RTC Bubble Watch: February 21 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on February 21st, 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 nine 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 10 total spots available for the teams you see below in my bubble watch.

TOTAL: 33 (minus six for projected auto bid winners = 27)

  • Odds Improving: UNLV, Missouri
  • Odds Decreasing: Mississippi, Baylor, Minnesota
  • Locks That Are Trying My Patience: None


ACC: Three Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:duke50x50ncstate50x50miami50x50
North Carolina (18-8, 8-5; RPI: 24): 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. Games against N. C. State and Maryland remain on the schedule before hosting Duke in the finale. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%

Maryland (18-8, 6-7; RPI: 66): The Terps upset Duke on Saturday night, but followed that up by losing on Sunday to Boston College. The next three against Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest provide great chances for wins before a crucial bubble game with North Carolina on March 6. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Virginia (18-8, 8-5; RPI: 75): .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. On Saturday, Virginia missed a chance for a bubble win over North Carolina and then lost to Miami in the closing seconds Tuesday. Duke comes to town February 28, following a must win home game against Georgia Tech. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

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

Atlantic 10: One Lock, Six Bubble Teams LOCKS:butler50x50
Saint Louis (20-5, 9-2; RPI: 42): 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. They also just beat VCU by double digits. Plus, there is only one bad loss here (Rhode Island). This is looking more and more like a NCAA Tournament team.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 75%

Virginia Commonwealth (21-6, 9-3; RPI: 36): 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, but I think it is clear that Saint Louis has passed the Rams. The Billikens dominated VCU on Tuesday night. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Temple (17-8, 6-5; RPI: 48): 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: 33): 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 (18-7, 6-5; RPI: 49): 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 (16-9, 6-6; RPI: 59): Three straight losses to VCU, Temple, and St. Bonaventure have left Massachusetts on the bad side of the bubble. The next one against Dayton is huge or the Minutemen are off the Bubble Watch. AT-LARGE ODDS: 20%

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 (17-8, 8-5; RPI: 18): 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. Next up is Baylor. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%

Iowa State (18-8, 8-5; RPI: 44): 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. Wednesday’s win over Baylor finished a sweep of the Bears. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%

Baylor (16-10, 7-6; RPI: 60): Baylor is in pretty bad shape right now. The Bears were swept by Iowa State and have lost to Kansas State, Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma. The only win over one of the other Big 12 NCAA competitors is a victory over Oklahoma State. Next up is a game at Oklahoma. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

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

Big East: Six Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:louisville50x50syracuse100x100marquette50x50
Notre Dame (21-6, 9-5; RPI: 43): Saturday’s loss to Providence was ugly, but Notre Dame followed it up with a comeback to knock off Pittsburgh.. 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 are game against Cincinnati and Marquette. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Villanova (17-10, 8-6; RPI: 54): Since knocking off top five opponents Louisville and Syracuse in back-to-back games, Villanova is 4-3 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. Chances against Pittsburgh, Marquette, and Georgetown still remain on the schedule. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

St. John’s (16-10, 8-6; RPI: 56): 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: 35%

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

Big Ten: Five Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:michigan50x50indiana50x50ohiostate100x100michiganstate50x50wisconsinbadgers50x50
Illinois (19-8, 6-7; RPI: 28): Illinois has turned its season around after starting 2-7 in the Big Ten. The Illini have wins over Gonzaga, Butler, Ohio State, Indiana, and Minnesota. Next up is a game against Penn State before a trip to Michigan. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%

Minnesota (18-9, 6-8; RPI: 15): Although I believe Minnesota is safe because of its incredible 12 wins vs. the RPI top 100, the Gophers are not making it easy. They have been blown out by Iowa and Ohio State in back to back games to fall to 6-8 in conference. Next up is a trip to Indiana. . 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 (23-3, 12-0; RPI: 21): 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 (21-6, 10-2; RPI: 37): Southern Miss mainly makes this list due to the Eagles’ high RPI. Southern Miss has to beat Memphis in their other meeting with the Tigers on February 23 to have any chance. The Eagles do not have a single win against the RPI top 90. 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, followed by a win against Southern Illinois. If Creighton can knock off Saint Mary’s on Saturday, I will lock them back in. AT-LARGE ODDS: 80%

Wichita State (23-5, 12-4; RPI: 35): 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. On Tuesday, a win at Indiana State was big because Wichita State could not afford to be swept by the Sycamores. 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 (16-11, 9-7; RPI: 64): 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. A loss on Tuesday to Wichita State might have eliminated this team without a deep run in the MVC Tournament. AT-LARGE ODDS: 40%

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

Mountain West: One Lock, Five Bubble Teams LOCKS:newmexico50x50
Colorado State (21-5, 8-3; RPI: 13): The Rams have wins over UNLV, Boise State, San Diego State and a very high RPI. Wednesday night’s loss to UNLV was a small blow, but Colorado State is nearly a lock even with the defeat.  A win at home against New Mexico on Saturday would do it. AT-LARGE ODDS: 75%

UNLV (18-6, 5-5; RPI: 19): Wednesday’s win over Colorado State was impressive and it moved UNLV to the brink of lock status. In the last 11 days, the Rebels have wins over the Rams, San Diego State, and New Mexico. The next four games on the schedule are all against the bottom half of the Mountain West. AT-LARGE ODDS: 75%

San Diego State (19-7, 7-5; RPI: 29): I was prepared to make the Aztecs a lock before back to back losses to Colorado State and UNLV, but the Aztecs rebounded with a win against Wyoming on Tuesday night. 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.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Boise State (17-8, 5-6; RPI: 45): Boise State’s lost by one to San Diego State on Wednesday and then fell to New Mexico on Saturday. Next up are games against  Fresno State and Nevada–the only two 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: 45%

Other Mountain West teams with an at-large chance: Air Force (5%), Wyoming (5%)

Pac-12: Three Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:oregonducks50x50ucla50x50
Colorado (17-8, 7-6; RPI: 23): 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 23, 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 (16-9, 8-5; RPI: 53): 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. Sunday’s comeback victory over USC was crucial because it kept California’s positive momentum going. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Arizona State (20-7, 9-5; RPI: 67): Arizona State had to find a way to knock off Colorado on Saturday night and it did. A win over Washington State on Wednesday was a good win and now fledgling Washington comes to town. 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: 73): 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 (19-7, 8-5; RPI: 34): Missouri knocked off Florida in a tremendous comeback on Tuesday night. That win gives the Tigers’ three victories against the RPI top 50. Next up are games at Kentucky and at South Carolina. If Missouri wins both of those, you can probably count them in, despite bad losses to LSU, Texas A&M, and Arkansas. AT-LARGE ODDS: 80%

Ole Miss (19-7, 8-5; RPI: 57): Wednesday night the Rebels lost at South Carolina, which is the kind of bad loss teams like the Rebels cannot afford right now. Mississippi has one top 50 win and that win was against a Missouri team that was not at full strength. There are no other chances for top 50 wins on the schedule either. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%

Kentucky (18-8, 9-4; RPI: 46): Kentucky is being evaluated as a new team without Nerlens Noel and that new team got demolished on Saturday at Tennessee. On Wednesday, Kentucky avoided back to back losses by holding on against Vanderbilt. Even with Noel, this team had no wins against the RPI top 50 and only four against the RPI 100. Missouri comes to Rupp Arena Saturday. A win there would be gigantic for the Cats’ resume. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Alabama (18-8, 9-3; RPI: 58): 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. They’ll likely need to win one of them to have a real shot at the tournament. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

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: 52): 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 (21-6, 12-2; RPI: 30): 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 four in the Ohio Valley. Winning out is a must to be in consideration. AT-LARGE ODDS: 40%

Akron (21-4, 12-0, RPI: 51): Akron deserves a spot in the Bubble Watch, but the Zips’ resume lacks gigantic wins. They have a victory over Middle Tennessee as their only top 50 victory. Akron’s BracketBuster game with North Dakota State can help its resume, but it is not a Saint Mary’s-Creighton type showdown. AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

Louisiana Tech (24-3, 14-0; RPI: 50): 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 (20-8, 9-4; RPI: 62): 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: 27): 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 (22-5, 9-2; RPI: 55): 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 February 16. Winning out would at least make things interesting though. AT-LARGE ODDS: 10%


Daniel Evans (60 Posts)

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