RTC Bubble Watch: March 9 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on March 9th, 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 33 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 four at-large spots available. In most years, an average of around six “locks” win automatic bids, meaning there are 10 unclinched spots for the NCAA Tournament. I also have five 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 five total spots available for the teams you see below in my bubble watch. Remember that bid stealers will potentially shrink that number.

TOTAL: 38 (minus six for projected auto bid winners = 32)

  • Odds Improving: North Carolina (now a lock), Illinois (lock), Memphis
  • Odds Decreasing: Baylor, Louisiana Tech



If Belmont wins on Saturday against Murray State, bubble teams can sleep a little better on Saturday night. The Bruins are in position to potentially steal an at-large bid if they need one. If they win the OVC, we can take them off the bubble, leaving a spot that may or may not be there depending on how the committee evaluates Belmont. The Bruins have six wins against the top 100, so they’d probably be right on the cut line.


ACC: Four Locks, Two Bubble Teams LOCKS:duke50x50ncstate50x50miami50x50UNC50X50
Virginia (20-10, 10-7; RPI: 64): 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.  One of those wins is against Duke. Virginia’s lost to Florida State on Thursday night once again showed how up and down this team can be. The finale against Maryland is now a must win and a few wins in the ACC Tournament are needed as well. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%Maryland (20-10, 8-9; RPI: 84): Maryland has two great wins (Duke, N. C. State) and absolutely nothing behind them. I have a hard team seeing this team getting an at-large bid without a win at Virginia on Saturday and a deep run in the ACC Tournament. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Atlantic 10: Three Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:butler50x50stlouis50x50vcu50x50
La Salle (21-7, 11-4; RPI: 38): 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. The season finale against Butler is gigantic for their at-large hopes. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Temple (22-8, 10-5; 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. Six straight wins, including a comeback victory against Detroit, has the Owls on the good side of the bubble right now. The season finale against VCU on Saturday could make or break the Owls’ season. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Massachusetts (18-10, 8-7; 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. Thursday night’s loss to Butler may have sealed this team’s fate though. Massachusetts has some decent wins (as I noted) but nothing that really catches attention. AT-LARGE ODDS: 40%

Charlotte (18-10, 6-8; RPI: 70): Six losses in sevens games a few weeks ago pushed the 49ers to the brink of at-large elimination. Wins over La Salle and Butler keep them here, but they have to win their season finale versus Saint Joseph’s and make the Atlantic Ten final. AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

Big 12: Three Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:kansas50x50
Oklahoma (20-9, 11-6; RPI: 25): The Sooners have great wins against Oklahoma and Kansas to go along with six other top 100 victories. If Oklahoma can take of business against TCU in their season finale, they appear to be in great shape. It is hard to see this team missing the tournament at this juncture. AT-LARGE ODDS: 75%

Iowa State (20-10, 10-7; RPI: 51): It’s really too bad that the Cyclones could not finish off what would have been a huge upset over Kansas last Tuesday. At least Iowa State did rebound by winning against Oklahoma State on Wednesday inight. There is still work to be done. A must win game at West Virginia ends the season. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Baylor (17-13, 8-9; 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: 40%

Big East: Six Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:louisville50x50syracuse100x100georgetown50x50PITT50x50marquette50x50
Cincinnati (20-10, 8-9; RPI: 45): 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 finale is against South Florida. If Cincinnati wins that one, you can probably count them in. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Villanova (18-12, 9-8; RPI: 55): A huge win against Georgetown has improved Villanova’s NCAA Tournament chances a lot. Now, it is hrard to see the Wildcats not getting in. ‘Nova has wins over Georgetown, Louisville, Syracuse, and Marquette. Sure, there’s that terrible loss to Columbia and a sweep at the hands of Providence to consider, but this is a NCAA Tournament team, isn’t it? AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%

Providence (17-12, 9-8; RPI: 79): The Friars have won seven of eight 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 against Connecticut Saturday, a run in the Big East Tournament could make things interesting. AT-LARGE ODDS: 15%

Big Ten: Six Locks, Two Bubble Teams LOCKS:michigan50x50indiana50x50ohiostate100x100michiganstate50x50wisconsinbadgers50x50illinois50x50
Minnesota (20-10, 8-9; RPI: 20): Despite terrible losses lately (including one to Nebraska on Wednesday), Minnesota is probably safe. The Gophers have wins over Indiana, Memphis, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Illinois. If they win their season finale at Purdue, I think we can safely lock them up. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70%

Iowa (19-11, 8-9, RPI: 78): Iowa got the huge win it needed against Illinois on Tuesday night to make things interesting. Now a win in the finale against Nebraska is a must, along with a deep run in the Big Ten tournament. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

Conference USA: Zero Locks, Two Bubble Teams LOCKS:
Memphis (26-4, 15-0; 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 last Tuesday did not help the Tigers’ national perception, but I think they are still in good shape. A win in their season finale against UAB would probably be enough for me. AT-LARGE ODDS: 80%

Southern Miss (22-8, 11-4; RPI: 42): 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. A loss to Marshall has them hanging by a thread to at-large hopes, but I see them as a real long shot.. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

Missouri Valley: One Lock, One Bubble Team LOCKS:creighton50x50
Wichita State (25-7, 12-6; RPI: 40): The Shockers held on Friday night to get an important win against Missouri State in the MVC Tournament. The Shockers are probably safe with three wins against the top 50, but they need to make the final to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday. They’ll play Illinois State, who they swept during the regular season, on Saturday. AT-LARGE ODDS: 75%
Mountain West:  Four Locks, One Bubble Team LOCKS:newmexico50x50unlv50x50coloradostate50x50(1)sandiegostate50x50
Boise State (20-9, 8-7; 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. A loss to UNLV this week was a blow because the Broncos led most of that game. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%
Pac-12: Three Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:oregonducks50x50ucla50x50
California (20-10, 12-6; RPI: 50): 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. A loss to Stanford on Wednedsay kept hope alive that this team could somehow still miss the Big Dance. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%

Colorado (20-9, 10-7; RPI: 28): The Buffaloes have five wins versus the RPI top 50. The wins are against Colorado State, California, Oregon (twice), and Arizona — four impressive Pac-12 wins and a victory against a Mountain West lock. Thursday night’s dominant win over the Ducks might sealed the deal for the Buffaloes. 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, Five Bubble Teams LOCKS:missouri50x50
Tennessee (18-11, 10-7; RPI: 56): This profile changed immensely following the Volunteers win over shorthanded Florida last 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 (20-10, 11-56 RPI: 51): Back to back road losses at Arkansas and at Georgia have pushed Kentucky into the OUT category. The Wildcats now probably need to win against Florida on Saturday to get an at-large bid. Kentucky only has one top 50 win (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 (22-8, 11-6; RPI: 57): The Rebels might have hit rock bottom in losing to dreadful Mississippi State on Saturday, but at least Ole Miss bounced back by knocking off Alabama at home on Tuesday. Mississippi has only one top 50 win and that win was against a Missouri team that was not at full strength. 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. Losing to Ole Miss was a big blow, because it likely pushed the Rebels ahead of them in the at-large pecking order. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Arkansas (18-12, 9-8, RPI: 76): 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 (25-6, 14-2; RPI: 24): Belmont defeated Tennessee State on Friday night to reach the OVC final.  They will play Murray State on Saturday and if they win that one, we can take the Bruins off this list and bubble teams everywhere can sleep better knowing there is one less bid stealer still playing. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

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: 50%

Akron (24-6, 14-1, RPI: 47): The Zips lost their first game without PG Alex Abreu, who was arrested earlier this week, against Kent State Friday night.  Akron almost assuredly needed to make the MAC final to get a bid now that bid seems even more unlikely. AT-LARGE ODDS: 30%

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 (26-5, 13-2; RPI: 54):  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: 25%


Daniel Evans (60 Posts)

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