Bracketology 2013: Real-Time Bubble-Watch Updates on Who's In and Who's Out

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystMarch 12, 2013

Bracketology 2013: Real-Time Bubble-Watch Updates on Who's In and Who's Out

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    Maybe it's the buzz word. Maybe it's marketing. Maybe it's the remorseless polarity of it all. But no part of the whirlwind lead-up to Selection Sunday better captures our imagination than the bubble.

    To feed your need for all things in, out and in-between, we've devised this "Bubble Watch." Once a continually updated tracker of who moved where, these are now the final odds on whether these teams will make the NCAA tournament or play in the dreaded NIT.

    The following slides begin with the teams whose hopes are hanging by a thread...and end with those teams oh so close to punching their tickets to March Madness.

    To see how the full field shakes out, check out B/R's real-time projected bracket.

    Then, for the lowdown on each program, including how we think the selection committee ranks the field, consult our live tracker of all 68 teams.

    Here's how we project the bubble as of Saturday, 11:20 p.m. ET.

Southern Miss: Not a Snowball's Chance

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    Record: 25-9 overall, 12-4 in Conference USA regular season (second place)

    Record in Last 10 Games: 7-3

    Last Game: Memphis (L 91-79)

    RPI / SOS: 32 / 86

    Best Wins: Denver 61-50, at East Carolina 86-82, UTEP (N) 85-67

    Worst Losses: At Marshall 88-84, at UCF 60-58, at New Mexico State 68-60

    Why They're on the Bubble: Sadly, we aren't playing with horse shoes or hand grenades. In the game of basketball, almost doesn't count. After losing in double OT to Memphis, the Golden Eagles dropped to 0-7 against the RPI Top 60.

    Chances at NCAA Bid: Slim to none, and Slim's out of town. They have a very nice computer resume, but they didn't beat a single team that deserves to be in the tournament field. They did beat Liberty and Western Kentucky, but come on. They're sitting at 100/1 to make the tournament, with that one percent chance being a typographical error which excludes Ole Miss from the tournament while giving Southern Miss a No. 11 seed.

Alabama: Unlikely At Best

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    Record: 21-12 overall, 12-6 in SEC regular season (fourth place)

    Record in Last 10 Games: 6-4

    Last Game: Florida (L 61-51)

    RPI / SOS: 60 / 92

    Best Wins: Kentucky 59-55, Villanova (N) 77-55, Tennessee 68-65

    Worst Losses: At Auburn 49-37, Tulane 53-50, Mercer 66-59

    Why They're on the Bubble: In November, January and February, the Crimson Tide went 17-4 with seven wins against the RPI Top 100. Unfortunately, in December and March, they're 2-7 with three home losses against the RPI sub-100. It's a testament to the weakness of the bubble that this team is within a few spots of the field.

    Chances at NCAA Bid: The longer I look at Alabama's resume, the more nauseous I become. 0-6 against the RPI Top 50 with a total of four losses against the RPI Sub-100. The next best teams with no Top 50 wins and four or more Sub-100 losses are Eastern Kentucky and North Dakota State. When's the last time we mentioned those teams on the bubble?

    The only thing working in the Crimson Tide's favor is 12 wins in a "power" conference. Though, it's not as if they beat any of the SEC's representatives in the projected field—they mostly just beat up on the likes of Mississippi State and Georgia. If Alabama made the tournament, I would be appalled. Put their odds at 50/1.

Baylor: If Strength of Schedule REALLY Matters

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    Record: 18-14 overall, 9-9 in Big 12 regular season (sixth place)

    Record in Last 10 Games: 4-6

    Last Game: Oklahoma State (L 74-72)

    RPI / SOS: 68 / 19

    Best Wins: Kansas 81-58, Oklahoma State 64-54, at Kentucky 64-55

    Worst Losses: Northwestern 74-70, Charleston 63-59, at Texas 79-70

    Why They're on the Bubble: The Bears became a hot-button bubble team after a blowout win over Kansas on March 9, but that win hardly undoes an entire season's worth of letdowns. Though a very impressive win, it was just their second RPI Top 50 win in 13 chances.

    Chances at NCAA Bid: If there's a 14-loss team out there that's going to get into the tournament as an at-large, it has to be Baylor. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that would happen. I would put the Bears' odds of making the tournament at about 25/1.

    Neither here nor there, but did Baylor really only play the 19th strongest schedule this season? Would've thought 13 games against the RPI Top 50—eight of which were away from home—would be stronger than that.

Maryland: Probably Not Gonna Happen

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    Record: 22-12 overall, 8-10 in ACC regular season (seventh place)

    Record in Last 10 Games: 5-5

    Last Game: North Carolina (L 79-76)

    RPI / SOS: 62 / 111

    Best Wins: Duke (N) 83-74, Duke 83-81, North Carolina State 51-50

    Worst Losses: At Georgia Tech 78-68, at Boston College 69-58, Florida State 65-62

    Why They're on the Bubble: It got dramatic there for a bit as they closed North Carolina's big lead to a one-possession game, but the Terrapins came up short in a game that might have vaulted them into the tournament field. Now all they can do is wait.

    Chances at NCAA Bid: The fact that Maryland has two wins over Duke and an RPI in the 60s should tell you all you need to know about the lack of key wins on their resume. The Terrapins went just 5-12 against the RPI Top 150. Interestingly enough, Wyoming went 5-12 against the RPI Top 150—except 10 of their losses were against the Top 50, whereas seven of Maryland's losses came in the 51-150 range.

    The wins against Duke were nice, but when you have 12 losses, the selection committee won't be impressed that you went 17-0 against the RPI Sub-150. Their odds of making the tournament are about 20/1, and that's probably too generous.

Tennessee: Stranger Things Have Happened

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    Record: 20-12 overall, 11-7 in SEC regular season (fifth place)

    Record in Last 10 Games: 8-2

    Last Game: Alabama (L 58-48)

    RPI / SOS: 57 / 47

    Best Wins: Florida 64-58, Missouri 64-62, Wichita State 69-60

    Worst Losses: At Georgia 78-68, Georgia 68-62, at Arkansas 73-60

    Why They're on the Bubble: The Volunteers have picked up three of their four best wins of the season in the past month. So what if they came at home against a trio of teams that haven't won a road game against the RPI Top 100 in the past month?

    Chances at NCAA Bid: It's not looking good, and it doesn't help that they lost six games to Alabama, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Virginia throughout the course of the season. Getting swept by Georgia certainly didn't help matters either. Tennessee's odds of making the tournament are 10/1, and it probably only happens if the committee strangely insists that five teams from the SEC make the tournament.

Virginia: Good Wins or Bad Losses?

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    Record: 21-11 overall, 11-7 in ACC regular season (fourth place)

    Record in Last 10 Games: 5-5

    Last Game: NC State (L 75-56)

    RPI / SOS: 74 / 127

    Best Wins: Duke 73-68, North Carolina 61-52, North Carolina State 58-55

    Worst Losses: Old Dominion (N) 63-61, Delaware 59-53, at Clemson 59-44

    Why They're on the Bubble: The Cavaliers are on the bubble in a good way because they beat Duke, UNC, NC State and Wisconsin. They're on the bubble in a bad way because of an awful strength of schedule which includes seven troubling losses.

    Chances at NCAA Bid: Admit it—you have no idea whether or not Virginia deserves to be in the tournament. If you're a Virginia fan, you're angrily complaining the Cavaliers should be in the tournament, but the rest of us are staring at a bi-polar resume, wondering what the committee will do.

    On the one side of the coin, you have an 8-4 record against the RPI Top 100. From an RPI perspective, Creighton (27) is the next lowest team that has played at least 10 such games and won more than 65 percent of them. However, the Wahoos also lost seven games against the RPI Sub-100.

    My guess is the bad losses and horrendous nonconference strength of schedule (294th in the nation) will outweigh the good wins, but there are merits to both sides of the debate. Their odds of making the tournament are 5/1.

Massachusetts: Decent But Not Great Odds

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    Record: 21-11 overall, 9-7 in Atlantic 10 regular season (sixth place)

    Record in Last 10 Games: 5-5

    Last Game: VCU (L 71-62)

    RPI / SOS: 53 / 85

    Best Wins: Temple (N) 79-74, at La Salle 61-60, at Xavier 77-72

    Worst Losses: George Washington 79-76, at St. Bonaventure 99-94, at Charlotte 66-65

    Why They're on the Bubble: Massachusetts is being criminally underappreciated. The Minutemen have more RPI Top 40 wins (two) than Southern Miss and Alabama combined. They only have a couple of bad losses, neither of which is nearly as bad as a loss to Marshall or Auburn. And now that they've outlasted Temple and La Salle in the A-10 tournament, they should finally get on the national radar.

    Chances at NCAA Bid: Having a better resume than Alabama and Southern Miss, however, is quite far from guaranteed inclusion in the tournament. The Minutemen have about a 25 percent chance of making the tournament, and that depends on how much the committee takes into consideration their one-point win at La Salle in their only meeting of the season. At least on that night, they were the slightly better team.

Kentucky: Your Guess Is As Good As Mine

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    Record: 21-11 overall, 12-6 in SEC regular season (second place)

    Record in Last 10 Games: 5-5

    Last Game: Vanderbilt (L 64-48) 

    RPI / SOS: 56 / 73

    Best Wins: Florida 61-57, Missouri 90-83, at Ole Miss 72-68

    Worst Losses: At Georgia 72-62, Texas A&M 83-71, at Arkansas 73-60

    Why They're on the Bubble: Of course Kentucky lost to Vanderbilt! How did we all not see that one coming? It's been happening all season, after all. Let a team teeter on the bubble for too long, and it violently falls off when you least expect it. 

    Chances at NCAA Bid: No matter what I put here, I'll be accused of both favoring and bashing the beloved/reviled Wildcats, so I'll keep it brief. They had their chances, and they blew a lot of them. Based on the entire body of work, I think they might get in. However, if the committee justifiably puts extra weight on the final 8.5 games that they played without Nerlens Noel, they shouldn't make it into the field.

    One way or the other, we already know which team will be most heavily debated in the days following Selection Sunday. I believe there's a 35 percent chance Kentucky will make the tournament.

Middle Tennessee: Up in the Air

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    Record: 28-5 overall, 19-1 in Sun Belt regular season (first place)

    Record in Last 10 Games: 9-1

    Last Game: Florida International (L 61-57)

    RPI / SOS: 29 / 134

    Best Wins: Ole Miss 65-62, at Central Florida 75-61, at Florida International 66-64

    Worst Losses: At Arkansas State 66-60, Florida International (N) 61-57, at Akron 82-77

    Why They're on the Bubble: Conference tournaments are brutally unfair. The Blue Raiders have been a very good team all season but just couldn't get it done against FIU on March 10. Because they play in the Sun Belt, they might miss the NCAA tournament

    Chances at NCAA Bid: The Blue Raiders got back into the fold essentially the same way Gonzaga got to the top of the ladder—they went undefeated during a stretch of time in which everyone ahead of them dropped like flies. Granted, they haven't played any games since last Sunday, but they look all the better for it.

    Also similar to Gonzaga, now that they've made it here, we have to ask whether they actually deserve it. I obviously believe that they do. The RPI is very nice, and you have to respect a minor conference team that had the sixth toughest nonconference schedule in the country. Hate on the Sun Belt all you want, but they went out of their way to schedule quality opponents, and ended up going 5-3 against the RPI Top 150 before their conference season began.

    However—and feel free to call me a skeptic—you have to wonder whether the potential ratings/attendance would come into consideration for the play-in games in Dayton. Are you tuning in to watch MTSU battle Boise State? Perhaps, but you're more likely to tune in if Kentucky is involved, aren't you?

    Potential conspiracy theories aside, the Blue Raiders did enough on the court throughout the season to get in, and I'd say they have a 50 percent chance of doing so.

La Salle: Relatively Safe

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    Record: 21-9 overall, 11-5 in Atlantic 10 regular season (fourth place)

    Record in Last 10 Games: 7-3

    Last Game: Butler (L 69-58)

    RPI / SOS: 40 / 79

    Best Wins: At VCU 69-61, Butler 54-53, Villanova 77-74

    Worst Losses: Central Connecticut State 81-74, at Xavier 70-63, at Charlotte 74-65

    Why They're on the Bubble: Despite being a surprisingly great season by La Salle's standards, in the grand scheme of the bubble, the Explorers had a very average season. Just 6-8 against the RPI Top 100 with an OK RPI and a SOS that leaves you wanting more.

    Chances at NCAA Bid: With just one RPI Sub-100 loss—a loss which occurred nearly four months ago—and wins over Butler and VCU, La Salle is looking pretty strong. The Explorers finished in fourth place in a very strong A-10 conference, losing just five games and obtaining four RPI Top 100 wins.

    There's really nothing that jumps out at you aside from perhaps a road win over VCU. It's just a generally above-average resume, which is probably enough in a year like this. I'm giving them a 70 percent chance of making the tournament.

Boise State: Probably Done Enough

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    Record: 21-10 overall, 9-7 in Mountain West regular season (fourth place)

    Record in Last 10 Games: 6-4

    Last Game: San Diego State (L 73-67)

    RPI / SOS: 43 / 66

    Best Wins: Colorado State 78-65, at Creighton 83-70, 77-72

    Worst Losses: At Utah 76-55, at Nevada 75-59, at Air Force 91-80

    Why They're on the Bubble: If you take the losses to Utah and Nevada out of the equation, the Broncos’ resume is almost identical to Pittsburgh’s. Unfortunately, we can’t just ignore those losses, and they were bad enough that Boise State isn't quite assured of its trip to the NCAA tournament.

    Chances at NCAA Bid: The Broncos have four wins over the RPI Top 30 and only two losses outside of the RPI Top 80. It's worth noting that they only played three nonconference games against the RPI Top 100, but in that trio they blew out LSU at home, manhandled Creighton on its home floor and nearly pulled out a road win against Michigan State. All things considered, it's good enough for a 75 percent chance at making the tournament.

Wichita State: Very Strong Chance

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    Record: 26-8 overall, 12-6 in Missouri Valley regular season (second place)

    Record in Last 10 Games: 7-3

    Last Game: Creighton (L 68-65)

    RPI / SOS: 37 / 100

    Best Wins: At VCU 53-51, Creighton 67-64, Southern Miss (N) 59-51

    Worst Losses: At Southern Illinois 64-62, Evansville 59-56, at Evansville 71-67

    Why They're on the Bubble: Where do we draw the line for an acceptable number of conference losses for a mid-major team? Everyone has written off Akron and Louisiana Tech for its two losses, but six is OK for Wichita State? Something doesn't add up.

    Chances at NCAA Bid: They had a brief swoon when the calendar flipped from January to February, and again when it flipped to March. However, the Shockers finished the season with an 8-5 record against the RPI Top 100, and only had one particularly disturbing loss to Southern Illinois.

    In a normal year, an eight-loss team from the Missouri Valley would be lucky to even sniff the bubble, but put Wichita State up against the resumes of Massachusetts or Kentucky, and it's no contest. The Shockers have an 85 percent chance of making the NCAA tournament.

California: Feel Free to Book Your Tickets

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    Record: 20-11 overall, 12-6 in Pac-12 regular season (second place)

    Record in Last 10 Games: 7-3

    Last Game: Utah (L 79-69)

    RPI / SOS: 54 / 39

    Best Wins: At Arizona 77-69, UCLA 76-63, Colorado 62-46 

    Worst Losses: Harvard 67-62, Washington 62-47, Arizona State 66-62

    Why They're on the Bubble: Second place in the Pac-12 isn't worth what it used to be. Despite winning the DirecTV Classic preseason tournament, the Golden Bears went just 1-4 against the RPI Top 100 during the nonconference portion of their season. There's a reason they came out of nowhere in February.

    Chances at NCAA Bid: Over the final five weeks of the season, the Golden Bears picked up five RPI Top 50 wins, finishing the season both on a hot streak and with a better than average overall resume. The loss to Utah in the Pac-12 tournament was easily their worst of the season, but it doesn't undo what they did in nearly coming from nowhere to win the Pac-12 regular season title. Chances of making the tournament are 90 percent.

Minnesota: Barring Some Sort of Miracle

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    Record: 20-12 overall, 8-10 in Big Ten regular season (ninth place)

    Record in Last 10 Games: 3-7

    Last Game / Next Game: Illinois (L 51-49)

    RPI / SOS: 31 / 2

    Best Wins: Michigan State 76-63, Indiana 77-73, Memphis (N) 84-75

    Worst Losses: At Northwestern 55-48, at Purdue 89-73, at Nebraska 53-51

    Why They're on the Bubble: Whether you like computer numbers or the eye test, you're probably asking why in the world Minnesota is here, though in varying tones of voice. Save for an unforeseeable win over Indiana, the Golden Gophers have been absolutely dreadful over the past two months. Playing seven nonconference games against the RPI Top 100 has kept their computer profile afloat.

    Chance at NCAA Bid: The Gophers have about a 99 percent chance of getting into the tournament. Yes, they struggled mightily during Big Ten conference play, but they did enough in the nonconference and built up a strong enough computer profile that it's impossible to imagine them being omitted on Selection Sunday.