Yesterday was bubble day in college basketball. And it didn’t disappoint, as Alabama won a dramatic game at the buzzer, while several other teams missed opportunities to solidify their case. Middle Tennessee also lost in overtime in the Conference USA Tourney and now join the at-large pool, meaning that Western Kentucky is now the projected auto bid winner. Middle Tennessee is very much in the mix and the bubble just potentially shrunk for the big guys.
After today, we’ll get more resolution near the top of the bracket. Duke and Kansas are still in the running for a #1 seed (even though I don’t think Kansas is worthy) and SEC contenders Tennessee and Auburn, as well as Cincinnati, hope to make their case starting today.
I think the top 6 seed lines are fairly set after some of the losses yesterday, though there could be movement within that group of 24. Nevada now moves up to the 6-line pending winning the MWC. Arkansas can still move into that group. (And Rhode Island could make their case for moving back up by rebounding and winning the A-10 tourney).
Here are my projections, with more bubble talk at bottom.
After the smoke clears, I have Baylor OUT. But they are right there on the edge and will be hoping on Selection Sunday. I don’t see how Oklahoma State is the choice over Baylor–the profiles look similar except for Oklahoma State’s bad RPI, but the Bears also swept the Cowboys. Oklahoma has too many wins over tournament teams to be left out, but I could see the committee sending them to Dayton to earn their way into a Thursday/Friday game after two months of looking like they have no interest.
I’ve got Middle Tennessee in, playing in Dayton. Here’s what committee chair Bruce Rasmussen told Matt Norlander of CBS Sports:
CBS Sports: That’s interesting. So Middle Tennessee, if it didn’t win the auto bid, is your system likely to help its case get closer inspection and longer discussion in the room?
BR: For me, I don’t select teams based on my system, but I sort. I’ll see teams with a lot of points but down in opportunity. What does that tell me? This team doesn’t have a lot of points but they only had four opportunities. To me, I try to identify where you say, “OK, how do I describe this team?” For a Middle Tennessee or a Nevada or a Rhode Island, you could look at a number of those teams and see they’ve done a great job with the opportunities they’ve had. Also understand that it’s a lot harder if you’re in the ACC and you’re playing murderer’s row. The next five games are against tough teams as a opposed to: two weeks from now I have a great game. You’ve got to recognize those teams that have done a good job with the opportunities that have been presented. Gonzaga, Nevada, Rhode Island, Middle Tennessee I would put in that boat.
The fact that he put them in the same category as Gonzaga, Nevada, and Rhode Island-three that are locks–is a positive indicator. Plenty of teams like Middle Tennessee have been sent to Dayton, and I think the committee rewards playing Auburn and beating two other SEC teams (Vandy and Ole Miss), playing USC and Miami in close games on a neutral court, and going 4-0 against Old Dominion and Western Kentucky. Also, it’s got to be in the back of the minds that this has been a good tournament team and Conference USA is easily capable of being a two-bid league.
I’ve got Louisville barely in on the strength of zero bad or even borderline losses, and looking the part and having a RPI inside the Top 40. I’ve got Saint Mary’s holding in, but they are a wildcard because the Committee could punish the OOC schedule again. But, under Rasmussen’s logic, they had few opportunities against top teams but won at Gonzaga. And I have USC in, pending the Oregon game. A loss would put them right on that edge (but they do have that neutral court win over Middle Tennessee).
Oregon, Georgia, Mississippi State, and Temple are still alive as of publication, and capable of at least being in the discussion if they reach the tournament finals.