RTC Bubble Watch: February 18 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on February 18th, 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 24 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 13 at-large spots available. In most years, an average of around six “locks” win automatic bids, meaning there are 19 unclinched spots for the NCAA Tournament.  I also have seven 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 12 total spots available for the teams you see below in my bubble watch.

TOTAL: 31 (minus six for projected auto bid winners = 25)

  • Odds Improving: Oklahoma State (now a lock), Illinois, Iowa (now on the BW), Maryland
  • Odds Decreasing: Virginia, Missouri (now on the BW), Kentucky
  • Locks That Are Trying My Patience: None (removed two locks this week — Missouri, Minnesota)


ACC: Three Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:duke50x50ncstate50x50miami50x50
North Carolina (17-8, 7-6; RPI: 30): North Carolina has only four 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 20 of the RPI, but the other two (Virginia, Texas) might end up dooming Roy Williams’ squad on Selection Sunday. Getting a revenge win over the Cavaliers on Saturday kept the Heels above Virginia in the ACC pecking order. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%Maryland (18-7, 7-6; RPI: 62): Finally, some good news for Maryland fans. The Terps upset Duke on Saturday night and have moved right onto the bubble. The next four provide chances for wins with games against Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest in that stretch. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%Virginia (18-7, 8-4; RPI: 80): .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. A loss on Saturday to North Carolina was big because it puts more pressure on Virginia to upset Miami, who remains undefeated in conference play, when the Cavaliers visit Miami (Fla.) on Tuesday night. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

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

Atlantic 10: One Lock, Six Bubble Teams LOCKS:butler50x50
Virginia Commonwealth (21-5, 9-2; RPI: 35): 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. Saturday’s win over Charlotte gave the Rams a third top 50 victory (barely, Charlotte is No. 49) and kept the 49ers well behind the Rams in the at-large order in the Atlantic Ten.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%Saint Louis (19-5, 8-2; 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 (17-8, 6-5; RPI: 51): 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 one point win over Massachusetts was big on Saturday. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

La Salle (18-6, 8-3; 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. Next up is a huge bubble game against Temple on Thursday night. 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. Unfortunately, the 49ers followed that up by losing to VCU. Next up is Temple on Saturday. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Massachusetts (16-8, 6-5; RPI: 54): Back to back losses to VCU and Temple have left the Minutemen on the bad side of the bubble. The next two are must wins (St. Bonvatenture, Dayton) but they won’t help Massachusetts’ overall profile. AT-LARGE HOPES: 25%

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

Big 12: Three Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:kansas50x50
Oklahoma (16-8, 7-5; RPI: 17): 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. An overtime loss to Oklahoma State stings, but doesn’t do a ton of damage. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%Iowa State (17-8, 7-5; RPI: 49): 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. Up next is a trip to Baylor. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%Baylor (16-9, 7-4; RPI: 54): 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 20 point loss to Kansas State did not help anything on Saturday. Next up are Iowa State and Oklahoma. If the Bears lose both, they are in big trouble. 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 (20-6, 8-5; RPI: 49): Saturday’s loss to Providence was ugly, but unless it becomes a habit Notre Dame will be okay. The Irish have wins over Louisville and Cincinnati and six total victories against the RPI top 100. None of the next three are easy wins, making .500 in the Big East possible. Next up is at Pittsburgh, before games against Cincinnati and Marquette. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%Villanova (16-10, 7-6; RPI: 57): Since knocking off top five opponents Louisville and Syracuse in back-to-back games, Villanova is 3-3 with losses to Notre Dame, Providence, and Cincinnati. Saturday’s win over Connecticut adds a third top 50 win for the Wildcats, but it doesn’t add a win over a NCAA Tournament team because the Huskies are not eligible for postseason play. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%St. John’s (15-10, 7-6; RPI: 57): After a loss to Louisville on Thursday,, the Red Storm are 7-6 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: None currently

Big Ten: Five Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:michigan50x50indiana50x50ohiostate100x100michiganstate50x50wisconsinbadgers50x50
Minnesota (18-7, 6-7; RPI: 14): Although I believe Minnesota is safe because of its incredible 13 wins vs. the RPI top 100, I’ll throw the Gophers into the bubble side of the watch to be completely safe. Minnesota lost ugly to Iowa on Sunday, which pushed the Gophers to below .500 in conference play. Next up are games against Ohio State (who was also crushed) and a trip to Indiana. Minnesota better not lose both. AT-LARGE ODDS: 80%Illinois (19-8, 6-7; RPI: 27): 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 last Sunday and a win over Purdue Wednesday night and you’ve got renewed life for the Illini. On Sunday, a victory over Northwestern pulled the Illini within one game of getting back to .500. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%Iowa (17-9, 6-7, RPI: 86): Iowa’s RPI has to rise but a win over Minnesota on Sunday gave the Hawkeyes a third win against the RPI top 50. Next up are games at Nebraska and against Purdue. Those are must wins, before a great opportunity to a gigantic win at Indiana. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

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

Conference USA: Zero Locks, Two Bubble Teams LOCKS: NONE
Memphis (22-3, 11-0; RPI: 25): Thanks to a win last 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 25 RPI ranking. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%Southern Miss (20-6, 9-2; RPI: 40): Southern Miss mainly makes this list due to the Eagles’ high RPI. Back-to-back losses to the first 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 Teams LOCKS:
Creighton (21-6, 10-5, RPI: 45): 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? A comeback win against Evansville on Saturday was huge. 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 (16-10, 9-6; 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, Bradley and Illinois State — all teams outside the RPI top 100. The Sycamores are 4-8 on the road. Next, they welcome in Wichita State and Indiana State will probably play well. This team plays up and down to its competition. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

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

Mountain West: One Lock, Five Bubble Teams LOCKS:newmexico50x50
Colorado State (21-4, 8-2; RPI: 13): The Rams have three RPI top 50 wins after picking up a win over San Diego State on Wednesday night. Next up are games at at UNLV and vs. New Mexico. If Colorado State wins at least one of them, I’ll probably lock them up. Saturday’s win over kept the Rams Mountain West title hopes alive. AT-LARGE ODDS: 80%UNLV (18-6, 5-5; RPI: 19): After Saturday’s win against San Diego State, the Rebels now have a season sweep of the Aztecs. UNLV also has wins over New Mexico and Iowa State, but losses to Fresno State and Air Force have also shown how bad this team can be. Next up is a showdown with Colorado State. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%San Diego State (18-6, 6-5; RPI: 34): San Diego State is making me nervous. I was prepared to make the Aztecs a lock before back to back losses to Colorado State and UNLV. This team still has wins over Colorado State, UCLA, New Mexico, and Boise State, meaning it is hard to see it missing the NCAA Tournament. This week will be easier than last week with games against Wyoming and Nevada at home coming up. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%

Boise State (16-8, 4-6; RPI: 42): Boise State’s lost by one to San Diego State on Wednesday and then fell to New Mexico on Saturday. Next up are games agianst Air Force, Fresno State, and Nevada–the only three teams from the Mountain West that aren’t in the bubble discussion. Wins over Creighton and UNLV remain impressive, but the Broncos need to add more quality wins to their profile. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Wyoming (18-7, 5-7; RPI: 62): A 13-0 start now seems like years ago for Wyoming. As expected, the Cowboys have bounced back into the bubble talk with wins over Mountain West bottom feeders Nevada and Fresno State. Now, the fun starts. Up next is a game at San Diego State on Tuesday night. AT-LARGE ODDS: 20%

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

Pac-12: Three Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:oregonducks50x50ucla50x50
Colorado (17-8, 7-6; RPI: 21): The Buffaloes lost to Arizona State on a buzzer beating layup on Saturday night to end a three game winning streak. The Buffaloes have a RPI of 21, which keeps them on the good side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Wins over Colorado State, at Oregon, and Arizona give this team three top 50 wins. The Buffaloes also have eight top 50 wins overall.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%California (15-9, 7-5; RPI: 55): The Bears have three top 50 wins over Oregon, Arizona, and UCLA. This team has won four of five to get into the bubble discussion. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%Arizona State (19-7, 8-5; RPI: 69): Arizona State had to find a way to knock off Colorado on Saturday night and it did. Now, back to back games against the Washington schools will test this team. Those are must wins, because the Sun Devils end the season with road games at UCLA, at USC, and at Arizona.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Stanford (15-11, 6-7; RPI: 72): Thursday night’s loss to USC was a big blow, as was Saturday’s loss against UCLA. Next up are games at Oregon State and at Oregon. If the Cardinal want to get in the field, they might want to win both. AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

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

SEC: One Lock, Five Bubble Teams LOCKS:
Missouri (18-7, 7-5; RPI: 36): I‘m taking the Tigers out of lock status after a loss at Arkansas on Saturday. Missouri has wins over VCU and Illinois and seven wins over the RPI top 100, but this team is just too inconsistent to be a lock right now. Over their last eleven games, the Tigers are 6-5 with losses to LSU, Ole Miss (by 15), Texas A&M, and Arkansas. Missouri was supposed to get better with Laurence Bowers’ return, but so far that has not happened. AT-LARGE ODDS: 75%Ole Miss (19-6, 8-4; RPI: 53): Mississippi was able to knock off Georgia in overtime on Saturday to avoid the kind of loss that could send its season spiraling. The Rebels still only have one win against the RPI top 50 (Missouri) and five total wins against the RPI top 100. Next up is a trip to South Carolina. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%Kentucky (17-8, 8-4; RPI: 43): Kentucky is being evaluated as a new team without Nerlens Noel and that new team got demolished on Saturday at Tennessee. The Wildcats lost by 30, making them 0-1 without Noel in the lineup. Even with him, this team had no wins against the RPI top 50 and only four against the RPI 100. Vanderbilt and Missouri both come to Rupp Arena this week and both are must wins. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Alabama (17-8, 8-3; RPI: 59): 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, Georgia, and Kentucky. Alabama’s win over the Wildcats 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%

Arkansas (16-9, 7-5, RPI: 75): After Saturday’s win against Missouri, Arkansas makes the Bubble Watch for the first time all season. The Hogs have wins over Florida, Missouri, and Oklahoma–all teams in the RPI top 50. Here’s the problem: Arkansas has only one win on the road all season and that win was at Auburn on Wednesday night.  Arkansas plays at Georgia and then takes on Florida Saturday in Gainesville. The Gators will probably be thinking payback. AT-LARGE ODDS: 30%

Other SEC teams with an at-large chance: Tennessee (5%)

Others: One Lock, Six Bubble Teams LOCKS:
Saint Mary’s (22-5, 11-2; RPI: 50): With BYU falling outside the RPI top 50, Saint Mary’s now has zero wins against the RPI top 50. The Gaels were swept by Gonzaga, but have chances at good wins this week against BYU and Creighton. The bracketbuster matchup with the Bluejays will probably decide Saint Mary’s at large fate. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%Belmont (20-6, 11-2; RPI: 28): 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. Saturday’s loss against Tennessee State may have ended the Bruins’ at-large hopes, because Belmont has now lost two of three in the Ohio Valley. Winning out is a must to be in consideration. AT-LARGE ODDS: 40%Louisiana Tech (22-3, 13-0; 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 an undefeated finish down the stretch 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: 35%

BYU (19-8, 9-4; RPI: 67): A loss Saturday against San Francisco might have doomed BYU in the long run. The Cougars have only three RPI top 100 wins and all three of them barely make the RPI 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%

Middle Tennessee (23-4, 15-1; RPI: 26): 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. Only four games remain. Would a 29 win Middle Tennessee team get left out? AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

Bucknell (21-5, 8-2; RPI: 61): 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. Bucknell is probably done after losing at Lafayette on Saturday. Winning out would at least make things interesting though. AT-LARGE ODDS: 10%


Daniel Evans (60 Posts)

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