|ON THE BUBBLE: SATURDAY NIGHT INSOMNIA
March 9, 2006
Cortney, SCS.com Staff Writer
Just a little over three days until Selection Sunday, the waters are getting muddier
instead of clearer. Much like Professor Marvel in the Wizard of Oz, most bracketologists
are looking for some kind of slick trick to fool all of the runaway Dorothies out
there, but there is still a lot of uncertainty.
The conference tourneys will
make or break a number of teams, though last night's Big East action certainly did not
help clear up the situation. Syracuse beat Cincinnati to give the Orange new life,
while Seton Hall lost to Rutgers. There is nothing nastier than sweaty Pirates,
and there will be a room full of them on Selection Sunday in South Orange, New Jersey.
While some teams have separated themselves into solid "IN's", there are still several
wide open slots. Here is a look at who is IN, who is OUT, and who is truly playing
for their lives this weekend.
Most folks agree that these teams cannot miss:
UConn, Villanova, Duke, Memphis,
Ohio State, Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, Gonzaga, LSU, Tennessee, UCLA, West
Virginia, Pittsburgh, Iowa, George Washington, Washington, Kansas, Boston College,
Florida, Georgetown, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Marquette, Wisconsin, NC State, and
That is 27 teams that are locked and ready to go.
Here is a look
at where other potential teams stand. How many get in will depend on how the conference
tourneys go. Bubble Nation will be rooting hard for teams on the above list to
win their conference tourneys. Of course, Temple finished off GW as this article
was written, so the Bubble just shrank by one slot. Add in Syracuse's monster win
over UConn, and two spots may have disappeared in the last few hours.
SLEEPIN' WELL ON SATURDAY NIGHT
Arkansas (21-8, 45 RPI)
The Hogs have put it all together late in the season. After a loss to hapless Mississippi on February 15, UA has ripped off five in row, including home wins over Florida
and Alabama, plus an important road scalp at Tennessee. They have done enough.
Arizona (18-11, 24 RPI)
The Cats have been officially awarded the "Magic RPI Award" for this season. They
possess just two top 50 RPI wins and have three sub-100 losses, but maintain a robust
RPI of 24. How? There is not a single opponent on their schedule worse than #176
in the RPI. They avoided RPI poison. They also went 5-2 to close the season.
Indiana (17-10, 36 RPI)
Two weeks ago, the Hoosiers needed a strong finish that looked nearly impossible
in their state at the time. But, Mike Davis's crew has won four in a row, including
two Big Ten road games to get to 9-7 in the conference. This strong close, coupled
with the heavy lumber they stacked in the early season, will allow the Hoosiers a
minimum amount of stress on Sunday.
Kentucky (19-11, 40 RPI)
The Cats punched their ticket with the win at Tennessee last week. If they take care of Mississippi today, they can sleep like a rock. Even if they lose, they will be fine unless
a large number of dark horses win conference tournaments.
Missouri State (20-8, 21 RPI)
A strong RPI, twenty wins, 8-2 in their last ten, and four top 50 wins makes the
Bears all but a lock. One of the MVC Six-Pack might be left out, but it will not
be Missouri State.
Nevada (23-5, 18 RPI)
The Wolf Pack has won eleven in a row and has too much RPI strength to be left out
at this point. Even if they lose in the WAC Tourney, they should be just fine.
Northern Iowa (21-9, 25 RPI)
Some are suggesting that UNI is on the bubble. If they played in a major conference,
the mere suggestion that they could miss would cause riots. With eight top 50 wins
and a top 25 RPI, the Panthers can rest easy.
Syracuse (20-11, 39 RPI)
The Orange just took out UConn in the Big East Tourney. They can sleep fairly easily
now with that monster win in tow along with a top 40 RPI, eleven Top 100 wins, and no
UAB (21-5, 44 RPI)
The Blazers have won six in a row since the UTEP debacle, including that gem of
a win over Memphis. With the win over SMU today, the Blazers can sleep well.
Furthermore, no one wants to play against "The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball."
Ask LSU about last year's first round tilt with UAB.
LIKELY IN, BUT DRINKING CHAMOMILE TEA ON SATURDAY NIGHT
Alabama (17-11, 46 RPI)
The Tide has piled up some nice wins in the last month or so (LSU, Tennessee, Florida),
but a double-digit loss at Mississippi State to end the regular season left the
door ajar just a bit. One win the SEC Tourney would clinch it, and they are likely
in even with a loss.
Bradley (20-10, 34 RPI)
The Braves won their last seven regular season games and four of them were over
the brass of the MVC. They did falter in the MVC title game against SIU, but Bradley
is in a nice position. They have been the best team in the Valley over the last
Bucknell (24-4, 50 RPI)
The Bison are likely going to dance even if they lose to Holy Cross on Friday, but
they should win just to be safe. Their RPI has dropped precipitously since conference
play began, and another loss would push them into the mid-50's. That is not a place
a team wants to be on Sunday.
Cincinnati (18-12, 41 RPI)
Darn that Gerry McNamara. His answered prayer kept Cincy from being in the "Sleep
Easy" category. UC is 6-10 since Armein Kirkland went down with an injury, and that
will weigh on the committee's mind. The Cats will be rooting for Bucknell and other
at-large candidates in one-bid conferences this weekend.
Florida State (19-8, 56 RPI)
The win over Duke was huge, but FSU really needs a win in the ACC Tourney to make
things all better. Their bloated RPI and lack of quality wins will keep them
tossing and turning unless they can snag a quality win or two in the next couple
of days. They must take care of Wake Forest today.
Michigan (18-9, 37 RPI)
The Wolverines looked like a sure-fire Tourney team for most of the season, but
a 2-6 finish with a loss to lowly Purdue has raised some doubt. If they beat Minnesota
today, they should be okay, but a loss to the Gophers would make their situation
Texas A&M (20-7, 49 RPI)
The Aggies finished alone in 4th place in the Big XII ahead of fellow Bubble Boy Colorado. They also finished by winning seven in a row to close the season and get Colorado tomorrow. I think the Aggies are close, but a win tomorrow would erase all doubt.
TAKING BENEDRYL, NYQUIL, OR OTHER SLEEP-INDUCING DRUGS OF CHOICE ON SATURDAY
(Only a couple of these teams, at most, are likely to get invitations)
Air Force (22-5, 38 RPI)
The Falcons' great record and second-place MWC finish are nice, but zero Top 50
RPI wins does not bode well with so many bubble teams winning. They need to get
to the MWC final and lose a tough game to have real at-large hopes.
BYU (19-7, 55 RPI)
Three Top 100 wins and three sub-100 losses is only even in the numerical sense.
BYU's chances are miniscule.
Colorado (19-8, 51 RPI)
The Buffs followed up a huge win over Oklahoma on February 15 with a 2-3 finish with
blowout losses to Kansas State, Nebraska, and Kansas. They probably need a couple
of nice wins in the Big XII Tourney to be truly viable.
Creighton (19-9, 43 RPI)
The Jays have had some injury issues that contributed to a few of their losses,
but it still remains that they lost four of their last six. With so many other
teams surging, that type of finish could keep them out.
George Mason (23-7, 28 RPI)
The Patriots would seem to be safe if it were not for an ill-timed punch to the
groin. Actually, there is never a good time for a groin punch, but GMU guard Tony
Skinn delivered one to an opposing player in their loss to Hofstra earlier this week. Hence, he will
be out for their next game, which (theoretically) happens to be the NCAA Tourney first round. So,
the question is this: Is GMU a top 34 at-large team without Skinn?
Hofstra (24-6, 30 RPI)
The Pride is 12-2 in their last fourteen with wins over fellow CAA contenders UNC-Wilmington
and George Mason (twice). But they had no meaningful out-of-conference wins and
lost to #221 Towson. They have the quintessential Bubble resume.
Houston (18-8, 58 RPI)
Like AFA and BYU, the quality wins are just not there, especially with losses to
Rice and UCF on the resume. They have a couple of Top 25 RPI wins, but only three
Top 100 wins total.
Maryland (17-11, 47 RPI)
The Terps are 2-7 on the road and 4-6 in their last ten. Those two stats are killers
for a team on the bubble. They must defeat Georgia Tech today and pull an upset
or two over the weekend.
Seton Hall (18-11, 57 RPI)
What a roller coaster team. They rebounded from losing 4 of 5 late in the season
to take care of both Cincinnati and Pitt, then laid a gigantic egg against Rutgers
in the first round of the Big East Tourney yesterday. That means that they finished
the season 2-4 with losses to St. John's, DePaul, and Rutgers sandwiched around
those two big wins.
Stanford (15-12, 78 RPI)
No chance unless they win out to the Pac-10 final and lose a close game to a good
Utah State (20-7, 52 RPI)
Five sub-100 losses is probably too many to overcome under any circumstances. It
is especially difficult when that team possesses just one Top 50 RPI win. The Aggies'
hopes are slimmer than slim.
Vanderbilt (16-11, 67 RPI)
An RPI this poor coupled with a losing conference record leaves the 'Dores with
a monster mountain to climb. They need multiple wins in the SEC Tourney to have any
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