NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch: 2/6/08
First, a review of last week’s Bubble teams:
Big Ten – Ohio State Buckeyes. Ugh. Bucks had a chance to solidify their profile last week, but lost at a scrappy Iowa. We’re now starting the all-important “Last 10 games,” and as bad as the Big Ten is this year, Ohio State’s schedule is pretty rough. If they can get to 11-7 in conference play, that should be enough, but 12-6 would be even better.
Pac-10 – Oregon Ducks. Yawn. An easy home win over a lackluster Oregon State team doesn’t exactly reinvigorate the Ducks, but an all-important return date with Stanford looms Thursday night. Cooling off the Pac-10′s hottest team would go a LONG way towards an at-large bid. (Note to Ernie Kent: if the game is close, FOUL MITCH JOHNSON. He might be the worst clutch free throw shooter in the Pac-10.)
SEC – Mississippi State Bulldogs. Not a good week for the Starkville faithful, whiffing on winnable games at Arkansas and at home to Tennessee. The losses dropped MSU to 2-7 against the RPI Top 100: not good enough for an at-large.
Big XII – Texas A&M Aggies. Any questions? Now on an impressive four-game win streak, A&M seems to be back among the Big XII’s elite. A date in Columbia with surprising Missouri will tell us if the Aggies have learned to take their show on the road.
Big East – Villanova Wildcats. Looks like Joe Lunardi may have been right after all (about this team, anyway). ‘Nova hasn’t won since January 23rd, and things don’t get any easier with Seton Hall and Georgetown upcoming. It’s now or never for Jay Wright’s team.
ACC – Miami Hurricanes. The ‘Canes didn’t look like a Tournament team against Duke, but my opinion of the Devils is rising rapidly, too. The middle of the ACC is weak enough this year that Miami could still get to 9-7, but they’ve also got to get a true quality win somewhere along the line.
Atlantic-10 – St Joseph’s Hawks. An impressive game in the Big Five matchup with Villanova, but as of this writing, the Hawks are laying an egg (if you’ll forgive the pun) at Duquesne tonight. A much bigger game will take place in Cincinnati on Sunday, however…
Wild Card – MAC – Kent State Golden Flashes. Well, KSU got my wish, anyway, granted a trip to St Mary’s by the BracketBuster Committee. The bad news is that the Flashes lost to RPI #187 Toledo this week. The next real challenge is Ohio on the 16th, and if Kent can beat the Bobcats AND Gaels, I’d put their at-large chances at 60-40.
Now, onto this week, taking a look at some of your suggested Bubble teams!
Big 10: Indiana Hoosiers. Before you spit your morning coffee all over your laptop, consider these facts about IU:
- # of Top 100 RPI wins since December 1: 1 (Minnesota)
- RPI: 39 (10+ slots behind true bubble-dwellers Massachusetts, UNLV, and Clemson)
- Upcoming schedule (@Illinois in a HUGE rivalry game for Illini fans, @Ohio State, H-Wisconsin, H-Michigan State, H-Purdue).
IU hasn’t been tested the entire season, and could very easily lose the next five games. I’m not saying it’ll definitely happen, just don’t be shocked if it does.
Pac 10: California Golden Bears. Count me among those who had counted the Golden Bears out of the NCAA discussion before their trip to the Evergreen State last week. Now, with a near-guaranteed home win against the Beavers on Thursday night, they’re back at .500 in Pac-10 play. Yours truly will be at the Oregon game on Saturday for one more first-hand analysis of both teams…the question is, will any Committee members?
SEC: Arkansas Razorbacks. Few teams had a better week than Arkansas to start February. At 5-2 in the SEC West, John Pelphrey’s team is just about off the Bubble. In a good way. Tournament-quality wins include N-VCU, H-Oral Roberts, N-Baylor, H-Mississippi State, H-Florida. If Arkansas can go 2-1 in its next three (H-Ole Miss, @Tennessee, @MSU), I don’t see many scenarios in which it fails to make the NCAAs.
Big XII: Baylor Bears. Again, a bit of a stretch to consider the Bears a Bubble team, but the Big XII is beginning to sort itself out pretty evenly. We covered Oklahoma in an earlier edition of the Bubble Watch, and A&M last week, so BU is here by default. Scott Drew HAS to be the favorite for National Coach of the Year at this point, but there are still plenty of tough games in the next five (@Kansas, @OSU, H-Texas, @Oklahoma, H-Kansas State). Baylor’s gotta get to 10-6 to feel completely comfortable on Selection Sunday, though their Neutral win over Notre Dame at the Virgin Islands Tournament should carry a lot of weight.
Big East: Seton Hall Pirates. Maybe the second-biggest surprise in the Big East this year (UConn’s gotta be the biggest, right?), Seton Hall has gone .500 against a tough Big East schedule. Road games at Villanova and at West Virginia in the next two weeks will be key to the Pirates’ postseason hopes, since the last five games offer only one opportunity for a statement win (H-Syracuse).
ACC: Clemson Tigers. I wrote last week that Miami is looking like this year’s Clemson. Well, Clemson might be this year’s Clemson also. The jury’s still out on Oliver Purnell’s team. Good wins at Mississippi State and at home against Purdue give some beef to the Tigers’ non-conference resume, now the trick is to stay above .500 in conference. Clemson still has to go to Chapel Hill, College Park, and Raleigh, as part of a schedule that includes only three home games the rest of the way.
A-10: Duquesne. By popular demand, we take a look at the Dukes! Fresh off a major win over Saint Joseph’s Wednesday night, DU still has games at Dayton, Xavier, and Charlotte to prove itself to the Selection Committee. But there’s nothing to speak of on Duquesne’s non-conference profile beyond close losses to Drake and Pittsburgh, so I’d advise the Dukes to win the A-10 Tournament if they want to be Dancing.
Other: UNLV. Do NOT forget about Lon Kruger’s team on Selection Sunday. The Rebels are 6-1 in an underrated Mountain West Conference and have exactly zero losses to teams outside the RPI’s Top 100. A regular-season sweep of BYU might be good enough on Selection Sunday; to complete that feat, UNLV will need to win in Provo on Saturday the 16th. Even without a sweep, a 14-2 conference record and a trip to the MWC Final would be tough to deny.
That’s it for this week; I look forward to more of your comments!