Friday, March 8, 2013

Bubble Mania (will keep adding as time permits)

By my count, it is down to 10 days until selection Sunday.  It seems this year, the Field is solidifying better than in the past, with more teams all but locking down spots at this point than in the past few years.  Seeding is a different story, as teams will use these 10 days to try and add quality victories that will enhance their resumes for the committee.  So where do we stand right now?  Let's take a look.

Locks (59)
ACC - Duke, Miami FL, North Carolina, North Carolina State
Atlantic 10 - St. Louis, VCU, Butler
Big East - Louisville, Georgetown, Marquette, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame
Big Ten - Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois
Big 12 - Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma
Conference USA - Memphis
Missouri Valley - Creighton, Wichita State
Mountain West - New Mexico, UNLV, Colorado State, San Diego State
PAC 12 - Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, California, Colorado
SEC - Florida, Missouri
WCC - Gonzaga
20 Automatic Qualifiers from Conferences not listed above

Should Be In (3)
Villanova (18-12) - I will start with the Wildcats, who have completed their Big East regular season with a 10-8 conference mark.  The resume now includes 4 Top 25 wins, a mark that almost guarantees a bid unless your RPI is unsightly, which Villanova's is not at 53 due to a SOS of 19.  They will face off against St. John's or Cincinnati in the first round of the Big East tournament, neither of which would be a bad loss.  Do I think they are in?  Yes.  Win one game in the Big East Tourney and its a lock.

Cincinnati (20-10) - The Bearcats finish the Big East season at home vs South Florida.  The Bearcats actually compiled a decent non-conference resume this year, so a .500 conference record should be good enough to earn a bid this year.  Things get trickier if they lose to the Bulls, which may then require a victory over Villanova in the Big East Tourney.

Temple (22-8) - The Owls have won 5 in a row after the Duquesne debacle and close the year with VCU at home.  A win their is a trip to the NCAA's, but a loss there and another loss to a bottom-division team in the First Round of the A-10 Tourney would put them square on the Bubble, despite their win over Syracuse and 9 overall Top 100 wins.

Bubble (6 spots available)
St. Mary's (25-5) - The Gaels will have an interesting resume to compare to if they fail to earn the WCC automatic bid.  If that loss is to Gonzaga, their RPI should not take much of a hit, putting them in solid position.  The big question is, can a resume that includes a victory over Creighton and 3 over BYU but not much else get you into the dance?

Boise State (18-9) - Yes, the Broncos do play more than football.  Have they played it well enough to dance?  With an RPI of 44, a road win at Creighton and victories over UNLV and Colorado State, there is a lot to like about this resume.  The losses to Nevada and Utah are what is holding it back a little.  Their regular season finale is San Diego State at home, which is likely a win and get in scenario.  Should they lose, they will see those same Aztecs on a neutral floor next week.  If they get swept, it will come down to what has happened around them.

Iowa State (20-10) - The Cyclones have beaten Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but have some holes in their resume.  More specifically, a 3-8 road record and a loss to Texas Tech, combined with just 6 Top 100 victories.  They close at West Virginia, and given their road woes, that is no gimme.  It looks like Oklahoma or Oklahoma State in the first round of the Big 12, so if they trip up in Morgantown, they have a tough one right away next week.  It would be nice to see another quality victory here, but just getting that additional road win might be enough.

LaSalle (21-7) - The Explorers sit with just 5 Top 100 victories, a mark that typically does not get an Atlantic 10 team into the tournament.  They have the big road win at VCU and home win vs Butler, as well as beating Villanova.  The other black mark is the loss to Central Connecticut State.  LaSalle closes at St. Louis, a tough game but one that won't do much damage to their RPI of 41.  They could still secure a top 4 seed in the A-10 Tourney with a loss, landing them an initial game against Temple, UMass or Xavier.  All those teams would provide an additional top 100 win

Tennessee (18-11) - The Volunteers have emerged in February, positioning them to be part of the March conversation.  They have a signature win over Florida, coupled with 8 Top 100 wins.  Their worst losses were a sweep by Georgia (RPI of 122) , but their best road win is Texas A&M (RPI of 93).  Tennessee also has a 200 +/- of 1, so two losses to end the season would put them at -1, a mark few have gained an at-large berth with.  They can probably put a bid to rest by beating Missouri at home on Saturday.  If they lose, the SEC is too jumbled to have any clue how the conference tourney will look, but the Vols would need to secure one, maybe two wins their to gain comfortable status.

Virginia (20-10) - What to do about the Cavaliers?  It is probably the most controversial part of the Bubble Talk right now.  7-3 vs the Top 100, with wins over Duke, North Carolina, NC State, at Wisconsin and over fellow bubbler Tennessee.  13-7 against the 101+, including a loss to Old Dominion (RPI of 318).  On one hand, you want a team in the tournament capable of beating the likes that UVA has defeated, but on the other hand, can you reward a team that has lost so many bad games?  The Cavs finish the regular season at home against Maryland, an opportunity for another top 100 win.  With a win, they can possibly get to the #4 seed in the ACC, which would help them avoid the 5-12 game which could prove disastrous. 

Iowa (19-11) - The Hawkeyes host Nebraska this weekend, a win would give them a .500 record in the Big 10 and 20 wins on the season.  They have wins against Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin, but their best road win is Penn State (RPI of 176).  The non-conference SOS of 308 brings their RPI in at 75, so there is work left to do.  A win over Nebraska would give Iowa the 6 or 7 seed and a match-up with Nebraska or Northwestern.  They would then have one last shot at an Ohio State or Michigan State to get that real signature win on a neutral floor.

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