Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Championship Week Bubble Look

Time to take my second major look at the bubble. St Mary's eliminated all doubt with their route of Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament finals. They now have an automatic birth and have lowered the number of bubble spots by one. In good news for bubble teams Butler and Northern Iowa won their conference tournaments. Those teams were getting in to the big dance either way and a loss would have lowered the spots for potential bubble teams. Old Dominion and Cornell also earned automatic bids...neither were probably serious bubble teams, but they are no longer in any bubble discussion.

From last week I have moved 6 teams from on the bubble to in the NCAA tournament regardless of what happens from here forward. I have also eliminated four teams from bubble discussion (what you will notice about all those teams is their seasons are over and they have no way to add to their resume). I've added some teams to the bubble discussion that I missed on my first quick look through last week. Now that I have had more time to look things over and evaluate this is a far better look.

As of right now my cutoff is Minnesota (of course that assumes UTEP wins CUSA and Cal wins the Pac Ten, Xavier/Temple/Richmond win the A10, and New Mexico/UNLV/BYU win the Mountain West...otherwise the bubble certainly shrinks.

Also it is important to note that some of the teams I have eliminated may currently have and may finish with better resume's than some of the teams I have in the discussion and on the bubble. The reason teams that may be below them are still on the bubble is that those teams on the bubble have opportunities to improve their resume. I may put out my first bracket today, but I'll probably wait until later in the week.

Teams that have moved from bubble to in:

Clemson- Clemson has played themselves into tournament lock status. They are 2-4 against the RPI top 25 and 3-3 vs. RPI 26-50. They have beaten Butler and Maryland, swept Florida State and taken down GT. All that plus finishing over .500 in the ACC...they are in.

UNLV- The Rebels will be in the NCAA tournament. They are 4-4 against the RPI top 50 beating Louisville, SD State, BYU and New Mexico. The New Mexico win was in the Pit and with New Mexico sitting in prime position for a 2 or 3 seed that victory is looking better by the day. With a stronger bubble they may be close to the edge, but not this year. They will be dancing.

Louisville- The second win over Syracuse was just what the doctor ordered to get Louisville into Lock Status. At this point they are just playing for seed (and given the nature of the Big East tournament depending on how they do there is a huge range of where they could be seeded). The Cardinals are now 2-5 against the RPI top 25, but both of those wins came against number 1 seed lock Syracuse. Now Louisville's issue is those two victories are their only top 50 wins...and in another year that could be a huge issue...but at this point... with them getting 11 wins in the number 1 RPI conference I cannot see the Cardinals getting left out.

Marquette- I think the Golden Eagles moved to lock status with their 69-48 victory thrashing of Louisville I think Marquette has earned their way into the dance. Marquette finished Big East play with 11 Big East wins. They have 2 top 25 rpi wins beating Xavier and Georgetown (though 6 losses) and are 1-1 against the RPI 26-50 beating Louisville. Marquette has two unfathomable losses to NC State and Depaul, but the overall resume should be enough to overcome those.

Florida State- By beating Miami and Wake Forest last week Florida State has played their way into the NCAA tournament. The Seminoles finished ACC play at 10-6. They have four top 50 victories...sweeping bubble team Georgia Tech and getting wins over Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.

Virginia Tech- I hate the fact that I am saying this but Virginia Tech is a lock at this point. VT has one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country (something the committee generally penalizes teams for) at 344. 17 of their 22 wins are against teams with a sub .500 RPI... of those 10 had RPI's below 150 and 8 had RPI's outside the top 200. Basically they inflated their record playing a lot of bad teams. Still the Hokies will get in (and with the weakness of the bubble probably should get in), because they went 10-6 in ACC play. And though the Hokies are 0-3 against the RPI top 25 they are 3-1 against RPI 26-50 beating Clemson, Wake Forest, and on the road against fellow bubble team GT.

The Bubble As of Noon- Wednesday

Notre Dame- Sweeping UCONN and Marquette last week probably put the Fighting Irish in the dance. Notre Dame finished the regular season by winning four straight games three of which were against teams that will be dancing in Marquette, Pitt, and Georgetown. Notre Dame also has a great win over West Virginia. Their 3-2 record against the RPI top 25 is going to look really good on selection Sunday.

Georgia Tech- Georgia Tech hurt themselves by not getting to .500 in ACC play, but despite that they could still find themselves in the field. To their credit the Yellow Jackets have 4 top 50 wins which include a win over possible #1 seed Duke, and wins over NCAA tournament teams Siena, Clemson and Wake Forest. Their opening round game against fading North Carolina probably is a must win game. They can secure a win by beating Maryland in the second round of the ACC tournament, but even a close loss will likely be good enough.

Florida- Florida could have moved to lock status with a win over Kentucky (or even Vandy) last week. As it is they are in relatively good shape simply because of the other teams behind them not having much to celebrate. To date Florida is only 2-8 against the RPI top 25 (victories over Tennessee and Michigan State) and 1-0 against RPI 26-50 (beating fellow bubble team Florida State). Looking at the SEC tournament Florida at the very least needs to make the SEC semi finals. Making the semis will keep them in the discussion...if they can manage to make the finals they'll be dancing for sure.

Illinois- Illinois could end up giving the committee headaches this Sunday. They sit at 75 in the RPI which would be among the lowest for any team to make the tournament. Still Illinois is a very respectable 3-4 against the RPI top 25 beating Vanderbilt and Michigan State at home and getting a great road win in Wisconsin. Very few teams manage to get 3 wins over RPI top 25 teams. Illinois also has a victory over fellow bubble team Clemson. Illinois draws Wisconsin one more time in their first Big Ten tournament game... a win will get the Illini in the field. A loss and they will be teetering on the edge.

SD State- For a second straight year SD State is going to be sitting squarely on the bubble. SD State is only 2-5 against the RPI top 50 and 3-6 against the top 100. To me that does not scream NCAA team. They did split with bubble team UNLV and get a split against New Mexico. They won the games they needed to last week to keep themselves in position. They likely will need two wins in the Conference tournament to get in...They have a first round match-up with Colorado State which they cannot afford to lose and then get another shot at New Mexico. A win over New Mexico should get them in the field.

UTEP- One of three Conference USA teams hoping to find a way in the tournament. They are clearly first in the pecking order of those teams having won the outright conference championship. They are only 3-1 against the RPI top 50 sweeping UAB and beating Memphis. They have run off 14 straight wins which will really help them. I think at this point UTEP will probably be dancing so long as they make the finals of the CUSA tournament... but it strikes me that their only big wins are over teams that could very likely not be dancing.

Seton Hall- In getting to .500 in conference play Seton Hall did exactly what they needed to last week. They held on for a big win against Providence last night and now may have a chance to play their way into the field against Notre Dame. A win puts Seton Hall firmly on the bubble (I don't think they can get in with a loss). If they can manage to follow that up with a victory over Pitt they will probably be dancing. Seton Hall is only 3-8 vs. the RPI top 50 with victories over Pitt, Louisville and Cornell. Of their losses 7 came against teams in the RPI top 15.

Cal- For the record Cal still has zero top 50 RPI wins going 0-4 against the RPI top 50. They only have 1 non-conference RPI top 100 win. They have an RPI of 20 which would make them the highest RPI team ever left out if they do not make it(Missouri State in 2005 currently holds that distinction). If they make the PAC Ten finals they'll could very well get a bid, but I do not think they deserve it Their resume simply does not hold up. The PAC Ten SHOULD be a one bid league and I really hope the selection committee does their job in scrutinizing it. If teams from the Atlantic Ten, Missouri Valley, MAC, WAC, Mountain West...etc had these resume's they would not be in the discussion. They are ahead of Washington and Arizona State (who both have two wins over the RPI top 50) because they finished alone in first place.

Minnesota- And to think...last week I did not think there was as shot Minnesota would be dancing. They are 3-6 against the RPI top 50 and those are three very high quality wins over Butler, Wisconsin and Ohio State (and the Ohio State win was with Evan Turner). The thrashing they received from Michigan looks bad, but they managed to recover and get to .500 in Big Ten play. Beating Penn State is a must...then they'll have a shot to really impress by beating Michigan State.

Memphis- They have two top 50 wins right now... both against a UAB team that will almost assuredly not be dancing without winning the CUSA tournament. Could Memphis getting a third win over UAB and making the finals of the Conference USA tournament be enough? I personally doubt it, but if none of the other bubble teams step up and play their way in it could be a possibility.

Ole Miss- Early season wins continue to keep the Rebels in the discussion, but they have to do something in the SEC tournament. The Rebels have been riding their incredibly impressive victory neutral site win over Kansas State all season long. That simply is not going to be good enough unless they make a run in the SEC tournament. Ole Miss is only 1-5 against the RPI top 25 (and again that 1 win was early) and 1-0 against RPI 26-50 (another early season win against UTEP). Basically since conference play began Ole Miss has not been an NCAA team. They did get to 9-7 in the SEC to keep their at-large hopes alive. They have a first round bye and then must win their first conference tournament game. A win over Tennessee in the SEC tournament could earn them a bid... an additional win over Kentucky will put them firmly in.

St Louis- St Louis managed to get a split in the Temple/Dayton stretch last week to keep their slim hopes alive. They are only 83 in the RPI, so their resume does not scream tournament team, but their performance in a strong Atlantic Ten Conference has earned them a spot in the discussion. With wins over Richmond, Dayton(twice), and Rhode Island, St Louis is 4-3 against the RPI top 50. They finished alone in 4th in a particularly strong A10 going 11-5. They still may need to win the conference tournament to go dancing, but it's possible getting two more top 50 wins by beating Rhode Island and Temple in their first two tournament games could earn them an at large bid.

Arizona State- Arizona State won 6 of their last 7 if the very weak PAC Ten. Arizona State only has 1 top 50 win (beating SD State). They have another win over a Washington team that currently is 51 in the RPI. If they can make the PAC Ten finals and it is Cal that beats them they could make the tournament. But they have a very weak resume overall.

Washington- Finished the season by winning 4 straight to keep their hopes alive. They have two top 50 RPI wins both at home against Texas A&M and Cal... If they can make the PAC Ten finals and it is Cal that beats them they could make the tournament. But they have a very weak resume overall.

Utah State- They have rolled through their conference, they are 8-4 against the RPI top 100 and 8-5 in true Road Games. They have a big win over BYU and a solid win over Wichita State to get them to 2-1 against the RPI top 50 (a close loss at New Mexico). That may not be enough to get them an at large bid, but they did get a bid in 2005 with zero top 50 who knows.

Dayton- Dayton seemingly dealt themselves a deathblow last week losing to Richmond and Saint Louis to fall to .500 in the A10. Dayton is 1-6 against the RPI top 25 and 2-1 against RPI 26-50. Their win over Xavier looks better by the day. They have a neutral site win over fellow bubble team Georgia Tech and win over Old Dominion. It is going to take a pretty exceptional Atlantic Ten tournament to get the committee's attention. They got the win they needed to open the A10 tournament and now likely must beat Xavier and Richmond to give themselves a chance at an at-large bid.

Mississippi State- At 1-4 against the RPI top 50 Mississippi State probably is a fringe candidate at best at this point. Their sweep of Ole Miss does not carry much weight at this point. Their best victory was early in the season over Old Dominion. Mississippi State is still on the board because wins over Florida and Vanderbilt to reach the SEC finals would likely be enough to earn them a bid. They have not really done anything to show that is possible, but the point is their slims hopes are still alive (and remember they ended up winning the conference tournament last year to force their way in).

Rhode Island- Rhode Isalnd, like Dayton...seemingly played their way out last week. They are 2-4 against the RPI top 50 (0-4 against the top 25) beating Oklahoma State on a neutral floor and beating Dayton on the road. The loss to Umass on Saturday was their second bad loss (also have a loss to St Bonaventure). Their biggest issue is they are only 1-5 against the A10 teams contending for an at-large bid. Rhode Island gets St Louis in a do or die game in the A10 quarterfinals and then must find a way to beat Temple to have a shot at an at-large bid.

UAB- The loss to UTEP all but eliminated UAB from an at-large bid. They have a nice win over Butler and a win over Cincinnati, but really that is about it. They are only 1-5 against the RPI top 50. I don't know that beating Memphis and earning a trip to the Conference USA finals would even be enough at this point. They probably need to win the conference tournament.

Cincinnati- Getting smacked around by Georgetown for all purposes eliminated Cincinnati from the discussion, but I leave them here because the Big East tournament does offer a unique opportunity for a run. The Bearcats having been clinging to their two big non-conference victories all season long. Those victories over Vanderbilt and Maryland have looked stronger and stronger all season long. The problem is since conference play the Bearcats just do not have enough to hold their hat on. They are only 2-9 against the RPI top 50. Cincinnati has a lot of close losses to good teams, but in the end you have win one or two big games for those to come into play. Had the Bearcats managed to get to .500 in the Big East all of a sudden you can look at overtime losses to Xavier, Marquette and Gonzaga and give the Bearcats some credit. At this point those don't come into play. The Bearcats survived against Rutgers to advance in the tournament. Advancing to the finals will be necessary for the Bearcats to earn a bid... a trip to the finals would likely give the Bearcats victories over Louisville, WVU and Pitt...all of a sudden that would be a pretty interesting resume. (Hey a man can dream)

Eliminated From Consideration

UCONN- Wow do things change in a week. UCONN had won 4 in a row and then suffered a close lose to Louisville. The came into last week feeling reasonably good all things considered. Three stink bombs later (losses to ND, South Florida, and St Johns) and UCONN has absolutely no shot to be a tournament team.

South Florida- The managed to get to .500 in Big East play and have 3 top 50 wins to their credit (going 3-4 against the RPI top 50) beating Pitt and Kent State at home...the Georgetown on the road. However, they needed to beat Georgetown today and fell short. A nice year for South Florida, but ultimately they will not be dancing.

Wichita State- A trip to the finals of the Conference Tournament finals of the Missouri Valley just is not going to be enough for Greg Marshall's kids. They did manage to go 9-5 against the RPI top 100, but only 1 of those wins was against the RPI top 50 (beating conference champion Northern Iowa in the Regularl season). A good season, but ultimately not enough.

Charlotte- They once sat in great shape, but just closed the season losing 7 of 8 games including a first round A10 loss to Umass. Charlotte is not going to be dancing.

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