"Nothing could be finer than being in your diner." ~Jerry, Seinfeld: "The Bubble Boy Episode"
First, congratulations to Winthrop (Big South) and Southern Illinois (Valley) for securing #1 slots in their conference tourneys. Winthrop did the trick with a come-from-behind win over High Point last night, while SIU clinched when Creighton lost at Illinois State. This and more conference tourney updates in the One Stop Shop.
We turn now to the Bubble Boys and the Lockbox. The rampant losing by some formerly high-falutin' teams is making it crowded at the bottom. Apart from OK State, Texas Tech, Clemson, and a few other formerly solidly IN teams, Tennessee and Creighton are really pushing their luck. I left the Jays as "win games they should" simply because they have one home game and the Valley Tourney left. If they beat Wichita State at home and grab a win or two in the Valley Tourney, they will likely be OK.
Tennessee has such an abysmal road record that they are in real danger if they drop a home game (Florida still to come). They might even need to take care of Arkansas or UGA on the road to feel solid. Their fat RPI and some nice wins will help buoy them as long as they get to 8-8 in the SEC. But, with Alabama coming in tonight, two road games, and Florida coming in next week, the schedule is going to be tough to navigate for the Vols. They have to be considered a Bubble Boy at this point.
Meanwhile, Drexel and Old Dominion are charging hard in the CAA. Louisville and Maryland have went from OUT to pretty solid bracket picks in the last few games. Michigan State will get serious mileage out of their win over Wisconsin last night. The Mountain West looks to be in great shape for three bids this year, too (BYU, UNLV, AFA). So, not EVERYONE is losing. It just seems that way.
The Bubble by the Numbers
--31 Automatic Bids. That number will not change this season.
--34 At-Large Bids. That also is a static number.
--26 teams are either LOCKED (all caps BLACK font) or look to be on track barring an apocalyptic event. They are listed as "virtual locks" in lower case black font in the Lockbox. Eleven of them are conference leaders. That means that 15 At-Large bids are virtual locks at this point. It is hard to imagine any of these teams missing at this juncture. This could change, but most if not all of these teams are not going anywhere.
--Eight other teams look pretty safe, but need more validation. Those teams are listed in blue. That accounts for 23 At-Large bids that are not "bubble slots." Hence, 11 slots are up for grabs.
--The Bubble Boys who made it in are in green and those left out are in red in the Lockbox.
Last Night's GOI
--Northern Iowa 79, at Bradley 70. Home losses at this juncture for a team like Bradley pretty much drops the curtains on an AL bid.
--at Kentucky 70, LSU 63. Cats get their win in less than impressive fashion over Big Baby-less Tigers.
--at Michigan State 64, Wisconsin 55. Drew Neitzel: Bacon-saver extraordinaire.
--at Notre Dame 78, DePaul 54. Irish move a step closer. A win at Rutgers in their last game probably wraps up their bid. But, that road record...
--at Providence 64, West Virginia 61. Friars hanging on by a thread. WVU is not home free yet.
--at Texas 80, Texas Tech 51. Raiders were ground into the pavement by a burnt orange bootheel. Bobby's boys are WILDLY inconsistent and hard to figure.
--at UNLV 60, Air Force 50. Big Rebel win also puts BYU two games clear of both of these clubs.
--Missouri State 71, at Wichita State 65. Bears got off the mat late in the game to claw out a win. Shockers are pretty much done as an AL possibility.
--Arkansas at Auburn. Razorbacks need to pile up some wins starting RIGHT NOW.
--Michigan at Illinois. Neither team can really afford a loss at this point.
--Purdue at Iowa. Boilers would be in decent shape if they could post a road win.
--Florida State at Maryland. 'Noles have fallen off the pace with four straight losses. They have two winnable games left after this one, so a win here would be golden.
--Georgia at Mississippi. Both still alive, but Ole Miss has to hold home court. Could be a big roadie for Dawgs.
--Vanderbilt at Mississippi State. 'Dores have to beware of a letdown after Florida win.
--Texas A&M at Oklahoma State. Cowboys are falling quickly and would likely fall out of the bracket with another "L".
--Alabama at Tennessee. Vols have been very tough at home, and they need a win to wash out the taste of that drubbing at South Carolina.
--Boston College at Virginia Tech. It's always fun to guess which Hokie team is going to show.
--Rhode Island at Xavier. Loser falls out of a tie for first in the A-10.