Sunday, March 17, 2019

Final Seed List - Sunday 4:45 PM CST

Duke ACC 1 1
Virginia ACC 1 2
Tennessee SEC 1 3
Gonzaga WCC 1 4
Michigan St. Big Ten 2 5
North Carolina ACC 2 6
Kentucky SEC 2 7
Michigan Big Ten 2 8
Houston AAC 3 9
Florida St. ACC 3 10
LSU SEC 3 11
Kansas Big 12 3 12
Texas Tech Big 12 4 13
Purdue Big Ten 4 14
Kansas St. Big 12 4 15
Wisconsin Big Ten 5 16
Iowa St. Big 12 5 17
Mississippi St. SEC 5 18
Virginia Tech ACC 5 19
Auburn SEC 5 20
Villanova Big East 6 21
Marquette Big East 6 22
Buffalo MAC 6 23
Cincinnati AAC 6 24
Maryland Big Ten 7 25
Nevada MWC 7 26
Louisville ACC 7 27
Wofford SoCon 7 28
Iowa Big Ten 8 29
UCF AAC 8 30
Seton Hall Big East 8 31
Minnesota Big Ten 8 32
Ole Miss SEC 9 33
Baylor Big 12 9 34
VCU A10 9 35
Utah St. MWC 9 36
St. John's (NY) Big East 10 37
Arizona St. Pac-12 10 38
Florida SEC 10 39
Washington Pac-12 10 40
Temple AAC 11 41
Oklahoma Big 12 11 42
Syracuse ACC 11 43
TCU Big 12 11 44
Belmont OVC 11 45
Oregon Pac-12 11 46
Saint Mary's (CA) WCC 12 47
Murray State OVC 12 48
New Mexico St. WAC 12 49
UC Irvine Big West 12 50
Old Dominion C-USA 13 51
Northeastern CAA 13 52
Liberty ASUN 13 53
Saint Louis A10 13 54
Georgia State Sun Belt 14 55
Vermont AmEast 14 56
Yale Ivy 14 57
Montana Big Sky 14 58
Colgate Patriot 15 59
Northern Kentucky Horizon 15 60
Bradley MVC 15 61
Gardner-Webb Big South 15 62
Abilene Christian Southland 16 63
North Dakota State Summit 16 64
Prairie View SWAC 16 65
Iona MAAC 16 66
Fairleigh Dickinson NEC 16 67
N.C. Central MEAC 16 68
Ohio St. Big Ten OUT 69
NC State ACC OUT 70
Alabama SEC OUT 71
UNCG SoCon OUT 72

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Saturday AM Seed List and Bubble Math

Below is my current seed list and bubble math.  First a few notes:

  • Rhode Island, the 8 seed in the American Conference Tournament upset #1 Seed VCU.  VCU was a lock before play began.  With VCU out of the Conference Tournament, the AAC will have another bid with their conference winner, thus VCU losing shrunk the bubble by one line.
  • Nevada, #1 seed in the Mountain West was also upset yesterday.  San Diego State took out the Wolfpack and will play Utah State for the MWC Championship.  I moved Utah State to a lock after their win over Fresno Stat.  If I'm correct, SD State would steal a bid with a win
  • Oregon advanced to the PAC12 Championship with a win over Arizona State in the Semi-Finals.  Oregon will play Washington for the Championship, and may in the process steal a bid as well.  I have Arizona State and Washington as locks ... not everyone does.
  • I still have Virginia as the #1 overall seed despite their loss to Florida State yesterday, but not sure it will stand in the final scrub I do before selections are announced.  Duke probably sowed up a #1 finally beating UNC with Williamson on the court.  There appear to me to be 7 teams in contention for #1 Seeds.  Still pretty fluid on the top 3 seed lines.
  • I will be doing a full detailed scrub of the field after today's action and will produce a final seed list before tomorrow's selection show, so this could change. Some of my Quad and Net data is a bit stale.
 The Seed List

My Quick Bid Math


  • 60 of 68 Bids are now locked
    • 12 Bids have been awarded to teams that have already won a Conference Tournament
    • 11 Teams will be awarded the only bid their conference will get when their Tournament concluded
    • 37 Teams have locked up At-Large Bids (Though 9 could still be awarded an auto-bid if they win their conference tournament
  • 8 At-Large Bids Remain with 15 Teams in Contention for remaining 8 slots. Each Bid Thief will reduce the number of At-Large spots available by 1.
  • Conferences that could still produce bid Thieves:
    • MAC - If Buffalo loses to Bowling Green in Championship Game
    • MWC - If Utah State loses to San Diego State in Championship Game (Assumes Utah  State is a lock)
    • PAC12 - If Washington loses to Oregon in in Championship Game (Assumes Arizona State is a lock)
    • AMERICAN - If Memphis or Wichita State win Tournament. (Assumes Temple is in, and isn't squeezed out by other bid thieves)



Friday, March 15, 2019

Friday Morning Bid Math

Entering Conference Tournament play this morning, this is how I see the field.

58 of the 68 Available Bids have been locked down, either through the awarding of automatic bids to teams that have already won their conference tournament, teams that will win the only bid their conference will get via the Auto-Bid to their conference tournament champion, or by teams who have already done enough to be awarded an at-large bid if they don't win their conference tournament.

Here is the Breakdown of the locks, as I see them:

Auto Bids Awarded (12)




Single Bid Conferences with Tournament Still Running (10)
 

American East
Big Sky
Big West
Conference USA
Ivy
Mid-Eastern Atlantic (MEAC)
Sun Belt
Southland
Southwest Athletic (SWAC)
Western Athletic

Teams who have locked up at least an At-Large Bid (36)

Note:  Teams in Bold are currently the highest remaining seed in their conference tournament, which is still running



BUBBLE MATH

With 58 spots locked, 10 bids remain in play which sets the maximum size of the bubble  

* It should be noted that the NCAA Selection Chair indicated that going into play yesterday, that actually 28 of the 38 At-Large bids had already been determined by the selection committee.  I show more remaining because obviously, I don't who they have already selected.

Teams in Consideration for final 10 At-Large Bids (25 Bubble Teams)

Still playing (12) - All of these teams could also secure one of the remaining automatic bids by winning their conference tournament
Done Playing (13) - All of these teams have been eliminated from their respective conference tournaments and are at the mercy of those teams still playing.

Conference Tournaments that Could Still Produce Bid Thieves

Atlantic 10 (A10) - VCU is a lock.  No other team aside from Davidson, and extreme longshot for an At-Large bid remains in consideration.  If VCU loses, the A10 Tournament Champ will steal a bid

Mid-American (MAC) - Buffalo is a lock.  They are heavy favorites to win the Conference Tournament, and the only other team that was on the fringe of the bubble (Toledo) was eliminated yesterday.  As with VCU in the A10, a Buffalo loss will produce a bid stealing MAC Champ.

Mountain West (MWC) - The MWC conference has one lock (Nevada) and one near lock (Utah State).  Should anyone besides these two teams with the MWC Tourney, it is likely to produce a bid thief.  If Utah State doesn't make the Championship game though, I think they will be sweating it come the Selection Show on Sunday.

PAC 12 - I have Washington and Arizona State as locks.  Not everyone is sold on Arizona State though.  If I'm right, and neither win the tournament, I think the PAC 12 will produce a 3rd bid and steal a spot from the open bubble slots.  I actually like Oregon, who plays Arizona State today in a fascinating game, to win the PAC12. 

American Athletic (AAC) - Were entering 'far-fetched' territory here, but one could envision a scenario where the AAC produces a thief.  Houston, Cincinnati and UCF are locks on my board.  Temple is in the field on my board, but dangerously close to the cut line.  However, if things break right and either Memphis (a long shot for an at-large) and Wichita State are still alive in the AAC Tourney.   If everything breaks just right, and Wichita State were to wind up facing and beating Temple in the Championship game, its possible Temple could hold on for an at-large.  This scenario could produce a 5th bid for the American.

 Big Ten (B10) - This is the most far-fetched scenario of all, so much so that it seems to be a waste to spend time discussing it, but it is fascinating to consider.  The B10 has locks  on my board with Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa and Minnesota.  Six of those 7 teams are among the 8 remaining in the tournament Quarterfinals.  Ohio State, like Temple in the AAC, is near the cut line and could be a victim of thieves from other conferences, or being surpassed by teams below them continuing to win.  However, they play Michigan State today and might very well lock down a bid with a win, giving the B10 8 locked bids.  The scenario for a 9th rests with Nebraska.  They are a long shot for a bubble bid as well (Though a win over Wisconsin and Michigan to get the Championship game will make them a hot bubble topic heading into play Sunday).  Should Ohio State win today, and Nebraska go on to win the tournament, I think the Big 10 winds up with 9 bids,  It's hard to envision it happening.  Nebraska, playing in this tournament with only 7 scholarship players, would have to win 5 games in 5 days for that to happen.  That path would include Maryland (who they beat yesterday), Wisconsin, Michigan or Iowa, and likely Michigan State or Purdue.  It would be miraculous if they did it.

Final Thoughts

I suspect we'll see two bid thieves emerge from the conference tournaments listed above.  Assuming that is the case the bubble shrinks from 10 spots to 8 for the 25 teams listed as being on the bubble.  

Right now my "Last 4 In" are Alabama, Ohio State, TCU and Florida.  All but TCU have games today leaving TCU as most vulnerable, either to being squeezed out by a bid thief, or being run down from behind by a team not in the field that is still alive.  They have no control of their own destiny

My 'First Four Out' are Texas, Georgetown, NC State and Indiana.  All four of these teams are done playing, and if I'm correct, need to hope for multiple teams near the cut line above them to lose, no bid thieves to emerge, and the bubble teams below still playing to lose today.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Yes, Quad 1a IS Real and No, NC State isn't a Tourney Team Today

The NC State/Clemson game yesterday left fans of both teams a little salty.  Clemson fans saw their team blow an 18 point lead and lose on a couple of last second free throws on a foul call that Tiger fans weren't particularly thrilled about.  NC State fans were feeling pretty good about their Wolfpack for a couple minutes until Joe Lunardi took to the airwaves and basically said that despite the win, NC State didn't look like a tournament team to him, and that they would be very lucky to make it in when all is said and done.  Seth Davis tweeted not long after that he felt NC State still needed to win two more games to earn an At-Large bid.  NC State fans thought they just earned a tournament bid ... but some Analyst guys started crapping on that parade.  I can't say I blame them for being a bit defensive.

Now, I'm no fan of Lunardi, but in this case I agree with him, and at least partially with Davis.   I don't have NC State in even with yesterday's win.  Should they upset Virginia today it likely would be enough to move them in, but it would be close, particularly if teams ahead of them also win and the bubble shrinks due to bid thieves stealing some of the current at-large bids being competed for by the likes of NC State.  They very well may need to win more than just today's game.  Time will tell on that, and frankly, its not worth worrying about until they actually beat Virginia.  If they do, it will be the first team in the Quad 1a grouping they have beaten all year.  I stated my agreement publicly and gave my reasoning.  A big part of that argument is pinned to that winless record against the Quad 1a grouping despite 8 opportunities to date to win one.  A number of people challenged me that such a grouping even exists.

Many of you may be thinking the same thing.  No one on TV is talking about Quad 1a.  They never show that record on TV when showing team resumes.  It sounds like something someone made up, and it was suggested I did just that.  But I assure you the grouping is real, it is data that is being provided every day to the NCAA Selection Committee by the NCAA itself, and most importantly, it was data specifically requested by the Selection Committee itself last summer.  No one on TV may be talking about it, but you can bet it is in the Selection meetings, which began yesterday.

What is Quad 1a?

Most who follow college basketball have become familiar with Quad records.  The NCAA started using them last year to help group each team's wins an losses into common 'levels of difficulty' for lack of a better term.  The better the team, the better of the quality of victory.  Quality was determined by the opponent, and where you played them.  Last season the quality of the team was determined by the Ratings Percentage Index, or RPI.  The RPI has been scrapped and replaced by a new ranking system called the NCAA Evaluation Tool, or NET.    NET rankings are used to define the Quads.  Here is how Quads are set up:


A game played against a NET ranked team ranked 70th at their gym, would count as a Quad 1 win.  However, beat that same team on your home floor or at a Neutral Site, and it only counts as a Quad 2 win.  Not all wins against the same team are created equal in most cases.  Its all about where you play them.

As a macro tool for getting a high level view of how a team performed against various qualities of competition it serves the purpose.  It aids the selection committee in doing an initial scrub of all the teams to try and identify those that have fared better or worse than other teams.  It's really pretty simple.  If I'm looking at two teams who both have 20-10 records, how do I sort who has performed better than the other.  A good start would be to look at their records against the best competition.  A team that had 8 Quad 1 wins among the 20 total they have would initially be sorted higher than a 20 win team with 1 Quad win.

The problem comes in when those two teams both have 8 Quad 1 wins.  Are all Quad 1 wins created equal?  The logical answer is, of course not, unless of course you believe that beating Virginia, ranked 1 is truly as impressive as beating Penn State (49) on a Neutral Court or Liberty (60) on their home floor.  The NCAA, in response to this quandary, started providing a break down of wins in the Quad 1 and Quad 2 groupings into 2 tiers per Quad, commonly referred to as Quad 1a, Quad 1b, Quad 2a and Quad 2b.  The data is designed to help the committee see which Quad 1  or Quad 2 games were against the top half of the Quad or bottom half of that Quad.  Here is how those groupings are further broken down within their respective Quads.

Using this further slicing of a data, a Game won against a team ranked 24th would be a Quad 1b win, but a Quad 1a win on a nuetral or road court.  They are both Quad 1 wins at the Macro level, but the win on a nuetral or road court is ranked higher.  Back to our example of the two teams with 20 wins, and 8 Quad 1 wins each.  If you break them down further into Quad 1a and 1b games and find that of the 8 Quad 1 wins, Team A has, 6 are in the 1a grouping and Team B has just 1 in that same grouping, the committee members likely would conclude that Team A should be ranked higher than B for selection purposes.  Obviously this is a simplistic view, and there are other factors they consider, but it does seem rather obvious to me that this kind of a break down helps the committee do better side by side comparisons of two teams who may otherwise look similar on paper looking at only the Quad 1 totals.

Some may be wondering where the committee gets this data from  ... or even if they truly get it, since none of the talking heads on TV reference it.  The data is provided by the NCAA on what are known as team sheets.  These are used heavily by the committee.  It provides a summarized view of each team, and includes a bunch of information about each team including summarized Quad1 thorugh Quad 4 records.  Those summaries don't include the records for the a and b tiers in Quad 1 or 2.  However, they do list, by Quad, each team that they have played, the NET ranking of the opponent, where the game was played and the outcome.  It is here that the data is provided.  Let's take a look at NC State's team sheet as of this morning (3/14):

Looking at the Quad 1 games column you will see the games broken into two groups.  The criteria for the groups in Quad 1 are circled in red and highlighted in yellow.  For Quad 2, circled in blue and highlighted.  As you can see, the data is clearly provided to give a view to the reader of how the team performed in the top half and bottom half of each Quad.  In this case, NC State is 0-8 against Quad 1a, and 3-0 vs. Quad 1b.  They are 3-0 in each half of the Quad 2 tiers.  

So, how do we know this data is important and not just window dressing?  Because the committee specifically requested it be included this season.  This was not data that was provided last year.  Clearly the committee felt it would be useful and was needed in their process of sorting, selecting and seeding teams.  If just looking at the Quad 1 or 2 records provided all they needed last year for those purposes, there would have been no need to request it.  The only conclusion I can reach is that they asked for it because they intend to use it.  It's overall weight is anyone's guess at this point.  But to pretend it's not there at all is to ignore the obvious.  To pretend people would like at Quad 1 records, but not at what games made up that record when the data is specifically presented to show it, defies logic. 

And how do I know that the committee specifically asked for it?  Because I was told so by David Warlock, the NCAA Director of Media Coordination/Statistics and Media Coordinator for March Madness.  He sits in the room as the committee goes through the selection process and started his 14th year of doing it yesterday.

So yes, there really is Quad1a, 1b, 2a, and 2b data provided to the selection committee by the NCAA.  It was provided at their request.  And frankly, if you don't think they intend to use it, I think you're foolish (or engaging in wishful thinking).

What does this have to do with NC State?

We now return to what prompted this whole discussion in the first place.  Is NC State currently a team that can be expected to be in the NCAA Tournament as an At-Large or not?  Lunardi says yes for now ... Seth Davis says not unless they win a couple more ... and I say no, and I doubt they will get there unless they beat Virginia today ... and then probably, but its not a lock.

Let's do a compare of 4 Teams generally considered to be very close to the bubble cut line by most ... NC State, Ohio State, TCU and Georgetown.  I choose them because they come from 4 different conferences and have easy to compare profiles.  This provides an opportunity to see how the Quad data and NET data, and specifically with a and b data sliced up within it, would or could be used to evaluate the 4 teams.
If you were to look at NET rating and overall record alone, you would likely be inclined to rank them in order left to right.  A deeper dive into the data, I would argue, tells a very different story.   

I tend to think these are the metrics the committee will likely look at first for sorting and selecting.  By my analysis, NC State stacks up worst in almost every measurment compared to the other three.

  • Quad 1 - Worst (Tied)
  • Quad 1a - Worst
  • Quad 1a Road/Neutral - Worst
  • Quad 1-2a - 2nd
  • Quad 1-2a Road/Neutral - Worst
  • Best Win - I would argue worst.  Better ranking but at home. I agree its debatable
  • Best Road/Neutral Win - Worst
  • Quad 3-4 Record - 3rd
  • Worst over all loss of each team, and the worst home loss.
  • Compared to the teams currently in the field or on the bubble, they have the worst record.

Reasonable people can disagree if these metrics are key, and if the conclusion I have reached from evaluating them is correct.  In my book, its not close.  They just aren't an NCAA Tournament team this year.  Historically we know this much, and its been consistent over the years;  
  • The committee puts a high value on Road wins against the best competition.
  • The committee penalizes marginal bubble teams that have played awful non-conference schedules.  It happens every year.  There isn't a worse non-conference schedule in all of the NCAA then the one the Wolfpack played.  As bad as Georgetown's is ... NC State's is over a hundred spots worse.  
  • A well known record the committee looks at in its final bubble scrub is the record of the team versus those in or on the bubble.  I agree its subjective, and fluid, especially right now, so its not a major factor yet.  We also don't know who the Committee considers a bubble team, and my bubble may be different than theirs.  As teams win Tournaments and teams come into or fall out of the field it can change by selection Sunday.  But today, I believe they have a miserable record against those teams.  Even if I give them credit for Clemson (I believe they are no longer under consideration so I didn't count them in the record above) the 4-8 record becomes only a fraction better than OSU.

For the record, the way I have these teams ranked relative to one another is:
  1. Georgetown (IN) - 
  2. TCU (OUT)
  3. Ohio State (OUT)
  4. NC State (OUT)
The only thing that could potentially keep NC State in the discussion if they lose today, in my opinion, is their NET rating.  Its's possible the committee could ignore the actual results of the games every team has played and value the NET rating above the actual results of games.  If that happens, all bets are off.  But the NCAA has stated that the NET Ranking is sorting tool.  The Quads are a selection tool.  That statement alone tells me that game outcomes will trump a rating, as it should. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Hunting for Bid Thieves

Those of us wanting to see the drek hanging around the current bubble cut line trimmed from consideration for an at-large came into Championship week praying for as many bid thieves from Mid-Major conferences (and a Power 5 performing like a Mid-Major) to emerge as possible.  Converesly, fans of NC State, Clemson, TCU, Indiana, Texas, Ohio State, Georgetown and a host of other schools hang around the cut line want these pick pockets run out of their respective tournaments as quickly as possible.  For fans of those schools, its all about the chalk (except in their own conference tournaments, of course).

We got our first bona fide thief last night with St. Mary's upset of Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference Tournament.  Murray State may, or may not have been the first when they knocked off Belmont in the Ohio Valley over the weekend.  We won't know for sure on that one until selection Sunday.  If Belmont gets in, we will have our answer.  It may be just as likely, that St. Mary's stole Belmont's bid last night.  The collective groan from Raleigh to Phoenix as the clock expired in the WCC Championship game could be heard across the College Basketball landscape.

Looking ahead at the remaining 21 Conference Tournaments who will dole out auto bids this week, here are the remaining tournaments to watch if you're hunting for more bid thieves.

Best Chances

These are Mid-Major conferences with 1 Team who enters Championship Week as conference leader, but whom would safely be selected as an at large team if they failed to win their Conference Tournament

  1. Mid-American Conference (MAC) - Buffalo enters post season play as the MAC leader and favorite to win the MAC tourney.  They currently rank as a #5 Seed on my projection, and are a consensus 6 at bracketmatrix.com.   No doubt they are a lock for the tourney no matter what happens to them, but no other MAC teams are on the bubble.  This is a very competitive conference, with some quality challengers for the Bulls to navigate through.  Buffalo enters play tomorrow in the Quaterfinal round facing Akron, who the Bulls have beaten twice including by 6 at Akron.  Buffalo has lost just 2 conference games this season, to Bowling Green and Northern Illinois.  Toledo is a very good team that have the players to compete with them as well.  All three teams reside in the other half of the bracket from Buffalo, so they only will have to navigate through one of them, which would be in the Championship game. 
  2. Atlantic 10 Conference (A10) - The Atlantic 10 leaders VCU cruised to a 16-2 record to win the regular season title.  They also have been playing particularly good basketball of late, having won 12 in a row by an average of almost 18 points a game.  Are they due for a let down?  VCU gets the advantage of a double bye, so they will have time to rest while their first game opponents are slogging out games to get to them.  VCU will not play until Friday, but could get Rhode Island, the last team to beat VCU this season.  However, VCU avenged that loss with a 76-42 thrashing or URI back in February.  Perhaps the teams that present the greatest threats to VCU are Davidson, who beat the Rams in their only match-up in the regular season, and Dayton, who played VCU to within 1 and 5 points in their regular season contests.  If they are to face ether of those teams, it would have to be in the A10 Champtionship on Sunday.
 Worth Keeping an Eye On 

This represents any conference which currently have a conference leader who would safely qualify as an at-large and 2 or more teams that are in good position to qualify for at-large bids if a team not considered in the field today were to win the conference tournament.  In this situation, the current conference leaders AND the teams currently considered at large qualifiers would both have to lose.  In some cases those at-large teams are close enough to the cut line though, that a loss might mean it's there bid get stolen.


  1. PAC 12 - The current conference leader is Washington, and are a lock for an at-large bid if they fail to win the automatic bid this weekend.  Arizona State is a dicier situation.  I have them as a 9 seed, and even with a bad early loss would still be in on my board.  Bracket Matrix shows them as a consensus 11 seed, meaning they are dangerously close to the cut line.  Quite honestly just about any loss in the PAC 12 tourney for Arizona State, aside from a loss to Washington is going to be damaging.  In order to feel confident that the PAC 12 could produce a bid thief, you need to hope for an early exit by Washington and for Arizona State to get to the Championship game and lose.  That wold mean someone like Oregon State or Colorado winning 3 straight.  It's not very likely.  It's possible Oregon could do it on Arizona State's half of the bracket.  A Semi-Final loss by Arizona State to Oregon might not be fatal to them.  I think Oregon is actually a real threat to win this tournament.  But if they do, it could very well be at the expense of a bid for the Sun Devils, especially if the Bracket Matrix consensus is a better projection of how they are seen by the committee than mine is.  If you're going hunting in this conference, Ducks are the game of choice.
  2. Mountain West Conference (MWC) - A very similar situation to the PAC-12 sets up in the MWC.  Nevada is safely in, but like Washington, vulnerable.  Utah State is in, but in tenous position near the bubble cut-line.  Bracketmatrix shows Utah State safer than Arizona State, so if that consensus is correct, they may be safer than Arizona State should they both lose.  There are some dangerous teams in this conference, and this tournament is notorious for producing surprise winners.  I like Fresno State as a possible thief out of the MWC.
  3. American Association Conference (AAC) - Things really starting getting complicated here.  Bottom line - Houston, Cincinnati and UCF look safe for an at-large if they all lose.  Temple probably needs to beat one of these teams to feel better about its chances.  However, for a thief to emerge from this conference, someone other than one of those four teams has to win it all ... and that is difficult to envision happening.  If you want to hunt for a thief here, keep your eye on Memphis.  If they were to play Temple for the A10 title and win a tight one, the Tigers could steal a bid, while Temple and the other 3 AAC teams currently projected in the field stay safe.
In all, 5 potential bid thieves lurk out there.  I put the over/under for number that will actually get the job done at 2.  Nothing would make me happier Championship week than to see at least 3 do it.

Shrinking Bubble and the Gonzaga Question ... The Fall Out from Tuesday (3/13)

The Bubble Begins to Shrink

At least one team's bubble popped last night following Saint Mary's impressive bid stealing win in the West Coast Conference Championship over Gonzaga.  Despite Dickie V's repeated claims that Saint Mary's was a bubble team that should get in even if they lost last night, the reality was, Saint Mary's had zero chance of getting an at-large bid without that win.  By winning though, and grabbing a second bid for the West Coast Conference, one less At-Large spot is now available for the rest of the field.  By adding Saint Mary's to it ... somebody has to be dropped.  We likely will never know who that team was (The NCAA doesn't tell us how teams outside the field were ranked), but we'll have a pretty good idea from who doesn't make it who the probable victims may have been.

In my current seed list, it was TCU that got dropped out of the field.  That creates ripples in both directions on the bubble as well.  I have Texas losing a first round bye, and now having to go to Dayton to take on Alabama in a play-in game.  Oklahoma gets a spot closer to the cut line too, dropping into the grouping of 'Last 4 Byes'.

Going the other way, I have now taken Xavier out of consideration.  Even if they make Big East Championship beating Creighton and Villanova, but fail to win it,  I just don't see that being enough to get them over the cut line.  NC State, Clemson and Florida now have the much more work to do, as the cut line moves up.  Plenty of other teams are no doubt lamenting the Gael's victory last night as well.

What will become of Gonzaga?

Gonzaga would have locked down a #1 Seed with a win last night.  By losing, they have left the door wide open to fall off the top line, if they haven't already.  I have long thought that Gonzaga was safe on the 1 line unless they lost in the WCC tournament.  If that happened, an incredibly soft schedule for the last 3 months would expose the Zags soft underbelly.  The resume just isn't #1 Seed Quality.  If any other team had one like it not named Gonzaga, we'd be talking about them as a 3 Seed.  Come to think of it, we do have a team like that not named Gonzaga who is projected by many as a 3, and in some cases 4 ... it's Houston.   Check out the side by side of them compare below:


The difference between these two teams is razor thin, and depending on what you place the most value you on, you could make a case for putting either one ahead of the other.  What no one is talking about though is Houston as a #1 Seed, nor should they.  This fact alone I believe proves the point.  Gonzaga is being overvalued this morning in the wake of the loss last night.   Yet, the talking heads like Lunardi insist Gonzaga is still a #1, and you're overreacting to one loss if you think otherwise.  I think Seth Davis has it right.  They're probably still a #1 this morning, but now exposed, and vulnerable to multiple teams passing them.

In my perfect world, where I'm the only one picking the field, Gonzaga is a high 3 Seed.  However, I'm not and my goal is to figure out what the Committee is thinking.  My assumption at this point is that Gonzaga probably still sits on the 1 line this morning with them.  But as the week progresses, and the teams just below them build their resumes in the Conference Tournaments, Gonzaga will get overtaken.  Duke, Kentucky (and/or Tennessee), and Michigan State almost certainly will pass them with Conference Tournament Championships.  A more objective analysis would put them in jeopardy of falling behind Houston and Texas Tech should they win out as well.  I'm not confident that the committee would be willing to move either of those teams (or LSU for that matter, should they win the SEC) ahead of the Zags.

Auto-Bids Clinched Last Night:


  • Northeastern - Colonial Conference
  • Northern Kentucky - Horizon League
  • Fairleigh Dickinson - Northeast Conference
  • North Dakota State - Summit League
  • Saint Mary's - West Coast Conference
An interesting factoid from last night ...  None of the 5 teams who won their conference tournaments entered it as the #1 Seed.  In fact, of the 11 bids clinched so far, only 2 of them were #1 seeds in their respective conference tournaments (Wofford & Iona).

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Championship Week

With the last of the regular season conference games concluding this past week, we are now fully transitioned into 'Championship Week'.  It's a terrific week of college basketball where 32 Conference Tournaments whose winners will clinch automatic bids into the NCAA Tournament.   In my mind, this week is second only to the NCAA Tournament's first weekend as the best stretch of sports the entire year.  Every night, starting this past Saturday, provides at least one Conference Championship game where an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament is at stake.

What makes these tournaments so compelling  is that they are played between teams that know each other extremely well.  In many cases these teams are facing off for the 3rd time in the last 2-3 months, and that kind of familiarity often leads to tightly contested games and unpredictable results, and in about 90% of the games,  the end of the season for the losing team hanging in the balance.  You also get an opportunity, especially when watching games in the small and mid-major conference tournaments, to watch terrific players you likely never have heard of, and if you have, may never before have had much of a chance to watch them play an entire game, instead of just highlights.  Finally, the drama of watching a long shot team who may not have had a very good regular season come together and make an inspired 3-4  game string of wins to punch an unexpected ticket to the tournament makes for great sports watching.

On Saturday, those that happened to tune into the Ohio Valley Conference Championship game saw an epic match-up between the two best teams in that conference, Belmont and Murray State, clash for the 2nd time this year.   Murray State rode their star Ja Morant, and his 36 points, to an upset of the Bears, who had beaten them at Murray State earlier in the year.  Murray State is now in the tournament, something that was likely out of the question had they lost.  Belmont, following a terrific season, sits on the bubble sweating to see if the committee will put them in.   On Sunday, Gardner-Webb, a 4th seed in the Big South conference tournament ran the tournament table concuding with a win in the Championship game to secure the first NCAA Bid in history for the school.  Watching the pure joy of those players and their fans as they secured the victory was stirring.  College Basketball fans get 30 more bites at that apple this week before the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday evening.

Tournament Winners So Far:


  • Ohio Valley Conference - Murray State
  • Big South - Gardner-Webb
  • Missouri Valley - Bradley
  • Atlantic Sun - Liberty
  • Southern - Wofford
  • Metro Atlantic (MAAC) - Iona



Championships Tonight - Tuesday, March 12  (Seeds included)
  • Colonial Conference - Hofstra (1) vs. Northeastern (2) - 6:00 PM on CBS Sports Network
  • Horizon League - Wright State (1) vs. Northern Kentucky (2) - 6:00 PM on ESPN
  • Northeast Conference - Saint Francis (1) vs. Farleigh Dickinson (2) - 6:00 PM on ESPN2
  • Summit League - North Dakota State (4) vs Omaha (2) - 8:00 PM on ESPN2
  • West Coast - Gonzaga (1) vs. Saint Mary's (2) - 8:00 PM on ESPN

Potential Bid Thieves

Quick definition here for those that may be unfamiliar with the term.  A bid thief is a team that has no chance to be selected to the tournament field as an at-large team, which instead clinches an auto-bid by winning the conference tournament.  To make them a thief they must play in a conference with at least one team that is sure to get an at-large bid.  They are referred to as thieves, because in denying a certain at-large team an auto-bid, the at-large field essentially shrinks and teams on the edge of the bubble now have one less at-large bid available.  Thus the unlikely conference champion is said to have stolen a bid from a bubble team.

Murray State, who would never have gotten in as an at-large. earned an auto bid Sunday.  Belmont. may or may not get selected as an At-Large.  If they do (and right now I have them in), Murray State will have become this year's first bid thief.  Belmont will be a close call on Selection Sunday, in the end, Murray State may well have stolen the bid from Belmont.

Several tournaments present opportunities for bid thieves to emerge.  Of the 5 games being played tonight. one holds the potential.

West Coast Conference - Gonzaga(1) vs. Saint Mary's(2) - Gonzaga is obviously in, and probably looking at a #1 seed regardless of whether they win tonight or not.  St. Mary's spent a lot of time on the bubble, and some still have them on it thanks in part to a strong NET.  I don't see the wins there to justify their inclusion.  If they win, the WCC will get a second team in with Saint Mary's ... Fans of Indiana, TCU, Ohio State, Clemson, Texas and others who may fear their team is currently holding the last spot on the bubble will be rooting hard for Gonzaga ... I'll be pulling for thievery!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Monday Evening Update (FULL) - 03/11

Here is the full update, including bracketing following completion of all Conference Regular Season play this past weekend.  Some very minor tweaks compared to my seed list which was published earlier today.

A few notes:

  • Lots of close calls at the very top where 6-7 teams remain in contention for the four #1 Seeds.
  • The bubble is as tightly packed as I can recall.  Seed 35 through the first four out were very hard to separate.  I am hoping the Conference Tournaments provide some clarity.  I'm not terribly confident from about the 9 seed down right now.
  • Speaking of Conference tournaments and the bubble, count me as one of the people who will be pulling hard for UNC Greensboro to beat Wofford tonight.  Wofford will be in either way ... but if they lose UNCG will grab an auto bid and squeeze at least one of the many undeserving Power 5 teams that currently reside around the cut-line out.






Monday Morning Update (3/11)

Just a a seed and ranking update today.  Ran out of time to do a full bracket update this week.


Notes:

  • Four teams clinched bids over the weekend by winning their conference tournaments
    • Liberty - Atlantic Sun
    • Murray State - Ohio Valley
    • Bradley - Missouri Valley
    • Gardner Webb - Big South
  • Two new at-large teams in the field this week
    • Indiana
    • TCU
  • At-Large Teams now out of the field this week:
    • Ohio State
    • NC State
    • Florida
  • Huge Game tonight for the Southern Conference Championship.  Wofford is safely in the field.  Should they lose to UNC-Greensboro, a bid will be stolen.  As of this update, TCU would be the bubble team squeezed out.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Weekend Key Games (3/9 - 3/10)

This weekend marks the final games for all of the Power 6 Conferences, as well as the first four Conference Championship games from among the smaller conferences who kicked of their league tournaments this week.   Here are some of the best looking games I will be focused on.

Syracuse at Clemson - 11:00 AM

Clemson is one of 3 teams in the early games today playing for their tournament lives.  The Tigers are currently sitting as the first team below the cut line entering play today.   The biggest wart on the Tiger's resume' is their 1-9 record in Quad 1 games.   A loss to Syracuse at home would make worse what is already the worst Quad 1 Record among the teams on the bubble.  Clemson is buoyed by their top 40 NET ranking but at some point this team is going to have to beat someone for that to matter.  This could be Clemson's last chance to do it.

TCU at Texas - 11:00 AM on ESPN2

If you want an idea of just how ugly this year's bubble is look no further than this match-up.  TCU enters play as the last team in.  The Horned Frogs have lost 3 in a row and 6 of their last seven.  They were below the cut line starting the week and moved in despite losing earlier in the week.  They are just 2-8 against Quad 1 teams, are just 6-11 in conference games this season, and are an abysmal 3-12 in Quad 1-2 Road/Neutral games ... and yet are in the field.  Now consider this.  Their opponent, Texas, is just 16-14 overall on the season, are also below .500 in conference play, and despite that, could just about cinch an At-Large bid.  A loss by TCU in this one would be fatal to their at-large hopes.  The selection committee would have to select them with a league record of 6-12.  I see no way that happens, I don't care who they might beat in the Big 12 Tournament.  On the other side of this games ledger, a loss by Texas at home might finally be enough to put Texas' at-large bid in real peril.  Outside of to the Atlantic Sun conference championship later in the day, no game may have more riding on it than this one.

Florida at Kentucky - 1:00 PM on CBS

Florida is another team fighting for it's at-large lives today.   The Gators appeared to have turned a corner and were headed to locking down an At-Large bid after winning 5 straight that included road wins at Alabama and LSU.   Then the Gators were then by Georgia, and lost a nail biter earlier this week to LSU, both on their home floor.   Now they have to go on the road to take on a Kentucky team that is in the discussion for a #1 seed.  To stay in that discussion, this appears to be a must win.  As bad as the bubble is below them, its possible Florida could lose this one and stay above the line.  That would put some enormous pressure on them going into the SEC Tournament to win at least 1 game, if not 2 to stay in the discussion.  A win today though, would almost certainly lock down the at-large bid they seemed poised to lock up over a week ago.

Duke at North Carolina - 5:00 PM on ESPN

As they always do, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels will close out the ACC regular season schedule.  This is always must watch basketball.  Six teams appear to be in the hunt for the four #1 seeds.  These are two of them.  Duke has a very tenuous grip on the #1 overall and have been protected by a slowly eroding levee of two convincing wins over Virginia.  But the Blue Devils have lost to Gonzaga (also a #1 seed candidate) and North Carolina earlier in the season.  Another loss to North Carolina and that levee crumbles, sending Duke tumbling from my #1 Overall to the #2 seed line heading into ACC Tournament play.  The Zion Williamson watch continues ... there is apparently a chance he may play in this one ... though the conventional wisdom seems to be that he won't.  North Carolina dominated the paint without him on the floor for the final 39 minutes of the UNC's blow out win in Durham. 

Murray State vs. Belmont - Ohio Valley Conference Championship  - 7:00 PM on ESPN 2

The first official bid in the NCAA Tournament will be handed out tonight to the winner of the OVC Tournament Champion.  There are also potential bubble ramifications depending on the outcome.  These two teams have been the class of their league all season, though a tough Jacksonville State team gave the Racers of Murray State a scare in their semi-final tilt last night.  The Bruins of Belmont won the only regular season match-up at Murray State by 13.  This one is played on a Neutral Floor in Evansville, IN.  The Bruins are riding a 15 game winning streak headed into this game, and are the heavy favorite to win the automatic bid of the OVC.  Murray State is on the fringe of the bubble, looking in, but a loss would kill any chance of getting to the dance this year.  But what if they were to win?   Well, it would likely put Belmont squarely in the middle of some very interesting debate about their merits as an At-Large candidate, as they most certainly would find themselves either right above or below the cut line.  We'll have more time to discuss that scenario should the Racers find a way to pull the upset tonight.  If that happens, we might just have our first bid thief of the 2019 Tournament.

Michigan at Michigan State - 7:00 PM on ESPN

Following the Duke/UNC tilt, if you keep your set tuned to ESPN you'll get treated to yet another monster game with huge implications on the top of the rankings and for regular season conference titles.  Heading into action this weekend, these two teams find themselves tied for the Big Ten lead with Purdue, who plays at Northwestern earlier in the day.  This game will determine the number one overall seed in the Big Ten Tournament next week, and solidify one of these team, at least for the time being, as a solid #2 seed, and likely banish the other to the 3 Seed line.  The banged up Spartans went into Ann Arbor back on the 24th of February and rode a monster 27 point, 8 assist effort from Cassius Winston on route to a 77-70 upset of the Wolverines.  Michigan will look to return the favor at East Lansing today.  Both teams currently are holding out hope for a 1 seed.  Whoever loses will likely be out of that discussion regardless of what happens in the Big Ten Tournament next week.

Houston at Cinncinati - Sunday, 11:00 AM on CBS

Cincinnati could claim a share of the AAC regular season championship if they can upset Houston on Sunday.  The Bearcats, have had a wonderful season, currently sitting at 25-5 overall, 14-3 in league play, and possessing a Quad 1 record above .500 (4-3) heading into the regular season finale.  The hole in their seeding resume' rests in the fact that they are 0-3 in Quad 1a games, and haven't beaten a team in the NET top 25 all season.  Houston was shocked at home last week, ending any discussion about whether a #1 seed was in play for the then 1 loss Cougars.  It will be interesting to see how Houston responds in this huge road game as they ramp up for post season play.

Liberty at Lipscomb - Sunday, 2:00 PM on ESPN - Atlantic Sun Conference Champtionship

A very similar situation to the OVC Championship game sets up in the A-Sun Championship.  A Lipscomb win will eliminate Liberty from the discussion for a bid in the Tournament.  Should they win though, another very interesting discussion will undoubtedly ensue around Lipscomb's merits as an At-Large candidate.  While I have them ranked ahead of 2 of my final four at-large teams, I tend to think that Lipscomb is less likely than Belmont to get serious consideration as an At-Large.  This year though, as soft as the bubble is, the committee just might be start hunting for mid-major alternatives to Power Conference teams barely over .500 on the season, 4 games below .500 in league play, without a Quad 1a win to their credit, or sporting a NC-SOS at or above 200.  If they do, Lipscomb will be high on that list.

Wisconsin at Ohio State - Sunday, 3:30 PM on CBS

Ohio State, who has been on the verge of locking up an at-large bid for what seems like weeks now, suddenly finds itself on the precipice of very dangerous cliff.  They have lost 2 straight games, by a combined 53 points, including an particularly ugly 18 point loss to Northwestern.  A loss would drop the Buckeyes to 8-12 in the Big Ten headed into conference tournament play.  The Buckeyes are just one more example of how incredibly soft this bubble is, as they could lose this game and be one of perhaps as many as 4 teams that get an at-large bid with more than 11 regular season league losses.  Wisconsin played one of it's most complete games Thursday in blowing out Iowa by 20 and holding them over 30 points below their season average.  The Badgers could secure a double bye in the Big Tournament with a win, and further enhance their seeding stock for Selection Sunday, without regard to conference tournament performance.  But the biggest motivator might very well be avenging what, at least in my eyes, maybe the most embarrassing program loss in years.  The last time these two teams met, on December 2nd 2017, Ohio State blasted Bucky  by 25, marking the worst Badger loss ever at the Kohl Center.  The Badgers have exercised a lot of demons from the disappointing 2017-18 campaign.  This would be the last, and perhaps most haunting of them all, to purge.

Other Conference Championship Games

  • Big South:  Gardner-Webb at Radford - 12:00 PM on ESPN
  • Missouri Valley:  Winner of Loyola-Chicago/Bradley vs. Winner of Drake/Northern Iowa - 1:05 PM on CBS
Other League Games of Interest
  • Tennessee at Auburn - Saturday 11:00 AM on ESPN
  • Villanova at Seton Hall - Saturday 11:00 AM on FOX
  • Texas Tech at Iowa State - Saturday 1:00 PM on ESPNews
  • NC State at Boston College - Saturday 1:00 PM on ACC Network
  • Georgetown at Marquette - Saturday 1:30 PM on FOX
  • Louisville at Virginia - Saturday 3:00 PM on ESPN
  • UCF at Temple - Saturday 3:00 PM on ESPN2
  • Oklahoma at Kansas State - Saturday 5:00 PM on ESPN2
  • Rutgers at Indiana - Sunday, 11:00 AM on Big Ten Network

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Key Games (3/7)

 First a few comments on last night's action.  Wednesday saw a number of teams, on the bubble and elsewhere in the projected field, play some pretty awful basketball with some pretty awful results.  
  • Georgetown, who popped in the to the field for me over the weekend, lost by double digits at DePaul.  Georgetown is now out of the field again on my unpublished list, and TCU, despite a loss of their own this week, has moved back in.   I guess with this bubble, there is such a thing as a good loss, or perhaps better put, less awful loss.  
  • Ohio State, with a chance to lock up an at-large bid with a win, instead was blown out by Northwestern, fall to 8-11 in Big Ten league play and will now face Wisconsin in Columbus Sunday in the league regular season finale.  Ohio State could play themselves out of it this weekend before Kaleb Wesson, currently suspended, returns.
  • NC State was embarrassed at home by Georgia Tech last night.  As a team with one of THE Non Conference Strength's of schedule in all of college basketball (353 out of 353) , and just a 2-8 Quad 1 record (including 0-8 against the 1a Tier), the closer they get to the cut line, the more they have to worry.  Last night's loss was a turbo boost in that direction.  A loss Saturday at Boston College could be fatal for a team that had been managing to hover just out of the danger zone for weeks.
  • Marquette, just a week hand a half ago, held a 1.5 game lead over Villanova for the lead in the Big East, heading into a game with the Wildcats.  The Golden Eagles lost that game, and the other two since, and they have been ugly.  Saturday was a 22 turn-over laden home loss to Creighton.  Last night Seton Hall went on an 18-0 run to end the game and send Marquette reeling to their 3rd straight loss.  Marquette was thinking about a path to a #2 seed.  Now they are in real danger of falling out of a spot among the top 16 overall seeds.  As for the Pirates of Seton Hall ... they were literally the only team on the bubble last night who won a ball game ... and they were in desperate need of it.
Now on to tonight's top games:

Cincinnati at UCF - 6:00 PM on ESPN 2

The game of the night in College Basketball.  UCF secured what appears to be a tournament bid sealing win when they shocked Houston, in Houston, on Saturday.  Now they get to come home to play a 25-4 Cincinnati team that finds itself tied with Houston for the Conference lead.  Cincinnati is missing a Quad 1a Win from it'r resume and gets a shot at one here, as well as a shot at staying in contention for a #1 seed in the American Conference Tournament.  UCF, who just 5 days ago was hovering at the cut line to make the tournament suddenly finds itself talking about improving their potential seed instead.

Iowa at Wisconsin - 6:00 PM on ESPN

A great rivalry game from the Big Ten.  Wisconsin, who has been hanging around the line between being a 4 and 5 seed, was leapfrogged on my board this by Florida State's who knocked off Virginia Tech earlier in the week.  The Badgers could potentially grab the spot back with a win over 41st NET ranked Iowa.  More importantly perhaps, they could get closer to securing a 4th place finish in the conference and the double bye that comes with it in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament.  The Hawkeyes were sailing up the rankings just a week ago.  Then they went to Ohio State, got blown out by 20, saw their Head Coach Fran McCafferey get suspended for verbally attacking a ref after a game and then followed that up with an inexcusable home loss to Rutgers.  They now have to make a difficult trip to the Kohl Center, again without McCafferey on the sidelines.  These teams always get after each other, regardless of stakes.  Tonight should be a bruiser.  Wisconsin won the first meeting at Iowa City back in December.

 Indiana at Illinois - 7:00 PM on FS1

As difficult as this is to believe, the Indiana Hoosiers are still alive for an At-Large bid after being left for dead by virtually everyone back on February 22nd following their 5th straight loss, and OT heart-breaker to Iowa.  The sad reality of this year's bubble is that no one just above, or below the cut line can seem to win a game when they need it (UCF and the aforementioned Pirates of Seton Hall the notable exceptions).  It leaves the door open for a team like Indiana who bounced back with wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin last week.   Adding to the resume' they started to rebuild last week are wins earlier in the season at Michigan State,and impressive Non-Conference wins over Marquette and Louisville.  They finish the season  with this game at Illinois and at home versus Rutgers on Saturday, which on paper at least, look like very winnable games for the suddenly relevant again Hoosiers.    But right now they sit at 6-12 in the Big Ten and are just 2-14 in Road/Neutral Quad 1 & 2 games, which if not improved could outweigh any of the good this team has done on their home floor this year.   This game presents a great opportunity for Indiana to improve both.  Failure to do so, almost certainly relegates Indiana back to the Bubble graveyard.