March Madness: Tournament Watch

By Mike Bachini, CBS Connecticut

Connecticut (CBS) – For the first time, the selection committee gave the public a glimpse into their minds when they revealed their early top 16 teams this past Saturday. That was 29 days before the official selection process was to take place and a lot can change in terms of teams resume’s in that amount of time. But it was a nice change of pace for the committee to be a little more transparent leading up to Selection Sunday. They do a nice job of fielding questions after the bracket is revealed, but that doesn’t help in the days leading up to the big day.

 

What the early reveal did was help the public see how they rank the top teams, and how they could be slotted when the official bracket is announced. What is still a question, is how they view the teams that are sitting right on the edge of making it into the tournament, or what everyone likes to call “the bubble”. We can try to take what we learned from the top 16 reveal and apply it to teams on the bubble, which is what I’ll try to do.

 

Looking at the top 16 and where they were slotted, it seems as though the committee places the most emphasis on top 50 RPI wins and road/neutral wins. This lets the committee know that you have the ability to beat good teams, and you don’t have to do all of your damage at home. These are two key factors in NCAA tournament play. Of course other factors like strength of schedule, out of conference strength of schedule and top 100 wins also play a part, but it seems to a smaller degree. When looking at teams on “the bubble”, there will be less top 50 wins than teams in the top 16. That’s a given. But if your team has a few good wins where a team who has a comparable overall resume has fewer, it seems as though that might be the thing that puts your team over the edge and in to the tournament.

 

Below I will take a look at the teams in each conference who have a chance at hearing their name called on March 12th. I will start with the top 6 conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) and then proceed alphabetically with the remaining conferences.

In = The team could lose all of the rest of their games between now and March 12th and they would still be in the tournament. Obviously their seeding would take a hit, but it would be a complete shock if they weren’t in the tournament.

Almost In = These are the teams who are not quite there yet, but only need a few more wins to reach “In” status.

Bubble = Teams that might be in if the field was announced today, but are in direct competition with many other teams. These are the teams whose resume’s we will take a deeper look at.

 

ACC

In (5) – Louisville, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia, Duke
Almost In (1) – Notre Dame
Bubble In (5) – Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Miami, Clemson, Syracuse
Bubble Out – Georgia Tech

 

Conference Analysis – No it’s not crazy to think that 11 teams from the ACC will make the tournament. The top 6 are very solid. All of the bubble teams are right there on the edge though. Georgia Tech could find themselves on the right side of the bubble with a couple of nice wins, the opposite could be said for Miami, Clemson and Syracuse.

Big East

In (4) – Villanova, Butler, Creighton, Xavier
Bubble In (2) – Seton Hall, Providence
Bubble Out – Georgetown, Marquette

 

Conference Analysis – The top 4 are solidly in the tournament. The strength of a few of those teams can be questioned at this time due to significant injuries to star players on Creighton and Xavier. Their resume’s to this point aren’t in question however. Seton Hall picked up a much needed home win against Creighton last night and their stock is currently trending in the right direction. Providence’s big win over Xavier at home plus Indiana’s loss at Minnesota puts them in as the 68th team in the field.

Big 12

In (3) – Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia
Probably In (3) – Oklahoma State, Iowa State, TCU
Bubble In (1) – Kansas State

 

Conference Analysis – The Big 12 has a few title contenders at the top, and a pretty solid middle as well. I might be a little generous in where I’m slotting TCU right now, but the rest of their schedule is full of resume boosting opportunities that can only enhance their overall profile in the next few weeks.

Big 10

In (3) – Purdue, Wisconsin, Maryland
Probably In (2) – Minnesota, Northwestern
Bubble In (3) – Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana
Bubble Out – Ohio State

 

Conference Analysis – This has been a down year for the Big 10. The top 3 could all very well make runs to the Elite 8, but the whole conference could also be out of the tournament after the first weekend as well. Michigan State and Indiana are not having very good years after somewhat high expectations for both. Indiana has been hit hard with injuries and have not played all that consistent this season. They have huge wins over Kansas and North Carolina which will always look good, but they also have some head scratching losses to go with them. The next few weeks will be huge for the Hoosiers.

Pac-12

In (3) – Oregon, Arizona, UCLA
Probably In (2) – Cal, USC

 

Conference Analysis – The Pac-12 is very top heavy. Sometimes the strength of the conference comes in to question when there are so many bad teams at the bottom. This is not the case for the Pac-12 however. Oregon, Arizona and UCLA could all make final four runs, they are that good. Cal and USC have the ability to make it to the sweet 16, or flame out in the first round as well.

SEC

In (3) – Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina
Bubble In (1) – Arkansas
Bubble Out – Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Ole Miss

 

Conference Analysis – Florida has been one of the best teams in college basketball for the past 3 weeks. They did lose leading rebounder John Egbunu for the season with a torn ACL on Tuesday however. Kentucky hit a bump in the road but looks to be getting back on track. South Carolina will make sure that they leave no doubt in the committee’s eyes unlike last year where they were the biggest snub on Selection Sunday in some opinions.

American

In – Cincinnati, SMU
Bubble Out – Houston

 

Conference Analysis – The American is another league that is having a pretty bad year overall. Uconn and Memphis have had sub par seasons, Tulsa fell off after a few good seasons and UCF has been unable to make the leap to NCAA tournament worthy. Houston has a few opportunities for some solid wins to enhance their resume down the stretch against SMU at home and at Cincinnati. Win those and avoid a loss to East Carolina and Houston might be considered in when all is said and done.

Atlantic 10

In (2) – VCU, Dayton
Bubble Out – Rhode Island

 

Conference Analysis – Rhode Island was right on the cut line, until a 10 point home loss to Fordham put them completely on the wrong side of the bubble. Rhode Island just doesn’t have the resume to stack up against other bubble contenders. Their only good win was against Cincinnati on a neutral court, they lost to fellow bubbler Houston and conference tournament aside, they only have 1 more opportunity at a real good conference win against VCU in 9 days. They will need to run the table and then get a few wins in the A-10 tournament to get on the right side of the bubble again.

Missouri Valley

Bubble In (2) – Wichita State, Illinois State

 

Conference Analysis – One of these teams will most likely win “Arch Madness” in St. Louis and get the automatic bid into the tournament. The other, will sit around for a week and hope that their bubble doesn’t burst in the meantime. As of now I’d see both of these teams getting in if they don’t with their conference tournament. They both need to avoid serious missteps until tournament time though.

Bracket Projection

East

1. Villanova
16. New Orleans/UC Davis
8. Oklahoma State
9. Michigan
5. Wisconsin
12. Monmouth
4. West Virginia
13. Vermont
6. Notre Dame
11. Illinois State
3. Florida
14. Princeton
7. VCU
10. USC
2. North Carolina
15. Bucknell

 

South

1. Baylor
16. Florida Gulf Coast
8. Minnesota
9. Virginia Tech
5. SMU
12. Middle Tennessee
4. Virginia
13. UNC Wilmington
6. Maryland
11. Arkansas
3. Florida State
14. Belmont
7. South Carolina
10. Seton Hall
2. Arizona
15. Furman

 

Midwest

1. Kansas
16. Texas Southern
8. Wake Forest
9. California
5. Butler
12. Syracuse/Kansas State
4. Purdue
13. Akron
6. Xavier
11. Miami (FL)
3. Kentucky
14. Colorado State
7. Dayton
10. TCU
2. Louisville
15. Cal State Bakersfield

 

West

1. Gonzaga
16. Mount St. Mary’s/NC Central
8. Northwestern
9. Iowa State
5. Cincinnati
12. Clemson/Providence
4. UCLA
13. UT-Arlington
6. Creighton
11. Wichita State
3. Duke
14. Valparaiso
7. St. Mary’s
10. Michigan State
2. Oregon
15. North Dakota State

 

Last 4 In – Clemson, Syracuse, Kansas State, Providence

First 4 Out – Indiana, Georgetown, Georgia, Georgia Tech

Next 4 Out – Ole Miss, Marquette, Tennessee, Ohio State

Follow Mike Bachini on Twitter @MikeBachini

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