Monday, March 5, 2012

Breaking Down the Field - March 5, 2012

With one week to go, some teams are playing for seed, while other are trying to add to their resumes in hopes of making the field.  Here is a lock/bubble breakdown as I have it, with a little additional bubble analysis.

LOCKS (55)

ACC(4) - North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Virginia
Big East(5) - Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame
Big 12(5) - Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Kansas State, Iowa State
Big 10(6) - Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue
SEC(4) - Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida, Alabama
Mountain West(3) - UNLV, San Diego State, Wyoming
Atlantic 10(2) - Temple, St. Louis
Missouri Valley(2) - Creighton, Wichita State
West Coast(2) - Gonzaga, St. Mary's
Conference USA(1) - Memphis
Ohio Valley(1) - Murray State
Atlantic Sun(1) - Belmont
Big South (1) - UNC-Asheville
Colonial (1) - VCU
Metro Atlantic (1) - Loyola-Maryland
Southern (1) - Davidson
Other Automatic Bids (15) - PAC-12, WAC, Ivy League, Horizon, Summit, Mid-American, Sun Belt, Patriot, Big West, Big Sky, Northeast, Southland, America East, MEAC, SWAC

That leaves 13 bids.  Connecticut is probably safe, but beating DePaul on Tuesday would take any doubt I have away.  If the Huskies win, they would face West Virginia in the 2nd round.  I also believe the Mountaineers are safe, but again, an extra win never hurts.  Cincinnati finally has a palatable RPI, but the non-conference schedule does not go away.  They have to wait two days for a probable match-up with Georgetown.  A win over the Hoyas will for sure do it, although I think they are fine as well.

That leaves 10 bids, with a few teams closer to those bids than others. 

Southern Mississippi (22-7, RPI 17) is a bit of a lightning rod, but with 3 Top 50 wins and 9 Top 100 wins, the Golden Eagles are likely part of the field.  They also own a road win against Colorado State and home wins against South Florida and Mississippi, all teams on the bubble.  That said, beating Rice/East Carolina and avoiding a 4th 100+ loss would remove any doubt.

Colorado State (18-10, RPI 22) is the epitome of the "Homecourt Hero", but when three of those are against UNLV, New Mexico and San Diego State, you can't argue with some of the quality.  The Rams are 8-9 against the RPI top 100 and have just one bad loss.  My research indicated 6 road/neutral wins was suggested, so a win over TCU would take care of that and likely salt away a bid.

California (23-8, RPI 37) is in a bit of a precarious position.  The loss at Stanford denied the Golden Bears a share of the PAC-12 title, so a loss in the PAC-12 tournament would leave Cal without either a regular-season or post-season title in a likely max 2-bid league.  While Cal sits with 2 Top 50 wins today, they have 0 Top 49 wins.  If Oregon falls one spot, that number changes.  The 7 top 100 wins stack up well with some of the others, but the lack of a big win could spell doom come Sunday if the Golden Bears need an at-large berth.

BYU (23-8, RPI 44) is sitting and waiting and hoping they are not forgotten.  They have 3 Top 50 wins, including their one big win at home vs Gonzaga.  The other two are Nevada(46) and Oregon(50) and BYU sits at 5-6 vs the Top 100, so the resume isn't sparkling.  The worry for BYU should be a shrinking bubble and wins by their fellow bubble partners.

Iona (25-7, RPI 43) needs to overcome the stigma of the Metro Atlantic Conference, a conference that has never received multiple bids.  The Gaels have just one top 50 win over Nevada(46) and 5 Top 100 wins.  In their defense, it only took them 2 games to have 1 top 50 win, while Northwestern has had 11 chances, South Florida 10, Mississippi and Washington 7 and they each only have 1 Top 50 win as well.  The 5 Top 100 wins currently exceeds that of Texas(4), Washington(4) and Miami(3) and matches that of Creighton, Iowa State, BYU, Northwestern and Oregon.  I guess what I am saying, is they should not automatically be dismissed.

Mississippi State (21-10, RPI 63) hopes a 2-game winning streak to finish the season will erase the lingering doubts precipitated by a 5-game losing streak.  The RPI is shaky, but the Rebels have 3 top 50 wins and are 8-8 vs the Top 100.  They have a good non-conference win against West Virginia and a key road win at Vandy.  Despite that, a loss to Georgia in the SEC first round will send the RPI lower and put them in great danger.

Tennessee (17-13, RPI 75) has won 8 of 9 and owns victories over Vanderbilt, Connecticut and a sweep of Florida.  The RPI is still too low, so the Vols need to do some damage in the SEC tournament.  Potential games against Mississippi and then either Vanderbilt or Mississippi State provide UT with the opportunities.  I think two wins gets it done for the Vols.

Mississippi (18-12, RPI 58) is the forgotten team in the SEC.  They have the same problem as others, with a 1-6 record vs the RPI top 50, but their 7 top 100 wins exceed many of their counterparts.  They own victories over Alabama, as well as fellow bubble squads Mississippi State and Miami.  They start with Auburn in the SEC tournament, with Tennessee waiting.  Winning the first two will get them more in the discussion, but a run to the SEC Championship game is probably needed.

South Florida (18-12, RPI 45) hopes a 12-6 Big East record is at least in the minds of the committee.  Wins over Seton Hall, Cincinnati and at Louisville give them quality wins, but is there enough?  The 6 seed in the Big East tournament does not initially help, as a game vs Rutgers/Villanova is only a losing proposition.  The Bulls might need a quarterfinal win over Notre Dame depending on what happens around them.

Seton Hall (19-11, RPI 60) just lost to DePaul by 28.  They have a respectable 4 top 50 wins, including one over Georgetown and are 7-8 vs the Top 100.  They are just 4-9 in their last 13, and while the committee does not look at that, they are human.  Providence is first up on Tuesday, followed by an opportunity to play their way in against Louisville.  Based upon Saturday, the Pirates will not even be playing by Wednesday.

Xavier (19-11, RPI 57) has had a tale of two seasons.  A hot start included wins over Purdue, Cincinnati and at Vanderbilt.  Then the brawl came and the rest of the season has been average at best.  The committee will give some consideration to their 0-3 record during the suspensions, but how much nobody knows.  A win over Dayton/George Washington should be enough, but a loss in the quarterfinal might send them to the NIT.

Northwestern (18-12, RPI 48) is a committee nightmare.  A top SOS, no bad losses, but only one big win at home vs Michigan State.  With just 5 RPI top 100 wins, the Wildcats are on shaky ground.  They get Minnesota first on Thursday, which would add a Top 100 win.  They would then get Michigan, who they played tough in two losses earlier in the year.  They need two wins to feel safe with everything else going on around them.

Texas (19-12, RPI 52) has 3 RPI top 50 wins (Temple, Iowa State and Kansas State0 but only 4 top 100 wins, putting them on shaky footing despite a strong SOS.  They get Iowa State and then likely Missouri, a chance to get to 6 top 100 wins if they can get to the Big 12 Final.

Miami (18-11, RPI 54) has two big wins (at Duke, vs Florida State), but just 3 total against the Top 100.  Throw in a 5-8 Road/Neutral record and things don't look good for the Hurricanes.  They start with Georgia Tech and have Florida State waiting in Round 2.  Duke is the Round 3 possibility.  I think the Hurricanes need to run all the way to the ACC final to solidify a bid.

Washington (21-9, RPI 53) has the PAC-12 regular season title and that's about it.  Currently 1 Top 50 win (Oregon(50)) and 4 Top 100 wins lends to a pretty weak at-large resume.  A semifinal win over Arizona would add one more good win, but my suggestion for all PAC-12 teams would be to win the tournament.  That includes Oregon (22-8, RPI 50), who can add 2 top 100 wins if it makes the final, but would have to be chosen over the regular season champion to get a berth.

St. Joseph's (19-12, RPI 55) has wins over Creighton, Temple and Drexel amongst its 6 top 100 wins.  A win over St. Bonaventure may get them another one, but I think they need to also beat Temple in the A-10 semis to play their way into the field.

If NC State beats Virginia and North Carolina, they re-enter the discussion.  Dayton needs a run to the A-10 finals to gain any consideration.  Drexel is likely done, especially in comparisons to Iona and Oral Roberts.

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