RTC Bubble Watch: March 4 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on March 4th, 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 30 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 7 at-large spots available. In most years, an average of around six “locks” win automatic bids, meaning there are 13 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 seven 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: 37 (minus six for projected auto bid winners = 30)

  • Odds Improving: North Carolina
  • Odds Decreasing: Baylor, Iowa State


ACC: Three Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:duke50x50ncstate50x50miami50x50
North Carolina (21-8, 11-5; RPI: 18): The Tar Heels are in pretty good shape with a top 20 RPI and wins over N. C. State and UNLV. North Carolina ends the season against Duke and a win there would push them to lock status. AT-LARGE ODDS: 75%Maryland (20-9, 8-8; RPI: 68): 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 Georgia Tech. Next up are two games against the other bubble teams from the ACC–Virginia and North Carolina. If the Terps win both of those, they’ll be in better shape. The sad news is that they might have to win both.. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Virginia (20-9, 10-6; RPI: 57): The Cavaliers have been a strange bubble case all season. They have some of the worst losses a bubble team can have, but they also had six impressive wins. On Thursday, all of that appeared to change with a victory against Duke. On Sunday, it changed right back after a one point loss at Boston College. No matter how you spin it, this team has seven losses against teams below 100 in the RPI. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Atlantic 10: Three Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:butler50x50


La Salle (20-7, 10-4; RPI: 39): 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. If La Salle can handle George Washington, a road game at Saint Louis on March 9 will be gigantic. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%Temple (21-8, 9-5; RPI: 42): 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. Five straight wins, including a comeback victory against Detroit, has the Owls on the good side of the bubble right now. A road game at Fordham looms large before a finale against VCU. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%

Charlotte (18-10, 6-8; RPI: 70): Six losses in sevens games have pushed the 49ers to the brink of at-large elimination. Wins over La Salle and Butler keep them here, but they have to win the last two and make the Atlantic Ten final. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Massachusetts (18-9, 8-6; RPI: 54): Massachusetts lost three straight games before back to back wins against Xavier and Dayton. The Minutemen only have one win against the RPI top 50, but seven against the RPI top 100. This seems to be real simple for Massachusetts: Beat Butler at home March 7 and they have a shot at an at-large bid. AT-LARGE ODDS: 30%

Big 12: Three Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:kansas50x50
Oklahoma (18-8, 9-5; RPI: 29): The Sooners have to great wins against Oklahoma and Kansas State to go along with six other top 100 victories. A loss at Texas last week was a big blow because Oklahoma blew a gigantic lead and suffered its worst loss of the season as a result. Next up are West Virginia and TCU, the worst two teams in the Big 12. If Oklahoma wraps up the regular season by winning both of these games, the Sooners are basically a lock. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%

Iowa State (19-10, 9-7; 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. Throw in a loss to Oklahoma on Saturday and the Cyclones are right on the edge of the tournament cutline. Wins over Oklahoma and Kansas State are nice, but this team has only five total top 100 wins.. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Baylor (16-12, 8-8; RPI: 61): After a buzzer beating loss to Kansas State on Saturday, Baylor is left with only win against a sure NCAA Tournament team (Oklahoma State) and eight losses against the RPI top 30. This looks like a season of lost opportunities. The good news is a game against Kansas remains on the schedule. Beating the Jayawks on March 9 might be a must win for the Bears to get into the field as an at-large. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Big East: Six Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:louisville50x50syracuse100x100georgetown50x50PITT50x50marquette50x50
Cincinnati (20-9, 8-8; RPI: 48): The Bearcats won a big game against Connecticut on Saturday night to avoid a doomsday scenario. Cincinnati isn’t in the shape it was a few weeks ago, but the Bearcats are probably okay with four wins against the RPI top 50. The next two games are at Louisville and South Florida. If Cincinnati wins both, you can count them in. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Villanova (18-12, 9-8; RPI: 55): A loss on Sunday against Pittsburgh was deflating because the Wildcats need every win they can get down the stretch. Wins over Louisville and Syracuse are still nice and a win over Marquette keeps getting better and better, but this is a team that fell to Columbia in out of conference play.  The season finale is against No. 1 seed contender Georgetown. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

St. John’s (16-12, 8-8; RPI: 66): 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 Saturday, Providence knocked off the Red Storm. This team needs to win its final two (at Notre Dame, Marquette) to have any shot. AT-LARGE ODDS: 30%

Providence (16-12, 8-8; RPI: 76): The Friars have won six of seven to get a mention on the Bubble Watch. Providence’s best wins are against Cincinnati and Notre Dame, so there is a lot of work to be done. If this team wins out against Seton Hall and Connecticut, a run in the Big East Tournament could make things interesting. AT-LARGE ODDS: 15%

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

Big Ten: Five Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:michigan50x50indiana50x50ohiostate100x100michiganstate50x50wisconsinbadgers50x50
Minnesota (20-9, 8-8; RPI: 15): 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 12 wins against the RPI top 100. Let’s keep them out of the locks just to make sure they don’t go 0-2 against Nebraska and Purdue but this team should be dancing. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Illinois (21-9, 8-8; RPI: 34): 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 only .500 in conference and still play road games against Iowa and Ohio State. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Iowa (18-11, 7-9, RPI: 86): A loss to Indiana on Saturday might have been the dagger to the Hawkeyes’ at-large hopes. Wins against Illinois and Nebraska to end the season plus a deep run in the Big Ten tournament is a must.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 20%

Conference USA: Zero Locks, Two Bubble Teams LOCKS:
Memphis (25-4, 14-0; RPI: 21): 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 (22-7, 11-3; 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: 35%

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

Missouri Valley: Zero Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:
Creighton (23-7, 13-5, RPI: 36): After winning against Wichita State on Saturday, the Blue Jays in much better shape. Creighton won the MVC regular season title and added a fourth top 50 win to its resume. This team has eleven top 100 wins so it is hard to see it missing the Big Dance. Let’s not lock them up just yet though. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Wichita State (24-7, 12-6; RPI: 40): Wichita State lost to Creighton on Saturday and has now lost two straight games entering the usually wacky MVC Tournament. The Shockers have three RPI top 50 wins, including a win over newly locked in VCU. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

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: 15%

Mountain West:  Four Locks, One Bubble Team LOCKS:newmexico50x50unlv50x50coloradostate50x50(1)sandiegostate50x50


Boise State (20-8, 8-6; RPI: 44): The Broncos added a huge win on Saturday against Colorado State. Boise State now has three top 50 wins, with the other two coming against MVC champion Creighton and UNLV. Most of the Broncos losses are understandable but games dropped to Nevada and Utah are not. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%
Pac-12: Three Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:oregonducks50x50ucla50x50
California (20-9, 12-5; RPI: 45): 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 10 of 12 games and plays its remaining two games at home. If the Bears win the season finale against Stanford, I’m not sure there’s any scenario where they could miss the Big Dance. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%Colorado (19-9, 9-7; RPI: 29): The Buffaloes have four wins versus 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 5-7 on the road this year and 9-8 against the RPI top 100. The final two are against Oregon and Oregon State. If the Buffaloes win both games, they’ll be in good shape. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%

Arizona State (20-9, 9-7; RPI: 88): The Sun Devils are trending the wrong way. Three straight losses to Washington, Arizona (in overtime), and USC, have left Arizona State with a lot of work to do. A win against in-state rival Arizona in the season finale would be a starting point for a team that needs a ton of help. AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

SEC: Two Locks, Six Bubble Teams LOCKS:


Tennessee (17-11, 9-7; RPI: 56): This profile changed immensely following the Volunteers win over shorthanded Florida on Wednesday night, but following that win with a road loss at Georgia shows why the Vols are a bubble team. 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%Kentucky (20-9, 11-5; RPI: 51): Almost everyone loses at Arkansas, but the ‘Cats really needed to win that one on Saturday. Kentucky only has one top 50 wins (against Missouri). Remember, this team is being evaluated as a completely different unit without Nerlens Noel. They’ve already fallen to Tennessee, a fellow SEC bubble team, by 30 without him. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Ole Miss (21-8, 10-6; RPI: 59): The Rebels might have hit rock bottom in losing to dreadful Mississippi State on Saturday. Ole Miss has only one top 50 win and that win was against a Missouri team that was not at full strength. The next game against Alabama will likely be an elimination game. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Alabama (19-10, 11-5; RPI: 60): The Crimson Tide was up eight at Florida on Saturday with 12:05 left. Alabama made one basket the rest of the game and lost by twelve. Alabama has some awful losses–Dayton, Tulane, Mercer, Auburn–to name a few. The next two are must wins, but the next one against Ole Miss is the big one. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Arkansas (18-11, 9-7, RPI: 74): Arkansas picked up an impressive win against Kentucky on Saturday, but the Razorbacks need a big road win. Nobody is impressed anymore when they win at home. Wins against Missouri, Florida, and Oklahoma show that this team can beat anyone at home, but the committee usually does not put teams that only win at home in the tournament as at-large teams. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

Others: One Lock, Six Bubble Teams LOCKS:
Saint Mary’s (26-5, 14-2; RPI: 41): 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.  Making the WCC Final is a must, but beating Gonzaga (potentially) in that final would be gigantic. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%Belmont (24-6, 14-2; RPI: 24): 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. Can the Bruins make this easy by winning the OVC Tournament as the number one overall seed? If they lose in the final, can they get in? AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Middle Tennessee (27-4, 19-1; 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. Hopefully the Blue Raiders take care of business in the Sun Belt Tournament. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Akron (23-5, 13-1, RPI: 47): After a gigantic comeback against Ohio on Wednedsay night, Akron appeared to be in the hunt for an at-large. A loss on Saturday against Buffalo quickly changed that thought. The Zips do have a win against Middle Tennessee, but that is their only top 50 win. Games against Miami (OH) and Kent State close the regular season. AT-LARGE ODDS: 40%

Louisiana Tech (26-3, 16-0; 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 conference record in the WAC and a trip to the WAC Tournament final be enough? AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

BYU (21-10, 10-6; RPI: 62): The Cougars are 0-4 against Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga.The Cougars have zero wins against the RPI top 50 and only four wins against the RPI top 100. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

Bucknell (25-5, 12-2; RPI: 52):  The Bison have a win over La Salle that looks great after the Explorers dropped Butler and VCU. Twp losses in the awful Patriot League is probably too much to overcome for Bucknell to get an at-large. AT-LARGE ODDS: 10%


Daniel Evans (60 Posts)

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One response to “RTC Bubble Watch: March 4 Edition”

  1. KDoyle says:

    The “awful Patriot League” is ranked as the #17 league by Pomeroy. Pretty much right smack dab in the middle.

    By no means is the league strong, but it isn’t a terrible league, either.

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