Bubble Watch Rooting Guide (Feb. 28 – Mar. 3)

Okay, so last Saturday kind of sucked.  The Tide’s tournament hopes took a hit.  But, thankfully, a number of teams helped us out by laying eggs of their own.  As it stands now, we are perched precariously on the edge and will likely need a little help to make the NCAA tourney.  The Bracket Project has us seeded in 39 out of 75 ballots with an average seed of 11.  Thankfully, the bubble is starting to firm up, with a sizable gap growing between the teams in the tournament and those on the outside looking in.  The current threshold for an at-large bid is 32 ballots.  For those of you paying attention, that means we are projected to be the second-to-last team in, with only Minnesota taking a bigger hit this weekend than us.  Also, the new bracket sees a lot of separation between in and out, with the same distance (11 brackets) between Alabama and the first team out, and the first team out and the seventh team out.




Conference Tournaments –

Conference tourneys are starting this week, so I’ll give a quick roundup of each one and who to root for.  Some of these smaller conferences have at-large contenders, so it’s very important that those teams win their tournaments and not allow multiple teams to make it in.


America East Conference (March 3, 5-6) –

The American East tournament kicks off with the 8-9 game on Thursday, but conference champion Vermont’s 22-7 record will keep them out of at-large consideration, mostly thanks to their 219th ranked schedule (yesterday’s loss to Boston won’t help either).

Rooting Interest – None.  This is a one-bid league.


Atlantic Sun Conference (March 2-5) –

Belmont is the team to watch here.  Their 27-4 record and 53 RPI make them a DEEP sleeper, with one bracket seeding them as high as ninth.  The rest of their conference is pretty terrible, though, so a loss in the tournament would likely end any hope they had.  I feel like I should point out that, despite all of the “overrated” non-BCS schools Matt discussed on Saturday, Belmont is actually underrated in the RPI by 30 spots, according to basketball guru Ken Pomeroy.  He has them as the 20th best team in the country. 

Rooting Interest – Belmont has like a 0.5% chance of earning an at-large bid, but I’d prefer that chance to be zero.  Pull for the Bruins.


Big South Conference (March 1, 3, 5) –

Coastal Carolina is 26-4, but their absurd 295th ranked schedule puts their RPI in the 90s and gives them no chance at an at-large bid.

Rooting Interest – None.  This is a one-bid league.


Horizon League (March 1, 4-5, 8) –

Here’s where things start to get interesting.  Butler is currently ranked as the last 12 seed and Cleveland State is the first team out right now.  UW-Milwaukee is probably playing the best basketball right now, but their triple-digit RPI means they will need to win the conference tournament to make the big show.  I’ll cover the bubble teams’ games in greater detail later on, but suffice it to say that we want one of them to win the tournament and the other to lose early.

Rooting Interest – As the second seed, Butler has a double-bye to the semifinals while Cleveland State is forced to play in the first round.  Best case scenario has CSU losing out early with the Bulldogs earning the automatic bid.


Missouri Valley Conference (March 3-6) –

Another bubble-filled tournament here.  Missouri State beat Wichita State on Saturday to win the regular season crown.  Both teams are still riding the bubble, with Missouri State as the top 13 seed and Wichita as the third team out.  The best-case scenario is probably for Missouri State to claim the tournament championship as well.

Rooting Interest – Pull for the Bears to win, and the Shockers to fall early.


Northeast Conference (March 3, 6, 9) –

This is another pretty terrible conference and regular season champion Long Island is no risk for an at-large bid.

Rooting Interest – None.  This is a one-bid league.


Ohio Valley Conference (March 2-5) –

Barring some stunning upsets in other conference tournaments, the OVC winner should end up with a 16-seed.

Rooting Interest – None.  This is a one-bid league.


Patriot League (March 2, 6, 11) –

To give you an idea of how bad the Patriot League is, the third-place team, Holy Cross, finished with a 7-7 conference record and a 1-13 non-conference record.

Rooting Interest – None.  This is a one-bid league.

Movin’ On Up –

Kansas State Wildcats (20-9, 8-6 Big XII):  @ #5 Texas (Mon 8:00, ESPN)

Last Week (10); This Week (9)

It was an easy call to move the Wildcats off of the bubble following their wins over Kansas and Missouri in the past two weeks.


10 Seeds –

Illinois Fighting Illini (18-11, 8-8 Big Ten):  @ #8 Purdue (Tue 6:00, ESPN)

Last Week (9); This Week (10)

The Illini really fall back onto the bubble because of Kansas State’s performance rather than their own.  They haven’t been playing terribly, but neither have they been playing particularly well.  5-8 in their last 13 with losses to Northwestern and Indiana hanging over their heads, Illinois just has to not lose out to make the NCAA tournament.

Rooting Interest – Tough game this week for Illinois as they travel to Purdue.  A win locks their spot and a loss is unlikely to drop them.  Pull for the Boilermakers.


Marquette Golden Eagles (18-11, 9-7 Big East):  Cincinnati (Wed 7:00, ESPN3)

The Eagles road win over UCONN last week has given them the ability to really coast to the finish here.  They’ll host Cincinnati this weekend in what could have been a must-win game had they not already picked up a marquee victory over the Huskies.  As it stands, a loss here probably doesn’t knock Marquette much further than an 11 seed.  They’re pretty solid.

Rooting Interest – The Eagles will probably have to lose out to miss out on the NCAA tournament.


Georgia Bulldogs (19-9, 8-6 SEC):  LSU (Wed 7:00, ESPN3)

Last Week (10); This Week (10)

With the exception of the K-State/Illinois swap, the ten seeds all stayed steady this weekend.  The Bulldogs are kind of coasting into the postseason with closing games against USCe, LSU, and Alabama.  At this point, the only way Bama can pass the Dawgs is by beating them twice, once at home to end the regular season and again in the second round of the SEC tournament.  Even then, it’s unlikely.

Rooting Interest – With Bama’s loss at Ole Miss, we need Georgia to be as strong as possible.  Go Dawgs!


Michigan State Spartans (16-12, 8-8 Big Ten):  Iowa (Wed 5:30)

Last Week (10); This Week (10)

The Spartans did us a pretty big favor this weekend.  Normally, a loss to Purdue wouldn’t be anything to worry about, but getting walloped at home by twenty points is about as ugly as it gets.  The losses are starting to mount for Izzo’s crew and a 17-14 record is both possible and atrocious.  The RPI is still in the top-40, thanks to the 5th-ranked schedule, but they only have one win to really hang their hat on (a three-point overtime home win over Wisconsin).  Fortunately (for them, not us), the middle of the Big Ten is pretty weak and a 10-8 conference record will probably be enough for a four or five seed in the conference tournament, giving them a first-round bye.

Rooting Interest – We might be too far behind Michigan State, but a loss to Iowa wouldn’t hurt.


11 Seeds –

Virginia Tech Hokies (19-8, 9-5 ACC):  Boston College (Tue 8:00, ESPNU)

Last Week (12); This Week (11)

Stupid Duke.  The Hokies had no business winning this game but, like Kansas State before them, they’re virtually assured of an at-large bid based on that one win.  With only games versus bubble teams Boston College and Clemson left, it’s tough to see VT being left out.

Rooting Interest – With VT a virtual lock now and BC hanging around with a 12 seed, it’d be better to have Eagles knocked back a step.


Memphis Tigers (21-8, 9-5 C-USA):  @ East Carolina (Wed 6:00)

Last Week (11); This Week (11)

Memphis gave Alabama a big hand up this weekend by getting destroyed at UTEP.  I’m not going to say the Miners’ 27-point win was enough to turn Conference USA into a one-bid league (after all UAB is still in the bracket and UTEP is on the bubble themselves) but it certainly helped.  Memphis is one of those drastically overrated teams Matt pointed out on Saturday (in fact, all three of the C-USA bubble teams are overrated by 20+ spots according to Ken Pomeroy), so it’s tough to say for certain where they’ll still be around come next weekend.

Rooting Interest – I would feel much more comfortable if the Tigers had one more loss.  This week is as good a time as any.


Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-11, 6-10 Big Ten):  @ Northwestern (Wed 7:30)

Last Week (11); This Week (11)

No team has helped us more the past two weeks than Minnesota.  Just one month ago, on January 29th, the Gophers were sitting pretty at #18 with a 16-3 record.  Since then, they’ve dropped seven of their last eight, fallen to eighth in the Big Ten and guaranteed themselves a losing conference record.  They’ve dropped to 60th in the RPI and are a loss to Northwestern away from finishing ninth in the Big Ten.  No bubble team has had a worse February and with any luck, that performance will carry forward into March.

Rooting Interest – The Gophers appear to be one more loss away from falling out of the bracket entirely.  Let’s hope it happens Wednesday.


Saint Mary’s Gaels (23-7, 11-3 WCC):  Off

Last Week (11); This Week (11)

If Saint Mary’s hasn’t fallen out of the bracket now, after three straight losses over the past two weeks, it’s hard to see them doing so without an early loss in the WCC tournament and their second seed has given them a double-bye to the tournament semi-finals, where they will play either San Francisco, Pepperdine, or Loyola-Marymount on Sunday.  It’s tough deciding who to root for in the WCC tournament, given that both Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga are projected tournament teams with double-byes.  We’ll see how things change by Friday to make calls for this weekend.

Rooting Interest – None, for the time being.


12 Seeds –

Alabama Crimson Tide (19-9, 11-3 SEC):  @ #14 Florida (Tue 6:00, ESPNU)

Last Week (11); This Week (12)

It’s tough to call this a must-win for the Tide, since they shouldn’t be expected to beat a potential NCAA two or three seed, but damn if we couldn’t use a quality win right now.

Rooting Interest – I’ll just repeat Matt’s words:  “Let’s go be champions, boys.”


UAB Blazers (20-7, 10-4 C-USA):  @ Southern Miss (Wed 6:00)

Last Week (FFO); This Week (12)

Lost in the shuffle of last weekend’s Memphis-UTEP game is that the UAB Blazers became the C-USA leaders.  I believe that Conference USA should be a one-bid league (Ken Pomeroy has UAB, UTEP, and Memphis ranked 55, 64, and 95, respectively), but the consensus bracket doesn’t agree with me.  UAB hasn’t locked anything up just yet though, with games still at Southern Miss and against East Carolina.

Rooting Interest – With Southern Miss in the Next Four Out, it’s tough to call either way.  We’ll call it a toss-up.


Richmond Spiders (22-7, 11-3 A-10):  @ St. Joseph’s (Wed 6:00)

Last Week (12); This Week (12)

Richmond has been feasting on the dregs of the Atlantic-10 recently, racking up nine wins in their last eleven games, but losing to the conference’s top two teams, Xavier and Temple.  With only more dregs left, the Spiders will be relying heavily on their Thanksgiving neutral-site win over Purdue as their only quality win.  A 61 RPI and 139 SoS aren’t helping anything, either.

Rooting Interest – A loss at St. Joe’s, however unlikely, would probably knock Richmond out of the bracket.


Gonzaga Bulldogs (21-9, 11-3 WCC):  Cal State-Bakersfield (Mon 8:00)

Last Week (FFO); This Week (12)

The Bulldogs are not back in the bracket on the basis of their win over San Diego this weekend, but because they beat Saint Mary’s Thursday night.  They’ve locked up a double-bye in the WCC tournament, so they really only have one game to worry about after tonight’s regular season finale.

Rooting Interest – Cal State-Bakersfield has an RPI of 316.  There are only 345 teams in all of D-1 basketball.  A loss here would be historically embarrassing.


Boston College Eagles (17-11, 7-7 ACC):  @ Virginia Tech (Tue 8:00, ESPNU)

Last Week (12); This Week (12)

It’s tough to decide what to make of Boston College.  Regardless of what they’ve done so far, you have to figure that they need to win out against Virginia Tech and Wake Forest in order to even have a chance at making the NCAA tournament.

Rooting Interest – VT’s win against Duke makes the Hokies a near-lock, so it would be most helpful if they beat BC.


Butler Bulldogs (21-9, 13-5 Horizon):  Off

Last Week (12); This Week (12)

Butler has a double-bye in the Horizon League tournament so it’s likely they’re going to end up in a win-or-go-home game with Cleveland State.  Best case scenario is for Butler to win the Horizon League and CSU to lose before they meet.

Rooting Interest – None until the weekend.


13 Seed –

Missouri State Bears (23-7, 15-3 Horizon): Off

Last Week (13); This Week (13)

The Bears won the MVC regular season title by knocking off Wichita State at home this weekend.  This means they’ll play the winner of Southern Illinois and Illinois State on Friday, with a potential rematch with the Shockers in the championship game.  Best case scenario here is for Missouri State to win the MVC and Wichita State to lose early.

Rooting Interest – None until the weekend.


First Four Out –

Cleveland State Vikings (24-7, 13-5 Horizon):  Illinois-Chicago (Tue 6:00)

Last Week (12); This Week (FFO)

Dropping three of their last six conference games means the Vikings missed out on a double-bye and will have to open the Horizon League tournament against Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday.  They’ll likely have to at least beat Butler (thus making the tournament championship game) in order to earn an at-large bid. 

Rooting Interest – CSU has beaten UIC by 24 and 14 points in two games already this season, so a loss is unlikely, but would be helpful.


Clemson Tigers (19-9, 8-6 ACC):  @ #4 Duke (Wed 8:00, ESPN)

Last Week (NFO); This Week (FFO)

I’m not sure how beating ACC cellar-dweller Wake Forest was sufficient to move Clemson up to the second team out, but it happened.  Like Kansas State and Virginia Tech before them, the Tigers have an opportunity to take out a top-5 team and make a run at an at-large bid.  Unfortunately for them, they have to travel to Durham and face a Duke team coming off a loss.  If they lose this week, Clemson will have to beat Virginia Tech this weekend to even have a bubble chance.

Rooting Interest – Duke Sucks.  Go Duke.


Michigan Wolverines (18-12, 8-9 Big Ten):  Off

Last Week (Out); This Week (FFO)

This one is all on Minnesota.  The Wolverines have actually been pretty decent of late, winning seven of their last ten and losing only to projected tournament teams Ohio State, Illinois, and Wisconsin.  Still, their six-game January losing streak is enough to keep their RPI in the low-50s and Michigan on the outside looking in.

Rooting Interest – None.  The Wolverines close their regular season against Michigan State on Saturday.


Colorado Buffaloes (18-11, 7-7 Big XII):  @ Iowa State (Wed 6:30, ESPN3)

Last Week (Out); This Week (FFO)

And once against, Texas craps the bed and puts a new team on the bubble.  Last week it was Nebraska, this week it’s Colorado.  The Buffaloes have a couple of decent wins (Kansas State and Missouri) but a few bad losses as well (San Francisco, Harvard, Oklahoma).  The RPI of 76 isn’t going to win them any converts, either.

Rooting Interest – Iowa State took out Nebraska on Saturday.  Let’s hope they do the same to Colorado this week.


Next Four Out –

Colorado State Rams (18-10, 8-6 MWC):  Utah (Wed 8:00)

Last Week (12); This Week (NFO)

The Rams have lost three straight games to pretty much trash most any chance they had at an at-large bid.  They still have an outside chance at the tournament, but only if they can win at San Diego State this weekend. 

Rooting Interest – Having just lost by 17 to 14-13 Air Force, a loss to 13-15 Utah is not out of the question, but would end their tournament hopes.


Baylor Bears (18-10, 7-7 Big XII):  @ Oklahoma State (Tue 6:00, ESPN2)

Last Week (Out); This Week (NFO)

Another Big XII team back on the bubble at the largesse of another ranked Big XII team.  Nebraska and Colorado both beat Texas and Baylor beat Texas A&M.  The Bears will likely have to beat Texas this weekend to make the Big Dance.

Rooting Interest – Baylor is a ways out at this point, but a loss to the Cowboys would set them even further back.


Wichita State Shockers (23-7, 14-4 MVC):  Off

Last Week (FFO); This Week (NFO)

The Shockers are in a holding pattern, waiting for the Drake-Bradley winner this Friday.  After losing to Missouri State on Friday, Wichita will probably have to win the MVC tournament in order to make the NCAA tournament.

Rooting Interest – None, yet.  But if the Shockers lost early in the MVC tournament, that would be a big help to the Tide.


Southern Miss Golden Eagles (21-7, 9-5 C-USA):  UAB (Wed 6:00)

Last Week (FFO); This Week (NFO)

The Eagles just can’t avoid bad conference losses.  First it was Marshall, then SMU, and last weekend UCF.  Still, their RPI of 40 (which Pomeroy has at 65) is keeping them in the hunt, no matter how far out they are.

Rooting Interest – UAB is right behind us and Southern Miss is a ways behind us.  Still, with both teams in the same conference, it’s got to be a toss-up.


Movin’ On Out –

Harvard Crimson (21-5, 10-2 Ivy)

Princeton Tigers (22-5, 10-1 Ivy)

Nebraska Cornhuskers (18-10, 6-8 Big XII)

Virginia Commonwealth Rams (21-10, 12-6 CAA)

UTEP Miners (21-8, 9-5 C-USA):

FanPosts are just that; posts created by the fans. They are in no way indicative of the opinions of SBN and the authors of Roll Bama Roll.

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