Posted on: March 5, 2010 4:38 pm

College Basketball Tourney Bubble Watch: 3-05-10

Written by Chris Canada, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com

The first set of conference tourneys started this past Tuesday. Most of the major conferences don't start until March 9-11. Therefore most teams have one game left to impress the committee before starting conference tournament play. Lots of changes since my last update. 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 61 teams are safe, which includes 31 auto-bids and 30 at-large bids. Out of these 61 teams, 30 come from major conferences and 31 from minor ones. March 14th is approaching rapidly, so teams need to bunker down and play hard to make the field of 65. This means that there are FOUR 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 four in, in order, would be: St Mary's, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Arizona State. My first four out would be St Louis, Wichita St, Mississippi St, and Rhode Island. My next four out would be San Diego St, Memphis, Mississippi, and Washington. Charlotte, Tulsa, and Illinois St are also on my bubble list (read below).

This ordering is based on where they stand now, and how I predict them to finish down the stretch. These rankings could change dramatically 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. Also, the difference between ''locks'' and ''should be in'' is that if a team were to lose their remaining 2 games, ''locks'' would still make the tournament regardless, while ''should be in'' would have to be reevaluated. ''Bubble'' means that the team still has work to do.

SEC (4) Championship March 11-14 in Nashville, TN - Projected Champion: Kentucky

Locks: #3 Kentucky (28-2, 13-2), #16 Tennessee (22-7, 10-5), #13 Vanderbilt (23-6, 12-3) 

Should be in: Florida (20-10, 9-6) 

Bubble: #35 Mississippi St (21-9, 9-6), Mississippi (20-9, 8-7) 

Analysis: As always we start off with the SEC, as we should because we represent a Florida Gator site! 
The Gators have now lost two in a row after a big win at home against Tennessee. They had a chance to take down Vandy at home, but couldn't seal the deal in the home finale. Now, will this ruin their chances at an NCAA berth? 
They'll probably lose at Kentucky. But the Gators will play the #5 seed in the West to start the SEC tournament. Here are the scenarios I see for making the tourney: 
  • Win over Kentucky, definitely in
  • Lose to Kentucky, win two+ tourney games, definitely in
  • Lose to Kentucky, win only one tourney game, 75% chance
  • Lose to Kentucky, lose first round of tourney, 10% chance 

Unlike previous years, I think Florida has the resume to push them over the edge. The Gators have some very quality non-conference wins so far. They've beaten the current #11 Michigan State on a neutral court when the Spartans were #2 nationally. They then defeated Rutgers to take home the tournament title. They are also 2-0 against the ACC with wins over FSU in Gainesville and NC State on the road. 

As for their nine losses, they consist of a neutral site loss against current #1 Syracuse and a home loss to current #3 Kentucky where both games were tied late in the second half, a close road loss to current #13 Vandy, a neutral site loss to Richmond (who's an NCAA lock from the tough A-10), one point last second loss at current #16 Tennesse, current #25 Xavier at home, and South Carolina and Georgia on the road. The only really bad loss was to South Alabama, which was probably a letdown after consecutive losses to 'Cuse and Richmond. 

John Calipari has the Kentucky Wildcat program back to it's lofty status of the 90's. They're on a roll right now. It's pretty much a forgone conclusion that they will take the championship. In a related story, I hate Kentucky, but I digress... 

Tennessee knocked off Kentucky last week. That, along with an early season win against Kansas have them in the ''lock'' category. 

Vanderbilt has been solid all year and is also a lock. 

Mississippi St had played themselves to the brink of being off the bubble lately. But a late loss against a shaky Auburn team has really hurt their chances at a bid. They'll need a run in the SEC tournament to prove their worth. 

Ole Miss won both games last week, and beat LSU at home this week. They'll also need a run in the SEC tournament to prove their worth. 

This week's results (3/1-3/4): Vanderbilt won at Florida, Kentucky won at Georgia, Arkansas lost at Tennessee, Mississippi State lost at Auburn, LSU lost at Mississippi 

Games this weekend (3/5-3/7): Saturday: Tennessee at Mississippi St 6pm (ESPN), South Carolina at Vanderbilt 2pm (ESPN2), Mississippi at Arkansas 4pm (ESPN 360) 

Sunday: Florida at Kentucky 12pm (CBS) 

ACC (6) Championship March 11-14 in Greensboro, NC - Projected Champion: Duke 

Locks: #4 Duke (25-5, 12-3), #22 Maryland (22-7, 12-3) 

Should be in: Clemson (21-8, 9-6), Florida St (21-8, 9-6), Wake Forest (18-9, 8-7), #34 Virginia Tech (22-7, 9-6) 

Bubble: Georgia Tech (19-10, 7-8) 

Analysis: Unlike last year when there were three teams with a legit shot at winning the NCAA tournament, this year's ACC doesn't have a dominating team. At this point, I think Duke is in the best position to win the conference title. They continue to win year in and year out, which is a testament to the great job Mike Krkhasdf;nlaksdvfski has done over the last 30+ years. 

Maryland knocked off Duke to pull into a tie for the conference lead. They have locked up a berth with their 12 conference wins. 

Clemson, Wake, and FSU all have good enough resumes to get in at this point. 

Virginia Tech got a win against NC State this week. Every win helps at this point in the season. Their 22-7 record is a bit inflated. If they win their season finale at GT, they'll probably assure their berth. 

Georgia Tech is falling fast. They're somewhat of a mystery. Sometimes they look great and sometimes they're flat. I've moved them to the bubble with their late season swoon. The season finale against VT at home will be crucial, else they'd need a great win in the ACC tournament. 

This week's results (3/1-3/4): Georgia Tech lost at Clemson, Duke lost at Maryland, Wake Forest lost at Florida State, North Carolina State lost at Virginia Tech 

Games this weekend (3/5-3/7): Saturday: North Carolina at Duke 9pm (ESPN), Maryland at Virginia 1:30pm (ESPN360), Florida St at Miami 12pm (ESPN2), Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech 4pm (ESPN 360) 

Sunday: Clemson at Wake Forest 6pm (FSN) 

Big East (7) Championship March 9-13 in New York, NY - Projected Champion: Syracuse 

Locks: #1 Syracuse (28-2, 15-2), #9 Villanova (24-5, 13-4), #17 Pittsburgh (23-7, 12-5), #19 Georgetown (19-10, 9-8), #10 West Virginia (23-6, 12-5), #30 Marquette (20-9, 11-6) 

Should be in: #38 Louisville (19-11, 10-7) 

Bubble: #39t Notre Dame (20-10, 8-8) 

Analysis: The Big East is definitely the toughest conference to play in, because it seems like you are playing a top-25 team every night. Villanova, Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia & Georgetown look to be the teams I see going deep in the tourney. Syracuse is the best team in the country. 

Marquette is a lock after dismantling Louisville this week. 

I think Louisville really lost a lot of steam with this Marquette game. I still think they have a strong enough resume, but another blowout loss at home against #1 Syracuse will not help their chances. 

Notre Dame had a great week last week, taking down Pitt and Georgetown. This week they took care of UConn to solidify their chances at a spot. A win over Marquette would probably secure their bid. 

Cincy lost at home against villanova in a must-win. 

UConn also lost at Notre Dame in a must-win. Both are now off the bubble and must win the conference tourney to make the big dance. 

This week's results (3/1-3/4): Georgetown lost at West Virginia, St. John's lost at Syracuse, Villanova won at Cincinnati, Louisville lost at Marquette, Connecticut lost at Notre Dame, Providence lost at Pittsburgh 

Games this weekend (3/5-3/7): Saturday: Syracuse at Louisville 2pm (ESPN), West Virginia at Villanova 12pm (CBS), Rutgers at Pittsburgh 4:30pm (ESPN 360), Cincinnati at Georgetown 12pm (ESPN 360), Notre Dame at Marquette 2pm (ESPN 360) 

Big Ten+1 (5) Championship March 11-14 in Indianapolis, IN - Projected Champion: Michigan St 

Locks: #7 Purdue (25-4, 13-4), #11 Michigan St (23-7, 13-4), #6 Ohio St (24-7, 14-4), #15 Wisconsin (22-7, 12-5) 

Should be in: #32 Illinois (18-12, 10-7) 

Bubble: none 

Analysis: Purdue took control of the conference last week, but with Hummel's injury, they've become third fiddle to Michigan St and Ohio St. I now think that Michigan St will take the title, but two other teams can jump up and grab it. 

Wisconsin is also a lock at this point. 

Illinois lost again this week to Ohio St. They are rapidly approaching the bubble. A loss at home against Wisconsin will throw them right back onto the bubble. 

Minnesota got blown out at Michigan. Their at-large hopes are gone. 

This week's results (3/1-3/4): Illinois lost at Ohio State, Minnesota lost at Michigan, Indiana lost at Purdue, Iowa lost at Wisconsin, Penn State lost at Michigan State 

Games this weekend (3/5-3/7): Saturday: Purdue at Penn St 2:30pm 
Sunday: Michigan at Michigan St 4pm (CBS), Wisconsin at Illinois 2pm (ESPN) 

Big 12 (7) Championship March 10-13 in Kansas City, MO - Projected Champion: Kansas 

Locks: #1 Kansas (28-2, 14-1), #26 Texas (23-7, 9-6), #5 Kansas St (24-5, 11-4), #21 Baylor (23-6, 10-5), #31 Missouri (22-8, 10-5), #23 Texas A&M (21-8, 10-5), #29 Oklahoma St (20-9, 8-7) 

Should be in: none 

Bubble: none 

Analysis: Kansas is clearly in the driver's seat for conference supremacy. 
Kansas State has turned themselves into a top ten team, and they're a lock. 

Texas has gone from #1 to out of the top-25 in two months. Pretty crazy. However, they are still a lock for the tourney. 

Baylor and Missouri have been hot all season. Texas A&M are flying high right now and are locks for the tourney as well. 
Okie State got their big win over Kansas last week that clinched a spot in the big dance. 

This week's results (3/1-3/4): Oklahoma lost at Texas, Missouri won at Iowa State, Baylor won at Texas Tech, Kansas State lost at Kansas, Oklahoma State lost at Texas A&M 

Games this weekend (3/5-3/7): Saturday: Kansas at Missouri 2pm (CBS), Iowa St at Kansas St 6pm (ESPN 360), Texas at Baylor 4pm (ESPN), Texas A&M at Oklahoma 12pm (ESPN), Nebraska at Oklahoma St 1:30pm (ESPN 360) 

Pac-10 (1) Championship March 11-14 in Los Angeles, CA - Projected Champion: California 

Locks: California (20-9, 12-5) 

Should be in: none 

Bubble: Arizona State (21-9, 11-6), Washington (20-9, 10-7) 

Analysis: With all of the resources available, this conference is pretty damn bad. Is it possible that the Pac-10 can only bring ONE team to the NCAA tourney? This most certainly seems like strong possibility. Not one team in the Pac-10 has registered one vote for the AP top 25 in two months. Absoultely ridiculous. 

California has separated itself as the clear leader, and I think they'd make the tourney if they slipped up in the conference tournament. 

Arizona St and Washington have finally started to separate themselves from the rest of the league, and they are the only other teams that may make the tourney. 

This week's results (3/1-3/4): USC lost at Arizona State, Washington won at Oregon 

Games this weekend (3/5-3/7): Saturday: UCLA at Arizona St 4pm (CBS), California at Stanford 6pm (FSN), Washington at Oregon St 8pm 

Other Conferences (31) 

Projected Champions (Locks/Should Be In's): Temple (Atlantic-10+4), UTEP (Conference USA), Butler (Horizon), Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley), New Mexico (Mountain West), Gonzaga (West Coast), Utah St (Western Athletic) 

Projected Champions (must win conference, 18): Stony Brook (America East), Jacksonville (Atlantic Sun), Northern Colorado (Big Sky), Coastal Carolina (Big South), UC Santa Barbara (Big West), #39t Old Dominion (Colonial Athletic), #37 Cornell (Ivy League), Siena (MAAC), Akron (Mid-American), Morgan State (MEAC), Quinnipiac (Northeast), Murray State (Ohio Valley), Lehigh (Patriot League), Wofford (Southern), Sam Houston State (Southland), Jackson State (SWAC), Oakland (Summit League), North Texas (Sun Belt) 

Locks (9): #20 Temple (25-5, 13-2, Atlantic 10+4), #25 Xavier (22-7, 13-2, Atlantic 10+4), #27 Richmond (23-7, 12-3, Atlantic 10+4), #24 UTEP (23-5, 14-1, Conference USA), #12 Butler (26-4, 18-0, Horizon League), #28 Northern Iowa (25-4, 15-3, Missouri Valley), #8 New Mexico (28-3, 14-2, Mountain West), #14 BYU (27-4, 12-3, Mountain West), #18 Gonzaga (25-5, 13-2, West Coast), 

Should be in (4): Dayton (19-10, 8-7, Atlantic 10+4), UAB (23-6, 11-4, Conference USA), UNLV (22-7, 10-5, Mountain West), #33 Utah St (24-6, 13-2, Western Athletic) 

Bubble: Charlotte (19-10, 9-6, Atlantic 10+4), Rhode Island (21-7, 9-6, Atlantic 10+4), St Louis (19-10, 10-5, Atlantic 10+4), Memphis (22-8, 12-3, Conference USA), Tulsa (21-9, 10-5, Conference USA), Wichita St (23-8, 12-6, Missouri Valley), Illinois St (21-9, 11-7, Missouri Valley), San Diego St (20-8, 9-5, Mountain West), St Marys (24-5, 11-3, 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. I have determined that 25 different conference champions and 6 at-large spots are safe right now. 

I have broken the champions into two categories: the first will be those from traditionally tough conferences that should have a splash at the tourney, and the second are those in traditionally small conferences. 

The ''locks'' include seven teams currently ranked in the top-25, including Xavier, BYU, Temple, Butler, UTEP, New Mexico, & Gonzaga. 
There are four teams that should be in as of right now. Teams on the bubble are hoping that these teams lose along the way because this is where you usually find your bubble busters year-in and year-out. 

As for the bubble, I have added nine teams for which a limited number of spots remain. 

From the A-10+4, St Louis, Charlotte and Rhode Island have outside chances at a bid. URI dominated Charlotte this week to pull ahead. St Louis had a real shot to take down Temple, but blew their opportunity. Both will have to hope a team above them falls back, as well as win their remaining two games. 

From Conference USA, Memphis and Tulsa is still alive. Memphis is in better shape than Tulsa. Marshall lost this week and are now off the bubble. 

From the Horizon, Butler is the only team that would make the tournament regardless of if they won their conference tornament or not. Bubble teams are praying that Butler wins the tournament to prevent the Horizon from becoming a two team league. 

From the Missouri Valley, Wichita St is a very good team and can easily take one of the spots is MSU or St Mary's falters. Illinois St needs to win and win big soon, and probably make the MVC conference finals. Northern Iowa is the only team that would make the tournament regardless of if they won their conference tornament or not. Bubble teams are praying that Northern Iowa wins the tournament to prevent the MVC from becoming a two team league. 

From the Mountain West, San Diego St is in a similar position to Wichita St. They need to have some conference tourney wins, most likely against New Mexico or BYU. 

From the West Coast, St Marys may be the last team in the big dance as of right now. If they go deep in their conference tournament, they're in. Gonzaga is the only team that would make the tournament regardless of if they won their conference tornament or not. Bubble teams are praying that they win the tournament and St Mary's lose early to prevent the WCC from becoming a two team league. 

From the Western Athletic, New Mexico St and Louisiana Tech lost this week and they're chances are nil. Utah St is the only team that should make the tournament regardless of if they won their conference tornament or not. Bubble teams are praying that they win the tournament to prevent the WAC from becoming a two team league. 

This week's results (3/1-3/4): Fresno State lost at Utah State, UTEP won at Marshall, Cal State Bakersfield lost at Gonzaga, Brigham Young won at Utah, TCU lost at New Mexico, Temple won at Saint Louis, Memphis won at UAB, Charlotte lost at Rhode Island, Xavier won at Fordham, Southern Methodist lost at Tulsa, Colorado State lost at San Diego State, Dayton lost at Richmond, New Mexico State lost at Nevada 

Games this week (3/5-3/7): Friday: Drake vs Northern Iowa 1pm, Missouri St vs Wichita St 7pm, Indiana St vs Illinois St 9:30pm 

Saturday: BYU at TCU 6pm, George Washington at Temple 2pm, UAB at UTEP 9pm, Tulsa at Memphis 1pm, Richmond at Charlotte 2pm, Rhode Island at Massachusetts 4pm, Wyoming at UNLV 4pm, St Bonaventure at Xavier 4pm, Saint Louis at Dayton 7pm, San Diego St at Air Force 9pm, New Mexico St at Utah St 9pm

You can find the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
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