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Beyond the Bubble (03/14)

March 13, 2008
From 341 to 65
Through March 13, 8 p.m.

by Joe Sheehan

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The bubble is smaller and weaker than it was at the start of the day, as almost no team with a chance to improve its chances did so, and at least one team ended its hopes.

Start with the good. St. Joseph’s had an impressive win over Richmond, and plays what amounts to a play-in game with Xavier tomorrow. If they beat X, that should be what they need to move into the NCAA tournament, regardless of what happens in the championship game. Miami (Fla.) won a must-win over the worst team in the ACC; they’re just about in, but can end all doubt by beating Virginia Tech—a certain elimination game for the Hokies—Friday afternoon.

There was more bad news than good, however. Villanova is probably in, but could have ended all doubt with a win over Georgetown. They ran out of steam late and lost by 19. Dayton needed to beat Xavier, also had a lead in the second half, and lost by nine. I’ll keep them on the list, but they’d just about done. UAB took what will look like a worse loss than it is, dropping to Tulsa in OT. Tulsa is actually playing very well, but losing your last two games and not getting out of the tournament quarters is not sending the right message to the committee. You can say similar things about Arizona State, which went without a field goal over the last 9:35 in losing to Southern California. ASU is 5-10 since January 17, which doesn’t sound tournament-worthy.

Texas—the state—had a bad afternoon. Houston lost to UTEP again and is removed completely from the spreadsheet. Baylor took an awful loss to Colorado in double overtime, giving the committeee an excuse to leave them out. That makes 5-7 in their last 12, and there’s just no way to spin losing to Colorado, which is awful.

Here’s the board as of 7:30 p.m. Thursday evening:

On the Board (3): St. Mary’s, Gonzaga, Connecticut.

Someone asked what this category meant. These are teams I have as in the field, and who cannot win an automatic bid. They are officially at-larges, as opposed to the teams below, which can win auto bids. On my “board”—a spreadsheet—they’re locked in.

In (26): North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Xavier, Kansas, Texas, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, Memphis, Brigham Young, UCLA, Stanford, Washington State, USC, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Kentucky.

Those 26 teams represent nine conferences, which means that group has to take 17 at-large bids at minimum, and could account for as many as 26. Realistically, it will take 23 to 25. For now, we’ll keep calling it 26. That number drops today, Friday and Saturday, as major-conference teams get eliminated from conference tournaments and move to the big board.

Automatic Bids (14): Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Winthrop (Big South), Cornell (Ivy League), Drake (Missouri Valley), Austin Peay (Ohio Valley), Siena (MAAC), George Mason (Colonial), Davidson (Southern), San Diego (WCC), Oral Roberts (Summit), Western Kentucky (Sun Belt), Butler (Horizon), Mount St. Mary’s (Northeast), Portland State (Big Sky). Remaining certain one-bid leagues include the America East, Big West, MEAC, Patriot, SWAC, Southland and WAC.

Bubble (27): Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech, Massachusetts, St. Joseph’s, Temple, Dayton, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Villanova, Ohio State, VCU, UAB, Kent State, Illinois State, UNLV, New Mexico, Arizona State, Arizona, Oregon, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, South Alabama.

Somewhere between five and 14 at-large bids remain for this crowd, which means at least five of these teams are locks to go in. Just eyeballing the list, the teams that look the best are, not in order, Villanova, Miami (Fla.), Kansas State, Kent State and Oklahoma.

--

From 341 to 65 will be updated a few times daily from now through Saturday, as conference tournament action changes the field.

We already saw one significant move yesterday, as Villanova just about cemented its slot in the NCAA tournament with an 82-63 win over Syracuse. The ‘Cuse played a 40-minute game; unfortunately, it was 40 minutes of real time, which only amount to about 19 minutes of game time. They’ll remain on the bubble for now, but the loss and the way they looked push them into the range where they’re doing a lot of wishing and hoping.

Other than that elimination game at Madison Square Garden, little changed on Wednesday. Arizona, Dayton and St. Joseph’s all avoided bad losses—Dayton in overtime, the other two in blowouts—while Pittsburgh and West Virginia, in on my board, avoided the kind of loss that would have put that status in question. It’s today, with first-round or quarterfinal games in all BCS leagues, Conference USA, the Atlantic 14 and the Mountain West, that we’ll start to see a lot of movement.

Mount St. Mary’s and Portland State locked up automatic bids by winning the Northeast and Big Sky conference tournaments, respectively.

Here’s the board as of 11:30 a.m. Thursday morning:

On the Board (2): St. Mary’s, Gonzaga.

In (27): North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Xavier, Kansas, Texas, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Connecticut, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, Memphis, Brigham Young, UCLA, Stanford, Washington State, USC, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Kentucky.

Those 27 teams represent nine conferences, which means that group has to take 18 at-large bids at minimum, and could account for as many as 27. Realistically, it will take 24 to 26. For now, we’ll keep calling it 27. That number drops today, Friday and Saturday, as major-conference teams get eliminated from conference tournaments and move to the big board.

Automatic Bids (14): Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Winthrop (Big South), Cornell (Ivy League), Drake (Missouri Valley), Austin Peay (Ohio Valley), Siena (MAAC), George Mason (Colonial), Davidson (Southern), San Diego (WCC), Oral Roberts (Summit), Western Kentucky (Sun Belt), Butler (Horizon), Mount St. Mary’s (Northeast), Portland State (Big Sky). Remaining certain one-bid leagues include the America East, Big West, Patriot, SWAC, Southland and WAC.

Bubble (27): Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech, Massachusetts, St. Joseph’s, Temple, Dayton, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Villanova, Ohio State, VCU, UAB, Houston, Illinois State, UNLV, New Mexico, Arizona State, Arizona, Oregon, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, South Alabama.

Somewhere between five and 14 at-large bids remain for this crowd, which means at least five of these teams are locks to go in. By the end of today, we’ll have sorted them, and pared down the field a bit.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Joe by clicking here or click here to see Joe's other articles.

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