Friday, March 12, 2010

Heading Into Friday: Where The Bubble Stands

Every conference tournament is now under way, and the bubble continues to be extremely weak. I can't recall so many teams losing must-win games, with so few teams coming up with clutch victories. For all the talk of expanding the field to 96, you sure get the feeling that this year's Tournament would be just fine with about 60.

I'll start this post by just putting up the bubble as I see it currently. I'll explain why some teams are where they are immediately afterward:

Teams definitely in the bracket... for now:
Wake Forest, Missouri, UNLV, Clemson

The Bubble: 10 teams playing for 7 spots:
Florida, San Diego State, Georgia Tech, Washington, Utah State, Wichita State, Illinois, Ole Miss, Arizona State, Rhode Island

The best of the rest:
Dayton, Memphis, South Florida, Cincinnati, Mississippi State, Seton Hall, Minnesota, UAB, Saint Louis

Recall, of course, that two of those bubble spots could potentially go to the C-USA winner and the WAC winner. So all of these bubble teams will be rooting for UTEP and Utah State in those conference tournaments, since those are the only remaining teams in each conference with a good shot at an at-large bid. I've moved UTEP off of bubble consideration because of the weakness of the bubble. They will be in the NCAA Tournament unless something really crazy happens. The other team I pulled off the bubble for good is Notre Dame, with their big win over Pittsburgh.

Memphis and UAB fell off the bubble with their bad losses. It's hard to see either team getting into the NCAA Tournament now. Cincy also misses a chance of moving up onto the bubble with their heartbreaking loss to West Virginia. Dayton and Mississippi State are both primed to move onto the bubble with a win on Friday. Florida and San Diego State are the two teams that will definitely move into the bracket with a win on Friday. In fact, if the season ended now it's hard to see either of those two teams getting left out, but both will be in serious jeopardy if they lose their next game.

Friday will be the last day of wall-to-wall bubble games this season. In fact, I expect the bubble to shrink dramatically during the day. I doubt more than three or four at-large spots will still be seriously up for grabs when the day is done. Here is the complete listing of all of Friday's bubble games:

2:30 PM Eastern Time (ESPN): Illinois vs Wisconsin: I said coming into this week that Illinois had to win this game to have any chance of an at-large bid, although with as weak as the bubble has gotten I almost think Illinois can still have hopes with a loss here. But for all intents and purposes, they've got to have this one.
2:30 PM ET: Rhode Island vs Saint Louis: Saint Louis has to win to keep their long shot at-large hopes alive. Rhode Island is a much more realistic Tournament team, as they might actually be in the Field of 65 at the moment (they'd be one of the last in, or one of the first out). A win here would probably put them in the Field of 65, although they could easily fall back out with a loss in their next game. It's very hard to see them making the NCAA Tournament without a win here.
3:15 PM (SEC Network): Ole Miss vs Tennessee: Mississippi's at-large chances have improved the last few days without them even having to take the court, but I don't see them making the NCAA Tournament without a win here.
4 PM (CBS College Sports): UTEP vs Tulsa: Tulsa needs a win to keep their slim at-large hopes alive. UTEP is probably in the bracket for good, so the rest of the bubble will be rooting for them to win the C-USA tournament to try to limit the conference to only one NCAA Tournament team.
6:30 PM (CBS College Sports): Dayton vs Xavier: Dayton's at-large hopes have been rejuvenated with so many bad losses by other bubble teams, but this game is a must-win for them.
7 PM (ESPN2): Georgia Tech vs Maryland: Georgia Tech could get an at-large without a win here, but they'll have to sweat it out through Selection Sunday. A win here would not assure them of an at-large bid, but it would put them in the Field of 65 for the time being.
7:30 PM (SEC Network): Florida vs Mississippi State: Both of these teams are on the bubble, although Florida is in a better position. They are probably in the bracket already, and would definitely be in the Field of 65 (at least temporarily) with a victory here. They might need one more win after this one to lock up a bid, but they'll be in good shape if they can win here. Mississippi State, on the other hand, needs to win this game just to keep their at-large chances alive. Even if they win they still would probably have more work left to do to get even temporarily into the Field of 65.
9 PM (Big Ten Network): Minnesota vs Michigan State: Minnesota has to win this game to keep their at-large hopes alive.
9 PM (CBS College Sports): San Diego State vs New Mexico: San Diego State is probably in the Field of 65 for the time being, but they've got more work to do. A win here would probably put them into the Tournament for good. But they're in a lot of trouble with a loss.
11:30 PM (Fox Sports): Washington vs Stanford: We had all expected this game to be an elimination game between Washington and Arizona State, with the winner going to the NCAA Tournament and the loser going to the NIT. But because they'll just be playing Stanford, there's no way that Washington can lock up an at-large bid here. In fact, a win might not even put them in the Field of 65 at all. There's no question that Washington needs to win this game to go Dancing. To make the Tournament they've got to win this one and then keep it close on Saturday against California. And honestly, I think Washington matches up very well with Cal, and that game will be a toss-up if both teams can make it there.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Great win for Rhode Island today. Probably the best all around game they have played since OK State. Defense and offensive rebounding was fantastic. Hopfully this game will be enough to get them in the tournament since Temple OWNS Rhode Island. But with the way they played today, they may be able to pull off the upset.