bubbles popping left and right

This is a little embarrasing for the Big East, but after all the talk it looks like only seven teams are going to be dancing in a couple weeks. All those concerns about the league eating its own turned out to be valid, but not in the way that people thought. Rather than all the teams at the top knocking each other off — and thus making a #1 seed impossible — a selection of highly regarded teams became cannon fodder for the survivers to accumulate quality wins, and the mid-level teams that might have competed any other year found themselves unable to steal wins against the ranked elite. Pitt and UConn look to have #1 seeds locked up at this point, whereas 3 or 4 teams that seemed competitive at times this year proved unable to handle the constant onslaught.

If we define being on the bubble as a situation wherein a team would have a punchers chance to make the Tournament if the season ended today, I would hesitate to say that the Big East has any remaining teams on the bubble.  If we define the bubble instead as meaning that a team could still make the NCAAs by getting hot in their conference tournament even if they don’t win their conference’s automatic bid, then perhaps there are one or two. Seven teams are mortal locks to get in from the league, but right now I don’t think anyone else can make it without a miracle in New York.

Notre Dame hasn’t been on the bubble in a long time, and any optimism that their brief 4-1 stretch inspired was snuffed out when they failed to get the big wins they needed recently against Villanova or UConn. They’re 16-13 (7-10) with a horrible RPI of 74, and only two marquee wins — and two other solid wins — to offset those 13 losses. The Irish have been out of the conversation for a long time. They need to win the whole shebang in NYC to get in.

Cincinnati was a legit bubble team for a while, but the wheels came off in dramatic fashion a couple days ago when they lost at USF. Ouch. The pasting they recieved at Syracuse also lowered their stock, because they didn’t look close to tournament-ready. Cinci has 6 or 7 reasonably high quality wins this year, plus the impressive victory over West Virginia that got them squarly on the bubble on the first place. But now they’re sitting at 18-12 (8-9) with an RPI of 61. The Bearcats are lucky they don’t qualify for a bye, because the only way they’re getting back on the bubble without winning the BE Tournament is if they win at least 3 or 4 games in a row in NYC. Without the bye they get an extra chance at a W.

Georgetown is, shockingly, still in the conversation, if only because of their amazing array of high quality wins. Memphis, Maryland, at UConn, Providence, Syracuse, at Villanova — the Hoyas have more big wins than any other team in America that has absolutely no shot of making the NCAAs. Their RPI remains high — 44th — thanks to their #1 overall Strength of Schedule. But the committee will never give a bid to a team that struggles so much to win regular games day in and day out. The Hoyas are 15-13, and 6-11 in their own conference. They lose and lose and lose and lose. Even though a couple of wins in the BE tournament could get their RPI into the 30’s, which in theory is in the bubble zone, there’s no way Georgetown gets in without getting the auto-bid.

Providence is the last team on the radar. Like the Bearcats they were a serious bubble contender for a long time.  Providence never shat the bed, but they kept missing chances to improve their resume, and now their regular season is over. Tonight at Villanova was their last chance to get a big win to get them over the hump, and they didn’t do it. Heading to NYC they’re 18-12 (10-8), with an RPI of 69 (before tonight’s loss), and the one enormous win against Pitt to point to. Providence also has a nice win against us, and three other semi-quality wins. But those 12 losses look bad, the RPI is weak, and they’re not a legit bubble team right now. They need more W’s, and they have to sit out the first round the BE Tournament because they earned a bye. I’d say they need three wins, which means they have to get to the finals before losing. That’s a tough road.

2 Comments

  1. Posted March 6, 2009 at 1:03 am | Permalink

    Good post. You point out well what has astonished me this season about Georgetown — they both suck and are incredibly dangerous at the same time. I’d like to see those bastards get the automatic NCAA bid by winning the BET, as long as they don’t have to beat us to get there.

  2. Posted March 6, 2009 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I think you hit it on the head except for Providence. They have a legit shot at getting in. It’s a “weak bubble” this year with very few mid-majors in contention for at-large bids. In fact, Loonardi currently has PC as one of the “first four out”. PC could end up the 6th place team in the conference standings, with that big win over Pitt, and a few questionable losses but none that are awful (all to RPI top 100). They will have to defeat their first BET opponent to stay in the hunt. If they do, they’ll match up against one of the top 3 BE teams in the quarterfinals. A win there would be another ’signature win’ and, I think, likely cement them a spot. And even if they lose in the quarterfinals, they are at least still in the conversation next Sunday, sweating the results of various other conference tournaments.

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