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.
It’s fair to say that neither Syracuse nor Pittsburgh is safely in the Field of 68, which makes Wednesday’s early tip at the ACC tournament worth following. Although the Panthers won both regular season meetings against the Orange, the loser will be nervously awaiting their fate on Selection Sunday.
It’s especially timely given what we’ve seen thus far in Championship Week. As potential bubble slots disappear, the value of every win increases.
Additional bubble action on Wednesday (March 9) ..
- Washington (vs. Stanford) – The Huskies need a lengthy stay to get back in the conversation; they may need to win the Pac-12 tourney.
- Georgia Tech (vs. Clemson) – First game of the ACC tourney for the Yellow Jackets who are back in the mix after winning 5 of 6 down the stretch.
- USC (vs. UCLA) – Beating their rival may not be required, but it would certainly help ease the Trojans’ nerves. USC has lost 6 of 8 games, and a poor record away from home could become an issue.
- Oregon State (vs. Arizona State) – While overall power numbers help the Beavers, they have not beaten a tournament team away from home. Losing to ASU a second time might not be the best message to leave the Committee.
Although likely above the bubble, it would still be nice to see Texas Tech beat TCU (Big 12) and Colorado beat Washington State (Pac 12). A lot could still change between now and Saturday night.
Of all the bubble results on Saturday, Florida’s loss at LSU is one of the most notable. And it’s not because losing to a wildly inconsistent group from Baton Rouge is particularly bad. In between their pile of head-wrangling losses to middling teams, this is a Tigers’ team that has won at Vanderbilt and beaten Kentucky and Texas AM. LSU can be pretty good – we just don’t see that team enough. The Gators problem is a serious lack of quality wins, as a 2-9 record against Top 50 RPI teams indicates. And one of those wins is against Saint Joseph’s in November. Since then, Florida has beaten exactly one (1) team – West Virginia at home – that would be an at-large team in the Field today. Their remaining Top 100 wins are Georgia and Ole Miss twice and the aforementioned LSU outfit at home. If there’s a remedy, it’s a visit from Kentucky this coming week before a trip to Missouri. The Gators really need to win both of those ahead of the SEC tournament.
Elsewhere, it was a pretty good day for bubble teams along the cutline. Vanderbilt helped itself the most by beating Kentucky in Nashville. We’ll see if they can keep building on a three-game winning streak. Alabama and Cincinnati won the games they had to (Auburn, East Carolina) …. On the outside looking in … VCU, St. Bonaventure, and Butler all put victories on the slate, with VCU taking down fellow-bubbler George Washington. And Gonzaga won at BYU – keeping their at-large hopes in tact.
Sunday’s Bubble Action
Illinois – The Illini take on Michigan in the 8/9 game at the B10 tourney in Chicago. It’s a must win. We’ll see if the home crowd can push the Illini into a matchup with top-seed Wisconsin on Friday.
Indiana – A loss to Northwestern would really put the squeeze on IU’s NCAA hopes. The Hoosiers have lost three straight and four of five games, and haven’t beaten an NCAA team since a home victory over Maryland in late January.
Oklahoma State – The Cowboys have lost five of six games to create a bit of uncertainty. A host of good wins is countered by a growing number of losses. The good news: losing to Oklahoma would be a “good” loss. But would it be one “good” loss to many? A victory should seal an NCAA invitation.
Texas – The Longhorns took care of business against Texas Tech on Wednesday. Next up is Iowa State. Losing to the Cyclones a third time could create further issues for a team who’s major stumbling block is too many “good” losses (and not enough wins). Read more…
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…
It’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.
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…
A 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…