Bubble Watch: Tournament Breakdown

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Right now, much of Maryland's fate rests on what the rest of the bubble does. With a few strong finishes, Maryland - even if they get to the fabled 8-8 + 1 - could be left out (though I still find it unlikely). That being as it is, I decided to look at what the bubble looks at right now.

I ended up getting 52 bids that are already locked down. These bids are either tournament winners (for instance, whoever wins the America East conference tourney will be the bid - no team has a good enough resume to get in otherwise) or schools that have it locked down (UConn, UNC, etc.).

That leaves 12 spots for the taking, but one will inevitably be stolen by a team that doesn't deserve to get in winning their conference tourney and stealing a bid. I divided up the bubble into two sections: normal bubble, and the bad side of the bubble. The latter are teams that are either making a late push but will have to have an incredible finish (Northwestern) or have harder roads (Tulsa, New Mexico). They aren't out yet, and a few will get in, but it's just going to be harder. I ended up counting 14 normal bubble teams, with another 7 on the bad side, adding up to 21 total. That means about half of the bubble teams will get in.

Check after the jump for a full breakdown of teams.

My locks are as follows:

Am. East Winner Missouri Big West Winner Cal
Xavier UConn CAA Winner UCLA
Dayton Pitt Memphis Washington
UNC Louisville Butler Arizona
Duke Villanova Ivy League Winner Patriot Winner
Wake Marquette MAAC Winner South Carolina
Clemson Syracuse MAC Winner LSU
Boston College West Virginia MEAC Winner Tennessee
Florida State Big South Winner MVC Winner SoCon Winner
Atl. Sun Winner Big Sky Winner Utah SWAC Winner
Texas Illinois NEC Winner Sun Belt Winner
Oklahoma Michigan St. OVC Winner Gonzaga
Kansas Purdue Arizona St. WAC Winner

The bubble teams are listed below in alphabetical order, with a summary of their position (normal bubble separated by the longshots):

BYU - 23-6, 11-4, RPI 18, 39 SoS, 4-5 vs. Top 50 - BYU just beat Utah, which really helped them, but their resume is a bit too weak to call them locks just yet. They're close, but just one stumble would knock them out.

Florida - 21-9, 8-7, RPI 52, 96 SoS, 2-6 vs. Top 50 - Florida lost their last three, and the slide really hurt their chances. The schedule is too weak to lose another game. They play Kentucky to close out the year, in what could be an elimination game.

Maryland - 18-11, 7-8, RPI 58, 19 SoS, 3-8 vs. Top 50 - Yes, the numbers are middling, but the majority of the bad losses came earlier in the year. The two killers are the conference record and the big wins - those are the two stats that no other bubble team can match, and will likely be the x-factor come next Sunday.

Michigan - 18-12, 8-9, RPI 47, 11 SoS, 5-9 vs. Top 50 - Michigan, like Maryland, has some very good wins (Duke, UCLA), but since Big 10 play started, they've been average. A .500 record in an average conference will hurt them. Worse, they lost to many of their conference foes who are also on the bubble: they were swept by Ohio State and Wisconsin. The game against Minnesota to close the season could very well be a play-in game.

Minnesota - 21-8, 9-8, RPI 32, 43 SoS, 5-6 vs. Top 50 - Minnesota seems like a lock, at least their numbers do. 20+ wins, a good RPI, decent SoS, and a good record against the Top 50. Why are they here? They're  5-7 in their last 12, and just 3-5 in their last 8. The committee doesn't like teams that finish poorly. If they beat Michigan in their last game of the year, they're a lock.

New Mexico - 20-10, 11-4, RPI 63, 84 SoS, 4-5 vs. Top 50 - The Lobos are fighting for the #1 spot in the MWC, which could turn some heads on the committee. The computer profile is a bit weak for my taste, and they have to overcome three sub-100 RPI losses, but if they win 2 or 3 in the MWC tourney, they have a shot.

Ohio St. - 19-9, 9-8, RPI 40, 32 SoS, 5-8 vs. Top 50 - More Big 10 bubble teams. Is the entire conference on the bubble? tOSU has lost four of its last six, which is not a recipe for success. They just snuck by Iowa by two points - a loss could've been devastating. Much like Minnesota, they just need to right the ship - a win over Northwestern is pretty much a lock.

Oklahoma St. - 20-9, 9-6, RPI 24, 10 SoS, 4-8 vs. Top 50 - Oklahoma St. came roaring out of nowhere to get into contention, having won their last six games. The computer profile is there, as is the play. Some committee members may be questionable because they came onto the show late, but one or two wins in the B12 tourney would lock them in.

Penn St. - 20-9, 9-7, RPI 66, 111 SoS, 5-9 vs. Top 50 - Penn State has the record, but they accumulated most of those wins before Big 10 play started. Most of the wins were against a horrible OoC conference, so they may need to win out to have a chance. They play tonight against Illinois - I'll update after the game is decided.

Rhode Island - 22-8, 11-4, RPI 48, 132 SoS, 2-5 vs. Top 50 - Doug Gottlieb apparently thinks the Rhodies are more deserving of a spot than the Terps, which I disagree with for a multitude of reasons, the biggest being their strength of schedule. They'll probably need a good A10 tourney to get in.

Saint Mary's - 24-5, 10-4, RPI 49, 181 SoS, 2-2 vs. Top 50 - St. Mary's has some interesting predicaments - first, they're trying to schedule another game to boost their resume, and second, their star player, Patty Mills, is currently injured. The committee won't like the average numbers, especially if the star of the team isn't there. If Mills gets healthy and they have a good WCC tourney, it's a possibility.

Texas A&M - 22-8, 8-7, RPI 35, SoS 51, 4-4 vs. Top 50 - The Aggies have a decent computer profile, but they really came on the scene just recently with six straight wins. Most of the opponents were underdogs, though, so they need one more quality win to feel confident. That means they either need a win over Missouri or two wins in the B12 tourney. They could get in without either, but I wouldn't bet on it.

UNLV - 21-8, 9-6, RPI 50, 92 SoS, 5-3 vs. Top 50 - The biggest pro for the Rebels is clearly their record against the top 50 - that includes a 4-1 record against the top 25, easily the best for any bubble team. They have a few bad losses, though, which could be crippling. They season finale against SDSU will likely be a play-in game for the Big Dance.

Virginia Tech - 17-12, 7-8, RPI 62, 29 SoS, 2-7 vs. Top 50 - Virginia Tech is in big trouble after losing five of the last six, especially with their computer profile and losses (Georgia, Seton Hall). They need one more big win to grab a bid, meaning they have to win a road game against Florida State - no easy task. 

Wisconsin - 18-11, 9-8, RPI 31, 6 SoS, 4-9 vs. Top 50 - Wisconsin doesn't have anything too damning on their resume, which is a big plus. They were swept by Minnesota, which could be big, but their strength of schedule should overcome that. As long as they finish out halfway decent, they're in.

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Creighton - 25-6, 14-4, RPI 38, 110 SoS, 1-0 vs. Top 50 - Creighton very well could win their conference tournament, but if they don't, it'll be close on getting a bid. They need to get to the second or third round to really have a chance, simply because the schedule is so weak. Only playing one game against the top 50 should tell you enough.

Kansas St. - 19-10, 8-7, RPI 76, 96 SoS, 3-5 vs. Top 50 - Kansas St. lost the proverbial play-in game against Oklahoma St., which really hurt hem. They're computer profile is very weak, but they could still get in with a great B12 tournament (three wins, likely). A long shot, but still a shot.

Kentucky - 19-11, 8-7, RPI 78, 71 SoS, 3-5 vs. Top 50 - The only reason Kentucky is still considered to have a chance is because they're Kentucky. The committee likes a legacy, and they aren't so revolting as to have no chance. If they beat Florida, they're revived for the SEC tournament, and if they win two there, they could sneak in.

New Mexico - 20-10, 11-4, RPI 63, 84 SoS, 4-5 vs. Top 50 - The Lobos are fighting for the #1 spot in the MWC, which could turn some heads on the committee. The computer profile is a bit weak for my taste, and they have to overcome three sub-100 RPI losses, but if they win 2 or 3 in the MWC tourney, they have a shot.

Northwestern - 17-11, 8-9, RPI 70, 64 SoS, 6-8 vs. Top 50 - This one's for you, Andy Katz. Northwestern has come on very hot lately, and they always love hot teams. Again, the computer numbers are bad, but they have more Top 50 wins than any other bubble team and are smoking right now. It's unlikely, but they're getting some consideration.

San Diego State - 20-8, 10-5, RPI 46, 70 SoS, 2-6 vs. Top 50 - SDSU's SoS and Top 50 record will probably kill them, but they are 10-5 in the top-heavy, competitive MWC, which is impressive. They probably need to be UNLV and get at least one in the MWC tourney, which is completely possible. I wouldn't bet on it, but it could happen.

Tulsa - 20-9, 11-4, RPI 60, SoS 89, 2-6 vs. Top 50 - Tulsa is pretty much the CUSA version of Northwestern. They're 9-3 in their final 12, and though the numbers aren't great, they aren't killer. They probably need to get to the C-USA finals, but the conference isn't very competitive and they're playing great right now. As long as they aren't on Memphis' side of the bracket, they could steal a bid.
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My guess on who exactly gets in? If I had to pick now, the eleven spots go to Wisconsin, Minnesota, BYU, Oklahoma St., Texas A&M, Maryland, UNLV, Florida, Virginia Tech, Rhode Island, and San Diego State (yeah, I know they're a longshot. So what?). What's your guess?
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