It’s going to be a long wait for Saint Mary’s and Middle Tennessee. The Gaels lost to Gonzaga for a third time Monday night, and the Blue Raiders fell in the semifinals of the Sun Belt. Which leaves both in agonizing limbo until the NCAA Selection Show this Sunday. An already tough job for members of the NCAA Selection Committee in Indianapolis just became that much tougher.
March 12 Bubble Banter | 12:30 p.m. ET
Overall, the bubble remains very fluid with only a few days to go. At the very least we have five or six spots up for grabs. Right now, it looks like as many as 11 spots have yet to be confirmed. Some teams in those spots are better positioned than others. Conference tournament results are going to matter, probably more than usual.
Pending results in the Pac-12 and Mountain West tournaments are particularly intriguing. While California and Oregon remains as teams that “Should Be In” today, neither can be considered locks. Colorado opens with Oregon State, a team that just beat the Buffaloes. Another loss to the Beavers could make things a bit more interesting. Not that Colorado won’t make it, but there would certainly be a few anxious moments ahead. In the Mountain West, Boise State and San Diego State square off in the quarterfinals. And while it’s probable that both make the Field of 68 regardless, the loser won’t be quite as certain - especially if we have an upset winner or two elsewhere.
Enjoy the week of Madness!
Riding a six-game conference winning streak, the Tennessee Volunteers find themselves in the thick of the at-large conversation. Since losing at home to Georgia in early February, the Vols have won three league road games and beaten Kentucky and Florida in Knoxville. And while one could argue (correctly) that the SEC isn’t particularly strong or deep, Tennessee has given itself a chance to participate in March Madness. Such a scenario would have been considered a stretch a month ago.
A similar streak helped Illinois overcome a 2-7 mark in the Big Ten. Without a major slip, the Illini are now a likely NCAA participant. A lot can change in two weeks.
Which brings us to Selection Sunday – now just over two weeks away.
Our latest bubble update finds teams moving both toward and away from the cutline. Besides the aforementioned Volunteers, here are some teams climbing the at-large ladder: Temple, Saint Mary’s, and California. Akron should be included too. The Zips beat Ohio for a second time Wednesday and have a clear path toward an outright Mid-American Conference title. That will add credibility to the Zips’ profile if they were to fall short in the MAC tournament.
Teams moving in the opposite direction include Arkansas, Charlotte, and Indiana State. The Sycamores have lost any momentum they once had and probably need to win the MVC tournament in St. Louis to reach the NCAA tournament. For now, they’ve been removed from the bubble.
One other Missouri Valley note: Both Creighton and Wichita State remain as “Should Be In” teams at the time of this update. However, both have slipped a bit of late and certainly aren’t locks. Saturday, they battle for the MVC title. The winner takes a significant step toward an NCAA bid as it’s hard to imagine the outright MVC champion being left out of the Field.
With just over a month until Selection Sunday, it’s time to take a look at the current NCAA bubble. It’s a bit crazy – especially with teams like Kentucky and North Carolina missing from “lock” status. We also have teams like Virginia - whose resume features quality wins, head-scratching losses, and a weak strength of schedule. How will the Selection Committee view the Cavaliers? Those are just three of many challenges within the current landscape of college hoops.
For what it’s worth, the Atlantic 10, Pac-12, SEC, and Mountain West have a variety of bubble teams. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out.
Bubble Banter will ebb and flow over the next month. Teams will be added and teams will fall away. Others will move off the bubble and confirm their place in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. While we could stretch the bubble even further, we’ve limited teams to those with realistic at-large hopes at this point in time. Ask Villanova how quickly things can change, however. Beating Louisville and Syracuse in back-to-back games can do that.
It’s going to be a fun ride. Here’s to some great hoops and a stronger-than-usual bubble down the stretch.
Our current NCAA tournament bubble isn’t necessarily any weaker, but it certainly isn’t shrinking. Games this weekend should help clear up a few spots – although it hasn’t happened yet. Right now, there are 25 teams listed as projected locks, with another seven teams in strong position to claim a bid (Should Be In). When you add in the 31 automatic qualifers (minus projected locks), that leaves us with about 16 spots. Some of the bubble teams are in stronger position than others.
March 3 Bubble Banter update.
A few quick thoughts about the weekend …
- Connecticut and Mississippi State are the two BCS teams currently in our bracket that most need victories this weekend. Connecticut hosts Pittsburgh and Mississippi State hosts Arkansas.
- Cincinnati should punch its ticket by winning at Villanova. A loss would make the Bearcats’ Big East tournament opener more important.
- Northwestern needs to win its game at Iowa, but that won’t be easy. The Hawkeyes have been a tough out at home.
- Washington can wrap up a Pac-12 title by winning at UCLA. That won’t guarantee the Huskies a spot, but it would certainly help.
- Virginia travels to Maryland with a two-game losing streak. A loss would drop the Cavaliers to 8-8 in the ACC and make UVA’s opening round ACC tournament game much more intense.
Enjoy a weekend of college hoops. Several teams will punch NCAA dance tickets.
Marquette rallied in Morgantown Friday night and handed West Virginia its seventh loss in nine games. The Mountaineers are sliding, and headed straight toward potential bubble trouble. Not that WVU is alone. Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi have created their own issues. Southern Miss has lost back-to-back games to Houston and UTEP – which follows an earlier loss this month to UAB. Mississippi State has lost four straight and now leaves home for two straight SEC road games – starting at Alabama. It’s never easy to close out an NCAA bid.
Championship Week is shaping up to be quite interesting. What are the odds that conference favorites all win their tournaments? Less that fifty percent, most likely. That means we’ll have a few bid stealers before Selection Sunday. It’s almost March. Who’s ready for a little Madness?
Enjoy a great weekend of hoops. I’ll try to have more frequent updates as we go through the final two weeks.