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March 11, 2009
From 344 to 65
Thursday Update

by Joe Sheehan

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Moving Day came early, as a bunch of teams made the decisions easy, clearing space on the bubble as we get closer to Selection Sunday.

By avoiding the bad loss, Texas put themselves in the NCAA tournament. They were probably already in, but losing to one of the worst teams in the BCS leagues would have been an RPI hit while pushing them to 1-3 to close out the season, opening the door to a snub. That's all done now. Even a loss to a desperate Kansas State team, one that beat them in Austin last month, wouldn't pitch the Longhorns into the NIT.

That was an automatic. After careful consideration, I'm adding Oklahoma State to the list as well. They were helped as much by Texas A&M's loss, which set them up as the clear #5 team in the Big 12. They have-well, had-the second-highest RPI of the bubble teams, with not a single bad loss on the season and just one defeat outside the top 50. Throw in wins over bubble teams Siena, Rhode Island and Tulsa, and they have to be in.

That loss by the Aggies, who were victimized by the greatest hour of Mike Singletary's career, will keep them on the bubble for now. It would help them if Texas were to beat Kansas State today, a decision that would likely end the Wildcats' hopes and leave the Aggies as the conference's only bubble team, the clear #6 in the Big 12. The Aggies have a good profile-four top-50 wins, 8-8 against the top 100, 8-4 in their last 12-but the loss to an off-the-board Red Raiders squad in an opening-round game is the kind of thing you don't like to see. Quality nonconference wins over Arizona and LSU will likely put them over the top by Sunday, but let's see what shakes out.

There's less confusion about Nebraska, which might have survived a quarterfinals loss to Kansas, but won't make it out of dodge after being skunked by Baylor in a blowout. An RPI of 73, just four road wins and just five top-100 wins are too much too overcome.

Nothing of note happened in the Atlantic 14 or Conference USA tournaments, which have bubble teams, but none seeded so low as fifth. In the Big East's Week O' Fun, Notre Dame got waxed by West Virginia, looking bad in the process, and will now wait for their run of home games and prime-time slots in the NIT. They sure had a lot of quality losses, and not nearly enough wins (just five top-100 victories) to make up for it.

Most of the bubble teams play today, with the sole exceptions some teams in the Big 11 and SEC. I would recommend that all win; as far as I can tell, the only bubble teams that have any hope of losing their next game and still getting an NCAA bid are Dayton, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Auburn.

I love next Thursday and Friday. I truly do. But in many ways these three days, running yesterday through Friday, are so much better. Enjoy.

All the RPI data in my pieces come from the fantastic CollegeRPI.com helmed by the talented Jerry Palm.

Here's how my spreadsheet lays out at 2:30 a.m. on March 12:

Automatic Bids (14): East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun), Portland State (Big Sky), Radford (Big South), Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial), Cleveland State (Horizon), Cornell (Ivy), Siena (Metro-Atlantic), Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley), Robert Morris (Northeast), Morehead State (Ohio Valley), Chattanooga (Southern), North Dakota State (Summit), Western Kentucky (Sun Belt), Gonzaga (West Coast).

One-Bid Conferences (7): The following conferences have no chance at all of getting a team other than their conference champion into the NCAA tournament: America East, Big West, Mid-American, MEAC, Patriot League, SWAC, Southland.

On The Board (1): Butler.

Locks (30): The following teams could lose the rest of their games and still get an at-large bid:

ACC: North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida State
Atlantic 14: Xavier
Big 12: Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma State
Big East: Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Marquette, Syracuse, West Virginia
Big 11: Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue
Conference USA: Memphis
Mountain West: Utah, Brigham Young
Pac-10: Washington, UCLA, California, Arizona State
SEC: LSU, Tennessee

The above teams will take at least 21 and no more than 30 at-large bids, leaving from three to 12 bids for:

The Bubble (30)

In rough order:

Dayton
Ohio State
Wisconsin
Michigan
Texas A&M
Creighton
Boston College
New Mexico
Auburn
San Diego State
UNLV
Minnesota
Temple
South Carolina
Penn State
Florida
Kansas State
Utah State
Niagara
Maryland
Providence
Virginia Tech
Arizona
Miami (Fla.)
Rhode Island
St. Mary's
Alabama-Birmingham
Tulsa
Kentucky
Mississippi State

This will be a much smaller list tomorrow.

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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Conference Tournament ... (03/11)

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