Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Shiny, New Lockbox

I. Bubble Getting Bigger
Last week we welcomed preseason darlings Oklahoma and Kentucky to the Bubble. They both are still squarely on it.

This week, let's roll out the red, bubbly carpet to Louisville and Boston College. The pollsters have given the Cards many free passes this season, but no one is safe from the wrath of the Bracket Board. The Cards are imposters, possessing ZERO top 50 wins (their best is over #60 Akron), a 1-3 Big East record, a ballooning RPI of 79, and a double-digit loss last night to a struggling St. John's club. It is not looking good for UL. They welcome UConn to Da Ville on Saturday.

Boston College has a much healthier RPI (32), but they are 1-3 in the ACC and also have ZERO top 50 RPI wins. They are still in at this point, but they are going to need some wins soon, and they are on the road for their next two (Miami-FL and North Carolina). They did get a nice win at Holy Cross last night. Wake Forest (0-3 in the ACC) is on deck if they don't pick up some ACC wins soon.

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

1. With DePaul falling to 8-8 (no team .500 or worse has ever gotten into the NCAA tourney) and Louisville's loss to SJU, the Big East lost two slots overnight. I filled those slots (reluctantly) with Michigan and Washington State. Nebraska's loss led me to put Oklahoma back in. These three were my "first three out" in Monday's bracket.

2. Miami-FL and Mississippi have been added to the Lockbox this week.

3. There is a LOT of room for Big 12 teams to step up. Virtually ANYONE outside of Iowa State and Texas could get hot and play themselves right into third place in the Big 12 and into the bracket.

4. Who would have thought Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisville would all be in danger of missing the NCAA tourney in the same season? Weird.

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 22 teams listed as "virtual locks," but eight 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.
--Eight other bids look pretty safe, but we need a little more confirmation from Wake Forest, Maryland, Tennessee, LSU, George Washington, Northern Iowa, Creighton and Southern Illinois.
--That leaves 12 bids for the Bubble Boys. The Bubble Boys who made it in are in green and those left out are in red in the Lockbox. There have been a few changes since Monday.

II. Last Night's GOI

--Marquette 82, at DePaul 79. MU withstood a furious late rally by the home team to secure a precious conference road win.
--Kentucky 69, at Georgia 55. So, UK has employed a sports psychologist to work with the team. I wonder if he makes $2+ million per year? In any event, the Cats' effort was much better against the scrappy Dawgs.
--Boston College 63, at Holy Cross 53. Craig Smith went for 19 and 17. Nice win.
--at Indiana 62, Illinois 60. How much fun is the Big Ten this year? Not many teams have a 44-19 run and only win by two, but that's what the Hoosiers did.
--Iowa State 88, at Nebraska 75. Still looking for that third NCAA team for the Big 12.
--at Northern Illinois 64, Ohio 59. NIU already has a 2-game lead in the loss column in the MAC West.
--at St. John's 68, Louisville 56. Cards are 1-3 and reeling in the Big East. This is a game that they could not afford to lose with UConn coming in on Saturday. In fact, their next four games are rough ones: host UConn and Cincinnati, and road trips to Rutgers and Villanova. UL could dig a whole from whence they cannot emerge. They need to right the ship in a hurry.

III. Tonight's GOI
--Arkansas at Alabama. SEC West and NCAA bubble implications.
--Bradley at Creighton. The Braves need this one if they want to stay in the NCAA picture.
--NC State at Duke. The two best teams in the ACC.
--Texas A&M at Kansas State. There are bids out their for any Big 12 team that wants to step up. These two are certainly candidates.
--Tennessee at Memphis. In-state rivalry alert! And it means something this year!
--Clemson at Miami-FL. Miami-FL is playing much better now than earlier in the season.
--LSU at Mississippi State. See Arkansas vs. Alabama.
--Wisconsin at Ohio State. The Badgers are in the Big Ten driver's seat, but this is their first road test against a fellow contender.
--Pitt at Rutgers. Undefeated Pitt in the RAC. This should be a good one.
--Louisiana Tech at Utah State. Important WAC tilt; LA Tech is 4-0 in conference.
--Georgia Tech at Wake Forest. GT can get onto the NCAA radar with a win here. Wake slides onto the Bubble with a loss.