Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bubble Watch: Heading Into March 10th

You would have thought that with so many bubble teams in action we'd have cleared things up a little bit. But somehow the bubble actually grew today. A bunch of teams that looked to be in the NCAA Tournament lost (California, Southern Miss, Virginia, Alabama and Texas). Meanwhile, a bunch of teams that looked to be narrowly outside the bubble won (Arizona, NC State, Ole Miss, Marshall). The bubble now has 15 teams fighting for 10 spots.

There were no auto bids handed out on March 9th, but four teams did lock up at-large bids with wins: Cincinnati, Florida, Florida State and Memphis. That pushes us up to 40 spots locked up. At least 9 more auto bids will be handed out to teams not currently locked into the Tournament, so there are really only 19 spots left. Throw in six more teams that are "safe" and we're down to 13 spots that are really up for grabs.

The bubble is not necessarily stronger or weaker than it's been historically, but it's hard to think of a year where the bubble has been more eclectic. You can read my most recent bracket projection for some of my thoughts on that.

For now, here is where the bubble stands:

Tournament locks (40 teams):
Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Belmont, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Montana, UNC-Asheville, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Baylor, Kansas, Missouri, VCU, Memphis, Detroit, Harvard, Loyola-Maryland, Creighton, Wichita State, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, LIU, Murray State, Lehigh, Florida, Kentucky, Davidson, South Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, St. Mary's

Automatic bids yet to be awarded (16, of which 9 are not projected to be won by teams currently locked into the Tournament):
America East, ACC, A-10, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Big West, CUSA, MAC, MEAC, MWC, Pac-12, SEC, Southland, SWAC, WAC)

Teams that look safe (6):
St. Louis, Temple, Purdue, Iowa State, Kansas State, Vanderbilt

Teams definitely in the Tournament... for now (6):
Virginia, UConn, Texas, Southern Miss, Alabama, BYU

The Bubble (15 teams for 10 bids):
Miami (Fl), NC State, Xavier, Seton Hall, South Florida, West Virginia, Northwestern, Long Beach State, Drexel, Colorado State, Arizona, California, Washington, Tennessee, Middle Tennessee

Best of the rest (6):
Iona, Oregon, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Oral Roberts, Nevada

Longshots (8):
Dayton, St. Joseph's, UMass, Central Florida, Marshall, Akron, Ohio, Colorado

Key Bubble games to be played on March 10th (all times are ET):

Memphis vs Marshall (11:30AM, CBS): Memphis is heading to the NCAA Tournament regardless, so any team on the bubble needs to root for them to win the Conference USA tournament. Marshall is still a long shot bubble team, but their real risk to the bubble is as an auto-bid stealer if they can beat Memphis and then win the Conference USA tournament title on Sunday. [As a commenter noted below, this is the title game. A Marshall win will steal an auto bid no matter what. That's what I get for putting this post together so late at night...]
NC State vs North Carolina (1PM, ESPN): NC State would probably be in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended now, but they're right on the bubble, which is a perilous place to be with two days of games left to go. An upset win here would really firm up their at-large bid. With a loss they'll have to sweat out Selection Sunday. Keep an eye on John Henson's wrist.
Saint Louis vs Xavier (3:30PM, CBS College Sports): Saint Louis is safe for an at-large bid but Xavier is not. Xavier probably needs to win this game to get into the NCAA Tournament. Also, since Temple has already gone down, a St. Louis win of the A-10 tournament title is the only way that an auto bid isn't "stolen" in the A-10.
Vanderbilt vs Ole Miss (3:30PM, ABC): Vanderbilt is safely in the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss, however, has a chance of getting onto the bubble with a win here. With a win they'd also only be one win from stealing the SEC's auto bid. So other bubble teams will be rooting for Vanderbilt here.


Anonymous said...

You have a mistake on your Memphis-Marshall preview. That game is the C-USA championship, not a semifinal. Marshall steals a bid with a win.

Jeff said...

You're right, sorry about that. It's too late at night.

I fixed it now, I believe.