Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Bubble Watch: Heading Into March 6th

The last day of Championship Week without the BCS conferences in action ended up being very exciting. All four of the conference title games came down to the final seconds, with a couple of them going into overtime. In the end, Davidson, Loyola-Maryland, VCU and St. Mary's won the four auto bids.

St. Mary's and Gonzaga were both already locked into the NCAA Tournament, so that game didn't impact the bubble. VCU and Drexel were both of the bubble, though. Drexel will have to sweat out Selection Sunday. I'll break down their resume more when I do a game recap (most likely tomorrow night), but sadly I just don't think Drexel will get in. They're right on the bubble now, but it's historically been the case that mid-major teams on the bubble with a week to go end up falling out. Six days from now we'll be talking about mid-conference teams that just made a run to the SEC or Big Ten tournament semis or finals. They'll end up passing Drexel. It happens every year.

On Tuesday we will start up the BCS conference tournaments, with the Big East beginning action. The bubble, which is still quite large, is going to start thinning out. By the time we hit Selection Sunday, the bubble will most likely be down to 7 or 8 teams fighting for 3 or 4 spots.

For now, here is where the bubble stands:

Tournament locks (28 teams):
Duke, North Carolina, Belmont, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Syracuse, UNC-Asheville, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Baylor, Kansas, Missouri, VCU, Loyola-Maryland, Creighton, Wichita State, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, Murray State, Kentucky, Davidson, Gonzaga, St. Mary's

Automatic bids yet to be awarded (23, of which 17 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, Horizon, Ivy, MAC, MEAC, MWC, NEC, Pac-12, Patriot, SEC, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt, 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 (18 teams for 14 bids):
Miami (Fl), Xavier, UConn, Seton Hall, South Florida, West Virginia, Northwestern, Texas, Long Beach State, Drexel, Southern Miss, Harvard, 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 (15):
Maryland, Dayton, UMass, Iowa, Minnesota, Marshall, Akron, Ohio, Wyoming, Colorado, Stanford, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, South Dakota State,

Key Bubble games to be played on March 6th (all times are ET):

UConn vs DePaul
(Noon, ESPN2): It's do-or-die for UConn. They're right on the bubble now, but the odds are that they'll be NIT-bound if they fall here. Even if they win this game, they'll need to beat West Virginia in the second round or they're going to have to sweat out Selection Sunday.
Seton Hall vs Providence (7PM, ESPNU): Seton Hall was looking pretty good a week ago, but getting demolished by DePaul in their final regular season game was a disaster. Now they have to win this game to avoid the NIT. Like UConn, the probably need to win a second Big East tournament game after this to stay in the NCAA Tournament.
St. Joseph's vs Charlotte (7PM): St. Joseph's would be heading to the NIT if the season ended now, but they still can work their way onto the bubble with a strong performance in the Atlantic Ten tournament. They're going to need at least two wins, and probably three, but it all has to start here. This is a must-win for them.


Anonymous said...

what criteria do you use to evaluate whether a team is in or not? seems silly to say that vandy is anythong other than a lock. 4-4 vs RPI top 50, 7-4 or so against next 50. Top 30 RPI. Top 30 Ken Pom, Sagarin, etc. Is there any scenario in which they don't get in? Looking at the bracket matrix project, you are the only bracket that has them lower than an 8. Not flaming, just curious what your methodology is that prevents you from locking them in if they lost to MSU or UGA.

Jeff said...

I use the word "lock" differently from other websites. If you read Sports Illustrated or ESPN or CBS, every year they'll have some team as a "lock" in February that ends up in the NIT. I don't make a team a lock until there's no possible way for them to miss.

Were Vanderbilt to lose their first SEC game to Mississippi State they'd be 11-10 against the RPI Top 100 with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS around 40th. That most likely get them in the NCAA Tournament... but it's not inconceivable that we could see some weird results in conference tournaments (Miami making the ACC finals, Tennessee winning the SEC tournament, etc) that could push that resume onto the bubble.

Vanderbilt is, therefore, in the same situation like teams like Purdue, Florida State and Alabama. Win that opening conference tournament game or there will be that chance that you will have to sweat out Selection Sunday.

Anonymous said...

the sky could fall tomorrow, as well, i guess. seems like a silly position to take at this point given there are 37 at large slots and they are in the top 37 now. Even if at 40 as you suggest, won't at least a third of the teams ahead of them be in on automatic bids?

Anonymous said...

also - why the nine seed?

Jeff said...

The way things are going, as many as 22 or 23 automatic bids could go to teams that otherwise would not earn at-large bids. That means that we might only be going out to the 45th best resume.

I understand that Vanderbilt is one of the 37 best resumes right now. That's why I say that they're definitely in the Tournament right now - it's in the title of the group! I'm not saying that I think Vanderbilt is going to miss the NCAA Tournament

I just don't see what's the harm in using the word "lock" in its more traditional sense, which is to mean something that must happen. If Vanderbilt loses their opening SEC tournament game, you will see some people question their bubble chances. All they need to do to avoid that is to win one more game.