RTC Bubble Watch: February 7 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on February 7th, 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 Thursday afternoons for the rest of the season. 

Bracket Math: Below there are 25 locks along the right column. Basically, that number means that if none of my “locks” clinch an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament, there are only 12 at-large spots available. In most years, an average of around six “locks” win automatic bids, meaning there are 18 un-clinched spots for the NCAA Tournament.  I also have five teams in the “should be in” category, meaning I projected their odds of getting an at-large bid at 70% of higher. If those five teams do get in, there are 13 total spots available for the teams you see below in my bubble watch.

TOTAL: 30 (minus 6 for projected auto bid winners=24)

  • Odds Improving: Iowa State, Indiana State, Oklahoma State, Arkansas (but still not on the “Watch”)
  • Odds Decreasing: UNLV, Boise State, Air Force, Alabama, Iowa (not on the “Watch”)
  • Locks That Are Trying My Patience: Missouri, Cincinnati, UCLA



ACC: Three Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:duke50x50ncstate50x50miami50x50
North Carolina (16-6, 6-3; RPI: 31): North Carolina has one great win (over UNLV) and two mediocre ones (Florida State, Maryland), but bad losses against Texas and Virginia are not helping the Tar Heels’ resume. Losing to the under .500 Longhorns by 18 points is inexplicable. The next four games are going to decide the Tar Heels’ fate. First, a game against Wake Forest that would be a big blow to North Carolina’s at-large hopes. Then, back to back trips to Miami on February 9 and Duke on February 13.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 75%Maryland (16-6, 4-5; RPI: 60): Maryland has not played well in ACC play and it might end up costing the Terps an at-large bid. Maryland was swept by Florida State, another ACC bubble team. The Terps have also lost at Miami, at North Carolina, at Duke, and at Florida State. Maryland can’t win on the road and it cannot beat good teams, which typically means NIT. AT-LARGE ODDS: 40%

Virginia (15-6, 5-3; RPI: 100): After wins against Florida State and N. C. State moved the Cavaliers into at-large consideration, Virginia fell to Georgia Tech on Sunday. Virginia needs its RPI to rise quickly (by at least 40 spots) and losses like the one to the Yellow Jackets are not helping. Up next are winnable games against Clemson, at Maryland, and Virginia Tech. They better win all three. AT-LARGE ODDS: 30%

Florida State (13-9, 5-4; RPI: 58): Florida State knocked off Maryland on Wednesday to pick up  a fifth win against the RPI top 50 and its second win over the Terrapins. Florida State’s resume makes it look more like a mid major than a major though. The five wins over the RPI top 100 are: BYU, Charlotte, Saint Joseph’s, Maryland (twice). Michael Snaer saved the ‘Noles again on Tuesday night with another buzzer beater against Georgia Tech. Florida State needs to make sure they defeat Wake Forest Saturday because a loss would be a severe blow to their at large hopes. AT-LARGE HOPES: 25%

Other ACC teams with an at-large chance: None currently

Atlantic 10: One Lock, Seven Bubble Teams LOCKS:butler50x50
Virginia Commonwealth (18-5, 6-2; RPI: 49): I don’t have anything against VCU, but I am convinced more and more every day that 80% of the nation’s bracketologists are overrating the Rams’ resume. This team’s best victory is against Belmont and the second best win is over Memphis. Both of those teams are fringe at-large teams and both had better win their conference tournaments if they want to snag an a NCAA Tournament bid. This week the Rams stopped the bleeding a little bit with wins at Rhode Island and over Fordham. On Saturday, a trip to Charlotte looms large. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%Temple (15-7, 4-4; RPI: 53): The Owls are the kind of team that makes a bracketologists’ job very difficult. A win over Syracuse looks fantastic, but losses to Canisius, St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s, and Xavier cannot be ignored. Overall, the Owls are 4-4 on the road. A win over Charlotte on Wednesday night gives the Owls another top 100 victory.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

La Salle (15-6, 5-3; RPI: 27): La Salle has five wins over the RPI top 100 including victories against Butler and VCU, the Atlantic Ten’s best teams. The Explorers only have one bad loss, which came in mid-November against Central Connecticut State. The next three games on the schedule are all very winnable–Fordham, at St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s–before a huge bubble game at Temple on February 21. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Saint Louis (17-5, 6-2; RPI: 57): The Billikens have made a strong push for an at-large bid over the last week. An upset victory over Butler and a win against Dayton give Saint Louis five straight wins, but now we get to find out how good this team is. Saint Louis will be expected to win at Richmond this weekend games before three straight tough games against Charlotte, VCU, and Butler.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Charlotte (17-5, 5-3; RPI: 51): The 49ers have been in the at-large conversation all along because of a great record and a mediocre RPI, but Charlotte only has two top 50 wins. Wins against La Salle and Massachusetts keep looking better and better and games against Temple, Butler, VCU, and Saint Louis still remain on the schedule. Charlotte has the kind of record you look for in an at-large candidate, but the 49ers need big wins. The upcoming schedule provides plenty of chances for those.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

Massachusetts (15-6, 5-3; RPI: 46): It was an up and down week for the Minutemen, who followed a one point win against La Salle with a one point loss to Charlotte. Games against Rhode Island and Saint Joseph’s are up next. If Massachusetts wins both, a game at VCU on February 14 could be huge for both team’s at-large hopes. AT-LARGE HOPES: 30%

Richmond (14-9, 4-4, RPI: 74): The Spiders entered the conversation after a victory over VCU, but a loss at Temple on Wednesday night was a big shot to the Spiders at-large hopes. A win against Air Force continues to look better and a win against Charlotte might end up being important, depending on how the 17-4 49ers finish the season. On Saturday, a game against Saint Louis could be the season for Richmond. All of the Atlantic Ten at-large teams have to begin separating themselves. AT-LARGE ODDS: 15%

Other Atlantic Ten teams with an at-large chance: Xavier (10%), Saint Joseph’s (5%)

Big 12: Two Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:kansas50x50
Oklahoma State (16-5, 6-3; RPI: 30): Oklahoma State now owns the Big 12’s best win thanks to a victory at Kansas that ended the Jayhawks 33 game home winning streak. The Cowboys also have a win against Iowa State and an overtime win against Baylor. Two weeks ago this team was right on the fence of the bubble, but now it is rising quickly in my S-curve rankings. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%Iowa State (16-6, 6-3; RPI: 34): The Cyclones’ resume continues to look better and better. Iowa State won three of four against other Big 12 bubble contenders with wins against Kansas State, Baylor, and Oklahoma. Next up is another huge game on February 9 against Kansas State. With every win, Iowa State’s RPI continues to rise. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%

Oklahoma (14-6, 5-4; RPI: 23): Oklahoma has two top 50 wins: Oklahoma State and at Baylor.  It was a week of ups and downs for the Sooners. Oklahoma picked up a big win at Baylor but lost by two against Kansas State.  Next up is Iowa State, followed by welcoming Kansas to Norman.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%

Baylor (14-8, 5-3; RPI: 45): Three straight losses to Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State have pushed the Bears to the danger zone. Despite that, there is still a lot of good here. Wins against Kentucky and Oklahoma State are probably victories over NCAA Tournament teams and a win over BYU might end up being one as well. Plus, the Big 12 at least provides a lot of chances for quality wins. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Other Big 12 teams with an at-large chance: None currently

Big East: Five Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:louisville50x50syracuse100x100marquette50x50cincy50x50georgetown50x50
Pittsburgh (18-5, 6-4; RPI: 38): The Panthers pulled off an upset of Syracuse on Saturday after a three point loss at Louisville on Monday. Pittsburgh has won five of six games and six of its last eight. Wins over the Orange, Georgetown, and Villanova have all come in the last three weeks. This team seems destined for an at-large bid. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%Notre Dame (18-5, 6-4; RPI: 39): Notre Dame has seven wins against the RPI top 100 and three victories against the RPI top 50. Still, the only top 40 win for the Irish is at Cincinnati. Wins over Villanova and DePaul this week keep the Irish on the good side of the bubble. It seems every team in the Big East gets Syracuse and Louisville back to back. On Monday, the Fighting Irish lost to the Orange. Saturday, Louisville heads to South Bend.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%

Villanova (14-9, 5-5; RPI: 66) The Wildcats moved into the at-large consideration with wins against Louisville and Syracuse. Losses against Notre Dame and Providence following those two big wins have likely moved the Wildcats onto the bad side of the bubble. A win at DePaul on Tuesday at least got the Wildcats back into the win column.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

St. John’s (15-8, 7-4; RPI: 57): After a win over Connecticut on Wednesday night, the Red Storm have pulled to 7-4 in the Big East. St. John’s has three wins over the RPI top 50 but lost to UNC-Asheville, San Francisco, and Murray State in non-conference play. It’ll be interesting to see where St. John’s stands at the end of February. AT-LARGE ODDS: 30%

Other Big East teams with an at-large chance: Rutgers (10%)

Big Ten: Five Locks, Two Bubble Teams LOCKS:michigan50x50indiana50x50ohiostate100x100michiganstate50x50minnesota100x100
Big Ten Overview: I’ve moved Minnesota back onto the good side of the bubble because a top 15 RPI makes it impossible to miss the NCAA Tournament. On the other hand, Illinois continues to slide. If the Illni lose to Indiana and Minnesota in their next two games, their at-large chances are pretty much done.Wisconsin (15-7, 7-3; RPI: 41): Wisconsin has four wins against the RPI top 36 with victories against Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota. On Wednesday night, the Badgers beat an Iowa team that it lost to earlier this season. Next up for Bo Ryan’s team: Michigan, at Minnesota, and Ohio State. There are a lot of chances for good wins ahead. Right now, it is very hard to see this team missing the NCAA Tournament. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Illinois (15-8, 2-7; RPI: 36): Illinois has gone from a top 15 team that had wins over Butler, Gonzaga, and Ohio State to a team on the outside looking in at the tournament. The Illini are 2-7 in the Big Ten with six losses in their last seven games. Next up are Indiana and Minnesota.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Other Big Ten teams with an at-large chance: Iowa (5%), Northwestern (5%)

Conference USA: Zero Locks, Two Bubble Teams LOCKS: NONE
Memphis (19-3, 8-0; RPI: 43): 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. 38 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. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%Southern Miss (18-5, 7-1; RPI: 38): Southern Miss mainly makes this list due to the Eagles high RPI. A loss on Wednesday night to UCF hinders the Eagles’ at-large hopes, because Southern Miss’ best scenario was to at least split their its best two games with Memphis and run through every other game without a loss. AT-LARGE ODDS: 30%

Other Conference USA Teams with an at-large chance: None

Missouri Valley: Two Locks, One Bubble Team LOCKS:wichitastate50x50creighton50x50
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 definitely made things interesting.Indiana State (15-8, 8-4; RPI: 54): It has been a whirlwind stretch for the Sycamores. Indiana State upset Wichita State but followed that win up by losing at Drake. On Wednesday night, Indiana State upset Creighton. It appears Indiana State plays up and down to its competition. How else can you explain wins over Mississippi and Miami (Fla.) and losses to Morehead State and Southern Illinois? AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%

Other Missouri Valley teams with an at-large chance: None

Mountain West: One Lock, Six Bubble Teams LOCKS:newmexico50x50
Colorado State (19-4, 6-2; RPI: 15): 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 Rams also own victories at Washington and against Mountain West bubble teams Air Force, Boise State, and Wyoming. The Rams are in great shape right now. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%UNLV (17-6, 4-4; RPI: 17): UNLV was looking good a couple of weeks ago and even entering the last seven days, the Rebels still seemed destined for an at-large berth. Now, I’m not so sure. Back to back losses at Boise State and at Fresno State leave this team 1-4 on the road in Mountain West play. The next five games are all against possible Mountain West NCAA Tournament teams too. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%

San Diego State (17-5, 5-3; RPI: 30): San Diego State has some fantastic wins: UCLA, Colorado State, New Mexico, and Indiana State. Before Wednesday night’s one point win against Boise State, the Aztecs were starting to free fall a little bit. Inconsistency seems to rule the Mountain West. San Diego State has three RPI top 100 wins and not a single loss outside the RPI top 100. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%

Boise State (15-7, 3-5; RPI: 52): Boise State’s one point loss to San Diego State on Wednesday night was a big blow to the Broncos at-large hopes. There are only so many bids to go around in the Mountain West and right now the Broncos appear to be in the second tier of teams. Still, a win at Creighton is impressive and a victory over UNLV at home shows that this team is worthy of at-large bid consideration.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Wyoming (16-6, 2-6; RPI: 63): A 13-0 start has turned into a 15-6 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 100. The Cowboys have now lost four straight Mountain West games. AT-LARGE ODDS: 30%

Air Force (14-7, 5-3; RPI: 67): Of course, Air Force would get routed by New Mexico after I included the Falcons in my last bubble watch. This team has only one top 50 win (San Diego State) meaning it has a ton of work to do to get itself into serious at-large bid consideration. AT-LARGE ODDS: 15%

Other Mountain West teams with an at-large chance: None

Pac-12: Three Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:oregonducks50x50ucla50x50
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 (14-7, 4-5; RPI: 25): Saturday’s loss at Utah was a big blow for a Buffaloes team that can’t use any bad defeats the rest of the way. Next up are huge games at Oregon and at Oregon State.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%

Arizona State (17-4, 6-3; RPI: 59): Two nights after holding off Washington State for a four point win, the Sun Devils fell at Washington by four points. Next up are three very winnable games: California, Stanford, and at Utah.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Washington (13-9, 5-4; RPI: 67): Washington’s big win over Arizona State on Saturday night has given the Huskies six RPI top 100 wins. Only one of those wins is against a team currently ranked in the RPI top 50: Colorado. Still, the win over the Sun Devils ended a four game losing streak for the Huskies.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

Other Pac 12 teams with an at-large chance: Stanford (10%), California (10%)

SEC: Two Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:missouri100x100
SEC Overview: This conference is Florida and then everyone else. The Gators may end up being the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament field. Missouri lost to LSU this week but with Laurence Bowers on his way back, I’ll leave Missouri in the lock column for now.Ole Miss (18-4, 7-2; RPI: 48): Mississippi has lost to the two best teams it has played (if you say Missouri isn’t that great without Laurence Bowers) and owns only five wins against the RPI top 100. The lone victory over the RPI top 50 came against a Tigers team without Bowers. The Rebels also have losses to Kentucky and Florida, the next two best teams from the SEC. Despite that, this team is on pace for a 12 to 14 win SEC season and it is hard to see this missing the Big Dance with that kind of record in a power conference (even if the SEC is down).  AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%

Kentucky (16-6, 7-2; RPI: 44): The Wildcats finally picked up their first big win of the season last week at Ole Miss, but let’s make sure we don’t give Kentucky too much credit for a resume that looks more like what we see from a mid major than a national powerhouse. The victory over Mississippi gives Kentucky one victory against the RPI Top 50. The second best victory for John Calipari’s club is against Maryland, a team struggling in ACC play. Despite all that, there is some good news. At least the Wildcats found a way to win an overtime game against Texas A&M Saturday and blow out South Carolina on Wednesday night.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%

Alabama (14-8, 6-3; RPI: 61): Wednesday night’s loss to Auburn was a huge blow to the Crimson Tide’s at large hopes. Alabama only scored 37 points the entire game, including 14 in the second half. Alabama’s win over Kentucky is the Crimson Tide’s lone win against the RPI top 50. Losses to Dayton, Tulane, and Mercer in Tuscaloosa have made this profile scream NIT. The Crimson Tide get their shot at the SEC’s big boys in March. They play at Florida March 2 and at Mississippi March 5. AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

Other SEC teams with an at-large chance: Arkansas (15%)

Others: One Lock, Seven Bubble Teams LOCKS:
 Saint Mary’s (19-4, 8-1; RPI: 60): Saint Mary’s has one top 50 victory, thanks to a buzzer-beating three by Matthew Dellavedova. Outside of that, the Gaels’ at-large resume needs work. Saint Mary’s has three losses against teams lower than #36 in the RPI: Northern Iowa, Pacific, and Georgia Tech. This team lost at Gonzaga by five, but gets a shot at the Zags at home on February 14. A victory there would change this profile immensely. Road games at Santa Clara and at San Diego loom large this week. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%Belmont (19-4, 10-0; RPI: 21): The Bruins need a good Bracketbuster matchup (Creighton?) to help their at-large profile. Right now the only RPI top 50 win is against Middle Tennessee, another team hoping to get an at-large bid from a mid-major conference. It is really too bad that Murray State has not been the team we expected, because that would give Belmont (a very underrated team) a better shot at an at-large bid. The Ohio Valley won’t give them any chances, but an undefeated finish might be enough if their RPI stays so strong. Remember, no team with a RPI of 20 of better has ever missed the NCAA Tournament. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

BYU (18-6, 8-2; RPI: 42): BYU has played a lot of good teams, but has not won against any of them. Losses to Florida State, Notre Dame, Baylor, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, and Iowa State help the RPI but do not add a tally to the “good wins” column. BYU’s loss to the Gaels came on a Matthew Dellavedova buzzer-beating three from half-court. If the Cougars are disappointed on Selection Sunday, they can remember that shot as being one of the reasons why. BYU is 1-6 against the RPI top 100 with the one victory coming at #87 Santa Clara. The Cougars can change that stat when they play Saint Mary’s February 21 and Gonzaga on February 28. AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

Louisiana Tech (19-3, 10-0; RPI: 47): A victory over Southern Miss is the only top 50 win on the Bulldogs resume.  Teams that lose to Northwestern State and McNeese State usually do not get at-large bids, but you never know. Would 9 more wins down the stretch (to get to 28) and a trip to the WAC Tournament finals be enough for an at-large bid? I’d suggest the Bulldogs make it easy by earning the auto bid. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

Middle Tennessee (20-4, 12-1; RPI: 33): Give Middle Tennessee credit for going out and playing teams from power conferences. The Blue Raiders are reaping the benefits of their early season schedule with wins over UAB, Mississippi, UCF, and Vanderbilt. They were blown out by Florida in their only chance for a top 10 win, but the victory over the Rebels continues to look better and better. Nine more games remain, so would 27-5 be enough? Games against Arkansas State and Troy at home this week should not be a challenge. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

Bucknell (19-4, 6-1; RPI: 59): As expected, Bucknell’s RPI continues to free fall. The Bison have a win over La Salle that looks great after the Explorers dropped Butler and VCU this week.  Winning out is practically a must until the conference tournament final for Bucknell to even be in the conversation for an at-large bid on Selection Sunday. This team is 16-2 against teams below 100 in the RPI, which shows it has feasted on bad teams. AT-LARGE ODDS: 10%

Stephen F. Austin (18-2, 9-1; RPI: 93): Before falling to Northwestern State, the Lumberjacks’ only defeat was against Texas A&M. That one is relatively excusable. A victory over Oklahoma has them in the at-large conversation but they will likely need to almost win out to get a serious look from the committee. Would a 26-2 regular season plus a trip to the Southland final be enough? Probably not, but it is worth keeping an eye on. AT-LARGE ODDS: 10%


Daniel Evans (60 Posts)

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