Friday, December 26, 2014

Bubble Watch Friday - December 26

Welcome to Grip's Anatomy of the Bracket - Boxing Day edition.  If you just want to look at the bracket itself, it's in the post beneath this one.  I'll be shooting for two brackets in January before we go weekly in February but first, the autobids and bubble watch for today's field.

Automatic Bids

These are all the one bid leagues that do not have a second team on the Watch.  For now, autobids are determined by a combination of highest RPI, highest KenPom ranking, best record and preseason polls with defending champions getting the benefit of the doubt.  Once we get deeper in to conference season, things will shake themselves out more and the criteria will be simpler.

America East - Stony Brook.  Vermont has fallen under .500 - in fact, it's only the Seawolves, UMass-Lowell (RPI down to 140 from 66 though!) and New Hampshire (HUH?!?!) who are above .500 in this league.  Of those three, Stony has the highest RPI, has most of its losses are to power conference teams and is the preseason favorite.
Atlantic Sun - Florida Gulf Coast.  Dunk City had a horrible home loss to FIU (no longer coached by Isiah Thompson) and just got blown away at Iona last Monday.  Meanwhile USC Upstate has added a win at Mississippi State and also performed well at Maryland, which is a good sign even if the latter was a weird 11 AM tip.  North Florida gave Iowa a run as well and this looks to be a legitimate three horse race.  SIX spots separate the three in RPI (North Florida has the best at 146) though Dunk City still is 20ish spots ahead of the Spartans and 40ish on the Ospreys in KenPom.
Big Sky - Eastern Washington.  The Eagles sandwiched near misses at unbeaten Washington and two loss Cal with....a 24 point loss at Sam Houston?!  What?!  But they're almost in the top 100 of KenPom (102) and nobody else is in the top 200.  Their RPI is a surprisingly high 40 with Portland State (?!?) second in the league at 184.  They're a large favorite.
Big South - Coastal Carolina.  High Point, Radford and Gardner-Webb.  That's three - count 'em, THREE Big South teams in the top 100 of RPI.  Those three are *also* in the top 200 of KenPom along with the Chanticleers, who are the only ones in the top 150 to go with their 141 RPI.  Also they're the only ones to 9 wins (the other three each have 8) and are the defending champs.
Big West - UC Davis.  Big West ahead of Conference USA in conference RPI AND on KenPom?!  That was utterly unthinkable even just a couple of years ago.  Five of its eight teams are inside the KenPom top 200 which is incredibly impressive for a league that's mostly pulled down 15's and 16's over the years.  The Alan Williams Project is still the only KenPom top 100er despite its 5-6 record but it's the surprise package Aggies who have lost only at Idaho, are the only top 100 RPI team (84) and - along with fellow surprise package Hawaii (who lost by a point to Wichita in OT then beat Colorado in the Diamond Head Classic) - are the only two to 9 wins.  The Beach is still gonna be a factor and so will UC Irvine once Mamadou N'diaye gets back to health.  This should be a lot of fun.
CAA - Northeastern.  But it's Hofstra who has the highest offensive efficiency and William & Mary is right there as well.  The other two were supposed to be title contenders but the Pride are ahead of schedule under Joe Mihalich; already to 7 wins after only getting 10 all of last season.  Everyone else is clustered together (all are projected between 9-9 and 8-10 in league play on KenPom, which sounds impossible) and it's not out of the question that someone (JMU?  Towson?) could emerge.
Ivy - Harvard.  If Yale had any at large hopes (it didn't) those are now gone after losing at home to Albany.  Columbia looks a decent third wheel and even Princeton's starting to show signs of life.  It won't be a walk in the park for the Crimson.
Horizon - Green Bay.  They've relinquished their RPI crown - they're 38th now - but they still look to be marginally ahead of 12-2 Valpo (3 of those wins are vs non Division 1 teams.)  Detroit hasn't won - or even looked remotely competent at the game of basketball - since losing the second half home lead against Wichita and Cleveland State continues to be arguably the most disappointing low major thus far so right now this looks like a two horse race.
MAAC - Canisius.  Could come down to their defense vs Iona's offense.  The two are both inside the top 100 of RPI with the Gaels at 79 and the Golden Griffins at 96 (everyone else is 183 or worse.)  Truthfully Iona's the favorite especially now that its offense seems to be really kicking it in to high gear but they're 1-1 in the league while the Buffaloans are 2-0.
MAC - Buffalo.  *These* Buffaloans still have the glitch RPI - though it's down from 22 to 27 - and they're still tops in the conference in KenPom.  Of the other contenders, Central Michigan made a big statement last week by dominating at Northwestern and they're 8-1 with the only loss at Bradley.  Only Ohio, Miami Ohio, Northern Illinois and Ball State are below .500.  This will be a very, very competitive conference.
MEAC - North Carolina Central.  Norfolk State has won 5 of its last 6 with the lone loss in OT at Mount St. Mary's and Hampton has also won 5 of 6 with its loss a lot more respectable, if not as competitive, at Illinois.  Could be another three team race with all three (and 4-10 South Carolina State) at 2-0 in conference play but the Eagles are still the only top 100 RPIer and top 150 KenPomer.
NEC - St. Francis (PA).  No, they're not the Forgotten Five one - that's NY.  Yes, they've joined Sacred Heart as an above .500 team in this conference and win the "beat Rutgers" tiebreaker between the two.
Ohio Valley - Belmont.  Yes, Eastern Kentucky won at Miami (FL) by 28.  They are also under .500 for RPI/committee purposes since they're 6-5 with two non D1 wins.  Still, it looks likes them, Murray (who has finally come to play) and the Bruins.  Worth noting that two of the Tennessees - Martin and Tech - are surprisingly to 7 wins as is Jacksonville State.
Patriot - American.  LE-HIGH LE-HIGH has thrown its hat in to the ring with a triple OT win at Arizona State, perhaps replacing Holy Cross who has lost 4 of 5.  Like last time, Lafayette has the best profile with the only top 100 RPI and a 6 spot lead on the Eagles in KenPom but like last time, the defending champions gets the benefit of the doubt.
SoCon - Wofford.  Losing by 33 at West Virginia was really disappointing after winning at NC State thanks to a waived off buzzer beater and the general existence of Karl Hess, but it's still them and everyone else.  They might be the biggest favorite in the one bid leagues.
Southland - Stephen F. Austin.  Incarnate Word is ineligible for the auto bid, which makes me just want to give up hope on life.  That leaves Sam Houston State - who did blow out Eastern Washington and also has single digit losses at Texas A&M and LSU - to challenge the Jacks.  The rest of this league is absolutely dreadful though, with the bottom half especially bad.  It's ranked ahead of only the SWAC and MEAC on KenPom.
Summit - South Dakota State.  They're the only ones inside the RPI top 150 and the only ones to 9 wins.  North Dakota State, who's one spot behind KenPom-leader-but-under-.500 Denver, is the only other team to 7 and whoever gets this bid looks to be staring down a 16.
Sun Belt - Georgia State.  It's worth noting though that Georgia Southern is 7-2; Louisiana Lafayette, UT Arlington and Texas State are all to 6 wins and # 3 in KenPom/5-4 Arkansas State won handily at Mississippi State last week.  The Panthers are still the clear favorite but the others might not be as bad as previously thought.
SWAC - Texas Southern.  Alabama State is actually the only one left who's ineligible for the auto bid.  Good to see the league not ravaged by APR restrictions like it has been recently but it's too bad the only team who is looks to be the second best team in the league.  That leaves Southern as the top challenger to Mike Davis' boys, who finally got him his first ever win at Michigan State as you probably already knew.
WAC - New Mexico State.  This league is last in conference RPI.  Dead last.  Being beneath the SWAC in conference RPI is IMPOSSIBLE but there they are.  Grand Canyon and Seattle are the only two .500 teams.  I repeat, Grand Canyon and Seattle are the only two .500 teams.  NO ONE is top 200 in RPI with the Aggies the best at 213.  It's gonna be weird potentially seeing them in a play in game after consistently getting 13's in recent years.

Locks - Duke, Virginia, Louisville, North Carolina
The top 3 will each be in the conference title and 1 seed hunt all season long and it's very possible the league gets two 1 seeds.  The Cardinals can give their chances a huge boon by beating Kentucky tomorrow.  The Heels will comfortably make the field but a 3 seed might be their ceiling given the traffic ahead of them in their own league.
In - Miami (FL), Notre Dame, NC State, Syracuse
No one in this group is comfortably in after the Canes lost by twenty eight (28) to Eastern Kentucky on their home floor.  They drop an almost-unbelievable four seed lines but are still ahead of everyone else here.  The Irish still have a sub 100 RPI but it's also up about 100 spots from the last Watch.  Syracuse missed a massive chance for a signature win at Villanova and will be in serious danger of missing the tournament if they mess around early in conference play.  Not much has changed with the perpetually bubbalicious Wolfpack, who get bumped to the play in for the second year in a row with George Washington's win over Wichita State.
Out - Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech
No change with the Panthers either, who will likely need a marquee win or two in ACC play to make the field.  Boston College is replaced here by the Yellow Jackets, who are 8-3 with a 44 RPI and would be in the field had they won at Dayton last Saturday.  Their best win is in-state rival and fellow bubbler Georgia but the Dawgs have even better computer numbers and don't have a home loss to South Carolina Upstate, which is why they're in the field and the Ramblin Wreck are not.

Atlantic 10
Locks - VCU
Jumping FIVE seed lines since the last bracket on December 8 sounds crazy but a lot of teams in front of them backslid while the Rams beat three tournament teams. They now have the 3rd best RPI and the toughest schedule in the country.  That will change come conference play but a dominant regular season title could net them a protected seed.
In - Dayton, George Washington
Holding serve against former coach Brian Gregory keeps the Flyers in the field.  Beating Texas A&M and thus getting to play Connecticut instead of Charleston in Puerto Rico will continue to pay dividends as the season goes on.  They host Ole Miss on Tuesday in what could turn in either to a decent win over a team that beat fellow bubblers or an ugly loss to an SEC bottom feeder.  The Colonials missed their shot at Wichita in the Diamond Head final and each of the four losses are to top 40 RPI teams but the best win being Colorado in the Diamond Head semi isn't enough beat Wichita to win the Diamond Head Classic and that vaults them all the way to a 9 seed.  It's a much better win than anyone on the 10-12 seed lines has and they also have much stronger computer numbers than those teams.
Out - Rhode Island, Davidson
Losing at Providence knocked the Rams out of the field and while a number of major conference profiles have strengthened, their Nebraska win has slowly decomposed and they're fallen further away from the field.   The Wildcats are 8-1 against the 248th ranked schedule and the best win is Charlotte but the only loss is UNC and they have a 71 RPI so they're worth keeping an eye on for now.

Locks - SMU
The Ponies will be hoping Michigan gets it together in Big Ten play so last Saturday's win in Ann Arbor will end up with some merit.  For now it's a modest addition to the modest collection of wins that is Eastern Washington, Wyoming and UC Santa Barbara.  This team would be right on the cutline if they didn't get the auto here.
In - Cincinnati
The San Diego State win got them over the line and while I'm not totally sure if the committee will give consideration to the fact that their coach missed the VCU loss with an aneurysm, I'm going to from here on out (if only because I've always liked Mick Cronin.)  The bigger problem is the OT loss at Nebraska which is already turning in to an albatross.
Out - UConn, Temple
The Huskies showed decently against Duke in East Rutherford and will probably end up in the field sooner rather than later.  Beating Temple on New Year's Eve would help and the Owls are here after shockingly pulverizing Kansas on Monday.  The UNLV loss also got a lot more acceptable this week.  Too bad the one to Saint Joseph's didn't and won't.

Big East
Locks - Villanova, Butler, St. John's
The Wildcats are still unbeaten after the wild comeback against Syracuse and honestly look like they should win this league by multiple games and get yet another 2 seed.  The Bulldogs look like they played over their head in Atlantis but that's just what Butler does in tournaments.  They'll be good to go if they finish .500 or better in league play.  The Johnnies continue to impress and with a 22 RPI, they're absolutely in the hunt for a protected seed with a strong conference season.
In - Xavier, Seton Hall, Georgetown
X lost in overtime at Auburn, which could be an utterly crippling loss if they're sweating on Selection Sunday.  Even in the present day the 9 seed I gave them might be generous - they're probably out of the field with a home loss to Georgetown on New Year's Eve.  The Hoyas escaped a Charlotte upset bid last Saturday and are barely in the field themselves.  Like Xavier, Seton Hall had an ugly loss to an SEC team last weekend but at least Georgia is a fellow tournament team and the Pirates unbeaten start and strong computer numbers keep them the best positioned of this group.
Out - Providence, Creighton, Marquette
North Texas is 259th in RPI.  Prairie View A&M was able to beat them but the Bluejays weren't so that's really, really not good.  Providence got back in to the field last update by beating Rhode Island after falling out for losing to Brown by 10...and then got kicked out again by George Washington upsetting Wichita State on Christmas night.  Marquette has joined the Watch but has a sub 200 RPI loss of their own to Nebraska-Omaha.  At least their Georgia Tech win from the Orlando Classic has matured a bit.

Big 12
Locks - Texas, Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, West Virginia
The top two ate some really disappointing losses last week, with Stanford winning at Texas and Kansas getting shockingly blown out at Temple.  They'll probably still fight it out for the conference title and each get top 3 seeds.  The Cyclones could possibly join them, especially on the evidence of the past couple weeks in which their offense has hit 90 twice and 80 twice more.  The Sooners continue to have close and late problems stunting their growth but they remain a very good team.  The Mountaineers are also good although will likely go as only as far as Juwan Staten takes them.
In - Baylor, TCU
TCU's only in because there's no way the committee's leaving out an unbeaten power conference team at this juncture.  The second they lose, they probably fall out of the field.  Their RPI is 82 which is unthinkable seeing as how they haven't lost and the two best wins are the Mississippi SEC schools.  The Bears - like the other 5 - are comfortably in at this point and as the top 7 seed just missed the cut for lockdom.
Out - Oklahoma State
The Cowboys are 8-2 with an RPI just inside the top 50 (47) but the 25 point loss at South Carolina is always going to look ridiculous and they weren't nearly as competitive in a 9 point home loss to Maryland as the final would indicate.  They'll have plenty of chances in conference play though.

Big Ten
Locks - Wisconsin, Ohio State, Maryland, Minnesota
Right now, it's the Badgers and everybody else.  They'll be in the hunt for a 2 and it would take everything breaking right for more than one other school to get a protected seed.  Ohio State's RPI is SIXTY SEVEN right now, in large part because the only remotely decent nonconference win is Marquette.  My Terps have given themselves a fair amount of breathing space going in to their inaugural Big Ten campaign with semi away and away wins at Iowa State and Oklahoma State and the former could very well end up being good enough to boost their seed up a line by itself.  The Gophers are like a poor man's Ohio State with Georgia the lone nonconference win of any note.
In - Michigan State, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana
What a catastrophic weekend last weekend was for this group save for the Hoosiers, whose offense hummed in a Crossroads Classic upset of Butler.  There were murmurs that this year's Spartan outfit could be the first Izzo team to miss the tournament since the Neolithic Era and that's officially in play (if it wasn't already) with the loss to Texas Southern.  Iowa looked utterly dreadful in the Big Four Classic, failing to get to 50 against Northern Iowa but that's a very acceptable loss at present and the win at UNC could end up being their bubble trump card.  The Illini are actually the best positioned of the four at the moment since they're the only one with no bad losses (Oregon's the worst although Miami has gotten a lot worse) and a top 50 RPI.
Out - Penn State
The Nittany Lions actually have a better RPI than everyone in the above group (39) and they're 12-1 but it's against the 181st ranked strength of schedule and the loss to Charlotte isn't great and could turn ugly as the 49ERS 53 RPI inevitably starts to sink.  They did what they needed to do to give themselves a fighting chance going in to league play though and Pat Chambers is clearly taking that program in the right direction.

Conference USA
Locks - Old Dominion
The Monarchs would absolutely have an at large case if they didn't have the auto bid.  They're 10-1 with an RPI of 12 (!!) and the 31st ranked strength of schedule.  Those numbers will drop, but they've beaten VCU, LSU on a neutral floor, Georgia State in what should remain a top 100 RPI win and one or both of William & Mary and Richmond could end up there too (the Spiders are almost top 50 at present.)  An outright regular season title with 3 or less losses might - might - be enough if they slip up in the tournament.  This will be worth watching.
In - None
Out - UTEP
The Miners would be right at the cutline if they had pulled the upset of Arizona but as it stands they're a fair ways out.  The Xavier win in the Anaheim Classic might help in bubble comparisons.  The New Mexico State loss will hurt with everything.

Missouri Valley
Locks - Wichita State
Thanks to Nebraska being terrible, the Shockers got trapped in a no-win road game at Hawaii in the Diamond Head semifinal but barely survived in overtime.  They didn't survive GW in the title game and that further cements the fact that their seed likely tops out at 3 this year.
In - Northern Iowa
The Panthers have earned their 5 seed line jump with a hard fought double OT loss at VCU, a dominant win over Iowa at the Big Four Classic in Des Moines and a top 10 RPI with a top 50 SOS.  As long as they don't stub their toes too many times in conference play, they should be good to go - particularly if they can split with Wichita.
Out - Loyola Chicago
The fact that the Ramblers are even here is amazing and what a job Porter Moser (great name!) is doing in the Second City.  The RPI is just outside the top 50 (52) and they just won the Las Vegas Classic, dominating Texas Tech before slogging through against Boise State.  It's almost assuredly not happening but why not give them some recognition?

Mountain West
Locks - San Diego State
The OT loss at Cincinnati was a bummer and could cost them a protected seed, which is particularly important for them as it greatly decreases their chances of landing in the West.
In - Colorado State
It actually might not be fair to them that they're a seed line beneath Northern Iowa (and they don't even have a loss) but dominating Iowa in Des Moines is more impressive than scraping by at Colorado by 3.  More importantly, the Rams have yet to prove themselves against a top team like the Panthers did at VCU.  There are also wins over UTEP, The Alan Williams Project (Alaska final) and Georgia State but meh.
Out - Wyoming, Boise State, UNLV
Wyoming also has Colorado as a best win.  The good news is theirs is by 23 and they held the Buffs to 33.  The bad news is there's absolutely nothing else except for an RPI of 135.  I had them in when I did the first rundown of in/out but they may not even be close right now.  UNLV wouldn't be here if not for the Arizona win, which if nothing else gives them a puncher's chance heading in to conference play.  Boise's profile reminds me of Illinois a little bit but with a loss to Loyola Chicago in Vegas instead of a win over Baylor in Vegas.

Locks - Arizona, Washington, Utah
Arizona's loss to UNLV loss gives Gonzaga the lifeline it needed to grab the 1 seed out West.  Those two will jockey for it all season long.  Washington added yet another great victory to its chest by winning in Vegas against Oklahoma.  Utah could end up kicking itself for not beating Kansas in KC, particularly if they're a seed line or two lower than they thought they'd be in March.
In - Stanford, California
The OT win at Texas gets the Cardinal in to the field and at the very least cancels out the DePaul loss (which still should have never, EVER happened.)  I thought Cal was more comfortably in than they probably are but the only two losses being to Wisconsin and Texas are a sufficient safety net for now.
Out - UCLA, Oregon
Two of the last four out.  Basically, both have a worse version of Cal's resume but with more/worse losses and a sub 100 RPI.  The fact that they're even close to the field is a sign that we might have a really bad bubble for the 19406th year in a row.

Locks - Kentucky, LSU
Kentucky's one of the greatest teams in college history when it has it all going.  Arkansas was ahead of LSU but upon second review, their profiles are pretty similar but the Tigers winning at West Virginia stands out.  They'll be rooting for Bob Huggins' boys to perform well in the Big 12 to increase the shine on that win.
In - Arkansas, Georgia
The Hogs are still more comfortably in than the Bulldogs but that Seton Hall blowout was a really nice chip to add to the resume and got UGA in to the 8/9 range for now.  If the Dawgs get the 2 seed in the SEC Tournament again, it's almost impossible to see them missing the tournament.
Out - Florida, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi
Oh jesus.  It goes without saying that the middle of this conference is a mess and your guess is as good as mine in determining basically the 5 through 12 seeds in the conference tournament.  The Gators are in the first 4 out and probably should emerge from this group once they get everyone together and rolling.  After that?  The Aggies were in the December 8 field but last Saturday's loss at the Octagon made sure they weren't in this one.  South Carolina wouldn't have any business being here if they hadn't thrashed Oklahoma State and handled a Clemson team that a number of their peers lost to.  Alabama might very well be in if it hadn't completely collapsed at Wichita but it did.  And Mississippi has a shockingly decent profile - especially considering its good wins are on neutral courts - but there's just that small problem that they lost at home to Charleston Southern and Western Kentucky.

Lock - Gonzaga
Arizona's shock loss at UNLV enables the Zags to take the top seed in the West from them.  They've added a convincing win at UCLA to their profile since we last did this and that may come in handy if the Wildcats slip up at Pauley Pavilion in Pac-12 play.
In - None
Out - BYU
That Purdue loss in the 5th place game in Maui might really come back to haunt the Cougars.  It's the only thing keeping them out of the field right now, especially now that they've added a Stanford win to the ledger and then that Stanford win went and got much better late last week.

Last 4 In
Dayton, Stanford, Cincinnati, N.C. State

Last 4 Out
Providence, Florida, Oregon, UCLA

No comments:

Post a Comment