RTC Bubble Watch: January 30 EditionPosted by Daniel Evans on January 30th, 2013
Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is RTC’s new resident bracketologist. According to Bracket Matrix, he ranks as one of the top several bracketologists among those who have produced brackets for more than three years, including two seasons with perfect bracket projections. He updates the field daily on his site, Bracketology Expert, and will be producing a weekly bracket update here at RTC on Fridays. RTC Bubble Watch will publish on Sunday nights and Wednesday afternoons for the rest of the season.
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 remain available to the NCAA Tournament. For those wondering, if you take all the teams I have at 70% or higher (six) and include them in my projection there are 28 “locks” and “should be ins”. At the very least, that leaves nine at-large spots available for the NCAA Tournament. If you figure that at least six of my locks/should be ins win automatic bids, there are 15 spots available.
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.
Understanding “At-Large Odds” Percentages: In an attempt to help clarify the bubble picture even more, I have added “at-large odds” to each team below. All of the teams I have “locked” in have a 90% chance of playing in the NCAA Tournament or higher. Basically, teams with a percentage higher than 50% are probably on the good side of the bubble picture right now. Teams below 50% are probably on the wrong side of the bubble picture right now. Teams with a 50% chance of being in the Tournament basically have a coin-flip chance of getting in. You might see me refer to teams with a percentage of 70% or higher as “should be ins,” referring to teams that should make the field.
UPDATED THROUGH ALL GAMES OF JANUARY 29, 2013
|Conference USA: Zero Locks, Two Bubble Teams||LOCKS: NONE
|Conference USA Overview: Memphis and Southern Miss are the only two teams worthy of at large consideration in a very down Conference USA. Both may be relying on wins over the other in order to get in as an at-large.
Memphis (16-3, 5-0; RPI: 52): 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. 42 in the RPI, but I would be shocked if they remain at that ranking 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. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%
Southern Miss (17-4, 6-0; RPI: 42): 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. At the same time, would the committee leave out an Eagles team that was 26-5 in the regular season, with one victory over Memphis? It might be a great debate if Southern Miss keeps winning. AT LARGE ODDS: 30%
|Missouri Valley: Two Locks, One Bubble Team||LOCKS:|
|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. The Sycamores victory on Tuesday night over Wichita State definietely made things interesting.
Indiana State (14-7, 7-3; RPI: 41): After a victory on Tuesday against Wichita State, the Sycamores have three tournament quality wins over the Shockers, Mississippi, and Miami (Fla.). The win helped Indiana State’s RPI climb 15 spots since my update on Sunday. Losses to Illinois State, Morehead State, and Southern Illinois are dragging down this resume, but those losses may be forgiven by the committee based on the three victories I mentioned above. Next up are games at Drake and against Creighton. AT LARGE ODDS: 50%
|Mountain West: One Lock, Six Bubble Teams||LOCKS:|
|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 so I have placed the Lobos in lock status. Over the next week or so, we should start to see some separation between the top and the bottom of the league.
UNLV (16-4, 4-2; 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 somewhere in the 20’s. The Rebels do not have a single bad loss on their resume (all four are against RPI top 35 teams). UNLV is currently in the middle of a very winnable three game stretch. The next two road games–at Boise State and at Fresno State are important to win for the Rebels tournament chances. UNLV has lost three consecutive road games. AT-LARGE ODDS: 85%
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. AT-LARGE ODDS: 80%
Colorado State (14-4, 3-2; RPI: 22): Colorado State has a strong 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. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%
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 two weeks 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. Winning on the road against Colorado State on Wednesday night might right the Broncos ship. This team is 1-3 in its last four games. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%
Wyoming (15-4, 2-4; RPI: 55): 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 110. The Cowboys have lost two straight games going into a huge game against New Mexico Wednesday night, the only team I currently have “locked in” from the Mountain West. AT-LARGE ODDS: 40%
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 Mountain West gives Air Force plenty of opportunities to strengthen its profile before Selection Sunday. AT-LARGE ODDS: 10%
|Pac-12: Three Locks, Three Bubble Teams||LOCKS:|
|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. Colorado is relying on a strong RPI, while the RPI continues to hold Arizona State back despite a good record.
Colorado (14-6, 4-4; RPI: 19): A win against California Sunday night should give the Buffaloes some momentum as they head into a three game road stretch. Wins at Utah, at Oregon, and at Oregon State will not be easy to come by, but winning two of the three would at least push Colorado over .500 in Pac 12 play. This team’s focus will be tested. After a game at Utah, the Buffaloes head to Oregon where a win will enhance their profile immensely. After that, a trip to Oregon State is followed by a home game against another Pac 12 favorite–Arizona. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%
Arizona State (16-4, 5-2; RPI: 56): 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 that win versus the Bruins and a victory over Colorado, the Sun Devils have only one other win against the entire RPI top 100 — Arkansas. Arizona State has only onebad 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? AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%
Washington (12-8, 4-3; RPI: 71): 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. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%