Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bubble Watch: Heading Into March 10th

First things first: automatic bids! The first three automatic bids of the season have been given out, to Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun), Harvard (Ivy League) and Belmont (Ohio Valley). In addition, two more teams locked up at-large bids: Colorado State and St. Louis.

With five new teams added to the bracket, we now have 26 spots locked in. Seven more teams look to be safe, and we have at least 20 more automatic bids to be won by teams not currently listed as locks. So despite 26 teams seeming like a small number of locks at this point, there really aren't all too many spots available.

That said, the bubble did expand on Saturday. Baylor and Alabama moved onto the bubble with quality wins, while bad losses dumped Oklahoma and Colorado back to the bubble. In all, I now have 14 teams fighting for 9 spots.

Two more automatic bids will be handed out on Sunday: the Big South and Missouri Valley. Outside of the Missouri Valley title game, the best bubble games are Maryland/Virginia and VCU/Temple. Virginia really needs that win to stay in the Field of 68. With a win, Maryland could pull themselves back onto the bubble. VCU, with a win, will lock up the 29th NCAA Tournament bid. Temple can't lock anything up, but a win over VCU would make them really well placed for an at-large bid.

Since a few people have asked me the same question, let me say that the groups in my bubble watch are done in the same style as the groups in my bracket projections. That is to say, they're alphabetical by conference, and then by teams within each conference. So all ACC teams come before all Big East teams, while Duke comes before Miami. The purpose is because there's really no such thing as the "first team out" or "second team out". It's a nonsensical concept invented by television producers. So I'm not going to tell you in this bubble watch that I'm sure that one bubble team is in or out. I'm just saying that every team above the bubble would definitely be in, and every team below would definitely be out, and the 14 teams on the bubble would be consuming the final 9 at-large bids if the season ended now... I'm just not certain which 9.

Anyway, here is how the bubble stands as we head into Saturday, March 10th:

Tournament locks (26 teams):
Duke, Miami (Fl), North Carolina, Florida Gulf Coast, St.Louis, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Harvard, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV, Belmont, Arizona, Florida, Gonzaga

Automatic bids yet to be awarded (28, of which 20 are not projected to be won by teams currently locked into the Tournament):
America East, ACC, A-10, Big East, Big Sky, Big South, Big Ten, Big 12, Big West, Colonial, CUSA, Horizon, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, MVC, MWC, NEC, Pac-12, Patriot, SEC, SoCon, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt, SWAC, WCC, WAC)

Teams that look safe (7):
NC State, Butler, VCU, Notre Dame, Memphis, Creighton, Missouri

Teams definitely in the Tournament... for now (9):
Cincinnati, Villanova, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa State, Wichita State, San Diego State, UCLA, Oregon,

The Bubble (14 teams for 9 bids):
Virginia, La Salle, Temple, Iowa, Baylor, Oklahoma, Boise State, California, Colorado, Alabama, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee, St. Mary's

Best of the rest (6):
Maryland, UMass, Southern Miss, Arizona State, Arkansas, Louisiana Tech

Long shots (10):
Charlotte, Xavier, Florida State, Providence, St. John's, Akron, Air Force, Stanford, LSU, Middle Tennessee

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