Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Western U.S. Bubble Update

Over the next three days I will be breaking down the bubble teams from conferences expected to receive multiple bids.  Today's post will be about the 3 conferences west of the Mississippi:  the Pac 12, MWC, and Big 12.

Pac 12

While nobody in the Pac 12 has locked up a bid, I ultimately think they will end up with 3 bids.

Washington (21-9, 14-4 Pac 12)

Computer profile:  RPI 54, SOS 82.  0-6 vs Top 50.  4-8 vs Top 100.  1 sub-100 loss (@UCLA).  6-7 road/neutral.

Bottom line:  Despite the awful computer profile, I think the Huskies are in good shape for an NCAA bid.  They won the Pac 12 outright, and since the field expanded to 64 no outright champion of a Top 10 conference has ever failed to make the NCAA tournament.  And yes, as bad as the Pac 12 was this year, it was still rated as one of the Top 10 leagues.  Expect the Huskies to be in the bracket on Sunday regardless of what happens in the Pac 12 tournament.

NCAA Chances:  Very good

California (23-8, 13-5 Pac 12)

Computer profile:  RPI 37, SOS 94.  0-3 vs Top 50.  7-6 vs Top 100.  2 sub-100 losses (@Oregon State, @Washington State).  6-7 road/neutral.

Bottom line:  California would be locked into the field had they not dropped their last 2 games.  Even though they don't count as Top 50, I think their roads win at Washington and Oregon were quality victories.  As it is, the lack of a signature win is the only thing holding Cal back from locking up a bid.  They're probably in regardless of what happens in the Pac 12 tournament, but they need to make the finals to be absolutely safe.

NCAA chances:  Good

Oregon (22-8, 13-5 Pac 12)

Computer profile:  RPI 51, SOS 91.  0-5 vs Top 50.  5-7 vs Top 100.  1 sub-100 loss (Oregon State).  7-5 road/neutral.

Bottom line:  The computer profile is clearly not good, but the Ducks get a bit of a bump because they have been playing the best basketball in the Pac 12 since finally getting their full roster intact.  I think Oregon has to make the Pac 12 finals to get in, and at that point they would probably be wise to win it and erase all doubt.

NCAA chances:  Fair

Arizona (21-10, 12-6 Pac 12)

Computer profile:  RPI 78, SOS 119.  1-3 vs Top 50 (win over California).  5-8 vs Top 100.  2 sub-100 losses (@UCLA, @Arizona State).  7-7 road/neutral

Bottom line:  Arizona really shot themselves in the foot by losing to Arizona State (RPI 248) on the last game of the regular season.  The Wildcats have to make the Pac 12 championship to have a chance, and even then they might need the auto-bid to make the field.

NCAA chances:  Slim

Mountain West

3 teams have already locked up bids, which means Colorado State is the only bubble team in this league.

Colorado State (18-10, 8-6 MWC)

Computer profile:  RPI 22, SOS 8.  3-5 vs Top 50 (wins over SDSU, New Mexico, UNLV).  8-9 vs Top 100.  1 sub-100 loss (@Boise State).  5-9 road/neutral

Bottom line:  The Rams' computer profile is excellent, but the overall record and road/neutral record in a non-power league leave CSU's future in doubt.  A trip to the Mountain West finals would probably seal the deal, but they cannot afford to lose their first game against TCU.  It would be pretty hypocritcal to put 8-10 Big East and Big Ten teams in the field while leaving out a Colorado State team with a top 10 SOS, but I wouldn't put it past the committee.

NCAA chances:  50/50

Big 12

5 teams have locked up bids, which means Texas is the only bubble team in this league.

Texas (19-12, 9-9 Big 12)

Computer profile:  RPI 52, SOS 22.  3-9 vs Top 50 (wins over Temple, Iowa State, Kansas State).  4-10 vs Top 100.  2 sub-100 losses.  4-9 road/neutral

Bottom line:  If you've seen Texas play the last two months, then you know the Longhorns are better than their record.  Texas is a classic case of a team that passes the eye test but has a weak resume.  Traditionally, the committee would put these teams in the 8/9 slots, but with the addition of the First Four, that seems like a more likely spot.  A win over Iowa State will put the Longhorns in good shape for a bid.  A loss will leave them hoping there are no bid stealers this weekend, as they would be one of the last teams in or out.

NCAA chances:  Decent

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