Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Bubble Watch: Heading Into March 7th

We had four teams lock up auto-bids on Tuesday. Detroit won the Horizon tournament, South Dakota State won the Summit tournament, and Western Kentucky won the Sun Belt tournament. Meanwhile, Harvard clinched the Ivy auto bid by locking up the regular season title. Those four additions move us up to 32 locked NCAA Tournament teams. There are still 36 bids to be handed out.

There actually wasn't much movement on the bubble on Tuesday. The only major conference in action was the Big East, where UConn and Seton Hall each beat lower tier teams. Both teams are in better condition than they were 24 hours ago, but neither team will feel comfortable if they fall on Wednesday. And with the Big 12, Pac-12, Mountain West and Conference USA tournaments getting under way, we should see more changes to the bubble on Wednesday than we saw on Tuesday.

For now, here is where the bubble stands:

Tournament locks (32 teams):
Duke, North Carolina, Belmont, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Syracuse, UNC-Asheville, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Baylor, Kansas, Missouri, VCU, Detroit, Harvard, Loyola-Maryland, Creighton, Wichita State, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, Murray State, Kentucky, Davidson, South Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, St. Mary's

Automatic bids yet to be awarded (19, of which 13 are not projected to be won by teams currently locked into the Tournament):
America East, ACC, A-10, Big East, Big Sky, Big Ten, Big 12, Big West, CUSA, MAC, MEAC, MWC, NEC, Pac-12, Patriot, SEC, Southland, SWAC, WAC)

Teams that look safe (6):
Temple, Notre Dame, Iowa State, Kansas State, Memphis, Florida

Teams definitely in the Tournament... for now (8):
Florida State, Virginia, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Purdue, BYU, Alabama, Vanderbilt

The Bubble (17 teams for 13 bids):
Miami (Fl), Xavier, UConn, Seton Hall, South Florida, West Virginia, Northwestern, Texas, Long Beach State, Drexel, Southern Miss, Colorado State, California, Oregon, Washington, Mississippi State, Middle Tennessee

Best of the rest (8):
NC State, St. Joseph's, Central Florida, Iona, Arizona, Tennessee, Oral Roberts, Nevada

Longshots (14):
Maryland, Dayton, UMass, Iowa, Minnesota, Marshall, Akron, Ohio, Wyoming, Colorado, Stanford, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss

Key Bubble games to be played on March 7th (all times are ET):

UConn vs West Virginia
(Noon, ESPN2): This is the most bubblicious game of Championship Week so far. The winner of this game is going to really firm up their place in the NCAA Tournament, and would need some bad luck in other conference tournaments to fall into the NIT. The loser of this game, though? They're going to have to sweat out Selection Sunday.
Seton Hall vs Louisville (7PM, ESPN): By thumping Providence, I do think that Seton Hall would be an NCAA Tournament team if the season ended now. But if they lose this game? They'll be stuck on the bubble, and that's never a good place to be with four more days to come and dozens of other teams trying to steal NCAA Tournament bids. Louisville, of course, is safely in the NCAA Tournament already. They're just playing for seed.
Villanova vs South Florida (9PM, ESPN): South Florida has an interesting resume. They're yet another case study of how much the Selection Committee will weigh non-conference performance vs conference performance when there are no extenuating circumstances (i.e. players who became eligible mid-season). The Selection Committee hasn't always been consistent on that, so South Florida will not want to leave it up to them. I think that if USF loses this game, they're probably bound for the NIT. With a win? They'll be in pretty good shape, but no "lock" yet.

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