Sunday, March 09, 2014

Bubble Watch Heading Into March 10th

Three auto bids were handed out on Sunday, though one to a team that was already locked into the Tournament (Wichita State). The other two auto bids were Mercer (Atlantic Sun) and Coastal Carolina (Big South). Saint Louis locked up at least an at-large bid with their big win over UMass, and so we're now up to 28 locked teams. 40 spots are still to be filled.

You might be asking why Nebraska is still on the bubble after this big win over Wisconsin. I think that win gets them from slightly out of the Field of 68 to slightly inside, but they're still on the bubble. You can still make a case for them being out. They still have work left to do.

Saint Joseph's drops down to the bubble with their loss, and it sets up a crucial bubble battle if Dayton can get past their initial Atlantic Ten game (vs either George Mason or Fordham). If Dayton and St. Joseph's play in the A-10 quarterfinals, it's hard to see the loser making an NCAA Tournament. The winner, though, will be in great shape.

Teams that move up a group are colored green while teams that drop a group are colored red. Here is how the bubble stands as we head into March 10th:

Tournament locks (28 teams):
Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia, Mercer, Saint Louis, Creighton, Villanova, Coastal Carolina, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Harvard, Wichita State, New Mexico, San Diego State, Eastern Kentucky, Arizona, UCLA, Florida, Kentucky

Automatic bids yet to be awarded (27, of which 18 are not projected to be won by teams currently locked into the Tournament):
AAC, America East, ACC, A-10, Big East, Big Sky, Big Ten, Big 12, Big West, Colonial, CUSA, Horizon, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, MWC, NEC, Pac-12, Patriot, SEC, SoCon, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt, SWAC, WCC, WAC

Teams that look safe (8):
Memphis, SMU, UMass, VCU, Ohio State, Baylor, Kansas State, Oregon

Teams definitely in the Tournament... for now (7):
Pittsburgh, George Washington, Iowa, Oklahoma State, Arizona State, Colorado, Gonzaga

The Bubble (14 teams for 9 bids):
Florida State,  Dayton, Saint Joseph's, Georgetown, Providence, St. John's, Xavier, Minnesota, Nebraska, Toledo, California, Stanford, Tennessee, BYU

Best of the rest (12):
Clemson, Marquette, Indiana, West Virginia, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, Green Bay, Stephen F Austin, North Dakota State, Utah, Arkansas, Georgia

Long shots (12):
Maryland, NC State, Illinois, Middle Tennessee, UTEP, Ohio, Boise State, UNLV, LSU, Mississippi, Missouri, Saint Mary's


Son of Mike said...

Jeff - I don't see how your numbers add up. You say there are 9 "bubble" spots. But if you add up your "locks" (28) + auto-bids "yet to be awarded" (without duplicating any of the locks (18)) + "safe" teams (8) + teams in "for now" (7), that equals 61 teams, which would leave 7 bubble spots available (the most charitable way to interpret your list would be that there are 8 spots). Not sure where you get 9 bubble spots, unless the field has expanded again.

There is an obvious disconnect in one spot because of WCC/Gonzaga. You have the WCC as one of the 18 conferences that is not won by a projected lock team ... but you don't have Gonzaga as a "lock" nor do you have them on the "bubble". Notwithstanding that the Zags should be a "lock" anyway, that would only fix one spot. That still leaves your numbers wrong: if you include Gonzaga (WCC) as a lock (auto-bid conference), then - using your list - there would be 43 lock/safe/for now teams ... and 17 "one-bid" conferences. That adds up to 60, leaving 8 bubble spots - not 9.

(As an aside ... for some reason, you have Toledo as a bubble team, where they have zero shot at earning an at-large spot ... to do that, the best they could do would be another 75-100 loss, giving them four such losses (to go with a sub 200 loss) and zero top 75 wins. Maybe that is the cause (and evidence) of your bad numbers).

Jeff said...

You actually didn't do your math right. If you add up all the categories with the 9 "bubble spots" it adds up to 70. The reason it adds up to 70 is the reason you noticed - Gonzaga and Toledo are currently projected to win automatic bids yet are included in the bubble watch. I've decided to count those teams as in, because it's certainly true that of those 14 teams on the bubble 9 can get in while all the teams above them get in as well.

One could argue that I should say that there are in fact only 7 bubble spots available, to make the numbers add up to 68. I don't feel too strongly either way, I'll just stick with what I'm doing to be consistent.

Son of Mike said...

I did my math right. 70 doesn't equal 68. I pointed out the Gonzaga disconnect to explain one of the "extra" spots. And I pointed out that Toledo has no chance at an at-large bid, which "explains" the other extra spot. It's that spot that I think you have wrong. The most charitable way to say it is that we each did our math correctly, but we're basing it on different assumptions.

It appears then that it is your assumption (not your math) that "one could argue" with. You assume that Toledo would still be viable as a tourney team if they beat Buffalo in the semis, and then lose to Ohio in the finals (which is their best case scenario (numbers wise) for an at-large bid).

I don't see it ... but I would be interested to hear your case for Toledo under those circumstances. In particular, how the Rockets' profile would warrant them being a "tier" ahead of Green Bay (which properly is relegated to the "best of the rest" category (i.e., NIT) now that their season is over). Do you think there is a tournament-defining difference between losing to a team ranked 90th vs losing to a team ranked 150th? Toledo will have FOUR such losses (plus a loss to a 200+ team) ... Green Bay will have THREE such losses (plus a loss to a 190+ team). At some point, there is a material difference between "bad" losses and "terrible" losses, but I'm not sure if that difference lies among the teams we're talking about. On balance, those seem like roughly equal profiles on the "loss" side ... working against Green Bay is that two of those losses were at home vs all of Toledo's being on the road, so let's give a slight bump to Toledo. Meanwhile, Toledo has zero top 75 wins (and only scheduled one game vs a tourney-quality opponent). Green Bay not only has one such win - it happens to be over a #2 seed in your bracket ... and the Phoenix scheduled two other games vs tourney teams. Given how strong that win is - the one and only quality win - and the slightly better SOS for Green Bay, it's inarguable that Green Bay would have a better "win" profile than Toledo.

Son of Mike said...

And there actually are 7 bids (Nebraska is at least in the "for now" category, certainly if teams like Pitt and Gonzaga are there).

And while there technically are 12 teams (Nebrask is in, Toledo is out) that are in the "best" position to fill those 7 spots, some of those teams are facing each other such that it's unlikely (if not impossible) for both teams to earn a spot. Still, I think it's fair to rank them:

1. BYU: in with a win tonight (assuming Zags win as well; i.e., BYU won't want to risk losing to SMC in the finals)
2. Stanford: loss to Wazzu would kill them; but a win prob is enough; a lock if they beat Az State, but prob still in if they lose that one.
3. Xavier: loss to Marquette would put them at risk; while a win would lock them in (definitely so if Creighton beats Gtown/DePaul);
4. Tenn/Ark (should be in your "bubble" category): I think Tenn is a lock if they beat Arkansas, in trouble if they lose to Arkansas, and dead if they lose to Aub/SC. I think Ark moves in with a win over Tennessee, and out with a loss.
5. Dayton/St. Joe's: if Dayton gets by GMU/Fordham, the winner of this one probably is in (assuming the next game is vs St. Louis), while the loser is out.
6. Cal: They'll be rooting for Colorado to beat USC ... a win over the Buffs would mean something; beat the Trojans wouldn't (in which case they'd have to beat Zona to have a shot)
Then there is a drop to the next set of teams (that prob have to do a little more than just win one to jump ahead of the teams above them on the list):
7. Minnesota: barring a series of fortunate events, I think they need to beat Wiscy in the quarters (obviously after beating Penn State).
8. Providence/St. John's: the loser clearly is out, the winner probably needs to be Nova (where a win would leapfrog them above a bunch of teams, but a loss would end their hopes. A cruel world.)
9. FSU - has to beat Maryland and Virginia (where a win would leapfrog them above a bunch of teams, but a loss would end their hopes. A cruel, cruel world indeed.)

I think that the following "for now" teams are much closer to "safe" then they are to the bubble (and I'd drop SMU to this list:
- GW (even with a loss to RI)
- Iowa (even with a loss to NW)
- Okey St (even with a loss to TT)
- SMU (even with a loss to Houston)
- Gonzaga (even with a loss to SMC)

And these "for now" teams would need to suffer a monumental loss AND have a bunch of bubble teams get hot:
- Colorado (lose to USC)
- Az State (lose to Wazzu (Sun Devils are Stanford fans for one game at least!)
- Nebraska (lose to Purdue ... go Ohio State!)
- Pitt (lose to Wake/Notre Dame ... but boy was that Clemson suckout huge for the Panthers)

And the following "best of the rest" need the bubble/for now teams to collapse collectively in a big way, and pull off some shockers:
- Clemson: beat GT/BC, Duke and Cuse
- Indiana: beat Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio St
- Utah: beat Wash, AZ, and Colo/Cal

I don't see Green Bay, SFA or ND State with any at-large shot (GB was covered in my previous post; SFA/NDSU would have too damning of a loss in their conf finals).

And I do like how you list some other teams, even if they really don't have any shot at alone (but really these guys should be moved to the "long shots" part of your blog):
- Marquette: beating XU, Creighton, then losing to Nova isn't enough.
- West Virginia: beating Texas, OU, then losing to KU isn't enough
- LaTech/So Miss: they would meet in the semis; but losing to Tulsa/MTSU is too bad of a loss to move them up
- Georgia: beating Ole Miss, Kentucky, then losing to Florida isn't enough

I always like reading your stuff; keep up the good work!