Friday, January 16, 2015

Bubble Watch - Friday, January 16

Locks - Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Notre Dame
Since we did this last, Virginia has solidified itself as the consensus # 2 team in the country (and # 1 on KenPom!)  Duke was cruising along as well until this past week.  The second half against Miami was particularly shocking but their resume remains one of the most stacked in the country.  North Carolina is a shade ahead of Louisville because they beat them by a shade in Chapel Hill and played a considerably tougher nonconference schedule.  Notre Dame has an RPI that's still low for a 16-2 ACC team (43) but they've come a long way from when it was sub 200.  Right now "lock" is still defined as "top 6 seed" but it wouldn't be at all surprising if all of these teams are 6 seeds or better.
In - Miami, Syracuse, NC State
It's almost impossible to envision Miami missing the Dance after a 16 point win in Cameron but they do still have the 28 point Eastern Kentucky loss I'm so fond of mentioning as well as a loss Green Bay, whose RPI is slipping and slipping.  But as that home loss to the Phoenix gets worse, the win at Florida will continue to improve.
Syracuse hasn't lost since the collapse at Villanova but they've been living dangerously against their soft ACC slate so far and need to up their play before things get thorny in the next couple of weeks.  The Cal loss in MSG is now a sub 100 loss and the loss at Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is in danger of becoming one too.
NC State is one spot beneath the Orange in RPI (44 and 45) but is one of the last four in thanks to three losses since Christmas, although two of them were in a good performance at Virginia and a bad performance that they almost pulled out of the fire on Wednesday against UNC.  The Duke win was the signature victory their profile sorely needed though and they might very well be out of the field without it.
Out - Pittsburgh
They're not particularly close to the field right now - especially not after that ugly home loss to Clemson last Saturday - but they'll have their chances to play their way in to it.  The first one is at reeling Duke on Martin Luther King Day.

Locks - SMU
The Ponies have a top 15 RPI (but it's 15) but after that, their resume is surprisingly thin.  That win at Temple on Wednesday is probably the best win.  The losses are all to quality competition - @Indiana is the worst one by RPI - but all but one of them (@Cincinnati) came in November.  This team is heating up as the season goes on just like last year.
In - Tulsa
The Golden Hurricane get the autobid as they're the lone unbeaten in the conference after Tuesday night's impressive home win over UConn.  They'd be somewhere around the next four out (not last four out) without it and it's worth noting that their loss to Division 2 SE Oklahoma State won't even show up on the committee's nitty gritty sheets.  That's how you game the system - play Division 2 teams instead of sub 200 and especially 300 RPI teams.
Out - Cincinnati, Connecticut, Temple
Cincinnati lost at Memphis last night and it knocked them out of the field.  Like I just said they beat SMU on January 3 and that's a great add to their two pack of quality nonconference wins against San Diego State and at NC State.  Coach Mick Cronin continues to be sidelined and it remains to be seen if he'll be back at all and if he's not how the committee will treat his absence.
UConn had won 3 straight, including a useful win at Florida that should only improve, before Tuesday's loss but the 76 RPI is still way too high and 2-2 in this league isn't nearly good enough.  They won't be able to improve on it tomorrow night as they've got a bizarre cross country trip to Stanford but a win there would be more valuable than most possible league wins.
Temple has an RPI is just inside the top 50 (46) and they might be in the field if they had been able to beat Tulsa on Saturday and/or SMU on Wednesday.  They go to the Queen City tomorrow and could pass Cincy in the pecking order with a win.

Atlantic 10
Locks - VCU
Kansas is # 1 in RPI.  Kentucky is # 2.  Virginia is # 3.  And at # 4 are the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University.  Shaka's kids haven't lost since the Wahoos beat them on December 6 and the way they won at Rhode Island on Tuesday was true heart-of-a-champion stuff, particularly from Treveon Graham.
In - Dayton, George Washington
Dayton also hasn't lost since the first half of December when they lost at Arkansas and have a top 20 RPI (but it's 20.)  GW needed double overtime to ward off Richmond last night but they're just inside the top 40 of RPI (39) and the Wichita win in the Diamond Head final will hold up.  They'll be fine if they finish in the league's top 4.
Out - Davidson, Rhode Island
Rhode Island blew its best and very possibly only shot at a marquee win when they let a second half lead slip away in Kingston against VCU.  They would have likely been in the field had they held on but now it might be tough to find a way in unless Nebraska - their only nonconference win of any remote relevance - completely turns it around in Big Ten play.
Davidson is closer to the field at this point with a top 50 RPI (41) their 3 losses each coming to RPI top 10 teams and none of them were at home (and only UNC in Charlotte was a blowout - they played Virginia and VCU hard on the road.)  The problem is that their midweek win at UMass was their best and only top 100 RPI win but they'll get home shots at each of the top 3, starting with Dayton on Tuesday.

Big East
Locks - Villanova, Butler, Seton Hall
We knew Villanova was ahead of the rest of the field...but by this much?  All four of their league wins are by double digits and the lone loss was in OT at the Rock against the Pirates.  That should be the golden ticket for Seton Hall, not that they needed it with a resume that's easily tournament quality even without it.  Both they and Butler join the Wildcats with top 20 RPI's and the Bulldogs have a big bag of quality wins with almost all of them coming away from Hinkle Fieldhouse for good measure.
In - Providence, Georgetown, St. John's
The win sharing (not the baseball kind) going on in this league after the Cats is a good thing for everyone.  Each of these three has an RPI inside the top 35 and are well removed from the cutline at this point.  St. John's are probably the closest to it thanks to their 1-3 start to league play but winning at Providence on Wednesday should have stopped the bleeding with a trip to fallen-back-to-earth DePaul on Sunday before Marquette comes calling on Tuesday.
Georgetown is just 1-5 against the RPI top 50 but the Hoyas have two big chances to change that with Butler coming in tomorrow before Nova does on Monday.  They're another team with a Florida win (theirs came in the Battle 4 Atlantis) that will continue to improve.  That lone top 50 win was over Indiana in OT in an excellent game.
Providence has an ugly loss at Boston College and an even uglier 10 point home loss against RPI 222 Brown that's among the worst losses any at large has but winning at Butler and beating Notre Dame on a neutral floor in Mohegan Sun along with a nice bag of other top 100 wins more than cancel those out.
Out - Xavier
The Musketeers are one of the first teams out of the field because two of their 6 losses are sub 100 RPI and both should get worse as Auburn and DePaul sink to the bottom of their leagues (the Blue Demons should be a sub 200 loss soon.)  The split with Long Beach could be a problem as well with the win - as well as all of X's other good wins - was at home and the loss was at the Anaheim Classic.  They'll have plenty of chances to find their way in to the field starting with at Providence on Thursday after they should hold serve at home tomorrow against Marquette.

Big Ten
Locks - Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan State
Wisconsin were without Frank Kaminsky and Traevon Jackson got hurt during the loss at Rutgers so that will limit the damage of that loss for high seeding purposes in March.  Maryland continues to be relatively unimpressive in their new league but have won all their league games except for an acceptable loss at Illinois.  Michigan State hasn't lost since that double OT slog against Maryland, including a home blowout of Indiana that puts them ahead of the Hoosiers in the pecking order as well as a quality road win at Iowa.
In - Indiana, Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois
As stated, Indiana is behind MSU because of head to head but they're ahead of the Buckeyes thanks to last Saturday's grind-it-out home win when neither team played especially well.  The Butler win at the Crossroads Classic in Indy is a fantastic win and the home win over SMU is great as well.  The Eastern Washington home loss shouldn't become a sub 100 loss either, which is an added bonus.
Ohio State has a profile that is still shockingly thin and if they slip and fall anywhere near the bubble, their nonconference schedule is bad enough to keep them out Greenberg-style.  Exactly half their wins are against sub 200 RPI competition.  That's not good.
Iowa continues to be road warriors as the Hawkeyes have won in Columbus and also at Minnesota since we last did this to go along with the marquee win at UNC.  All five of their losses are top 50 losses, which is an underrated resume bullet point.
Illinois handled Maryland which makes for a nice backup marquee win after the Vegas triumph over Baylor that has matured exponentially since the time they got it.  They fall to the play in game however because SMU and Old Dominion are both eating at larges at present.  The Oregon loss in a semi home game in Chicago is a sub 100 loss at present and so is the loss at Nebraska.
Out - None
It's a pretty clear divide between the tournament teams and everyone else right now.  Of the rest, only Michigan and Penn State are inside the top 100 in RPI and they're 87th and 82nd.  The Wolverines have the small issues of home losses to NJIT and winless-in-the-MAC Eastern Michigan whereas the Nittany Lions haven't won a conference game yet.

Big 12
Locks - Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa State, Baylor
The sky isn't falling in Lawrence as Kansas hasn't lost since that embarrassment at Temple and sit atop the RPI like it seems like they always do because Bill Self is always down to play whoever.  West Virginia slightly ahead of the Cyclones despite the 2 point Iowa State win in Morgantown on Saturday thanks to slightly better nonconference work and no remotely questionable loss like ISU's defeat to South Carolina in Brooklyn.  And the Cyclones are slightly ahead of Baylor despite the Bears' 1 point home win on Wednesday (AND despite winning at South Carolina) because of no top 50 nonconference wins for Scott Drew's kids.  Does head to head mean nothing anymore?!
In - Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State has improved markedly since conference play began with close losses at Kansas and Iowa State and a win over Texas to surge in to a play in game.  The South Carolina loss by 26 is still a problem and the best nonconference wins are Tulsa (but they weren't even the only Oklahoma State to beat Tulsa!) and at Memphis (by 18) so their resume remains a work in progress.
Oklahoma has suffered two straight ugly defeats since their dominating blowout in Austin to knock them down a few seed lines but they still have nothing to worry about - for now.  The Washington loss has become less acceptable but it was still by a basket on a neutral court in Vegas.  The Creighton collapse - they led by 18 in the second half - is the bigger problem as it's about to become a sub 150 loss.
Texas has fallen from the 2/3 line to a somewhat precarious position, having lost two straight and seeing Cal completely falling off the map as a quality win.  That leaves only Iowa in MSG and a one point win over UConn, which should keep improving at least in terms of quality nonconference work.  They're still in comfortably though and will be more so if they can figure out how to win at home and beat West Virginia tomorrow.
Out - None
Like the Big Ten, all of the teams in are safely in and nobody who's out is remotely close.  TCU hasn't won a league game yet and has fallen all the way to 151 in RPI so yeah, their time here is up.  Kansas State has passed the Frogs with a 3-1 league start and a 124 RPI and it's not inconceivable the Wildcats can make a push towards the bubble.  Beating Baylor tomorrow and/or winning in Hilton on Tuesday would be a great start.

Missouri Valley
Locks - Wichita State
The Shockers aren't blowing everyone away but they're winning without too much trouble.  They've survived one of their biggest beartraps with a 14 point win at Loyola Chicago and another one comes tomorrow when they go to Evansville, who has already upset...
In - Northern Iowa
...these guys.  UNI had a 16 point lead but let it slip in a 52-49 defeat.  That's their only loss since the overtime war at VCU however and it's one of the better losses they could eat in league play.  They'd do well to avoid many others since they don't have the nonconference schedule strength the Shockers do but with an RPI of 21 they're still very safe.
Out - Evansville
Evansville has its home shot at Wichita tomorrow but with an 81 RPI they'll need to keep winning even beyond that if they want to make the field.  Loyola Chicago still has a superior RPI (59) but they've already lost at Northern Iowa and squandered their home shot at Wichita so they won't be dancing without the auto bid.

Mountain West
Locks - San Diego State
The Show suffered a shock loss at RPI 227 Fresno State but they rebounded to win impressively at Wyoming, leading the entire second half to restore their status as conference favorites.  They continue to struggle to score but they defend as well as they always do under Steve Fisher and the Utah win during the Tip Off Marathon has blossomed about as much as possible.
In - Colorado State
The Rams lost the Border War at home to Wyoming last week, survived a shootout at Air Force over the weekend and then pounded Nevada in to the ground, leading 55-12 at the half and winning by 58 (!!)  They're exactly one spot behind the Aztecs in RPI (25 and 26) but they still lack a top 50 RPI win.  Colorado continues to disappoint in Pac-12 play and yet the 2 point win in Boulder is probably still the Rams' best win.  They're dangerously close to the cutline despite the gaudy record and strong RPI.
Out - Wyoming, New Mexico, Boise State
Wyoming is 13-3 and have looked the part of a tournament team all season but the RPI is barely inside the top 100 (95) and that's because of a strength of schedule that ranks 248th in the country.  They too have been hurt by Colorado's struggles as the 56-33 home win over the Buffs was their best win until they won in Fort Collins last week and they will rue this week's missed home shot against SDSU as well as the 3 point loss at Cal, which has unfairly become a sub 100 loss.
New Mexico is slightly better in RPI (85) and also beat Colorado State although it was at The Pit WisePies and furthermore they lost at Grand Canyon (RPI 241) and have two other sub 100 losses.
Boise State actually has a higher RPI than both (64) but they're just 9-6 overall.  Oh and UNLV has fallen outside the top 100 of RPI (103) having dropped four of their last 5.  Predictably, they're wasting that Arizona win.  A real shame that that's not Wyoming's win.

Locks - Utah, Arizona
Utah has usurped Arizona atop the league even before their showdown in Tucson tomorrow.  That'll happen when U of A loses at Oregon State, although the Beavers - like most of the rest of the bottom of the league - have improved considerably in recent weeks.  Utah still hasn't lost since that wild game against Kansas in KC but the nonconference wins are nowhere near good enough for 1 seed consideration.  Still, a 2 is an incredible ceiling considering where this program was at the start of 2012.
In - Stanford
The Cardinal were cheering hard at DePaul's 3-0 Big East start but that was predictably a mirage and that loss will continue to be an albatross.  The only loss since Christmas was that double overtime game at UCLA where Chasson Randle was excellent everywhere except for the foul line.  Big next two games for them though with an odd nonconference tilt with UConn coming to town tomorrow night before Arizona comes calling on Thursday.
Out - Washington, UCLA
From a 3 seed in the last bracket the day after Christmas to out of the field now.  It's been an inexplicable, stunning collapse for Washington, who dropped four straight including two sub 100 losses and that's not including the loss to Stony Brook.  They handled Oregon State last night but that's not enough to get them their spot back.  Beating Oregon tomorrow then winning at Colorado next Thursday might be.
UCLA had a four game losing streak of its own on either side of the new year but none of the losses were sub 100 and they've won three straight including the aforementioned Stanford win.  There still aren't very many wins to get excited about and while none of the losses are sub 100, there are 7 of them.  That's a lot.

Locks - Kentucky
They're still unbeaten but barely, needing one overtime to get by Ole Miss and two to survive at Texas A&M last Saturday.  Three of the next four are on the road and the toughest of those could be tomorrow at Alabama but after pulverizing Missouri in midweek, confidence should be as high as ever.  
In - LSU, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama
Since when did the SEC get so deep?!?  Not much has changed with the first three with LSU and Arkansas both beating Georgia to stay ahead of the Dawgs, who at least beat K-State at the Octagon on New Year's Eve and the blowout of Seton Hall continues to look great.  Alabama hadn't lost since the collapse at Wichita back on December 16 until Tuesday by a deuce at South Carolina.  In between, they added wins over UCLA, Texas A&M and a dominant second half defensive performance at Tennessee in which they held the Vols scoreless for virtually the final 13 minutes.  They're the last team in the field at present.
Out - Tennessee, Florida, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, South Carolina
That loss to the Tide is the only loss for Tennesse since the December 17 loss at NC State and Tuesday's win over Arkansas was big but the Vols are just on the outside.  They get squeezed by Old Dominion and SMU taking up at larges and while the Butler win is nice, the only other top 100 RPI win is Texas Southern.  The Arkansas win is nice as well but at some point, they're gonna have to do something away from Knoxville.  Simply adding road wins would help and they've got back to back trips to Missouri and South Carolina coming up.
Florida has won its first three SEC games since the own goal loss to Florida State (which may end up keeping them out of the tournament as FSU flounders in ACC play) and the four point home loss to UConn.  They're rounding in to form with back to back home blowouts of overmatched Mississippi State and Auburn and their next two are huge: tomorrow at Georgia before LSU comes in Tuesday.
The Kentucky game wasn't Ole Miss' only top 20 RPI road miss since we last did this as a furious second half comeback came up short at Dayton back on December 30.  Western Kentucky is playing well but Charleston Southern isn't and will likely be a sub 200 RPI loss sooner than later.
Texas A&M has the best RPI of this group (57) but still no top 50 wins.  Their resume is shockingly similar to UCLA's and both even have losses to Alabama and Kentucky.  At least the Aggies were a lot (I mean A LOT) more competitive with # 1?
South Carolina has an RPI barely inside the top 100 (93) and is only here because of its Brooklyn win over Iowa State and its 26 point blowout of Oklahoma State that has improved greatly since they got it.  It did beat Alabama on Tuesday but still has a lot of work to do.

Locks - Gonzaga
The Zags got their toughest battle in conference play last night, winning by a bucket at surprise package Pepperdine.  Saint Mary's comes in next Thursday and if the Zags win that, it'll be a shock if they lose again before the rematch on Senior Day in Moraga on February 21.  They're the overwhelming favorite for the 1 seed out West.
In - None
Out - BYU, Saint Mary's
BYU is much closer to the field thanks to a 23 spot edge in RPI and three of their 5 losses being to top 25 RPI teams.  Unfortunately the other two are sub 100 losses to Purdue in Maui and at home to Pepperdine.
Saint Mary's has exactly one top 100 win and a sub 200 loss to Northern Arizona.  These two play in Provo tomorrow and if SMC doesn't win that, they won't be here next time we do this unless they pull a shocker at the Kennel next Thursday.

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