ESPN put their Bubble Watch out a few days ago, and this is the time of year that most big websites put them out. ESPN has another one that is updated more often but it's hidden behind their Insider wall. Either way, while these are good ideas they tend to be put together by people who aren't really good at projecting brackets. ESPN's Bubble Watch happens to be way too beholden to the RPI, generally just ranking teams by their current RPI, not realizing that other ratings (like the Sagarin ratings) are better predictors of Tournament seed.
Also, there seems to be a lack of a solid methodology from year-to-year. In the past, the Bubble Watch has occasionally listed too many teams, sometimes putting in teams with bad computer numbers from bad conferences. This year they left out too many good teams. Wisconsin is probably the most egregious team to be left out of the discussion altogether, since they're probably going to make the Tournament. They probably wouldn't be in the Tournament if the season ended now, but you've got to list them as at least being on the bubble. While there are no other teams that I think will probably make the Tournament that are left off, a "bubble watch" has to include a lot more teams that are on the fat part of the bubble. It's okay to leave off teams like St. John's, but you've got to include teams like Notre Dame, Kansas State and Mississippi State. In addition, ESPN's Bubble Watch has zero teams from the Missouri Valley and zero teams from the Atlantic Ten other than Xavier and Dayton. If you're including San Diego State then you've got to include Northern Iowa, Creighton and Rhode Island.
One other thing I always criticize other websites for doing, and ESPN's Bubble Watch is no exception, is overusing the word "lock." I am very careful about that word, and only use it if something really is a lock. I don't deny that anything is possible, but if I use the word "lock" to describe something's probability then I'm saying that the odds of it not happening are on the order of a million-to-one. For example, Michigan State might miss the Tournament if they lose every single game the rest of the way. But the odds of them losing every single game are on the order of a million-to-one, so it's safe to say that Michigan State is a "lock" for the Tournament. I'm fine with several other teams being locks at this point, such as North Carolina, Oklahoma, UConn, et cetera. But Washington and Kansas? That's ridiculous. Both teams will probably make the Tournament, and I'd be surprised if either team missed out, but both still have real work to do. Either team would fall back on the bubble if they lose two or three straight, which is nothing near the million-to-one possibility I spoke about earlier of a team like Michigan State losing nine straight. According to the way ESPN's Bubble Watch ranks teams, both Washington and Kansas deserve to be in "Should be in", not in "locks."
Remember, last year the initial ESPN Bubble Watch has Dayton as a lock. I attacked that decision at the time, and was proved correct when Dayton missed the Tournament altogether. Those who were regular readers of the blog last season knew that Dayton was probably the most discussed team, as I got a ton of grief from Atlantic Ten fans that were appalled that I didn't jump on the Dayton bandwagon. Those who argued against me learned a great lesson about how good of a predictor the aptly named Sagarin PREDICTOR is.
Either way, that's why (I hope) you all read this blog. I put a lot more effort in listing all teams in the bubble discussion, as well as teams that may not be in the bubble discussion right now but could end up on the bubble. And if I tell you that something is a "lock", then it's a lock. Right now there are only about ten teams that have locked themselves into the Tournament, with about 15 to 20 more that are "likely" Tournament teams. Right now I see well over 40 teams on the bubble, with another 30-40 more that are good enough that they can get hot and end up on the bubble before the season is over. Every year there are teams that aren't on the initial ESPN Bubble Watch that make the Tournament. If your team isn't listed on this past week's BP65 then it is a lock that they won't make it in as an at-large. A real lock.
If you are a fan of Temple, TCU or Vanderbilt, this is the place to see where they stand on the bubble. Not ESPN.