Monday, March 08, 2010

Where The Bubble Stands

All conference tournaments are fun to watch, but it's always a little bit different once the big boys start playing their do-or-die games. And that begins tomorrow afternoon, with the Big East tournament getting under way. The Big 12, Pac-10, Conference USA and the Mountain West start on Wednesday. And the ACC, Big Ten and SEC begin on Thursday. Full schedules of all of the conference tournaments, as well as a preview of each conference tournament, can be found here.

The bubble is always weak at this point in the season. We always have "This is the weakest bubble I've ever seen" articles written this time of year, because everybody forgets that the bubble always strengthens over the last few days. Automatic bids will be stolen, bubble teams will get hot, et cetera. But that said, this is a weaker than average bubble, and the bubble got even weaker over the weekend. The first result that can definitively be called a bad result for bubble contenders is the St. Mary's win tonight over Gonzaga. They probably were going to be a Tournament team even if they didn't win the automatic bid, but at least there was a chance if they had lost tonight that they'd have ended up in the NIT.

With that said, here's where I see the bubble as we head into Tuesday's games:

Teams definitely in the bracket now, but that still need to win at least one more game or they'll be sweating it out on Selection Sunday:
Marquette, Wake Forest, UTEP, Oklahoma State, UNLV, Clemson

The Bubble: 13 teams playing for 8 spots:
Georgia Tech, Florida, Washington, San Diego State, Memphis, Utah State, Notre Dame, Wichita State, Illinois, UAB, Arizona State, Ole Miss, Rhode Island

Teams definitely out of the bracket now, but that can get earn themselves an at-large bid by playing well between now and Selection Sunday:
Dayton, UConn, Seton Hall, South Florida, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Mississippi State

An important thing to remember is that automatic bids are a part of those "8 bids" on the bubble. Two of those bids will go to the WAC champion and the C-USA champion, so bubble teams will all be rooting for Utah State and UTEP to win their conference tournaments. If UTEP, Memphis and Utah State all fail to win their conference tournaments then we'll still have 13 bubble teams, but they'll be fighting for 6 spots. And of course there's always the chance of an upset in one of the BCS conferences, or the Mountain West tournament.

But right now I really do think that the bubble will come down to those 13 teams.

Key bubble games that will be played tomorrow (Tuesday):

Noon Eastern Time (ESPN2): South Florida vs DePaul: A must-win for South Florida to keep their hopes alive.
2PM ET (ESPN2): UConn vs St. John's: A must-win for UConn.
7PM: Rhode Island vs St. Joe's: A must-win for Rhode Island.
7PM: Dayton vs George Washington: A must-win for Dayton.
7PM: Charlotte vs UMass: A must-win for Charlotte.
7PM (ESPNU): Seton Hall vs Providence: A must-win for Seton Hall
9PM (ESPN): Butler vs Wright State: An automatic bid on the line. Butler is a lock for an at-large, and Wright State has no chance at an at-large. Translation: Every bubble team will be rooting for Butler.
9PM (ESPNU): Cincinnati vs Rutgers: A must-win for Cincy.


Chris said...

Come on Rhode Island...please keep my slim hopes alive tonight.

Hubbo said...

Is Wichita St. still in the "Bubble Teams" grouping because they can sneak in if a bunch of the other bubble teams stumble? They can't really help their cause anymore, so I have to think they've got a slim shot.

Jeff said...

Hubbo, Wichita State is on the bubble "as it stands now". But your point is correct: they cannot help themselves any longer, so their odds are long.

If Butler loses tonight, or UAB wins the C-USA tournament, or Dayton wins three straight games in the A-10 tournament, all of those things will hurt Wichita State's chances, and there's nothing they can do about it

This is why in my BP65s I always do projections rather than "where they stand now". Because I can make a really good case for Wichita State being in the bracket if the season ended now, but they're very unlikely to be in the final bracket... and do you think Wichita State fans care more about the former or the latter?

Most likely Wichita State will fall off the bubble by the end of the weekend.