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ATR: Reshaping the bubble picture …

Five days into March and the Madness is well underway. Early returns have certainly impacted the bubble picture. Here’s our latest take on how the bubble has been reshaped this week (through games on Wednesday, March 4) …

Let’s start in the SEC: Major drops by Kentucky and Florida. Kentucky lost at home to Georgia (RPI No. 184). No excuses given the circumstances. Kentucky has lost three straight and four of five to see its RPI drop to 78. Even with a win at Florida (big if) it may take an SEC tournament title. Meanwhile, Florida lost at Mississippi State. The Gators haven’t won an SEC road game since January 14 (Auburn) and have also lost three straight and 5 of 7. Florida accomplished less out-of-conference than Kentucky. The Gators’ non-league SOS is 245. Better plan on a long stay in Tampa.

Moving to the ACC: Virginia Tech lost at home to Carolina. No shame in that. But the Hokies have lost 5 of 7 and finish at Florida State. Another loss would leave VT at 17-13 and 8-10 in the ACC heading to Atlanta. Not an upbeat picture. Despite three league road wins (Wake, Clemson, Miami), the Hokies will need at least three more wins to stay afloat. … Miami lost hold of its life preserver at Georgia Tech and dropped to 6-9 in the ACC. Even with a win over NC State at home, the Canes’ probably need three wins in the ACC tournament (finals) to say in the picture. Miami is just 2-7 vs. Top 50 RPI teams. … Boston College lost at NC State. Consider too, that BC was swept by Miami. Still, the Eagles are in decent shape at 8-7 in the ACC (4-4 vs. Top 50 teams) with a home date against Georgia Tech remaining. That said, BC must win its opening round ACC game.  As for Maryland, the loss to Wake Forest sets up at must-win at Virginia.  The Terps have lost 3 of 5 and can’t afford an 8-10 ACC finish.  Maryland had also better plan on winning a game or two in Atlanta.

On to the Big East … where Notre Dame and Georgetown finished off league Meltdowns. The Irish lost at home to Villanova and the Hoyas lost at St. John’s. Without winning four games in four days to reach the Big East final in New York, there’s little reason to think that either remains in the NCAA picture. Cincinnati may have taken at final bow after losing at South Florida (RPI No. 171). The Bearcats have to beat Seton Hall and win two or three in New York. How this helps Providence remains to be seen. It could be happy returns if the Friars pull off at upset at Villanova.

What about the Big 12: Well, Oklahoma State earned the bubblicious win over Kansas State.  At 9-6 in conference, the Cowboys are in the hunt.  Only concern?  All of the big wins have been at home and they close at Oklahoma.  An upset there might be enough.  Without it, OSU could need a couple of neutral court wins. …  For KSU, a nice run may come up short.  Their RPI (76) is high, and the non-conference SOS (No. 310) is horrible.  Despite the wins at Texas and A&M and home over Missouri, having just 5 Top 100 RPI wins leaves the Wildcats with work to do in the Big 12 tournament.

What’s the fallout? Bubble teams in the Big 10 (Penn State, Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota), Mountain West (BYU, UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico) and Pac-10 (Arizona) improve their chances. It also means that mid-majors like Creighton, St. Mary’s, Dayton, Rhode Island, Siena, Davidson, and even Utah State stay in the picture.

That is, of course, until tomorrow or next week. Just think how tight the bubble gets if the conference tournaments go crazy? What if Butler and Gonzaga lose? What if Washington State wins the Pac-10? How about Temple in the Atlantic-10? Then again, that’s why we love March Madness.

Bubble Banter will be updated again tonight to reflect all the changes. Have thoughts? Send me a rebound. See you Around the Rim (ART) – Dave the Bracketguy.

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