RTC Bubble Watch: March 11 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on March 11th, 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  34 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 one team in the “should be in” category, meaning I project their odds of getting an at-large bid at 70% or higher. If that team ultimately gets in, there are eight total spots available for the teams you see below in my bubble watch. Remember that bid stealers will potentially shrink that number.

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

  • Odds Improving: Memphis (now a lock), Wichita State (lock), Creighton (auto bid), Belmont (auto bid), Tennessee, Kentucky, Baylor
  • Odds Decreasing: Louisiana Tech, Maryland, Minnesota, Oklahoma

In the upcoming days, I can start doing a better job at pinpointing exactly how many auto bids will be taken by teams I currently have in lock status.


ACC: Four Locks, Two Bubble Teams LOCKS:duke50x50ncstate50x50miami50x50UNC50X50
Virginia (21-10, 11-7; 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 have six impressive wins. One of those wins is against Duke, who might be the nation’s best team now that Ryan Kelly is back. A win over Sunday against Maryland left the Cavs in position to play their way into the field in the ACC Tournament. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50% 

Maryland (20-11, 8-10; RPI: 84): Maryland has two great wins (Duke, NC State) and absolutely nothing behind them. After a loss to Virginia on Sunday, I think the Terps’ at-large hopes are gone without a big run to the ACC Tournament final. AT-LARGE ODDS: 40%

Atlantic 10: Three Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:butler50x50stlouis50x50vcu50x50
Temple (23-8, 11-5; RPI: 44): A win on Sunday over VCU was very big for the Owls’ at-large hopes. This is team that has now won seven straight games and defeated Syracuse outside of conference. The Owls are in good shape right now. Temple will play the winner of Massachusetts and George Washington in round two of the Atlantic 10 tournament. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60% 

La Salle (21-8, 11-5; RPI: 40): 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. On Saturday, the Explorers lost their season finale to Butler. Unfortunately for La Salle, they might see Butler again really soon. The Bulldogs play Dayton in round one with the winner set to take on La Salle. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Massachusetts (19-10, 9-7; RPI: 57): 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 (20-10, 8-8; RPI: 70): Wins over La Salle and Butler keep the 49ers here, but they have to make the Atlantic 10 final to have any real bubble case.. AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

Big 12: Three Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:kansas50x50kanasstate50x50oklahomastate50x50
Oklahoma (20-10, 11-7; RPI: 33): Welcome to March. Just when a team appears to be in good shape, they screw it up. That’s the case for the Sooners who somehow lost to TCU on Saturday. Now, a first round Big 12 tournament game against Iowa State may decide the Sooners’ fate. This team went from a high percentage last week to one of the last teams in with their bad loss. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55% 

Iowa State (21-10, 11-7; RPI: 46): It’s really too bad that the Cyclones could not finish off either of their upset bids against Kansas. A win against West Virginia in the season finale kept their at-large hopes alive, with a huge Big 12 tournament quarterfinal against Oklahoma coming up. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Baylor (18-13, 9-9; RPI: 61): Saturday was a one-game season for Baylor and the Bears destroyed Kansas to pick up a signature win to highlight their profile. Baylor also has a victory against Oklahoma State. A first round Big 12 tournament game against Oklahoma State will be huge for this team’s at-large hopes. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Big East: Six Locks, Three Bubble Teams LOCKS:louisville50x50syracuse100x100georgetown50x50PITT50x50marquette50x50
Cincinnati (21-10, 9-9; RPI: 49): 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 OK with four wins against the RPI top 50. Cincinnati takes on Providence in round one of the Big East Tournament. AT-LARGE ODDS: 70% 

Villanova (19-12, 10-8; RPI: 52): A huge win against Georgetown has improved Villanova’s NCAA Tournament chances a lot. Now, it is hard 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 (17-13, 9-9; RPI: 85): The Friars won seven of eight before a loss to Connecticut to get onto the bubble. If they win against Cincinnati in their Big East Tournament opener, Providence will get a shot at No. 1 seed Georgetown. If they get that far, we can start looking at their chances in a different light. AT-LARGE ODDS: 15%

Big Ten: Six Locks, Two Bubble Teams LOCKS:michigan50x50indiana50x50ohiostate100x100


Minnesota (20-11, 8-10; RPI: 24): I’m officially finished trying to figure out Minnesota. The Gophers lost to Purdue, Iowa, Nebraska, and Ohio State (only one game was close) in their last six games. One of their two wins in that stretch is against Indiana, who many regard as the nation’s best team. The Gophers still have 11 wins against the RPI top 100, meaning it is hard to see them missing the NCAA Tournament, but a Minnesota-Illinois opening round Big Ten game is huge for both teams. I have Illinois as a lock, but they are the least safe lock I have. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60% 

Iowa (20-11, 9-9, RPI: 71): Iowa finished up at .500 in Big Ten play, giving the Hawkeyes a small chance of getting into the field. The Hawkeyes play a must win against Northwestern in round one of the Big Ten Tournament before a huge game against Michigan State. It feels like Iowa needs to make the Big Ten final to have a real shot. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

Conference USA: One Lock, One Bubble Team LOCKS:
Southern Miss (23-8, 12-4; RPI: 35): 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: Two Locks, Zero Bubble Teams
Creighton won the MVC Tournament and Wichita State is now a lock, leaving the Missouri Valley as a two-bid league.
Mountain West: Four Locks, One Bubble Team LOCKS:newmexico50x50unlv50x50coloradostate50x50(1)sandiegostate50x50
Boise State (21-9, 9-7; RPI: 38): The Broncos are in good shape after knocking off San Diego State on Saturday. Now, in the first round of the Mountain West tournament, Boise gets to play the Aztecs again. If the Broncos win that game, they will arguably have a better resume than San Diego State. 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 gets the winner of Utah and USC. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60% 

Colorado (20-10, 10-8; RPI: 37): The Buffaloes have three wins versus the RPI top 50. The issue is that Colorado continues to lose games it shouldn’t. The Buffaloes were swept by Arizona State, lost to Utah, and fell to Oregon State on Saturday. In the first round of the Pac Tournament, Colorado gets a rematch with the Beavers. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55%

Arizona State (20-11, 9-9; RPI: 92): The Sun Devils are trending the wrong way. Four straight losses leaves the Arizona State needing to make a run to the Pac 12 Tournament final to have any shot. First up in the Pac 12 tourney is a game with dangerous Stanford, with the winner facing No. 1 seed UCLA. AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

Stanford (18-13, 9-9, RPI: 64): The Cardinal are back on the Bubble Watch but have a ton of work to do. The only wins Stanford has over the top 50 is a sweep against California. Can the Cardinals knock off Arizona State in game one of the Pac 12 Tournament to get a big opportunity against UCLA? AT-LARGE ODDS: 30%

SEC: Two Locks, Five Bubble Teams LOCKS:missouri50x50
Tennessee (19-11, 11-7; RPI: 55): The Volunteers picked up a huge win against Missouri on Saturday to pair with a victory over Florida from a week ago. Throw in a victories against Wichita State and a mauling of Kentucky and this is looking like a NCAA Tournament team. Tennessee gets the winner of Mississippi State and South Carolina before a potential game with Alabama in the quarterfinals. AT-LARGE ODDS: 55% 

Kentucky (21-10, 12-6 RPI: 51): The Wildcats had to find a way to knock off Florida on Saturday. Trailing by seven with eight minutes late, Kentucky held Florida scoreless the rest of the game and picked up the ‘Cats best win of the season. After back to back losses to Arkansas and Georgia, that was exactly what the doctor ordered. A game against the Vanderbilt/Arkansas winner is a must win before a potential semifinal with Mississippi. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Ole Miss (23-8, 12-6; 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. A potential quarterfinal with Missouri looms large for the Rebels.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Alabama (20-11, 12-6; RPI: 61): Alabama hit a miracle three to survive Georgia on Saturday, keeping the Crimson Tide’s at-large hopes alive. Alabama has some awful losses–Dayton, Tulane, Mercer, Auburn–to name a few. They split with Tennessee and lost to Ole Miss in their only meeting with the Rebels. Tennessee and Alabama potentially play in the quarterfinals, with a game against Florida waiting ahead. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Arkansas (19-12, 10-8, RPI: 80): 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 AUTO BID:belmont100x100LOCKS:
Saint Mary’s (26-5, 14-2; RPI: 30): Saint Mary’s came from behind to defeat San Diego and reach the WCC Final. Now a big opportunity lies ahead. If the Gaels can knock off No. 1 Gonzaga to win the auto bid, none of this bubble talk matters. If the don’t, this team will have a long wait for Selection Sunday.  AT-LARGE ODDS: 50% 

Middle Tennessee (28-5, 19-1; RPI: 25): Middle Tennessee lost to Florida International in the Sun Belt semifinals, leaving their NCAA Tournament hopes up to the Selection Committee. For a team with only one true top 100 win against Ole Miss (I don’t count a win against No. 100 UCF), the Blue Raiders’ only hope is the RPI. 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%

Bucknell (27-5, 12-2; RPI: 51): The Bison have a win over La Salle that looks great after the Explorers dropped Butler and VCU. If they win the Patriot League Final against Lafayette, they won’t have to worry about an at-large. They are a longshot anyways. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

Louisiana Tech (26-5, 16-2; RPI: 46): Back to back losses to end WAC play leaves Louisiana Tech in bad shape. Chances are this team needs to somehow get by Denver and New Mexico State to win the WAC. If they don’t, they will probably be NIT bound. AT-LARGE ODDS: 25%

BYU (21-11, 10-6; RPI: 66): The Cougars are 0-4 against Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga and lost to San Diego in the WCC Tournament. I’ll leave them here, but this team has almost no shot at making the field. AT-LARGE ODDS: 10%


Daniel Evans (60 Posts)

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