Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Big Ol' Bubble

I. Bubble Swells to 14 Slots
Louisville is the poster child for why fans should take the polls with a grain of salt. The Cards are not showing up in very many bracket projections this week, and if they do appear, they are a 12/13 seed. They have lost three games in a row, two at home, and all by double digits. They should be listed as the University of Rick Pitino's Track Record, because that is the only thing the pollsters could be hanging onto right now. Maybe they can score a decent win tonight when they host Cincinnati.

In the last two weeks, we have welcomed preseason powers Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisville, and Boston College as Bubble Boys. They are all still there at this point, though Kentucky and Oklahoma have trended upward in the last week. This week, let's roll out the bubbly, red carpet for Wake Forest and Iowa State. Wake is now 1-5 in the ACC which puts them on the bad side of the Bubble, and the Cyclones have been one of the most schizophrenic teams in the country. They won the Iowa State Championship by beating both Northern Iowa and Iowa, but they were routed at home at Iona, and have home losses to Fresno State, Texas A&M, and struggling Texas Tech. They have lost three of four and are in real danger if they do not stop the bleeding soon.

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

1. With Wake's loss and Miami-FL's blowout defeat at Virginia, I changed two spots in the Lockbox from Monday's bracket. I filled these two vacated slots with Southern Illinois and Virginia for the time being.

2. The Big 12 just keeps getting more and more wide open. The only sure-fire NCAA team is Texas. There is a lot of space for anyone who would like to win some conference games.

3. Lots of names that are unfamiliar to casual fans are popping up in the conference leaders of some of the one-bid leagues. Binghamton, Lipscomb, Elon, and Central Connecticut State are all currently projected in. Some old friends have resurfaced as conference leaders, too. Welcome back, Kent State. You too, IUPUI.

4. 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.
--15 at-large bids look taken at this point. There are 24 teams listed as "virtual locks," but nine of them are conference leaders. That means that they account for 15 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.
--Six other teams look pretty safe, but we need a little more confirmation from Maryland, Cincinnati, Georgetown, George Washington, Xavier, and Creighton. This accounts for five bids since GW is the leader of the A-10.
--That leaves 14 bids for the Bubble Boys, which is a season high. 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
--Kentucky 71, at Auburn 62. The Cats have been able to take care of the two basement teams in both the SEC East and West in the last two games. They host fellow Bubbler Arkansas on Saturday.
--at Iowa 73, Indiana 60. The power of the home court...and good defense on Marco Killingsworth.
--Georgetown 85, at Notre Dame 82 (2 OT). That G'town won after that horrendous call on the road is enough for me to declare them "NCAA quality." Oh, that and the clinic they put on against Duke.
--at Ohio 66, Akron 63. Both are now 6-1 and trail 7-0 Kent State in the MAC East.
--at SIU 62, Creighton 48. Now 32 in a row for the Salukis at home.
--at Virginia 71, Miami-FL 51. 'Canes starting to slide again. UVA now with NCAA hopes at 4-2 in the ACC.
--Florida State 75, at Wake Forest 68. FSU's hopes get a shot in the arm, too. Wake is in big trouble with a 1-5 ACC start.

III. Tonight's GOI
--Arizona at Arizona State. In-state rivalry alert! The Cats lost both games on their Oregon swing, so they are hungry for a road win.
--Mississippi at Arkansas. SEC West and Bubble implications.
--Missouri State at Bradley. A Braves' win would pull them into a tie for fifth with the Bears in the MVC and get them back into the NCAA convo.
--Nebraska at Colorado. Two of the gaggle of Big 12 teams that are fringe Bubble teams.
--Maryland at Georgia Tech. Danger game for the Terps. They do not want to slide onto the Bubble. They have not won a game away from home against a D-I team. Yes, you read that correctly.
--Bucknell at Lehigh. Tester for the Bison. Lehigh has won seven in a row and are 5-0 in the Patriot League.
--Cincinnati at Louisville. Rick Pitino said Saturday's game against UConn was a must I guess we know what that makes this game.
--Georgia at LSU. A win here makes the Dawgs intriguing.
--Michigan State at Michigan. In-state rivalry alert! And the Wolverines are looking for that signature win.
--Tennessee at Mississippi State. Vols are set up for a letdown on the road.
--Iowa State at Missouri. Critical game for both team's Big 12 positioning and NCAA hopes.
--Kansas at Texas A&M. See above.
--Boston College at North Carolina. Carolina has been struggling a bit. BC could use a marquee win.
--Xavier at Temple. Muskies need to bounce back from St. Louis loss, and that's not easy to do at Temple (5-1 at home with their only loss to 'Nova).
--Air Force at UNLV. A UNLV win here puts the Falcons two games back of the Mt. West leaders.