NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams – 01/29/07
This week, we’re going to focus on the Missouri Valley Conference, where things are heating up not only in the conference race, but in positioning for the NCAA Tournament. There is simply no way to predict which teams will hear their names called on Selection Sunday at this point.
Southern Illinois has all but locked up a bid with its top 10 RPI ranking, neutral-court win over Virginia Tech, and .500 conference road record. The other five teams in contention (see below) can essentially be thrown in a hat
The only safe assumption at this point stems from the fact that the MVC’s RPI rating will finish at the 4-5 level. Based on historical bracket data, it’s reasonable to assume The Valley will receive a minimum of three, and perhaps as many as five, total bids this year.
In this high-stakes game of musical chairs, there could be as many as three teams on this list left standing when the music stops…
Next two games: at Bradley, at Drake
Not only do the Bluejays hold the best record against the RPI Top 100 of the teams on this list (9-4), they’re currently tied for the conference lead with SIU. Now that Nate Funk and Josh Dotzler are healthy, CU has to be considered a favorite to make the Big Dance as an at-large. Two road wins this week would really put the ‘Jays in great shape.
Next two games: at Drake, at Indiana State
Though the Bears stand just 8-8 against the RPI’s top 100, they are the only team to beat Wisconsin yet this year, a feat which may stay unmatched right through Selection Sunday. MoState bounced back to beat Bradley after losing at home to Creighton earlier in the week. Two wins this week would get their conference road percentage back above .500 – a nice juicy statistic at which you can be sure the Committee will take a hard look.
Next two games: Wichita State, at Evansville
If UNI misses the Tournament, the game they’ll look back on with the most regret is Tuesday night’s contest in Carbondale, where they nearly became just the second Valley team to beat the Salukis at home in six-plus years. Instead, the Panthers followed that loss with another at Drake and now find themselves behind the eight-ball hosting a desperate Wichita State this week. A 6-3 Top 100 ranking looks good on paper, but the marquee wins just aren’t there for new coach Ben Jacobson.
Next two games: Creighton, at Illinois State
Bradley’s RPI took a beating this week, which featured a home win over anchor-like Illinois State, and a loss at Missouri State. The Braves are just 5-7 versus the RPI Top 100 and simply must find a way to beat conference leaders Creighton this week or Southern Illinois on the road next week for any hope at an at-large bid.
Next two games: at Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois
The Shockers are only 7-6 versus the Top 100, and their two marquee non-conference road wins (@LSU, @Syracuse) aren’t as marquee as they used to be, thanks to their opponents’ slippage onto the bad side of the Bubble. WSU’s next two games will either give them momentum to make a great late-season run, or condemn them to the NIT.