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Bubble Watch: How Maryland Stacks Up

The mantra of Maryland's past few games was something along the lines of "Get to 8-8 and win one in the ACC Tourney; the bubble is weak enough and the ACC is good enough for that to be enough to get into the NCAA tournament." In the past few hours, the idea has changed a little - it's a bit more alarmist, a little bit more needs to be done. I still contend that wins over NCSt and UVa, when combined with a win in the ACCT, will be enough. That's not to say that Maryland can't win out and win one or two in the ACCT, because they can, but it's overkill.

31 teams get into the tourney through an automatic bid. Every year, someone who wouldn't get in if they hadn't won their tourney gets in, and the committee still takes the winner of that conference, because their resume was good enough to warrant it (I believe it happened to Butler a few years ago). Let's assume that happens once. That means 32 spots are already taken. Then there's another about 20 (actually, exactly 20 is my count) of teams that are pretty much certainties to get in: teams like Pitt, Missouri, Clemson, Syracuse, even Texas, etc. That's 52 spots taken. That leaves thirteen more spots for the taking.

By my calculations, there are about 23 teams with realistic chances fighting for those 13 spots. A few of them are pretty certain to get in. I count seven teams that, barring something strange, will likely get in (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Boston College, Tennessee, Ohio St., Texas A&M, and South Carolina). These teams could still blow it - they're barely in, but they're more comfortable than the final six teams.

The rest of the bubble is made up of Penn State, St. Mary's, San Diego St., BYU, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Temple, UAB, Oklahoma St., Michigan, Miami, UNLV, Providence, Rhode Island, and USC. Most of these teams will have to win a big game to get in, which is doubtful in many instances. For example, I doubt UAB will topple Memphis, and I don't think OKSt will beat Oklahoma. They're possible, but they aren't likely.

Maryland's in a good position that they don't need to do this. Win the games they should, and they'll be very enticing. Penn State and Kentucky have a worse RPI and SoS than Maryland, which isn't common (Maryland's numbers aren't great, though they're not horrible). St. Mary's is missing their star guard. Virginia Tech has a few huge losses (Seton Hall, anyone?) and may not even be .500 in ACC play. Others, like BYU and Cincinnati, have had a lot of trouble against the Top 50, getting almost no quality wins. Texas A&M, despite a very convincing resume, may end up below .500 in a weak Big 12.

Maryland isn't a lock, but out of those 17 teams fighting for 7 spots, their resume is one of the better ones. A strong SoS, only one loss outside of the Top 50 (which is to a team currently leading their conference), two Top 10 wins, and, if they can pull it off, a .500 record in basketball's premier conference is definitely enough to get in.

Obviously, anything like this right now is ultimately useless. We can't predict what will happen - maybe Notre Dame wins out and plays themselves in, maybe Maryland loses their next four games. But, unless something crazy happens, Maryland is looking great right now. It's quite a transformation from a few weeks ago, when a lot of people (me included) were looking forward to a 4 seed in the NIT.