The College Basketball Notebook

March 3, 2010 11:30 AM

Bubble Report

Let’s start today with some congratulatons. Syracuse took care of business last night against St. John’s and clinched its first outright Big East championship in nineteen years. Ohio State secured a share of the Big Ten crown. The Buckeyes are the odd Big Ten team off this weekend, so they only need hope for Purdue and Michigan State to lose one of their remaining two and they can get the whole thing for themselves. Nice way to spend a week. Now let’s get into the bubble report. I’m not making predictions here on who I think’s going to make it. First off, I’m licking my wounds after picking Illinois and Florida to win last night. Second off, when it comes to the criteria of the Selection Committee, I’d be just taking wild guesses. What I want to do here is to provide a framework of the landscape so we go into the remaining days of the regular season with a clear understanding of who is where. The Pomeroy ratings are used as the shorthand method for power ratings, though in reality the Committee digs a lot deeper than that.

There are eight conferences who are going to produce almost all, if not every one of the 34 at-large bids that are available. Of course that excludes the conference tournament champions. For the sake of discussion let’s assume those are as follows…

Big East: Syracuse
ACC: Duke
Big Ten: Ohio State
SEC: Kentucky
Big 12: Kansas
Pac-10: Cal
Mountain West: BYU
Atlantic 10: Xavier

So we presume these automatic bids will be won by either these teams or the ones who are already listed below as locks. There are also five other teams in conferences outside these eight which are strong enough to gain at-large consideration if they stumble. We’ll keep a close eye on them as they progress through their tournaments, as its unlikely that all five will survive unscathed and that could make life more uncomfortable for those teams fighting for the remaining bids:

Utah State (24-6, 22, WAC)
Butler (26-4, 29, Horizon)
UTEP (23-5, 34, C-USA)
Old Dominion (28-8, 39, CAA)
Northern Iowa (25-4, 45, Missouri Valley)
Gonzaga (25-5, 50, WCC)

Also keep an eye on St. Mary’s a WCC rival of Gonzaga, who is 24-5 and #53. We should note that anyone dropping into the 40s and 50s is at serious risk and when you consider that falling into the at-large pool by definition means that either the Zags or St. Mary’s lost one more game, I think the odds say the WCC will be a one-bid league.

So we start with 34 bids available to the rest of the Great Eight and assume that it will probably drop to at least 31 or 32 by the time upsets are completed. Now let’s fill them up with the locks.

Big East: Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, Pitt, Georgetown, Marquette (6). Note that the Golden Eagles are up to #19 in the Pomeroy rankings and have a 20-9 record. Can’t see them denied at this point.
ACC: Duke, Maryland, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech (5). Surprising that this league has so many, all in the Top 25 of the Pomeroys and it was even more surprising to see them ranked #1 in the Pomeroy as a conference. Note that the Big Ten was higher than most people expected in last year’s RPI rankings and outperformed expectations in March. Could Tobacco Road do the same this year?
Big Ten: Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin (4).
SEC: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee (3)
Big 12: Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Baylor, Texas A&M, Texas (6)
Pac-10: None
Mountain West: New Mexico
Atlantic 10: Temple

That fills up 26 bids right there and the field gets narrower. Now let’s go to the next step and add in a few more teams that we’re not ready to call locks, but are hard to see being left out…

Louisville (19-11, 41)
Oklahoma State (20-8, 43)
Mississippi State (21-8, 40).

Adding these three teams in brings us to pure bubble, with no more than five bids left, even if all goes perfectly when it comes to favorites winning league tournaments. Let’s see who’s left…

Notre Dame (19-10, 52)
UConn (17-12, 38)
Virginia Tech (21-7, 32)
Illinois (18-12, 51)
Florida (20-10, 48)
Ole Miss (19-9, 49)
Arizona State (20-9, 35)
Washington (19-9, 37)
UNLV (22-7, 31)
San Diego State (20-8, 46)
Richmond (22-7, 47)
Dayton (19-9, 33)

That’s 12 teams, with more than half guaranteed to be left out. Put in black-and-white we can see just how big the losses were for Florida and Illinois last night. And we can circle one big head-to-head matchup right now. UConn visits Notre Dame tonight (7 EST, ESPN), a juicy bubble busting game that’s a perfect appetizer for Duke-Maryland (9 EST, ESPN)for the ACC title.

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