Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bubble Shrinks to Eleven

I. Bubble Slots Decrease by Three This Week
When a team has been listed as a virtual lock for the entire season, it takes an "apocalyptic meltodown" for them to find themselves outside of the bracket. But, in addition Iowa State last week, we know can add the struggling Orange of Syracuse to the list. The 'Cuse possess just one top 50 RPI win (over freefalling Cincinnati) and have lost four in a row including a home loss to Seton Hall. It would behoove Syracuse to take care of visiting Rutgers tonight. Let us also roll out the bubbly red carpet for aforementioned Cincinnati. They scored a much-needed win over lowly South Florida last night, but they have the look of a team on the outs.

In the last few weeks, we have welcomed preseason powers Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisville, Boston College, and now Syracuse as Bubble Boys. Oklahoma and Boston College have graduated to "Projected In" status and Kentucky is also on the verge of graduating if they can pick up a quality win somewhere. They will have that chance at Florida on Saturday.

Have a look at the updated Lockbox to see what the conference bubble breakdown looks like.

1. Few bracketologists have Temple in, and I may be wrong for plugging them into my last slot. But, the alternatives are not a lot better. Flailing Iowa State (2-5 in last seven)? Arkansas (3-4 in SEC; 1 top 50 win)? Vandy (1-3 in their last 4)? Although the Owls laid a giant egg at UMass (60-34!!!), they are 5-1 in their last six games with wins over Maryland and Xavier.

2. The Big 12 shaped up a bit this week. Oklahoma and Kansas did a LOT to help their causes. Colorado also found their way in. If Iowa State can get it together again, the Big 12 could get five teams in this year.

3. Welcome back, Davidson! We've been waiting for you to resurface as the leader of the SoCon.

4. The 1-seed picture is shaping up. Duke, UConn, and Memphis look to be in great shape, and with Illinois possessing seven top 50 wins (tied for the most) and leading the rough-and-tumble Big Ten, one would have to like their chances as well. Texas is the only other team that can really make a case at this point. The other contenders all have at least one hole in their resume.

5. Historically, the Bubble hovers around the 9-13 range in Jan and early Feb, but will be down to 5-7 slots (maybe less) come selection Sunday. Just FYI.

The Bubble by the Numbers

--31 Automatic Bids. That will not change this season.
--34 At-Large Bids. That also is a static number.
--14 at-large bids look taken at this point. There are 24 teams listed as "virtual locks," but ten of them are conference leaders. That means that they account for 14 at-large bids. Consult the Lockbox and view the teams listed in black. It is hard to imagine any of those teams missing at this point. This could change, but most if not all of these teams are not going anywhere.
--The blue "Projected In" teams slots are where the big changes took place this week. Ten other teams look pretty safe, but we need a little more confirmation from Maryland, Boston College, Kansas, Oklahoma, Georgetown, Arizona, Creighton, Southern Illinois, Wichita State,and Bucknell. This accounts for nine bids since Bucknell is the leader of the Patriot League.
--That leaves 11 bids for the Bubble Boys, which is down from 14 last week. The Bubble Boys who made it in are in green and those left out are in red in the Lockbox.

II. Last Night's GOI
--at UConn 80, Pitt 76. Pitt went a long way in establishing itself as a contender, but UConn was a little too much at home.
--at Creighton 63, Northern Iowa 55. Creighton stays in the conference title hunt by holding serve at home.
--Illinois 66, at Wisconsin 51. Illini now have sole possession of first place in the Big Ten at 6-2. Michigan (5-2) must win at Penn State and Iowa (5-2) must win at Purdue (both tonight) to keep pace.
--at Miami-FL 78, Wake Forest 69. Alright, Wake fans, it worked for Iowa last year so I'll say it: stick a fork in Wake. They are done. (Last year, Iowa went on a tear and made the NCAA tourney after I declared them ready for A-1 sauce)

III. Tonight's GOI
--Duke at Boston College. BC is looking for a signature win, and this is as good as it gets.
--Clemson at Florida State. These are the types of games that Clemson must win to stay in the picture.
--Alabama at Georgia. 'Bama, see Clemson above.
--Kentucky at Mississippi State. UK is solidly in the bracket as of today, but they need this one because their next three games are at Florida, host Tennessee, and at Vandy.
--Texas at Missouri. Big for both teams for different reasons.
--Virginia at NC State. Long shot, but Cavs need big wins to stay alive.
--Seton Hall at Providence. Can The Hall maintain their hot play on the road?
--Rutgers at Syracuse. Orange need to stop the hemorrhaging.
--UMass at Temple. The Owls need to avenge that 60-34 pasting that they took at UMass awhile back.
--Vanderbilt at Tennessee. Vandy needs it to get back into the bracket; Tennessee is now playing for seeding.