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Bracket Bits: Tar Heel Troubles and early Bubble Math

BRACKET BITS

Another busy hoops weekend.  Is there bubble trouble ahead for Carolina?  What about Louisville?  And what’s the early Bubble Math look like?  Some quick takes on each …

  • North Carolina – Maybe a weekend off is what the Tar Heels need.  They stand 12-7 overall and 1-3 in the ACC, having lost two straight at home – Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.  Overall, UNC has lost four of five.  If it wasn’t for early wins over Michigan State and Ohio State (with Evan Turner), it would be full-scale panic in Chapel Hill.  Prospects are still 60-40 in the Heels’ favor thanks to those early wins and a strong strength of schedule.  One advantage of playing in the ACC is the chance to string quality wins together in a hurry.  But there’ll need to be some work on the road; three of the next four are outside the Dean Dome. 
  • Louisville – The Cardinals could even be in more trouble.  The ‘Ville doesn’t have a Top 50 RPI win on its resume right now (they play Cincinnati Sunday).  Non-conference memories include losses to Western Carolina, Charlotte, UNLV, and rival Kentucky.  Usually, December isn’t an issue for Pitino clubs because they make a January run.  No such spurt this year, as Louisville is just 2-4 this month after dropping three straight.
  • Connecticut – How about the Huskies?  From an RPI standpoint, their best win is William & Mary of the Colonial league.  They also have wins (all at home) over Notre Dame, Seton Hall, and St. John’s.  Problem … none are projected NCAA teams at this point.  It’s possible that won’t change, meaning the Huskies have some work ahead.  It starts when Texas visits on Saturday.  If there’s a saving grace, at least UConn has the No. 1-rated strength of schedule.  Credit CollegeRPI.com for the RPI and SOS information.

Bubble Math … There are 31 automatic bids and 34 at-large spots available come Selection Sunday.  It’s too early to consider anyone a true “lock”, but there are several teams other than automatic qualifiers who would fall into the Should Be In category as of January 22.  These teams include …

  • ACC – Duke, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest
  • Big 12 – Texas, Kansas, Kansas State
  • Big East – Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, West Virgina
  • Big 10 – Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State, Wisconsin
  • Mountain West – BYU, New Mexico
  • SEC – Kentucky, Tennessee
  • West Coast – Gonzaga
  • Horizon – Butler
  • Missouri Valley – Northern Iowa
  • Atlantic 10 – Temple

If you remove one team from each group (the automatic qualifiers), you are left with 14 teams that would claim at-large bids.  Since there are 34 at-large spots, 20 spots remain available.  Should be an exciting race to the finish.  On that note … I’m doing some additional prep work to launch the return of Bubble Banter in February.  Target date is Saturday, February 6.

As for this weekend’s biggest Bracket Bit matchups

  • Texas @ Connecticut – Huskies could really use a marquis win.
  • Duke @ Clemson – Will the Blue Devils win their first ACC road game?
  • Michigan State @ Minnesota – Gophers need to find some Williams Arena karma.
  • Ohio State @ West Virginia – A win here certainly puts OSU in line for a Top 4 seed.
  • BYU @ San Diego State – Cougars’ tough road swing starts with the hungry Aztecs.
  • Mississippi State @ Alabama – Bulldogs need to win this type of road game.
  • Virginia @ Wake Forest – A win keeps UVA unbeaten in ACC play.
  • NC State @ Maryland – Terps look ready to make some noise.
  • Rhode Island @ Xavier – Could be a deciding game for both.
  • Illinois @ Northwestern – A bubble game within the Big 10.
  • Arizona @ Arizona State – Sun Devils may now be Pac-10’s best chance for a second bid.
  • Georgia Tech @ Florida State – Seminoles need to win at home.
  • Cincinnati @ Louisville – Either or neither could be dancing in March.
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