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!