Your Bubble Has Burst: 02.25.09

Posted by zhayes9 on February 25th, 2009

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist.  He’ll regularly be out-scooping, out-thinking and out-shining Lunardi over the next three months.

bubble-burst

We kick off this week’s edition of Your Bubble Has Burst with a fitting segment: teams whose bubbles have successfully burst since last Thursday. These teams can begin making NIT/CBI reservations barring an unprecedented conference tournament run:

Note: all computer numbers prior to Tuesday’s games.

Georgetown
- The Hoyas had two great opportunities to get right back into the thick of the bubble race by at least splitting two home games against Marquette and Louisville. Instead, they hung around with Marquette and were dismantled by Louisville, dropping both games and sending the spiraling Hoyas to a 5-10 conference record. Their next game: @ Villanova, meaning the best case scenario is 7-11 in the Big East. They’ll have to reach the Big East Tournament final now. Good luck.

Baylor- The disappointing Baylor Bears finally broke a six-game losing streak at home against Texas A&M before falling to Oklahoma State and dropping to 4-8 in the Big 12. Even if they should win 3 out of their next 4, a 7-9 record in the #4 RPI conference won’t be enough to make the field. They’ll have to make a run in Oklahoma City, but how can anyone expect that the way this team plays defense?

Seton Hall- The Pirates had an outside chance to at least put themselves in a position to earn bubble consideration with a late-season run. That went up in flames with their close loss to St. John’s on Sunday night. They have some bad losses out-of-conference and now welcome Pittsburgh to the Prudential Center. The Pirates should be a threat in the NIT.

Northwestern-
The schedule gods were not kind to poor Northwestern, who finishes their Big Ten campaign with four out of five on the road. They were thrashed at Minnesota and trips to Purdue and Ohio State still remain. At 5-9 in the conference, their bubble has officially burst.

Mississippi State- How can a team with a 7-5 record in conference make this list? 1) when you’ve lost your last two games to Auburn and Alabama (home win in the middle), 2) you play in this year’s SEC, 3) you have 1 win against the RPI top 50, 4) you have an 84 RPI. The Bulldogs needed to win at Alabama on Saturday and didn’t. There’s no way the committee considers a team with their resume.

Nebraska
- Their computer numbers are horrible and they saw their NCAA chances end last night with the home loss to Texas A&M. Simple as that.

On to the conferences:

Atlantic Coast

Locks-
The same four teams are bona fide ACC locks- front running North Carolina, Duke, Clemson and Wake Forest. Carolina is on their way to a conference title while Duke and Clemson are tied for second with Wake trailing at 7-5. With their undefeated non-conference performance, Wake still has enough on their resume to be considered a lock. It looks like North Carolina will end up a #1 seed with the other three locks fitting in somewhere between a #2 and #4 seed for the tournament.

Comfortably in-
Despite the loss to BC, Florida State sits at 21-7 (8-5) in the ACC with wins against California, Cincinnati, Clemson and Virginia Tech, including close calls against Pitt and North Carolina. Their computer numbers (17 RPI, 28 SOS) are also strong enough where Leonard Hamilton should feel pretty secure about finally garnering an NCAA bid.

Work left to do- Boston College
picked up a huge ACC win Tuesday night by downing Florida State at home. They’ve now defeated Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Maryland and Virginia Tech in ACC play and sits at 8-6 in the ACC with two games remaining- @NC State and Georgia Tech. There’s an outside chance if they win both the Eagles could finish in the top four in the conference. Win in Raleigh and they move up this ladder. Maryland and Boston College both have nearly identical resumes (seriously, check them out, it’s amazing) and have quality wins against North Carolina and Michigan State from back in November to boast. Which Maryland team will show up tonight against Duke? This team could go either way with a home game against Wake and road contests at Virginia and NC State to follow.

On the brink- Just when it looked like Virginia Tech was going to make a strong push, they’ve lost three in a row to Maryland, Virginia and Florida State to fall out of the field. They could certainly use those heartbreaking losses against Xavier and Wisconsin to magically turn into wins. Their last four games- @Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, @Florida State- leads me to believe the Hokies will be playing in the NIT this season. Brutal.

Big East

Locks- Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Louisville, Marquette and Villanova remain the top five teams in the rugged Big East and are featured as locks for the NCAA tournament. The top four teams are all in contention for #1 seeds with a huge matchup tonight in Milwaukee between Connecticut and Marquette. Pittsburgh could have had the clear edge to the Big East title if they didn’t lose at Providence because their rematch with Connecticut is at home. Instead, it appears Louisville may have the best shot, but they’ve got a very hard road game at West Virginia to end the season. Villanova solidified a top-four seed with their dramatic win over Syracuse on Sunday. This is going to be a fun last three weeks at the top of the Big East.

Comfortably in-
I would bank on West Virginia slipping up in one of their final four games- @Cincinnati, @South Florida, DePaul, Louisville- but they could very well win all four. Even losing one would put them at 11-7 in the Big East with a top 15 RPI and SOS. Their prospects appear promising. Syracuse thrashed St. John’s on Tuesday and improved to 20-8 on the season with a top 25 RPI and SOS. Their next two games are Cincinnati and Rutgers at home.

Work left to do- Just when you thought Providence was dead after Notre Dame went on a three-point shooting contest on Saturday, they go out and beat the #1 team in the nation last night, reaffirming the notion that college basketball is the craziest season offered in sports. At 9-7 in the Big East, and due to the conference strength many saying 10 wins is enough to feel good, all they have to do is win at Rutgers in their next game, right? With a weak 77 RPI (should climb with the win), they could be a close call on Selection Sunday. Cincinnati sits at 7-7 in the conference with three fairly difficult games ahead- West Virginia and trips to Syracuse and South Florida. Beating Louisville would have been huge for the Bearcats. They’re a remarkable 0-8 vs. the RPI top 25 this season.

On the brink- Notre Dame lives. They absolutely must sweep their final three games at home- Rutgers, Villanova and St. John’s with a loss at Connecticut- to feel like they’re still alive. Then it’ll come down to the Big East Tournament for the Irish. Two things hurt Notre Dame’s chances: a 72 RPI and the #267 non-conference SOS in the nation. It’s still a long shot at this point.

Big Ten

Locks- Michigan State sits one game ahead of Purdue and 1.5 games ahead of Illinois in the Big Ten. They will face Illinois in Champaign on March 1 and Purdue in East Lansing on March 8, signaling to me the race for the Big Ten regular season title is far from over. What is determined is these three teams going to the Big Dance. Michigan State has the #5 RPI in the nation and 9 wins vs. the RPI top 50. Illinois has the #16 RPI and 3 wins against the RPI top 25. Purdue has a 23 RPI and have won four in a row.

Work left to do-
There are four bubble teams in the Big Ten right now- Ohio State (8-7), Minnesota (8-7), Penn State (8-7) and Wisconsin (8-7). The rankings in terms of RPI are Wisconsin (28), Minnesota (38), Ohio State (40) and Penn State (61). Don’t sulk Penn State fans. Your final three games- Indiana, Illinois, @Iowa- are all very winnable and 11-7 should get you in despite the poor computer numbers. Wisconsin should benefit from the strong numbers by really only having to go 10-8 in the Big 10 and winning their first round tournament game to feel safe. With Michigan and Indiana at home, that can be achieved. Ohio State should also get to 10-8 in the conference and will benefit from a long undefeated run before their loss to West Virginia out of conference. Minnesota ran through the entire non-conference schedule undefeated and finish with games @Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, making them the riskiest bet, but still a safe one at that. All four of these teams should get in.

On the brink- Michigan could not afford to lose to Iowa on Sunday. They did and now face the realistic possibility of going 7-11 in the Big Ten with their final three games vs. Purdue and trips to Wisconsin and Minnesota. Their non-conference wins over Duke and UCLA don’t look as sensational now, either. They have a 56 RPI and 19 SOS.

Big 12

Locks- The same three teams are locks this week- Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Bill Self has emerged as the frontrunner for Coach of the Year with the campaign his Jayhawks are putting together after losing everyone not named Sherron Collins after last season. They have a 7 RPI, 17 SOS, won at Oklahoma and have beaten 7 teams in the RPI top 50 (3 in the top 25). Oklahoma has two in a row but still looks good for a #1 seed with Blake Griffin at 100%. They have the #4 RPI in the nation and plenty of quality wins to tout. The difference between Kansas and Oklahoma is starting to close, though. Missouri has also been a pleasant surprise this year with a 15 RPI and that key defeat of the Jayhawks earlier this season.

Comfortably in- Texas beating Oklahoma moves them up into this category. They have 6 wins against the RPI top 50 and RPI/SOS in the top 40. The out-of-conference wins against Villanova, UCLA and Wisconsin will certainly help. They still have two difficult conference road games remaining- visits to Oklahoma State (2/28) and Kansas (3/7).

Work left to do- Oklahoma State has won three in a row against weaker opposition to climb back to 6-6 in the conference. They could very well get to 9-6 with their next three at Colorado and vs. Texas and Kansas State at home. Beating Kansas State would be doubly noteworthy because it’s against a fellow bubble team. With a 32 RPI and 10 SOS, they really only need to get to 9-7 in the Big 12 to feel much more comfortable. Their best out-of-conference win being Siena is concerning, though. Kansas State was my second-to-last team in the field in Monday’s bracket. Their computer numbers and out-of-conference wins are weak, but it was hard to deny a 7-5 Big 12 team in favor of a Miami or Oklahoma State. They’ll likely split their last four games and get to 9-7 in the conference, meaning it’ll come down to the Big 12 tournament for KSU.

On the brink- Texas A&M
stayed alive with their win at Nebraska. With a 40 RPI and 30 SOS, they have an outside shot. Their next two games against Iowa State and Colorado are MUST wins setting up a final showdown against Missouri in College Station.

Pac-10

Locks- As we move more and more towards the end of the season, more teams will appear in lock status. So even with their sweep at the hands of improved Oregon State, California still holds fort as a lock with a 31 RPI and 4 wins against the RPI top 25 (2 more than anyone else in the conference). Washington leads the pack with a 19 RPI, 21 SOS and excellent numbers across the board, including 5 wins against the RPI top 50. Arizona State’s sweep of UCLA and Arizona helps greatly in their quest for a Pac-10 title. They’ve now defeated 7 teams in the 26-50 RPI range and appear to be trending in the right direction (9-3 in their last 12). Even with the loss in Tempe and the slip at home to Washington State, there’s no way UCLA misses the tournament. Their #218 non-conference SOS stings, but the 35 RPI is good enough.

Work left to do- Arizona nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback late Sunday night at rival Arizona State. Instead, their winning streak was snapped and they now head to a crucial road swing through Washington. They’ll either solidify their bid or drop out of the field after these two games. Arizona possess a solid 42 RPI, 36 SOS and 6 wins against the RPI top 50. At 16-10 (7-7), USC sits squarely on bubble-out territory. They have no quality out-of-conference wins to speak of and their only road wins in the Pac-10 are at Oregon and Washington State. With a 50 RPI and their last two at home against the Oregon schools, they still have a chance. Stealing their game at Cal on Thursday would be huge.

SEC

Locks- With their victory over Florida, LSU now sits at 12-1 in the SEC with the very realistic possibility they could finish the regular season at 15-1. Sure, the SEC is very, very down, but this is still a remarkable job done by new coach Trent Johnson when many thought they’d fall after their cupcake-filled out-of-conference schedule, ranked #245 in the nation. Instead, Marcus Thornton and Garrett Temple have led the way to a potential top-four seed.

Work left to do- Tennessee has a 26 RPI and have played the hardest schedule in the nation. Still, how anyone can place them firmly into the field at 16-10 (7-5) in the #6 RPI conference with road games at Florida and South Carolina remaining is beyond me. Will they get in at 18-12 (9-7)? Probably. But who really knows what to expect from this team (or the entire SEC)? Florida still has plenty of work to do, as well. Their best win on the season is Washington on a neutral floor and best SEC win is South Carolina at home. Luckily they have Tennessee and Kentucky at home down the stretch because this team needs quality wins and fast to avoid bubble territory. South Carolina and Kentucky also sit in the bubble land. They both have weak SOS and South Carolina only has 1 win against the RPI top 50. They play tonight in a crucial game to stay in the field.

Non-BCS Schools

Locks- Seth Davis commented on Sunday that, due to other major conference teams beating up on each other, Memphis would end up as the final #1 seed. While I seriously doubt that notion, Memphis will be at least a #2 seed should they win out in Conference USA. Given their recent conference success, I seriously doubt anything different should occur. Xavier still looks strong in the Atlantic 10, even if Dayton wins the conference. They’re 10-4 vs. the RPI top 100 and have a 13 RPI overall with that huge win over Memphis from back in Puerto Rico. The WCC has been a huge disappointment this year. Even if Gonzaga slips to St. Mary’s in the tournament final, they’ve knocked off Tennessee twice, pounded Maryland will likely go undefeated during the conference regular season.

Comfortably in- Fellow Atlantic 10 member Dayton still looks strong for a bid despite the loss to Saint Louis on Saturday. I had them as a #8 seed in the last bracket and their RPI is strong at #29, even though they only have 2 wins against the RPI top 50. They’ve beaten Xavier and Marquette on the season. Losses at Rhode Island and Xavier could send the Flyers to 11-5 in the Atlantic 10, though. Butler defeating Davidson shook off those recent Horizon League setbacks and they should feel pretty comfortable. You know the Selection Committee was watching. Their RPI is still strong at 20 and they played the #12 SOS out of conference, a key factor for any mid-major. How could Utah have compiled such impressive computer numbers (11 RPI/18 SOS). For one, The Mountain West has been a much-improved and competitive conference this season worthy of a minimum of three bids. Secondly, they really got lucky with their schedule. Did they really think California, Oklahoma, Utah State and LSU would be this good when they put together that schedule? The answer is no, but it’s irrelevant. Utah is sitting pretty for a bid and face UNLV at home tonight.

Work left to do- The first three teams listed here- Utah State, Siena and Davidson- will be definite favorites to win their conference tournaments. The real question: If they should lose, have they done enough out-of-conference to garner a bid? For Siena and Davidson, the answer is a definitive no. Utah State gets a little bit more tricky. They laid an egg at St. Mary’s and their SOS is putrid, but can you really deny a 30+ win team? My guess: Should Nevada or Boise State win the WAC tournament, they’ll be a 2-bid league. Could Creighton receive an at-large should Northern Iowa or Illinois State win the MVC tournament? Again: doubtful because they haven’t done enough OOC. The Missouri Valley is absolutely a one-bid league. BYU took down San Diego State on the road late Tuesday in a huge bubble game pushing the Aztecs would of the projected field.

On the brink- Temple has quietly moved up the rankings and is now appearing in many projected brackets last four/eight out. A 36 RPI and 41 SOS are some reasons why, along with a win over Tennessee from back in December. They could get to 13-3 if they win at Dayton, but the most likely scenario is 12-4 in the Atlantic 10 and a probable necessity of reaching the conference final. UAB has also crept back into contention with a 39 RPI and 9-3 CUSA record. Knock off Memphis on Thursday and then we can really talk, especially given their disappointing out-of-conference schedule. Northern Iowa has blown their three-game MVC lead and now needs to win the conference tournament. New Mexico is a team to watch out for. Their last three games are all winnable and a 12-4 record in the Mountain West would certainly deserve serious consideration (especially if they can beat Utah) even if they have a 70 RPI.

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