I remember back when my close friends used to call me JimBro Lunardi, aka Bracketologist Junior. Since my grade school days, I have always been that weird kid trying to predict the bracket before the bracket even started (just ask the REAL Joe Lunardi, that it is very hard to do). Well guess what? I’m still trying! Here is my spill for the rest of the season’s Bubble Watch. (Only games up to Thursday March 6th are included).
To start, I made a list of “20” possible bubble teams for “13” possible spots. (This does not include possible 1-bid leagues: MVC: Wichita State, WCC: Gonzaga).
Locked In Teams
Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, UCONN, SMU, SLU, VCU, UMASS, Virginia, Syracuse, Duke, UNC, Kansas, Iowa St, Kansas st, Texas, Oklahoma, Creighton, Villanova, Michigan, Michigan st, Wisconsin, Ohio st, Iowa, San Diego st, New Mexico, Arizona, Ucla, Arizona st, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky.
Simple and easy for the 1st year of the AAC. The top 5- Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis, UCONN, and SMU are in and the rest of the conference is really bad.
This should be a 5-Bid league. George Washington and Saint Joseph’s appear to have done enough to push their way into the tourney, barring a meltdown into the conference tournament, but the Dayton Flyers are the lone floaters left with a backdoor shot to squeeze into the Last Four In.
George Washington - RPI-24, BPI-37, SOS-82: The Colonials are carrying their big non-conference win over Creighton heavily, but they have no bad losses. Their worst loss is either (in the same early season tournament against Marquette or @LaSalle). Take your pick this team looks like a solid 9-10 seed that may not make a ton of noise, but could play a lot of higher seeds very close in the Third Round matchups if they get past their first opponent.
Saint Joseph’s - RPI-36, BPI-55, SOS-64: The profile does not scream great, but they have a close loss to a very good Creighton team at home. Their best win comes in Atlantic-10 play against either UMASS or VCU. The Hawks do have one ugly loss on their resume against Temple, but in-city rivalry games are always tough. They have rallied off 8 wins in their last 10 and look poised to make a solid run in the A-10 tourney. Look for a 10-11 seed for the Hawks.
Dayton - RPI-44, BPI-54, SOS-46: Right now the Flyers are smack dab on the bubble predominately due to the amount of bad losses. Losses to USC (@home), to Illinois State, and @Rhode Island are negating their wins against Cal and Gonzaga earlier in the year. A big win against Saint Louis on Wednesday was huge. I still would like to see one more win against a tournament team next week, but after Wednesday their hopes of dancing have become more realistic.
Virginia is a great story, Duke is always solid, Syracuse has finally lost a few games, but they will find their stride come tourney time and WATCH OUT FOR UNC!. I’ll post it here first before my predictions come out, but these are my current national champions. They are playing as well as anyone in the country currently and proved earlier in the season that they could beat the best. This is a bubble article though and there are bubble teams in this conference as well. Pitt and Florida St. come to mind when I think about the bubble, as for NC State, not yet unless they make a run to the ACC finals.
Pittsburgh - RPI-50, BPI-17, SOS-94: Oh Pittsburgh, the perfect description of the we should’ve/could’ve team. So many close losses to good teams, Congratulations! Guess what they are 4-6 in their last 10 and the last time (and only time) they beat a legitimate tournament team was November 26th in a neutral court matchup against Stanford. Not impressed. I would recommend playing for a few days in Greensboro next week to solidify their standing. 10-11 seed currently.
Florida State- RPI-59, BPI-43, SOS-60: The Seminoles have an average non-conference schedule with wins over A-10 tourney teams VCU and UMASS, but besides that their highlights end. A couple close losses to top-10 teams (Florida and Michigan) improve their eye test, but not their numbers. A win at home against a slumping Syracuse on Saturday would be huge, but a semifinal showing in the ACC tournament is recommended. Right on the bubble line as of today.
5 teams are in (Kansas, Iowa St., Kansas St., Texas, and Oklahoma) and now we are down to 2 teams looking for a spot. Oklahoma State and Baylor are appearing to play themselves back into the tournament after slow starts.
Oklahoma State - RPI-38, BPI-19, SOS-35: There are not too many conferences that you can be sitting at 4-9 in conference play and still have any sort of a level of confidence to make the big dance, but in the tough Big 12 with a prospective top-10 draft pick you can never count yourselves out. One shove, one suspension, and four wins can take you a long way when it involves a sweep of the Kansas schools. A win in Ames, Iowa would help a long way in seeding, but barring back-to-back losses in the next two games, Marcus Smart will have his shot to prove himself in this year’s tourney. 9-10 seed.
Baylor - RPI-45, BPI-44, SOS-8: The win over Kentucky is looking worse, but all the Baylor Bears need to do is rack up wins like they did on Tuesday against Iowa State. A win on Saturday would lock them in, but one win in the Big 12 tourney should lock them in anyways. 10-11 seed currently.
“The Catholic 7”…. Who would have thought this is how year 1 of the new big east turned out. The down years for most of the perennial stalwarts have left this new league looking very empty. Creighton and Villanova have had outstanding seasons and are guaranteed a spot. The rest of the conference looks very bleak. Xavier, Providence, St. Johns, and Georgetown are still hanging around, but I can’t see the Big East having any more than four teams in this year’s tournament.
Providence - RPI-52, BPI-53, SOS-79: One key win against Creighton accompanied by splits with all the other bubble teams and no bad losses leave the Friars with an interesting case. A soft schedule as well might be working against them. They do still have a game looming at Creighton on Saturday and a season sweep would do wonders, but I currently have the Friars as one of the first teams missing out.
St. John's - RPI- 63, BPI-46, SOS-50: I am beginning to feel like I am repeating myself. St. Johns only notable win was at home against Creighton, but their next win would probably be against Providence. They are 7-3 in their last ten games. I would recommend avoiding a loss Saturday at Marquette and at least reaching the semifinals of the Big East Tournament with a close loss to one of the big two. A trip to the finals may book them a trip into the first four in, but right now it seems to be too little too late for the Red Storm.
Georgetown - RPI-58, BPI-64, SOS-14: Wins over Kansas State, VCU, Michigan State, and Creighton make this seem to be a good profile, but those wins quickly get covered up by bad losses to Colonial Member Northeastern and a season sweep by Seton Hall. A road game this Saturday against an already regular season clinched Villanova looms and could get them back into the right side of the discussion. I still see the Hoyas just missing out this year without an impressive run in the conference tournament.
A Great conference at the top with Michigan, Michigan St, Wisconsin, Ohio st, and Iowa looking solid so far. Iowa is slipping, but not far enough to play themselves out of an NCAA berth. That leaves Minnesota and Nebraska as the only two legitimate bubble teams left.
Minnesota - RPI-49, BPI-56, SOS-4: The Golden Gophers do not have any blemishes on their non –conference resume and do have two solid wins at Richmond and against Florida State. Big Ten play tells a different story though. Two home losses to Northwestern and Illinois as well as a 3-7 record in their last ten games have Minnesota sweating. The committee loves a great strength of schedule just as much as they despise slumping teams at the end of the year. I still have Minnesota sneaking into the last four in as of today, but they need to avoid a bad loss at home to Penn St. on Sunday as well as getting at least one win in the Big Ten tournament.
Nebraska - RPI-43, BPI-62, SOS-42: Nebraska is being carried by a win three weeks ago at a depleted Michigan State squad. A few bad road losses to Penn st. and Purdue in conference play accompanied by an early season to UAB have the Cornhuskers sweating it out. They have been hot lately, partially by a softer than usual late Big Ten Schedule. That being said, 8-2 in their last ten games still has to open the selection committees’ eyes. A win on Sunday against Wisconsin can begin a celebration in Lincoln otherwise a win or two in the Big Ten tournament is needed. I currently have them just off the bubble line.
This has been a very competitive conference all year. Arizona looks prime for a big run, UCLA has been a comfortable conference #2 all year, while Arizona State and Colorado seem to have done enough solidify their resume. Three Bubble teams remain to make this a six-bid league: Oregon, Stanford, and Cal.
Oregon - RPI-33, BPI-23, SOS-43: An undefeated, but bland, non-conference schedule turned dim after a horrid 3-8 start to conference play. For the most part the Ducks still avoided any resume killing losses, but they were still short on wins. They have seemed to solve that problem by rattling off six straight wins headed into Saturday’s showdown against #3 Arizona. Barring two losses to end the season the Ducks should find themselves on the 9-10 line with solid computer numbers.
Stanford - RPI-48, BPI-38, SOS-21: Stanford’s resume does not scream impressive, but it seems to have enough bulk to get into the tournament. A non-conference win at UCONN paired with solid conferences at Oregon and at home against Arizona St. and UCLA should be enough. There is a little reason to worry with three straight losses (albeit to tournament teams), but a win at home against Utah should be enough. I have the Cardinal solidly above the cut line with a 9-10 seed.
Cal - RPI- 56, BPI-65, SOS-41: A hot 5-0 start in conference play has quickly cooled off to a 4-6 record in the last ten games. Bad losses at USC and UC-Santa Barbara are also dirtying up this resume. They still have the home court win over then #1 Arizona in their back pocket, but a win at home Saturday against Colorado is definitely needed. Cal is right on the bubble line and needs a good showing in the Pac-12 tournament next week.
U.G.L.Y. is the perfect description for this Football first conference. It is always a problem when the 3rd place team in the conference, Georgia, is not currently being considered for an at large bid. Florida has been Dominant and Kentucky has been hit and miss, but other than that there isn’t much to be proud of. Nevertheless there are three teams that still have a chance to hear their name called on selection Sunday: Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri.
Tennessee - RPI- 51, BPI-36, SOS-16: An absolute blowout of a surprisingly very good Virginia Squad is all that this non- conference schedule has to offer. In conference, no wins jump out at the eye as impressive. Also, a sweep at the hands of Texas A&M and a loss at Vanderbilt can only hurt. Huge would be an understatement to describe the matchup on Saturday at home against Mizzou. A win and a semifinal trip may be enough, but it will also be enough to still be nervous in Rocky top. Right on the bubble.
Arkansas - RPI- 47, BPI-33, SOS-83: Wins over SMU and Minnesota paired with no bad losses is all to their non-conference slate. In conference play the Razorbacks are 8-2 in their last ten games and also have a season sweep of Kentucky. A win on Saturday at Alabama and two wins in the conference tournament could be enough for the razorbacks, but they can make life a lot easier with a semifinal win over Florida or Kentucky. Just above the last four in as of right now.
Missouri - RPI-54, BPI-41, SOS-91: A win over UCLA is all they have to carry from the non-conference schedule. The 2-6 road record in conference play could scare the committee away. They have swept Arkansas and won at home against Tennessee so a clean sweep of the SEC bubble counterparts could make the selection committee reconsider. Missouri will be in must win mode on Saturday in Knoxville and in the SEC tournament to prove to the committee that they can win outside of Mizzou Arena. Work left to do.
Gonzaga should be in, But BYU is still very bubbalicious.
BYU - RPI-31, BPI-45, SOS-25: A tough non-conference schedule with wins at Stanford and against Texas. The bad losses on the road in conference play make BYU very questionable. 5-7 in true road games is a bad number and the Cougars better guarantee a trip to the finals to keep their hopes alive. Any loss other than to Gonzaga in the finals will find BYU in the NIT. Right on the bubble.
As much as I love mid majors and love upsets this year’s tournament will be absent of many, if any, at large candidates.
This will be one of the most exciting conference tournaments of the season. Five very solid teams in Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, Tulsa, Mid Tennssee State, and UTEP have had great years. Their at large hopes are busted though by the size of the conference and the amount of downright dreadful teams near the bottom. Stay tuned to this Mid Major action. My selection for the Auto-bid is TULSA.
Green Bay is a team to watch out for if they can get into the big dance. Their conference is much worse than the norm, but the Phoenix can flat out ball. They will make a 4/5 seed very nervous when the pairings come out next Sunday.
Wichita State doesn’t have a blemish yet to their record, but the rest of conference is putrid to say the least. I Think the winner of the 3-6 matchup between Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois will give the shockers all they want in the finals to steal a bid.
My Current bubble list for these 20 teams looking for the magic 13 slots:
1. George Washington
2. Oklahoma State
6. Saint Josephs