Quick Takes: An early peek at the Bubble
It won’t be long before the Bubble returns. If you’re new to college hoops lingo, the Bubble references teams caught in one of two places: either barely inside the bracket or close enough to be under strong consideration. Either way, February and March become an agonizing adventure. The remedy, of course, is to perform well enough to remove yourself from the aforementioned situation. But as history suggests, that can be much tougher than it appears.
Although Bubble Banter won’t return until February, here’s an early peek at the developing Bubble …
Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)
- Projected IN: Florida State, North Carolina, Louisville, Notre Dame, Virginia, Duke.
- Early Bubble: Virginia Tech, Clemson, Wake Forest, Miami-FL, Pittsburgh, NC State, Georgia Tech
- Notes: It’s possible the league could tie a record for the most teams to make the NCAAs from one league (11). My guess would be that three of the Bubble teams make it (9 total), with a fourth right along the cutline.
Atlantic 10 (A10)
- Projected IN: Dayton.
- Early Bubble: Rhode Island, VCU, La Salle
- Notes: Could we see an additional team like Richmond or Massachusetts move into the discussion? Sure, but they’re a bit far down the Seed List right now. Dayton is the favorite, but certainly not a “lock.” As a whole, the league has just five teams ranked in the Top 100 of the RPI – making quality wins harder to find.
American Conference (AAC)
- Projected IN: Cincinnati, SMU.
- Early Bubble: Memphis, Houston, UCF
- Notes: Temple was an early front-runner for surprise team of the year, but the Owls have lost 6 of 7 games and fallen off the pace despite early wins over Florida State and West Virginia. The question is whether Memphis, Houston, or UCF can make a run, or if the Owls can complete an abrupt turnaround.
Big East (BE)
- Projected IN: Villanova, Creighton, Butler, Xavier
- Early Bubble: Seton Hall, Marquette, Providence
- Notes: The top teams in the Big East could well have a strong March showing. Who else joins the party? The three Bubble teams above are good candidates, but it could be tough for all three to survive Selection Sunday.
Big 12 (A12)
- Projected IN: Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia.
- Early Bubble: Iowa State, Texas Tech, TCU, Kansas State
- Notes: The odd team out at the moment is Oklahoma State. Look at the metrics, and Oklahoma State appears better than its record. That said, the Cowboys are 0-6 in league play this morning (Jan. 21). They need to find a few wins and fast. As for Texas Tech and Kansas State, weak non-conference schedules could end up being unwanted trouble. If there’s a team to keep an eye on it’s Oklahoma. The Sooners are young but improving.
Big Ten (B10)
- Projected IN: Maryland, Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota.
- Early Bubble: Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio State, Penn State
- Notes: I feel pretty confident in Maryland, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Based on current resume, Minnesota is in good shape, too. As for Indiana, the Hoosiers are too talented to miss the field, but they’ve also been a little erratic. My guess is they’ll be projected IN before long. We could see 7 or 8 teams make it; we could also see six. That’s the nature of a good but not great league.
Pac 12 (P12)
- Projected IN: UCLA, Oregon, Arizona.
- Early Bubble: USC, California, Utah
- Notes: Stanford could make a push, but it’s an uphill climb. Colorado has fallen behind. Right now, five bids looks to be the ceiling. While the top three teams are all Final Four contenders, the bottom of the league is making it tougher for the mid-level teams to gain ground.
Southeastern Conference (SEC)
- Projected IN: Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina.
- Early Bubble: Arkansas, Georgia
- Notes: We’ll see if Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn, Ole Miss or Mississippi State can move into the conversation. As in recent years, the top of the league – especially Kentucky – is solid, while the rest of the league has work to do.
West Coast (WCC)
- Projected IN: Gonzaga.
- Early Bubble: Saint Mary’s
- Notes: Saint Mary’s looks like an NCAA team, so this is more precautionary than anything. Provided the Gaels don’t absorb a couple of “bad losses,” early wins over Nevada, Dayton, and Stanford should hold up. Beating Gonzaga at home would be a nice catch, though. BYU has a chance, of course, although the Cougars probably need to beat both Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s at some point to have a realistic shot.
Rest of the Field
- Projected IN: None.
- Early Bubble: Middle Tennessee State, UNC-Wilmington, Illinois State, Wichita State, Akron, Nevada, Chattanooga, Valparaiso, Charleston
- Notes: It’s always fun to have a non-power conference team in the at-large mix. Potential candidates are listed above in no particular order. That said, MTSU, Wilmington, and Illinois State/Wichita State have the best chances if they win their regular-season league titles and avoid “bad losses” along the way. It’ll be a month or so before we have a real clear look at this.
Enjoy a busy weekend on the hardwood!