RTC Bubble Watch: February 28 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on February 28th, 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 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 8 total spots available for the teams you see below in my bubble watch.

Remember that bid stealers will shrink that number when conference tournament teams.

TOTAL: 35 (minus six for projected auto bid winners = 29)

  • Odds Improving: Tennessee
  • 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 (19-9, 7-8; RPI: 73): 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 and added a loss to Georgia Tech Wednesday. Maryland needs to win out. Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and Virginia are left on the schedule. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Virginia (19-8, 9-5; RPI: 73): Virginia has six wins against the RPI top 100, but has 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%

La Salle (19-7, 9-4; RPI: 35): 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: 55%

Temple (19-8, 8-5; RPI: 41): 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%

Charlotte (18-9, 6-7; RPI: 63): Five losses in six games have pushed the 49ers to the brink of at-large elimination. Wins over La Salle and Butler keep them here, but losses to George Washington and Dayton have shown that this team can lose to anyone. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Massachusetts (17-9, 7-6; RPI: 57): 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 a good shot at an at-large. AT-LARGE ODDS: 30%

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: 29): 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. Wednesday night, the Sooners blew a 22 point lead to Texas. The Longhorns are not a Big 12 contender, so that is a bad loss. Oklahoma doesn’t want to make things interesting down the stretch, because if they do they’ll be sweating Selection Sunday. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%

Iowa State (19-9, 9-6; RPI: 53): It’s really too bad that the Cyclones could not finish off what would have been a huge upset over Kansas on Tuesday. This profile would be much more complete with that kind of win. Despite the heartbreaking loss, Iowa State is still on pace for an at-large with wins over Kansas State, Oklahoma, BYU, and a sweep of Baylor. The next now are at Oklahoma and versus 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:louisville50x50syracuse100x100


Notre Dame (22-6, 10-5; RPI: 43): 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. If they win against Marquette on Thursday, you can lock them up. 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 (18-11, 9-7; RPI: 55): 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. Blowing the game at Seton Hall earlier this week was a tough setback, considering Pittsburgh and Georgetown are the two teams remaining on the schedule. The ‘Cats better get at least a split of those and avoid an early exit in the Big East Tournament. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

St. John’s (16-11, 8-7; RPI: 61): 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
Minnesota (19-9, 7-8; RPI: 13): Before Tuesday night’s big win over Indiana, Minnesota had been blown out by Ohio State and Iowa. Those losses do not matter much now. The Gophers should be safe, considering they have 13 wins against the RPI top 100. Let’s keep them out of the locks just to make sure they don’t go 0-3 against Penn State, Nebrasks, and Purdue but this team should be dancing. AT-LARGE ODDS: 80%

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: 70%

Iowa (18-10, 7-8, RPI: 90): 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:
Memphis (24-4, 13-0; RPI: 19): 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. A loss to Xavier on Tuesday did not help the Tigers’ national perception, but I think they are still in good shape.. 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: 20%

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

Missouri Valley: Zero Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:
Wichita State (24-6, 12-5; RPI: 39): 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. Before a loss to Evansville on Wednesday, the Shockers had won five straight. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Creighton (23-7, 12-5, 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 (17-12 9-8; RPI: 72): 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 (twice), Missouri State, Bradley and Illinois State — all teams outside the RPI top 100. The Sycamores at-large hopes are probably over. AT-LARGE ODDS: 20%

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

Mountain West: Three Locks, Two Bubble Teams LOCKS:newmexico50x50unlv50x50coloradostate50x50(1)
San Diego State (20-8, 8-6; RPI: 33): The Aztecs appeared to be second in the Mountain West pecking order three weeks ago, but losses to New Mexico, UNLV, and Colorado State have changed that.  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 (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 (19-8, 9-6; RPI: 22): 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 5-6 on the road this year and 10-7 against the RPI top 100. None of the remaining four games are easy:at California, Oregon, and Oregon State. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%

California (18-9, 10-5; RPI: 46): 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 (20-9, 9-7; RPI: 88): The Sun Devils are trending the wrong way. Back to back losses to Washington and Arizona (in overtime), have left Arizona State with a lot of work to do. Next up is USC, who is playing arguably the best basketball in the Pac 12 right now, and then Arizona. Both are on the road. This team needs to win both and make noise in the Pac 12 tournament.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Stanford (16-13, 7-9; RPI: 68): Things are not looking great for the Cardinal. A close loss to Colorado on Wednesday night pushed them two games below .500 in conference play. Winning the next two is very necessary for an at-large to even be a possibility going into the Pac 12 tournament. AT-LARGE ODDS: 15%

Other Pac 12 teams with an at-large chance: Stanford (15%)

SEC: One Lock, Six Bubble Teams LOCKS:
Missouri (19-8, 8-6; RPI: 42): 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, but the Tigers should end up being okay. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Kentucky (20-8, 11-4; RPI: 50): 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. In a win against Mississippi State (who is terrible), Kentucky at least showed it is continuing to play better without Nerlens Noel in the lineup. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%

Tennessee (17-10, 9-6; RPI: 51): This profile changed immensely following the Volunteers win over shorthanded Florida on Wednesday night. Tennessee has three top 50 wins, with victories over Wichita State and Kentucky to go with their big upset over the Gators. Tennessee was swept by Ole Miss, but that is probably the only argument to put the Rebels ahead of the Vols right now. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Ole Miss (21-7, 10-5; RPI: 56): 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, although a game against Alabama March 5 may serve as an elimination game for the loser. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Alabama (19-9, 1014; 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: 45%

Arkansas (17-10, 8-6, RPI: 77): Arkansas is on the Bubble Watch because it has wins against Missouri, Florida, and Oklahoma. However, the Razorbacks are also 1-8 on the road after a loss at LSU on Wednesday. Making the SEC final is now their only chance at an at-large. AT-LARGE ODDS: 15%

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

Others: One Lock, Six Bubble Teams LOCKS:
Saint Mary’s (25-5, 13-2; RPI: 45): 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. How much can the eye test help a team like Saint Mary’s that has no resume? It’s hard to tell, but I think most observers would say this team looks like one of the best 37 at-large teams. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%

Belmont (23-6, 13-2; 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: 23): The Blue Raiders have clinched the Sun Belt 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? Are 28 wins enough for a team with only one bad loss (Arkansas State)? AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Akron (23-4, 13-0, RPI: 36): After a gigantic comeback against Ohio on Wednedsay night, it is time to seriously consider Akron for an at-large bid. The Zips swept the Bobcats and have a win against fellow mid-major at-large contender Middle Tennessee.. AT-LARGE ODDS: 40%

Louisiana Tech (24-3, 14-0; RPI: 52): 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, especially considering at least four other mid majors are ahead of them for at-large bids. AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

BYU (20-9, 9-5; RPI: 59): 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 (24-5, 11-2; RPI: 54):  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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