Thursday, March 8, 2012

March 8 Bubble Update

Today's post will focus on the bubble teams in the Big 10 and SEC.

Big 10

6 teams have locked up bids, making Northwestern the only team with work to do in the conference tournament.

Northwestern (18-12, 8-10 Big 10)

Computer profile:  RPI 47, SOS 12.  1-10 vs Top 50 (win over Michigan State).  5-12 vs Top 100.  no sub-100 losses.  7-7 road/neutral.

Bottom line:  Northwestern does have solid RPI and SOS numbers, and the win over the Spartans might be the best win for any bubble team.  The record against Top 50 and Top 100 are huge eye sores, however.  Northwestern has to beat Minnesota and Michigan to feel safe on Selection Sunday.  A loss against Michigan would leave them right near the cut line, while a loss against Minnesota would almost certainly send them to the NIT.

NCAA Chances:  Fair


With the lack of bid stealers early on in Championship Week, I believe Alabama is now safe for a bid.  That leaves 3 teams with work to do in the conference tournament.

Mississippi State (21-10, 8-8 SEC)

Computer profile:  RPI 66, SOS 66.  2-4 vs Top 50 (wins over Vanderbilt and Alabama).  8-8 vs Top 100.  2 sub-100 losses (Georgia, @Auburn).  6-7 road/neutral.

Bottom line:  Miss State is one of the biggest enigmas this season.  They looked like a lock 4 weeks ago, but a horrible 2 week stretch has really put a dent in their NCAA hopes.  One thing working in Miss State's favor is their record against fellow bubble teams:  the Bulldogs have gone 4-1 against Arizona, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Ole Miss.  As with many other teams, Miss State needs 2 wins against Georgia and Vanderbilt to secure their spot in the NCAA field.  Anything less and they'll have to sweat it out on Sunday.

NCAA chances:  50/50

Tennessee (18-13, 10-6 SEC)

Computer profile:  RPI 76, SOS 31.  4-7 vs Top 50 (wins over Florida x2, Vanderbilt, Connecticut).  7-9 vs Top 100.  4 sub-100 losses (@Oakland, Austin Peay, @Charleston, @Georgia).  3-10 road/neutral.

Bottom line:  Clearly, if this was just about computer profiles, Tennessee would be out.  But the fact is, most of those bad losses came early in the season, and Tennessee has been a completely different team since Stokes was cleared to play.  The fact is, with him in the lineup, Tennessee was able to tie Florida and Vanderbilt for 2nd place in the SEC and go 3-1 against those 2 teams.  The Vols are going to be a great barometer for how much emphasis the committee puts on how teams play early in the season and how teams play with incomplete rosters.

IMO, Tennessee has to make the finals to have a realistic chance at an at-large.

NCAA chances:  Below average

Ole Miss (18-12, 8-8 SEC)

Computer profile:  RPI 59, SOS 39.  1-6 vs Top 50 (win over Alabama).  6-11 vs Top 100.  1 sub-100 loss (@Auburn).  6-10 road/neutral.

Bottom line:  Despite being virtually invisible for the last month of the season, Ole Miss has quietly worked themselves back onto the bubble.  In the end, I think the Rebels' lack of signature wins will doom them to the NIT.  If they can make the SEC finals, though, they'll certainly be in the running for one of the last spots in the field.

NCAA chances:  Slim

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