March Madness Bubble Report: Mar. 11

Jared HebbCorrespondent IMarch 11, 2009

Now coming down to the last week before the NCAA Tournament, the bubble report will be updated daily! So check back every afternoon to see the updates with the conference tournaments unfolding.


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 and still make the field of 65. Or they are locks because they have recently won their conference championships.


LOCKS: Pittsburgh, Oklahoma, North Carolina*, Duke, Michigan St., Connecticut, Clemson, Memphis*, Villanova, Kansas*, Utah*, Louisville*, Xavier*, Missouri, Illinois, Wake Forest, Washington*, Butler, Marquette, Arizona St., Purdue, LSU*, UCLA, Florida St., Gonzaga*, Syracuse, Texas, West Virginia, Tennessee, BYU, California, Texas A&M, Cornell*, Radford*, Morehead St.*, East Tennessee St.*, Northern Iowa*, Chattanooga*, Virginia Commonwealth*, Siena*, Cleveland St.*, North Dakota St.*, Western Kentucky*.


Now, the teams with asterisks are the conference leaders and assumed to be or actual conference champions come tournament time. The 22 teams in bold are teams that will eat into the at-large pool of 34 bids.


So that leaves us with 12 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 need 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 Without further ado, here is the bubble...


Update: Last night a bubble spot was eaten up as Butler lost in the Horizon final to Cleveland St. Butler, with their high RPI and 12-3 record against the RPI top 100, will be a lock to go dancing. Although Cleveland St. winning may be considered a large upset, note that they lost to Butler the two previous times by a total of four points, and also won at Syracuse on a buzzer beater.


Congratulations are in order for North Dakota St. and Western Kentucky as well. Both are solid teams, especially Western Kentucky, who are back in the tournament again this year with a Louisville win to proudly show off.


No bubble bids will be claimed today, but a number of bubble teams will have a chance to lose a shot, such as Providence and Oklahoma St. As well, with the bubble shrinking and the A-10 and C-USA tournaments left to be played, it is going to be more and more difficult to become a lock at this point in the season.



ACC (1)


Boston College

21-10 (9-7); RPI 57; SOS 59


Avoided a late-season disaster by winning by one against Georgia Tech after losing at North Carolina St. Wednesday night. What was once a very safe bet with marquee wins at UNC, at home to Duke and Florida St., BC is still in a bit of trouble.


Has a win over fellow bubble team Providence to overshadow a bad loss at home to Harvard (RPI 277!). BC would be best served to win its first round ACC game against Virginia. IN




Virginia Tech

17-13 (7-9); RPI 62; SOS 24


Virginia Tech had the loss it could not afford to have, losing at Florida St. Sunday, dropping them two games below .500. This means they dropped six of their last seven down the stretch, not something the committee looks great on. All in all, they did have a very tough finishing stretch.


The only way that they may get in is making it to at least the ACC tournament semis, if not finals. That means a path through Miami and North Carolina. Showed they could play close games with the top of the conference, now needs to show they can beat them. OUT 





17-11 (7-9); RPI 54; SOS 27


Miami most likely sealed their fate, losing to Georgia Tech on the road on Wednesday night. Now needs to make ACC tournament finals. Had nice early season win at Kentucky to go along with blowout of Wake Forest. 


Miami probably looks second best out of the 7-9 teams in the ACC right now, and chances are one of them will make a run to get in. That starts with their first round ACC game against Virginia Tech. Win that one and go from there (up next UNC...). OUT 





18-12 (7-9); RPI 67; SOS 25


Maryland most likely sealed their fate losing at Virginia Saturday. The loss really put a damper on the RPI rating as well. Also missed a big chance Wednesday in a close game at home against Wake Forest. Maryland did beat UNC last week, but the Terrapins probably need one more quality win.


Non-conference victories over Michigan St. and Michigan can probably overshadow earlier blowouts and the Morgan St. loss. Maryland looks to have the easier path of the bubble teams in the ACC playing against NC St., and next up would be Wake Forest. OUT




BIG 12 (1)


Oklahoma St.

20-10 (9-7); RPI 25; SOS 9


Oklahoma St. looked much like an NCAA tournament team by giving Oklahoma all it could handle on the road. That snapped their six-game winning streak. 


Still, you can’t really trust the computer numbers that this team holds, as there is really no substance behind the numbers. Their best two wins before Texas were Siena and Texas A&M, winning just three of 12 against the RPI top 50, and now 0-6 versus the RPI top 25.


Although the Oklahoma game would have helped a lot, you can’t really fault them for the loss. Oklahoma St. will face Iowa St. in the first round of the Big 12 tournament in a do not lose game. Next up would be Oklahoma, and a close showing in that game would most likely seal the deal. IN




Kansas State

20-10 (9-7); RPI 76; SOS 98


Kansas St. put themselves over .500 in league play handling Colorado Saturday. The Wildcats really hurt their chances at Oklahoma St. Tuesday by losing in what could be made out to have been an elimination game. 


Kansas St. has now won 10 of their last 13 games though, which doesn’t make up for doing nothing good in the non-conference. 


In conference, they have a few impressive wins—Missouri, at Texas, and at Texas A&M. Kansas St. with their finish in Big 12 play earned a first round bye, which means a second round matchup with the Texas/Colorado winner. Then facing a possible showdown with Oklahoma, which they most likely need to win. OUT






18-12 (10-8); RPI 71; SOS 45


Providence missed a big statement victory losing at Villanova Thursday night. Providence does have the huge win over RPI No. 1 Pittsburgh at home. This got them to 10 Big East wins, but only two of those wins coming against the top six. Providence can’t really stop there.


The season sweep of Cincinnati is looking like less and less of an accomplishment, so the Friars most likely need to win a couple more meaningful games. They will play DePaul (who upset Cincinnati after going 0-16 in the Big East) in the Big East second round, which is a no-win situation for the Friars. Next up would be Louisville whom they’d need to defeat because they have just two wins versus the RPI top 50. OUT







18-11 (10-8); RPI 38; SOS 11


Wisconsin got a 10th win in conference play by blowing out Indiana Sunday. Earlier in the week Minnesota swept the season series, while the Badgers swept Michigan for the year.  Wisconsin has been hot as of late, winning seven out of the last nine to get them back in contention. 


A tough SOS featured a win at Virginia Tech and a home win over Illinois. Winning against Ohio St. in the Big Ten second round would capture a bid, while a loss would send them behind the Buckeyes in the pecking order. Most likely are safe. IN




Ohio St.

20-9 (10-8); RPI 36; SOS 31


Ohio St. finished off the week with a victory over surging Northwestern to knock them out of bubble talks. That followed up a very weak showing against Purdue where they got routed 75-50. They had lost four of six before the game, so a victory over the Wildcats was crucial.


Ohio St. played a very difficult non-conference schedule, which included wins at Miami, Notre Dame (neutral), and Butler. In close to the same situation as Wisconsin, probably about even as the Buckeyes won better non-conference games, but the Badgers won the only meeting between the two. A victory against Wisconsin would have them safely in, but that second round game is probably more for seeding in the NCAA Tournament. IN





18-12 (9-9); RPI 42; SOS 10


Saturday’s win over Minnesota was huge for the Wolverines for a number of reasons. First sweeping Minnesota and getting to .500 in the conference; also, it gave them the key road win that Michigan’s résumé had been lacking.  


Michigan may be an interesting case come selection time with solid non-conference wins over Duke and UCLA (neutral), as well as a near miss at Connecticut. 


Michigan most likely needs one more victory coming against Iowa in the Big Ten tournament. A loss their would not seal their fate, but it wouldn’t help. IN




Penn St.

21-9 (10-8); RPI 63; SOS 82


Penn St. got the win it needed at home against Illinois, but then gave up any ground it made by losing in double OT at Iowa. By beating Illinois, they swept that series and secured 10 Big Ten victories. Penn St. played a terrible non-conference schedule as well. They have huge road wins in-conference against Michigan St. and Illinois. 


Penn St. will be a tough case for the committee, with their best non-conference win coming against Mount St. Mary’s. But the Nittany Lions did a lot in a very difficult and competitive conference. Beat Indiana in the Big Ten first round, then knock off Purdue and they will be dancing. IN





20-9 (9-9); RPI 41; SOS 40


Minnesota split the week it really needed to sweep by beating Wisconsin, then losing at home to Michigan Saturday. A team that was close to a lock but has slipped as of late, Minnesota had lost nine out of 14 games. A huge win against Louisville (neutral) will help.


Being swept by Michigan means they are most likely behind the Wolverines in the standings, and probably need two Big Ten tournament wins. This may be tough, playing against streaky Northwestern first, followed by a potential matchup of Michigan St. IN




PAC-10 (1)



19-12 (9-9); RPI 53; SOS 32


Arizona got half of what they needed, losing at home to Cal before beating Stanford soundly. The Wildcats had lost four straight before the win against Stanford and were winners of seven in a row before the losing streak as well.


Their out-of-conference work, winning against San Diego St., Kansas, and Gonzaga, will help as well. Arizona is close, but would be best off winning against in-state rival Arizona St. in the Pac-10 quarterfinals. IN





18-12 (9-9); RPI 60; SOS 30


USC did what it needed to do, sweeping the two Oregon schools at home. But it still looks as if USC has played themselves off the bubble, losing six of their last seven prior to this week. The latest of those losses occurred at Stanford last Saturday, where they flat-out didn’t show up in the second half.


Their non-conference schedule, which included a loss to Seton Hall, has nothing in it, so they would probably have to win two meaningful games coming against Cal and most likely UCLA to have a shot. OUT



SEC (1)


South Carolina

21-8 (10-6); RPI 51; SOS 93


South Carolina has not looked really sharp this past week, losing to Vanderbilt (away), Tennessee (home), and needing a great second half against Georgia to win. Also, how can a team with NO top 50 RPI wins be even in the discussion (now one as Florida skips back and forth)? Not many great teams on the bubble this year. 


Now must do a little work in the SEC Tourney, most likely needing one-two wins and one being against a decent opponent (LSU, Tennessee, Florida). The way it pans out, SC will play the winner of Georgia/Mississippi St. If they play against Mississippi St., they must win; if it comes against Georgia, they must win that and beat LSU in the next round. IN





22-9 (9-7); RPI 49; SOS 86


Florida got the win it needed Saturday beating Kentucky at home. But are we watching a repeat of last year? With the weak non-conference schedule (although they have a nice win against Washington) and losing of five of their last eight down the stretch, we just might be. The Gators are officially in trouble.


To secure a bid with this recent slide, Florida needs to win their opener against West sixth seed Arkansas. Up next would be an elimination game against the surging Auburn team.  Florida would most likely need to win that and be at least competitive in the semifinals. OUT







25-6 (11-5); RPI 24; SOS 94


A split what probably what was to be expected out of Dayton, losing at Xavier, then rebounding to beat a good Duquesne team. 


With wins over George Mason, Xavier, and Marquette (neutral), they have a very solid profile. 


Dayton now most likely needs just one win in the A-10 tourney to secure a bid, which will come against the Richmond/St. Bonaventure winner. IN




Rhode Island

22-9 (11-6); RPI 64; SOS 123


Rhode Island most likely killed its at large chances with a loss at home to Massachusetts. The loss kept the Rams from sharing the regular season title as well. Nothing screams NCAA team, but the team has a couple decent wins including Va. Commonwealth, Penn St., Temple, and 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. The field has been set up so they have a chance to beat Dayton again if they can get by the Duquesne/Mass. winner. If that happens, we can reevaluate their case. OUT






New Mexico

21-10 (12-4); RPI 58; SOS 80


New Mexico is one of the hottest teams around, winners of eight of nine, including Saturday’s win at Wyoming. That win gives them a share of the highly competitive Mountain West. Their only positive non-conference win was a blowout over Mississippi to go with questionable losses to UCF, Drake, and at Texas Tech. 


The Lobos share the Mountain West lead but will most likely have to make the tournament finals, which will include going through Wyoming and then the Utah/TCU winner, to overcome the lack of out of conference heft. IN




San Diego St.

19-8 (11-5); RPI 44; SOS 68


San Diego St. took care of business against UNLV Saturday to be slotted in fourth in the strong Mountain West. They have a non-conference schedule littered with good losses but no top 100 RPI wins. The blowout loss at New Mexico is probably going to hurt the Aztecs come Selection Sunday.


The Aztecs have a lot more work to do. They most likely need the Mountain West finals and to pick up solid victories along the way. This will have them playing UNLV in the first round, followed by a chance against No. 1 seed BYU. Anything short of that is probably not enough. OUT





21-9 (9-7); RPI 56; SOS 84


UNLV lost the key game of the season for them, going down at San Diego St. Saturday night. The loss was the third in five games and assured a fifth place finish in the Mountain West.


They do have nice non-conference wins at Louisville and at home to Arizona to fall back on. They've also swept BYU, but they have lost some questionable games in-conference (at Colorado St., at TCU, at Wyoming). 


UNLV’s big names wins will keep them in the hunt, but they dare not lose the first round game against San Diego St. (again). They would most likely have to knock off BYU as well and play a close game in the finals. OUT






Note: This assumes that Memphis (RPI 7) and Utah St. (RPI 27) win automatic bids.



26-7 (14-4); RPI 40; SOS 108


Creighton left the last impression it wanted Saturday, getting blown out by Illinois St. That comes on the heels of a close game to MVC seventh seed Wichita St. This blowout loss is now compounded by the fact that Illinois St. then went on to lose to Northern Iowa. Not good for the Bluejays' fate.


Creighton does not have much to fall back on. They had a couple nice non-conference wins against New Mexico and Dayton. They had also been winners of 11 straight before the routing Saturday. Will be sweating it up for the next week, but with the lack of bubble teams rising, they should be in, barely. IN




St. Mary’s

23-6 (10-4); RPI 46; SOS 145


St. Mary’s may have missed out on their opportunity for an at-large by getting hammered by Gonzaga Monday night.  This is clearly not the same team that was hot earlier in the year with a healthy Patrick Mills, and unfortunately for them should be judged as so.

Without Mills, they lost four of eight after going 16-1 with him before the injury, but he does not seem to be at the same level.


St. Mary's non-conference wins include San Diego St. and Providence. They do have a huge win against Utah St., which shows they can win without Mills, but to be an at-large team they needed Mills back good as ever, and this was not the case.  Not sure if the non-conference game against Eastern Washington will even make a difference. OUT




LAST FOUR IN (in order): Minnesota, South Carolina, Creighton, New Mexico


FIRST FOUR OUT (in order): San Diego St., Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s, Miami




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 Thursday, March 12, and it will be updated every day from now until Selection Sunday.


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