Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bubble Analysis

While not absolute locks, I believe Florida State, Villanova, Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, Penn State, and Richmond are fairly safe to make the field at this point.  Here are my rankings of the teams on the bubble, and my reasoning behind placing each team where they are listed:

Virginia Tech
St. Mary's
Boston College
Southern Cal
Missouri State

The team I'm most comfortable putting in the field is Virginia Tech.  While the Hokies have some ugly marks on their resume (61 RPI, 75 SOS, only 2 Top 50 wins, 3 sub-100 losses), I think there are enough positives (signature win over Duke, 8-8 vs Top 100, 10-8 road/neutral record, beat FSU twice, advanced to ACC semis) for them to receive an at-large.

Even though Clemson went 3-0 against Va Tech and Boston College and has slightly better computer numbers, they are a putrid 0-6 vs the Top 50 and are only 6-9 away from home.  Those numbers are enough to leave Clemson in a very precarious position heading into Selection Sunday.  Still, they looked good in Greensboro this weekend, and we'll find out how much the 'eye test' matters to the Selection Committee tomorrow.

St. Mary's was less-than-impressive down the stretch, losing 3 of their last 6, including a horrendous loss to 4-24 San Diego.  Still, they finished the season with a top 50 RPI, earned a share of the WCC regular-season title, and have a win over St. John's in their back pocket.  The lack of bid stealers this week has really saved the Gaels, but it would not surprise me to not see their name on the bracket tomorrow afternoon.

Alabama has been the most difficult team to place for over a month now.  The Crimson Tide are going to set a record one way or the other:  either they're going to have the worst RPI (80) of any team to ever receive an at-large, or they are going to have the best ever conference record (13-5) of any Big Six team to not receive an at-large. 

Even though the committee won't admit to it, I believe they are set on letting exactly 1 of Alabama/Georgia into the tournament field.  Georgia has a much better RPI and SOS, but Alabama has a better record vs the Top 50 and Top 100, and won both meetings against the Bulldogs.  I think the head-to-head sweep is ultimately what allows the Crimson Tide to sneak into the field and sends the Bulldogs to the NIT. 

UAB, Missouri State, and Harvard all either won or shared the regular season title in their conferences, but they have a combined 2 top 50 wins between the 3 of them (UAB over VCU, Harvard over Princeton).  We'll see how much the committee values regular-season championships and avoiding bad losses.  UAB is in the best position of the three since they won the best conference and have 10 top 100 wins, but I think at the end of the day all 3 teams fall short.

Boston College was very consistent this season and avoided bad losses, but they were swept by fellow bubble team Clemson and only have 1 Top 50 win (vs Texas A&M back in November).  That will likely doom the Eagles to the NIT.

Southern Cal is one of the biggest enigmas of this season.  They have a blowout victory over Texas, won at Tennessee, and won 3 games against the top 3 teams in the Pac 10 en route to a 10-8 conference record.  Still, they are only 19-14 on the year, including six losses to sub-100 teams and three losses to sub-200 teams (Bradley, TCU, Oregon State).  I think the Trojans are NIT bound, but would not be shocked to see their name on the bracket tomorrow.

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