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Easy Bubble Solver (03/10)

March 9, 2012
Easy Bubble Solver
Projecting the Field

by Jeff Nusser

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Much virtual ink is spilled this time of year by bracketologists attempting to look into their crystal balls to figure out which schools are going to secure one of the 37 at large bids for the NCAA tournament. For weeks, my Twitter timeline has been filled with this guy or that guy telling me the impact a win or loss has on a team's resume.

But as our own Drew Cannon showed about a month ago, figuring out who's in and who's out really isn't rocket science. (Seeding, of course, is a totally different story. But given the variance in performance from year to year of all of the tournament forecasters, I'm not really convinced there's any particular skill to that, either.)

Cannon's Easy Bubble Solver really is this easy: Add together a team's RPI and Ken Pomeroy ranking, order them, and take the top 37 teams.

The EBS would have correctly picked 162 of the possible 173 at large teams over the past five seasons, a 93.6 percent success rate. Or, about what the bracket experts generally pick correctly after studying the committee for years and watching hundreds of hours of basketball each season.

So, without further ado, here is our look at the NCAA tournament bubble, via the EBS.

Total bids: 68 -- 31 automatic, 37 at large

Automatic bids claimed so far: 15 -- Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Montana (Big Sky), UNC Asheville (Big South), VCU (Colonial), Detroit (Horizon), Harvard (Ivy), Loyola Maryland (Metro Atlantic), Creighton (Missouri Valley), LIU Brooklyn (Northeast), Murray State (Ohio Valley), Lehigh (Patriot), Davidson (Southern), South Dakota State (Summit), Western Kentucky (Sun Belt), St. Mary's (West Coast)

Bids remaining to presumed one-bid conferences: 6 -- America East, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Southland, Southwestern, Western Athletic

Remaining bids ostensibly still up for grabs: 47

First, here are the top 37 teams, who we would presume are "in":

EBS ValueTeamRPI RankKP Rank
1.5Kentucky 21
3.5Syracuse 16
4North Carolina 35
4Michigan St. 53
4.5Ohio St. 72
5Kansas 64
10Duke 416
10Indiana 1010
11.5Baylor 914
12Wichita St. 168
12.5Marquette 817
13Missouri 179
13.5Georgetown 1413
14.5Wisconsin 227
15Memphis 1911
15.5Michigan 1219
20.5Saint Louis2912
22Louisville 1826
22.5Florida 2718
22.5UNLV1332
22.5Temple 1134
23Vanderbilt 2620
24.5Florida St. 2128
25New Mexico 3515
27Gonzaga 2331
28.5California 3423
30.5Purdue 3922
31Iowa St. 3230
31Alabama 3329
31.5Kansas St. 4221
32.5Virginia 4025
34Connecticut 3137
35.5Texas 4427
37Notre Dame 3638
38.5Long Beach St. 3839
41.5San Diego St. 2855
41.5Southern Miss.1568

Now, for the bubble. Top 10 teams here are above the cutoff mark of 47; next 10 in italics:

EBS ValueTeamRPI RankKP RankLast ResultFriday's Game
42.5 Miami FL 50 35 Thu: W, Georgia Tech, 54-36 Florida State
46 West Virginia 49 43 Wed: L, Connecticut, 71-67 Regular season over
46 Cincinnati 59 33 Thu: W, Georgetown, 72-70 Syracuse
46 Colorado St. 20 72 Thu: W, TCU, 81-60 San Diego St.
47 Brigham Young 45 49 Sat: L, Gonzaga, 77-58 Regular season over
49.5 Iona 46 53 Sun: L, Fairfield, 85-75 Regular season over
53 North Carolina St. 58 48 Thu: W, Boston College, 78-57 Virginia
53 Drexel 65 41 Sat: L, VCU, 59-56 Regular season over
53.5 Seton Hall 60 47 Wed: L, Louisville, 61-55 Regular season over
54 South Florida 43 65 Thu: L, Notre Dame, 57-53 (OT) Regular season over
55 Northwestern 53 57 Thu: L, Minnesota, 75-68 Regular season over
58.5 Xavier 57 60 Sat: W, Charlotte, 72-63 Dayton
59.5 Saint Joseph's 55 64 Thu: W, Charlotte, 80-64 St. Bonaventure
61 Middle Tennessee 63 59 Sun: L, Arkansas State, 64-61 Regular season over
61 Marshall 47 75 Thu: W, Tulsa, 105-100 (3OT) Southern Mississippi
63 Tennessee 74 52 Sat: W, Vanderbilt, 68-61 Mississippi
64.5 Oregon 66 63 Thu: L, Colorado, 63-62 Regular season over
65.5 Mississippi 51 80 Thu: W, Auburn, 68-54 Tennessee
66.5 Washington 67 66 Thu: L, Oregon State, 86-82 Regular season over
67.5 Arizona 85 50 Thu: W, UCLA, 66-58 Oregon State

Quick observations... Fans of Washington who are worried, should be. After Thursday's unexpected loss to Oregon State -- although, really, is any loss in the Pac-12 truly unexpected at this point? -- the Huskies have now dropped below the line. That's a presumably unprecedented position for the regular season champion of one of a major conference to be in.

As you can see, this Pac-12-as-one-bid-league talk isn't crazy. And although Oregon looks to be on the bubble, one would assume the Ducks are dead in the water. (Sorry for the terrible pun.) Arizona is close to the line, but a win over OSU isn't going to do much. The Wildcats' best opportunity for an RPI booster would be in the championship against Cal, so it's pretty much auto bid or bust for Sean Miller's squad.

Despite the skepticism of Pomeroy's laptop, Southern Miss is looking good. Of course, the Golden Eagles can make that moot with two more wins in the Conference USA tournament.

Northwestern's quest to make its first NCAA tournament appears incredibly precarious. Couldn't the Wildcats have just beaten Minnesota and made it all moot? And they're in serious danger of getting passed over by teams such as Xavier and Saint Joseph's.

How about Marshall's late push? Will the Thundering Herd have anything left in the tank after their triple-overtime thriller? A win over RPI wonder-team Southern Miss would boost their resume significantly.

Today's Tennessee-Ole Miss tilt in the SEC tournament should be pretty important to both teams' fates. For what it's worth, Pomeroy's laptop has Tennessee at about a 60/40 favorite in that one.

Iona is going to make an interesting test case for this. Could the Gaels be this year's VCU? Then again, maybe Drexel, which lost to VCU in the CAA championship, is this year's VCU.

Jeff Nusser is the Editor of CougCenter and a regular contributor to Basketball Prospectus. Follow him on Twitter at @NussCoug.

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Easy Bubble Solver (03/10)

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