Bracketology 2015: Real-Time Bubble-Watch Updates on Who's in and Who's out

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystMarch 11, 2015

Bracketology 2015: Real-Time Bubble-Watch Updates on Who's in and Who's out

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    B/R

    Selection Sunday is finally here, but that doesn't mean the bubble debate is over.

    Not by a long shot.

    We started the week with 30 bubble teams fighting for 17 spots, but we're down to the "Last Four In" and the "First Four Out."

    Connecticut came up just short of an automatic bid in the AAC championship game and also comes up just short of an at-large bid in our estimation.

    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. Be sure to comment and tweet your questions and/or criticisms.

    Here is our final projection of the tournament bubble.

    Win-loss records on the following slides exclude games played against opponents not in D-I and are updated at the conclusion of each game involving a bubble team.

Ole Miss: Fourth Team Out

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 20-12 overall; 11-7 in SEC

    Record in Last 12 Games: 7-5

    Last Game/Next Game: South Carolina (L 58-60)/None

    RPI/SOS: 53/41

    Best Wins: at Arkansas (96-82), at Oregon (79-73), vs. Cincinnati (66-54)

    Worst Losses: vs. Charleston Southern (65-66), vs. TCU (54-66), vs. Western Kentucky (74-81)

    The Good News: It didn't look like much at the time, but that road win over Oregon just continues to appreciate with age. Going into Bud Walton Arena and stomping Arkansas is pretty unheard of over the past few seasons.

    The Bad News: Three home losses to teams outside the RPI Top 100 would have to be some kind of record for an at-large team if Ole Miss is able to dance. The Rebels have also lost five of their last eight games, slipping from "comfortably a No. 8 seed" to "excruciatingly on the bubble."

    Blueprint for an NCAA Bid: "Every March, there seems to be one resume that just looks uglier every time we look at it. Last year, that team was SMU, ultimately leading to our (correct) decision to keep the Mustangs out of the projected field. This year, that team is Ole Miss."

    Why is that in quotations, you ask? Because we wrote that on Thursday morning before the Rebels went out and lost to South Carolina in absurd fashion. Down three in the final seconds, Jarvis Summers converted on a four-point play to take the lead before Ole Miss fouled a South Carolina shooter with less than a second remaining to hand the Gamecocks the upset. 

    Now, we're left to look at a resume with 12 total losses, four ugly home losses and only four wins against the RPI Top 70.

    Prediction: Ole Miss earns a No. 1 seed in the NIT.

Miami: Third Team Out

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 21-12 overall; 10-8 in ACC

    Record in Last 12 Games: 7-5

    Last Game/Next Game: Notre Dame (L 63-70)/None

    RPI/SOS: 63/77

    Best Wins: at Duke (90-74), vs. NC State (65-60), vs. Illinois (70-61)

    Worst Losses: vs. Eastern Kentucky (44-72), vs. Georgia Tech (50-70), at Wake Forest (70-72)

    The Good News: Not a single team in the entire country had a better win than Miami's 16-point victory at Cameron Indoor, so if the Hurricanes are anywhere close to the bubble when things wrap up, that win might be enough to push them over the top. After all, a 13-loss N.C. State made the tournament last season with little more than a neutral-court win over Syracuse to its name.

    The Bad News: Then again, that Wolfpack team didn't suffer some of the atrocious losses that this Miami squad did. How in the world does a team win at Duke by 16 and lose at home to Eastern Kentucky by 28 in the same 30-day window?

    Blueprint for an NCAA Bid: The 'Canes fought like heck to battle back in the second half, but they ran out of gas after making up the 18-point halftime deficit, ultimately falling short of a huge win over Notre Dame.

    All is certainly not lost, though. Compared to what most of the bubble has done over the past two days, beating Virginia Tech before a close loss to Notre Dame is practically cause for jubilation. But Wyoming may have stolen Miami's spot in the field.

    Prediction: The Hurricanes will not be sending any Christmas cards to Wyoming, but Miami's win over Duke might be enough. It's probably enough to be more deserving than Georgia, right?

Georgia: Second Team Out

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 21-11 overall; 11-7 in SEC

    Record in Last 12 Games: 7-5

    Last Game/Next Game: Arkansas (L 49-60)/None

    RPI/SOS: 35/43

    Best Wins: at Ole Miss (76-72), vs. Ole Miss (69-64), at Texas A&M (62-53)

    Worst Losses: vs. Auburn (68-69), at Georgia Tech (73-80), vs. South Carolina (58-64)

    The Good News: If nothing else, the Bulldogs have to be in better shape than Ole Miss and Texas A&M after going 3-0 against those teams, right? The difference between the third-best team and sixth-best team in this conference literally came down to a tiebreaker, but those key wins plus four close games against Kentucky (twice), LSU and Arkansas would seem to give Georgia, at worst, the fourth-best tournament resume in the SEC.

    The Bad News: Outside of those three wins over fellow bubble teams, the Bulldogs went 2-5 against the RPI Top 60 and suffered another five losses to teams outside the RPI Top 75. Though they own the head-to-head win record over Texas A&M, it's hard not to prefer the Aggies to the Bulldogs because of those bad losses.

    Blueprint for an NCAA Bid: We weren't too worried about Georgia's bid earlier in the week. Wins over Ole Miss and Texas A&M left the Bulldogs in better shape than both of those bubble teams.

    But now that A&M is completely out of the conversation and Ole Miss is on the wrong side of the bubble, what does it say that Georgia's three best wins came against those teams?

    The big problem with Texas A&M was that the Aggies didn't have any great wins, but at least they didn't have any bad losses before the SEC tournament. So, why are we seemingly OK with Georgia having no great wins and three bad losses?

    Prediction: Georgia might get in, but it doesn't deserve to.

Connecticut: First Team Out

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Record: 20-14 overall; 10-8 in American

    Record in Last 12 Games: 7-5

    Last Game/Next Game: SMU (L 54-62)

    RPI/SOS: 74/75

    Best Wins: vs. SMU (81-73), vs. Cincinnati (57-54), vs. Cincinnati (62-56)

    Worst Losses: at Houston (68-70), vs. Memphis (53-54), at Memphis (72-75)

    The Good News: Though the Huskies have 14 losses, only one of those came against a team outside the RPI Top 85. They have an RPI Top 25 win and six RPI Top 50 wins, which is better than a lot of bubble teams.

    The Bad News: The six RPI Top 50 wins look great until you look at the whole picture. Connecticut is 6-9 in those games and 1-4 against RPI 51-150 for a total record of 7-13 vs. RPI Top 150. Throw in the terrible loss to Houston (RPI 238), and that's not a NCAA tournament resume.

    Also, there's at least an outside shot that they end up with just four RPI Top 50 wins, because Tulsa (RPI 45) might drop more than five spots as a result of the loss to UConn.

    Blueprint for an NCAA Bid: Close, but no cigar.

    The Huskies do have six RPI Top 50 wins. No other bubble team has more than four such victories, and the teams that do have four (Indiana and Purdue) are on the right side of the bubble with a few spots to spare. At least in that regard, the Huskies have a compelling case.

    But the sheer number of losses and the lack of "middling" wins against the RPI Top 51-150 will probably doom them to the NIT.

    Prediction: Ryan Boatright finishes his career with another postseason championship. Unfortunately, it will be for winning the NIT.

Illinois: Last Team In

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 19-13 overall; 9-9 in Big Ten

    Record in Last 12 Games: 6-6

    Last Game/Next Game: Michigan (L 55-73)/None

    RPI/SOS: 71/66

    Best Wins: vs. Maryland (64-57), vs. Baylor (62-54), at Michigan State (59-54)

    Worst Losses: at Nebraska (43-53), at Michigan (65-73), at Minnesota (71-79)

    The Good News: Illinois' two best wins are pretty great, and outside of that loss to Nebraska (without Rayvonte Rice), there aren't any really bad losses.

    The Bad News: Though they're 6-6 in their last 12, the Illini have lost five of their last seven to really stumble to the finish line with 13 total losses. Their nonconference strength of schedule ranks 161st in the country, and their only nonconference win against the RPI Top 100 came against a Baylor team playing without its starting point guard.

    Blueprint for an NCAA Bid: We pretty much gave up on Illinois after the loss to Michigan, but now that the shock from that no-show in the first half is starting to wear off, we're remembering why Illinois was so close to the field in the first place.

    The Illini have a 3-3 record against the RPI Top 25 and only one loss to a team outside the RPI Top 100. That's hardly the norm for bubble teams. If anything, it's usually the other way around: one great win and three or four bad losses.

    Who you beat is more important than who beat you. That's what we learned at the mock selection committee, and that's what we're applying here.

    Prediction: Illinois barely sneaks into the NCAA tournament.

Boise State: Second To Last In

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Record: 25-8 overall; 14-4 in Mountain West

    Record in Last 12 Games: 10-2

    Last Game/Next Game: Wyoming (L 66-71)/None

    RPI/SOS: 44/127

    Best Wins: at San Diego State (56-46), vs. Colorado State (82-78), vs. San Diego State (61-46)

    Worst Losses: at Fresno State (64-70), vs. Utah State (61-62), vs. Loyola IL (45-48)

    The Good News: As far as the eye test is concerned, few teams have looked better than Boise State over the past two months. The Broncos are 15-2 since enduring a four-game losing streak predicated largely on injuries, and Derrick Marks has been an unstoppable force in the current calendar year.

    The Bad News: The Broncos have a few ugly losses and didn't do much of anything for the first two months of the season. Their only decent win before mid-January was against a Saint Mary's team that isn't even on the bubble.

    Blueprint for an NCAA Bid: Boise, we have a problem.

    All the Broncos had to do was avoid a bad loss in the MWC tournament, but they were unable to do that, falling to Wyoming in the MWC semifinals. It was their second loss to Wyoming this season.

    This is a team with only one nonconference win against the RPI Top 140, only four total wins against the RPI Top 100 and five losses to teams outside the RPI Top 75. But if the eye test is a big component of the selection process, how can you argue against including the Broncos?

    Prediction: Boise State sweats it out before ultimately sneaking into the tournament.

Brigham Young: Third To Last In

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 25-9 overall; 13-5 in West Coast

    Record in Last 12 Games: 10-2

    Last Game/Next Game: Gonzaga (L 75-91)/None

    RPI/SOS: 37/74

    Best Wins: at Gonzaga (73-70), vs. Stanford (79-77), vs. Massachusetts (77-71)

    Worst Losses: vs. Pepperdine (61-67), at San Diego (74-77), at Pepperdine (74-80)

    The Good News: That road win over Gonzaga is one of the most impressive wins among all bubble teams, and a nonconference strength of schedule that ranks 27th in the nation serves as evidence that the BYU Cougars did a fine job of being aggressive with the portion of the schedule they can control.

    The Bad News: Simultaneously, that road win over Gonzaga stands out like a sore thumb on an otherwise uninspiring resume, and it probably takes more than one marquee win to make up for three losses to teams outside the RPI Top 100.

    Blueprint for an NCAA Bid: And here we are again.

    This is now the fourth consecutive March that BYU has been smack dab on the bubble, forced to sit on its hands for five days, rooting against bid thieves and other teams on the brink. 

    But things are breaking pretty well for the Cougars. Since losing the WCC championship game, no one has jumped ahead of them and several teams have fallen behind them.

    Even if Connecticut wins the AAC auto bid, BYU should be safely in.

    Prediction: BYU will play in the first round in Dayton.

Purdue: Fourth To Last In

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 21-12 overall; 12-6 in Big Ten

    Record in Last 12 Games: 8-4

    Last Game/Next Game: Wisconsin (L 51-71)/None

    RPI/SOS: 53/79

    Best Wins: vs. Ohio State (60-58), vs. Iowa (67-63), at Indiana (67-63)

    Worst Losses: vs. North Florida (70-73), vs. Gardner-Webb (84-89), at Vanderbilt (71-81)

    The Good News: Not since the Indiana Hoosiers in 2005 has a Big Ten team failed to get invited to the Dance after winning at least 57 percent of its conference games. That team went 10-6 after beating absolutely no one worth mentioning during the nonconference portion of the season.

    The Bad News: Despite winning 12 conference games, Purdue doesn't have a single RPI Top 30 wina pretty bad idea in a season with two home losses to teams outside the RPI Top 140. Going 8-5 with only two RPI Top 200 wins during nonconference play wasn't a great idea either.

    Blueprint for an NCAA Bid: Purdue missed out on a big opportunity against Wisconsin in the Big Ten semifinalsletting a five-point halftime lead turn into a 20-point lossbut the end result is probably no harm, no foul.

    Just by holding off Penn State to reach the semifinals, the Boilermakers likely did enough to get in. They do have some really ugly losses from December, but six wins against tournament teams (assuming Indiana and BYU get in) is pretty impressive.

    Prediction: They might end up playing a game in Dayton, but the Boilermakers should be in the tournament.