RTC Bubble Watch: February 24 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on February 24th, 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” clinches 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 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 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: Saint Louis, UNLV
  • Odds Decreasing: Mississippi, Cincinnati, Baylor
  • Locks That Are Trying My Patience: None


ACC: Three Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:duke50x50ncstate50x50miami50x50
North Carolina (19-8, 9-5; RPI: 20): The Tar Heels have a second victory over the RPI top 25 after a win at home against N. C. State on Saturday. Although North Carolina still lacks for great wins, it still has a game against Duke to end the season. Plus, it would be crazy to imagine UNC missing the NCAA Tournament with a top 20 RPI. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%

Maryland (19-8, 7-7; RPI: 66): Every time Maryland seems to take a step forward, the Terps quickly take a step back. Remember the upset win against Duke? Maryland followed that by losing to Boston College but rebounded with a win against Clemson. Three of the last four are on the road, but they are all against some of the worst teams in the ACC (GT, WF, VIR). AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Virginia (18-8, 8-5; RPI: 75): Virginia has six wins against the RPI top 100, but three losses to the miserable CAA. When you consider both, it makes for one of the more confusing resumes to figure out in the country. Virginia’s RPI has finally risen to a mediocre level, but it needs to keep rising. A game against Duke on Thursday will probably decide the Cavaliers’ at-large fate. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

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

Atlantic 10: Two Lock, Five Bubble Teams LOCKS:butler50x50stlouis50x50

Virginia Commonwealth (22-6, 10-3; RPI: 34): 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. Butler plays at VCU on March 2, a huge game for the Rams. A win there will lock them up. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Temple (18-8, 7-5; RPI: 47): 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. Wins over Massachusetts, La Salle, and Charlotte have Temple on the good side of the NCAA Tournament bubble for now. Losing any of the next three would be devastating. A finale against VCU may end up deciding the Owls’ fate heading into the Atlantic 10 Tournament. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%

La Salle (19-7, 9-4; RPI: 36): La Salle has five wins over the RPI top 100 including victories against Butler and VCU, two of the Atlantic 10’s best teams. The Explorers only have one bad loss, which came in mid-November against Central Connecticut State. A loss to Temple on Thursday hurts but at least La Salle rebounded by winning at Rhode Island on Sunday. Duquesne and George Washington are next on the schedule before a monster game at red-hot Saint Louis. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Charlotte (18-7, 6-5; RPI: 54): It is never a good sign when as a bubble team you lose to two other teams from your same league by 17 and 20 in the same week. That’s what happened to Charlotte this week. First a 17-point defeat at Saint Louis (somewhat understandable considering how the Billikens are playing) followed by a whipping from Temple. Here’s the bad news: None of the remaining four games on this schedule will impress the committee with a win, but a loss in any of them will be very costly. 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 Minutemen have to beat Butler at home March 7 to have any shot at an at-large. AT-LARGE ODDS: 20%

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

Big 12: Three Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:kansas50x50
Oklahoma (18-8, 9-5; RPI: 21): Oklahoma caught Kansas at the right time, becoming the third straight Big 12 team to knock off the Jayhawks a couple of weeks back. That victory, coupled with wins over Oklahoma State and Baylor, leave the Sooners in good shape for an at-large bid. A win against Baylor on Saturday gave Oklahoma a sweep of the Bears. Three of the next four are against non-contenders so expect the Sooners to win 12 conference games and finish with a top 25 RPI. Those numbers would be enough, despite a lack of great wins. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%

Iowa State (19-8, 9-5; RPI: 51): Iowa State is on pace for an at-large with wins over Kansas State, Oklahoma, BYU, and a sweep of Baylor. The Cyclones have a challenging schedule the rest of the season, so they are still far from the clear. The next three are Kansas, at Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%

Baylor (16-11, 7-7; RPI: 63): Oh boy, the Bears are in trouble now. Baylor has one win against a sure NCAA Tournament team (Oklahoma State) and seven losses against the RPI top 30. This looks like a season of lost opportunities. The good news is games against Kansas State and Kansas still remain on the schedule. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

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

Big East: Five Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:louisville50x50syracuse100x100georgetown50x50PITT50x50marquette50x50
Notre Dame (22-6, 10-5; RPI: 40): It is hard to see Notre Dame missing the NCAA Tournament at this point. This team has five wins against the RPI top 50, including a 21-point victory over Cincinnati on Sunday. Marquette, St. John’s, and Louisville are the remaining games on the schedule. AT-LARGE ODDS: 75%

Cincinnati (19-9, 7-8; RPI: 49): Typically, I do not take teams out of lock status, but Cincinnati is making things interesting. The Bearcats have lost four out of five games and still have games against Connecticut, Louisville, and Notre Dame remaining. Cincinnati only has three wins against top 50 teams and seven losses against the RPI top 50. In other words, this profile (like Baylor) is a resume of missing opportunities. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Villanova (18-10, 9-6; RPI: 52): The Wildcats now have four top 50 wins because recent victories over Connecticut and Marquette have strengthened a resume that already has wins against Syracuse and Louisville. After a game at Seton Hall, big chances against Pittsburgh and Georgetown close the regular season. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

St. John’s (16-11, 8-7; RPI: 56): 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: 30%

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

Big Ten: Five Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:michigan50x50indiana50x50ohiostate100x100michiganstate50x50wisconsinbadgers50x50
Illinois (20-9, 7-8; RPI: 32): Illinois has its bubble supporters and bubble doubters. The Illini have five top 50 wins, and there is not another non-lock with the wins that the Fighting Illini have. The doubters will point out that the Illini are under .500 in conference and still play road games against Iowa and Ohio State. 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: 65%

Iowa (17-10, 6-8, RPI: 89): After a loss to Nebraska on Saturday, Iowa is probably done without winning out. The Hawkeyes have to find a way to win at Indiana on March 2 in order for that to happen. Good luck with that. AT-LARGE ODDS: 20%

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

Conference USA: Zero Locks, Two Bubble Teams LOCKS: NONE
Memphis (24-3, 13-0; RPI: 18): Nobody knows how good Memphis is. This team has two RPI top 50 wins (both against RPI-inflated Southern Miss) but 12 total RPI top 100 wins. Despite that, the Tigers’ RPI is now 18. I think the Tigers are safe but they play three straight road games against Xavier, UCF, and UTEP before a season finale game against UAB. AT-LARGE ODDS: 75%

Southern Miss (21-7, 10-3; RPI: 37): Southern Miss mainly makes this list due to the Eagles’ high RPI. The Eagles lost both games to Memphis and do not have a single win against the RPI top 75. Things are looking bleak. AT-LARGE ODDS: 15%

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

Missouri Valley: Zero Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:
Wichita State (24-5, 12-4; RPI: 31): Wichita State’s resume is better than Creighton’s. The Shockers have wins over VCU, Southern Miss, and the Bluejays and eight total victories against the RPI top 100. They’ve also won five straight games. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Creighton (22-7, 11-5, RPI: 44): Creighton is scaring me a little bit. The Bluejays have gone 6-6 in their last twelve games, including a loss against Saint Mary’s in their Bracketbuster game Saturday night. Only two games remain, a road game at Bradley (Creighton is 6-5 on the road) and a home game against Wichita State. The Shockers already own a win over Creighton. This team also has great wins over Wisconsin, California, and Akron. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%

Indiana State (17-11, 9-7; RPI: 60): 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. AT-LARGE ODDS: 40%

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

Mountain West: Three Locks, Two Bubble Teams LOCKS:newmexico50x50unlv50x50coloradostate50x50(1)
San Diego State (20-7, 8-5; RPI: 33): I was prepared to make the Aztecs a lock before back-to-back losses to Colorado State and UNLV, but the Aztecs have at least rebounded with victories against Wyoming and Nevada. 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. Up next is a game at New Mexico.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%Boise State (18-8, 6-6; RPI: 45): The Broncos have only top 50 wins against Creighton and UNLV. Seven of the eight losses Boise State has have been on the road. The good news is that only one of the final four games on Boise State’s schedule is on the road. Big chances against Colorado State and San Diego State at home remain on the schedule. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

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

Pac-12: Three Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:oregonducks50x50ucla50x50
Colorado (18-8, 8-6; RPI: 28): The Buffaloes have four wins in the RPI top 50. The wins are against Colorado State, California, Oregon, and Arizona — three impressive Pac-12 wins and a victory against a Mountain West lock. Colorado is 4-6 on the road this year and 9-7 against the RPI top 100. None of the remaining four games are easy: at Stanford, at California, Oregon, and Oregon State. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%

California (16-9, 8-5; RPI: 53): Despite doing relatively nothing outside of conference play, California has made the most of its Pac-12 opportunities. The Bears have wins against Arizona, UCLA, and a sweep of Oregon. California has won seven of eight and plays its remaining three games at home. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%

Arizona State (20-8, 9-6; RPI: 86): After a loss to Washington on Saturday night, Arizona State’s RPI is now in the high 80s. In my last update, it was in the high 60s. The Sun Devils have four wins against the RPI top 50, but none against the RPI top 25. Arizona State plays three straight games against UCLA, USC, and Arizona on the road to end the season. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Stanford (16-12, 7-8; RPI: 65): Things are not looking great for the Cardinal. A loss to Oregon on Saturday was a big opportunity that they let slide away. Wins against Colorado and Utah in the next two would at least make things interesting in the Pac-12 tournament. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

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

SEC: One Lock, Five Bubble Teams LOCKS:
Missouri (19-8, 8-6; RPI: 38): Missouri knocked off Florida in a tremendous comeback on Tuesday night, but then fell on Saturday at Kentucky in overtime. This is a team with bad losses to LSU, Texas A&M, and Arkansas so it cannot afford to lose any of the final four games on its schedule. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Ole Miss (20-7, 9-5; RPI: 59): 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 (19-8, 10-4; RPI: 46): Finally Kentucky showed some life with a huge victory against Missouri. The Wildcats still only have one victory against the RPI top 50 and six wins against the RPI top 100, so they are far from a lock. Three games lie ahead that the ‘Cats cannot afford to lose before a visit from Florida. So far the results without Nerlens Noel are very mixed. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Alabama (18-9, 10-4; RPI: 62): The Crimson Tide put up a big fight against LSU before falling to the Tigers in triple overtime on Saturday. Unfortunately, the Selection Committee is not measuring close games or overtime losses. Alabama has one win against the RPI top 50, against a Kentucky team that still featured Nerlens Noel. 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: 40%

Arkansas (17-10, 8-6, RPI: 77): Arkansas is on the Bubble Watch because it has wins against Missouri, Florida, and Oklahoma. The Razorbacks are now 1-7 on the road and still play games at LSU and at Missouri. AT-LARGE ODDS: 30%

Other SEC teams with an at-large chance: Tennessee (10%)

Others: One Lock, Six Bubble Teams LOCKS:
Saint Mary’s (24-5, 12-2; RPI: 42): Saint Mary’s finally has a victory against the RPI top 50 thanks to a Bracketbuster win against Creighton. The Gaels have won 11 of 12 games. Unfortunately, Saint Mary’s lost both of its games to Gonzaga, but nobody in the WCC has beaten the Zags this year. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%

Belmont (22-6, 12-2; RPI: 26): 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.  Winning the last two regular season games and a trip to the Ohio Valley final is a must to be in consideration. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Middle Tennessee (25-4, 17-1; RPI: 27): The Blue Raiders are the first team to clinch a regular season conference crown, meaning they are at least going to the NIT. Middle Tennessee has a fantastic RPI but zero wins against the RPI top 50. What happens if the Blue Raiders win their last two and then make it to the Sun Belt final? AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Akron (22-4, 12-0, RPI: 50): 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. A trip to the MAC final is probably necessary. 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 (20-9, 9-5; RPI: 61): The Cougars have one final shot at an at-large: A game against Gonzaga on February 28. BYU was swept by Saint Mary’s and has also lost games to San Diego and San Francisco in the WCC. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

Bucknell (23-5, 10-2; RPI: 55): As expected, Bucknell’s RPI continues to freefall. 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)

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *