Expertise's Politics and Sports Blog

Wednesday, March 09, 2005
The NCAA Bubble Teams Part I: The Majors.

As I mentioned in my Super Sunday recap, the selection for the at-large bids will probably go down as one of the most controversial in NCAA Tournament history. 

The NCAA Selection Committee, which consists of these guys, do not have an easy job.  They face the inconsistency and mediocrity of a lot of teams in the major conferences as well as a number of mid-major conferences that have some very strong teams that are favored to win their conference tourneys, but are vulnerable to upsets which places them in the hunt for an at-large bid.

If there was a year for the Selection Committee to show a little love to the mid-majors, this is definitely it.  I can look at several teams right now in almost every major conference - ACC, Big East, SEC, Big Ten - and make a very strong case as to why they don't deserve to get in.  Meanwhile, a lot of teams in the mid-majors have been constantly winning, but it means nothing if they don't win their conference tourney.

Let's start with the ACC first, since that's "my" conference...

Locks:  The usual suspects.  North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest....and I also have Ga Tech as a lock, as long as they win their second round game on Friday.

Bubble:    NC State has yet to win against ranked competition, but they have had some close calls.  7-9 in the league doesn't look good either, in which one of those was an embarrassing loss to Virginia at home.  They have to beat Florida State on Thursday and a Chris Paul-less Wake Forest on Friday in order to stamp their ticket.  That is possible to do.

Maryland's got tougher waters to climb.  Their only claim to fame is the two wins over Duke; other than that, they have been mediocre to terrible.  They have to beat Clemson on Wed; a team that swept them in conference play this season.  Then they have to play UNC strong to get in.  I don't think they deserve to get in, but I think making it to Friday might do the trick.

Bubble's burst:  Virginia Tech's nonconference schedule is way too weak and they lost to some terrible teams early in the season.  One upset win against Duke won't be enough.  Miami (Fl) has no quality victories, and lost four of their last five to close out the regular season. 

Moving on to the Big East....

Locks:  UConn, Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt, Villanova.  In other words, the ranked teams. 

I have Notre Dame locked too, despite the naysayers.  Victories over Indiana, UConn, Nova, and Boston College is more than enough.

Bubble:  West Virginia swept Pitt, but really doesn't have any other sound wins.  They also lost seven of nine in January; something the selection committee will notice.  Nevertheless, if they beat Providence and BC they'll get in.  I don't see it happening, though.

Bubble's burst:  Georgetown's done.  They had a couple of wins against Pitt and Nova respectively, but they lost their last five games of the season.  Even if they did win their first round game against Seton Hall, which I doubt, it won't be enough without a complete run through the tourney.

The Big Ten...

Locks:  Illinois, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Bubble:  Indiana poses the most interesting scenario out of all of the bubble teams.  They've played a lot of great teams this year.  Problem is, they've lost to most of them, which has resulted in a 15-12 record.  However, they did beat Michigan St., closed the season winning four out of five and has a 10-6 conference record.

If they beat Minnesota, who they split games with this year,  they'll get in.  Otherwise, 13 losses
is simply too many for the selection committee to notice.

Bubble's burst:  Iowa only has one quality win, and that's against Louisville.  Otherwise, they've had a pretty weak schedule.  They'll have to go deep against teams they didn't have a chance of beating this year.

You have to admire Ohio State for their win on Sunday to Illinois, and they might get a notice by the committee.  But their nonconference schedule is too weak and Illinois represents their only win against a ranked team.  Sorry guys.

The Big 12...

Locks:  Kansas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.  I got Texas in too, as they swept Oklahoma State in conference play and lost only by one to Wake Forest on the road. 

Bubble:  Texas Tech had a weak nonconference schedule, but they made up for it with wins against Kansas and at Oklahoma.  That 29-pt loss to Oklahoma State and the 20 pt loss in the Oklahoma rematch at home doesn't look good tho, and I think they have to beat the winner of Iowa State/Baylor (they swept Baylor, but lost their only game against Iowa St) in order to get to the Dance.

If it was up to me, I'd make Texas A&M a lock, as they've only lost eight games this year.  However, none of their wins came against ranked opponents, and their nonconference schedule was weak as well.  Thus, not only do they have to win against Kansas State, but they might have to beat Kansas as well.

Bubble burst:  None.  Or at least any that isn't obvious to see.

The SEC...

Locks:  Kentucky, Alabama, Florida.

LSU is in too.  They've only beaten Bama, but they only lost eight games this year, and single-digit losses in what's considered a major conference will get you in no matter what.  That 12-4 conference record looks pretty good too.  They also closed out the season with a six game winning streak.

Bubble:  A lot of people say Mississippi State is in too, but I'm not so sure.  Weak schedule, and no wins against ranked opponents this year.   Getting blown out of the water by FOURTY-NINE by Alabama and getting swept by LSU isn't going to help matters at all.  In fact, I'm inclined to say that they might have to beat Florida to guarantee their spot.

Bubble burst:  Vanderbilt is done.  A big upset win at home against Alabama will get them a mention in the meeting, but they have 12 losses this year.  They needed to finish the season with a win against LSU on the road and came up short.


Locks:  Arizona and Washington, of course.  UCLA and Stanford acted like the only teams who wanted to win must-win games over the weekend, and IMO got their tickets to the dance.

Bubble:  None.  Surprising, ain't it?

Bubble's burst:  Some people have tried to give Arizona State a fighting chance.  I'm not.  Even if they somehow upset Washington in the first round, 12 losses plus no wins against ranked opponents during the regular season and closing out the regular season 0-3 will place a pin on your bubble.

Same way with Oregon State.  They have a win against Washington, but lost to East Carolina?  Was it the jet lag or something?  Add that with the Georgia loss and they were headed to the NIT before they even started the season good.

Conference USA

Locks:  Louisville, Charlotte, Cincinnati.

Bubble:  UAB only has nine losses, but that's for a good reason, as they only had one team that was ranked in their nonconference schedule and lost easily.  Didn't beat any of the ranked teams in the conference either.  Closing out the season by winning their last four helped.  They have to beat the winner of Depaul/Tulane in order to get into the Dance.

Depaul is very very close.  They beat Notre Dame and Old Dominion in nonconference play, something that the committee will take notice of.  An upset over Cincinnati in the rematch after losing to them by 29 in the first game could be a positive too, and it doesn't hurt that they took Louisville to the limit on Saturday.  However, they need to win against Tulane to cement it.

Bubble's burst:  Houston does have an outside shot by beating South Florida and Cincy in the tournament.  Only problem with that is, they've lost by double digits to every ranked team they've played, including a 110-63 spanking by Washington.  They lost to Cincy in January by 19.  They're pretty much done.

Well that's it for right now, folks.  I'll have my picks for the mid-major bubble threats later.

Posted at 05:40 am by Expertise



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