Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bubble Shrinks to 12

The Bubble shrank from 13 to 12 this week in the Lockbox. This does not mean that it will shrink every week from here on out, but on SelSun there are usually 4-8 slots that are questionable. Usually, 2-3 of those slots are truly up for grabs.

We are far enough into the conference season to start recognizing some trends. Trends like:

1. Illinois is good at home, but bad on the road. The win over Michigan State is great, but the Illini will likely have to find some road wins to make the bracket.

2. Someone has to lose these ACC games. Not everyone is going to make it IN. Right now, Georgia Tech and Maryland are falling behind.

3. As some of the mediocre TV conference teams get ground up by the cream of their conferences, streaking teams from other conferences begin to look more viable as NCAA At-Large selections. New Mexico State and BYU immediately come to mind.

I have made two adjustments since Monday. Syracuse laid an egg at home last night against Notre Dame, and Georgia Tech lost at Wake to fall to 2-6 in league play. I replaced those two with Alabama (NO!!!) and Xavier. With much grumbling, I left Maryland (2-5 ACC) IN for the time being. There is room at the bottom of the bracket for any team with some meat on their schedule who would like to get hot at the right time. Let us hope some Bubble Boys post some nice wins this weekend so teams on the upswing can appear in the bracket on Monday.

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.
--22 teams 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 11 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. Example: Tennessee has now gone from "virtual lock" to "win games it should" to "Bubble IN" because of Chris Lofton's injury. Losing Lofton for multiple games in the meat of the SEC slate would qualify as "apocalyptic."
--11 other teams look pretty safe, but need more validation. Those teams are listed in blue. That accounts for 22 At-Large bids that are not "bubble slots." Hence, 12 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
--UNLV 76, at Colorado State 59. Solid win by surging Rebs.
--at Florida State 96, Maryland 79. This puts the 'Noles at .500 in the ACC and pushed MD to 2-5.
--at Illinois 57, Michigan State 50. Illini have four road games left. They need to prove themselves there to be an NCAA team.
--at Manhattan 75, Marist 74. Jaspers successfully completed a comeback late in the game.
--Wichita State 67, at Northern Iowa 61. Shockers may be hitting their stride a bit. Keep an eye on WSU.
--Notre Dame 103, at Syracuse 91. Irish hung a 61-spot on the Orange in the first half.

Tonight's GOI
--Creighton at Bradley. Bradley cannot afford to lose home games in conference.
--George Washington at Dayton. A-10 leading Colonials head to a tough venue.
--Vanderbilt at Florida. How hot is Vandy? This is as good a heat check as any.
--VCU at Hofstra. Rams put their 9-0 road record on the line.
--Wisconsin at Indiana. Monster Big 10 matchup with all kinds of NCAA, conference, and seeding implications.
--Alabama at LSU. Two teams in desperation mode.
--Toledo at Ohio. Two of best in the MAC.
--Ohio State at Purdue. Boilers with a chance to score that signature win.
--Gonzaga at Stanford. Zags could REALLY use a big win for their resume.
--Georgia at Tennessee. Vols are reeling and UGA is rolling.
--Texas at Texas Tech. A Raiders win would even them in the standings with the 'Horns.
--BYU at Utah. In-state rivalry alert!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

BracketBusters Announced

BracketBusters pairings were announced last night and they went pretty much to plan. I got 24 of the 26 teams in the TV games correct, and two that I missed make good sense.

ESPN went with "higher conference standing" over "higher RPI" by taking OVC leader Austin Peay and the WAC's Boise State over lower-tier MVC teams Indiana State and Evansville. Good for them. I think it's better that way.

I got 5 of the 13 matchups exactly right (note: ESPN actually announced 14 TV matchups, which is one more than was previously suggested. It seems that CS-Fullerton at Wright State was the "extra" matchup). These five matchups are listed in green. Correct teams are listed in black. Incorrect teams are listed in red. ESPN's matchups not in green are in parentheses.

Southern Illinois at Butler

Northern Iowa at Nevada
Bradley at VCU
Appalachian State at Wichita State
Kent State at George Mason
Utah State at Creighton (Drexel at Creighton)
Drexel at Missouri State (Winthrop at Missouri State)
Winthrop at Hofstra (Holy Cross at Hofstra)
Ohio at Oral Roberts (Utah State at Oral Roberts)
Holy Cross at Indiana State (Ohio at New Mexico State)
Old Dominion at New Mexico State (Old Dominion at Toledo)
Evansville at Toledo (Austin Peay at Akron)
Albany at Akron (Albany at Boise State)

BONUS!: (Cal State-Fullerton at Wright State)

Last Night's GOI
--at Appalachian State 67, College of Charleston 56. App St holds serve at home in this important SoCon contest.
--at Butler 71, Illinois-Chicago 45. Uhh...loss avenged, I guess.
--Pitt 65, at Villanova 59. Nova misses out on a signature win.

Tonight's GOI
--UNLV at Colorado State. Big Mt West matchup; Rams have been good at home (6-1, only loss to Air Force by 6).
--Maryland at Florida State. Two classic Bubble Boys and one will get a big leg up over the other tonight.
--Michigan State at Illinois. Illini need this one a lot more.
--Marist at Manhattan. Winner gets sole possession of 2nd in the MAAC.
--Wichita State at Northern Iowa. Shockers have a lot of work to do, but a road win here would help a bunch.
--Notre Dame at Syracuse. Irish need to prove themselves on the road. A loss here could boot the Orange from Bracketville.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Letters/Weekend Forecast 1/26-128

"Letters! We get letters! We get lots and lots of letters! LETTERS!"

"8 teams from the ACC??? Has any conference ever had 2/3 of its members make the Big Dance?

While I love the ACC and live in ACC country, they are not even the top conference (PAC-10). Maryland is hardly a tournament team and BC just lost a major difference maker."


No, no conference has ever had 2/3 of it's members make the dance. The Big Ten sent 7/11 in 1994, though (61%). That said, the ACC is not likely to send eight. This will sort itself out in the coming weeks.

The ACC actually is #1 in the RPI. And, right now, I think Maryland is a tourney team, although their situation is tenuous. They could be one of the ACC teams that gets squeezed out as the season wears on.

"I think you have Marquette a little too low right now. They should be at least a 4 seed if not a 3. They have 3 top 25 rpi wins away from home (duke and texas tech on neutral floor and at pitt yesterday). They are 6-1 away from home. The only flaw on their resume is a loss to NDSU. When they lost to providence they did not have mcneal and matthews was not 100%."


Marquette is looking more impressive all the time. And, if they win this weekend, they will likely move up again. But, that loss to NDSU was at home in Marquette's own tournament. They have to pay a little for that one.

"Hi there - I'm a frequent follower of your board during NCAA BB season. Why isn't New Mexico St. on the radar screen at all? Thanks."


While the win over Nevada was great and the Aggies have won 14 of 15, they have losses to 200+ teams Loyola Marymount and LA Tech. They also lost to #141 New Mexico. They possess only two top 100 RPI wins. Still, if they maintain this pace of winning (read: nearly ALL), then they will show up at some point. But, they will not be able to erase the fact that they have ZERO top 100 non-conference wins. And, currently, their RPI is only #81. The Aggies are a long shot at this point for At-Large. Beating Nevada again and sweeping USU would help a lot.

"What about Winthrop at High Point? Winthrop is 5-0 in conference, and High Point is 6-0. This is a huge game for the Big South."


Horrendous oversight on my part. I have included it in the GOI roundup below.

Last Night's GOI
--East Tenn St 80, at Belmont 70 (OT). Huge OT win for the Bucs who are now two games clear of the A-Sun field.
--UCLA 62, at Cal 46. Bears have their work cut out for them to make the Show.
--at Duke 68,Clemson 66. Duke gave this game away, then benefited from some extra time on the clock and tore out the Tigers' heart.
--Winthrop 64, at High Point 63. Road wins over your top conference contender go a long way.
--Butler 70, at Loyola (Chicago) 66. See Winthrop vs High Point above.
--at Oral Roberts 73, Oakland 63. ORU takes the outright MCC lead.
--at Stanford 65, Southern Cal 50. Cardinal solidify their position with this one.
--at Washington 89, Oregon 77. If the Huskies find their form, the Pac-10 is going to be wild.

Weekend Forecast
--Arkansas at Alabama. Two clubs in severe need of a win.
--North Carolina at Arizona. Massive non-conference tilt.
--Florida at Auburn. Gators have been grinding on the road and Auburn is coming off a lambasting of Bama.
--Air Force at BYU. Tough road test for the Falcons.
--Southern Cal at California. Cal must win their home games to keep hope alive.
--Providence at UConn. Two fringe teams.
--Indiana State at Creighton. Withering Trees really need this one.
--VCU at Drexel. This is as big a conference game as any this weekend.
--Michigan at Indiana. Wolverines need to cash in a big win somewhere.
--East Tenn St at Lipscomb. The Bisons try to bring ETSU back to the field a bit.
--Syracuse at Louisville. Cards can get back into the convo with a win here.
--Ohio State at Michigan State. Teams only get so many chances to score home wins like this.
--Bradley at Missouri State. Loser will have a hard time finding it's way IN on Monday.
--Utah State at Nevada. Aggies have won 5 straight.
--Villanova at Notre Dame. Irish have been very tough at home.
--Illinois at Purdue. Illinois needs to consolidate it's home win over Indiana earlier this week.
--Oregon at Washington State. Important game for Pac-10 positioning.

--Boston College at Duke. BC is in dire need of a signature win.
--Virginia at Clemson. Tigers must bounce back from heartbreaking Duke loss.
--LSU at Georgia. LSU is wilting as UGA is flowering.
--Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech. GT needs it more at this point.
--Tennessee at Kentucky. No Lofton will be hard to overcome in Lexington.
--UCLA at Stanford. Cardinal took out Oregon last night.
--DePaul at West Virginia. Both need to get hot immediately.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Upsets"/Sun Belt Bracket

"Upsets" and Home Teams
I am not one for predicting game results. I have indulged in a little experiment over the last two weeks in regards to picking "upsets." A lot of going 4-0 with these picks was simply picking a solid home team over a team with more national buzz that might be overrated.

How big is the home court advantage? Take these home records into consideration.

1-20 RPI: 218-10 (.956 win %) at home.
21-40 RPI: 213-21 (.9103). 431-31 (.9349) cumulative Top 40.
41-60 RPI: 139-21 (.8688). 570-52 (.9164) cumulative Top 60.
61-80 RPI: 176-24 (.8800). 736-76 (.9064) cumulative Top 80.

I stopped at the top 80 RPI mainly because these are the teams with real At-Large hopes. These are good basketball teams, regardless of conference.

Now, granted, a lot of these home wins are over far lesser teams. And, in the coming weeks, I will try to delve into the numbers a bit more and find out how top 80 teams fare at home against other top 80 teams to get an idea of home court advantage in games between good teams. I am sure Palm or Pomeroy or someone else has good info on this and I'll link it if I find something that will save me a lot of time and work.

For now, let's leave it at this: the top RPI teams play LOTS of home games and they win them at a HIGH clip. That is to be expected. It takes a Herculean effort to beat a good team in their gym. I mainly just wanted to set the table for future discussions about scheduling and home court advantage.

Sun Belt Bracket
I am in the midst of putting together the 2007 One Stop Shop. The Shop will have all 30 conference tournament brackets in simple, logo-free form and will be updated as results are completed during the conference tourney season to keep you up-to-the-minute (OK, maybe not "minute," but it's updated several times per day) on game results. The bare brackets should be up next week or in early February.

For kicks, here is what the Sun Belt tournament bracket would look like if the season ended today.

Last Night's GOI
--VCU 75, at George Mason 62. Rams are 8-0 on the road. THAT is tasty.
--at Georgia 78, Kentucky 69 (OT). Dawgs came from 17 down to pick up a nice win.
--Vanderbilt 64, at LSU 53. LSU is floundering badly. How long will it take for pollsters to see this?
--at Maryland 80, Georgia Tech 65. Terps avoided a 1-5 start and kept hope alive.
--at Mississippi 83, Tennessee 69. Vols need Chris Lofton back sooner rather than later.
--Florida 70, at Mississippi State 67. Gators grind out another on the road.
--Creighton 66, at Missouri State 62. Bears have lost two straight home games in conference. Ouch.
--at Rhode Island 75, UMass 72. Rams are quietly leading the A-10 right now.
--at South Carolina 66, Arkansas 60. Hogs have yet to win a true road game.
--at Texas Tech 70, Texas A&M 68. Raiders are in great shape with this win in tow.
--at Wisconsin 71, Michigan 58. It will be shocking if the Badgers lose at the Kohl Center this season.

Tonight's GOI
--East Tenn St at Belmont. Two of the A-Sun's best.
--UCLA at Cal. Bears could make hay at home here.
--Clemson at Duke. Neither is likely to win the ACC, but both are strong contenders for #2.
--Butler at Loyola (Chicago). Ramblers are 7-1 at home this season
--Oakland at Oral Roberts. HUGE game between MCC leaders.
--Southern Cal at Stanford. Cardinal need to hold serve at home in this one.
--Oregon at Washington. Huskies have to get off the mat soon to make any sort of run.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lockboxing 1/24

Auburn's shellacking of Alabama boosted my Upset Pick record to 4-0. With any more success, my ego might reach Stephen Colbert/Bill O'Reilly proportions. The dirty secret is that it was not that big of an upset. OK, no one likely saw an 81-57 piledrive coming, but the fact is that Bama is not playing that well. They are just not that good. Auburn is not great, but they are improving.

The Lockbox is updated and I did not make any IN/OUT changes from Monday. I did place a few more teams in lower case black text and a few more in blue text. Several more teams appear to be nailing down their slots early.

There are several TV Land and poll darlings that are nothing more than Bubble Boys in familiar clothes. Roll out the red, bubbly carpet for Alabama, LSU, and Maryland. Even though hordes of writers and coaches (read: SID's) are voting for these teams, they are mere bubble teams. Believe it. Look at their RPI, lack of quality wins, and conference records. Gonzaga is also a bubble team. These preseason darlings have plenty of work to do. UConn and Washington are not even on the radar right now.

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.
--20 teams look to be on track barring an apocalyptic event. They are listed as "virtual locks" in lower case black font in the Lockbox. Ten of them are conference leaders. That means that 10 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. I did downgrade Tennessee from "virtual lock" to "win games it should" because of Chris Lofton's injury. Losing Lofton for multiple games in the meat of the SEC slate would qualify as "apocalyptic."
--11 other teams look pretty safe, but need more validation--mostly because it's only the midpoint of the conference season. Those teams are listed in blue. That accounts for 21 At-Large bids that are not "bubble slots." Hence, 13 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
--at Auburn 81, Alabama 57. The Tigers romp in a TBB Upset Pick.
--at Boston College 85, Florida State 82. BC holds serve at home and forces FSU further toward the line.
--at Illinois 51, Indiana 43. Illini got the quality win that they desperately needed. Backing this up with a win at Purdue this weekend might make them bracket-viable.
--Villanova 82, at Providence 73. Nova gets a nice roadie. Cats are rolling a bit.
--at SIU 56, Northern Iowa 54. Valley continues to bloody one another. This makes for a three-way tie for first in the loss column (SIU, UNI, Creighton).

Tonight's GOI
--VCU at George Mason. Rams will get a test from a GMU that has won five straight.
--Kentucky at Georgia. After letting Bama off the hook in Tuscaloosa, the Dawgs have a chance for a big win at home.
--Vanderbilt at LSU. Both Bubble Boys need this one badly.
--Georgia Tech at Maryland. The Terps simply cannot start 1-5 in the ACC and call themselves an NCAA team.
--Tennessee at Mississippi. Danger time for UT without Chris Lofton.
--Florida at Mississippi State. Bulldogs could get their hat in the ring with an upset here.
--Creighton at Missouri State. Every Valley game is big.
--UMass at Rhode Island. Two of the three A-10 teams tied for first right now.
--Arkansas at South Carolina. Always have to be careful on the road, Hogs.
--Texas A&M at Texas Tech. In-state rivalry alert! Carries Big XII and NCAA ramifications.
--Michigan at Wisconsin. Wolverines with a chance to greatly bolster their resume.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

BracketBusters Update 1/23

The top of the BracketBusters standings remained fairly static and will likely do so until the matchups for the 102 teams are announced next Monday, January 29. The television schedule will be finalized on February 5. Here is an idea on what the TV matchups would look like as of today.

ESPN2 Games
Southern Illinois at Butler
Northern Iowa at Nevada
Drexel at Missouri State
Bradley at Hofstra
Appalachian State at Creighton
Holy Cross at Wichita State

Utah State at Indiana State
Ohio at New Mexico State
Winthrop at VCU
Sam Houston State at Long Beach
Evansville at George Mason

ESPN360 Games
Old Dominion at Akron
Albany at Toledo

It looks like four or maybe five games will actually have bracket impact. That Butler/SIU matchup will be a meat grinder (pace of play: #331/#324).

Tonight's GOI
--Alabama at Auburn. In-state rivalry alert! Also, let's make this an official TBB Upset Pick.
--Florida State at Boston College. Two ACC teams scrapping for slots pretty low in the bracket.
--Indiana at Illinois. Illini need this one to bolster NCAA hopes. They are clearly out at this point.
--Villanova at Providence. Cats try to keep momentum going after a big week.
--Northern Iowa at SIU. UNI leads the MVC by one in the loss colum over SIU and Creighton.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Seven Weeks Remaining

We are less than seven weeks from Selection Sunday. The conference slate is quickly approaching the midway point and races are beginning to take form. Bracket Board Bias has been severely cut back in this bracket. It is always tough at the bottom, but I am a sucker for Top 50 wins, so teams with bulky win resumes won out over some other hopefuls even if they had some bad losses early on.

So, in this week's bracket, I like Syracuse, Boston College, Creighton, and Vanderbilt as my last four IN. They edged out LSU, Drexel, Bradley, Georgia, California, Illinois, Purdue, and West Virginia among some other more fringe-y teams.

Not including LSU will undoubtedly send some folks into a tizzy, but while they did beat Texas A&M, they also are 3-5 against the Top 100 RPI and they were demolished by 20 at Arkansas this weekend. Plus, those losses to Wichita State and Washington do not look so "quality" now. They just have not done enough.

Vandy is in because they have beaten Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky in the last 10 days. Keep an eye on the 'Dores. The SEC East is packed with NCAA hopefuls.

BracketBusters standings are on tap for tomorrow with a Bubble Boy Breakdown and Lockbox update coming Wed.

Oh, and let me take a moment to trumpet my 3-0 Upset Picks last week. New Mexico State did indeed take care of Nevada on Saturday. I'm sure I'll lose my mojo at some point.

Multi-Bid Conference Breakdown
ACC (8): North Carolina, Clemson, Duke, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Florida State, Boston College
Big East (6): Pitt, Notre Dame, Marquette, Georgetown, Villanova, Syracuse
Pac-10 (6): UCLA, Arizona, Oregon, Washington State, Southern Cal, Stanford
SEC (6): Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Vanderbilt
Big XII (5): Kansas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech
Big Ten (5): Wisconsin, Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan
Missouri Valley (4): Southern Illinois, Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Creighton
Mountain West (2): Air Force, UNLV

Tonight's GOI
--UConn at Louisville. Both of these teams look like NIT teams right now. A win here could kickstart their NCAA hopes a bit.
--Oklahoma at Oklahoma State. In-state rivalry alert! Bedlam: hardwood style.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Weekend Forecast 1/19

"I've got a good idea. Let's pretend we're real human beings." ~Ty Webb, Caddyshack (1980)

Southern Cal's win over Arizona last night makes me 2-for-2 in upset picks this week. While I'm on a hot streak, I'll try to voice my upset pick daily if there is one out there. And I think there is this on.

Also, get out and enjoy a live game this weekend. There are a LOT of games and likely one close to you. Buy and ticket and get out to a local game this week if you can even if it is "small college" game. I like hoops on TV as much as the next person, but we miss out on the best stuff if we slack in attending live events. Go forth and cheer, eat popcorn, and interact with real humans.

Last Night's GOI

--at Creighton 65, Bradley 54. Big win for the Jays over a fellow Valley Bubble Boy.
--Northern Iowa 75, at Missouri State 65. Yep, it's going to get messy in this league.
--at Oregon 66, Stanford 59. Ducks continue to roll.
--at Southern Cal 80, Arizona 73. This makes me two-for-two on upset picks this week.
--at Xavier 83, UMass 77. Two evenly matched teams and the home team won. See yesterday's post.

Weekend Forecast
--Georgia at Alabama. Dawgs won at The Ark earlier this week. Bama is coming off their bloodbath at Vandy.
--LSU at Arkansas. LSU needs to win a quality road game and the Hogs are smarting from the UGA home loss.
--Wichita State at Bradley. Every Valley team must feel like they must win these games.
--Boston College at Clemson. Clemson tries to bounce back from two straight ACC losses.
--SIU at Creighton. It's big. We get it. All Valley games are important at this point because they all feel like they are on the Bubble.
--Wisconsin at Illinois. Illini need to find some big wins and they do not get much bigger than this.
--Purdue at Michigan. Winner will likely be in the bracket on Monday.
--Nevada at New Mexico State. Dangerous WAC tilt for the Pack. Let's make this the Upset Pick of the Weekend.
--Georgia Tech at North Carolina. Good match up, though no team can realistically expect to win in Chapel Hill this season.
--Indiana State at Northern Iowa. See any other Valley game above.
--California at Oregon. Bears need some quality W's.
--Oklahoma State at Texas A&M. Powerhouse Big XII clash.
--Kansas at Texas Tech. Red Raiders need to cash in at home against top comp.
--Arizona at UCLA. Clash of the Titans, Pac-10 style.
--Texas at Villanova. Nova could really do a week's work; they beat ND earlier and could score a big non-conference win here.
--Washington at Washington State. When was the last time the Huskies were a decided dog in this game?
--Missouri State at Evansville. Roberts Stadium is a dangerous venue when Eville has any kind of team...and they do this season.
--Marquette at Pitt. MU will try to stamp themselves as the decided #2 in the Big East by beating #1.
--Maryland at Virginia Tech. Two volatile ACC clubs.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

RPI Purpose and Conference Road Losses

Packer's RPI Gaffe
Last weekend during a telecast, CBS threw up a graphic with some of the favorites to win the national title accompanied with their current RPI. Florida was at #32 at the time (#30 now) and their relatively low RPI compared to Ohio State, North Carolina, and others stuck out like a sore thumb. This prompted analyst Billy Packer to say, "Find me 31 teams in America that are better than Florida." And, this comment forces me to once again post on the purpose of the RPI.

The RPI is NOT a ranking of the best teams. It is not solely a measure of who is playing the best. It is not an indicator of great defenses, offenses, coaches, or any other aspect of the game.

The RPI is a tool that measures how well a team has performed against it's given schedule. It is all about wins and losses. Playing teams with good records helps; playing teams with bad records hurts. A team's own wins and losses count a great deal, but the difficulty of a team's schedule plays a huge role as well. Florida's first six opponents currently have a combined record of 19-59. See, it does not matter to the RPI that UF is a great team. What the RPI sees is that Florida played two teams that are currently 0-15 (North Florida and Prairie View A&M) and that destroys your strength of schedule. We can all see that UF is likely going to be a 1-seed. We do not need the RPI for that.

The RPI is merely a tool used by the selection committee to see how teams have fared against their schedule. Teams with good RPI's are sometimes left out (see #21 Missouri State and #30 Hofstra last year) and teams with iffy RPI's sometimes get in (#58 Seton Hall last year). Packer, and many others, just do not seem to get it. This is part of the reason why he will have another apoplectic meltdown on Selection Sunday.

Death, Taxes, and Conference Road Losses
Check out these scores from last night:
at UALR 71, Western Kentucky 69
at Auburn 83, Tennessee 80
at Charlotte 80, Dayton 59
at Evansville 75, Southern Illinois 68
at Florida State 82, Virginia Tech 73
at Villanova 102, Notre Dame 87
at Vanderbilt 94, Alabama 73

All of these results are somewhat surprising and a few are downright shocking. But that's the nature of playing on the road in conference. ANY conference road win should be viewed as precious gold. Over the last two nights, home teams are 56-17. Let that sink in for a second. It is very tough on the road in conference play.

So, road winners (most notably, Georgia over Arkansas and North Carolina over Clemson), bask in the glow of these outstanding accomplishments. And, go back to your home courts and defend them with your lives.

Last Night's GOI
--Georgia 67, at Arkansas 64. Dawgs are officially in the NCAA picture.
--North Carolina 77, at Clemson 55. Tigers do not look ready for UNC-level teams.
--at Florida State 82, Virginia Tech 73. 'Noles get a desperately needed big win.
--at LSU 62, Mississippi 55. Tigers are sort of treading water.
--at Vanderbilt 94, Alabama 73. My upset warning of the night last night came through in a BIG way.
--at Villanova 102, Notre Dame 87. Cats got that signature win they were looking for.
--at Wisconsin 69, Purdue 64. Boilers played tough, but came up a bit short.

Tonight's GOI
--Bradley at Creighton. Both are looking like Bubble Boys at this stage, so this is a big one.
--Northern Iowa at Missouri State. Another important Valley tilt--especially for UNI.
--Stanford at Oregon. Ducks are tough at home, but the Cardinal are hot.
--Arizona at Southern Cal. My Official Upset Warning of the Night. This would not be a huge one, but an upset nonetheless.
--UMass at Xavier. Probably the two best teams in the A-10.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bubble Boy Breakdown 1/17

I introduced the Lockbox last week, but this is the first Bubble Boy post. Every Wednesday, from here through Selection Week, TBB will break down the current Bubble situation.

The Lockbox has been updated to reflect teams standings as of today. I have made two changes regarding IN/OUT teams since Monday. Gonzaga's loss to St. Mary's pushes them out of first place in the WCC and out of the bracket. Also, I placed Indiana State in the bracket instead of California. It was simply a change of heart when looking at the profiles this morning.

There are a lot of teams with huge preseason expectations that are currently outside looking in or are in real danger of missing the tournament. UConn and Washington have much work to do to make a bracket appearance. LSU has not really done anything to validate their lofty status although they are in currently in the bracket. Maryland, Florida State, Georgetown, Syracuse, Texas Tech, Michigan State, Illinois, and Gonzaga are all merely Bubble teams at this point. There is a lot of sorting out to be done in the coming weeks.

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.
--13 teams look to be on track to get in barring an apocalyptic event. They are listed as "virtual locks" in lower case black font in the Lockbox. Seven of them are conference leaders. That means only six 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.
--18 other teams look pretty safe, but need more validation--mostly because it's still early in the conference season. Those teams are listed in blue. Four of them are conference leaders, so that means 14 more At-Large bids are tentatively taken. That makes 20 At-Large bids that are not "bubble slots." Hence, 14 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.

My annual "Purpose of the RPI" post is coming tomorrow. This is sparked by something Billy Packer said this past weekend and was reinforced in a couple of other games that I watched this week.

Last Night's GOI
--at Memphis 79, UAB 54. CUSA looks like a one-bid league this season.
--at Oklahoma State 105, Texas 103 (3OT). What a treat! I truly hope you stayed up for the ending. Some really bad crunch-time decisions was overshadowed by incredible clutch shot-making by both teams.
--at Pitt 63, UConn 54. Huskies might get there eventually, but they need a BIG conference season.
--at Virginia 103, Maryland 91. Cavs needed it more and they got it.

Tonight's GOI
--Georgia at Arkansas. Dawgs could push toward the bracket with a win here.
--North Carolina at Clemson. Tigers have the Heels at home. This should tell us if Clemson is going to contend for the ACC crown.
--Virginia Tech at Florida State. Red-hot Hokies meet the desperate 'Noles. FSU needs this one badly.
--Mississippi at LSU. Rebs can get into the picture with a win here.
--Alabama at Vanderbilt. My upset warning of the night.
--Notre Dame at Villanova. Cats need a big win for their resume.
--Purdue at Wisconsin. Boilers could make a huge statement in a tough venue...but it's unlikely.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

BracketBusters Standings 1/16

"My bills are all due and the babies need shoes, but I'm busted
Cotton is down to a quarter a pound and I'm busted
I've got a cow that went dry and a hen that won't lay
A big stack of bills that get bigger each day
The County will haul my belongings away! I'm busted!"

~Johnny Cash, "Busted" (At Folsom Prison, 1968)

The ESPN BracketBusters match ups will be announced on January 29. Nearly a full third of the NCAA hoops nation (a whopping 102 teams) will be taking part in this year's event. This gigantic slate has led to criticism, but having more teams helps ensure some meaningful games at the top for ESPN. It also means a lot of meaningless games (about 40) in regards to bracket impact. Nevertheless, count me in the "pro-buster" camp for the time being.

The top six games will be on ESPN2. Five more games will be shown on ESPNU, with two more broadcast on ESPN360.

I have created a page showing the current BracketBusters standings. They are listed by current RPI from best to worst for both the home and away teams. I will update the standings again next Tuesday.

As of today, the TV match ups might look something like this:

Southern Illinois at Butler (ESPN2)
Drexel at Missouri State (ESPN2)
Appalachian State at Creighton (ESPN2)
Bradley at Nevada (ESPN2)
Old Dominion at Wichita State (ESPN2)
Northern Iowa at New Mexico State (ESPN2)

Ohio at Indiana State (ESPNU)
Holy Cross at Hofstra (ESPNU)
Utah State at VCU (ESPNU)
Winthrop at Marist (ESPNU)
Hawaii at Long Beach (ESPNU)

Sam Houston at Siena (ESPN 360)
Albany at Oral Roberts (ESPN360)

You can read more about Buster here.

The season's first Bubble Boy breakdown comes tomorrow. Thursday, I get a chance to tell Billy Packer why he is wrong about the RPI. That's always fun.

Tonight's GOI
--UAB at Memphis. Blazers seem to be down from recent seasons, but this is one of the few real threats Memphis will face in CUSA.
--Texas at Oklahoma State. Big game for Big XII positioning.
--UConn at Pitt. The Huskies need to show that they can at least hang with the Big Easy cream.
--Maryland at Virginia. Cavs have lost 5 of last 8 and need a big win to get them back on track.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bracket Update 1/15

There is still some BBB (Bracket Board Bias) in this bracket, but the amount of BBB decreases weekly. I will not go into great detail here, because a full Bubble Boy update and Lockbox will come on Wednesday. Three things about this bracket:

1. The 9 and 10 seeds are almost completely reversed due to bracketing rules. This is the most I have ever had to "swap seeds" to get it to work.

2. The last four slots were a toss-up among about nine teams: I went with Cal, Syracuse, Georgetown, and DePaul and left out Purdue, Indiana State, Villanova, Illinois, and Michigan.

3. I doubt the bracket will stay this power conference heavy all season. The ACC will not get eight teams in, more than likely.

Multi-Bid Conference Breakdown
ACC (8): North Carolina, Clemson, Duke, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Florida State
Big East (7): Pitt, Notre Dame, Marquette, West Virginia, Georgetown, Syracuse, DePaul
Pac-10 (7): UCLA, Arizona, Oregon, Washington State, Southern Cal, Stanford, California
SEC (6): Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, LSU, Arkansas,
Big XII (5): Oklahoma State, Kansas, Texas A&M, Texas, Texas Tech,
Big Ten (4): Wisconsin, Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State
Missouri Valley (3): SIU,Missouri State, Creighton,
Mountain West (2): Air Force, UNLV

Friday, January 12, 2007

Weekend Forecast 1/12-1/14

So many conference games are important at this stage of the season. It's still early enough that just about everyone has hope in conference play. This list will likely shrink a bit as the season wears on, but this early jockeying in conference play matters so much come March.

For example, take the Vanderbilt-Georgia game on Saturday. Those teams have Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee twice. They also play Alabama, Arkansas, and LSU. Vandy and UGA probably expect to beat the lower tier of SEC teams, but wins against the list above would be considered upsets. They are caught in the middle. Hence, this looks like a huge game for both. Gotta have wins against fellow conference Bubble Boys.

In fact, there are a host of games that fit this mold. Enjoy them.

--Lipscomb at Belmont. I believe they call it The Battle for the Boulevard down in Nashville. One of these two will likely represent the A-Sun in the NCAA Tourney.
--Bucknell at Holy Cross. HC has a chance to send a message about who is the favorite in the Patriot this season.
--Creighton at Northern Iowa. Match ups of MVC contenders are precious regarding Valley standings and Bubble status.

--Virginia at Boston College. Two teams that look quite Bubbly at this point.
--Washington at California. Both teams need it badly. Huskies need to make a statement if they are to be considered an elite team this year.
--Vanderbilt at Georgia. In the stacked SEC, these are must wins for teams in the second tier.
--Florida State at Georgia Tech. Two ACC clubs on the way up this season.
--Nevada at Hawaii. It's never easy on the island.
--Bradley at Indiana State. Two MVC teams both looking like Bubble Boys.
--West Virginia at Marquette. Both could use quality wins, but Marquette needs it more since it's a home game.
--Clemson at Maryland. Tigers look to go 18-0.
--Oklahoma State at Nebraska. Huskers have not lost at home this season.
--Tennessee at Ohio State. Monster non-conference match up.
--Drexel at Old Dominion. Two CAA contenders jockey for position.
--Georgetown at Pitt. Hoyas need a statement win.
--Michigan at Purdue. Interesting game. Purdue was embarrassed by Indiana this week and this is the type of game that Michigan has to win to be considered a true NCAA team at this point.
--Gonzaga at Santa Clara. Let's see if the Broncos are going to challenge the Zags for the WCC crown this season.
--UCLA at Southern Cal. Huge opportunity for the Trojans to solidify their NCAA status a bit.
--Missouri State at SIU. These two figure to be at the top of the heap in the Valley.
--Washington State at Stanford. Cardinal could use a signature win. Cougars have been impressive to this point in Pac-10 play.
--Villanova at Syracuse. Orange in dire need of a big win.
--BYU at UNLV. These two figure to duke it out for 2nd in the Mt West behind AFA.
--North Carolina at Virginia Tech. VT usually plays big in big games.
--Air Force at Wyoming. Cowboys took out UNLV in Laramie earlier this week.

--Oregon at Arizona. Man, nearly every game in the Pac-10 seems important this weekend.
--Duke at Miami-FL. Important for Duke to get that first ACC win.
--Illinois at Michigan State. These perrennial powers' NCAA outlook is far from rosy at this stage. They need to make bank.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Lockbox Updated

The Lockbox color-codes teams based on where they stand at this point. A team only achieves "LOCK" (BLACK CAPS) status when they could survive losing out and still make the NCAA Tournament. Obviously, no team is quite there yet. However, there are a few teams that are IN barring an apocalyptic event. Only something like losing two starters to injury or forgetting how to dribble could make teams like North Carolina, Florida, and Pitt miss at this point. Still, I do not hand out LOCK statuses like candy. There will be plenty of slots come Selection Sunday that will not be LOCKS.

The color key is on the Lockbox page.

The Weekend Forecast comes tomorrow. TBB will resume its mid-season form on Monday:

Mondays: New bracket.
Tuesdays: Bracket Buster standings.
Wednesdays: Bubble Boy breakdown.
Thursdays: Wild Card.
Fridays: Weekend Forecast.

I do have a 2-week old at home these days, so please bear with me if I skip a day here or there.

Last Night's GOI
--at Bradley 48, SIU 46. Braves get a much needed big win.
--Marquette 73, at UConn 69. Note to poll voters: UConn is not even a NCAA team right now, much less Top 25.
--Pitt 59, at DePaul 49. DePaul's late surge was not enough.
--at Georgia Tech 74, Duke 63. Jackets score a big win and drop the Dukies to 0-2 in the ACC.
--at Illinois 74, Iowa 70. Hawkeyes are quickly heading into desperation mode.
--at Indiana 85, Purdue 58. OUCH. Hoosiers are hitting their stride (won 6 of 7)
--at Indiana State 68, Wichita State 63. The Trees are now a viable At-Large candidate. Shockers are squandering some big early season wins by falling to 1-4 in the Valley.
--at Kansas 87, Oklahoma State 57. When KU has it going, they are as good as anyone. A most impressive display last evening.
--at Texas 88, Missouri 68. Mizzou has serious road work to do.
--at Wyoming 86, UNLV 76 (OT). The TBB knew what it was doing when it put this game on the GOI. The Cowboys are TOUGH in Laramie.

Tonight's GOI
--Washington State at California. The Bears need this one more.
--Hofstra at Drexel. Two of the CAA undefeateds.
--Memphis at Houston. One of the few games that Memphis should fear in CUSA.
--Washington at Stanford. Both severely need solid win.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

First In-Season Bracket

The first in-season bracket projection is up. For future reference, simply click the "current bracket" link to the right under the Bracketology section.

A heavy dose of bias and benefit of the doubt exists here. I left in Creighton, Georgia Tech, Marquette, Michigan State, Georgetown, and Wichita State. There are strong arguments to be made for their exclusion. I kept out UConn, Illinois, Washington, Stanford, Cal, Providence, DePaul, Indiana State, Syracuse, and Boston College. Some of those teams have as good a case as some that I have in. It was simply a matter of personal taste at this point in some of these cases. This will sort itself out a great deal in the coming weeks.

Multi-Bid Conference Breakdown
ACC (7): North Carolina, Clemson, Duke, Maryland, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech
Big East (6): Pitt, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Villanova, Georgetown, Marquette
Big Ten (6): Wisconsin, Ohio State, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State
SEC (6): Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky, LSU
Missouri Valley (5): Missouri State, SIU, Northern Iowa, Creighton, Wichita State
Big XII (5): Oklahoma State, Kansas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Texas
Pac-10 (5): UCLA, Arizona, Oregon, Washington State, Southern Cal
Mountain West (2): Air Force, UNLV

Tonight's GOI
--SIU at Bradley. Bradley needs some big wins to bolster at-large hopes.
--Marquette at UConn. UConn has ZERO wins vs the top 100 RPI.
--Pitt at DePaul. Demons could make a huge statement here at home.
--Duke at Georgia Tech. See DePaul.
--Iowa at Illinois. Both of these clubs are scrambling a bit.
--Purdue at Indiana. This rivalry game means more than it has in a long, long while.
--Wichita State at Indiana State. The Trees welcome the suddenly needy Shockers.
--Oklahoma State at Kansas. For the inside track to the Big XII title.
--Missouri at Texas. Tigers are 11-3, but have no road wins.
--UNLV at Wyoming. Cowboys have not lost at home, so the Rebs should beware.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Out of the Void

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep...~Genesis 1:2

Out of the shapeless mass of November and December comes the beginnings of an identifiable creation in January. No, I'm not ready to unveil an in-season bracket yet. That will likely come early next week on Monday or Tuesday. But, today, I think we can scratch up a list of teams expected to make the Dance barring major nosedives or signigicant injuries.

This list is based on one question:

Would I be more than a little surprised if this team missed the NCAA Tourney based on performance to this point, their existing talent, and their current resume?

I answered "yes" when looking at these teams.

ACC: North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Maryland, Florida State
Big XII: Oklahoma State, Kansas, Texas A&M
Big East: Pitt, Notre Dame, West Virginia
Big Ten: Wisconsin, Ohio State
CUSA: Memphis
Horizon: Butler
MVC: SIU, Wichita State
Mt West: Air Force, UNLV
Pac-10: UCLA, Arizona, Oregon
SEC: Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, LSU
WAC: Nevada
WCC: Gonzaga

There are 30 teams from 12 conferences on this list, meaning that 18/34 of the At-Large bids look to be taken at this point. Granted, this is merely a list of likely NCAA teams in early January.

There are a number of teams that can join this list by accomplishing a bit more over the next few games (Northern Iowa, Missouri State, Villanova, Michigan State, and Georgia Tech come to mind) or bouncing back from a recent slide (Washington, Marquette).

Some teams listed here will almost assuredly fall off the list as conference play separates wheat and chaff. This is just an early stab to identify the contenders.

A full bracket is coming on Monday or Tuesday.