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Bracket Bits: Potential mid-major bubble teams

February 28, 2015 1 comment

dave1Given this year’s rather unimpressive Bubble, there’s been ample opportunities for so-called “mid-majors” to cash in.  But as the calendar turns to March, Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley) is the only one to really take advantage: the Panthers will be Dancing.  Old Dominion was in a similar position in mid-January until some unsightly Conference USA losses clouded their horizon.  The Monarchs can still make it, but not without a strong finish, and maybe a little help.

Bubble Banter

Which brings us to the next question: Are there any other potential mid-major teams who could make a late push toward at-large consideration?  Here are the leading candidates (records are D1 only) …

Wofford (21-6) | (Southern) – The Terriers might be the leading candidate thanks to a Top 20 non-conference schedule that includes a victory at NC State.  Wofford’s other Top 100 wins include Iona and Sam Houston State.  The biggest hang-up, and it sticks out like a 300-pound gorilla, is a loss at The Citadel, which stands at No. 310 on the RPI rankings as of this posting.  It would also be a bit unusual for a six-loss team in Wofford’s situation to gain momentum on the At-Large Board.  Assuming the Terriers would lose only to Chattanooga in the SoCon tourney finale, there’s an outside chance, but it’s just that. Read more…

Bubble Banter Debut: Countdown to Selection Sunday

February 13, 2015 Leave a comment

dave1We’re a month from Selection Sunday.  It’s also Valentine’s Day weekend.  In other words, the perfect time to unleash a little extra basketball love and launch this season’s Bubble Banter.

Bubble Banter

By now you know that the lower half of the bracket is wide open.  The bubble?  Well, it’s wide open, too.  There are some highly questionable profiles near the cutline, and that may not change.  Written off for the NIT at the end of its non-conference season, UCLA is among the teams back in the at-large picture.  Same for Boise State, riding an eight-game winning streak in Mountain West play.  And what about the ACC … no league is stronger at the top, but there’s a steep decline once you exit the upper tier.

There are some big-time programs currently on the outside looking in – including aforementioned UCLA, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, and Pittsburgh.  There are also traditionally strong leagues – such as the Atlantic 10 – that could put just two teams into the field. Read more…

Bubble Banter: Cal, Stanford need course correction

March 8, 2014 Leave a comment

dave1It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Pac-12 teams in the Bay Area.  California has lost three straight and four of five.  Stanford has also dropped three straight.  Both schools are coming off home losses (Utah and Colorado), and both need a course correction to avoid problems on Selection Sunday.

Bubble Banter – March 8

Stanford’s win at Connecticut is worth mentioning first, and perhaps puts the Cardinal a tiny bit ahead of Cal at this juncture.  As for the rest of its resume?  Stanford is 6-10 vs. Top 100 RPI teams and has a losing record (9-11) against the Top 150.  When you factor in the three-game skid – which included missed opportunities against Arizona and Arizona State – there’s reason for concern.  Other than the win at UConn, Stanford’s best non-conference victory is either Northwestern or  Denver.

California has its home win over Arizona.  Impressive as that is, the Bears are 6-11 vs. the RPI Top 100 and two of those wins are against Washington (No. 95 as of this morning – March 8). Outside the league, they beat Arkansas in Maui and also beat Denver.   Having played a couple more Top 150 games, Cal is 11-11 by comparison.  During its three-game slide, Cal also missed opportunities against Arizona and Arizona State.

Safe to say, both the Bears and Cardinal have work to do at the Pac-12 tournament. Read more…

Bubble Banter: Pittsburgh, California have work to do

March 4, 2014 Leave a comment

dave1A month ago, Pittsburgh was a no-doubt NCAA Tournament team.  The Panthers had battled Cincinnati, Syracuse, and Virginia to the final seconds in close losses.  Their efficiency numbers suggested a team that could win in March.  All they needed was a couple of notable victories to validate their position.  The problem: those victories have yet to materialize.

Bubble Banter – Update

Instead, less than two weeks before Selection Sunday, we find a Pittsburgh resume with only one victory against a projected NCAA team: Stanford (in November).  Since then, the Panthers have managed four Top 100 RPI wins: Maryland (twice), Clemson, and NC State.  And Monday night, the Wolfpack returned the favor by beating Pitt on its home floor.  So where does this leave the Panthers?  As a team with some work to do between now and March 16.  The one thing helping Pitt beyond those close losses is the absence of any bad losses (to sub-100 RPI teams).  Will that hold up if the Panthers take an early exit from the ACC Tournament? Read more…

Inside the Bracket: Stretch run key for several teams

February 23, 2014 Leave a comment

dave1It’s not a surprise to say the current NCAA Tournament bubble is soft.  While we most often focus  on the cutline (last teams in, first teams out), a few notable programs may not be as secure as it seems.  With Selection Sunday only three weeks away, the stretch run could make a huge difference.  Here are a four teams (of several) that could be on that list …

Memphis – The Tigers needed overtime at home to survive Temple on Saturday night which kept a truly bad loss off of their resume.  Here’s the concerning part: a 4-6 record against Top 100 RPI teams – which actually extends to the Top 150.  This could be one of those years when a team with a losing record against the top half of Division I  earns an at-large bid, but it certainly leaves some doubt about the Tigers’ overall standing.  Part of that is due to a weak bottom half of the American Athletic Conference. Part of it is losses against league leaders – save victory at Louisville in early January.  Memphis is 1-4 against American contenders (Cincinnati, Louisville, Connecticut, SMU).  Three of their remaining games are against those same squads.  If the Tigers were to finish 1-7 (or 2-6) against that target, it could bring some stressful moments come league tournament time.

Kansas State – While it’s hard to envision a team with eight Top 100 wins missing the NCAA Tournament right now, it’s worth nothing that the Wildcats are 1-6 in true road games (their only win was at TCU). K-State has remaining road trips to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, neither of which will be easy.  If they were to lose both and drop a home game to either Baylor or Iowa State down the stretch, an early exit from the Big 12 tourney could create some few tense moments in Manhattan. Read more…

Non-conference SOS may hinder some Bubble teams

January 25, 2014 Leave a comment

dave1The return of Bubble Banter is still a couple of weeks away.  Let’s at least get to the mid-point of the conference season.

That said, there are some current bubble teams who may face a greater at-large hurdle than others.  The reason: a non-conference strength of schedule (SOS) the sticks out like red flag.  While there is never an absolute, recent trends indicate that members of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Selection Committee value a team’s non-conference schedule (and performance) – for two primary reasons.  First, it indicates a team’s willingness to challenge itself in the non-conference season.  Second, it provides a greater range of opportunities to compare teams with similar resumes. 

We’ve seen teams with adequate conference records – or even stellar conference records in some mid-major leagues – be left out on Selection Sunday because of an unimpressive (or ugly) non-conference SOS.  Which current bubble teams might be facing similar SOS trouble in March?  Here’s 10 potential candidates – with their NC SOS numbers through games played on Thursday, January 23 (data from ESPN’s Insider RPI). Read more…

Saturday update: Race for final spots resumes

March 16, 2013 Leave a comment

dave1If anything, Friday complicated an already complicated bubble picture.  The SEC could end up with five teams or two.  Both are in play at this point.  How will the NCAA Selection Committee handle Middle Tennessee State and Saint Mary’s?  And how will they compare those teams against La Salle, Boise State, and even Oklahoma?  These are questions we can try to answer, but none of us has a vote that matters.

Heading into action on Saturday, there are three particular wildcards in play: Southern Mississippi, Maryland, and Massachusetts.  Any of those could still earn automatic bids to the Field of 68.  And that might be what it takes.  Vanderbilt is more of a longshot, but the Commodores are a victory over Ole Miss from playing for an SEC title.  We’ve seen this type of mayhem before.  We also can’t completely forget about Akron should the Zips lose in the Mid-American championship game to Ohio.  Clear as mud, right?

March 16 Bracket update  |  10:50 a.m.

March 16 Bubble Banter update  |  9:00 a.m.

March 16 s-curve update  |  11:30 a.m.

We’re going to start here for now:  the Last 5 IN today are Boise State, Tennessee, La Salle, Saint Mary’s, and Middle Tennessee.  The First Five OUT are Ole Miss, Kentucky, Alabama, Massachusetts, and Virginia.  All of these resumes have issues.  Which issues the collective Committee values more could help shape the final at-large spots. Tomorrow is a new day. We’ll review everything again and see how it looks.

Enjoy the games.  Selection Sunday is almost here.

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