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March 5, 2013
Easy Bubble Solver
The Triumphant Return

by Jeff Nusser

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With Selection Sunday now just a bit less than two weeks away and conference tournaments getting underway today, the discussion of who's in and who's out of the NCAA tournament is picking up in earnest. There literally are dozens of bracket forecasters out there, each of whom has a favorite and highly nuanced way to try and read the tea leaves with regards to what the selection committee will do on March 17.

At Prospectus, however, we prefer a simpler approach: The Easy Bubble Solver.

Created by Drew Cannon, the EBS 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 198 of the 210 at-large teams over the past six seasons, a 94 percent success rate. In fact, the EBS correctly picked 36 of 37 at-large teams last year. (Like most of its human counterparts, the EBS whiffed on South Florida, electing to include Miami instead.)

Without further ado, here is the first edition of the EBS, which we'll update periodically between now and Selection Sunday.

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

Automatic bids claimed so far: 0

Bids remaining to presumed one-bid conferences: 21 -- America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Great West, Horizon, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid American, Mid-Eastern, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Summit, Sun Belt, Western Athletic

Remaining bids ostensibly still up for grabs: 47

Ah, Connecticut. Because of your past academic transgressions, you are not going to be invited to the dance. Is it better or worse knowing that you likely would have been in if you were eligible? Speaking in my capacity as a fan of a team no less irrelevant than Washington State, I'll say better. Feel free to disagree.

No major surprises here, although there are a couple of mild ones -- and it's no shock to find that these wrinkles revolve around a couple of mid-majors.

Belmont finds itself comfortably in the field via the EBS, but the composite field of the Bracket Matrix puts the Bruins much closer to the bubble. Of course, like all mid-majors from presumed one-bid conferences, Belmont won't want to lose in the Ohio Valley tournament and put the EBS to the test.

As for teams the EBS likes a heck of a lot less than the humans? Butler is suspiciously close to the EBS bubble, despite being projected as a No. 6 seed by the Matrix and rated as high as a 5 on a number of bracket projections. Here's to guessing the humans are probably better at predicting the behavior of the other humans than my laptop is. A good RPI plus wins over Indiana, Gonzaga, North Carolina and Marquette -- despite the fact that three of those wins were either in overtime or by a single point -- means there's probably no way the Bulldogs are as close to bubble as the EBS would like you to believe. Oregon, projected by most as a 7 seed, is also surprisingly close to the bubble by this method. The Ducks have an opportunity to make a statement this week when they travel to Colorado, a team projected as safely in the tournament. Boulder, however, is a notoriously difficult place to win.

The EBS also thinks Kentucky is a bit better off than the Matrix, where the Wildcats are projected as one of the last four in.

Onto the bubble! You'll note that we've included a last five in, rather than last four. That's because there's a tie in the EBS value, and there's really no way to break the tie.

Well hello there, Notre Dame! You might be a lot closer to the bubble than you think, despite being projected as a No. 7 seed by the Matrix. The Irish have a big opportunity on Saturday, but they face a tough task when they travel to Louisville.

And how about California? Thought to be dead in the water after falling to 5-5 in Pac-12 play, the Golden Bears have reeled off seven straight victories to pull within a half-game of the Pac-12 lead. The streak has included wins over UCLA at home and Arizona and Oregon on the road. Those were the top three teams in the Pac-12 at the time, by the way. It's starting to look more and more like the Pac-12 is a five-bid league.

Bracket forecasters are split on Boise State, but the Broncos are in via the EBS.

No such luck for mid-majors from potential one-bid conferences. Akron is going to find itself in a precarious position if the Zips don't win the Mid American's automatic bid. Same goes for Bucknell in the Patriot. The Matrix has both of them seeded right near the end of the at-large bids.

Meanwhile, Denver and Louisiana Tech are going to finish the season playing each other in a game that probably won't mean a whole lot. Seeding for the WAC tournament will probably already have been decided, and the league likely is only getting one bid anyway. The winner of that game will still probably have to win the league tournament.

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

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Premium Article Bubbles of their Own M... (02/27)
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Tuesday Truths (03/05)

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