RTC Bubble Watch: February 14 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on February 14th, 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 26 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 11 at-large spots available. In most years, an average of around six “locks” win automatic bids, meaning there are 17 unclinched spots for the NCAA Tournament.  I also have six teams in the “should be in” category, meaning I project their odds of getting an at-large bid at 70% or higher. If those teams ultimately get in, there are 11 total spots available for the teams you see below in my bubble watch.

TOTAL: 32 (minus six for projected auto bid winners = 26)

  • Odds Improving: Oklahoma State, Memphis, Illinois, Colorado State
  • Odds Decreasing: Florida State, North Carolina, Butler, Creighton, Wichita State, Mississippi, Kentucky
  • Locks That Are Trying My Patience: None (removed two locks this week — Creighton, Wichita State)

Just to show that this year’s bubble is not that weak, look at this chart denoting top 50 wins for last season’s final teams into the NCAA Tournament:


As you can see, we might not be giving some of the bubble teams enough credit this year. Consider for instance that I just moved Wichita State out of lock status. The Shockers have three top 50 wins, more than all but one of the teams listed in the chart above. Remember, all of the teams in the chart were actually in the NCAA Tournament last season and one of them (NC State) made the Sweet Sixteen.  This is one of the reasons why you’ll see some of my bubble watch list teams as a lock that other bubble watches do not.


ACC: Three Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:duke50x50ncstate50x50miami50x50
North Carolina (16-8, 6-6; RPI: 36): The Tar Heels’ resume is looking weaker and weaker. North Carolina has only three wins over the RPI top 100 and only one against the top 50. Six of North Carolina’s eight losses are to teams in the top 17 of the RPI, but the other two (Virginia, Texas) might end up dooming Roy Williams’ squad on Selection Sunday. It also doesn’t help that the Heels were not competitive against Miami this week. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%Virginia (18-6, 8-3; RPI: 78): All of a sudden, Virginia’s RPI has risen almost 20 spots in the last week. The Cavaliers have six wins against the RPI top 100 and six losses to teams below the top 100. The Cavs are really banking on wins over Wisconsin, North Carolina, and North Carolina State and chances in their next two at the Tar Heels and at Miami. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Maryland (17-7, 5-6; RPI: 76): Maryland has been awful against good teams. The Terps have seven losses, but none of them have come against teams ranked outside the RPI top 100. Here’s the problem: Maryland’s RPI is sinking at rapid speed.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

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

Atlantic 10: One Lock, Seven Bubble Teams LOCKS:butler50x50
Virginia Commonwealth (19-5, 7-2; RPI: 39): The Rams’ best victories are over Belmont and Memphis, and neither of those teams are locks to get at large bids. VCU has five losses, all against the nation’s top 100. The next two games are must wins, because losses to Massachusetts or George Washington would weigh down this resume.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%Saint Louis (18-5, 7-2; RPI: 55): Saint Louis is getting hot at the right time. The Billikens are 10-2 in their last 12 games and have victories over Butler and New Mexico on their resume. Plus, there is only one bad loss here (Rhode Island). This is looking more and more like a NCAA Tournament team.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%

Temple (16-7, 5-4; RPI: 53): The Owls are the kind of team that makes a bracketologist’s job very difficult. A win over Syracuse looks fantastic, but losses to Canisius, St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s, and Xavier cannot be ignored. A big comeback at Dayton on Saturday was gigantic in the large scheme of things. The Owls’ remaining Atlantic 10 schedule is pretty weak.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

La Salle (17-6, 7-3; RPI: 34): La Salle has five wins over the RPI top 100 including victories against Butler and VCU, the Atlantic 10’s best teams. The Explorers only have one bad loss, which came in mid-November against Central Connecticut State. The next two games on the schedule are very winnable — at St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s — before a huge bubble game at Temple on February 21. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Charlotte (18-6, 6-4; RPI: 60): Charlotte officially entered the bubble conversation on Wednesday night after a win against Butler. The 49ers now have two wins against the RPI top 50, against the Bulldogs and over La Salle. Still, the 49ers have lost three of five, including a 28-point loss to George Washington. Next up is a big road game at St. Louis.   AT-LARGE ODDS: 40%

Massachusetts (16-6, 6-3; RPI: 52): 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. Massachusetts has done its part by winning of four of five games to set up a monster game with VCU on Thursday night. AT-LARGE HOPES: 30%

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

Big 12: Two Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:kansas50x50
Oklahoma State (18-5, 8-3; RPI: 28): 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. If the Cowboys can get through the next two, against Oklahoma and Kansas, they will be a lock. One of the two will probably do. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%Oklahoma (16-7, 7-4; RPI: 21): Oklahoma caught Kansas at the right time, becoming the third straight Big 12 team to knock off the Jayhawks. That victory, coupled with wins over Oklahoma State and Baylor leave the Sooners in good shape for an at-large bid. A game at Oklahoma State looms large on Saturday. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%

Iowa State (16-8, 6-5; RPI: 37): The Cyclones lost at Texas on Wednesday night, which pushes Iowa State to 2-7 on the road this year. Despite that awful loss, the sky isn’t falling here (yet). Iowa State has two wins against the RPI top 25 (Oklahoma, Kansas State) and six victories against the RPI top 100. Two bad losses — the one to the ‘Horns and one at Texas Tech earlier this year — will still be taken into consideration by the selection committee. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%

Baylor (16-8, 7-3; RPI: 52): Two weeks ago Baylor was right in the middle of the Big 12 bubble pack. Now, the Bears are clearly at the bottom. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have beaten Kansas and Iowa State has won against the Wildcats, Bears, and Sooners. Baylor better get going. A win over West Virginia on Wednesday set up a big matchup this weekend with Kansas State.. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

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

Big East: Six Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:louisville50x50syracuse100x100marquette50x50cincy50x50georgetown50x50PITT50x50
Notre Dame (20-5, 8-4; RPI: 43): I’m still being cautious with the Irish. Notre Dame’s 5OT win against Louisville leaves this team in fantastic shape. Notre Dame now has eight wins against the RPI top 100, including top 50 wins over the Cardinals and Cincinnati. Barring a collapse, this team is in. The Irish survived DePaul Wednesday night. Notre Dame’s next two are on the road, at Providence and at Pittsburgh. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%Villanova (15-10, 6-6; RPI: 63): Since knocking off top five opponents Louisville and Syracuse in back-to-back games, Villanova is 2-3 with losses to Notre Dame, Providence, and Cincinnati. Next up is a game at Connecticut. The Huskies defeated Syracuse on Wednesday night. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

St. John’s (15-9, 7-5; RPI: 50): After a loss to Syracuse on Sunday,, the Red Storm are 7-5 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. On Sunday, Syracuse blew St. John’s out. This team does not look like a NCAA Tournament team. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

Other Big East teams with an at-large chance: Rutgers (5%)

Big Ten: Six Locks, One Bubble Team LOCKS:michigan50x50indiana50x50ohiostate100x100michiganstate50x50wisconsinbadgers50x50minnesota100x100
Illinois (18-8, 5-7; RPI: 25): Illinois has gone from a top 15 team that had wins over Butler, Gonzaga, and Ohio State to the toughest bubble team in the country to figure out. The Illini were 2-7 in conference and looked finished last week before a huge comeback victory over No. 1 Indiana. Add in a win over Minnesota on Sunday and a win over Purdue Wednesday night and you’ve got renewed life for the Illini. The next two games are at Penn State and against Northwestern so Illinois has a great chance to get back to .500 in Big Ten play.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%Other Big Ten teams with an at-large chance: Iowa (5%)
Conference USA: Zero Locks, Two Bubble Teams LOCKS: NONE
Memphis (21-3, 10-0; RPI: 35): Thanks to a win on Saturday over Southern Miss, the Tigers now own a top 50 win. Still, this resume looks pretty bad. If the team name was “Stephen F. Austin,” I’m not sure we’d have the Tigers as high as we do, but the RPI may save the Tigers. Memphis has a top 35 RPI ranking. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%Southern Miss (19-6, 8-2; RPI: 48): Southern Miss mainly makes this list due to the Eagles’ high RPI. Back-to-back losses to the second and third best teams in Conference USA have really changed the Eagles at-large odds. Southern Miss has to beat Memphis in their other meeting with the Tigers on February 23 to have any chance. AT-LARGE ODDS: 15%

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

Missouri Valley: Zero Locks, Three Bubble Team LOCKS:
Creighton (20-6, 9-5, RPI: 46): The Bluejays are suddenly in trouble. I have had Creighton in lock status all season, but a three-game losing streak to three teams the Bluejays should not lose to leaves this team right on the bubble. There is a lot of good on their resume, including eight wins against the RPI top 100. Creighton only has one win against the RPI top 50, though, but that one win (Wisconsin) seems to look more impressive every week. The Bluejays’ RPI is sliding. What if Creighton finishes third in the Missouri Valley and loses in round one of the MVC Tournament? Are they in? AT-LARGE ODDS: 80%Wichita State (21-5, 10-4; RPI: 40): Alright, let’s be fair here. If Creighton is no longer a lock, Wichita State isn’t either. The Shockers lost three straight games from January 29 through February 5 and still have to play games at Indiana State and at Creighton. With the Bluejays no longer looking like a top 15 team, Wichita State’s best win is weaker. Sure, the Shockers have three top 50 wins but those wins are over flagging Creighton, inconsistent VCU, and Southern Miss, who always seems to end up with a ridiculously high RPI without playing anyone. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Indiana State (16-9, 9-5; RPI: 46): Indiana State might be the most up and down team in the country. This team has wins over Ole Miss, Miami (FL), Wichita State, and Creighton. It also has losses to Morehead State, Southern Illinois, Drake, Missouri State, and Illinois State — all teams outside the RPI top 100. The Sycamores are 4-7 on the road and next up is a trip to Drake. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

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

Mountain West: One Lock, Six Bubble Teams LOCKS:newmexico50x50
Colorado State (20-4, 7-2; RPI: 14): The Rams might end up being the best team in the Mountain West. The Rams now have three RPI top 50 wins after picking up a win over San Diego State on Wednesday night. Next up are games at Air Force, at UNLV, and New Mexico. If CSU wins two of three, I’ll probably toss them into the lock category. AT-LARGE ODDS: 75%San Diego State (18-5, 6-4; RPI: 27): I was prepared to move the Aztecs into lock status before they lost Wednesday night at Colorado State. Despite the setback, San Diego State has wins over the Rams, UCLA, New Mexico, and Boise State. A game at UNLV will be huge on Saturday, but if the Aztecs win you can basically write them somewhere in your bracket. AT-LARGE ODDS: 75%

UNLV (18-6, 5-5; RPI: 19): When I look at UNLV’s profile, it makes me want to beat my head against a wall. The Rebels have shown potential with wins against #3 in the RPI New Mexico, San Diego State, and Iowa State. They’ve also shown how bad they can be with a loss to Fresno State and now a 15-point loss to Air Force. Next up are games against San Diego State and Colorado State. What happens if the Runnin’ Rebels lose both and fall to 5-7 in conference? AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%

Boise State (16-7, 4-5; RPI: 45): Boise State’s one-point loss to San Diego State last Wednesday was a big blow to the Broncos’ at-large hopes, but at least the Aztecs bounced back with a win over Wyoming on Saturday. 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 (17-7, 3-7; RPI: 61): A 13-0 start now seems like years ago for Wyoming. The Cowboys had lost seven of nine in conference before Wednesday night’s win over Nevada. Now the Cowboys have to find a win against Fresno State this weekend. If they win that one, we can start looking at scenarios that could get Wyoming at an-large bid. AT-LARGE ODDS: 15%

Other Mountain West teams with an at-large chance: Air Force (10%)

Pac-12: Three Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:oregonducks50x50ucla50x50
Colorado (16-7, 6-5; RPI: 18): Colorado is really depending on a great RPI. Remember, the best RPI ever to miss the NCAA Tournament is #21. A victory over Oregon last Thursday night doesn’t look as good as it would have two weeks ago, but it still counts as a second win over the RPI top 50 for the Buffaloes. A win over Arizona this Thursday night would be sweet revenge for the Buffaloes and a huge step towards an at-large bid.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%Arizona State (18-7, 7-5; RPI: 64): This is not the time of year for two-game losing streaks but that’s the situation Arizona State is in after losing to Stanford and Utah in back-to-back games. The Sun Devils have two wins against the RPI top 50 (Colorado, UCLA) but also have losses two losses to teams outside the RPI top 150. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Stanford (15-9, 6-5; RPI: 57): The Cardinal move onto the bubble watch after a win against Arizona State on Saturday. Stanford only has one top 50 win (Oregon), but still gets UCLA at home and also has a trip to Eugene left on its schedule. First is a game against red-hot USC on Thursday. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

California (14-9, 6-5; RPI: 57): The Bears have top 50 wins over Oregon and at Arizona but do not have any other RPI top 100 wins. On Thursday, a game against UCLA is almost a must-win. AT-LARGE ODDS: 15%

Other Pac 12 teams with an at-large chance: Washington (5%)

SEC: Two Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:missouri100x100
Ole Miss (18-6, 7-4; RPI: 47): Over the last three weeks we have watched the Rebels play the three best teams from the SEC. Kentucky dominated them aside from a late run. Florida blew them off the floor, and Missouri humiliated them with Laurence Bowers finally back in the lineup. The Rebels’ best win is against the Tigers, but it was without Bowers in the lineup. Wednesday’s loss at Texas A&M left Ole Miss in bad shape regarding their at-large odds. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%Kentucky (17-7, 8-3; RPI: 44): After Nerlens Noel’s ACL injury, Kentucky is in bad shape. The Wildcats’ resume basically resets at this point. If Kentucky struggles down the stretch, the selection committee may decide that this team is not worthy of a bid. Kentucky only has one top 50 win and that win is barely in the top 50 (Ole Miss, #47). The next two are winnable and must wins. It would be deflating for the ‘Cats to lose at Tennessee on Saturday after losing Noel on Wednesday. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Alabama (16-8, 7-3; RPI: 62): Last week’s loss to Auburn may have ended Alabama’s at-large hopes, but at least the Crimson Tide bounced back with wins over LSU and Georgia. 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 (5%)

Others: One Lock, Seven Bubble Teams LOCKS:
Saint Mary’s (21-4, 10-1; RPI: 49): 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 Thursday night. A victory there would change this profile immensely.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Belmont (20-5, 11-1; RPI: 24): Right now the only RPI top 50 win for Belmont 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 (18-8, 8-4; RPI: 59): A loss Saturday against San Francisco might have doomed BYU in the long run. The Cougars have only one RPI top 100 win and that victory is against Santa Clara, who barely makes the top 100 cut. The Cougars can change that stat when they play Saint Mary’s February 21 and Gonzaga on February 28. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

Louisiana Tech (21-3, 12-0; RPI: 51): 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 nine 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 (22-4, 14-1; RPI: 29): 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 Mississippi, UCF, and Vanderbilt. They were blown out by Florida in their only chance for a top 10 win. Would 27-5 be enough? AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

Bucknell (21-4, 8-1; RPI: 58): 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.  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 18-2 against teams below 100 in the RPI, which shows it has feasted on bad teams. AT-LARGE ODDS: 10%

Stephen F. Austin (20-2, 11-1; RPI: 80): 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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2 responses to “RTC Bubble Watch: February 14 Edition”

  1. Honest question. Why use RPI rather than better metrics such as KenPom and Sagarin predictor which take margin of victory into account? I don’t want to know necessarily who the NCAA selection committee might pick as much as I want to know who deserves to be in or out. Keep the RPI in to help people see who the committee might pick, but include other, better metrics as well.

  2. Daniel Evans says:

    The NCAA Selection Committee has shown in its history that it is going to extensively use the RPI to evaluate teams. That is a known fact. The committee chair said during his teleconference on Wednesday that the committee has around twelve tools it uses to evaluate teams.

    Committee chair Mike Bobinksi said that they did an analysis of the statistical tools they use (he did not specifically name Sagarin or Kenpom but did act as though we should know which statistical formulas he’s referring to) and that the RPI is the best predictive tool. Here’s the exact quote:

    “Interestingly, if we went through that, we were all surprised to see that the RPI actually did end up with the highest level of predictive value and the highest correlation with ultimately success in the tournament. ”

    We know the committee is going to rely heavily on the RPI. We are 100% sure of that. The committee usually does not speak of its other “tools” like Sagarin or Kenpom, meaning we don’t know how much those are actually weighed in the discussion. We do know that the EVERY team sheet listing good and bad wins lists the RPI as its way to categorize each win. Those team sheets are the exact team sheets the NCAA Selection Committee uses every time it ranks the teams. None of them list Sagarin or Kenpom.

    As far as your thought process on who should be in or out, that really isn’t my job. My job is to use the Selection Committee’s past results, the RPI, the SOS, and my predictive tools to guess who will be in the field. Everyone has a different opinion on who should be in or out, but only the Selection Committee’s opinion counts.

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