Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Lockbox Booms

I. Lots of Invitations Locked Up This Week
We jumped from seven LOCKS all the way up to 23 this week in the Lockbox and there are several more that are on the cusp. Here are the teams that have cemented their bid:

Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Iowa, Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Villanova, UConn, Pitt, West Virginia, Georgetown, Tennessee, Florida, LSU, UCLA, Memphis, Gonzaga, Northern Iowa

There are seven other teams that could miss with an Indiana-style meltdown over the last few games, but it's hard to imagine them missing:

George Washington, Boston College, Marquette, Washington, Wichita State, Creighton, Michigan

The Bubble By the Numbers
--31 Automatic Bids. That will not change this season.
--34 At-Large Bids. That also is a static number.
--24 at-large bids look taken at this point.
--There are 23 teams listed as LOCKS and seven more as "virtual locks" (30 total), but ten of them are conference leaders. That means that they account for 20 at-large bids. Consult the Lockbox and view the teams listed in caps (LOCKS) and in black text. The LOCKS cannot miss and it is hard to imagine any of the "virtual locks" missing at this point. The virtual locks could change, but most if not all of those teams are not going anywhere.
--Six other teams look pretty safe, but we need a little more confirmation from Syracuse, Arizona, California, Alabama, Bucknell, and George Mason. Of course, Bucknell is an interesting case. I think most folks expect them to be IN, but if they were to lose any game between now and SelSun (regular season or tournament), they could fall squarely on the Bubble. This accounts for four bids since Bucknell and GMU currently lead their leagues. So, 24 total bids look to be taken.
--That leaves 10 bids for the Bubble Boys, which is down from 12 last week. The Bubble Boys who made it in are in green and those left out are in red in the Lockbox. Here's the list that got in today: Colorado, Seton Hall, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Arkansas, UAB, Air Force, Missouri State, Bradley, UNC-Wilmington.

1. With SIU's loss to Evansville last night (crazy, I know, but I've attended my share of puzzling WKU losses at Roberts Stadium), the Salukis are the odd team out in the MVC. Although they still lead Missouri State and Bradley in the standings, they are now 2-5 in their last seven and they have that hideous D-II loss hanging on their resume. I moved Air Force into their slot.

2. I think one more win does it for George Mason. This could be the first case of the BracketBusters actually helping a team seal their at-large bid.

3. Virginia is back in the mix again as they handled BC rather easily last night in Charlottesville.

4. Seton Hall is back on the Bubble after a loss to St. John's last night. The SHU was looking so strong a couple of weeks ago, but have been shaky lately. They would be STRONGLY advised to take care of DePaul on the road on Saturday.

I will have a new bracket or an updated Lockbox on Friday.

II. Last Night's GOI
--at Arkansas 65, Alabama 63. The Ark is in pretty good shape now after a monster comeback (down 18 at one point in this one). They have three regular season games left and two of them are on the road, which has been trouble for the Razorbacks. The do at least control their own destiny at this point.
--at Evansville 64, Southern Illinois 59. There was a reason I put this seemingly harmless game on the GOI yesterday. Struggling SIU+on the road at Evansville=Trouble. I've seen my Toppers go down in flames at EU several times.
--at Michigan 72, Illinois 64. This one all but seals it up for Michigan. They have too many top 100 wins to be ignored and now they have the pelts of Illinois, Michigan State and Wisconsin to go with them.
--Texas A&M 54, at Missouri 51. Aggies keep slim hopes alive.
--at St. John's 58, Seton Hall 47. SHU has put themselves back into an uncomfortable spot.
--at Virginia 72, Boston College 58. UVA begins "must win" phase by doing just that.

III. Tonight's GOI
--New Mexico at Air Force. AFA finally made it IN today. Let's see if I jinxed them.
--Lehigh at Bucknell. Lehigh's only loss in conference is to the Bison.
--San Diego State at BYU. An Aztec win here pretty much slams the door on the regular season title. It won't be easy, though. Cougars have won 6 of 7 including one over AFA.
--Indiana State at Creighton. Jays need to win these kind to seal the deal.
--Tennessee at Florida. Vols can clinch a share of the SEC East with a win.
--Maryland at Florida State. They just don't get any Bubblier than this.
--South Carolina at Georgia. Gamecocks are in "must win" mode.
--Penn State at Indiana. How low can you go, IU? PSU has been playing pretty well.
--Texas at Kansas State. 'Horns need to retrench after blowout loss to OK State.
--Ole Miss at Kentucky. UK has been winning these games all year, but they can ill afford an untimely slip-up.
--UTEP at Memphis. Miners' last stand for an at-large case.
--Ohio State at Michigan State. Spartans can pull into a tie with Buckeyes with a win.
--Colorado at Nebraska. Bubblin' Buffs need to send a message after losing to K-State.
--North Carolina at NC State. In-state rivalry alert! Who is the 2nd-best team in the ACC?
--Bradley at Northern Iowa. Braves can take a GIANT step forward with a win at UNI.
--LSU at Vandy. 'Dores gotta have it.