Wednesday, February 15, 2006

LOCKS Grow to Seven

I. Bubble Shrinks Slightly to Twelve Slots
Congrats to Villanova, Pitt, Iowa, and Memphis for gaining LOCK status. These four joined Duke, UConn, and Texas from last week. By this time next week, the LOCK list will be a lot longer. These seven could lose out and still get in. All have insured at least a .500 record in their conference. They have lofty RPI ratings and a boatload of quality wins. More teams will be added in the coming weeks. LOCK teams are designated by all capital letters in the Lockbox.

In the last few weeks, we have welcomed preseason powers Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisville, Boston College, Syracuse, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Washington as Bubble Boys. Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Washington, and Boston College have graduated to "Projected In" or are in barring an apocalyptic meltdown. The status of Kentucky, Arizona, and Syracuse are still undecided and they remain on the good side of the Bubble...for now. Louisville teeters on the brink of extermination.

This week, we add another Top 10 All-Time Program to the list. Let us once again roll out the plush, red, bubbly carpet to the Indiana Hoosiers. Their losses have came to good teams, but they have had far too many of them. Furthermore, Mike Davis' comments about IU fans' desires for an "Indiana guy" and the following media frenzy during this Hoosier skid may simultaneously distract both Indiana and Iowa who have bigger fish to fry. Iowa is playing for a Big Ten title and IU can still have a good season if they right the ship during the stretch run.

1. With Maryland's loss to Clemson last night, I moved them out and moved a SIXTH MVC team in by virtue of Bradley's win over Northern Iowa last night. This is just temporary until I do another bracket on Friday, but it's hard to ignore FIVE top 50 RPI wins...and the Braves have them.

2. Every single team in the SEC East is very much alive for the Dance. South Carolina took a big step by beating Bama last night. Coupled with their season sweep of Florida, the Gamecocks may be able to push themselves into hte bracket with a win over Kentucky this weekend. The game is in Columbia. HUGE Bubble game for both UK and SC.

3. Lots of folks are inquiring about Utah State, but with five sub-100 losses, it's just not going to happen as an at-large. The Aggies really need Utah and Middle Tennessee to push themselves into the Top 100 RPI.

4. It looks like it may be up to Cincinnati to make the Big East a 9-bid league. If they don't prove that they are NCAA-worthy without Armein Kirkland, they are going to be out. Louisville is nearly dead and Rutgers is a long shot at best. Unless one of those three turn it on, the Big East will likely get eight teams in, and that would still be a record.

5. No El Foldo for Seton Hall. They bounced back from their 42-point tail whipping at UConn to knock off West Virginia. This team is likely going to the Dance.

6. Historically, the Bubble hovers around the 9-14 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 25 teams listed as "virtual locks," but ten 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.
--Seven other teams look pretty safe, but we need a little more confirmation from Wisconsin, Creighton, Southern Illinois, Seton Hall, Washington and Bucknell. This accounts for seven bids since Bucknell is the leader of the Patriot League.
--That leaves 12 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 (Interesting tidbit: home teams went 21-2 last night)
--at Bradley 72, SIU 60. As I said yesterday, the Braves are tough in Peoria (11-1). It's a shame they were shut out of an TV game for BracketBusters Saturday this weekend.
--at Iowa 66, Michigan State 54. Michigan State is going to be one scary 5/6 seed. They have all of the parts, they simply cannot keep them harnessed for 40 mins.
--at Seton Hall 71, West Virginia 64. The SHU bounces back in big way. This gives 'Nova the outright Big East lead.
--at South Carolina 67, Alabama 56. SC is officially in the Bubble picture.
--at Temple 57, Saint Joseph's 44. Beautiful that John Chaney way. No "Goongate" this time, though.
--at Wichita State 62, Creighton 61. What a V-Day for WSU. Four teams were tied for first last night and the Shockers are the only ones left standing. The defeated Creighton, Northern Iowa fell at Indiana State, and SIU lost at Bradley.

III. Tonight's GOI
--Oklahoma at Colorado. This a the Buffs' big chance to beat an elite team at home.
--Nebraska at Iowa State. Cyclones are in must win mode.
--Georgia at Kentucky. Dawgs can pull into a three way tie with UK and SC with a win. Cats are desparate for a W.
--Minnesota at Michigan. Woverines need to end this three game skid, but Gophers have sneakily won 3 of 4.
--Arkansas at Mississippi. Hogs cannot afford a loss like this.
--Florida State at NC State. Noles need a marquee win to be taken seriously.
--Indiana at Penn State. Time for the Hoosiers to stop this nonsense if they want to hang around in the bracket.
--Cincinnati at Syracuse. Both need a win, but UC needs it more.
--Hofstra at UNC-Wilmingon. Winner strengthens at-large case.
--Florida at Vanderbilt. Both need for different reasons. UF for seeding, Vandy for NCAA life.
--Ohio State at Wisconsin. Great test for Buckeyes. A loss gives Iowa the outright lead in the loss column.