Bubble Watch: February 24

We’re back today to conclude this week’s Bubble Watch, looking at 10 more teams and why they will or will not make this year’s NCAA Tournament. It’s the home stretch for these teams, and now is the time for them to make their impression on the Selection Committee.

Oregon State (15-10, 6-8 Pac 12)
Why They’ll Get In – Despite double-digit losses, the Beavers are ranked 33rd in RPI, which we all know the Committee loves. The RPI loves the Pac 12 this season, and that will benefit Oregon State’s case. In conference play, they have wins over Oregon, California, USC and Utah, which will help them as well.
Why They’ll Be Left Out – All four of those great conference wins came at home, and the Committee likes teams who are able to win on the road. The Beavers have just three road wins on the season, and only one of those was in conference play. They have a great chance to make a final impression on the Committee by ending their regular season at USC and UCLA.

Michigan (19-9, 9-6 Big Ten)
Why They’ll Get In – They have avoided a bad loss to this point in the season, and that definitely helps their case. Their worst loss on the year was on the road against hated rival Ohio State. The lack of a bad loss and wins over Maryland and Purdue should be enough to get the Wolverines into the dance.
Why They’ll Be Left Out – Michigan simply has not played very well down the stretch, and that is never good for a Bubble team. They’ve lost some close games, and struggled in some wins. They end their season with a trip to Madison to take on Wisconsin, followed by a home match-up with Iowa. They need to play well in those games.

Temple (17-10, 11-4 AAC)
Why They’ll Get In – They are currently in 1st place in the AAC, and if they win the conference title, they’ll automatically get in. They have just as good a chance to win that tourney as any team in the conference. If the Owls get an at-large bid, it will be based on their performance in conference play, as they swept Cincinnati and Connecticut, and also have wins over SMU and Tulsa.
Why They’ll Be Left Out – Temple does not have a good RPI and that will hold them back. They had chances for big non-conference wins against North Carolina, Butler, Utah, Villanova, St. Joseph’s and Wisconsin, but lost all of those games. Their 6-6 non-conference record, combined with losses to Memphis and East Carolina, will probably keep them out of the field.

Cincinnati (20-8, 10-5 AAC)
Why They’ll Get In – Cincinnati is just a solid team all over the board. They don’t have a great RPI, but they have road wins over VCU and Connecticut, as well as home wins over Tulsa and Connecticut. Advanced analytics love the Bearcats this season, and they have a chance to enter the postseason with momentum as they end the regular season at home against SMU.
Why They’ll Be Left Out – Cincinnati has struggled to close out close games this year. Six of their eight losses have been by four points or less. While some may view that as a good thing, I think the Committee will see that and see a team that struggles under pressure, and we all know that there is no greater pressure situation than in the NCAA Tournament.

VCU (20-7, 12-2 A10)
Why They’ll Get In – VCU has been extremely good in Atlantic 10 play this year, winning their first nine games, which was part of a 12-game winning streak. If they fail to win the A-10 Tournament, a 47th ranked RPI will help them, as will potential wins at George Washington and Dayton down the home stretch of the regular season.
Why They’ll Be Left Out – The Rams could really use those wins over GW and Dayton, as a lack of big wins is holding them back at the moment. They’re 12-2 in conference play, but their best wins are against St. Joe’s and St. Bonaventure. They also lost all of their big non-conference games, which included match-ups with Wisconsin, Florida State and Georgia Tech.

St. Bonaventure (18-7, 10-4 A10)
Why They’ll Get In – The Bonnies are playing their way into the conversation here in February, and that’s the way to do it. In this month alone, they are 5-1 with road wins over St. Joseph’s and Dayton, the consensus top two teams in the Atlantic 10. They have one more chance in the regular season for a massive win as they go for the season sweep over St. Joe’s in Rochester.
Why They’ll Be Left Out – Strength of Schedule is the biggest thing holding St. Bonaventure back, as they did not get any big wins in non-conference play. Their best out of conference win is over Ohio, so they lack a marquee non-conference win. They also have losses to Hofstra, Siena and Duquesne. That will ultimately hurt the Bonnies’ chances.

Alabama (16-11, 7-8 SEC)
Why They’ll Get In – We hear all the time, “It’s not about who you play, it’s about who you beat.” That is how experts believe that the Committee separates teams, and Alabama has wins this season over Wichita State, Notre Dame, Clemson, South Carolina, Florida, LSU and Texas A&M. Those are all good wins, and prove that Alabama is capable of winning some games in the Tournament.
Why They’ll Be Left Out – Despite all of those good wins, the Crimson Tide just have too many losses. They have a losing record in SEC play, which includes losses to Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn. It would definitely benefit them to close out the regular season with three wins, as they face Auburn and Arkansas at home, then a road game against Georgia.

Gonzaga (21-7, 13-3 WCC)
Why They’ll Get In – We like to think that the Committee doesn’t judge teams based on their name, but I’m in the camp that says it’s impossible to completely disassociate the school from the resume. I think Gonzaga may get in based on their name alone, coupled with a solid resume. It’s not a great resume, but they’ve won 21 games. That’s difficult to do no matter who you play.
Why They’ll Be Left Out – We’re so used to Gonzaga playing a tough non-conference schedule and knocking off some really good teams. Their only good win of the season was over Connecticut. They were also swept by Saint Mary’s, and lost to BYU as well. Gonzaga just doesn’t lose three conference games. They still have to play BYU on the road, so that could be a fourth conference loss. That wouldn’t be good for the Zags.

Vanderbilt (17-11, 9-6 SEC)
Why They’ll Get In – Strength of schedule, strength of schedule and strength of schedule. Did I mention strength of schedule? Vanderbilt has played one of the most difficult schedules in the country, and having won 17 games despite their difficult schedule could be enough to get them in.
Why They’ll Be Left Out – Despite that rough slate of games, they’ve lost 11 of them already, with a couple weeks still left. They have losses to Ole Miss and Mississippi State, and that coupled with double-digit losses could keep the Commodores out of the Big Dance.

Washington (16-11, 8-7 Pac 12)
Why They’ll Get In – I’m peering a bit into the future with the Huskies, but this week, they make the Oregon trip, as they take on Oregon State and Oregon. If they can win both of those games, they will definitely move up the Bubble. They have wins over Texas, USC and a season sweep of UCLA, and those wins will definitely help their cause.
Why They’ll Be Left Out – BUT, just like Vanderbilt, Washington has 11 losses, and they could be adding two more this week. Unless they make a deep run in the Pac 12 Tournament, I think the Huskies will be heading to the NIT.

The last week of February is a very “Bubbly” time of year, and now you have an idea on where some of these Bubble teams stand in the grand scheme. It’s going to be an exciting race to the finish line, and I am very interested to see how it all shakes out.


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