We can identify teams like SMU, South Carolina, and Virginia Tech as recent casualties of weak non-conference strength of schedule (NC SOS) numbers on Selection Sunday. The Selection Committee has repeatedly sent messages to teams who schedule heavy doses of non-conference games against the bottom third of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI): stay clear of the bubble or risk being left out.
With that as a backdrop, here are six teams currently on the Bubble with either potential NC SOS trouble and/or a large number of non-conference games against the bottom end of Division 1. As part of the exercise, each of these team’s record minus those 200-plus NC RPI wins is noted in parenthesis … Read more…
Quality wins have largely eluded the Texas Longhorns, and the ensuing holes have created an NCAA tournament resume that today (Feb. 3) would generate a lot of bubble discussion.
The Longhorns’ current RPI (29), BPI (36) and KenPom (26) ratings are plenty good enough. Texas is also 5-4 away from Austin (road/neutral games), and has an overall schedule ranked No. 12 in the country. Everyone of the Longhorns’ seven losses has come to a quality opponent. In fact, Texas has not lost to a team that today would not be a projected at-large team in the NCAA Field of 68. So where’s the problem?
If you look at the other side of the ledger, Texas is 1-7 vs. Top 50 RPI teams and just 3-7 vs. the Top 100. The Longhorns’ best wins are West Virginia (home) and Iowa (Neutral). Unfortunately for UT, early wins against California and Connecticut haven’t held up well. And within the deep Big 12, Texas has limped to a 3-5 start.
With three of the Longhorns’ next four at home, it’s time to make a move. Two of those home games are against Texas Tech and TCU. Those are games UT really needs to win. The closing stretch includes road games at Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Kansas, and home dates with Iowa State, Baylor, and Kansas State.
The Big 12 offers plenty of opportunities – but wins won’t come easy, and to this point, Texas has missed on most of its high profile chances. That will need to change in the next month or there could be some nervous Longhorns on Selection Sunday.
Kansas finds itself in familiar territory heading into Super Bowl weekend. Thanks to a resume that includes 11 Top 100 RPI wins and the nation’s top-rated (overall) strength of schedule, the Jayhawks claim the final No. 1 seed in today’s bracket. KU also leads the Big 12, arguably the deepest conference in college basketball.
Kentucky and Virginia remain firmly entrenched as the top two seeds. And Gonzaga keeps it’s hold on the West, but will be challenged for that spot as we march toward Selection Sunday. Those also pushing the top line: Arizona and Wisconsin. Notre Dame continues its climb. But it’s worth noting that a weak non-conference SOS could ultimately impact the Irish’s final landing spot.
As for teams around the cutline, it’s a muddled mess. Resumes resemble Swiss cheese; in other words, it’s not difficult to find the holes. It’s also a bit odd to find teams such as Syracuse, Michigan, Connecticut, and Florida on the outside looking in. Will one of them make a February run? The clock is ticking.
If 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.
Conference tournaments start next week. Championship Week is straight ahead. Heading into action on Saturday, March 2, below are some quick updates and notes for the weekend. Updates to the s-curve (seed list) and bracket will start to become more frequent.
By quick count, we have about 15 bubble games worth tracking on Saturday. There’s another three on Sunday. Given the up-and-down cycle we’ve witnessed for the last month or so, this weekend – and the next two weeks – are likely to be unpredictable. With upsets possible in conference tournaments, teams ultimately headed to the First Four in Dayton may change numerous times. The Selection Committee will be especially challenged if teams like Akron, Middle Tennessee, and even Belmont fail to win their conference tournaments. It would add candidates to the at-large field.
Saturday bracket-tracker games:
Connecticut at Cincinnati, Wichita State at Creighton, Alabama at Florida, Maryland at Wake Forest, Iowa State at Oklahoma, Tennessee at Georgia, Massachusetts at Xavier, Arizona State at USC, Kentucky at Arkansas, Colorado at California, Charlotte at St. Bonaventure, Iowa at Indiana, Colorado at Boise State, St. John’s at Providence, Santa Clara at Saint Mary’s.
Sunday’s bracket-tracker games:
Villanova at Pittsburgh, Florida State at North Carolina, Virginia at Boston College.
As for the No. 1 seed race, it’s still wide open. As many as 10 or 11 teams have a realistic shot for consideration. Not only does the final week provide several huge matchups among the contenders, we’ll see even more during conference tournament play. The Committee may not make final decisions on those top seeds until the Friday or Saturday before Selection Sunday. Typically, there’s only one or two spots open at that point. We’ll see how the next two weeks play out.
Riding a six-game conference winning streak, the Tennessee Volunteers find themselves in the thick of the at-large conversation. Since losing at home to Georgia in early February, the Vols have won three league road games and beaten Kentucky and Florida in Knoxville. And while one could argue (correctly) that the SEC isn’t particularly strong or deep, Tennessee has given itself a chance to participate in March Madness. Such a scenario would have been considered a stretch a month ago.
A similar streak helped Illinois overcome a 2-7 mark in the Big Ten. Without a major slip, the Illini are now a likely NCAA participant. A lot can change in two weeks.
Which brings us to Selection Sunday – now just over two weeks away.
Our latest bubble update finds teams moving both toward and away from the cutline. Besides the aforementioned Volunteers, here are some teams climbing the at-large ladder: Temple, Saint Mary’s, and California. Akron should be included too. The Zips beat Ohio for a second time Wednesday and have a clear path toward an outright Mid-American Conference title. That will add credibility to the Zips’ profile if they were to fall short in the MAC tournament.
Teams moving in the opposite direction include Arkansas, Charlotte, and Indiana State. The Sycamores have lost any momentum they once had and probably need to win the MVC tournament in St. Louis to reach the NCAA tournament. For now, they’ve been removed from the bubble.
One other Missouri Valley note: Both Creighton and Wichita State remain as “Should Be In” teams at the time of this update. However, both have slipped a bit of late and certainly aren’t locks. Saturday, they battle for the MVC title. The winner takes a significant step toward an NCAA bid as it’s hard to imagine the outright MVC champion being left out of the Field.
Our current NCAA tournament bubble isn’t necessarily any weaker, but it certainly isn’t shrinking. Games this weekend should help clear up a few spots – although it hasn’t happened yet. Right now, there are 25 teams listed as projected locks, with another seven teams in strong position to claim a bid (Should Be In). When you add in the 31 automatic qualifers (minus projected locks), that leaves us with about 16 spots. Some of the bubble teams are in stronger position than others.
March 3 Bubble Banter update.
A few quick thoughts about the weekend …
- Connecticut and Mississippi State are the two BCS teams currently in our bracket that most need victories this weekend. Connecticut hosts Pittsburgh and Mississippi State hosts Arkansas.
- Cincinnati should punch its ticket by winning at Villanova. A loss would make the Bearcats’ Big East tournament opener more important.
- Northwestern needs to win its game at Iowa, but that won’t be easy. The Hawkeyes have been a tough out at home.
- Washington can wrap up a Pac-12 title by winning at UCLA. That won’t guarantee the Huskies a spot, but it would certainly help.
- Virginia travels to Maryland with a two-game losing streak. A loss would drop the Cavaliers to 8-8 in the ACC and make UVA’s opening round ACC tournament game much more intense.
Enjoy a weekend of college hoops. Several teams will punch NCAA dance tickets.