RTC Bubble Watch: January 27 EditionPosted by Daniel Evans on January 27th, 2013
RTC Bubble Watch will publish on Sunday nights and Wednesday afternoons for the rest of the season.
My name is Daniel Evans and I have been doing bracketology for the last seven years. I’m new to RTC but very excited about the chance to write for one of the nation’s top college basketball websites. I have a journalism degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Bracket Matrix ranks me as one of the nation’s top bracketologists. I’ve had two perfect years of bracketology — meaning I nailed every team in the field. On a daily basis, I update brackets on my website BracketologyExpert.com and I’m going to be doing a weekly bracket update on Fridays here along with a Bubble Watch column on Sundays and Wednesdays. I always enjoy answering any questions about my field of 68 or my bubble watch, so hit me up on my Twitter name (@bracketexpert) with any comments you may have.
What is a “Bubble Watch?” Below is my bubble watch. If you are not familiar with my work, this is basically a current look at how things are shaping up for the NCAA Tournament. Each conference is broken down and the teams I am currently considering on the bubble are listed. This makes it easy to figure out how many at-large berths are left for the NCAA Tournament. Remember, 31 automatic NCAA Tournament bids go to the conference tournament winners (and the Ivy champion). The other 37 bids are at-large bids, or bids that the selection committee gives to the best remaining teams that fail to win an automatic bid.
Bracket Math: Below there are 22 locks along the right column. That means if none of my “locks” wins an auto-bid, there are 15 at-large spots available for the NCAA Tournament. It is usually safe to say that an average of six of my locks will win automatic bids, so that means nine at-large bids will be taken and I project that 28 at-large bids will remain available to the NCAA Tournament.
What Does Being a “Lock” Mean? It means that at this point, I see no way that team could miss the NCAA Tournament. Every year I end up having to move at least one team I have locked in back into the at-large pool. For example, I’ve already done it this season with Minnesota and Illinois.
UPDATED THROUGH ALL GAMES OF JANUARY 27, 2013
|Conference USA||LOCKS: NONE
|Memphis (16-3, 5-0; RPI: 49): The Tigers would be better off taking the easy route into the NCAA Tournament: win the Conference USA Tournament. I can’t remember CUSA down as much as it is this season. Memphis has no top 50 wins and doesn’t get a chance for a good win the rest of the way. Sure, Southern Miss is No. 43 in the RPI, but I would be shocked if they remain that high the rest of the season. Memphis doesn’t even have a top 75 win. Of course, Tigers fans will tell you that Memphis’ three losses are all to teams in the top 50 of the RPI. That’s true, but wins get you into the dance. Right now, Memphis doesn’t have any good ones and doesn’t have a chance to get any more.
Southern Miss (17-4, 6-0; RPI: 43): The Eagles are placed here because of their good RPI, but without a sweep of Memphis I don’t see Southern Miss getting a bid. Honestly, even a sweep of the Tigers wouldn’t be all that helpful, because then people would say that Memphis wasn’t even that great in a very down Conference USA. Southern Miss’ best RPI victory is over #119, Denver.
|Missouri Valley Overview: It looks like Creighton and Wichita State are locks at this point to make the field. The only drama is whether or not Indiana State can play its way in over the next two months.
Indiana State (13-7, 6-3; RPI: 56): The Sycamores have victories over Mississippi and Miami (FL), perhaps the two most surprising teams of the entire college basketball season. Losses to Illinois State, Morehead State, and Southern Illinois are bringing down Indiana State’s RPI to the low 50s. That number must improve for an at-large bid to be possible. Up next, Indiana State heads to Wichita State on January 29.
|Mountain West Overview: This is the most difficult conference in the country to figure out. It is hard to see New Mexico missing the NCAA Tournament. Over the next week or so we should start to see some separation between the top and the bottom of the league.
Wyoming (15-4, 2-4; RPI: 54): The Cowboys’ RPI has gone from #25 to #54 in the last 19 days. A 13-0 start has turned into a 15-4 record now that conference play has started in the very competitive Mountain West. Wyoming has two RPI top 50 victories over Colorado and San Diego State, but no other wins against the top RPI 115.
Colorado State (14-4, 3-2; RPI: 23): Colorado State has a high RPI (#21 is the lowest RPI to ever miss the Big Dance) and a great win against UNLV to highlight its profile. The next best win for the Rams is at Washington (#70 in the RPI). Every loss for Colorado State is on the road and only one loss is outside the RPI top 30 (Illinois-Chicago, #99). Right now this team would be in, but things change quickly in the Mountain West. The next two games are against Boise State and Wyoming. If they win those at home, we will finally see some separation between the top and bottom of the league.
UNLV (15-4, 3-2; RPI: 14): UNLV is still lacking a huge win, although victories over Iowa State and San Diego State are more than most bubble teams. The Rebels are relying on a very good RPI to keep stay high and in the Mountain West, where seven teams have top 68 RPIs, I like the chances of it staying relatively high. The Rebels do not have a single bad loss on their resume (all four are against RPI top 35 teams). The next three are very important to win — Nevada, at Boise State, at Fresno State. A loss in any of those three will start to make things interesting.
Boise State (14-5, 2-3; RPI: 58): The Broncos are hanging their hat on a victory at Creighton so far, but winning at Wyoming on January 9 could be huge come Selection Sunday. That’s where this profile begins to look weak. There aren’t any other RPI top 125 wins on this resume and losses at Air Force and at Nevada in the last eight days have really complicated Boise State’s argument. The next five games are all very difficult: at Colorado State, UNLV, at San Diego State, Wyoming, at New Mexico.
San Diego State (16-4, 4-2; RPI: 30): San Diego State has some fantastic wins: UCLA, Colorado State, New Mexico, Indiana State. None of the losses are bad either: Syracuse, Arizona, UNLV, Wyoming. Like UNLV, San Diego State has a chance for some real separation with three very winnable games next: at Air Force, Boise State, Fresno State. If the Aztecs can handle those three they will be 19-4 and 7-2 in conference.
Air Force (12-6, 3-2; RPI: 68): The Falcons do not have any RPI top 50 wins, but have defeated Wyoming and Boise State. Both of those teams are sliding a little bit after hot starts, but those are still significant wins. If Air Force can take advantage of playing lowly Fresno State in their next contest, this profile will start to look more interesting. Playing in the MW gives Air Force plenty of opportunities to strengthen its profile before Selection Sunday.
|Pac-12 Overview: Arizona and Oregon are going to the NCAA Tournament, and I can’t see UCLA not getting in the field. Therefore, the Bruins are among my locks. The three teams below all have a lot of work to do to get into the field.
Arizona State (16-4, 5-2; RPI: 55): Just a few days after losing back-to-back games to Oregon and Arizona (the two best teams in the Pac 12), Arizona State bounced back by destroying UCLA. Outside of those two wins, the Sun Devils have only one other win against the entire RPI top 100 — Arkansas. Arizona State has only bad loss (DePaul). Now the real test begins. We’ve seen this team experience success against UCLA, but now can it go to both Washington and Washington State and win games this week?
Colorado (13-6, 3-4; RPI: 22): The Buffaloes had a top 10 RPI until last week. Now, with an RPI that is starting to fall quickly, Colorado needs to pick up wins against the Pac 12’s big three. Victories over Colorado State and Baylor in the non-conference can only keep the Buffaloes in the conversation for so long. They’ve already had chances to beat Arizona, UCLA, and Arizona State pass them by. Beating California and Utah are a must before heading to Oregon on February 7.
Washington (12-8, 4-3; RPI: 70): The Huskies have plenty of chances to improve this profile. Right now, this team is clearly not in the field, but games against Arizona, Arizona State, and UCLA are up next. Of course, coming off three straight losses is not the time to play three of the Pac 12’s top four teams. Washington has four losses to teams below the top 100 in the RPI.