Posted on: March 5, 2011 9:37 am
Edited on: March 5, 2011 10:12 am
 

Last Big Weekend

by Jerry Palm

This is the last weekend of the regular season in which just about everybody is in action.  At least four conferences will decide their automatic qualifiers, and a lot of bubble teams will be trying to help their cause.

The Atlantic Sun, Big South and Ohio Valley all play their conference tournament championship games today, and the Missour Valley finishes up tomorrow.  The Ivy League could also be decided today when Princeton goes to Harvard.   If the Tigers win, they are the league champions, but if not, they must beat Penn next week to force a one-game playoff with the Crimson to be played next weekend.

This is also a very bubblicious weekend.  Is "bubblicious" a word?

In the ACC, Virginia Tech is at Clemson.   The Hokies are trying to bounce back from the loss at home to Boston College.   The Tigers have done most of their damage at home, so it's important for them to continue to defend the home floor.  ACC tournament seeding is at stake as well.  The winner earns the 4-seed and gets a bye.

Texas has another opportunity to help play a middle of the road Big 12 team into the field when it goes to Baylor today.  Among the trio trying to squeeze in (Baylor, Colorado, Nebraska), the Bears have the best road win (at Texas A&M) and the least embarassing non-conference schedule, although that isn't saying much.  Colorado and Nebraska play each other today in Boulder.

Marquette picked up arguably its worst loss of the season the other day at home against Cincinnati.   Now they travel to Seton Hall for a very important game for their tournament hopes.  If they lose again, they are 18-13 entering the Big East tournament and on a two-game skid.

There is a huge bubble game in the Big Ten as well.  Michigan State travels to Michigan trying to avenge its home loss to the Wolverines a month ago.  The winner isn't guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament, but the loser is in a world of hurt.

Colorado State can go a long way to securing a spot by winning at new league favorite San Diego State.   The Rams have a win at UNLV, but that probably isn't going to be enough by itself to claim an at-large berth.  A road win over a team like the Aztecs would look really nice on the tournament resume.

Washington State will be without star Klay Thompson when it hosts UCLA today in a vital game for its at-large chances.  Thompson has been suspended after a marijuana arrest this week.

Georgia can put the final nail in Alabama's coffin with a win in Tuscaloosa today.  The Tide have lost two in a row and would still only have very slim at-large hopes with a win.  The best thing about Georgia's tournament profile is that it has no losses outside the RPI top 50.  A win today keeps that intact.

See complete Bracketology coverage here.

Posted on: March 3, 2011 11:37 am
 

BYU Takes a Beating

by Jerry Palm

In BYU's first game without Brandon Davies, who has been dismissed from the team, New Mexico crushed them at home, and did permanent damage to the Cougars' hopes of being a No. 1 seed.  I have them as a 4-seed today, and that's not permanent.  How they finish the year, and what other teams do, will have a bearing on where the Cougars end up.

Memphis lost at East Carolina last night and continued a late-season swoon that has them out of the bracket for now.  Michigan moved into their spot.

Colorado, Dayton and Mississippi also took bad losses, finishing whatever slim at-large hopes they had.

Florida State could have clinched a spot in the field with a win at home over North Carolina, but came up just short.

And finally, Marquette lost at home to Cincinnati.   That was the Golden Eagles 12th loss, and arguably their worst.  It's not a bad loss by any means, just bad compared to their others.


Posted on: March 1, 2011 12:51 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 6:09 pm
 

Mar. 1 Bracket - Welcome to the Madness

by Jerry Palm

There has been another change at the top of the bracket this week as the top of the field continues to play its way backwards.  BYU takes over for San Diego State on the top line for now, but may have to win out to keep it.

Of course, other contenders continue to fall away.  Texas once looked like a strong candidate for a top seed, but has lost twice since Friday's bracket.  They blew a 22-point lead at Colorado on Saturday, then Kansas State came back on them at home Monday night (although from not nearly as large a hole).  Combine that with the loss at Nebraska the previous week and it looks like the Longhorns are trying to play the whole middle of the Big 12 into the field.  That's good news for Baylor, who plays them this weekend.

The result is that the Longhorns find themselves as a 3-seed today, while Notre Dame moves up to the second line.  Both the Irish and red-hot Purdue have chances to challenge for top seeds, but probably need to win out and get help.

Meanwhile, Kansas State has won five in a row, including it's three biggest wins of the year, and has played itself right off the bubble.

Virginia Tech also picked up its biggest win so far when it beat Duke on Saturday.  Despite the screaming of the TV commentators that the Hokies are now a lock, that's not true.  They can't go on a three-game losing streak from here and expect to get in.

Arizona had a rough week in LA, losing to both USC and UCLA, and dropping into a tie with the Bruins for first place in the Pac 10.  The Wildcats have done little of substance away from home.  Their only top 50 RPI wins came over UCLA and Washington, both in Tucson.  Poll voters still love them for their gaudy record, but they look like a middle of the bracket team.

I get a lot of question about team's selection or seeding that go something like this "My team is ahead of this other team in the conference standings, so why are they seeded lower?"

The answer is that conference standings (and conference record by itself) are not at all relevant to the selection and seeding process.  Conference standings don't matter in part because so many leagues play unbalanced schedules.  Seriously -- is there anything less meaningful than the Big East standings?  And the other thing about conference performance is that it is only about two-thirds of a team's entire profile, and teams are judged on their entire body of work, not just conference play.

So, I have Old Dominion ahead of George Mason in the bracket because the Monarchs' non-conference performance makes up for a two-game deficit in the Colonial standings.  They have a non-conference wins over Xavier, Richmond, Clemson and Cleveland State.   Mason's only non-conference win of any substance came over Harvard at home.  In fact, Mason's best away-from-home win of the season came at VCU.   ODU beat both Xavier and Clemson on neutral courts.  So, I see a slight overall edge to ODU.

The extreme case of this is Alabama, which is 11-3 in the SEC at the moment and has clinched the West division title, but still isn't close to an at-large bid.  Their non-conference performance was so bad that a gaudy league record hasn't been able to wipe it away.  Of course, it doesn't help that the rest of the West stinks and that accounts for most of the Tide's conference schedule.

I'll have more in the Bubble Watch later today.

See complete Bracketology coverage here.



Posted on: February 25, 2011 6:19 pm
 

Weekend Bubble Watch - Feb. 26 and 27

by Jerry Palm

There are great opportunities ahead for some teams on the bubble to make a strong statement that they belong in the NCAA.

Virginia Tech will try to play their way off the Seth Greenberg Memorial Bubble when they host Duke on Saturday.  The Hokies could really use a quality win, but unfortunately, the ACC doesn't provide a lot of chances for those.  You have to take advantage of the ones that present themselves.

Baylor's hopes are fading fast, but they can resurrect them with a win over Texas A&M, which would complete the season sweep of the Aggies.  The Bears are coming off a home loss to Texas Tech, so perhaps that is asking too much.

Kansas State
hopes to continue its run of good play when it hosts Missouri.   The Wildcats have breathed some life into their tournament hopes by winning five of six, including that blowout of Kansas.   A win over the Tigers would be its second over a top 50 RPI opponent.

Michigan visits Minnesota in a crucial game for both teams.  Michigan needs to beat quality teams, or at least other contenders, to pump up its tournament profile.  The Gophers just need to stop the bleeding.  They have lost six of eight since the injury to star Al Nolen.

UCLA not only has a chance to pick up a quality win when it hosts Arizona on Saturday, but the Bruins can also pull within a game of first place in the Pac 10.  UCLA's tournament resume is missing quality wins away from home.  That can't be fixed on Saturday, but every good win helps.

Alabama travels to Ole Miss, the only other top 100 RPI team in the SEC West.  The Tide cannot afford to be caught looking ahead to Tuesday night's battle at Florida.   The Rebels tournament at-large hopes appear to be dashed, but they can still play spoiler here.

Also on Saturday, St. Mary's hosts Portland.   The last time they met was also right after the Gaels played Gonzaga, and St. Mary's had a let down after a big win and got beat.   Now, they have to keep from hanging their heads after a tough loss and letting Gonzaga beat them twice.  If St. Mary's is going to hold out hope for an at-large bid, they cannot afford to lose to Portland.

Dayton has a chance to add a little zip to an otherwise bland tournament profile when they host rival Xavier in the A-10.  So far, the Flyers biggest win is over George Mason at home, and if that's all they have on selection weekend, that probably won't be enough.

And finally, Michigan State can all but punch its ticket when it hosts Purdue on Sunday.  They can also make a statement that they are back to being the Spartans we are used to seeing.


Posted on: February 25, 2011 11:22 am
Edited on: February 25, 2011 11:28 am
 

Feb. 25 Bracket - Marquette Makes a Move

by Jerry Palm

Thursday night, Marquette filled a big hole in its tournament resume when it won at Connecticut.   That was Marquette's first quality road win of the season, and the first of top 100 RPI road wins they picked up on the evening.

The other came from UW Milwaukee, which won at Cleveland State and the impact was felt in other places as well.  The biggest thing it did was make a jumble of the Horizon League standings, which is important because the top seed hosts the tourament.  UWM knocked the Vikings back into a three-way tie with themselves and Butler, and assumed control of its down destiny for the top seed.  It would have been a four-way tie, but Valparaiso was upset at home by Loyola.

Butler also got a boost, and not just in the conference race.  UWM moved into the top 100 of the RPI (94th), taking two of the Bulldogs' 100+ RPI losses off the board.  That is good because Butler had five of them before that game, and historically speaking, it's virtually impossible to get an at-large bid with that many bad losses.  UWM may end up back below that line again at some point, but for now, their rise to the top of the league has erased a little bit of the problems with the Butler profile.

St. Mary's
slide continued last night with a loss at home to Gonzaga.   That forged a tie between the two for first place in the WCC.  The Gaels win my RPI tiebreaker at the moment.  During their three-game losing streak, they have fallen 25 spots in the RPI and out of the top 50.  The team that affects the most is Utah State, which is lacking wins of any substantive quality, and having St. Mary's go into a slump devalues the Aggies' best win.

Michigan State continues to climb, aided by a win at Minnesota this week.  The Gophers though are in the tank ever since the loss of Al Nolen.  I still have them hanging on by a thread, but they may not make it.  Minny has a couple of winnable games left, but you have to wonder what qualifies as "winnable" for them.

A banked three-point shot at the buzzer by Wisconsin's Josh Gasser gassed Michigan's spot in the bracket for now.  Dayton moved in, and is in a First Four game, which is played on their home court.  Yes, that's allowed.

I'll have more in the Bubble Watch later today.

See complete Bracketology coverage here.



Posted on: February 25, 2011 10:19 am
Edited on: February 25, 2011 10:21 am
 

Courtside with Seth Davis

by Jerry Palm

Seth and I debate No. 1 seeds and the bottom of the bracket.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 22, 2011 1:10 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2011 3:15 pm
 

Feb. 22 Bracket - Carnage Everywhere

by Jerry Palm

Wow, it was a tough week all over the place in the bracket.   The four top-rated teams in the AP poll lost, although the Kansas loss was on Monday night, so it was already accounted for in the previous bracket here.  By my count, 22 at-large teams seeded 8 or below, or were just on the outside lookng in, also lost.

Poll voters being what they are voted Duke up to No. 1 from 5th.  Despite that, the Blue Devils still don't have a No. 1 seed profile.  Pitt and Ohio State still have the most complete tournament resumes are are the overall top two teams.  After that, it gets a little dicier.

San Diego State had kind of a bad week.  Oh, sure, they won twice, but the team that had been arguably their best win, St. Mary's, went in the tank.  The Gaels lost at 300+ RPI San Diego and followed that by getting drilled at home by Utah State.   The Aztecs still have a sweep of UNLV, which is better than most people give them credit for.

I moved Kansas up to the top line in place of Texas after the Longhorns lost at Nebraska.   Texas has more good wins than any of the other top seed competitiors, but also twice as many losses, and now two of them are to likely non-tournament teams.

Purdue moved up to a second seed after a week in which the Boilers beat two top ten-ranked teams at home.

San Diego St and Purdue point out the dangers, for lack of a better word, of looking at one team's selection or seed prospects in a vacuum.

The Aztecs had a good week, but came out of it with a slightly worse profile because of something a previous opponent had done.  Some teams that were ahead of Purdue last week find themselves behind this week, not necessarily because of something they did, but because of something Purdue did.

People ask me all the time things like, "if my team does this, that and the other, are we in?"  Unless one of those things is win the conference tournament, it's not definite.  You might go out and do what you think is something pretty good, but something else happens out of your control and it turns out not to be good enough.

And then, sometimes things like this happen -- St. John's was a six seed in last week's bracket, beat Pitt over the weekend, and is now a seven.  That's not because of anything the Red Storm did, or anything that other teams around them necessarily did.  It is because I swapped them with UNLV to try to keep all those Big East teams as separate as possible in the bracket.  The committee does that kind of thing too.  In fact, sometimes the committee swaps seeds just to keep a team closer to home.

The Bubble Watch is updated also, so I'll have more about some of those teams there.

See complete Bracketology coverage here.







Posted on: February 18, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2011 5:17 pm
 

Feb. 18 - Bubble Watch

by Jerry Palm

There will be a lot of focus on the bracket busters this weekend, but there aren't too many bubble teams involved in that event.  One game that got a lot more interesting though is Utah State at St. Mary's.   The Gaels gagged one away at 300+ RPI San Diego this week and put what looked like a pretty secure tournament berth, not to mention a conference title, in jeopardy.

The Aggies haven't beaten anyone all year.  They have 23 wins and not a single one of them has come against a top 100 RPI foe.  So far, they have proven then can lose to a bad team (Idaho ), but haven't proven they can beat a good one.

Another game that could have some bubble implications is Cleveland State at Old Dominion on Sunday.  The Vikings are co-leaders in the Horizon league, but are missing a top 50 RPI win.  A road win against the Monarchs might give them a boost if they slip up in the conference tournament.

VCU at Wichita State looked like a potentially bubbly game when it was announced, but two big losses at home for the Rams this week were a buzzkill.

Missouri State at Valparaiso could help the winner perhaps, but probably only if the winner also wins its league regular season title.

Among the bigger schools, Boston College has a chance to make a splash this Saturday at the Dean Dome when they take on North Carolina.

Oklahoma State
is a home court hero, and they can't really do anything to fix that when they host Texas A&M this weekend, but you take quality wins where you can get them.

In the Big Ten, all eyes are focused on Purdue and Ohio State, but Illinois at Michigan State on Saturday has big bubble implications.  The Spartans are just 13-11, and no matter how good your schedule is, that record isn't going to cut it (some of you may remember Georgia in 2001 - this doesn't compare. Nothing even remotely compares).  The Illini have been fading some too, and they have the Buckeyes next, so this one is even more important.

The whole top of the Pac 10 seems to be on the bubble, and I wouldn't necessarily rule out haven't-beaten-anyone Arizona either.  The Wildcats host Washington in a big game in both the conference race and the tournament chase.

Finally, Georiga begins the final, brutal stretch of its schedule with a game at Tennessee.   The Bulldogs also have game at Florida and Alabama remaining, and may have to win at least one of those to feel any level of comfort entering the SEC tournament.  It's also a big game for Tennessee, which is 16-10 overall and cannot afford to slip too much with games at Vanderbilt and home against Kentucky left.

See complete Bracketology coverage here.

Bubble Watch


 
 
 
 
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