NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Bubble Watch: March 13
The obsession with the bubble is in full gear, as we are getting closer to determining which 11 and 12 seeds will bore neutral site crowds.
Sometimes the bubble teams do make an impact, like last year, when five of the last six teams in won first-round games. Some years, they make zero impact, like 2007.
Arizona made a Sweet 16 showing last year, silencing the critics who thought the Wildcats didn't belong. Then again, the same critics probably bet huge on Louisville in the Sweet 16 and were laughing when Arizona lost by 39.
The bubble is often more hype than reality, and this year has been really challenging to find 34 at-large teams. Nonetheless, I'm offering a deeper analysis of the day before Selection Sunday, pointing out 10 teams of interest that deserve a closer look.
Although their 1-29 record may seem off-putting, they do have an RPI higher than 13 other teams. The biggest thing going against Marist besides the 29 losses is the lack of top-50 wins.
I think Stephen Curry would have made a difference. It's pretty weird that in a two-year span Davidson went from one shot away from the Final Four to YouTube sensation for beating Elon, who then beat them in the conference tournament.
3. Texas Southern—Out for Now
Texas Southern definitely will not get an at-large bid, with no top-50 wins and an RPI of 226, yet the great thing about the tournament is that they could still be in. Just beat Arkansas Pine Bluff and they get to play in the tournament, or at least the humiliating Tuesday game before the tournament.
4. UCLA and North Carolina—Out
I just had to write it because it makes me happy. UCLA and North Carolina not being in the tournament might take away some name recognition, but it does open up the field. North Carolina was actually No. 9 in the country until injuries and the Charleston loss spiraled their season out of control.
5. Kent State—Out
Getting more serious now, Kent State was close to becoming an interesting case. They were receiving zero buzz from writers, despite being No. 42 in the RPI and winning the MAC. Pundits argued they only had one top-50 win, and for that they should be shot.
Since when did top-50 wins become the be-all end-all of deciding teams? Davidson two years didn't have any, Siena last year had none, and both of those teams fared pretty well in the tournament. Judging worthy teams by top-50 wins basically eliminates smaller conference schools since the bigger ones get way more chances.
Even shoddier in the analysis is that mostly the wins alone are reported. Missouri had four top-50 wins. They also had seven top-50 losses, but that's not important.
The RPI is supposed to be a tool to help be a comparison between all schools. Top-50 wins isn't that, since teams like Missouri get 11 chances and the Kent States of the world get three. Of course Kent State decided to kill any at-large chances by being destroyed in the MAC quarterfinals.
6. William & Mary—Out
This is where fans of non-BCS school teams get annoyed. According to the RPI, William & Mary is a fringe candidate, with a rating currently of 58 (ahead of Minnesota, Seton Hall, and Illinois).
The Tribe only finished third in the Colonial Athletic Association, which this year would be like finishing third in the Pac-10 (Washington).
They actually have three top-50 wins, including at Maryland, along with three top-50 losses. The top-50 losses are all to conference rival Old Dominion, which they would not play in the tournament.
Instead, the thing keeping William & Mary out according to most pundits is the team's bad losses. Yes, William & Mary will not be among the best 65 teams because of losing to three bad teams.
This logic is amazing to me. They are not qualified to be in the tournament because they lost to teams below 200 in the RPI. None of those teams will be in the tournament (unless Texas Southern makes it and William & Mary will never play them).
The Saints lost to the Bucs and the Colts and the Jets lost to the Bills; imagine if the NFL excluded them from the playoffs because they had bad losses.
William & Mary has never been to the tournament, and they have a good profile in a bad year, and they will be kept out because they lost to Towson. I do understand because Colonial at-large teams don't make noise in the tournament, right, George Mason?
Instinct tells me that Louisville gets in over Seton Hall, just because they are Louisville. I at one point believed that name recognition had nothing to do with getting in, and then Arizona got in last year and proved me wrong.
Syracuse will be a No. 1 seed, and Louisville beat the Orange twice, and that will get Louisville in. Sadly, Lemoyne's bubble will probably burst even though they beat Syracuse also.
I would prefer Seton Hall in, mostly because the Pirates play a crazy up-tempo fun style. A bench player for Seton Hall had 40 points in a game this year.
Then out just as quickly. Getting Clemson in the first round is like a present. The kings of failing in big-game environments are probably in based on their profile, but they will be gone just as quickly since they look to be in an 8-9 or 7-10 game.
They couldn't beat NC State in the ACC tournament, their biggest road win was at Florida State, and they are a sleeper on their flight back home on Saturday.
9. Memphis and UAB—Out
UAB and Memphis are the most fascinating two teams of championship week, since they lost the most. Memphis really did little to deserve a bid besides beat UAB, and UAB had a good enough look to them to have a shot.
All each needed to do was reach the finals against UTEP, either one of them. So both of them lost in the first round of the Conference USA tournament. Now, zero shot.
Championship week is sometimes overhyped, and a good number of teams have little to play for; the Memphis and UAB players had a shot and missed it.
Of course Duke is in, yet the Blue Devils may be the most fascinating team heading into the tournament.
As of now they will either be a No. 1 seed or No. 2 seed. The difference is big for Duke, since the bottom of the bracket tends to have more live dogs ready to pounce in the second round.
Duke almost lost to a 15 seed two years ago, so avoiding a Morgan State or North Texas is advised. According to ESPN, though, Duke would face East Tennessee State in the round of 64.
That could be fun. The second round could bring a Marquette or California or Notre Dame and a lot of tough games for a Duke team that is shaky at best.
If you fill out your bracket and have Duke going to the Final Four, you're nuts. Here is how Duke has done since 2001:
Sweet 16, Sweet 16, Final Four, Sweet 16, Sweet 16, First Round, Second Round, Sweet 16
Only once in the last eight years has Duke even made the Elite Eight. That was the year they beat a No. 7 seed to make it to the Final Four. So unless you sense an upset in the opposite side of Duke's bracket, say goodbye by the Sweet 16 at best.
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