Friday, February 13, 2015

Grip's Bubble Watch - Friday, February 13

Locks - Virginia, Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Notre Dame
Justin Anderson going down for the next 4-6 weeks potentially reopens Virginia's 1 seed for business but they've survived their death stretch, are still 2 games up on the pack and four of the next 5 are at home.  Duke exacted the most brutal of revenge on Notre Dame before surviving at Florida State on Monday to get back on the 1 line.  Louisville came up just short in the slugfest at Virginia on Saturday but rebounded to handle Pittsburgh and the Tar Heels struggled throughout at BC but got off the snide last Saturday.  The Irish struggled to shake off the 30 point drubbing at Cameron, needing to come from behind (again) to win at Clemson on Monday.  These five are more adrift of the rest than they have been all year - they're three clear of the rest of the tournament eligible teams.
In - None
Out - Pittsburgh, Miami (FL), NC State
Pitt missed its first big chance to add something to the Notre Dame win and close in on the cutline by losing at Louisville on Wednesday but two more come tomorrow against UNC and then Monday at Justin Anderson-less Virginia.  They might still be closer to the field than the Canes and Wolfpack, who are seemingly racing to see who can fade the fastest.  Miami would be losers of 5 straight if Clemson could've completed their comeback by scoring more than 2 points in the final 5 minutes on Sunday and NC State would be on a six game skid if not for Trevor Lacey's buzzer beating 3 in OT at Georgia Tech a couple weeks ago.

Locks - SMU
The Mustangs went to Tulsa on Saturday night and pretty much controlled things throughout.  Then they handled Houston last night while Golden Hurricane were getting utterly humiliated at Connecticut to fall a half game back.  SMU hosts those same Huskies tomorrow night in front of College GameDay.  They would be wise to pass the eye test in that one.
In - Temple, Cincinnati
Temple's convincing 75-59 victory over the Bearcats on Tuesday - their 6th straight win - puts them ahead in the pecking order.  The top of their resume is better than Cincy's (Kansas win) and so is the bottom (no loss to East Carolina) but the Bearcats still have more meat in the middle so these two should remain close to one another.
Out - Tulsa
And the Golden Hurricane finally have come crashing down to Earth.  Losing the top of the table showdown with SMU was fine but losing 70-45 at Connecticut was not.  They're now just 3-5 against the RPI top 100 and that's not good enough when your strength of schedule is 106, you lost to Oral Roberts and you also lost to Southeast Oklahoma State.

Atlantic 10
Locks - VCU
This is just depressing.  They're now 1-3 without Briante Weber and are now in a four way tie for first in the conference but the good news is that the RPI is still in the top 15.  They won't miss the field but if they don't turn it around, they're gonna find themselves in an 8/9 game.
In - Dayton
The Flyers lost an OT heartbreaker at the buzzer at George Washington last Friday but slogged through at Saint Louis on Tuesday.  Three of their next four are at home against bottom half teams and the road game is at Duquesne before they go to Richmond to play reeling VCU.  They need to be thinking regular season title.
Out - Massachusetts, George Washington, Rhode Island, Davidson
That's right, UMASS is at the head of the line here now.  They're now inside the top 40 of RPI (39) and are winners of 5 straight.  They whiffed on just about all of their nonconference good win chances but they can do this if they keep winning.  GW followed up its brilliant victory over Dayton by losing at Duquesne, which will end up as a sub 250 loss.  Rhode Island followed up a good win at Richmond on Sunday by losing at Saint Joseph's.  Davidson is only here because those two have slid back towards them - all three are between 67 and 75 in RPI - so they'll have ample opportunity to pass them in the pecking order, starting Wednesday at GW (after a tricky trip to La Salle tomorrow.)

Big East
Locks - Villanova, Butler, Georgetown, Providence
The Cats got sweet revenge on Georgetown before a very impressive win at Providence on Wednesday to further entrench themselves in the 1 seed discussion.  That's 5 straight W's and if they can do the double (regular season & conference tournament title) in this 2nd ranked league in conference RPI, they'll have as convincing of an argument for a 1 as anybody.  With that said, they're just a game ahead of the Bulldogs, who have also won 5 straight and welcome them in to Hinkle Fieldhouse tomorrow night.  The Hoyas bounced back from their payback date in Philly by standing by as Seton Hall imploded upon itself on Tuesday night.  They're back ahead ever so slightly of the Friars, who of course swept them but lost at Xavier and then missed its home shot against Villanova this past week.
In - Xavier, St. John's
X backed up that Providence win by rolling at Marquette and they've got a big week ahead with St. John's coming in tomorrow before the Crosstown Showdown at Cincinnati on Wednesday.  The Johnnies held serve at home against Creighton and DePaul and remain barely in the field while others right on the cutline fell out.
Out - Seton Hall
In case you've been living under a rock this week, the older players and the younger players apparently hate each other and Sterling Gibbs and Isaiah Whitehead almost fought each other.  So I guess that's your root cause of just the latest Seton Hall late season collapse.  Once top 15 in RPI, they're now 69th after having dropped 8 of 10 since that OT victory over Villanova.  Oh and by the way the next three are at Providence, Villanova and St. John's.

Big 12
Locks - Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Baylor
The Jayhawks fall out of a 1 seed with Saturday's loss at Oklahoma State but they remain two ahead in the conference race.  The Sooners are the high risers here, winners of 5 straight with the latest of which being a 94-83 shootout over Iowa State on Monday to leapfrog the Cyclones.  The other Oklahoma team is also flying up the bracket, winning at Baylor Monday night to pass the Bears and collect their 3rd straight W and 4 of 5.  At least Scott Drew's kids went to West Virginia and laid an epic beat down in the first 10 minutes before cruising the rest of the way.
In - West Virginia, Texas
The Mountaineers have been exposed a bit as they're now just 1-4 against the teams in the above group.....and they still have to play Kansas twice AND Oklahoma State twice.  The first of those is the home chance on Monday after having to go to Iowa State on Saturday.  It's doubtful they miss the tournament - but not out of play.  The same goes for the Longhorns, who at least stopped their bleeding temporarily by winning at shorthanded Kansas State and pounding TCU.  A similar beatdown vs Texas Tech should follow tomorrow before the Red River Rematch at Oklahoma on Tuesday - they humiliated themselves offensively in the first one in Austin.
Out - None

Big Ten
Locks - Wisconsin, Maryland
The Badgers haven't lost since their Kaminsky-less slip at Rutgers (and the Scarlet Knights haven't won since.)  They're now three clear of the field after Maryland had one of the worst first halves in recent history at Iowa on Sunday but the Terps rebounded to win a thriller over Indiana on Wednesday.  Their resume remains very strong - the Oklahoma State win in Stillwater in particular has become more valuable than they ever could have hoped.
In - Ohio State, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State
The Buckeyes are probably a better team than the Terps - the 80-56 win a couple of weeks is strong evidence of that - but their terrible nonconference schedule and things like "swept by Iowa" and "lost at Purdue" are holding their seed back and keeping them from lockdom for another week or two at least.  Indiana's still milling around the 8/9 game after winning a nailbiter over Michigan on Sunday and then losing one to Maryland.  Iowa missed a golden opportunity to make moves by giving back the gains from the Maryland win on Sunday by losing at home to Minnesota last night.  Instead they're barely ahead of surging Illinois, who won at Michigan State on Saturday before going on a 21-2 run at the end of regulation and in OT to beat Michigan last night.  The Spartans avoided what would have been a bubble bursting (for this week anyway) loss at Northwestern and now have a huge game against Ohio State tomorrow before a road swing to Michigan and Illinois.  It's crunch time for them.
Out - Purdue, Minnesota
The Boilers got blitzed by the Minnesota press in the first 10 minutes of the second half on Saturday but remain in a three way tie for second with Maryland and Ohio State so that helps them stay on the bubble.  Joining them are those Gophers, who have surged from an RPI in the 90's to just inside the top 70 (68) thanks to a three game winning streak.  If only they didn't have about a billion close conference losses to rue, they might be in the field today.  Instead, they'll need to keep doing road work as three of their next four are away from the Barn.

Conference USA
Locks - Louisiana Tech
Western Kentucky threw up on itself at home to Rice on Saturday and now has a three game road swing so the Bulldogs might be able to open up some breathing room on top.  They're currently a half game ahead of the Hilltoppers and two clear of UAB and UTEP.
In - None
Out - Old Dominion
It's really not fair, but when you're in a bad conference, you simply can't eat too many losses.  That's what the Monarchs have done with last night's 72-67 loss at RPI 210 Texas San Antonio potentially the death knell.  They're now alone in fifth place in the # 17 ranked conference in conference RPi - that's not good - and tomorrow night's trip to UTEP is now must-win.  Honestly, they may not be able to lose more than one more time and get to the Dance.

Missouri Valley
Locks - Northern Iowa, Wichita State
Make it 12 in a row now for the Panthers and better yet, they're # 17 in RPI, # 9 in NPI and are an excellent 6-1 against the RPI top 100.  That's the kind of resume that can net you a protected seed.  The Shockers continue to be in the hunt for one as well and that loss at UNI remains their only L in 2015 but they actually have the weaker resume which is why they've been passed on the S-curve.
In - None
Out - None

Mountain West
Locks - San Diego State
The Show was thoroughly beaten at red hot Boise on Sunday night and are now only a half game ahead of the Broncos.  But they took out their frustrations on poor, Larry Nance-less Wyoming on Wednesday and now welcome in Colorado State tomorrow night.  They only have two road games left in the regular season plus a light practice session at San Jose State.
In - Colorado State, Boise State
These two are very close and have already split with each other but both are right on the cutline.  Despite winning 8 straight, Boise's still in a play-in because they still have nothing of worth on their resume other than home wins over SDSU and CSU and still have a home loss to Utah State and a loss in Vegas to Loyola Chicago.  The Rams got down BIG in the first half on Saturday against UNLV but blinded them with their ugly Colorado A&M jerseys to come back and win before a straightforward win in their normal kits against New Mexico.
Out - Wyoming
Hopefully - HOPEFULLY - they don't need Larry Nance to beat San Jose State and Nevada but the way they've played during his bout with mono, even that's unclear.  If they get him back soon and start winning again, they'll get some injury credit for their ugly loss to SDSU and even uglier loss at Air Force but they're still a longshot.

Locks - Arizona, Utah
Losing the Duel in the Desert in Tempe for the second year in a row might be the loss that washes out Arizona's head to head victory over Gonzaga in the 1 seed conversation.  The Cats go to fading Washington tonight and then they'll need to crank their defense up on Saturday because Wazzu can score at home.  Later on, they still go to Utah, which cranked Stanford in its first sellout since 2005 last night and is actually a half game ahead in the conference race at present.
In - Stanford, Oregon, UCLA
The Cardinal haven't played good basketball for the entire month of February but losing to Utah after struggling to beat USC on Sunday doesn't hurt them this week.  Oregon, meanwhile, has won four straight and 6 of 7 and has a chance to sweep UCLA tomorrow afternoon.  That would be enough to finally put them ahead of the Cardinal, who were swept by the Bruins, in the pecking order.  48 hours after completing that sweep of Stanford, UCLA went and lost at Cal to almost knock themselves out of the field.  The good news is they might be able to get back in by beating Oregon tomorrow and then their trip to the Arizona schools gives them both an elite win chance in Tucson and is also their last road trip of the season.
Out - Oregon State
The Beavers are only here because I promised they would be if they beat Washington but they couldn't win at Pauley on Wednesday to stay streets behind UCLA.  They won't be here next week if they don't beat Utah on Thursday.

Locks - Kentucky, Arkansas
Much to John Calipari's disappointment, the Cats won at Florida and LSU to remain unbeaten and now it appears certain they're running the regular season table unless Georgia can take them out in Athens on March 3 or the Razorbacks can win in Rupp the Saturday before that.  As for those Hogs, they've now won 6 of 7 since Ole Miss bombed away on them and they hit triple digits at Auburn on Tuesday.  They're officially back in the hunt for a protected seed and can get revenge on the Rebels tomorrow night.
In - Georgia, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, LSU
Georgia won at Texas A&M on Wednesday to keep the rest of the pack at arm's length.  Their computer profile continues to impress more than their actual profile but with home games against Auburn and South Carolina this week they should keep rising.  Ole Miss got a Stefan Moody 3 to break Florida's hearts and keep its 6 game win streak alive, obviously continuing to trend upward.  Once again, this league holds half the play in spots as LSU took care of Alabama on Saturday night but couldn't hang on after a second half surge against Kentucky and is kind of the opposite of Georgia in that their RPI is barely inside the top 60 but they have 4 top 50 wins and 7 top 100 wins to keep them in the field for now.  Meanwhile Texas A&M lost to Georgia and is now 0-5 against the RPI top 50.  They're ahead of LSU because of the head to head victory in Baton Rouge and their relative lack of bad losses.
Out - Alabama, Florida, Tennessee
Each of these three are a ways away from the field and like the Atlantic 10 are all listed because they're all close to each other and any of the three could make a run and get themselves back in to the conversation.  Of course, Florida might want to think about getting back above .500 first.

Locks - Gonzaga
They got a battle at San Francisco after the battle at Santa Clara but came through that before pasting Loyola Marymount last night.  The comparisons between them and last year's Wichita State are starting to pop up although two key differences for me are 1) the Shockers hadn't lost and 2) the Shockers had an elite road win at Saint Louis.  Gonzaga's best win is SMU at home or Georgia in New York City.  That's not a clear 1 seed.
In - None
Out - BYU, Saint Mary's
It's becoming more and more clear that this is a one bid league after the Cougars thrashed the Gaels last night.  A Saint Mary's win would've at least given them a season sweep and they still have their home shot at Gonzaga on the table but now it appears both need the autobid unless either somehow wins out the rest of the regular season including an upset of the Zags (even then both might have already eaten way too many league losses.)

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