Thursday, March 13, 2014

From 351 to 68: Hoya Sackeda

We very nearly got through yesterday with absolutely nothing changing on the board or the bubble. Then Georgetown got involved. The Hoyas' loss to DePaul, one of the worst major-conference teams, likely ends their at-large hopes. I'm leaving them on the board for now, just in case the bubble falls apart. They do have five RPI top-50 wins, including three strong neutral-court victories over teams in the field, and in recent years good wins have seemed to carry more weight than bad losses.

Nothing else happened. The other bubble teams won games they had to win just to stay in the discussion, although Stanford and Colorado sure made it interesting for a while in the Pac-12 tournament. Oh, we added another NIT team, as Boston University was taken out at home by American U. That makes eight NIT bids from the 12 small conferences that have completed their tournaments.

In (13): Mercer (Atlantic Sun), Coastal Carolina (Big South), Delaware (Colonial), Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Horizon), Harvard (Ivy), Manhattan (Metro-Atlantic), Wichita State (Missouri Valley), Mount St. Mary's (Northeast), Eastern Kentucky (Ohio Valley), American (Patriot League), Wofford (Southern), North Dakota State (Summit League), Gonzaga (West Coast)

There are 36 at-large slots this year, While nodding to Colorado, 33 teams are locks to make the tournament::

Locks (33): Duke, Syracuse, Virginia, North Carolina; Cincinnati, Louisville, Connecticut, Memphis, Southern Methodist; Massachusetts, Saint Louis, Virginia Commonwealth, George Washington; Villanova, Creighton; Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa; Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State; San Diego State, New Mexico; Arizona, UCLA, Oregon; Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee.

Those 33 teams come from nine conferences, and will use somewhere between 24 and 33 at-large bids, leaving three to 12 slots for bubble teams. Here's my spreadsheet bubble, listed in RPI order.

Bubble (29): Colorado, Southern Mississippi, Baylor, Brigham Young, Arizona State, Dayton, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, St. Joseph's, Pittsburgh, Stanford, Xavier, Minnesota, Missouri, California, Georgetown, Providence, Florida State,, Arkansas, Middle Tennessee, St. John's, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Illinois, Louisiana Tech, Stephen F. Austin, Louisiana State, Georgia, Clemson, Utah

We're going to see a lot of movement today, one way or another. By conference:

ACC: Florida State is squarely on the bubble and will stay there with a win or a loss to Maryland -- and we'll see what happens Friday if they win -- while Maryland needs this game and probably one more to stay in the discussion. Very, very big game for a Thursday afternoon. Pitt gets stuck playing an improving Wake Forest team in a quasi-road game. They cannot take a bad loss right now. North Carolina State is also in a must-win situation, because losing to Miami would both hurt their case and deprive them of a chance for a good win on Friday. Clemson has to win at least twice to be taken seriously -- they draw Georgia Tech.

As an aside, the first day of the ACC tournament was awful, a prima facie case against the expansion of leagues we've seen. Bad teams playing bad basketball in a region they have no connection to. The ACC tournament set the standard, and it's kind of sad to see what's happened to it. But at least the football championship game is a rousing success.

I don't believe I've ever seen a nominally major league with no bubble teams. This is the American's peak -- they trade Louisville for three bad basketball programs from Conference USA next year. Even if Temple bounces back, the American is going to be right on the line as a "major" conference, arguably more Atlantic 10 than Atlantic Coast.

Atlantic 10: A don't-dare-lose game for Dayton against Fordham, which won a postseason game last night for the first time since it was my safety school. There's probably a world where Richmond can win three times and get into the conversation, but we'll worry about that once they get past Duquesne.

Big East: Both Providence and St. John's can get into the field, but the team that loses today -- the two play at 2:30 p.m. -- is going to be pretty miserable until Sunday night worrying. The winner isn't in, but they get a leg up, not least for winning the rubber game against a direct bubble rival. Xavier may be able to lose to Marquette and still get in, but they shouldn't test the theory.

Big Ten: Illinois has to beat Indiana just to stay on the board. Minnesota's situation isn't quite that dire -- but their lack of anything away from home means that today's game is as much about location as it is opponent (Penn State). They're 3-9 in road and neutral games.

Big 12: The big story on what will be the best conference-tournament day all week isn't bubble-related; we'll all be watching to see what Kansas looks like in their first game without Joel Embiid. It's a tough spot for the committee, which is going to get roasted no matter what they do, but at least they'll get to see Kansas without Embiid to help make their decision. My opinion is that a loss today would be worth a seed line, a loss Saturday would not warrant any loss in seed, and a loss tomorrow would…be complicated.

Oklahoma State might be in even if they lose to Kansas, but a 5-11 mark against the top 50 would be a strike against them. They're in, clearly, with a win. The same goes for Baylor, if they beat Oklahoma. The Big 12 has done a very good job of maximizing bids this year, and may get seven from a ten-team league.

Mountain West: No bubble teams for the first time in forever. Thank Boise State and their penchant for collapses.

Pac-12: Utah might be in if they can beat Arizona -- their metrics are far better than the RPI would have you believe. They'll stay on the board even if they lose. Colorado and Cal may well both be in, but I think the winner of this game will advance on to the board immediately. The same is true for Arizona State and Stanford. When the non-meaningful game of the day is Oregon/UCLA, that's a strong day of games. Nice of the bottom four teams to get out of the way yesterday.

Southeastern: Missouri and LSU must win their games against also-rans Texas A&M and Alabama to stay on the bubble. Arkansas is in that no-win spot, where a win over South Carolina doesn't help, but a loss is terrible. The SEC is just barely a major conference the past few years; like in football, they have some amazing anchor programs carrying a lot of overrated ones.

Let's see…all the Conference USA bubble teams play, with Southern Mississippi -- the team with the best case -- getting a bad draw in that they have to play the host, Texas-El Paso. USM's case is going to be pretty good if they add a road win to a strong profile that, admittedly, lacks great wins. That's about it; other than my quixotic notion that Stephen F. Austin is a bubble team, there are no at-large candidates in the eight secondary conferences whose tournaments start or continue today.

We'll know a lot more in 18 hours.