Friday, February 20, 2015

Grip's Bubble Watch - Friday, February 20

Locks - Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Louisville
Arguably the game of the season happened Wednesday night with Duke coming back late to force OT and knock off UNC.  That keeps the Blue Devils on the 1 line and prevents the Heels from getting back on the 3 line.  Meanwhile the Wahoos are living dangerously without Justin Anderson but they're winning, which is more than Louisville can say as the Cards have dropped two straight.  Their struggles, along with UNC's, allows ND to pass both in the pecking order and regain a protected seed.
In - NC State, Miami (FL)
If you're gonna be a bubble team, be one in a top heavy league like the ACC where you get plenty of chances to pick up marquee wins.  The Wolfpack cashed in another by winning at Louisville on Saturday and didn't have the chance to screw it up this week so they're back in (that chance comes tomorrow vs Virginia Tech.)  Miami is one of the last four in as the Canes have stabilized somewhat and their win at Cameron has regained whatever shine it may have lost during Duke's mini-swoon - plus they have top 50 wins over Illinois and NC State to go along with it.
Out - Pittsburgh
The Panthers are the first team out of the field as despite having an RPI almost 20 spots better than Miami's, they only have three top 100 wins, an ugly loss at Hawaii and an even uglier loss at Virginia Tech.  The latter is sub 200 and the former could certainly get there.  It also doesn't help that their two marquee wins both came at home.  Tomorrow's game at Syracuse is massive.

Locks - SMU
The Ponies blasted the defending national champs in front of College GameDay and then handled Temple last night to further cement themselves as the best team in this league.  They haven't lost to a team not named "Cincinnati" since the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and if they keep winning, they've got a shot at a protected seed.
In - Temple, Cincinnati
Not a good week for either of these two as the Owls got blitzed in the second half at Moody last night and the Bearcats ate both a sub 150 home loss (Tulane on a 30 footer at the buzzer) AND a rivalry home loss (Xavier.)  Cincy is now the last at large outside the play in games and is basically in the field only on the merit of its five top 50 wins.  Meanwhile Temple continues to largely live off the Kansas win and has a big Sunday road date at...
Out - Tulsa
...Tulsa, who had last weekend off before stopping their bleeding against East Carolina (the same East Carolina who beat Cincy.)  The Golden Hurricane really need to hold serve against Temple on Sunday and then Tulane on Wednesday (the same Tulane who won at Cincy) to give themselves a fighting chance going in to their final 3 regular season games.

Atlantic 10
Locks - VCU
They've found their footing a little bit.  A dominant second half saw Havoc working at its finest as they forced turnovers and sank 3's to become the first team to win at George Washington and further send the Colonials in to a tailspin (they're completely off the bubble at this point.)  The Rams backed that up by dominating Saint Louis and now UMass comes calling tomorrow afternoon.
In - Dayton, Davidson
The Flyers held serve at home against St. Bonaventure and Saint Joseph's, although the latter was more of a fight than it should have been against the last team to win at UD Arena in late January of last year.  They're joined in the field by the surging-again Wildcats who won at La Salle and George Washington to up their top 100 win total by 40% and sneak in to a play in spot.  Tomorrow night should be an easy home win over Fordham but then they have a massive bubble battle next Wednesday at...
Out - Rhode Island, Massachusetts
....Rhode Island, who is seriously cursing Nebraska for being a complete and utter letdown this year.  The Rams are probably in the field right now if the Huskers were a top 100 or god forbid top 50 win but they're not and they're not.  At least they've clearly established themselves ahead of UMass, who continues to have the best RPI of the three bubble schools but will likely end up needing the autobid unless they can win at VCU tomorrow - especially now that GW has faded and that season finale in D.C. may not even be a top 100 win chance.

Big East
Locks - Villanova, Butler, Providence, Georgetown
Darrun Hilliard sank the game winning 3 to give Villanova a thrilling win at Butler before the Cats blew away Seton Hall and Sterling Gibbs got mad about it so he punched Ryan Arcidiacono.  Butler almost got beat again 48 hours later after that heartbreaking loss Roosevelt Jones scored a game winning bucket of his own to avoid embarrassment at Creighton.  Georgetown thumped St. John's on Tuesday and Providence whooped DePaul on Wednesday after beating Seton Hall and not getting beat up by Seton Hall last Saturday.  Those two continue to be right next to each other on the S-curve with the Friars' season sweep giving them the edge.
In - Xavier, St. John's
The Johnnies won at Xavier on Saturday and then X went a couple miles across town and won the Crosstown Showdown at Cincinnati on Wednesday.  Even despite that aforementioned St. John's thumping in D.C. both of these two have created some breathing space from the cutline and both have home games tomorrow afternoon with X welcoming in Butler and St. John's facing Sterling Gibbs-less Seton Hall before the two meet again in Queens on Monday.
Out - None

Big 12
Locks - Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Baylor
Iowa State winning at Oklahoma State last night clearly establishes them as the # 2 this week after Oklahoma went and lost at Kansas State on Saturday night.  The Sooners rebounded to come from behind and sweep Texas and should remain in the mix for a 3 seed thanks to their whopping TEN top 50 wins.  That's more than even Kansas has and the Jayhawks are now highly unlikely to get a 1 seed without winning out.  Baylor really faded in the second half at the Phog on Saturday and struggled on Monday at Texas Tech but won and their top 15 RPI among other solid computer numbers is keeping them in this category.
In - Oklahoma State, West Virginia
Who follows up beating Kansas and winning at Baylor by losing by 15 at TCU who's not even playing on their home court?  A Travis Ford coached team, that's who.  Despite that and WVU's thrilling Big Monday win over Kansas, the Pokes are still marginally ahead in the pecking order but that can change tomorrow when the two meet in Stillwater.  These two have a similar dynamic to Georgetown and Providence but with the 6 line being the lock cutoff (that will change next week) they land here.
Out - None

Big Ten
Locks - Wisconsin, Maryland
The Badgers aren't getting the credit they deserve for how much they're thumping this league but it's also true that they've played about the easiest league schedule possible thus far.  That changes this week with a trip to Maryland on Tuesday (after hosting Minnesota tomorrow) kicking off a difficult close with 3 of the final 4 away from Madison.  The Terps certainly haven't played like a 3 seed for several weeks but they could very well get one with how strong their profile is and how they just keep finding ways to win close games.  Hell, a 2 may not even be out of the question if they can beat the Badgers and/or win the Big Ten tournament.
In - Indiana, Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State, Iowa
The Hoosiers suffered a surprising home loss to Purdue to get swept by their in-state rivals but they continue to have the best profile of this group with 6 top 50 wins and no sub 100 losses.  Ohio State looks to clearly be the superior team but the Buckeyes were unable to make any gains this week thanks to getting Valentine's Dayed by Denzel at MSU before getting this week off.  Illinois took it on the chin at Kohl but that doesn't hurt them much.  They've got a massive game Sunday night against Michigan State which the Spartans need more, though they had a good week with the aforementioned Valentine's Day win and then cruising at Michigan on Tuesday.  As for Iowa, they ate an awful loss in OT at Northwestern on Sunday before pounding Rutgers last night.  The Hawkeyes barely remain in the field thanks to their 4 top 50 wins, particularly the one at North Carolina.  They also don't have four sub 100 losses like...
Out - Purdue
...the Boilermakers do.  Those losses are pretty much the only things keeping Purdue out of the tournament as they got another huge win last night at Indiana to sweep the Hoosiers.  They're off this weekend and then get the free space against Rutgers on Thursday but after that they have a back to back roadie at Ohio State and Michigan State before what could be a super bubbalicious season finale with Illinois.

Conference USA
Locks - Louisiana Tech
It took overtime but the Bulldogs found a way to win at Charlotte last night to remain a game and a half ahead of UTEP and two ahead of UAB.  They've got a big week ahead with a trip to desperate Old Dominion tomorrow before the Miners come in on Thursday.
In - None
Out - Old Dominion
The Monarchs aren't even much better of an at large candidate than the UTEP team that handled them by 15 on Saturday.  ODU was dominant in the second half against lowly Southern Miss last night but if they don't beat conference leading Louisiana Tech tomorrow night, it's probably auto bid or bust.

Missouri Valley
Locks - Northern Iowa, Wichita State
George Washington is crumbling to the point where that might become a sub 100 loss for the Shockers but it almost assuredly won't matter.  Wichita hosts Evansville on Sunday before going to Indiana State on Wednesday.  UNI hosts Bradley tomorrow and then Evansville - who already beat them - on Wednesday.  After that?  It's showtime next Saturday.
In - None
Out - None

Mountain West
Locks - San Diego State
The Show kept Colorado State at arm's length for 40 minutes on Saturday night and then held New Mexico under 50 in its own building on Tuesday.  They could probably play the reserves and win by double digits at San Jose State - who is still winless vs D1 competition - on Saturday night and then they get a full week to get ready for payback against Boise.
In - Colorado State
Fresno State beat San Diego State and Boise State at home and took Wyoming to triple OT so the Rams winning there by 8 in regulation shouldn't be sneezed at.  Air Force and San Jose State visit Fort Collins this week so that should be two more gaudy offensive performances and easy wins.
Out - Boise State, Wyoming
Oh Boise.  It may not be fair given what I just wrote about how stingy Fresno State has been at home in conference play but that's still a sub 200 loss and when you suffer those this time of year, they're devastating and that one effectively washed out the SDSU win.  At least they got their very needed first ever win at UNLV on Wednesday.  Wyoming's only here because of its 3 top 50 wins and the fact that if they get hot down the stretch with Larry Nance back in the lineup they should get some forgiveness for how awful they were without him.  They probably still need the auto bid.

Locks - Arizona, Utah
These two remain on a collision course for a week from tomorrow in Salt Lake City.  Before that though, the Cats have a rivalry date against UCLA in front of College GameDay tomorrow night in what is a massive game for the bubbalicious Bruins and the Utes have a Sunday afternoon tilt at Oregon in what is a massive game for the bubbalicious Ducks
Despite being just 16-11 with 13 of those wins inside the friendly confines of Pauley Pavilion, UCLA is the best of the last 4 in thanks to its schedule strength, its Utah win and its sweep of Stanford.  Winning at Arizona tonight wouldn't punch their ticket by any means but it would firmly establish themselves on the right side of the bubble with a super soft final three games at home against the Washington schools and rival USC.
Out - Stanford, Oregon
These two have very similar resumes - both are 2-5 vs the RPI top 50, Stanford's 3-1 vs 51-100 while the Ducks are 4-1 and their RPI's are within 7 spots of one another.  But both land in the first four out this week thanks to Oregon's Saturday loss at UCLA and Stanford's Sunday loss at Colorado.  The two will meet a week from Sunday in Eugene in what will obviously be a massive game.

Locks - Kentucky, Arkansas
There's nothing more to say about Kentucky so I'm just gonna talk about Arkansas.  The Razorbacks have won 5 straight since losing by a point at Florida and if they had scored one more basket they'd be winners of 9 straight.  They avenged their home loss to Ole Miss by beating the Rebels at the buzzer on Saturday before crushing Missouri on Wednesday as they drift closer and closer to protected seed territory.
In - Ole Miss, Georgia, Texas A&M, LSU
Stefan Moody hit an SEC season high 8 threes last night to give the Rebels an Egg Bowl sweep and firmly establish them as the # 3.  Actually, Georgia helped firmly establish them as that by dumping back to back home games to Auburn and South Carolina.  The Bulldogs are only still ahead of Texas A&M because the Aggies still lack a top 50 RPI win.  At least they completed the sweep of LSU, who is only being saved by their four pack of top 50 RPI wins.
Out - Alabama
Last Saturday's home loss to Vanderbilt really hurt; it prevents Bama from closing back in on the field.  The Tide bounced back to have a nice second half at Auburn on Tuesday but it's gonna take a Tennessee-style late run to get to the Dance at this point and it needs to start tomorrow night against reeling Georgia.

Locks - Gonzaga
I've changed my tune and am now convinced the Zags are getting a 1 for a number of reasons.  Unfortunately those reasons have less to do with the nuts and bolts of their resume versus Wisconsin's and Villanova's (and Kansas') and more to do with the West region being the open one.  Whether a 1 or a 2, they're extremely dangerous regardless of how many mediocre WCC teams they struggle with (and Pacific was yet another one last night) and it's especially scary how Kyle Wiltjer has seemingly taken that team over, pouring in 45 last night.
In - None
Out - BYU, Saint Mary's
It's showtime for these two.  The Gaels host Gonzaga tomorrow night while the Cougs go to the Kennel next Saturday.  SMC has the three spot lead in RPI but has exactly one top 100 nonconference win and that was against # 98 Northeastern.  BYU at least beat UMass and Stanford and didn't lose to # 197 Northern Arizona so they're slightly closer to the field but it's hard to see either getting there without a victory over the Zags at some point.

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