Bubble Watch: NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams on March 8th

With Selection Sunday mere days away, I am going to ramp up the frequency of these bubble watch posts from here on out.  The last few conference tournaments start on Thursday, which will undoubtedly lead to plenty of movement among what remains a lengthy list of tournament hopefuls.

Just in case this isn’t enough to tide you over until the 2012 NCAA Tournament, you can always check out my latest power rankings and bracket projections.
tu-holloway--college-basketball-power-rankings

Can Tu Holloway and the Musketeers beat Dayton in what Andy Bottoms is calling "an elimination game"?

ACC

Miami (18-11, RPI: 56)

The Canes didn’t do themselves any favors by losing at North Carolina State last week, but they did bounce back to win a “can’t lose” game against Boston College on Saturday. With a 3-10 record against the Top 100, Miami can ill afford to lose to Georgia Tech in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Thursday. A win there would give the Canes another crack at Florida State, but they may need to make a run all the way to the finals in order to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday.

North Carolina State (20-11, RPI: 53)

The sweep over Miami is nice, but NC State is currently 0-8 against the Top 50 with a pair of sub-100 losses working against them. A run to the ACC Final would include wins over Virginia and North Carolina, but at this point, even that may not be enough for the Wolfpack.

Virginia (22-8, RPI: 40)

The Cavaliers could have moved to lock status with a win over Florida State last week, but they blew a late lead and lost on a last-second shot from Ian Miller. They then needed overtime to beat Maryland on Sunday, and Virginia still hasn’t beaten a tournament lock since November. Even so, the bubble is so weak that the Hoos are safe barring a Quarterfinal loss to NC State or Boston College and a wild series of events in other leagues.

Atlantic 10

Dayton (20-11, RPI: 73)

The Flyers picked up their 20th victory in the opening round of the A-10 Tournament, which sets up the rubber match against Xavier in what will likely serve as an elimination game.  Dayton does have eight Top 100 wins on its profile, but a few ugly losses are dragging them down, which makes Friday’s matchup with the Musketeers a must-win game.

Massachusetts (21-10, RPI: 80)

UMass handled Duquesne in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, which sets up a rematch with Temple in the Quarterfinals.  The Minutemen took the Owls to overtime on February 29th, and they need to win this game and get to the finals to have any chance whatsoever. That being said, nearly half of their 20 wins have come at the expense of sub-200 squads, so strength of schedule will be an issue. Even with five Top 100 wins, they are definitely a long shot.

Saint Joseph’s (20-12, RPI: 57)

The Hawks beat Charlotte in their opening A-10 Tournament game, and they will face Saint Bonaventure in the Quarterfinals, which gives them a chance to extract some revenge following a double-OT loss to the Bonnies last week.  They need to win that game to set up a potential matchup with Temple, who the Hawks defeated within the last couple weeks.  Saint Joe’s does have six Top 100 victories on their profile, but that probably isn’t enough unless they make the finals.

Xavier (19-11, RPI: 58)

Xavier needed a big second half to avoid a crushing loss to Charlotte to end the regular season, and Dayton’s first-round win sets up their third game against the Flyers this season.  They split the first two matchups, and while the Musketeers do boast six Top 100 wins, I think the Dayton contest is essentially an elimination game.

Big 12

Texas (19-12, RPI: 52)

The Longhorns split games with Oklahoma and Kansas to finish 9-9 in the Big 12. That sets up an important Big 12 Tournament game with Iowa State in the Quarterfinals, but with an 8-12 record against the Top 150, one win probably won’t be enough for Texas.

Big East

Cincinnati (22-9, RPI: 68)

The Bearcats picked up wins over Marquette and Villanova to finish 12-6 in the Big East. Five Top 50 wins would seem to make them a lock, but it’s still unclear how much they might be penalized for an extremely weak non-conference schedule.  After sitting out the first two rounds of the Big East Tournament thanks to a double-bye, Cincinnati will face Georgetown in the Quartefinals. A loss there certainly wouldn’t kill them, while another quality win might lock up a bid.

Connecticut (20-12, RPI: 34)

After Big East Tournament wins against DePaul and West Virginia, the Huskies appear to be in good shaping heading into a Quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded Syracuse.  With 10 Top 100 wins already under its belt, UConn would lock up a bid with an upset of the Orange, but they are likely safe either way.

Seton Hall (20-12, RPI: 55)

The Pirates took care of business against Providence in the first round of the Big East Tournament, but after coming up short against Louisville on Wednesday night, Seton Hall is in trouble.  They finished under .500 in the conference and are just 5-10 in their last 15 games, including ugly losses to Rutgers and DePaul.  I can certainly see them getting passed up by other bubble teams as the weeks goes along.

South Florida (20-12, RPI: 44)

Wednesday’s win over Villanova won’t move the needle on USF’s profile, but it was a game the Bulls could not afford to lose.  They now take on Notre Dame on the Big East Quarterfinals, and given South Florida’s 1-9 mark against the Top 50, I’m not sure they would be able to survive a loss.

West Virginia (19-13 RPI: 45)

The Mountaineers blew a double-digit lead and lost in overtime to Connecticut in their first Big East Tournament game.  That loss drops them a seed line, but since they have nine wins against the Top 100, the Mountaineers are still in the field for now.  They will be left to sweat out the remainder of the week though, which is never a good feeling.

Big Ten

Northwestern (18-12, RPI: 48)

The Wildcats suffered yet another crushing lost on a last-second shot by Ohio State, but they bounced back from a slow start to win at Iowa to finish 8-10 in the Big Ten. As of now, Northwestern is an ugly 1-10 against the Top 50, so even though they have no sub-100 losses, the Wildcats need to make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament. If they can knock off Minnesota in the opener, they would have another crack at Michigan, who the Wildcats took to overtime in both meetings this season. A victory there would be huge, but they may still need to do more.

Conference USA

Southern Mississippi (24-7, RPI: 17)

The Golden Eagles continue to limp to the finish line. They lost four of their final eight conference games and now have three sub-100 losses on their profile. They do, however, have nine Top 100 victories, but if they lose to East Carolina in the C-USA Quarterfinals, things may get dicey.

Pac-12

Arizona (21-10, RPI: 78)

At this point, the Wildcats probably need to win out after suffering a profile-killing loss to Arizona State over the weekend. At a minimum, they need to beat UCLA  and Washington to get to the Championship Game, which won’t be easy without suspended freshman Josiah Turner. They still have just one Top 40 win, and the bulk of their Top 100 wins came against teams ranked 85th or worse.

California (23-8, RPI: 37)

Once again, Cal came up short in a Sunday night road game, and they missed a chance to tie for the Pac-12 regular season title by losing at Stanford. They are currently 7-6 against the Top 100, but two sub-100 losses and the league’s completely unimpressive non-conference performance are keeping them from lock status at this point. If they can get to the finals, they are in. Anything less and things could get interesting.

Oregon (22-8, RPI: 51)

Wins over Colorado and Utah have the Ducks just outside the RPI Top 50, and their last three Pac-12 losses came by just nine points. Still, they have no Top 50 wins and are 5-7 against the Top 100. Nearly half of their victories have come against sub-200 squads, so the margin for error is slim heading into the Pac-12 Tournament. If they can beat Cal to make the finals, they have a chance. Otherwise, I can’t see them making it.

Washington (21-9, RPI: 54)

The Huskies backed into the outright title after losing to UCLA only to watch Cal fall on the road. While it’s tough to envision the regular season champ of a major conference getting snubbed, Washington is only 0-6 versus the Top 50, and 10 of their 21 wins are over sub-200 teams. Much like Cal, if they make the finals, I think they are in, but an early exit might leave them on the outside looking in.

SEC

Mississippi (18-12, RPI: 60)

The Rebels picked up their first Top 50 win of the season by beating Alabama on Saturday to stay alive. They now have seven Top 100 wins but are 10-12 against the Top 150. Consequently, they need a solid SEC Tournament run to improve their profile. Tennessee awaits in the Quarters if Ole Miss can beat Auburn in the opening round, but getting all the way to the finals is their best bet.

Mississippi State (21-10, RPI: 64)

After avoiding what would have been a terrible loss at South Carolina, the Bulldogs took care of Arkansas to finish at .500 in the league. As it stands, they have three Top 50 wins and eight victories versus the Top 100, but I don’t think they could withstand a loss to Georgia in the opening round of the SEC Tournament. A win there would lead to a Quarterfinal matchup with Vanderbilt, who the Bulldogs beat in their only meeting of the season. Win that one, and I think MSU is pretty safe.

Tennessee (18-13, RPI: 75)

There probably won’t be a more interesting case for the committee than Tennessee. Through the first 16 games, they were 8-8, but highly-touted recruit Jarnell Stokes decided to enroll early and suit up for the Vols. The team proceeded to go 10-5 over the remainder of the season, including victories in eight of their last nine to finish tied for second in the SEC. With a strong tournament performance, I could see the Vols working their way into the field. Their likely Quarterfinal opponent would be Ole Miss with Vanderbilt or Mississippi State awaiting them in the Semis.

Other

BYU (25-8, RPI: 47)

A 19-point loss to Gonzaga in the WCC Semifinals has BYU’s status in doubt. They are 2-6 against the Top 50 with just one win against the Top 45. One of their other “quality” wins came against Oregon before they had Devoe Joseph, and five of their six Top 50 losses came by double digits. Throw in the fact that 10 of their 23 D-I wins came against sub-200 teams, and things aren’t looking good for the Cougars.

Colorado State (19-10, RPI: 22)

The Rams kept their perfect MWC home record intact by beating UNLV last week, and they followed that up with their first league road win at Air Force. CSU boasts eight Top 100 wins and a high strength of schedule, so as long as they can avoid a loss against TCU in the Mountain West Tournament, I like their chances to get an at-large.

Drexel (27-6, RPI: 66)

After falling to VCU in the CAA Final, the Dragons will be sweating it out and rooting against bid thieves for the remainder of the week.  They went 25-2 over their final 27 games and won the outright regular season title, which in my eyes should be enough.  However, the fact that 15 of their wins have come against sub-200 teams certainly brings doubt into play.  Still, I think they belong in the field.

Iona (25-7, RPI: 43)

Sunday’s loss to Fairfield probably spelled the end for Iona. They do have five Top 100 wins, but they also have four sub-100 losses, including two against teams outside of the Top 200, to go with some good, but not great, non-conference wins.

Long Beach State (22-8, RPI: 35)

Saturday night’s loss at Cal State Fullerton spoiled a perfect Big West season for the 49ers. It also makes it imperative that they get to the title game at a minimum. The high strength of schedule is great, but LBSU is only 2-7 versus the Top 100. Again, I think they are worthy of a bid and could make some noise in the tournament, but the committee may see it differently if they don’t claim the auto-bid.

Middle Tennessee State (25-6, RPI: 59)

A Quarterfinal loss to Arkansas State dropped the Blue Raiders out of the RPI Top 50 and out of at-large consideration.

Oral Roberts (27-6, RPI: 50)

The Golden Eagles lost in the Summit League Semifinals to Western Illinois, and despite a gaudy win total, I can’t see them getting in.  Their best win came against Xavier when virtually half of its team was suspended.

**********

Follow me on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops, and check out the latest edition of the Bottoms Line podcast.



About Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms

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