NCAA Tourney Projection: Stone Cold Locks & Bubble Talks, Second Edition

Tom DavisCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2010

A week has passed, and now it's time to take another look at the likely field for the NCAA Tournament. I'm going to skip the thorough introduction I did for my initial piece and just get into the groupings.

First, we have the first of our three auto-bid categories, the automatic qualifiers from definite one-bid leagues. The teams, their corresponding conferences, and their conference and overall records are as follows (in the case of conference record ties, the team with the best overall record is listed):

Stony Brook (America East, 13-3, 21-8)

Campbell (four-way tie) (Atlantic Sun, 14-6, 19-10)

Weber State (Big Sky, 13-3, 19-9)

Coastal Carolina (Big South, 15-3, 26-5)

UC Santa Barbara (Big West, 11-4, 17-9)

Akron/Kent State (two-way tie) (Mid-American, 12-3, 22-8)

Morgan State (Mid-Eastern, 13-1, 22-9)

Quinnipiac (two-way tie) (Northeast, 15-3, 21-8)

Lehigh (Patriot, 10-4, 19-10)

Murray State (Ohio Valley, 17-1, 27-4)

Wofford (Southern, 15-3, 23-8)

Sam Houston State (Southland, 13-1, 21-6)

Jackson State (Southwestern, 14-1, 16-11)

Oakland (Summit, 17-1, 23-8)

North Texas (three-way tie) (Sun Belt, 13-5, 21-8)

WHAT'S NEW : Robert Morris' loss to Mount Saint Mary's on Saturday means Quinnipiac ties them for the lead in the NEC, and the Bobcats make the list due to a better overall record. Other than that, the list is unchanged.


On to the second category of automatic qualifiers: teams from leagues that will be one-bid leagues if the leader wins out, but could be two-bid leagues if the current league leader is upset in the conference tournament. They are:

Old Dominion (Colonial, 15-3, 23-8)

Butler (Horizon, 18-0, 26-4)

Cornell (Ivy, 11-1, 25-4)

Siena (Metro Atlantic, 17-1, 24-6)

Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley, 15-3, 25-4)

California (Pacific-10, 12-5, 20-9)

Gonzaga (West Coast, 12-2, 24-5)

Utah State (Western, 12-2, 23-6)

WHAT'S NEW : Cornell avenged it's only Ivy League loss against Penn on Saturday, and can lock up the Ivy League regular season crown (and the automatic bid) next Friday with a win at Brown.

With Northeastern losing to Hofstra on Tuesday and William & Mary losing to Towson on Wednesday, Old Dominion is now the only team in the CAA who can pull out an at-large bid.

Meanwhile, Northern Iowa's at-large profile (if they'll need one) took a hit with Wednesday's loss to Evansville.


Finally, we have the third category of automatic qualifiers: the league leaders from conferences with a serious chance to be a multi-bid league regardless of the outcome of the conference tournament. They are:

Temple (two-way tie) (Atlantic 10, 12-2, 24-5)

Duke (Atlantic Coast, 12-2, 25-4)

Kansas (Big XII, 13-1, 27-2)

Syracuse (Big East, 14-2, 27-2)

Ohio State (Big Ten, 13-4, 23-7)

UTEP (Conference USA, 13-1, 22-5)

New Mexico (Mountain West, 13-2, 27-3)

Kentucky (Southeastern, 12-2, 27-2)

WHAT'S NEW : A couple of changes at the top of these conferences. First, Xavier's double overtime win on Sunday against Richmond cleared the path for Temple to lay claim on the A-10's automatic bid (for the purposes of this article, anyway).

Meanwhile, Robbie Hummel's injury already seems to have had a four-fold affect on Purdue: Their championship dreams are for the most part dashed; they lost to a Michigan State team that had lost four of six entering Sunday's contest (including a double-digit home loss to Purdue two and a half weeks ago), which in turn may cost Purdue a one-seed in the NCAA tournament; and they cede the lead in the Big Ten regular season title race to Evan Turner and Ohio State.


Now we move on to the five categories of at-larges. First are the Stone Cold Locks, the teams that are in no matter what happens:

Xavier (Atlantic 10, 12-2, 21-7)

Richmond (Atlantic 10, 11-3, 22-7)

Maryland (Atlantic Coast, 11-3, 21-7)

Kansas State (Big XII, 11-3, 24-4)

Baylor (Big XII, 9-5, 22-6)

Texas A&M (Big XII, 9-5, 20-8)

Villanova (Big East, 12-4, 23-5)

West Virginia (Big East, 11-5, 22-6)

Pittsburgh (Big East, 11-5, 22-7)

Georgetown (Big East, 9-7, 19-8)

Purdue (Big Ten, 12-4, 24-4)

Michigan State (Big Ten, 12-4, 22-7)

Wisconsin (Big Ten, 11-5, 21-7)

Brigham Young (Mountain West, 11-3, 26-4)

Vanderbilt (Southeastern, 11-3, 22-6)

Tennessee (Southeastern, 9-5, 21-7)

WHAT'S NEW : A few new faces this week. Richmond and Purdue move over here due to no longer having the auto-bid. Meanwhile, Xavier and Baylor earn SCL status with their wins over fellow SCL's Richmond and Texas A&M respectively, and Maryland moves becomes a Stone Cold Lock by beating two bubble teams and getting to 11 wins in the ACC.


Now, the Master Locks. These are teams that are close to clinching a bid. All they need is to do is avoid losing the remainder of their games and they should be fine.

Wake Forest (Atlantic Coast, 8-6, 18-8)

Missouri (Big XII, 9-5, 21-8)

Texas (Big XII, 8-6, 22-7)

Marquette (Big East, 10-6, 19-9)

Louisville (Big East, 10-6, 19-10)

UNLV (Mountain West, 10-5, 22-7)

WHAT'S NEW : Three teams moved out, but two came up from the top of the bubble to replace them.

Marquette's victory over Seton Hall on Sunday guarantees them a winning record in the toughest conference in the land, and makes me believe that they're going to make it unless they lose the remainder of their games (which is possible against Louisville, Notre Dame and then potentially South Florida, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, or Connecticut in the Big East Tournament).

UNLV also moves up despite beating up on two of the bottom feeders in the Mountain West, the reason being that I believe they fit the description of the Master Lock with only one game remaining on their regular season schedule: They'd have to lose both to Wyoming at home next Saturday and in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament against Utah or Colorado State in order to miss the tournament.


Now to the Top O' The Bubble. These are teams that have played their way in, but could end up on the outside with a late-season collapse.

Clemson (Atlantic Coast, 8-6, 20-8)

Florida State (Atlantic Coast, 8-6, 20-8)

Georgia Tech (Atlantic Coast, 7-7, 19-9)

Oklahoma State (Big XII, 8-6, 20-8)

Illinois (Big Ten, 10-6, 18-11)

WHAT'S NEW : A couple teams got called up, one team got relegated, and then there's Oklahoma State. If they could have gotten the win at Texas on Wednesday to go with their upset of No. 1 Kansas on Saturday, they would have jumped straight from The Bubble to Master Lock status.

As it is, they're looking solid to make the tournament barring a home loss to Nebraska and an early Big XII Tournament exit.


Next we have The Bubble. These teams are living game to game, and one signature win or bad loss could punch their ticket or dash their hopes.

Charlotte (Atlantic 10, 9-5, 19-9)

Rhode Island (Atlantic 10, 8-6, 20-7)

Dayton (Atlantic 10, 8-6, 19-9)

Virginia Tech (Atlantic Coast, 8-6, 21-7)

Notre Dame (Big East, 8-8, 19-10)

Connecticut (Big East, 7-9, 17-12)

Cincinnati (Big East, 7-9, 16-12)

UAB (Conference USA, 11-3, 23-5)

San Diego State (Mountain West, 9-5, 20-8)

Florida (Southeastern, 9-5, 20-9)

Mississippi State (Southeastern, 9-5, 21-8)

WHAT'S NEW: (I've decided to do a team-by-team breakdown for the teams on The Bubble): Charlotte hurt its cause this week with a loss at George Washington, but with no other sub-RPI 100 and wins over SCL's Temple and Richmond, stays on The Bubble for now.

Rhode Island also had a bad loss against St. Bonaventure on Saturday, which is part of a killer 1-4 stretch the Rams have had here late in the year. On the plus side, it's URI's only sub-RPI 100 loss to this point.

Dayton missed a chance to put themselves on the Top O' The Bubble in losing at Temple on Wednesday. They may have the best profile of all the A-10 bubble teams, but will probably need at least a split of this week's games @Richmond and against Saint Louis, plus some damage in the A-10 Tourney.

Virginia Tech falls off of the Top O' The Bubble after losing @Boston College and against Maryland last week. The Hokies are a classic example of all sizzle, no steak: They've racked up 21 wins, but played no one in their non-conference, and haven't really beaten too many tough teams in conference play.

Their season can be summed up by two home wins against in-conference RPI Top 50 foes, counteracted by two road losses to in-conference sub-RPI 100 opponents.

Nobody did more to help their cause last week than Notre Dame. Huge wins over Pittsburgh and @Georgetown have put the Irish squarely on The Bubble, and their final two regular season games against Connecticut and @Marquette give them two more chances to plow their way into the field of 65.

Connecticut moved to the Top O' The Bubble with their upset of West Virginia, then jumped right back down with a home loss to Louisville. The Huskies remain one of the toughest teams to predict in or out. A poor overall record as far as Bubble teams go, but lots of quality wins and the second-toughest schedule in the NCAA. They could put themselves back on Top with a pair of wins @Notre Dame and @South Florida this week.

Cincinnati could have moved to the Top O' The Bubble by holding on against West Virginia, but they let the game slip away. they have two tough games this week against Villanova and @Georgetown. Win either one or both, and they'll move to the Top.

UAB took care of a pair of Conference USA guppies last week. This week is far more important, with games against Memphis and @UTEP. Beat Memphis, and you're on the Top O' The Bubble. Win both, and you're a Master Lock.

San Diego State is another team that could have moved to the Top with an upset @BYU. Instead, they're placed in a desperate situation. They won't make the tournament without one more quality win, and they won't get one in their last two regular season games. This means that in order to have a chance, they have to at least make an appearance in the MWC Tournament finals.

Florida is in the same boat as UConn: moved to the Top with a win against Tennessee, only to give it back by losing @Georgia. But Florida is also in the same boat as UAB, with upcoming games against Vanderbilt and @Kentucky. Win one and move to the Top, win both and become a Master Lock.

Mississippi State took care of two middling SEC opponents last week, and gets one more chance to make a statement against Tennessee on Saturday. Given the meagerness of Mississippi State's overall profile, they could really use that win.


Finally, we come to the Bottom O' The Bubble. These are the teams on the outside looking in, but who could make it in the discussion with a hot streak down the stretch.

Saint Louis (Atlantic 10, 10-4, 19-9)

South Florida (Big East, 7-9, 17-11)

Seton Hall (Big East, 7-9, 16-11)

Memphis (Conference USA, 11-3, 21-8)

Tulsa (Conference USA, 9-5, 20-9)

Arizona State (Pacific-10, 10-6, 20-9)

Washington (Pacific-10, 9-7, 19-9)

Ole Miss (Southeastern, 7-7, 19-9)

Saint Mary's (West Coast, 11-3, 24-5)

WHAT'S NEW : Texas Tech, Northwestern, William & Mary, Northeastern, Wichita State, and Louisiana Tech all fell out of the Bottom O' The Bubble by losing games to bad teams when they had no margin for error. Memphis would have joined them for their loss @Houston, but they have the chance to make up for it with games @UAB and against Tulsa this week, the Tulsa game probably being a Bubble elimination game.

Saint Louis just missed joining The Bubble conversation by losing against Xavier on Wednesday. Tulsa could have also made a statement had they somehow gotten past Duke, but neither happened.

The two decent teams that aren't California in the Pac-10 also make it on this list, even though I have placed the Pac-10 in as a one-bid league unless Cal loses the tournament.

This is because while I do not think that either should go without winning the Pac-10 Tournament, I believe the major conference bias is big enough that the one that makes the conference tournament final will receive serious consideration.

Replace big-conference bias with reverence for high win totals, and you'll also have my explanation for why Saint Mary's is listed when I mentioned the WCC as a one-bid league unless Gonzaga loses in the WCC Tournament.

Now, this is a list based on my own knowledge and weighing of stats (I tend to focus on RPI Top 50 records more than anything else, but I try to take into account a lot of variables), and since I'm not on the selection committee, may be completely off-base. However, if you do have a question about why a team is in a certain spot, be sure to leave a comment, and I'll do my best to explain my position. Thank you.


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