Friday, February 27, 2015

Grip's Bubble Watch - Friday, February 27

Locks - Virginia, Duke, Louisville, Notre Dame, North Carolina
Virginia came up with its most convincing performance since Justin Anderson's injury by throttling Wake Forest on Wednesday.  Duke meanwhile beat down Clemson over the weekend without Jahlil Okafor but needed overtime to win at Virginia Tech with him.  Louisville kicked Chris Jones off the team for good for alleged sexual assault but vaults back ahead of Notre Dame and North Carolina, who both ate home losses on Tuesday night.  The Heels fall to the 6 line because the other four are all in the top half of their respective regions.
In - NC State, Pittsburgh
Suddenly, the Wolfpack find themselves on the 9 line and I almost put them a rung higher.  They now have 5 top 50 wins, three of those are elite wins and two of those came on the road.  Add in their # 3 strength of schedule and only one bad loss at Wake Forest and they're in great shape to make the tournament.  As long as they don't lose at Boston College tomorrow and/or at Clemson on Tuesday, it's hard to see them missing out.  As for Pitt, they're still in a play in game because of a paltry 2-7 record against the top 50 as well as losses to Hawaii (who is an extremely disappointing 6th place in the Big West) and Virginia Tech.  On Sunday they go to a Wake Forest team who can't play any worse than they did in their last game and then on Wednesday they have a huge bubble battle with...
Out - Miami (FL)
...the Hurricanes, who missed a golden chance to win at Louisville on Saturday and then survived Xavier Rathan-Mays scoring 30 points in the final 4 minutes to hang on against Florida State.  They have one last chance at a marquee win in the regular season and it's tomorrow afternoon when UNC comes to Coral Gables.  If they don't get at least a split of that and the aforementioned trip to Pitt, they'll likely need an ACC tourney semifinal appearance (or further) to get in.

Locks - SMU
Imagine how good this team would be if Emmanuel Mudiay hadn't gone to China?  They're now 22-5, 14-2 in the league after winning at Memphis last night and they're up on the 5 line, although that's thanks to having to bump UNC down a line as noted above.  They have a Sunday afternoon date at the defending national champs and then Tulsa visits a week from Sunday in what will likely decide the regular season title.
In - Temple, Cincinnati
Well that was an embarrassing effort from the Owls on Sunday at Tulsa, failing to even get to 40.  At least they rebounded to beat last place Houston last night.  That 1-6 mark against the top 50 continues to be glaring and keeps them in touching distance of the cutline, though at least that 1 is Kansas and they're 5-1 against 51-100.  They're off this weekend and absolutely CANNOT suffer a horrible loss at East Carolina on Thursday.  Cincy already has one of those along with two sub 100 losses but the Bearcats five top 50 wins including wins over San Diego State, at NC State and a sweep of SMU keep them just out of the play in games.  They have to go to Tulane tomorrow afternoon and the Green Wave already won in the Queen City on a 28 footer at the buzzer and then Wednesday they have a monster bubble battle at...
Out - Tulsa
...the Golden Hurricane, who pounded that Tulane team on Wednesday for their third straight victory since that embarrassing effort at UConn.  They go to Memphis tomorrow night, then that Cincy game and then they close out the regular season at SMU.  If they can go 2-1 or better, they might be in decent shape going in to the conference tournament.  Anything less and they're gonna need to at least get to the title game, if not win it.

Atlantic 10
Locks - VCU
Treveon Graham put on his Superman cape, hitting a monster 3 to complete a wild VCU comeback to force overtime in the Richmond derby but then the Rams couldn't defend underneath the basket at the end of the OT and lost in 2OT.  That re-created a four way atop the conference between the four teams listed here and VCU's next two are against...
In - Dayton, Davidson
....these two.  First, Dayton has to go to Richmond tomorrow afternoon and then Davidson welcomes in Shaka Smart's kids on Thursday night.  The Flyers ate a horrific loss at RPI # 234 Duquesne last Saturday, which is especially damaging when you're just 5-5 against the top 100 like they are.  They handled George Mason on Wednesday but their margin for error has been slashed considerably.  As for the Wildcats, they came back from down four in the final minute to steal one at Rhode Island, keeping themselves in this category and the Rams in the next one.
Out - Rhode Island
Rhody is basically only here because it still has a share of the conference lead.  The RPI is 71, the SOS is 132 and they're 0-4 against the top 50.  They go to La Salle tomorrow and then Dayton on Tuesday.  If they don't get both of those, they're gonna need the autobid - and they might anyway even if they win both.

Big East
Locks - Villanova, Georgetown, Butler, Providence
Make it 9 in a row for the Wildcats after dismantling Providence just like they've dismantled the rest of this league.  They haven't lost since that Georgetown rout in mid January.  Unbelievable.  Once again despite having a far superior resume to Gonzaga for the last 1 seed, the geography works out much better if the Zags get that 1 out West and Nova can be the 2 in the East.  As for the rest of these three, they're all extremely close together now that Butler has sunk back to the pack after getting ripped at Xavier over the weekend.  The Bulldogs end the season with the other two after going to DePaul tomorrow while Providence hosts Marquette on Sunday and Georgetown goes to St. John's tomorrow before its Tuesday night trip to Hinkle.
In - Xavier, St. John's
It feels like X belongs in the above group but it still has enough damaging things in its profile - namely 11 losses with four of them of the sub 100 variety - holding its seed back.  They get their home crack at Nova tomorrow afternoon and winning that would all but guarantee they're wearing white jerseys in round 1.  St. John's beat X on Monday after handling the decrepit remains of Seton Hall on Saturday to finally get themselves above .500 in conference play after starting 3-6.  That's a great sign for a team whose biggest resume weakness was always its lagging conference mark.
Out - None

Big 12
Locks - Kansas, Baylor, Oklahoma, Iowa State, West Virginia
The Jayhawks are all but out of the 1 seed conversation now and they've even ceded their # 1 RPI spot to Kentucky (long overdue.)  At least the next two are at home against reeling Texas and then a revenge game against West Virginia.  The Mountaineers are one of three teams along with Iowa State and Oklahoma who are just a game back of KU but it's Baylor who is 2nd off the board this week thanks to completing the sweep of the Cyclones on Wednesday, it's 4th ranked SOS and no sub 100 losses.  OU and ISU are still right there though and there's kind of a Georgetown/Butler/Providence dynamic here - except a few seed lines higher.  WVU won at Oklahoma State on Saturday, firmly establishing themselves ahead of the Cowboys, and then took care of Texas on Tuesday.  They've gotta go to Waco tomorrow before the trip to the Phog on Tuesday, though.
In - Oklahoma State, Texas
The Pokes have dropped three straight since their Kansas/@Baylor back to back but the next two are at Texas Tech and then a revenge game against TCU on Wednesday so they should be able to stabilize this week.  As for the Horns, they've finally fallen in to one of the play in games and are now 6-9 in the Big 12 after dropping 3 straight.  A win at Kansas would be just what the doctor ordered but at least the final two are at home against Baylor and Kansas State.  It's anyone's guess how the committee will treat them as they're one of the most unique cases not just this year but in any year.  They have 11 losses but 10 of them are against top 50 competition.  Is that a good thing, bad thing or both?
Out - None

Big Ten
Locks - Wisconsin, Maryland
The Terps held off the Badgers before a controversial court storming on Tuesday and that puts a serious dent in to Bucky's 1 seed hopes.  Even winning out might not be enough at this point, especially since the committee (supposedly) doesn't factor in the Big Ten title game due to it being immediately before the selection show.  As for Maryland, they're now in range for a 2 seed if they can win out against Michigan, @Rutgers and @Nebraska before a deep Big Ten tourney run but they would likely need multiple losses from Arizona, Kansas and/or the Badgers.
In - Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa
The Spartans were the high risers here and I was even considering them for the 7 line but then they had to go and lose at home to Minnesota in overtime last night and now they're a seed line behind the Hoosiers and Buckeyes.  Both of those teams had embarrassing losses of their own this week, with OSU losing at Michigan on Sunday and Indiana's wretched second half effort dooming them at Northwestern on Wednesday.  It goes to show how strong IU's profile is - 5 top 50 wins including over SMU, Pitt and Butler, 8 top 100 wins and the Northwestern loss was their first sub 100 of the season - that they basically weren't affected by Wednesday's loss.  The Buckeyes would be a seed line or two lower if they didn't have a National Player of the Year candidate but they do and that helps them in the committee's eyes in terms of who can win games in March.  MSU is still relatively safe and can probably lock itself up if it beats Wisconsin on Sunday.  That leaves the Hawkeyes, who demolished Nebraska on Sunday (and got the Huskers locked out of their locker room) before beating Illinois in a crucial bubble battle on Wednesday to get themselves out of the play in game.  They basically have a poor man's Indiana profile.
Out - Illinois, Purdue
These two are literally the first two out of the field.  In fact, I had Purdue in until I forgot about Illinois and then I had Illinois in until I forgot about Texas.  The Illini gave back their win at Michigan State by letting the Spartans win in Champaign before losing the aforementioned Iowa game.  They host Northwestern and Nebraska next and can't screw up either.  The Boilers almost blew a big first half lead against Rutgers last night but held on after being idle over the weekend.  They go to Columbus on Sunday and then East Lansing on Wednesday in what are both crucial games given how much of Purdue's profile is built on its home conference wins.  And then the regular season finale?  Illinois @ Purdue next Saturday.  Get hype.

Conference USA
Locks - Louisiana Tech
After losing by 19 at desperate Old Dominion on Saturday, the Bulldogs bounced back to whip UTEP by 17 in a top of the table clash last night and go alone in first ahead of the Miners and UAB.  Their final two are at home against middling Texas San Antonio and bottom feeding Southern Miss so a regular season title and # 1 seed in the conference tournament look to be in the cards.
In - None
Out - Old Dominion
The Monarchs beat Louisiana Tech convincingly at the weekend and then won at improved Rice last night.  They continue their Texas two step tomorrow night at North Texas and then host Marshall and fading Western Kentucky to close out the regular season.  The RPI is back inside the top 50 but they probably still need to win out until at least the conference semis, if not the title game.

Missouri Valley
Locks - Northern Iowa, Wichita State
Well, it's finally here.  College GameDay is in Wichita (and then it's going to Lawrence but whatever) for the rematch that UNI won convincingly in Cedar Falls.   These two have extremely similar resumes and while I have them both as 4 seeds, it's hard to gauge where they are compared to power conference teams around them.  Wichita is obviously more at risk of its seed sinking if it gets swept and while one would think a third meeting is to come in the conference title game, Arch Madness is notorious for its upsets.
In - None
Out - None

Mountain West
Locks - San Diego State
Four straight for The Show since the loss at Boise State and they've had a full week to prepare for tomorrow night's rematch.  Then they have to go to UNLV on Wednesday, which is always interesting when the league's two power programs get together.  It's also hard to gauge where these guys will be seeded because this league is so down but beating Boise would get them two clear of the field, which would obviously be helpful.
In - Colorado State
The advantage that SDSU has over these guys, apart from being in first place, is that The Show went to Maui and played BYU, Pittsburgh and Arizona and also went to play Washington and Cincinnati.  Colorado State didn't even leave the state for its toughest noncon game and it doesn't help that Colorado's been terrible in Pac-12 play.  Even if they win out including a tournament title, I have a hard time seeing them doing better than a 7 seed - which is unfortunate given the strength of this year's 1 and 2 seeds.
Out - Boise State
No, it doesn't all come down to tomorrow night but it's obviously huge.  Without a win tomorrow night, it would probably take a run to the Mountain West title game, if not needing the autobid outright.  A sweep of SDSU would likely mean a title game appearance would be enough and that a semifinal loss to SDSU or Colorado State might not be a death knell.  The lack of nonconference help is really hurting them and might keep a really fun team with one of the best scorers in the country in Derrick Marks out of the tournament.

Locks - Arizona, Utah
In short, if tomorrow night's winner also wins the Pac-12 tournament, they're getting a 2 seed.  The Cats might be able to get one even with a loss tomorrow night if they win the conference tournament but the Utes and their 2-5 record against the top 50 would have a ceiling of a 3 seed if Arizona sweeps them.
In - Oregon, UCLA
The Ducks got the marquee win their profile was missing when they upset Utah on Sunday and then they consolidated it by winning at Cal late Wednesday night.  Now they have to go to Stanford tomorrow night in a game that means much more for the Cardinal, which was unthinkable even a month ago, before the Civil War on Wednesday night in Corvallis.  The Bruins got out to a great start in the first 6-7 minutes of both halves last Saturday at Arizona but were wretched offensively otherwise to miss their shot at an elite win but they rebounded to blow out Washington on Wednesday.  They've got what should be a pair of home layups against Washington State and USC to close the regular season.
Out - Stanford
As said above, Sunday's bubble battle in Palo Alto is much more crucial for the Cardinal, who are coming in to it red hot after utterly destroying Oregon State in the second half late last night, outscoring them by 29.  They close the season at the Arizona schools and while Senior Night for the most successful Arizona class since the late 90's isn't an ideal time to play the Wildcats, it might be a must win for the Cardinal if they can't beat the Ducks.

Locks - Kentucky, Arkansas
Yet another showdown that's happening tomorrow as these two hook up in Rupp.  Maybe the Hogs were looking ahead to it after building a big halftime lead against Texas A&M as they only ended up winning by 6.  Kentucky had some problems of its own in snow covered Starkville on Wednesday but pulled away from Mississippi State in the second half.
In - Georgia, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, LSU
Look who's back at the front of the line here.  The Dawgs went to snow covered Oxford on Wednesday and won after winning in overtime at Alabama over the weekend to get their RPI back inside the top 30.  The Rebels are still in decent shape but that may change after road trips to LSU tomorrow and then Alabama on Tuesday.  A&M fought hard to come from down 20+ in the first half at Arkansas but came up short and still doesn't have a single top 50 victory.  LSU blew away Auburn after beating Florida over the weekend but its computer numbers continue to lag (RPI 55, SOS 89) and with three sub 100 losses, they remain in the play in game.  A major homestand against Ole Miss and Tennessee before the season finale at Arkansas beckons.
Out - None

Locks - Gonzaga
This is getting old.  Sluggish first half, dominant stretch run of the second half and the Zags are on to Senior Night against BYU tomorrow night.  There's just not much new ground to cover here.  They're probably getting the 1 out West if they win out and they might even be able to eat a loss in the WCC final and get it too.
In - None
Out - BYU
It's hard to imagine that a team that's lost 5 times in the WCC could get an at large bid but if the Cougars can win at the Kennel tomorrow night, that could be an elite enough to vault them in to the field.  If not, they're probably going to need to win the WCC tournament to get in.

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