Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bubble Rankings and Breakdown

With Xavier's win over St. Louis, they become the projected automatic bid from the A-10.  Even with a loss in the finals, I believe Xavier is now safely in the field.  That leaves 6 bids, with 8 teams (9 if Long Beach State loses tonight) still in the running. 

Here's my ranking of the teams on the bubble from most likely to least likely to get in.  I have drawn in the cutoff lines to show who gets knocked out if UC Santa Barbara and/or St. Bonaventure are able to win their conference tournaments.

West Virginia
Colorado State
South Florida
(Long Beach State)
NC State
Mississippi State
Seton Hall

The teams I feel comfortable putting into the field are West Virginia and Colorado State.  Both teams have less than 20 wins against D-1 schools, but there are too many positives on their resumes to think they'll miss the field with this weak bubble. 

After that, things start to become real fuzzy.  Out of the remaining teams, the one I feel best about is South Florida.  While they have some ugly marks on their resume (6-6 OOC, 2-9 vs Top 50, 6-11 road/neutral), they're one of hte few bubble teams that actually played well down the stretch.  They went 7-3 in their last 10 games, and both Top 50 wins have come within the last two weeks.  Combine that with their 12-6 conference record and head-to-head win over Seton Hall, and I would be fairly surprised (but not shocked) if USF wasn't in the bracket tomorrow.

Another team that's nearly impossible to figure out is Washington.  The Huskies have the worst computer profile of any team on this list, with an RPI of 70 and 0 Top 50 wins.  Nevertheless, they did win the Pac 12 regular season title, and history has shown us the Selection Committee puts a great deal of value on conference titles.  Time and time again, there have been bubble teams with nothing good on their resume except being the regular season champs of a top 10 league (i.e., UAB last year), and every single time those teams have made it into the field.  I'm just not willing to bet against history, because Washington would the first team in the 64 team era to win a Top 10 conference and not make the NCAA field.

This might be picking with my heart more than my head, but I think it would be an absolute sham if NC State, Mississippi State, or Seton Hall, teams that had multiple chances to take care of business and didn't, got into the field, while a Drexel team that went 25-2 after doing poorly in November is relegated to the NIT.  It might end up being the wrong decision, but I have to go with the Dragons over those teams.

That leaves the three aforementioned teams, NC State, Miss State, and Seton Hall, for the last spot.  It's really splitting hairs at this point because they all have so many ugly spots on their resumes, but I've decided to go with NC State.  The 1-8 record vs Top 50 with the 1 win being Texas is a huge eye sore, but unlike the other two the Wolfpack played well down the stretch and had a winning record away from home (9-6 road/neutral). 

While there is, IMO, a definite gap between these squads and everyone else, there are numerous teams that cannot be ruled out as possible "shocker" inclusions tomorrow:

Iona, Northwestern, Oral Roberts, Miami, Middle Tennessee, Arizona, Oregon, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Marshall

I can't really make a compelling case for any of these teams to be in the field, but I can't rule any of them out either.

All in all, this is easily the most difficult year to predict the field since I started doing bracketology.  My Selection Sunday bracket will be posted right after the conclusion of the WAC championship.

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