RTC Official Bubble Watch: 03.03.11

Posted by zhayes9 on March 3rd, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

The number of available bubble spots is closing by the day as more teams win bid-clinching games and move into lock status. Here’s the current situation following Wednesday night’s action (* = own league’s automatic bid)

Current Bubble Picture

Locks- 32

Non-At Large Automatic Bids- 22

Spots Remaining- 14

Currently In The Field (in order from safest to Last Four In): Florida State, Tennessee, Washington, Marquette, Illinois, Georgia, Michigan State, Gonzaga, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Butler, Michigan, Richmond, Clemson.

First Four Out: Alabama, Baylor, Colorado, Colorado State.

Also Considered: Nebraska, Oklahoma State, UAB*, Memphis.

Kim English, Ricardo Ratliffe and Missouri will be dancing

New Locks

Kansas State 21-9 (9-6), 21 RPI, 5 SOS– Left for dead one month ago, Kansas State has gone from NIT-bound to in the field on the first week of March. Their gutsy win in Austin over Texas paired with their Valentine’s Day blowout of Kansas clinched a bid for Jacob Pullen and Co. The Wildcats also have wins over Missouri, Gonzaga and Virginia Tech on the season, haven’t suffered a loss to a sub-100 RPI team and their power ratings keep skyrocketing by the day. With only Iowa State at home left on the slate, Kansas State is shaping up to be a single-digit seed come tournament time.

Old Dominion 24-6 (14-4), 27 RPI, 80 SOS– Everyone talks about smoking hot George Mason, but reigning CAA champion Old Dominion has quietly won 10 of 11 contests to sew up their spot in the bracket. The Monarchs played the 15th-hardest non-conference schedule, defeated that George Mason team back on January 8 and also downed Xavier, Clemson and Richmond. ODU only has one bad loss on their schedule in the CAA opener at Delaware. That conference has a chance to push three teams into the NCAA Tournament if Hofstra, Drexel, VCU or James Madison embarks on a deep run in Richmond.

Missouri 22-8 (8-7), 31 RPI, 73 SOS– The definition of a lock is that even if said team loses all of their games left, they’d still be included in the NCAA Tournament. A beneficiary of both lack of days remaining in the schedule and the weakest bubble in memory, there’s just no chance the Tigers slip behind all of those bubble teams to the NIT even if they lose their final two contests against Kansas at home and in their first Big 12 Tournament game. Despite the possibility of finishing 22-10 (8-9), Missouri did beat Vanderbilt, Illinois and Old Dominion out-of-conference along with Kansas State and Baylor in league play. The Tigers have overcome their 1-7 mark in league games to warrant lock status.

UCLA 21-8 (12-4), 35 RPI, 50 SOS– After a one year absence, the Bruins can put on their dancing shoes once again. UCLA needed to beat Pac-10 leader Arizona in their home finale to clinch a bid and completed the task with gusto, winning by 22 points. Couple that win with crucial non-conference victories over #3 RPI BYU and #14 RPI St. John’s and the Bruins can feel safe about their tournament odds. Ben Howland’s team can really improve their seed and make their conference rivals increasingly nervous with a road win tonight at Washington.

Cincinnati 23-7 (10-7), 34 RPI, 97 SOS– If there was any lingering doubt remaining regarding Cincinnati’s tournament hopes, last night’s win at Marquette eliminated those concerns. The Bearcats rode another strong defensive effort to lock up their tenth Big East victory with Georgetown at home to close out the campaign, a game they’ll be playing for seeding purposes only. The Bearcats now have Big East road wins at Georgetown, St. John’s and Marquette to go along with home victories over Louisville and Xavier. Cincinnati is 4-7 vs. the RPI top-50 and will have opportunities in the Big East Tournament to earn a single digit seed.

Currently Automatic Bids

Utah State* 26-3 (14-1), 22 RPI, 114 SOS– Utah State’s bulk number of wins has boosted their RPI, but the resume remains mostly empty due to the weak WAC. Their lone RPI top-100 wins are at St. Mary’s and Long Beach State at home with losses to BYU and Georgetown in the non-conference. The Aggies are probably in the field if they just reach the WAC Tournament finals, but leaving it up to chance is risky. They’re the heavy favorites to win that conference tournament and I’d be stunned if they repeated last year’s result and fell again. Their #111 non-conference SOS is actually an improvement from past campaigns.

Saint Mary’s* 21-7 (11-3), 49 RPI, 124 SOS– The Gaels just needed to split two crucial home dates with Utah State and Gonzaga. Instead, they blew both games and the prospect of being left out of the field of 68 just became a lot more real if another loss is ahead in the WCC Tournament. Reach the conference tournament final and the Gaels are likely in good shape, but the resume is barren. Their marquee win over St. John’s came way back in the season’s first two weeks and they lost key non-conference games to San Diego State, BYU and Vanderbilt. Will two wins over Gonzaga and that November win over the Johnnies be enough to overcome a lackluster RPI and overall resume? Randy Bennett should just play it safe and secure that auto bid.

Currently In The Field

Florida State 20-9 (10-5), 51 RPI, 89 SOS– The Seminoles are about as close to being a lock without earning that designation as humanly possible. They may have lost to North Carolina last night on a last-second Harrison Barnes three, but their showing against a red-hot Heels team without Chris Singleton had to impress the committee. This is a tournament-caliber team with their defense. FSU has that enormous January win over Duke, downed Boston College at home and also collected two crucial bubble wins against Clemson and Baylor. Win at NC State or once in the ACC Tournament and the ‘Noles are in.

Tennessee 17-12 (7-7), 33 RPI, 2 SOS– The win-loss record alone would suggest Tennessee is in serious bubble purgatory, but through the coaching suspensions and the head-scratching defeats are wins over Pittsburgh, Villanova and Vanderbilt (twice) that’ll make it hard to leave the Vols out of the dance. Tennessee also beat Belmont on two occasions, won at Georgia and beat possible NCAA teams Memphis and Missouri State to offset a handful of questionable losses. Win at South Carolina tonight and Tennessee is dancing. A loss at rival Kentucky in their season finale, an arena where John Calipari has never lost as the UK headman, wouldn’t be a defeat that knocks Tennessee down too many pegs.


Isaiah Thomas and Washington can clinch a bid tonight

Washington 19-9 (10-6), 40 RPI, 76 SOS- The thrashing at the hands of Washington State on their home floor was a setback, but the formula for the Huskies is simple: beat UCLA tonight and U-Dub is officially in the field of 68. Washington’s best non-conference win is Portland and poor Pac-10 losses at Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford are certainly concerns, but a sweep of UCLA, a home win over Arizona and a possible 12-6 Pac-10 mark is a resume warranting NCAA Tournament inclusion this season.

Marquette 18-12 (9-8), 55 RPI, 24 SOS– Last night’s home loss to Cincinnati stung because 1) it prevented the Golden Eagles from locking up a bid and 2) means they’re one step closer to playing on the first day of the Big East Tournament. Marquette had St. John’s and Cincinnati on their home turf in the last few weeks and squandered both opportunities. A dangerous season finale at Seton Hall waits with a loss putting the Golden Eagles at 9-9 in the Big East and work left to be done in NYC. Buzz Williams’ team has big wins over Notre Dame, Syracuse, West Virginia and at Connecticut on their resume, but lost 11 other games to the RPI top-50.

Illinois 18-12 (8-9), 38 RPI, 14 SOS– Illinois actually put up a decent showing at Purdue on Tuesday and simply taking care of business on Saturday against Indiana is probably enough to lock up a bid. The Illini boast two RPI top-15 wins against North Carolina and Wisconsin, also beat Michigan State in Champaign and are 3-8 overall vs. the RPI top-50. Bad losses to Northwestern, Indiana and UIC are concerning, but 9-9 in the Big Ten with those two quality wins in today’s bubble climate is sufficient.

Georgia 20-9 (9-6), 36 RPI, 34 SOS- Georgia is in all likelihood in the NCAA Tournament with a win at desperate Alabama on Saturday, but they won’t be an official lock until they win one more game against an SEC team of note in the conference tournament (Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Tennessee qualify). The Bulldogs are 3-9 vs. the RPI top-50 with wins over Kentucky, at Tennessee and against UAB. Georgia also beat bubble team Colorado, but squandered key opportunities at home against Vanderbilt and Xavier in the past month. What’s aiding Georgia’s cause is their lack of bad losses. The Bulldogs worst defeat in terms of RPI was Tennessee.

Michigan State 16-12 (9-8), 43 RPI, 10 SOS– The Spartans took care of business against Iowa last night to remain in the field. A win in their season finale at Michigan would improve the Spartans to 10-8 in the Big Ten with a respectable RPI and wins over Wisconsin, Illinois and Washington. This would be enough to lock up a spot in the bracket. State is 3-9 overall vs. the RPI top-50 and has suffered losses to Michigan and on the road at Penn State and Iowa during Big Ten play. Tom Izzo challenged his team with the 23rd-hardest non-conference schedule which included a one-point win over Summit favorite Oakland.

Gonzaga 21-9 (11-3), 66 RPI, 112 SOS– Gonzaga slipped into the field as an at-large for the first time since early in the season following their dramatic overtime win at St. Mary’s. The Zags whiffed on most of their non-conference opportunities (San Diego State, Illinois, Kansas State and Notre Dame to name a few) during a brutal slate, but they did manage to knock off Xavier at home and both Marquette and Baylor on neutral floors. Like Saint Mary’s, if Gonzaga just avoids a stunner in the WCC semifinals, they appear destined for one of the final at-large spots should they lose in the tournament finals. The committee should appreciate Mark Few’s efforts to schedule high quality competition outside of WCC play.

Virginia Tech 19-9 (9-6), 59 RPI, 101 SOS– Cue the Seth Greenberg never makes it easy jokes. The notion that their letdown loss to Boston College on Tuesday wipes out their victory over Duke is nonsense (it’s not as if that win will now disappear from their resume), but most of the good fortune the Hokies collected in the committee’s mind was likely eliminated. Their season finale at Clemson will be challenging, especially because the Tigers are still competing for a bid and sitting squarely on the bubble. Virginia Tech is 2-6 vs. the RPI top-50 with wins over Duke and Florida State (with Chris Singleton). Tech is currently on my last six teams in the field and, should they lose to Clemson, a win or two in Greensboro will be necessary.

Boston College 18-11 (8-7), 39 RPI, 15 SOS– BC took an enormous leap towards clinching an NCAA Tournament bid by routing Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on the heels of the Hokies’ emotional upset over Duke. The Eagles have now swept Tech to go along with a November win over Texas A&M, but that’s basically all the meat on their entire portfolio. The Eagles close with bottom feeder Wake Forest at home and it’s going to be difficult to keep BC out of the field with this weak bubble boasting a respectable RPI and a 9-7 ACC mark. The Eagles are currently on my last six teams in the field and can put themselves in great position by taking care of Wake and winning their first ACC Tournament contest.

Last Four In

Butler 20-9 (13-5), 44 RPI, 81 SOS– Last year’s Cinderella is going to be a very interesting case should they fall in the Horizon League Tournament for their sixth conference defeat. Butler clinched the #2 seed in that tournament and therefore receives a bye to the semifinals where they’ll likely try to beat Cleveland State for the third time, their two previous wins making up 2/3 of their RPI top-50 wins (the other being Florida State on a neutral floor). Butler’s other opportunities for quality wins were defeats at Louisville, Xavier and vs. Duke. With six sub top-75 RPI losses, Butler is likely out with a loss to CSU in the semifinals and bubble-in with a loss in the finals. Because of this lackluster resume, it’s shaping up to be a nerve-wracking Selection Sunday for Brad Stevens if his team can’t win the tournament title.


John Beilein and Michigan's NCAA chances are on the line Saturday vs. Michigan St.

Michigan 17-12 (8-9), 56 RPI, 22 SOS– It doesn’t get much bigger than Saturday’s visit from Michigan State for the Wolverines, a chance to put a dent in a bitter rival’s NCAA hopes while taking another step towards one of the more unexpected tournament bids in school history. Michigan’s only top-50 wins were the first meeting at the Breslin Center and over Harvard, so there’s work to be done. The Wolverines also won a key bubble game in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge over Clemson. At 0-7 vs. the RPI top-25 and 2-8 vs. the RPI top-50, Saturday’s game is essentially make-or-break for John Beilein and Co.

Richmond 23-7 (12-3), 61 RPI, 182 SOS– The Spiders crept into the field of 68 this past week as other teams sitting on the bubble like Alabama, Baylor, Colorado State and Colorado faltered. Richmond has won three in a row since their thrashing at Temple and welcomes Duquesne on Saturday for their A-10 season finale. Richmond’s only win against an NCAA team was in November against Purdue. If the Spiders face Temple in the A-10 Tournament semifinals, a win likely puts them in the dance. Any loss before then and their bid hopes would be in serious jeopardy.

Clemson 19-10 (8-7), 68 RPI, 90 SOS– Due to fellow bubble teams floundering, Clemson remains in the projected field by the slimmest of margins despite losing at Duke on Wednesday. Their season finale against Virginia Tech is the biggest bubble game of the season. The difference between 9-7 and 8-8 in the ACC in the eyes of the committee could be crucial. The Tigers lone win over an NCAA Tournament team is Boston College at home, so the fact they’re in today is a minor miracle. Clemson lost an important game to Michigan at home in December and are just 1-4 vs. the RPI top-50.

First Four Out

Alabama 19-10 (11-4), 87 RPI, 160 SOS– Make no mistake about it: winning the SEC West does not automatically push Alabama into the NCAA Tournament. In fact, barring an SEC Tournament run, a home loss on Saturday to Georgia may be the nail in the coffin. The Tide needed a decent showing on Tuesday at Florida and lost by 27. With only three RPI top-100 wins (Kentucky, at Tennessee, Ole Miss) and bad losses lining their non-conference slate (Iowa, St. Peter’s, Seton Hall, Providence), Alabama won’t fool the committee into handing them a bid based solely on an inflated SEC record.  The Tide are currently sitting as my last team out, meaning a win over Georgia and another victory over an East division squad in the SEC Tournament are likely needed to guarantee inclusion.

Baylor 18-11 (7-8), 76 RPI, 49 SOS– Baylor just will not completely die. Their only top-50 wins are a sweep of Texas A&M and Tuesday’s defeat at Oklahoma State dropped Baylor to 7-8 in conference play. They can resurrect their hopes by upsetting Texas in Waco on Saturday night for that much-needed signature victory. Still, with blown opportunities out of conference to both Gonzaga and Florida State, a lagging RPI and regrettable losses in Big 12 play to sub RPI top-100 teams Iowa State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma, work in the Big 12 Tournament will need to be accomplished for the Bears to lock up a spot in the field of 68 even with a win over slumping Texas.

Colorado 17-12 (7-8), 80 RPI, 84 SOS- The Buffs are ninth in the Big 12 in RPI and yet still in the NCAA Tournament picture as one of my last four teams out due to their bulk of quality wins – Texas, Missouri, a sweep of Kansas State and a win over fellow bubble team Colorado State. Colorado is 5-6 vs. the RPI top-50, but just when you thought they looked solid for a bid after their upset of Texas, they lay an egg at basement-dweller Iowa State on Wednesday night. Saturday’s finale with Nebraska is an elimination game. Colorado also has to overcome bad losses to Oklahoma and San Francisco.

Colorado State 18-10 (9-6), 45 RPI, 40 SOS– The Rams may be lingering in the bubble picture right now, but the bottom line is they have to either win at San Diego State on Saturday (unlikely) or beat likely MWC Tournament top seed BYU in the semifinals (somewhat more likely) to have any chance. They won’t garner a bid with their only quality win at UNLV and eight losses overall in the MWC. Bad losses to Sam Houston State and Hampton also sting.

Also Considered

Nebraska 19-10 (7-8), 71 RPI, 56 SOS– Doc Sadler’s team lost two in a row to Kansas State and Iowa State directly following their upset of Texas, but resurrected their slim hopes by prolonging Missouri’s road woes Tuesday night in Lincoln. Their virtual elimination game with Colorado is on Saturday and NU won their first head-to-head meeting back in mid-January. Along with Texas, the Huskers have beaten Texas A&M and Missouri at home, but their best road win is Oklahoma.

Oklahoma State 18-11 (6-9), 52 RPI, 39 SOS– The Cowboys are sneaking their head barely back into the bubble picture, but it’s going to take at least three wins in a row – in the season finale at Oklahoma on Saturday and two at the Big 12 Tournament – to climb back to 10-9 in the conference and consider dancing. The Pokes would be helped out greatly if Missouri State, one of their best non-conference wins, took home the MVC Tournament crown. Oklahoma State also has home wins over Kansas State, Missouri and Baylor with a neutral court win over Alabama, but were swept by both Texas and Texas A&M and suffered a bad loss at Texas Tech.

Memphis 21-9 (9-6), 37 RPI, 47 SOS- The bad losses are really piling up for Josh Pastner’s young Tigers. After last night’s setback at East Carolina, Memphis has now lost to Rice, SMU, Tulsa, UTEP and ECU during C-USA competition. None of those teams have an RPI lower than #65 in the nation. Memphis also lost non-conference games to Georgetown, Kansas and Tennessee. Their bulk of RPI top-50 wins aren’t as impressive as one may initially believe: sweeps of UCF, Southern Miss and UAB. Memphis has to win the C-USA Tournament to go dancing.

zhayes9 (301 Posts)

Share this story

One response to “RTC Official Bubble Watch: 03.03.11”

  1. BOtskey says:

    Tennessee actually hosts Kentucky on Sunday. Doesn’t matter now though since they won last night.

    I’ve never seen a year like this. It’s absolutely incredible that the 7 teams listed out right now are even being mentioned. The three extra spots certainly has something to do with that but this climate is unbelievably bad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *