Teams often play their way out of NCAA Contention. It’s just not always this early in February. After a less-than-stellar week for many bubble teams, we start Week 2 of Bubble Banter with 38 teams on the Bubble. Of course, that can – and will – change.
Let’s look at changes from last week … Teams that moved up to Locks: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Temple, Butler, Gonzaga … Teams moving to Should Be In: Richmond … Teams moving onto the Bubble: Cornell (down), Seton Hall (up), St. Louis (up) … Teams leaving the Bubble: Minnesota, Northwestern, Virginia, VCU, South Carolina, Tulsa. The Bracket Math looks like this …
- Locks: 18
- Should Be In: 11
- There are 31 automatic bids. We have to subtract 11 knowing that some of the locks will be automatic bids. That means if you add the 20 remaining automatic bids (likely one-bid leagues) and the 18 locks, we have 38 of 65 bids taken. If you add in the 11 teams that Should Be In, we’re now at 49. Subtract 49 from 65 and you have 16 spots available. We currently have 38 teams on the Bubble. So less than half will ultimately make the Field of 65.
Is this the year the Big East breaks the 8-team barrier? Perhaps, but there is a developing separation in the Big East standings; not a good thing for team’s below the breakline. If the Big East number reaches or surpasses eight (8) it will be because two or three teams currently below the breakline put winning streaks together.
It’s looking more and more like five (5) max from the Big 10. Minnesota lost at Northwestern who subsequently lost to Penn State at home. Again, there is a clear breakline between the top and bottom tier. The SEC is much less defined. Whether or not teams like Ole Miss and Mississippi State can slide up remains a question. It doesn’t help that Arkansas leads the SEC West. Florida continues to live on the edge, too. In the Mountain West, once solid UNLV has slipped. Yet, the real question remains San Diego State. Plenty of possibilities from the Colonial, too. Old Dominion has the best profile, William & Mary has a stronger non-conference effort, and Northeastern co-leads the conference. How about the Atlantic 10? Rhode Island, Charlotte and Dayton are losing league ground the upstart St. Louis.
Count on some interesting moments in conference tournaments … and in this weekend’s BracketBuster games. Remember, teams earn bids, not conferences. What matters is having one of the best 34 at-large resumes come March 14.
One month from today we’ll forget about projecting the NCAA Tournament bracket and begin filling out our actual brackets in preparation for the greatest three weeks in sports. What will the bracket look like? There’s still a lot to be decided. We’re also likely to see a few surprises in conference tournaments. February 15 Bracket Projection.
No changes on the No. 1 seed line. It’s odd, however, that both Syracuse losses have been at home. Kansas remains the overall No. 1 seed – followed by Kentucky, Villanova and Syracuse. That gives us a little shake-up in location. Kentucky moves to the South and Villanova to the East. Since UK has to travel (a similar distance) either way, this makes sense. I would imagine KU and UK will stay 1-2 next month. That means a regional trip to St. Louis for the Jayhawks. The Wildcats would thus be placed in either Syracuse or Houston. That may depend on who else earns a No. 1 seed. As far as other top-line contenders … Purdue, Duke, Michigan State and Ohio State could all be in play, with West Virginia on the fringe. Georgetown’s loss at Rutgers basically eliminates the Hoyas from winning a Big East regular-season title. Purdue and Duke have the strongest profiles if they win outright conference championships.
We still have a lot of wiggle room from Seeds 4-9. Then there’s a mess at the bottom of the bracket. As usual, more teams will continue to play their way out. Case in point … nearly every bubble team (except Louisville and Cincinnati) lost games they should have won – and the Cardinals actually did too – losing by 19 at St. John’s before winning at Syracuse. Go figure. The SEC West is not represented in the Feb. 15 bracket. Ole Miss continues to flounder and now projects out – losing both games to rival Mississippi State along the way.
Our Last 5 In (at large) – Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State, UAB, Florida, Cincinnati. First 5 Out (at-large) – Mississippi, Mississippi State, St. Mary’s, San Deigo State, William & Mary. Check it out. Rebounds are always welcome. I’ll be working on Bubble Banter throughout the week in preparation for Thursday’s complete update. Could also be the week we start an extra bracket on Friday.
Our Power 24 rankings welcome two returning Big 12 teams this week … Texas A&M and Baylor. The Bears edge Richmond for the final spot. Cay they keep it? It was a very close call.
No surprise that Kansas remains at No. 1. The Jayhawks are followed by Kentucky, Villanova and Syracuse. You can look for those same four teams as No. 1 seeds when the February 15 bracket is released later on Monday (today). Purdue and Duke are next in line. Our remaining Top 10 is … Kansas State, West Virginia, Georgetown and Ohio State. There’s a huge showdown with the Boilermakers visiting Ohio State on Tuesday. See upcoming important games under Schedule.
Bubble Banter will be updated as the week progresses, with a full update available Thursday evening.
Elsewhere, no team has had a better four-day stretch than Illinois. After spending most of the season on the outside looking in, the Illini posted a home win over Michigan State last Saturday, then won at the Kohl Center in Wisconsin on Tuesday – a place the Badgers have lost only 11 times in 10 years. Even though Kalin Lucas didn’t play for MSU, these are two huge wins for the Illini who are 9-3 in the Big 10 and tied for first place with MSU. A win Sunday over Ohio State (at home) will move Illinois into our Should Be In category.
The Big East continues to have a pile of contenders in the middle of the standings. We should know a lot more about whose moving “in” and who’s moving “out” during the next two weeks. In most seasons, more teams play their way out than play their way in. Have a different thought? Rebounds are always welcome. You can follow daily updates and news with our Twitter updates: BracketguyDave.
Valentine’s Day is a week away. Who’s getting some NCAA Tournament love? Take a look at Bracketville’s February 8 Bracket Projection.
What else is in our box of chocolates? For starters, there’s a bunch of questions in the Big East: Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame, South Florida, and Cincinnati. Marquette has the most quality wins/best overall profile - easy enough. Why do the Cardinals project in? Part of it’s a 6-4 Big East record and part of it’s because the Cards seem most capable (and proven under Rick Pitino) to make a run. Much like Marquette, the Cards’ record reflects close losses to very good teams. There’s also the strength of schedule (SOS) component. Louisville’s overall SOS ranks No. 5. Their non-conference SOS is 23. Now, consider the non-conference SOS of the others: South Florida (206), Notre Dame (230), Cincinnati (66). The Bearcats have lost three of four and have two tough road games up next (1-6 in road games so far). Hard to project them in; they are among our first five out.
Last Five In: Illinois, Oklahoma State, St. Mary’s, UTEP, and Louisville. First Five Out: Notre Dame, VCU, South Florida, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech. In the case of Virginia Tech, the Hokies are lumbering around with a non-conference SOS ranked No. 340. VT has only 1 Top 50 RPI win and half of their victores are against the bottom half of the RPI. A 5-3 ACC mark looks good, but we’re waiting to see how the Hokies navigate the next week or so. No. 1 seeds remain the same, although Kentucky moves back ahead of Villanova on the S-Curve and is back in the East Region.
The Atlantic 10 and Mountain West are taking advantage of some extra bids. The A-10 could realistically put six teams in the Dance. It’s also hard to imagine BYU, New Mexico, or UNLV (Mountain West) missing the NCAAs. Who else is on the bubble? Take a look at Bubble Banter. It launched this past Saturday. Our next update will be Thursday evening (late). More frequent updates will be made as we move toward Selection Sunday. With the Super Bowl behind us … March Madness takes center stage. As always, we credit CollegeRPI.com for the RPI and SOS data.