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Bubble Resume Review and Rooting Interests

After yesterday's unpleasantness, we're left in a position that we're really not used to: keeping a close eye on the national scoreboard to determine our chances of making the tournament. Who do we want to win or lose, and where do we stand relative to the rest of the bubble? I'll start from ESPN's latest Bubble Watch post (games through Thursday as of now, though the link should update as ESPN does) and try to extrapolate from that. Other teams near the bubble might get a mention even if they're not on there (particularly Lunardi's last eight out)

For categories here: "notable non-conference wins" are generally Kenpom top 100; "notable conference wins" are typically against teams on the bubble or in the tournament; "notable conference losses" are typically against teams on the bubble or out of the tournament.

Big Ten

Notable non-conference wins: North Carolina, Gonzaga (semi-away), Maryland (neutral), Oakland
Non-conference losses: Texas, Missouri, Illinois-Chicago (all neutral court)
Notable conference wins: Wisconsin, Michigan, MSU, Penn State (all at home)
Notable conference losses: Penn State, Indiana, Northwestern, MSU (all away)
Road/neutral record: 5-10
vs. RPI top 25: 2-6
vs. RPI top 50: 3-8
vs. RPI top 100: 10-10 (+ 2 bad losses)
Conference tournament: 5 seed, vs. Michigan in quarterfinals

Illinois is probably fairly safe now. Too many solid wins, and while there are two bad losses there they (thanks to landing in the 4-5 game) can't pick up another.

Notable non-conference wins: Clemson (away), Oakland, Harvard
Non-conference losses: Syracuse, UTEP (both neutral)
Notable conference wins: sweep of both MSU and Penn State
Notable conference losses: Indiana (away), Northwestern (away), Minnesota (home), Illinois (away)
Road/neutral record: 5-7
vs. RPI top 25: 0-7
vs. RPI top 50: 3-8
vs. RPI top 100: 9-11 (+ 1 bad loss)
Conference tournament: 4 seed, vs. Illinois in quarterfinals

Michigan doesn't have any really great wins like Illinois does (or like we do); in fact, Clemson, Harvard, Oakland, ourselves, and Penn State are the only teams they've beaten with a prayer of making the tournament. But they don't have many bad losses and come into the Big Ten tournament on quite a run. Have to like their chances at this point.

Notable non-conference wins: Washington (neutral), Oakland
Non-conference losses: Connecticut (neutral), Duke (away), Syracuse (semi-away), Texas (home)
Notable conference wins: Wisconsin, Illinois, Penn State (all home)
Notable conference losses: swept by Michigan; Illinois, Penn State, Iowa (all away)
Road/neutral record: 4-10
vs. RPI top 25: 1-8
vs. RPI top 50: 3-9
vs. RPI top 100: 9-12 (+ 1 bad loss)
Conference tournament: 7 seed, vs. Iowa in opening round (winner gets Purdue)

Strength of schedule is our biggest advantage at this point, but it's one that the selection committee pays inordinate attention to. We have to take down Iowa; after that, a second big win would be nice but quite possibly unnecessary.

Penn State:
Notable non-conference wins: Duquesne
Non-conference losses: Maryland (home), Virginia Tech (away), Ole Miss (away), Maine (home)
Notable conference wins: Wisconsin, Illinois, MSU (all home)
Notable conference losses: swept by Michigan; Illinois, MSU (both away)
Road/neutral record: 3-8
vs. RPI top 25: 1-5
vs. RPI top 50: 3-7
vs. RPI top 100: 9-12 (+ 1 bad loss)
Conference tournament: 6 seed, vs. Indiana in opening round (winner gets Wisconsin)

It's fairly clear why Penn State is out of the bubble conversation while the other 9-9 Big Ten teams are in: they did absolutely nothing in non-conference. Making the semis is absolutely mandatory.

Rooting interests:
Penn State making a run would be potentially dangerous; otherwise there's not a whole lot relevant to us outside of "win our games". The weird case is Illinois-Michigan; an Illinois win could push Michigan back toward us slightly but might not be enough for us to definitively leap them unless we win in the quarters (at which point we're in anyway). A Michigan win, on the other hand, might push them into the RPI top 50, taking away two of our sub-50 losses (though making the RPI top 50 record look slightly uglier) at the expense of taking them off the bubble entirely (and it probably wouldn't drop Illinois enough to worry them). I don't know which is better for us. Penn State could also sneak up to top 50, but we definitely don't want them to do that if it requires two wins. If they can do so with only one, we're still ahead of them in the pecking order and it gives us another top 50 win.

Other conferences after the jump.


Boston College:
Notable non-conference wins: Texas A&M (neutral), Cal (neutral), Indiana, Bucknell, Providence
Non-conference losses: Wisconsin (neutral), Harvard (home), Rhode Island (away), Yale (home)
Notable conference wins: swept Virginia Tech
Notable conference losses: Clemson, Florida State (both away); swept by Miami
Road/neutral record: 7-7
vs. RPI top 25: 0-4
vs. RPI top 50: 1-6
vs. RPI top 100: 7-10 (+ 1 bad loss)
Conference tournament: 5 seed, vs. Wake Forest in opening round (winner gets Clemson)

Really lacking in top wins; without beating UNC or Duke in the ACC tournament I don't see how they can jump any of the three main Big Ten bubblers if we avoid a bad loss.

Virginia Tech:
Notable non-conference wins: Penn State, Oklahoma State (neutral)
Non-conference losses: Purdue (home), Kansas State (away), UNLV (neutral)
Notable conference wins: Florida State, Duke (both home)
Notable conference losses: swept by Boston College and Virginia; Clemson, Georgia Tech (both away)
Road/neutral record: 8-7
vs. RPI top 25: 1-4
vs. RPI top 50: 2-6
vs. RPI top 100: 7-7 (+ 3 bad losses)
Conference tournament: 6 seed, vs. Georgia Tech in opening round (winner gets Florida State)

Virginia Tech's non-conference schedule isn't the disgrace it was last year (which cost them a bid), but they don't have much in the way of quality wins and they've gone 0-for-3 against bubble competition in conference. They need to at least get one against the bubble in the tournament, and even that may not be enough.

Notable non-conference wins: Seton Hall (neutral), College of Charleston (away), Long Beach State (neutral), Wofford
Non-conference losses: Michigan (home), Old Dominion (neutral), South Carolina (away)
Notable conference wins: Florida State, Boston College, Virginia Tech (all home)
Notable conference losses: Florida State, Maryland, Virginia, NC State (all away)
Road/neutral record: 5-8
vs. RPI top 25: 0-4
vs. RPI top 50: 2-5
vs. RPI top 100: 8-7 (+ 3 bad losses)
Conference tournament: 4 seed, vs. winner of Boston College-Wake Forest in quarterfinals

Clemson seems to have a bit of an edge due to winning their bubble games, but it's close.

Rooting interests:
Ideally, Wake Forest would knock off BC and Clemson and Georgia Tech would take out Virginia Tech, but those aren't likely. More realistically, root for Clemson over BC in the quarters; Clemson's the most likely to be able to survive a bubble-game loss, so it's better to have BC definitely out and Clemson definitely in than two right on the border. We want Virginia Tech to lose as early as possible.

Big East

Notable non-conference wins: Uh ... Bucknell? UW-Milwaukee (away)?
Non-conference losses: Duke, Gonzaga (both neutral), Wisconsin (home), Vanderbilt (away)
Notable conference wins: West Virginia, Notre Dame, Syracuse (all home), UConn (away)
Notable conference losses: Seton Hall (away)
Road/neutral record: 4-9
vs. RPI top 25: 4-8
vs. RPI top 50: 4-11
vs. RPI top 100: 7-13
Conference tournament: 11 seed, vs. Providence in opening round (winner gets West Virginia)

Marquette is in position to be this year's Virginia Tech: five RPI 280+ games in non-conference play are dragging them way down. They've got a few top-quality wins and a bunch of absolutely useless wins, with nothing between. Back-to-back losses to bottom-five teams could knock them out, but otherwise they'll probably make it on the strength of those top wins.

Rooting interests:


Notable non-conference wins: Indiana (neutral), Colorado State
Non-conference losses: New Mexico (neutral), Georgia, Harvard, San Francisco (all away)
Notable conference wins: swept Kansas State; Missouri, Texas, Nebraska (all home)
Notable conference losses: Nebraska, Baylor, Oklahoma, Iowa State (all away)
Road/neutral: 4-10
vs. RPI top 25: 3-2
vs. RPI top 50: 5-6
vs. RPI top 100: 7-9 (+ 3 bad losses)
Conference tournament: 5 seed, vs. Iowa State in opening round (winner gets Kansas State)

Honestly, the fact that Colorado is anywhere near the discussion should prove how awful the bubble is this year. They have a few great wins and a whole lot of crap, and their non-conference suffers from the "RPI anchor" phenomenon even worse than Marquette's (six sub-300 games plus another against #296). As good as those top wins are, I wouldn't feel comfortable without another if I were them. This is not the sort of profile that can easily overcome the committee's reluctance to reward wimpy non-conference schedules.

Notable non-conference wins: USC
Non-conference losses: Vanderbilt, Davidson (both neutral)
Notable conference wins: Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Missouri (all home)
Notable conference losses: Texas Tech, Colorado, Baylor, Iowa State (all away)
Road/neutral: 2-9
vs. RPI top 25: 1-4
vs. RPI top 50: 3-6
vs. RPI top 100: 7-8 (+ 3 bad losses)
Conference tournament: 8 seed, vs. Oklahoma State in opening round (winner gets Kansas)

Even more ridiculous is that Nebraska can't be completely ruled out despite being 7-9 in what Pomeroy considers the third-best conference (Lunardi has them 7th out through Saturday's games). They have the same problem as Marquette and Colorado: seven sub-250 RPI games, including four sub-300. Beating Kansas gets them back in the discussion, but they probably need to make the final to have a chance.

Notable non-conference wins: Uh ... Arizona State?
Non-conference losses: Gonzaga (semi-home), Florida State, Washington State (both neutral)
Notable conference wins: swept Texas A&M; Colorado, Nebraska (both home)
Notable conference losses: Texas Tech (home), Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State (all away)
Road/neutral: 3-9
vs. RPI top 25: 0-4
vs. RPI top 50: 2-6
vs. RPI top 100: 5-9 (+ 3 bad losses)
Conference tournament: 7 seed, vs. Oklahoma in opening round (winner gets Texas)

I don't know what Lunardi is thinking having these guys 4th out. There is zero chance this awful resume beats ours out for an at-large, even if they march through Texas and A&M to the final. I don't think it comes close to beating Penn State's. Honestly, I don't think it's anywhere near Nebraska's, and Nebraska needs a lot of help.

Rooting interests:
Just avoid getting some big upsets by the bubble teams. In particular, we'd like K-State to beat Colorado; we're probably still ahead of Nebraska even if they upset Kansas and definitely still ahead of Baylor if they upset Texas.


Notable non-conference wins: Texas, at Tennessee
Non-conference losses: Rider (home), Bradley (neutral), Nebraska, TCU, Kansas (all away)
Notable conference wins: UCLA, Washington State, Arizona (all home), Washington, Cal (both away)
Notable conference losses: swept by Oregon; Cal, Washington (both home), Washington State, Oregon State (both away)
Road/neutral: 6-9
vs. RPI top 25: 2-2
vs. RPI top 50: 5-4
vs. RPI top 100: 7-7 (+ 6 bad losses)
Conference tournament: 4 seed; vs. Cal in quarterfinals

Lots of solid wins, but that is a rather astounding number of bad losses (including 3 to 200+ teams). I'm not sure I've ever seen a team with a profile like that before; hard to get a read on how the committee will handle it.

Notable non-conference wins: New Mexico, Temple (neutral), Iowa State (away)
Non-conference losses: Notre Dame, Boston College (both neutral), San Diego State, Southern Miss, Kansas (all home)
Notable conference wins: UCLA, Washington State (both home), USC (away)
Notable conference losses: swept by Washington; USC (home), Washington State, Stanford (both away)
Road/neutral: 6-7
vs. RPI top 25: 0-5
vs. RPI top 50: 2-9
vs. RPI top 100: 5-12 (+ 1 bad loss)
Conference tournament: 5 seed; vs. USC in quarterfinals

Cal's on a hot streak to get in the discussion, but that's as much a product of schedule (rival Stanford and the Oregon schools) as anything else. Nothing much to recommend their resume, given the 2-4 record against 26-50 and 3-3 against 51-100, but it's not as cataclysmically bad as Baylor or Nebraska and they're apparently in the discussion.

Washington State:
Notable non-conference wins: Baylor (neutral), Gonzaga
Non-conference losses: Kansas State (home), Butler (neutral)
Notable conference wins: swept Washington; USC, Cal (both home)
Notable conference losses: USC, Cal, Oregon, Arizona State (all away), Stanford (home)
Road/neutral: 8-7
vs. RPI top 25: 0-3
vs. RPI top 50: 2-6
vs. RPI top 100: 6-8 (+ 3 bad losses)
Conference tournament: 6 seed, vs. Washington in quarterfinals

Washington State may be the best bet for a fourth Pac-10 bid, depending on how heavily the committee weighs USC's terrible losses against their great wins. As with Cal, the biggest plus on this resume may simply be the lack of huge minuses.

Rooting interests:
Definitely Washington over Washington State; Washington's probably in anyway and Washington State is unlikely to make it without that win. USC appears to be closer to the bracket than Cal right now, so probably best to root for Cal, but either way we want Arizona to slaughter the winner in the semifinals.


Notable non-conference wins: UAB, Colorado, Georgia Tech (away)
Non-conference losses: Notre Dame, Temple (both neutral), Xavier (home)
Notable conference wins: Kentucky (home), Tennessee (away)
Notable conference losses: Tennessee (home), Alabama (away)
Road/neutral: 8-6
vs. RPI top 25: 1-5
vs. RPI top 50: 3-9
vs. RPI top 100: 5-10
Conference tournament: E4; vs. Auburn in opening round (winner gets Alabama)

Georgia has basically beaten the teams they should beat and lost to the teams they should lose to. This year, that may be enough. But only 5 top 100 wins is an awfully low number.

Notable non-conference wins: None. Seriously. Lipscomb is the only team they beat in the Kenpom top 200.
Non-conference losses: Purdue, Providence (both away), Oklahoma State (semi-away), Seton Hall, Iowa, St. Peter's (all neutral)
Notable conference wins: Kentucky, Georgia (both home), Tennessee (away)
Notable conference losses: Arkansas, Ole Miss (both away)
Road/neutral: 4-10
vs. RPI top 25: 1-2
vs. RPI top 50: 3-3
vs. RPI top 100: 4-6 (+ 4 bad losses)
Conference tournament: W1; vs. Auburn-Georgia winner in quarterfinals

The closest parallel to Alabama's wacky season this year is Kentucky 2008, who got in as an 11 seed after a disaster of a non-conference season and a 12-4 record in the SEC. But the SEC was slightly better that year, and Kentucky was in the tougher of the two divisions; Alabama is in a division with four sub-100 Kenpom teams.

Rooting Interests:
Ideally, Auburn upsets Georgia and Alabama; I don't think either of them makes it with so few top 100 wins. But Georgia will probably beat Auburn. I think we would rather have Georgia beat Alabama than the reverse; Georgia seems more likely to make it than Alabama to me. In either case, let's hope Kentucky mauls the winner.

Mountain West

There aren't really any bubble teams here; San Diego State, BYU, and UNLV are going to make it regardless and nobody else has a shot at an at-large. Colorado State has too few top 100 wins and too many losses; they probably need to get two good wins in the tournament to do enough and the only way that can happen is if they win the whole thing. So root for one of the locks to win it all, and preferably for BYU to knock out the Colorado State-New Mexico winner.


Notable non-conference wins: Purdue (neutral), Seton Hall (away), VCU (home)
Non-conference losses: Bucknell (home), Georgia Tech (neutral), Old Dominion, Iona (both away)
Notable conference wins: Duquesne (home)
Notable conference losses: Rhode Island (home)
Road/neutral: 12-4
vs. RPI top 25: 1-2
vs. RPI top 50: 2-3
vs. RPI top 100: 5-6 (+ 1 bad loss)
Conference tournament: 3 seed; vs. winner of Rhode Island-St. Louis in quarterfinals

I don't see how Richmond isn't in, with as gaudy a record as they have in the A-10 and a win over Purdue.

Rooting interests:
Even a Richmond loss to St. Louis might not knock them out, but it wouldn't hurt. Bigger issue is to make sure that either Xavier, Temple, or Richmond wins the tournament. No bid-thieves, please.


George Mason and Old Dominion are going to make it; VCU's only real chance is to beat Old Dominion in the final and Hofstra and Drexel don't stack up with the rest of the bubble.

Rooting interests:
Old Dominion in a blowout in the final. This would probably keep the Colonial to two bids.


Utah State:
Notable wins: St. Mary's (away), Long Beach State, swept Boise State
Losses: at BYU, at Georgetown, at Idaho
Road/neutral: 11-3
vs. RPI top 25: 0-2
vs. RPI top 50: 1-2
vs. RPI top 100: 2-2 (+ 1 bad loss)
Conference tournament: 1 seed; double-bye into semifinals vs. winner of Idaho-(Hawaii/San Jose State)

With as gaudy a record as they have, they'll probably make it. But more importantly, nobody else in the conference has any prayer of an at-large.

Rooting interests:
Utah State to take the auto-bid and make certain the WAC is a one-bid league. The committee has left out Utah State with a phenomenal record like this before, but I can't see it happening with this weak a bubble.

Conference USA

Notable non-conference wins: VCU, Arkansas (semi-away)
Non-conference losses: Duke, Georgia, Arizona State (all away)
Notable conference wins: UTEP (home)
Conference losses: swept by Memphis; Southern Miss (home), Tulsa (away)
Road/neutral: 9-5
vs. RPI top 25: 0-1
vs. RPI top 50: 3-4
vs. RPI top 100: 8-6 (+ 1 bad loss)
Conference tournament: 1 seed; vs. East Carolina-Central Florida winner in quarterfinals

The RPI really loves CUSA out of all proportion this year; somehow UAB is in the top 30. Even so, this isn't a resume that's going to get too much notice. Those three top 50 wins? VCU (#49) and a sweep of Marshall (#50); it's not impossible that all three will go away.

Notable non-conference wins: Gonzaga (away), Miami
Non-conference losses: Kansas (neutral), Georgetown (home), Tennessee (away)
Notable conference wins: swept UAB
Conference losses: Tulsa (home), UTEP, SMU, Marshall, Rice, East Carolina (all away)
Road/neutral: 5-7
vs. RPI top 25: 0-2
vs. RPI top 50: 3-4
vs. RPI top 100: 9-6 (+ 3 bad losses)
Conference tournament: 4 seed; vs. Southern Miss-Tulane winner in quarterfinals

That sweep of UAB is the only reason Memphis is even in the discussion. But with CUSA not up to its normal standards, 10-6 in conference may be a killer.

Notable non-conference wins: Michigan (neutral)
Non-conference losses: BYU (away), Georgia Tech (neutral), Pacific (home)
Notable conference wins: Memphis (home)
Conference losses: Central Florida (home), UAB, Tulsa, Southern Miss, East Carolina (all away)
Road/neutral: 6-6
vs. RPI top 25: 0-1
vs. RPI top 50: 2-2
vs. RPI top 100: 4-5 (+ 3 bad losses)
Conference tournament: 3 seed; vs. Marshall-Houston winner in quarterfinals

Not much to look at here, but they're Lunardi's 8th out.

Rooting interests:
UAB is by far the most likely to get an at-large; therefore, we don't want them to need one. I don't think UTEP or Memphis can improve their resume enough to get in without beating UAB (and in UTEP's case that would give them the auto-bid anyway).

Missouri Valley

Well, we were hoping Missouri State (the regular-season champion and only legitimate at-large contender) won the auto-bid. They didn't. But with nothing to speak of at all in non-conference (best win: St. Louis) and a down year in the Valley, they may not make it ahead of us anyway.


Cleveland State has almost nothing to hang their hat on (Iona is their only Kenpom top 100 win of the season; 0-5 RPI top 50, 5-7 top 100 with a bad loss). After losing in the semifinals to Butler, they're probably done.

UW-Milwaukee's catastrophic non-conference season (no good wins and a lot of bad losses) has them in a win-or-go-home situation in the Horizon final.

Butler, on the other hand, has a legitimate chance without winning that game:
Notable non-conference wins: Florida State, Washington State (both neutral), Stanford
Notable conference wins: three-game sweep of Cleveland State (including the semifinals of the tournament)
Losses: Duke (neutral), Louisville, Xavier (both away), Evansville (home) in non-conference; road losses to Valparaiso, Wright State, Youngstown State, and a sweep by UW-Milwaukee in conference
Road/neutral: 10-7
vs. RPI top 25: 0-2
vs. RPI top 50: 4-3
vs. RPI top 100: 6-6 (+ 3 bad losses)

I don't think Butler would make it after picking up a third loss to UW-Milwaukee, but it's not impossible. Milwaukee, on the other hand, has no chance if they lose. Root for Butler.

West Coast

St. Mary's has just made it to the final, and Gonzaga is trying to join them.

St. Mary's:
Notable wins: St. John's (home), Long Beach State (semi-away), Gonzaga (away)
Losses: BYU (neutral), San Diego State (away), Vanderbilt (away), Utah State (home), Gonzaga (home), Portland (away), San Diego (away)
Road/neutral: 9-5
vs. RPI top 25: 0-3
vs. RPI top 50: 1-4
vs. RPI top 100: 3-5 (+ 2 bad losses)

Notable wins: Marquette (neutral), St. Mary's (away), Xavier (home), Baylor (semi-away), Oklahoma State (home)
Non-conference losses: San Diego State, Memphis (both home), Illinois (semi-home), Kansas State (semi-away), Notre Dame, Washington State (both away)
Conference losses: St. Mary's (home), Santa Clara, San Francisco (both away)
Road/neutral: 8-6
vs. RPI top 25: 1-3
vs. RPI top 50: 2-6
vs. RPI top 100: 5-7 (+ 2 bad losses)

Rooting interests:
I think Gonzaga's a little bit safer than St. Mary's (more losses, but better wins). So root for Gonzaga to win the WCC tournament, but I don't think it's going to matter; both are probably getting in.


11 at-large bids are available for the teams listed here (assuming no nasty surprises and that all teams listed as locks or should-be-ins in ESPN's Bubble Watch are solidly in). Of those:

  • the WCC and A-10 are almost certain to take one each;
  • the Horizon, Colonial and CUSA could each take one if Butler, Old Dominion, and UAB fail to win their conference tournaments;
  • the Valley is probably not going to get one;
  • the WAC could get one if Utah State loses but, based on past history, may not;
  • the SEC will get one at most and may not even get that;
  • the Big XII may send one but isn't particularly likely to;
  • the Big East is likely to get one but may not if Marquette finds itself rejected for poor non-conference scheduling;
  • the Big Ten is likely to get at least two and could easily get three, with four a distant possibility;
  • the ACC will certainly get one and may get two, but probably not all three;
  • the Pac-10 won't get more than two and isn't particularly likely to get even that many.

Assuming no bid-thieves, the bubble is so weak this year that we really don't need to do much to stay on the right side. A lot of the teams in the discussion have resumes that look more like NIT 5- or 6-seeds to me than NCAA teams, but 68 have to go regardless of how awful that 68th resume looks. I had a hard time believing even Colorado remained in the discussion (much less Lunardi's last in) until actually going through the resumes; there really may not be 37 more deserving at-large candidates.

My best guess: if there are no bid thieves, it will be St. Mary's and Gonzaga, Richmond, Marquette, Illinois, Michigan, MSU, the Clemson-BC winner, the Alabama-Georgia winner, the USC-Cal winner, and some combination of VT, Washington State, Missouri State, Colorado, Penn State, the Alabama-Georgia loser, and Memphis (depending on conference tournament results). Unless there are a lot of bid thieves, one win will probably do it for us; if there are none, we may even survive without beating Iowa (but I wouldn't recommend putting that to the test).