Bubble Watch: 2/26/08
First, the recap:
Big Ten: Ohio State. The Big Ten’s weekly entrant in this column is one loss away from dropping out of the bracket. OSU is an abysmal 1-8 against the RPI Top 50. Fortunately, or unfortunately, for them they still have three opportunities to improve that record: @Indiana, H-Purdue, and H-Michigan State in the last two weeks of the regular season.
Pac 10: Arizona Wildcats. Arizona actually got a better split in Washington by losing to the Huskies but beating the Cougars. Folks, there is no way the #4 non-conference RPI team is not getting in with a .500 Pac-10 record. That means a win against Southern Cal at the McKale Center on Thursday and another in Corvallis next week.
SEC: Mississippi State Bulldogs. MSU is probably two wins away from lock status, despite losing to rival Ole Miss last week. They’re still only 2-7 against the RPI Top 50, but a win in either Nashville or Gainesville will erase any doubt still lingering in the Committee’s minds.
Big XII: Oklahoma Sooners. Got a critical season sweep of Baylor last week, but still not in the clear. The remaining schedule is not exactly easy, except for the home finale against Mizzou.
Big East: West Virginia Mountaineers. This team’s profile looks a lot like Syracuse’s 2007 profile to me. Two quality wins at home in early January, but no bad losses against a soft Big East schedule. The ‘Eers should take their first two contests in the Big East Tournament very seriously to avoid being passed by other Bubble teams.
ACC: Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The loss to UNC over the weekend put the Deacs at just 2-8 on the road–enough to keep them out of the bracket…for now. The home wins over BYU, Miami, and Duke are all going to get better, and with a road sweep of GaTech and VaTech, Dino Gaudio’s team may be Dancing.
A-10: Massachusetts Minutemen. One cannot underestimate the importance of UMass’ win at URI last week. Now back above .500 in the Atlantic 10, Travis Ford’s team has a fairly unstressful slate of games remaining and should head into the A-10 Tournament on a six-game winning streak.
Other: South Alabama. If any team’s fans have reason to gripe about this week’s bracket, it is those from USA. There simply should not be three seeding lines difference between Davidson and the Jaguars, although I suspect Bob McKillop’s team is playing slightly better ball right now. USA is dicey as an at-large, but looks good to win the Sun Belt Tournament regardless.
And now for this week’s teams:
People know where I stand on Ohio State, the Big Ten’s only Bubble team, so we’re going to add a second “wildcard” the rest of the way in 2008.
Pac-10: Arizona State Sun Devils. Herb Sendek’s team notched a very important blowout of Washington last weekend to get back to .500 in Pac-10 play. Despite a terrible RPI that has come about as a result of a dismal non-conference slate, ASU would be tough to deny if they can keep an even number of wins and losses. Impressive victories over two protected seeds (Xavier and Stanford) separate the Sun Devils from the rest of the Bubble.
SEC: Kentucky Wildcats. UK keeps racking up the impressive home victories in SEC play (Arkansas was the latest victim), but its non-conference RPI remains mired below 200 (the ‘Cats best victory prior to SEC play is #252 Liberty). A mediocre 3-6 R/N record is also troublesome. But completing a season sweep of #1 seed Tennessee in Knoxville Sunday would leave NO doubt that this is a different Wildcats team in March than it was in December.
Big XII: Texas A&M. Just when it looked like the Aggies were out of the woods, they head right back to the forest. Now 6-6 in conference play, the Aggies could very easily end up 7-9. Still remaining are trips to Oklahoma and Baylor, and a home finale against Kansas. And the Aggies’ only non-conference win over an at-large team may be slipping away as well, as Ohio State’s own chances of making the Tournament are plummeting.
Big East: Villanova Wildcats. Normally, I’m a completely unbiased observer, but it would be a terrible shame if the late-game call in D.C. affected a team’s entire postseason outlook. Jay Wright’s team dropped a critical home game to Marquette last night, and without a win at Louisville this weekend, their chances of an at-large bid are not good. But with a win, and two more to close the season, the ‘Cats would finish with a 7-3 record in their last 10 games.
ACC: Maryland Terrapins. Maryland has exactly one win over a proven Tournament team. Luckily for the Terps, it’s an awfully big one, and it happened in Chapel Hill. Now at 7-6 in the ACC, the Terps need to sweep their remaining slate (@Wake Forest, H-Clemson, @Virginia) to feel safe on Selection Sunday.
A-10: Dayton Flyers. Dayton will be one of the toughest teams for Committee members to vote on in three weeks. First, the good: non-conference wins AT Louisville, and over Pittsburgh and Akron, leading to a #6 non-conference RPI. Now, the bad: no Tournament-caliber wins since January 9, three sub-100 losses, and a 5-8 conference record. Even taking Chris Wright’s injury into account, the home game against Saint Joseph’s is a must-win, and a trip to the A-10 final is essential to be considered a strong at-large candidate.
Wildcard 1: Kent State Golden Flashes. As I sort of predicted three weeks ago, Kent got both the matchup and the win it needed in the BracketBuster. Now a strong 7-3 against the RPI Top 100, KSU needs to avoid bad losses at Bowling Green or at home to Miami. As long as the Flashes make the MAC Final, even a loss at rival Akron in the last game of the regular season would not doom their at-large hopes.
Wildcard 2: New Mexico Lobos. There’s a lot of buzz around Steve Alford this week, and it’s not just surrounding rumors about the open coaching position at Indiana. New Mexico has played itself back into Bubble consideration with a 9-4 Mountain West record, and home games still upcoming against UNLV and BYU. If UNM can win both, they’ll be a strong candidate. 1-1 would put them in the projected bracket next week, but probably not the most important one on Selection Sunday, unless they can beat either one AGAIN at the MWC Tournament.