Bubble Banter

Welcome to Bubble Banter.

Bubble Banter highlights the teams we believe are on the NCAA Bubble, teams that have locked up spot in the Field of 68, and teams that Should Be In but are not “locks” at the time of the update. RPI and SOS data is credited to InsideRPI at ESPN.

2017 NOTE … Bubble Banter will return in February.  Below is the final update from the 2016 season.  It won’t be long until bubble talk resumes in earnest.

UPDATED: March 10, 2016

Total Spots (68): Number of teams in the Field.

Automatic Bids (13): Northern Iowa (MVC), Yale (Ivy), Iona (MAAC), Florida Gulf Coast (ASUN), UNC-Asheville (BSO), UNC-Wilmington (CAA), Chattanooga (Southern), Austin Peay (OVC), Green Bay (Horizon), South Dakota State (Summit), Fairleigh-Dickinson (NEC), Gonzaga (WCC), Holy Cross (Patriot)

  • Projected Locks (25): Teams projected to earn an at-large bid, if necessary.
  • Should Be In (4): Teams that should be in based on the current at-large landscape.
  • Bubble: (26): Teams who are projected to be under consideration for at-large selection but who’s outcome is uncertain.
  • RPI and SOS: RPI and SOS data are updated through games on March 9.
Atlantic 10
There are four teams with a lot to play for in Brooklyn.  Dayton is safe. The others?  It varies upon whom you ask.  Our best guess is that three end up in the Field, but it may depend on what happens in the American conference and the SEC.

Locks: Dayton | Should Be In: None | Bubble: George Washington, Saint Joseph’s, St. Bonaventure, Virginia Commonwealth

  • George Washington (22-9 | 11-7) | RPI: 62 | SOS: 124 | – Early wins over Virginia and Seton Hall highlight an otherwise unremarkable resume that includes losses to DePaul and Saint Louis.  Assuming they beat either SLU or George Mason in their A10 opener, Saint Joseph’s awaits.  That seems like must-win, too.
  • Saint Joseph’s (24-7 | 13-5) | RPI: 29 | SOS: 85 | – The Hawks have had a solid season, and yet, there’s nothing about their overall profile – especially after a home loss to Duquesne – that screams “Should Be In.” Their only win over a current tournament team is Dayton at home.  Their other Top 100 wins include Temple, Princeton, Virginia Tech, and GW.  It may not be necessary, but a potential win over the Colonials in the quarterfinals sure would be nice.
  • St. Bonaventure (22-7 | 14-4) | RPI: 28 | SOS: 88 | – Yes, the Bonnies have won 10 of their past 12 games, including a pair of victories over Saint Joe’s and a roadie at Dayton.  The rest of their profile is questionable.  Their best NC win is Ohio and they also have losses to Duquesne and La Salle.  They’ll likely face Davidson in their A10 opener. One has to believe there’s little margin for error in that one.
  • VCU (22-9 | 14-4) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 71 | – Missed opportunities haunt teams in March.  The Rams put up a zero against non-league opponents Duke, Wisconsin, Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Cincinnati.  Then came a one-point loss at Dayton to close the season.  The Rams are good enough to be in the NCAA tournament, but they may have to win a couple of more games to get there.
Given the Irish’s high-end wins, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Notre Dame gets bumped, so the Irish move into the “Should Be In” group.  The meat of the profile is okay, not great, with half of their wins against teams ranked 150-lower in the RPI.  Syracuse – and maybe Pittsburgh – will be the biggest stories between now and Sunday unless Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech makes a deep run.

Locks: North Carolina, Virginia, Miami, Duke | Should Be In: Notre Dame | Bubble: Pittsburgh, Syracuse

  • Pittsburgh (20-10 | 9-9) | RPI: 45 | SOS: 39 | – Pitt took an important step on Wednesday, beating Syracuse for a third time in an important bubble game.  Now, they get top-seeded Carolina; a win could punch their ticket.  Until that happens, however, we can’t move the Panthers up; not a lot has changed.  If the Orange end up on the wrong side of the cutline, Pitt would still own only two wins against the Field with Davidson as its best NC scalp.
  • Syracuse (19-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 31 | – Having lost 5 of 6 games to close their season, the Orange have a long, agonizing wait ahead. They have to hope November wins against St. Bonaventure and Texas AM hold up; along with a road win at Duke. They has been up and down this season; missed Jim Boeheim for a stretch, and managed to lose to St. John’s.  There are more questions than answers, and they haven’t beaten a current tourney team since the end of January (Notre Dame). It’s going to be a close call.
The American Conference offers up five teams in pursuit of invitations.  There won’t be room for all five, so this weekend’s get-together in Orlando should be worth the price of admission.

Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Temple, Tulsa, Houston

  • Cincinnati (22-9 | 12-6) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 72 | – The Bearcats are certainly in a better position after beating SMU at home, but their journey isn’t over.  The reason?  Their next most important wins are a sweep of Connecticut and victories over George Washington and VCU.  As those are fellow bubble teams, that’s good.  At the same time, they aren’t exactly “we’re in” material.  Up next is a third matchup with the Huskies.  UC will rest easier with another win against a contender.
  • Connecticut (21-10 | 11-7) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 57 | – When you breakdown the Huskies profile you find a team that’s a rather pedestrian 11-10 vs. Top 200 RPI teams.  Their biggest assets are a road win at Texas and home wins against SMU and Michigan.  For a team that has lost 3 of 5 (beating only UCF and South Florida in that stretch), losing a third time to Cincinnati Friday could prove costly.
  • Temple (20-10 | 14-4) | RPI: 59 | SOS: 79 | – Somehow, even with SMU in the chase, the Owls managed to win the American crown.  How much cache will that give them?  We may not find out for sure until Sunday.  It’s worth noting that Temple owns sweeps against UC and UConn, which helps ease a pair of losses to Memphis and East Carolina.  Temple gets the winner of ECU/South Florida on Friday.  It would be a good idea to win that one, for sure.
  • Tulsa (20-10| 12-6) | RPI: 55 | SOS: 59 | – The Golden Hurricanes are the only team to win at SMU this season.  They also beat Wichita State in November and split with Connecticut and Cincinnati.  Which basically means their profile looks about the same as everyone else’s in this group (very average against the Top 200, in their case 10-10). Their AAC journey begins with Memphis.
  • Houston (22-8| 12-6) | RPI: 71 | SOS: 138 | – The Cougars have the farthest to go, largely do a non-conference schedule ranked above 300.  The only way to overcome that type of number is to pile up quality wins.  They arrive in Orlando on the heels of wins over UC and UConn.  A trip to the finals is required, and they may have to win it.
When you look at the big  picture, Seton Hall and Providence have done enough to move off the bubble.  It would take a wild turn of events for that to change. Which leaves Butler as the only real question mark.  Beating Providence in their Big East opener should seal the deal.

Locks: Villanova, Xavier | Should Be In: Seton Hall, Providence | Bubble: Butler

  • Butler (21-9 | 10-8 | RPI: 44 | SOS: 84 | – The Bulldogs seem to have rediscovered their offensive punch, scoring over 85 points in their past three games.  It couldn’t have come at a better time.  They took care of business down the stretch, beating Seton Hall, Georgetown, and Marquette on their way in.  Combined with NC wins over Purdue and Cincinnati, BU in inching closer to an invite.  But with just six Top 100 wins overall, we can’t say their work is done, especially since a loss to Providence would be their third to the Friars this season.
BIG 10
Ohio State is hanging around the periphery but will need a lengthy run in Indianapolis.  If that happens, we’ll revisit the Buckeyes’ chances.  Until then, we’ll keep an eye on Michigan, which likely needs another a couple of wins.

Locks: Iowa, Michigan State, Maryland, Purdue, Indiana, Wisconsin | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Michigan

  • Michigan (19-11 | 10-8) | RPI: 67 | SOS: 62 | – The Wolverines are 3-11 vs. Top 100 teams.  And while quality losses are better than bad ones, the lopsided nature of their performance against the top teams on their schedule still raises red flags.  They’ve also lost 4 of 5 games entering Thursday’s matchup with Northwestern.  If they can win that one and upset Indiana on Friday, we’ll see how things look.  For what it’s worth, Big Blue owns victories over Texas, Maryland, and Purdue, although their best road wins are at NC State and Illinois.
BIG 12
There’s not much to question in this year’s Big 12.  It’s more about seeding than selection for everyone but Texas Tech, and even the Raiders appear to be hovering above the fray – although less so after Wednesday’s loss to TCU.

Locks: Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Baylor, Texas | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Texas Tech

  • Texas Tech (19-12 | 9-9) | RPI: 33 | SOS: 4 | – All things considered, Tubby Smith’s group is in a good position compared to some other bubble teams.  There’s a lot to like, especially a Top 35 RPI and a Top 10 SOS.  Then there’s the wins over Texas, Oklahoma, and Iowa State at home.  Plus a road win at Baylor.  Now, for the pause … a loss to TCU in their opening game at the B12 tourney.  It was the Raiders worse loss of the season and third loss in four games.  When you factor in a 3-7 road record, it’s tough to consider them a lock.
Northern Iowa can be very good – ask North Carolina or Iowa State.  For a lengthy stretch, however, the Panthers were inconsistent, tumbling out of contention.  Then, they found their mojo in time to win the Missouri Valley’s automatic bid, which leaves the Selection Committee with an important question: Does Wichita State – which dominated the league and missed Fred VanVleet in some early losses – deserve a ticket to Dance?

Locks: Northern Iowa | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Wichita State

  • Wichita State (23-8 | 16-2) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 116 | – Ultimately, I think the Shockers end up in the Field.  They played a Top 25 non-conference schedule and won the Valley by a four-game margin.  Now, this year’s MVC isn’t as strong as past years, but that’s still a notable achievement. KenPom and other metrics think the Shockers are a Top 20 team.  All of that’s debatable, as is WSU’s final landing spot.  They have a double-digit win at home over Utah and only one semi-bad loss at Illinois State. The rest is arguably moderate. It could go either way, but if there’s an “eye test” involved, one has to think the Shockers have a better-than-average chance.
It’s tourney title or bust for anyone not named San Diego State.  Okay, you already knew that.  Which only highlights the potential problem facing the Aztecs … in a league with no other NCAA contenders, how good, really, is their stellar league record?

Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: San Diego State

  • San Diego State (21-8| 16-2) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 65 | – Other than a slow start and a really ugly loss to San Diego, the Aztecs profile is at least a little better then it looks; most notably a Top 10 non-conference schedule.  Of course, other than California, SDSU didn’t win its resume-building non-league games.  Would the Committee leave out a team that posted a 16-2 Mountain West campaign?  It all depends on who you ask.  And the only voters that matter reside in Indianapolis.  Much like Wichita State, the Aztecs will hope an over-powering conference run outweighs the pure metrics of their profile.
PAC 12
Colorado should be safe after beating Washington State in the Pac-12 opener.  Which leaves only two question marks unless Washington puts together a late run.  We’ll revisit the Huskies if that happens.

Locks: Oregon, Utah, Arizona, California | Should Be In: Colorado | Bubble: Oregon State, USC

  • Oregon State (18-11 | 9-9) | RPI: 27 | SOS: 11 | – The Beavers won another game away from home, taking care of Arizona State in their opening Pac-12 game.  It helps solidify an otherwise adequate resume; the biggest question was the Beavers record away from Corvallis.  Whatever drama might be left, a win over Cal Thursday night would erase it.
  • USC (21-11 | 9-9) | RPI: 40 | SOS: 42 | – Beating UCLA for a third time Wednesday night at the Pac-12 tourney could very well be enough. Then again, for a team that has lost 6 of 9 games, one more win would be even better – especially since it’s against Utah.  All joking aside, the Trojans look to be in decent shape.  Let’s just make sure nothing goofy happens between now and Saturday.
It’s clear that Kentucky and Texas AM are the best two teams.  After that?  It depends on the day (or night).  South Carolina is next in line, it appears, but they could use another win, potentially.  For the others, Thursday could be a very big day.

Locks: Kentucky, Texas AM | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Vanderbilt

  • Alabama (17-13 | 8-10) | RPI: 69 | SOS: 30 | – For a team that’s been on the bubble a while, losing 4 of 5 games is a quick way to fall off the pace. That stretch has also put them in a tough spot at the SEC tournament. If the Tide can beat Ole Miss, they’ll clash with Kentucky, a team that has dominated them twice.
  • Florida (18-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 54 | SOS: 10 | – Good losses only carry you so far, which is to say the Gators needs wins to improve a 2-9 mark against Top 50 competition.  Arkansas won’t help that on Thursday, but a victory over top-seeded Texas AM would.  What the Gators have is a high-end win over West Virginia and a victory over bubbly St. Joe’s.  That’s it when it comes to beating NCAA-level teams.  They were also swept by Vanderbilt.
  • South Carolina (23-7 | 11-7) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 162 | – The Gamecocks may have done enough by winning at Arkansas last weekend.  But it’s hard to count them “in” with a NC SOS hovering around 300 and only two wins against the projected Field.  Beating Georgia or Mississippi State won’t fix that (at least immediately), but would give them some added cushion.
  • Vanderbilt (19-12 | 11-7) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 40 | – While their profile is less than ideal – thus a spot here – at least the Commodores are moving in a positive direction, winning 6 of 8 games.  Although both were at home, Vandy did beat the SEC’s top two teams (UK, Texas AM). Which maybe helps make up for a poor road record (3-9) – maybe.  It would certainly be a good idea to beat Tennessee on Thursday.  It would also help to take out LSU in the quarterfinals.
Everyone in Spokane is cleaning up their dancing shoes – again. Beating Saint Mary’s in the tournament championship guaranteed the Zags an 18th straight trip the NCAA tournament.  As for the Gaels, their life between now and Sunday will be filled with nervous nights.  There’s no other way to say it.

Locks: Gonzaga | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Saint Mary’s

  • Saint Mary’s (26-5 | 15-3) | RPI: 39 | SOS: 165 | – The Gaels have to sit and wait, hoping that a stellar record outweighs a paper performance that features a pair of wins over Gonzaga, and NC victories over Stanford and UC Irvine (at home) as its best assets.  If you take away their wins against teams ranked 200 or higher in the RPI, SMC ended up 8-5 on the season. That noted, this is a team that’s probably better in person and on the court than on paper.  Are there 36 at-large teams better than the Gaels?  Maybe not.  Are their 36 better resumes?  Maybe so.  It’ll be a close call either way.
Who else has a shot?  We’re not entirely sure. What we do know is that losses by Wichita State, Monmouth, and Valparaiso have made those final at-large spots a bit tougher to come by – even for themselves.

Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Arkansas-Little Rock,  Monmouth, Valparaiso

  • Arkansas Little-Rock (25-4 | 17-3) | RPI: 52 | SOS: 275 | – Early wins over Tulsa and San Diego State are the highlights.  The issues are a loss at Arkansas State and both NC and regular SOS numbers well over 200.  But, if the Committee is looking for a team that have proven they can win away from home (12-3), there’s an outside chance they could give the Trojans a closer look.
  • Monmouth (27-6 | 17-3) | RPI: 58 | SOS: 199 | – It’s waiting time for the Hawks, who scheduled tough, took to the road, and posted wins at UCLA and Georgetown, and beat USC and Notre Dame on a neutral court. Granted, the Bruins and Hoyas didn’t hold up, but it’s hard to think the Committee will blame them too much for that.  If they end up missing, three sub-200 losses will be the culprit.  Either way, it figures to be a nail biter.
  • Valparaiso (24-6 | 16-2) | RPI: 53 | SOS: 177 | – The Crusaders aren’t getting the same love as Wichita State or Monmouth. They do own a win at Oregon State and lost a close game at Oregon. Unfortunately, four sub-100 losses combined with a semifinal exit at the Horizon League tourney, could be a bit too much to overcome.  This is a talented team that could win a game, but they may need help to reach the Field on Sunday.
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