankings are from realtimerpi.com. Without further ado, here is the bubble...
UPDATES: A lot has occurred in the bubble world in the past two nights of action. Utah and UCLA moved into the lock sections with victories, while UAB has moved off the radar with a loss against Memphis.
Rhode Island has moved to the bubble discussions with a win over Dayton, but are on thin ice along with Temple who last at home to La Salle.
The Big Ten got shaken up with Michigan winning against Purdue and Minnesota continuing its downward spiral. South Carolina got a crushing win over bubble rival Kentucky. Cincinnati helped its bubble case by beating West Virginia, but still have work to do. 02/27
21-7 (8-5); RPI 19; SOS 28
Most people would already consider Florida State in, but if they were to lose out the remaining games that might not be the case. With difficult games left, this is not entirely impossible either.
Still, tied second place in the brutal ACC along with good non-conference wins against Cincinnati, Cal, and Florida should have Florida St. just one win away from locking up a bid. IN.
20-9 (8-6); RPI 51; SOS 43
With marquee wins at UNC and at home to Duke, BC is safe. Also had nice wins over fellow bubblers Florida St., Providenceand UAB to overshadow bad loss at home to Harvard (RPI 277!). Winning one of the last two in conference would lock up a bid (at NC St., GT). IN
17-10 (6-7); RPI 57; SOS 23
How much can one win change your tournament life? Saturday’s win over UNC put them outside the bubble to probably in the tournament, but Wednesday’s near miss against Duke might have taken them out.
Non-conference victories over Michigan St. and Michigan can probably overshadow earlier blowouts and Morgan St. loss. To be safe should probably win two to three more games with at least two coming in the regular season. IN
17-10 (7-6); RPI 55; SOS 38
VT is still breathing after the victory at Clemson but is most likely lost out with the home loss to Florida St. Now with remaining schedule (Duke, UNC, at FSU) the NIT is most likely on the way. Only positive note is they have a chance to notch RPI changing wins, which is necessary as VT had no non-conference victories of note to go with a bad loss to Georgia. Needs two more wins, or one and two ACC tourney wins. OUT
16-10 (6-8); RPI 44; SOS 10
Kept themselves in the picture with the victory over bubble team Boston College Saturday and win at Virginia. But 6-8 in conference play? Miami most likely needs to win out in ACC play (at GT, NC St.) and at least one ACC tourney win. Had nice early season win at Kentucky to go along with blowout of Wake Forest. OUT
BIG 12 (1)
19-8 (8-5); RPI 37; SOS 37
Survived at home against Texas Tech after huge win against Griffin-less Oklahoma. With wins over Villanova, UCLA, Wisconsin they are in pretty good shape.
The 6-4 record versus the RPI top 50 also helps. One win at anytime would lock up a bid which seems doable (Texas Tech, at Oklahoma St., Baylor, at Kansas). IN
19-8 (6-7); RPI 35; SOS 33
The RPI is getting better and better, with wins over LSU and Arizona. A&M is still two games under .500, though. They had a couple good conference wins against Texas and Oklahoma St., but they need to get to at worst 8-8.
This seems possible, since they will be favored in every game except the home finale against Missouri. A&M needs three to four more victories. OUT.
18-9 (7-6); RPI 32; SOS 15
Yes, the computer numbers are great and would seem to spell tournament bound. But there is really no substance behind the numbers. Their best two wins are Siena and Texas A&M, winning just two of 10 against the RPI top 50.
They just need quality wins, which would come in the form of Texas or at Oklahoma. If they get three more wins, either regular season or conference tourney, they are there. OUT.
18-9 (7-6); RPI 76; SOS 95
A tough scenario here. Kansas St. really did nothing in the non-conference. Their only saving grace is how well they have been playing in the Big 12, now winning eight of their last ten games.
In conference, they have a couple impressive wins, Missouri, at Texas, and at Texas A&M. To be safe they would probably want to get to 10 wins, and not lose in the first round in the Big 12 tournament. OUT.
16-10 (6-7); RPI 73; SOS 44
Nebraska is very close to slipping off the bubble. They lost a game they could not afford last night at home against Texas A&M. Wins against Creighton, Texas, and Missouri really can’t help overshadow losses to Iowa St., MD.Balt-Co. (RPI 207), and a weak non-conference schedule.
Nebraska really must win their last three four to be in the discussion, and would be best off winning a couple games in the Big 12 Tournament too. OUT.
BIG EAST (3)
19-8 (8-7); RPI 21; SOS 12
Syracuse has a lot of non-conference heft to fall back on, with wins at Memphis, Kansas, and Florida. They've slipped slightly in-conference, but really just need to stay at .500.
They've beaten West Virginia, thus giving them the heads up. One more victory seems certain (which moves them to a lock), with games against Cincinnati and Rutgers at home. IN.
19-9 (8-7); RPI 18; SOS 9
The record is starting to reflect the strong computer numbers. West Virginia played a strong non-conference game, routing Ohio St. on the road.
They've done well in-conference as of late, blowing out Villanova before beating Notre Dame. They're very close at this point but there chance at Cincinnati may hurt seeding in the long run. Just securing 9-9 would lock them up. IN.
17-11 (9-7); RPI 70; SOS 36
See Maryland for what one victory can do for you. Beating the RPI No. 1 always helps the profile. Other than that they had beaten up the bottom of the league to get their lofty league mark.
Providence can’t really stop there. They need one more regular season win, and at least one in the Big East Tournament. They also have the season sweep of Cincinnati to fall back on. IN.
17-10 (8-7); RPI 50; SOS 22
Cincinnati which needed a good win as their earlier victory over UNLV found one Thursday night in beating West Virginia.
Now they must get two of the last three games (at Syracuse would be huge) which seems doable, and then get two victories in the Big East tourney. OUT.
15-11 (7-8); RPI 72; SOS 47
Notre Dame played a tough non-conference, but only picked up a win against Texas. It appears they have righted the ship, but is it too late? They've won four of their last five, including Louisville and at Providence.
Finishing 9-9 would probably do it, thus they need to either beat Villanova or win at Connecticut, and then go and get at least one win in the Big East Tournament. OUT.
BIG TEN (3)
18-8 (8-7); RPI 40; SOS 27
Ohio State played a very difficult non-conference schedule, which included wins at Miami, Notre Dame (neutral), and Butler.
They hit a bit of a wall in conference play, but could they not get in with 9-9? Probably not, but to be safe they should get two more wins, which seems quite doable (at Iowa, Northwestern). IN.
16-10 (8-7); RPI 29; SOS 4
Wisconsin missed a golden chance to win at Michigan State, as they had the lead most of the game, although they have won five out of the last six to get back into the race.
A tough SOS featured a win at Virginia Tech and a home win over Illinois. Winning two more would make them safe with home games left against Michigan, Indiana, and a road game at Minnesota. IN.
19-8 (8-7); RPI 63; SOS 84
With nothing in the non-conference at all, they best keep winning in conference. They have huge road wins in-conference against Michigan St. and Illinois. All their remaining games are winnable. Penn State would be best to win two of those three and pick up a Big Ten victory. IN.
17-11 (8-8); RPI 46; SOS 11
Michigan may be an interesting case come selection time. Solid non-conference wins over Duke and UCLA (neutral), as well as a near miss at Connecticut. Conference wins include Minnesota, Penn St., Illinois, and now Purdue, after they beat them in Ann Arbor.
They basically need to win their last two in conference (at Wisconsin, at Minnesota), or get one and two in the Big Ten Tournament. A sweep of Minnesota could go a long way. IN.
19-8 (8-8); RPI 36; SOS 40
A team that was close to a lock but has slipped as of late, Minnesota has lost eight out of 12 games, including a tough loss last night at Illinois.
A huge win against Louisville (neutral) will help. Now most likely needs two remaining games at home against bubble competitors Michigan and Wisconsin. OUT.
21-7 (10-5); RPI 31; SOS 56
With the victory against USC, Cal is all but into the NCAA tournament. The only reason really they are not a lock just yet is the remaining schedule (UCLA, at Arizona, at Arizona St).
Losing all three and a first-round Pac 10 tourney loss could be devastating. Based on non-conference at UNLV and at Utah this should not be a problem. Get one more win, or lose all three, but look OK doing so. IN.
18-10 (8-7); RPI 49; SOS 39
Now is not the time to give up the hot streak, losing two straight to Arizona St (OK), and now Washington St. (not so good). Winners of seven in a row before might all be forgotten if they lose the next three games as well.
Their out-of-conference work, winning against San Diego St., Kansas, and Gonzaga, will help as well. Two more victories (at WU, Cal, Stanford), or one and two in the Pac-10 Tournament will do it. IN.
16-11 (7-8); RPI 53; SOS 13
USC is playing themselves off the bubble, losing five of their last six. They need to right the ship fast, probably needing all three of the final conference games.
This is to make up for nothing done in their non-conference schedule, which included a loss to Seton Hall. USC has the talent, but now they need to produce with four more victories. OUT.
20-6 (9-4); RPI 39; SOS 90
Winners of eight of their last 10, SC has really put themselves in a good position in conference play. Winning against Kentucky Wednesday gave them the season sweep and a heads up if they are compared for final bubble spots.
They have a favorable schedule, with a chance to knock off Tennessee at home. If they the two easier games remaining (at Vandy, at Georgia), and possibly an SEC tourney win, they'll be a lock. IN.
17-10 (8-5); RPI 26; SOS 2
Tennessee has played one of the nation’s toughest non-conference schedules, picking up good wins against Siena (neutral), Georgetown (neutral), and Marquette (neutral).
The only problem is there is no way a group this talented should lose five games in the down SEC. They most likely need only one more victory to secure a bid with a decent remaining schedule (at Fla., at SC, Alabama). IN.
21-7 (8-5); RPI 41; SOS 94
Are we watching a repeat of last year? With the weak non-conference schedule (although they have a nice win against Washington) and the tough remaining schedule, we just might be.
Losers of three of their last five and the potential to lose the rest (Tenn., at MSU, Kentucky), the Gators may be in trouble. To secure a bid they would be best winning two of those games, and possibly an SEC Tournament win. IN.
19-9 (8-5); RPI 62; SOS 72
Getting blown out at South Carolina Wednesday was probably the worst thing possible for the Cats. Not only did it look bad, but that is also a season sweep. With non-conference wins over West Virginia (neutral) and fellow bubbler Kansas St. (neutral), they played a decent schedule.
They also have a sweep of Tennessee. Kentucky now has a tough remaining schedule (LSU, Georgia, at Fla.), from which they will most likely need two wins. IN.
ATLANTIC 10 (1)
23-5 (9-4); RPI 34; SOS 119
Dayton now is not as close to a lock as it was three weeks ago, losing three of five including games at Charlotte, Saint Louis, and now Rhode Island. With wins over George Mason, Xavier, and Marquette (neutral), they have a very solid profile.
They now need to stop losing conference games they should be winning. That starts in the next game against Temple. Dayton needs to get those two of last three and possibly a couple A-10 tourney games. Sweep of Xavier would be HUGE. IN.
17-9 (9-3); RPI 36; SOS 50
Could Temple have been looking ahead to the game at Dayton? Almost certainly doing what they could not afford to do losing at home to La Salle. Temple still brings a lot to the table: 8-7 away record, non-conference wins over Tennessee and Penn State, and they're tied for second place in the A-10.
They also have bad losses at Long Beach State and at Massachusetts. Temple really needs to grab at least a tie which means winning an elimination game at Dayton, then hoping Dayton can knock of Xavier. If not they are most likely out. OUT.
21-8 (10-4); RPI 58; SOS 122
After Thursday’s surprising win in overtime over Dayton we should take a closer look at the Rams profile. Nothing screams NCAA team, but the team has a couple decent wins including Va. Commonwealth, Penn St., Temple and now Dayton.
But it will most likely come down to the season that could have been losing at Duke, at Providence, and at Xavier by a total of six points. Best they can hope for is a share of A-10 regular season crown, then make A-10 finals. OUT.
MOUNTAIN WEST (2 At-Large)
20-6 (9-4); RPI 22; SOS 49
BYU doesn't have much in the non-conference with a win against Utah St. (neutral) and near misses against Arizona St. and Wake Forest. They're getting hot in-conference, though, as winners of six of their last seven games.
They have a sweep of San Diego St., but they've also been swept by UNLV. BYU would be best winning their last three games in conference (Utah, at Wyoming, Air Force). IN.
20-8 (8-6); RPI 48; SOS 70
UNLV would most likely earn a bid with at worst a third-place tie in the MWC, with non-conference wins at Louisville and at home to Arizona. They've swept BYU, but they have lost some questionable games in-conference (at Colorado St., at TCU, at Wyoming).
They probably can’t stand anymore losses in-conference (Air Force, at San Diego St.) after Wednesday’s loss at Utah. Wouldn’t help making the Mountain West finals on their home court either. IN.
18-10 (9-4); RPI 70; SOS 69
Are they really an at-large threat? Hard to say, really. But they have to be in the discussion now, sharing second place. Their only positive non-conference win was a blowout over Mississippi to go with questionable losses to UCF, Drake, and at Texas Tech.
To get into real consideration, New Mexico will have to win out, which includes a game over Utah, and possibly a share of the regular season title. OUT.
San Diego State
16-8 (8-5); RPI 47; SOS 73
They have a non-conference schedule littered with good losses but no top 100 RPI wins. Now losers of three of their last four, including a blowout loss at New Mexico, SDSU is fading fast.
They are making the early season wins against Utahand at UNLV seem like a distant memory. Their only chance for an at-large means winning out in-conference, and most likely the MWC Tournament finals. OUT.
OTHER CONTENDERS (1)
Note: This assumes that Butler (RPI 20), Gonzaga (RPI 33), Davidson (RPI 59), Siena (RPI 26), Memphis (RPI 8), and Utah State (RPI 28) all win automatic bids.
21-5 (9-4); RPI 52; SOS 150
St. Mary's non-conference wins include San Diego St. and Providence. But they will be a tough case, with the injury to star Patrick Mills, losing four of eight without him, after going 16-1 with him.
They need to win at Loyola-Marymount to finish the regular season. They do have a huge win against Utah St., which shows they can win without Mills, but to be an at large team they need Mills back by WCC tourney time. IN.
LAST FOUR IN (in order): St. Mary’s, Kentucky, Michigan, Providence
FIRST FOUR OUT (in order): Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Texas A&M,
NEXT FOUR OUT: Oklahoma St., Miami, New Mexico, San Diego St.
Thanks very much for reading. If you have any questions or concerns, I will be glad to chat back and forth. I will next update this article Sunday, March 1.
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