It’s a busy week on the Bubble. For Rhode Island, it’s a double-dip of fun. The Rams, a member of Monday’s First Four OUT, travels to Massachusetts tonight (Tuesday) and hosts Dayton on Friday. If URI can handle UMass, it sets up an important resume building opportunity against the Flyers. The Rams lost a close one at Dayton in early January. Heading into the week, Rhode Island was 3-7 vs. Top 100 teams, with one NCAA-level (at-large) win: Cincinnati (in November). It won’t be easy, but a 2-0 week would certainly help the Rams’ positioning.
More of this week’s biggest Bubble games (Bubble teams in Bold): Read more…
With the Super Bowl behind us, Selection Sunday awaits, along with the Madness of March. Between now and then, college basketball is sure to provide us enough plot twists to hold our attention. Exhibit A is this past Saturday … when eight of the top 16 teams on the Seed List added a loss to their resume. Meanwhile, teams along the cutline meander like a river without direction, and the bubble club numbers 30-plus members. In other words, fasten your seat belt and enjoy what should be a wild four-week ride.
If you’re returning for the first time post-football, reigning NCAA champion Villanova remains entrenched as the overall No. 1 seed. Regarding the rest of today’s No. 1 seeds, Selection Committee member value a team’s full profile over a single result (or two). Although in a different order from last Thursday, Gonzaga, Kansas, and Baylor continue to lead the West, Midwest, and South regions. That said, the margins for the Jayhawks and Bears are waning.
It would take hours of conversation and pages of words to wrangle through the bubble and the process in making the final decisions for at-large spots this morning. From eight seeds on down, every resume has holes to fill and issues to solve ahead of Championship Week.
What a Saturday in college hoops – and it’s February!
Four of the top eight teams on Saturday morning’s Seed List lost, two at home and two in blowout fashion on the road. Another two lost in slots 9-12, and another two in slots 13-16. Simple math equates to eight of the top 16 teams on the Seed List losing Saturday. The flip side, of course, is that eight other teams (the winners) posted signature or marquee victories on their resumes. My initial takeaways are that Florida and three Big 12 “States” benefitted most from a wild Saturday.
Florida’s win over Kentucky added an important piece to the Gators’ otherwise solid profile: a victory over a sure-fire NCAA team. Prior to Saturday, Florida had nice wins against Arkansas, Seton Hall, and Miami-FL, among others. But are you confident all of those teams will reach the final Field of 68? See bullet-point below about the Razorbacks loss at Missouri. On a related note … with South Carolina’s win over Georgia, the SEC title chase is up for grabs. Read more…
If you’re looking for a quality non-power conference team that could earn an at-large bid on Selection Sunday, Middle Tennessee State should be near the top of your list. If the name sounds familiar, think back to last year’s NCAA tournament. The then 15th-seeded Blue Raiders knocked off No. 2 seed Michigan State in St. Louis before losing to eventual Final Four participant Syracuse in the Round of 32. As we look ahead, Giddy Potts and MTSU are 19-3 with Top 100 RPI wins over UNC-Wilmington, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and Belmont. The Blue Raiders are 8-1 on the road and have some pretty solid metric numbers:
Middle Tennessee State … RPI: 37 | BPI: 52 | SOR: 31 | KP: 47
Unfortunately, Conference USA hasn’t provided MTSU with much support; the Blue Raiders are the only team in the RPI’s Top 100, and six of the schools are 300-plus. That’s a recipe for picking up a really bad loss. The good news, MTSU has avoided that issue. If that continues, the Blue Raiders should receive strong consideration were they to lose in the C-USA tournament final.
Here are a few other mid-major hopefuls as we head into February: Read more…
As the race for top seeds continues, Kansas showed its mettle in recent days – backing up road win at Kentucky with a home victory against Big 12 rival Baylor. That’s a strong two-game parlay, and keeps KU firmly entrenched as the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region. By a slim margin, Villanova holds the overall No. 1 seed position. Baylor and unbeaten Gonzaga also reside on the top line.
Bubble Update: This year’s collection of bubble teams remains quite fluid. It’s also about 30-teams deep as we begin the February push. How long will teams be able to circumvent poor road records and sub-.500 league records? It’s a valid and good question. The answer is unknown. Teams do not play in a vacuum. We’ll see how the landscape looks next week and next month.
The Bubble picture is particularly intriguing and volatile in the Big 12 and ACC. A collection of teams continues to bounce around the cutline. Previous Big Ten bubble teams Illinois, Ohio State, Penn State, and even Nebraska have fallen off the pace. Tennessee might be one of the year’s biggest surprises. I don’t know if the Volunteers can stay the course in February, but they’ve done enough to be firmly in the conversation – at least with the current batch of contenders.
If you’re old enough to remember the now-retired DoubleMint gum commercials, you’ll understand the headline reference. If not, never mind. It wasn’t long ago – last week, in fact – that Duke was coming off three losses in five games and had gone winless in its three previous road games. They were also facing back-to-back road games at Wake Forest and Notre Dame. Had things not gone so well in Winston-Salem and South Bend, the Blue Devils would have been heading into their upcoming home stretch with an 0-5 road record and sub-.500 Atlantic Coast Conference mark. But things went quite well and Duke heads home with a chance to re-merge as a contender in the ACC race. Next up, the Blue Devils host ACC bubble teams Pittsburgh and Clemson along with rival North Carolina. Getting all three would be ideal, as the Blue Devils closing stretch includes four road games – Virginia, Syracuse, Miami, and UNC. Read more…