There has been a lot of talk about teams sliding down the bracket. Wisconsin lost again on Sunday, for instance, but is still a No. 6 latest projected bracket. USC took a bad loss and fell three lines, mostly because they were at the bottom of the No. 6 seed line and ended up at the No. 9 seed line in the bracket. It looks worse than it was.
However, one team has now fallen far enough that it is time to add it to the bubble, and that team is Xavier. The Musketeers lost at home to Butler on Sunday, which marked their fifth consecutive loss. This tailspin did not start with the loss of Edmond Sumner for the season to an injury, but this is a team that will be judged a little more on what it does without him than what it did with him. It is not looking good.
I am not sure Xavier, a No. 10 seed in the latest projected bracket can play its way entirely out of the tournament, but their remaining games are at home to Marquette, which really needs that win for its own NCAA hopes, and at DePaul, which has shown some feistiness on its home floor. If Xavier ends the season on an eight-game skid, assuming an opening round Big East Tournament loss as well, that might do too much damage to their profile for the committee to take the Musketeers.
Also, Syracuse fell out of the bracket again after getting blown out at Louisville. The Orange are living right on the edge, and probably will continue to do so into the ACC Tournament and are currently the first team out.
There are two teams that are trying to make late pushes that I am getting asked a lot about. One of those is Vanderbilt, whose more delusional fans seem to believe should make the tournament even if they lose their last two games before the SEC tournament. Most believe they are a lock if they win just one. They are verklempt by the fact that I do not even have them on the bubble.
- Vanderbilt has played one of the toughest schedules, which is no small feat, considering the Commodores play in the weakest of the major conferences. However they are just 16-13 against that schedule with games left at Kentucky and at home to Florida. They will surely be underdogs in both games, and a heavy one at UK. That is why I do not have them on the bubble. I do not like their chances at all of being able to do what it takes to get an at-large bid.
Let’s review historically what the committee has rewarded in the past 23 years, the time that I have been tracking the data. The number of teams who have received an at-large bid with 14 losses is seven. The most recent of those was in 2011, when five of the seven got in. That said, I will not be surprised if at least one 14-loss team gets in this year. In order for Vanderbilt to be one of those, they would have to win those last two games before the SEC tournament so that their 14th loss comes in that tournament.
The number of 15-loss teams to receive at-large bids so far is zero. Nada. Bupkus. Maybe someday, that will happen. However, I do not believe it will happen to a team that can count among those losses three at home to opponents that are not tournament quality, plus a loss to a team that ranks around 250 in the RPI. To be a 15-loss team, Vandy would to split the last two games. The number of at-large bids that have gone to a team with a record of worse than 18-14 (.563) is one. That went to Georgia in 2001, which finished 16-14 and had a schedule that will never be matched. The Bulldogs played 27 of their 30 games against top 100 RPI teams. There will never be another team like that, so none can be compared to it. The Commodores would have to win their last two games to finish at least 18-14.
So, that is why Vanderbilt is not on my bubble. If they win at Kentucky and against Florida, then it will be time to reconsider that.
- Another team moving up is Illinois. The Illini do not have any great wins, but they did sweep Northwestern and pounded VCU in nonconference play. They also have no bad losses. Illinois has won three in a row to give itself some hope, but they probably have to win the last two also to stay alive. Those games are more manageable than what Vandy is dealing with. The Illini finish with Michigan State at home and at Rutgers.