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…
Given 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.
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…
With just over a month until Selection Sunday, it’s time to take a look at the current NCAA bubble. It’s a bit crazy – especially with teams like Kentucky and North Carolina missing from “lock” status. We also have teams like Virginia – whose resume features quality wins, head-scratching losses, and a weak strength of schedule. How will the Selection Committee view the Cavaliers? Those are just three of many challenges within the current landscape of college hoops.
For what it’s worth, the Atlantic 10, Pac-12, SEC, and Mountain West have a variety of bubble teams. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out.
Bubble Banter will ebb and flow over the next month. Teams will be added and teams will fall away. Others will move off the bubble and confirm their place in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. While we could stretch the bubble even further, we’ve limited teams to those with realistic at-large hopes at this point in time. Ask Villanova how quickly things can change, however. Beating Louisville and Syracuse in back-to-back games can do that.
It’s going to be a fun ride. Here’s to some great hoops and a stronger-than-usual bubble down the stretch.
After losing to Louisville on Wednesday, Seton Hall joins Drexel, Iona, Oral Roberts, and Middle Tennessee State as nervous at-large hopefuls. West Virginia is in that group, too, but is a little more secure heading into action on Thursday and Friday. Connecticut helped its case by beating the Mountaineers. With 10 Top 100 RPI wins, it’s looking more and more likely that the Huskies will be able to defend their NCAA title. South Florida kept its at-large hopes alive by beating Villanova. USF matches up with Notre Dame tonight (Thursday).
March 8 Bracket Projection – Bracketology
Not a lot has changed since Monday’s bracket. Seton Hall remains in the field as a First Four participant in Dayton. They are matched against Xavier. St. Joseph’s and Drexel are the other First Four at-large teams. With this grouping, regular-season rematches were unavoidable. The First Four could look much different come Saturday morning. The next two days will be critical for teams like Northwestern, Texas, South Florida, Dayton, St. Joseph’s, Miami-Fla, NC State, and Oregon.
Enjoy two full days of great March hoops!
Marquette rallied in Morgantown Friday night and handed West Virginia its seventh loss in nine games. The Mountaineers are sliding, and headed straight toward potential bubble trouble. Not that WVU is alone. Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi have created their own issues. Southern Miss has lost back-to-back games to Houston and UTEP – which follows an earlier loss this month to UAB. Mississippi State has lost four straight and now leaves home for two straight SEC road games – starting at Alabama. It’s never easy to close out an NCAA bid.
Championship Week is shaping up to be quite interesting. What are the odds that conference favorites all win their tournaments? Less that fifty percent, most likely. That means we’ll have a few bid stealers before Selection Sunday. It’s almost March. Who’s ready for a little Madness?
Enjoy a great weekend of hoops. I’ll try to have more frequent updates as we go through the final two weeks.
Let’s go Inside the Bracket for a look at which non-majors have put themselves in a position to be in the at-large discussion next March. There is, of course, a lot of basketball yet to be played, so things may look a bit different when we launch Bubble Banter in February. We’ll call this Stocking Stuffer Part I. Part II will feature a look at major conference teams that could be on or near the bubble come March. Note: For this discussion, Atlantic 10, Mountain West, and Conference USA teams will be featured in Part II.
At-Large Picture – Part I: Teams to watch …
Murray State – The Racers have beaten Southern Mississippi at the Great Alaska Shootout, Dayton at home, and Memphis on the road. Those were the three biggest challenges on Murray’s non-conference slate. The victory at Memphis figures to hold the most weight, although the Tigers have not looked much like a Top 20 team this season. Road Bumps: The Ohio Valley Conference isn’t very strong and will certainly be an anchor to Murray’s RPI and overall strength-of-schedule. The Racers have also played three non-Division I opponents – two of those scheduled at home. If Murray can finish its non-conference slate unbeaten, the Racers should be able to absorb a loss or two in the OVC. Any more than that, plus a loss in the OVC tournament, would make it interesting. How Southern Miss, Dayton, and Memphis finish the season will also be a factor.
Creighton – The Bluejays’ victory at San Diego State could pay big dividends in March. Beating Northwestern (Dec. 22) will be important, too. That would leave Creighton 2-1 against its best non-conference opponents (CU lost at St. Joseph’s). Given the Bluejays status as Missouri Valley favorite, the outlook for an at-large bid is favorable if the scenario above unfolds. Road Bumps: Playing on the road in the Valley is never easy, but it will be important for Creighton to avoid “bad losses” along the way. It will also help if CU separates itself with or above Northern Iowa and Wichita State at the top of the standings.
Northern Iowa – While the Panthers are off to a strong start – including a 4-1 record away from home, they lack a marquee victory. UNI’s win at Old Dominion was solid but the Panthers followed it up with a double-digit loss at St. Mary’s – another potential bubble team. The game with Ohio (Dec. 20) figures to be huge for both schools. Road Bumps: Northern Iowa will need to keep pace – and beat – both Creighton and Wichita State during the Missouri Valley season. Much like Creighton, UNI will need to avoid “bad losses” to those at the bottom of the league standings. Read more…
Crunch the numbers, consider teams that appear to be NCAA tournament locks, throw in handful of those that should be in, and we’re left with 37 teams on the bubble in our latest Bubble Banter. Those 37 teams are competing for 15 spots. The race toward Selection Sunday is in high gear.
For now, Butler, Rhode Island, California, and Northern Iowa leave the bubble. Minnesota, Washington, and Alabama join. The difference is that Minnesota and Washington are falling, while Alabama is climbing. Given matchups and schedules, the next two weeks should be telling for many of those with uncertain NCAA status.
Some quick notes …
- The Big Ten could end up with as few as four bids or as many as seven. Best guess is somewhere in between, most likely five. Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Penn State are all question marks. Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin are the only solid candidates as of this update.
- Arizona leads the Pac-10 but has a resume light on quality wins. Washington’s resume is very similar, but the Huskies are now two games back in the league standings. Depending on Washington, Washington State, and UCLA, the Pac-10 could be a two to four-bid league. Five if something weird happens in the conference tournament.
- The SEC East is strong, the SEC West is not. Alabama is taking full advantage and also has wins over Kentucky and at Tennessee. The Crimson Tide will be worth watching the next couple of weeks. Read more…