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Bubble Rooting Interests and Update, Thursday Edition

A summary of yesterday's action:

  • Say goodbye, Baylor and Nebraska. 7-9 in the Big XII wasn't likely to get it done without winning it all anyway. 7-9 and a first-round exit in the conference tourney? You're done.
  • Colorado remains in the hunt, but a narrow escape against Iowa State isn't going to win them any points with the committee. The only good to be said of it is it isn't a loss.
  • Marquette upsets West Virginia and should be safe now.
  • Marshall and Southern Miss both survived in CUSA unfortunately; to the RPI-centric committee those will potentially look like modest-quality wins for UTEP and Memphis (should that happen). Also, their profiles might warrant a second look if they pull the upsets (though I'm inclined to say 9-7 in a high-mid ought to be a disqualifying factor).

After the jump, a full summary of where things stand. Not as much detail as the original post, mostly a summary of what's changed.

Big Ten

No games played yet, so nothing much has changed. Winner of Illinois-Michigan is definitely in, loser will be sweating a little but they're probably also in. MSU is likely in good shape with a win over Iowa, in part thanks to the bubble loosening up as the only at-large contenders in mid-major leagues decide not to leave their fates in the hands of the committee and fringe candidates in the major conferences flame out. Penn State will need to make up for their lack of non-conference scalps by upsetting Wisconsin, but that may be enough with everyone else doing their best not to make the tourney.

Today's games:

  • (8) Northwestern vs. (9) Minnesota (2:30, ESPN2): The difference here is minimal, but NW is in very slight danger of falling out of the top 100 and we don't want that.
    Importance: minor
  • (7) Michigan State vs. (10) Iowa (~5:00, ESPN2): Obviously.
    Importance: critical
  • (6) Penn State vs. (11) Indiana (7:30, BTN): While getting Penn State into the top 50 would be nice, it would probably take two wins for that to happen, and that would give them a chance to move ahead of us in the pecking order. No thanks.
    Importance: moderate


Also starting today, so no significant changes to report. Boston College still lacks in top wins, Virginia Tech hasn't done anything against their fellow bubblers (although they do have wins over two of the ACC locks), Clemson has won their bubble games and that may give them the edge.

Today's games:

  • (8) Virginia vs. (9) Miami (Noon, ESPN3): Neither has at-large hopes.
    Importance: none
  • (5) Boston College vs. (12) Wake Forest (2:30, ESPN3): This would be an absolute profile-killer and deny Clemson another chance at a good bubble win. There's the little problem of "not gonna happen", but we can dream.
    Importance: minor
  • (7) Maryland vs. (10) NC State (7:00, ESPN2): Completely irrelevant.
    Importance: none
  • (6) Virginia Tech vs. (11) Georgia Tech (9:30, ESPN3): Another potential profile-killer, but less important because of the three bubble teams, Virginia Tech needs the most help and Florida State (who gets the winner) does not need to bolster their profile.
    Importance: minor

Big East

Villanova has too many good wins to fall out of the tournament entirely, but they sure as heck tried. Marquette cemented a spot by beating West Virginia in the second round; having several abominable non-conference wins will count against them but there's too much quality at the other end of the resume for them to fall out.

Everybody left in the Big East tournament is a lock, so the Big East tourney is relevant only to seeding.


Nebraska and Baylor are done, as mentioned above. Colorado survived but really needs a big win to have a realistic chance; they have the dreaded 300+ non-conference SOS, which is a very reliable way to get the committee to look for excuses to leave you out. Their profile looks much like the 2009 NIT champion Penn State team.

Today's games:

  • (1) Kansas vs. (9) Oklahoma State (12:30, ESPN2): Get the bid-thief hopeful out.
    Importance: minor
  • (4) Kansas State vs. (5) Colorado (3:00): This would definitively leave us ahead of Colorado assuming we win. The bubble has loosened up enough that a win here might get Colorado in despite spending non-conference season gorging on cupcakes.
    Importance: major
  • (2) Texas vs. (10) Oklahoma (7:00): Get the bid-thief hopeful out.
    Importance: minor
  • (3) Texas A&M vs. (6) Missouri (9:30): Both are locked in.
    Importance: none


Yesterday's games were just the 7-10 and 8-9 games; not important for our purposes. Nothing has really changed on the bubble here.

Today's games:

  • (4) USC vs. (5) Cal (3:00, FSN): Both have bubble hopes, but Cal's are considerably more distant. This alone might be enough for USC, but Cal would have to upset Arizona as well.
    Importance: major
  • (1) Arizona vs. (9) Oregon State (5:30, FSN): Let the locks win. Also want to make things difficult for the USC-Cal winner; giving them an easier road to the final is not my idea of a good thing.
    Importance: moderate
  • (2) UCLA vs. (7) Oregon (9:00, FSN): Get the potential bid-thieves out.
    Importance: minor
  • (3) Washington vs. (6) Washington State (11:30, FSN): Prior opponent, a chance to knock off a fringe bubble team (Washington may not be 100% safe yet either, but I don't see a plausible path to them being left out unless things really go crazy in the next four days). We want as much value as we can get out of that Washington win.
    Importance: major


The SEC tournament is just getting started, so nothing worth updating yet.

Today's games:

  • (E4) Georgia vs. (W5) Auburn (1:00, ESPN3): Eliminate a bubble hopeful. Not going to happen, Auburn is terrible, but we can hope.
    Importance: minor
  • (W3) Ole Miss vs. (E6) South Carolina (3:30, ESPN3): Neither is anywhere near a legitimate at-large candidate.
    Importance: none
  • (W4) Arkansas vs. (E5) Tennessee (7:30, ESPN3): Tennessee's profile is too good to get left out (8 top 50 wins), so we may as well see them eliminate a bid-thief.
    Importance: minor
  • (E3) Vanderbilt vs. (W6) LSU (10:00, ESPN3): Eliminate a bid-thief.
    Importance: minor

Mountain West

Nothing new to report; all that's happened so far is the 8-9 game. The top three are locks, 4 and 5 are distant bubble threats at best (probably needing two good wins, which means winning the whole thing anyway), and 6-9 are auto-bid or bust.

Today's games:

  • (1) BYU vs. (9) TCU (3:00): Eliminate a bid-thief and make a more difficult road for the 4-5 winner.
    Importance: moderate
  • (4) Colorado State vs. (5) New Mexico (5:30): Both are fringe at-large candidates at best (Colorado State's RPI is solid but they have too few good wins and too many bad losses; New Mexico swept BYU but you can't get away with cupcakin' it in non-conference when you go 8-8 in a non-BCS conference, even with a sweep of your top seed). Colorado State is probably closer to the cut line, though New Mexico may be the more dangerous one for BYU based on past history.
    Importance: minor
  • (2) San Diego State vs. (7) Utah (9:00): Make sure the auto-bid goes to a team who doesn't need it.
    Importance: minor
  • (3) UNLV vs. (6) Air Force (11:30): Same.
    Importance: minor

Atlantic 10

The first round has been played, and Richmond's opponent will be Rhode Island in the quarters. That's the less damaging of the two possibilities for them; given the bubble teams taking steps back so far I have to think they're safe since they can no longer take a killer loss.

No games today; quarterfinals are Friday.


George Mason and Old Dominion are in; VCU just has too many bad losses, too ugly a finish to the conference season, and too many cupcake games (12 against RPI 200+, six in non-conference). I can't entirely rule out them making it, but it would be because of a total bubble meltdown.


Nothing to report yet as Utah State has yet to play. The WAC uses a mini-Big East tournament structure: 5-8 play in round one, 3-4 get one bye, 1-2 get two.

Today's games:

  • (4) Idaho vs. (8) San Jose State: Clear a path for Utah State (Idaho's the only team to have beaten them in conference).
    Importance: minor
  • (3) New Mexico State vs. (6) Nevada: On one hand, NMSU is the tougher opponent on paper; on the other hand, the tournament is in Nevada (specifically, Vegas) so that might offset the advantage. I don't think we care too much.
    Importance: none

Conference USA

I can't for the life of me figure out how the RPI numbers here are so high, but they are and that has kept a few teams that feel like they should have no chance (Memphis and UTEP) in the discussion, and Southern Miss and Marshall don't appear to have completely abominable profiles either unless you look at "9-7 in the 8th ranked conference".

Today's games:

  • (1) UAB vs. (8) East Carolina: We want UAB to crush everyone on the way to the title, as they're the ones that have by far the best at-large chance.
    Importance: major
  • (4) Memphis vs. (5) Southern Miss: Memphis is much closer to the bracket. Make them go away.
    Importance: major
  • (3) UTEP vs. (6) Marshall: UTEP is nominally closer to the bracket (according to the Matrix), but apart from conference record it seems to me like Marshall's resume is better top to bottom. Still, if we want the one that's closer to fall, that is apparently UTEP.
    Importance: moderate
  • (2) Tulsa vs. (10) Rice: Obstruct the path for the UTEP-Marshall survivor.
    Importance: minor

Missouri Valley

Missouri State might back into the discussion again, but it will be because everyone's falling backward to them - and we can't fall that far back if we beat Iowa.


Butler took the auto-bid; Milwaukee is done and Cleveland State's chances are poor at best (like Missouri State, they're hoping for the bubble to back up to them, and I'm not even sure we can back up that far if we lose to Iowa, much less if we win).

West Coast

Gonzaga is in; St. Mary's remains on the bubble but unlike Missouri State and Cleveland State, they've probably done just enough to stay on the right side unless the bubble suddenly starts playing like they all desperately want in instead of generously handing spots to anyone else who might be around.

That said, St. Mary's has a no-win game scheduled against Weber State for Friday. Drop that and they probably are out.


Of the 11 at-large bids we expected were available, what I would expect:

  • Big East: 1 (Marquette; Villanova tried to give theirs back in exchange but I think their early profile is good enough to survive the recent tailspin)
  • WCC: probably 1 (St. Mary's, although a loss to Weber State on Friday would put it in serious jeopardy)
  • A-10: very likely 1 (Richmond can lock it up Friday but they're probably in either way)
  • Horizon, Colonial, Missouri Valley: 0 unless the rest of the bubble collapses even more than I would think possible at this point
  • WAC: definitely 0 if Utah State wins it, possibly 1 if they don't (though that's by no means certain based on past committee behavior)
  • SEC: 0-2, most likely 1 (I suspect the presumed Georgia-Alabama quarterfinal is a play-in/elimination game, although Georgia could possibly survive a loss and Alabama might need an additional win)
  • Big XII: 0-1 (Colorado probably needs to beat Kansas State, not sure if that's enough but it may be)
  • ACC: 1-2 (I don't think the Clemson-BC loser survives, but the winner is likely in and Virginia Tech may join them)
  • Pac-10: 0-2, more likely 0 than 2 (USC and Washington State have the best chances but definitely need at least one win and quite possibly two)
  • Big Ten: 2-4, most likely 3 (winner of Michigan-Illinois is definitely in, loser is probably in, we need to dodge a bad loss but are otherwise probably safe compared to the rest of the bubble, Penn State needs two wins minimum)
  • CUSA is a bit of a wild card; I don't see any team other than UAB deserving of a bid but with their RPIs all inflated, who knows? Two at-large bids might be possible if the final is UTEP over Memphis, but a UAB win probably holds the conference to just the auto-bid.

Overall, I don't think our outlook has changed much. If anything it's improved by the lack of bid-thieves so far; beat Iowa and we're very likely to make it, because few other candidates will be able to match our record of nine top 100 wins. Beat Purdue and there's no question.