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The last weekend in February made the waters a bit clearer heading into the final week of the regular season. Here is my updated bubble watch for the upcoming NCAA Tourney.
The first set of conference tourneys start this Tuesday, March 3rd. Most of the major conferences don't start theirs until March 10-12. Therefore most teams have about 2 games left to impress the committee before starting conference tournament play...
Remember, there are 65 spots available, comprised of 31 automatic bids to conference champions and 34 at-large bids. Here is a comprehensive look at the major leagues in Division-I (full rankings are current AP poll)...
From the results that follow, I predict that at this point 56 teams are safe, which includes 31 auto-bids and 25 at-large bids. Out of thees 56 teams, 29 come from major conferences and 27 from minor ones. March 15th is approaching rapidly, so teams need to bunker down and play hard to make the field of 65.
This means that there are NINE remaining at-large bids that will go to the "bubble" teams that I have listed. If I were to choose from the remaining bubble teams that are listed below, my last 9 in, in order, would be: Oklahoma St, UNLV, St Marys, Miami, Penn State, Providence, Arizona, Florida, and Michigan. My first four out would be Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, and Virginia Tech. And my next four out would be Rhode Island, New Mexico, Kansas State, and Texas A&M.
This ordering is based on where they stand now, and how I predict them to finish down the stretch. These ranking could change dramatically over the next week, and during next week's conference tourneys. Look for my picks for these crucial bubble watch games at the end of each conference's analysis. My picks will be italicized.
SEC (3) - Championship March 12-15 in Tampa, FL
Projected Champion: LSU
Locks: #12 LSU (25-4, 13-1)
Should be in: #35t South Carolina (20-7, 9-5), Tennessee (18-10, 9-5)
Bubble: Kentucky (19-10, 8-6), Florida (21-8, 8-6), Auburn (19-10, 8-6)
Analysis: The Gators loss to Georgia a few weekends back was crushing. And the lost to Tennessee at home was brutal to watch. Their remaining schedule includes Miss St on the road and Kentucky at home. I believe they must win these two games, plus a conference tourney game, to make the big dance. If they only hold on for one win, then they must make a deep conference tourney run to make it, which is possible since the tourney is in Tampa.
LSU is the clear leader of this somewhat tame SEC. After a win at home against Florida and a road win at Kentucky, the Tigers are now 13-1 in conference play and look poised to make a tourney run.
South Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee are just a step ahead of Florida in regards to tournament seeding.
Tennessee looked great this weekend against Florida, making just about every three they put up. They got the big road win they needed and are pretty much set for a berth.
SC has beaten Kentucky twice, so they seem more likely to make the tourney.
Kentucky is in a similar position as Florida. Even though they played tough against a really talented LSU team, they still lost another game at home this weekend when they really needed a win. I think the loser of the Florida/Kentucky game next weekend will probably have to settle for the NIT.
Auburn is a longshot at best. But, they did win again this weekend at Mississippi, and a win next weekend at home over LSU would open some eyes.
Last weekend's results (2/27-3/1): LSU won at Kentucky, South Carolina lost at Vanderbilt, Tennessee won at Florida
Games this week (3/2-3/5): Tuesday - 9:00 PM: Auburn at Alabama (ESPN); Wednesday - 8:00 PM: Vanderbilt at LSU, 8:00 PM: Georgia at Kentucky (ESPN360), 9:00 PM: Florida at Mississippi State (ESPN360), Thursday - 7:00 PM: Tennessee at South Carolina (ESPN)
ACC (6) Championship March 12-15 in Atlanta, GA Projected Champion: North Carolina
Locks: #2 North Carolina (25-3, 11-3), #7 Duke (24-5, 10-4), #10 Wake Forest (22-5, 9-5), #18 Clemson (22-6, 8-6), #24 Florida St (22-7, 9-5)
Should be in: #40t Boston College (20-9, 8-6)
Bubble: Miami (17-10, 6-8), Maryland (18-10, 7-7), Virginia Tech (17-11, 7-7)
Analysis: The top teams in the ACC have all stumbled as of late, but I believe that they will be focused and ready for the tournament. I expect North Carolina to win the ACC tournament at the Georgia Dome. Florida St is now a lock with an impressive home win over Clemson. Boston College should be in with a win or two.
The bubble is more complex. Miami hit a bad spell in the middle of conference play, but have rebounded nicely with wins over BC and Virginia. They challenged UNC and Duke on the road, and beat Wake Forest at home. If they take care of business and win out, they will make the tourney. And they should with remaining games against Georgia Tech and NC State.
Maryland has also played well as of late and are right on the edge. Maryland defeated UNC at home last week, and took care of NC State on the road this weekend. So they have left a big impression with the committee late in the season.
Virginia Tech lost to Duke at home this weekend and made it dicey to say the least. Out of the three remaining bubble teams, I think VT has the lowest chance.
Last weekend's results (2/27-3/1): Clemson lost at Florida St., Duke won at Virginia Tech, Maryland won at NC State
Games this week (3/2-3/5): Tuesday - 7:00 PM: Virginia at Clemson, 8:00 PM: Florida State at Duke (ESPN360), 9:00 PM: Wake Forest at Maryland ; Wednesday - 7:00 PM: North Carolina at Virginia Tech (ESPN), 7:00 PM: Boston College at North Carolina State (ESPNU), 7:30 PM: Miami (FL) at Georgia Tech
Big East (7) Championship March 10-14 in New York, NY Projected Champion: Connecticut
Locks: #1 Connecticut (27-2, 15-2), #3 Pittsburgh (26-3, 13-3), #6 Louisville (23-5, 14-2), #11 Villanova (23-6, 11-5), #13 Marquette (23-6, 12-4), #25 Syracuse (21-8, 9-7), #31 West Virginia (20-9, 9-7)
Should be in:
Bubble: #35t Providence (17-11, 9-7), Cincinnati (18-10, 8-7), Notre Dame (16-11, 7-8)
Analysis: Clearly the most competitive conference, and the deepest, the Big East should have some major firepower in the big dance. I have UConn taking the title, but Pit, Nova, Louisville, and Marquette could all jump up and grab it.
Syracuse and WVU needed one more win each to secure their bid, and did so.
As for the bubble, Providence took big steps this week by knocking off the #1 Pitt squad last week. They took care of Rutgers on the road this weekend, and will be in if they win at Villanova on the road on Thursday.
Cincy pretty much ruined their chances at a bid with a pathetic performance at Syracuse.
Notre Dame lost a crucial game at UConn this weekend. To me, they seem destined for the NIT.
Last weekend's results (2/27-3/1): Notre Dame lost at UConn, Marquette lost at Louisville, Cincinnati lost at Syracuse, Providence won at Rutgers, West Virginia won at South Florida
Games this week (3/2-3/5): Monday - 7:00 PM: Villanova at Notre Dame (ESPN); Tuesday - 7:00 PM Cincinnati at South Florida (ESPNU), 9:00 PM Rutgers at Syracuse (ESPNU); Wednesday - 7:00 PM: DePaul at West Virginia (ESPN360), 7:00 PM: Seton Hall at Louisville (ESPN360), 7:30 PM: Marquette at Pittsburgh (ESPN2); Thursday - 7:00 PM: Providence at Villanova (ESPN2)
Big Ten+1 (5) Championship March 12-15 in Indianapolis, IN Projected Champion: Michigan St
Locks: #8 Michigan St (23-5, 13-3), #23 Illinois (23-7, 11-6), #19 Purdue (22-7, 11-5)
Should be in: Wisconsin (18-10, 9-7), Ohio St (18-9, 8-8)
Bubble: Minnesota (20-8, 8-8), Penn St (20-9, 9-7), Michigan (18-12, 8-9)
Analysis: The Big Ten+1 is weird because I could see as much as eight teams making it, and as low as four teams making it. As of now, Michigan st is the favorite to win the conference tourney. However, they have been wildly inconsistent and could easily be upset by fellow locks Illinois and Purdue.
Wisconsin is playing really well right now, and a win against Michigan this weekend makes their chances pretty solid.
Ohio St had been playing really well lately, but a bad loss against Purdue halted their good fortune. They should still make the tourney with a win or two.
As for the bubble, Minnesota, Penn St, and Michigan are all similarly positioned.
Minnesota started of the season something like 17-1, but they have played miserable ball as of late and now find themselves having to play great from here on out.
Penn St has surprised a whole lot of people and have continued to be in the discussion for a tournament berth, including a recent win over Illinois. I think a win in the first round of the conference tourney would seal the deal. They defeated Indiana at home this weekend.
Michigan is also playing well as of late, including a home win over Purdue. They're early season split with Duke, their wins against UCLA and Illinois, and their strong showing against UConn should be enough for them to make the tourney. But their loss at Wisconsin this weekend will really hurt.
Last weekend's results (2/27-3/1): Ohio St lost at Purdue, Indiana lost at Penn St; Michigan lost at Wisconsin, Michigan St. won at Illinois
Games this week (3/2-3/5): Tuesday - 7:00 PM: Michigan State at Indiana (ESPN), 9:05 PM: Ohio State at Iowa; Wednesday - 6:30 PM: Northwestern at Purdue, 8:30 PM: Wisconsin at Minnesota ; Thursday - 9:00 PM: Illinois at Penn State (ESPN)
Big 12 (4) Championship March 11-14 in Oklahoma City, OK
Projected Champion: Oklahoma
Locks: #4 Oklahoma (26-3, 12-2), #9 Kansas (24-5, 13-1), #15 Missouri (24-5, 11-3)
Should be in: #32t Texas (19-9, 8-6)
Bubble: #39Oklahoma State (19-9, 8-6), Kansas St (20-9, 8-6), Texas A&M (21-8, 7-7)
Analysis: You can see the importance of Blake Griffin to the Oklahoma Sooners, who got back on track by beating Texas Tech this weekend. With him playing, they are a beast. I expect them to get him back and win the conference title.
Kansas and Missouri are locks with their stellar play all season. Kansas dominated Mizzou this weekend, and looks prime for a tourney run.
Texas stumbled for a short period, but have regrouped with big wins, including Oklahoma. However, they lost on the road this weekend to Oklahoma St.
The real question is with their bubble teams, which include Kansas St, Nebraska, Oklahoma St, and Texas A&M.
OSU has played really well lately, including the aforementioned Texas win, and could clinch a spot with one more win.
TAMU was 14-1 to start the season, but had a dreadful start to the conference schedule. They been playing well as of late, but will need some help to make the dance. taking care of business against ISU didn't hurt this weekend.
Kansas St had some big wins early in the conference play, but have faltered lately. However, they scored a huge bubble win over Nebraska this weekend.
Nebraska's loss ends their chances at an at-large bid.
Last weekend's results (2/27-3/1): Iowa St lost at Texas A&M, Oklahoma won at Texas Tech, Texas lost at Oklahoma St., Nebraska lost at Kansas St., Missouri lost at Kansas
Games this week (3/2-3/5): Monday - 9:00 PM: Baylor at Texas (ESPN); Tuesday - 7:30 PM Kansas State at Oklahoma State (ESPN2); Wednesday - 9:00 PM: Oklahoma at Missouri (ESPN360), 9:00 PM: Texas A&M at Colorado (ESPNU), 9:30 PM: Kansas at Texas Tech (ESPN2)
Pac-10 (4) Championship March 11-14 in Los Angeles, CA
Projected Champion: Washington
Locks: #16 Washington (22-7, 13-4), #20 UCLA (22-7, 11-5), #21 Arizona St (21-7, 10-6)
Should be in: #34 California (21-8, 10-6)
Bubble: #38 Arizona (18-11, 8-8), #37 Washington St (16-13, 8-9)
Analysis: The Pac-10 is completely up for grabs, with the clear favorites being Arizona St, Washington, and UCLA. At one point I thought that UCLA was the clear class of this league. A late season swoon made me rethink my pick and choose Arizona St. However, ASU lost twice last week. So my new pick is Washington.
California is also pretty secure with their spot in the tourney, and a close loss against UCLA didn't hurt all that much.
There are two bubble teams: Arizona and Washington St. Arizona has a much better chance that Wazzou.
I felt pretty comfortable about Arizona before this weekend because I thought they could pull of an upset of Washington. However their loss gives them a lower chance of making the tourney.
Washington has kinda risen from the dead lately with some huge wins over quality opponents. A big home win against ASU this weekend still keeps them alive. However, the only realistic shot of an at-large bid is to win out and then make and then make the finals of the Pac-10 tourney.
Last weekend's results (2/27-3/1): Arizona lost at Washington, Arizona St lost at Washington St, USC lost at Stanford, UCLA won at California
Games this week (3/2-3/5): Tuesday - 11:00 PM: Seattle at Washington ; Thursday - 8:30 PM: Stanford at Arizona State, 10:30 PM: Oregon State at UCLA, 10:30 PM: California at Arizona
Other Conferences (27)
Projected Champions (Locks/Should Be In's): Xavier (Atlantic 10), Memphis (Conference USA), Butler (Horizon League), Creighton (Missouri Valley), Utah (Mountain West), Davidson (Southern), Gonzaga (West Coast), Utah St (Western Athletic)
Projected Champions (must win conference): Vermont (America East), Jacksonville (Atlantic Sun), Weber State (Big Sky), Radford (Big South), Cal State Northridge (Big West), VCU (Colonial Athletic), Cornell (Ivy League), Siena (MAAC), Buffalo (Mid-American), Morgan St (MEAC), Robert Morris (Northeast), Tennessee-Martin (Ohio Valley), #40t American (Patriot League), Stephen F Austin (Southland), Alabama St (SWAC), North Dakota St (Summit League), Arkansas-Little Rock (Sun Belt)
Locks: #17 Xavier (23-5, 11-3, Atlantic 10), #5 Memphis (26-3, 14-0, Conference USA), #22 Butler (25-4, 15-3, Horizon League), #28 Utah (20-8, 11-3, Mountain West), #14 Gonzaga (23-5, 14-0, West Coast),
Should be in: #30 Dayton (24-5, 10-4, Atlantic 10), #26 Creighton (25-6, 14-4, Missouri Valley), #27 BYU (22-6, 10-4, Mountain West), #32t Davidson (24-6, 17-2, Southern), #40t Utah St (26-4, 13-2, Western Athletic)
Bubble: #40t Rhode Island (22-8, 11-4, Atlantic 10), George Mason (20-9, 13-5, Colonial Athletic), Tulsa (20-9, 10-4, Conference USA), UAB (20-9, 10-4, Conference USA), Houston (18-9, 9-5, Conference USA), Niagara (22-7, 12-4, MAAC), Northern Iowa (20-10, 14-4, Missouri Valley), UNLV (20-8, 8-6, Mountain West), New Mexico (19-10, 10-4, Mountain West), San Diego St (19-8, 9-5, Mountain West), #29 St Marys (24-5, 10-4, West Coast)
Analysis: There are many great teams out there that aren't in any of the big six major conferences. I have broken up the projected conference champions by their ability to make the tourney regardless of whether they won their conference title or not.
Memphis is the clear best contender for the national title out of this group.
Xavier, Butler, Gonzaga, Creighton, Utah, Davidson, and Utah St will be very dangerous come tournament time.
Dayton at 23-5 in the A-10, and BYU at 21-6 in the Mountain West seem like they should be able to hold on for tournament spots if they fail to win their own tournaments. They both scored big wins this weekend and are more or less locks for the tourney. I think one win for each of them cements their bid.
As for the bubble, I have added 17 teams for which a limited number of spots remain.
From the A-10, Rhode Island has an okay shot after defeating a tough Duquesne squad on the road. Temple should be out of the running after a weekend loss to Dayton.
From the Colonial Athletic, only George Mason may have a shot at an at-large bid. However, it is a very very slim shot at that. They did win at home against Towson this weekend.
From Conference USA, Tulsa, UAB, and Houston are still alive. Tulsa and UAB may have a better shot than Houston, but they are all longshots at this point. All three took care of business this weekend.
From the Horizon, both Green Bay and Cleveland State have good records. But both of them lost this weekend and their berth chances should be shot.
From the MAAC, Niagara is still alive. I'm sure a win over Siena on Friday put an impression in the eyes of the committee. However, an at-large spot is very unlikely.
From the Missouri Valley, Northern Iowa is still in the hunt. However, the MVC is down from its usual spot as mid-major stalwart. I doubt more than one team will make it. Illinois State's lost this weekend ends their at-large journey.
From the Mountain West, UNLV, New Mexico and San Diego St are still alive. I've already stated that Utah and BYU should be in, and I've heard reports that all five teams that I've mentioned might get in. That would be huge for a mid-major conference. I think UNLV has the best credentials of the three, but New Mexico and San Diego St will still have a tough time getting in over some other major conference teams, even though they scored road wins this weekend.
From the West Coast, St Marys seems like the logical choice to make it, with a 24-5 record. Portland's at-large chances are done after two straight losses.
From the Western Athletic, Nevada lost late Thursday night to end their chance, even though they ended up beat league leader Utah St at home this weekend.
Last weekend's results (2/27-3/1): Siena lost at Niagara, Illinois St. lost at Creighton, Evansville lost at Northern Iowa, Georgia Southern lost at Davidson, Temple lost at Dayton, Utah lost at BYU, St Marys won at Loyola Marymount, New Mexico won at Colorado St, Utah St lost at Nevada; Siena won at Canisius, Rhode Island won at Duquesne, San Diego St won at TCU, Georgia State lost at VCU, Towson lost at George Mason, Houston won at Rice, UAB won at East Carolina, Tulsa won at SMU, Butler won at Cleveland St, Green Bay lost at Wright St, Portland lost at Santa Clara
Games this week (3/2-3/5): Tuesday - 9:00 PM: USC Upstate at Gonzaga, 9:00 PM: Utah at New Mexico; Wednesday - 8:00 PM: UCF at Tulsa, 8:00 PM: Memphis at Houston, 8:00 PM: Brigham Young at Wyoming, 9:05 PM: UAB at UTEP, 10:00 PM: Colorado State at San Diego State, 10:00 PM: Air Force at UNLV ; Thursday - 9:00 PM Dayton at Xavier (ESPN2)
Next Update - Friday, March 6th