Posted March 14, 2013

Bubble Watch: Air Force-UNLV, Villanova-St. John’s Among Key Games

Bracket Watch, Bubble Watch, conference tournaments, March Madness, NCAA Tournament
Don't expect the Wildcats to slip up when they take on St. John in the Big East tournament's. (Al Behrman/AP)

Don’t expect the Wildcats to slip up when they take on St. John’s in the Big East tournament. (Al Behrman/AP)

It’s the day before the day where championship week madness really starts, but Wednesday will still deliver drama for fans as well as verdicts for several teams in the mix for at-larges. The day’s headlining slate, the quarterfinals of the Mountain West, starts with a fun one and ends with a bang. That’s not the only conference, though, where teams may be playing for their NCAA tournament lives.

Here’s a quick rundown of the key bubble games on tap:

Biggest bubble games to watch (all times ET)
Noon: Cincinnati-Providence: Bearcats need to get this one; Providence has slim at-large hopes.
3pm: Air Force at UNLV: Falcons have very slim at-large hopes; UNLV playing for seeding.
3pm: Arizona State-Stanford: Loser’s clearly done. Winner has more work to do, UCLA up next.
7pm: Villanova at St. John’s: The Wildcats may have done enough, but shouldn’t trip up here.
7:30pm: Lafayette at Bucknell: Patriot title game; Bison have slim at-large chance with a loss.
Midnight: Boise State-San Diego State: Winner is in; loser looks decent, but not 100 percent safe.

** RPI information is from RealTimeRPI.com’s Tuesday’s report. Questions/comments go to @AndyGlockner on Twitter or bubblewatch@gmail.com.**

ACC

Locks: Duke, Miami
Miami won the outright title by a game, but Duke is better positioned for a 1-seed in the NCAAs thanks to the Hurricanes’ late swoon and Duke’s unbeaten and impressive track record when Ryan Kelly is available. A step down in the pecking order, North Carolina likely has passed NC State in terms of seed.

Time is Ticking: Sign up for SI’s 2013 NCAA Bracket Challenge

SHOULD BE IN
North Carolina
(21-9, 12-6; RPI: 19, SOS: 8)
The smallball Heels couldn’t handle Duke at home in the regular-season finale, but a nice road win at Maryland capped off a solid stretch run that has them comfortably in the field of 68. They’ll be the 3-seed in the ACC tournament and (likely) will draw Florida State in a quarterfinal.
GW: UNLV, NC State, at Florida State?, at Maryland?
BL: at Texas

North Carolina State (22-9, 11-7; RPI: 28, SOS: 36)
The Wolfpack are going to make the NCAAs, but this really was about as tepid a regular season as they could have put together. Finishing tied for fourth in the league with seven losses isn’t flattering their talent level. Now they have to play in the 5-12 game before facing Virginia in a quarterfinal.
GW: UConn (N), Duke, North Carolina, UMass?
BL: at Wake Forest

IN THE MIX
Virginia (21-11, 11-7; RPI: 68, SOS: 124)
The Cavaliers bailed themselves out of a huge hole and edged Maryland. Now they probably will draw NC State in the quarters and almost certainly need to win that game to think they can make it.
GW: Duke, at Wisconsin, NC State, North Carolina, at Maryland?
BL: Delaware, Old Dominion (N), at Wake Forest, at Clemson, at Georgia Tech, at George Mason, at Boston College

Maryland (20-11, 8-10; RPI: 85, SOS: 105)
The Terps now have to win the auto bid, and they are lined up against Duke in the quarters. Good luck. Wake Forest is up first.
GW: Duke, NC State
BL: At Boston College

Big East

Locks: Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Syracuse, Pittsburgh
Add the Panthers to the lock mix. There’s no way a top-4 seed in the Big East is missing the tournament. The quarterfinal with Syracuse is interesting for seed purposes for both teams. Louisville is starting to look more and more like the best bet for a 1-seed in the NCAAs, but Georgetown could still have a say about that despite a split of the week.

**Reminder: Connecticut is ineligible for postseason play this season.**

SHOULD BE IN
Notre Dame
(23-8, 11-7; RPI: 52, SOS: 68)
The Irish couldn’t get it done at Louisville in the regular-season finale (and it didn’t go multiple overtimes). The Irish are almost certain to make the field of 68, but their seed remains a bit questionable. They should at least make sure they don’t lose their second-round Big East tournament game, and then take a hack at Marquette in the quarterfinals.
GW: Louisville, at Pitt, Sweep of Cincinnati, BYU (N)?, Kentucky (with Noel)?
BL: at Providence

IN THE MIX
Villanova
(18-12, 10-8; RPI: 53, SOS: 25)
Wells Fargo Villanova got another one, taking down Georgetown and putting the Wildcats in pretty decent shape to slip into the NCAAs. They have wins (albeit all at home) over four of the five best teams in the league. They’d be wise to handle shorthanded St. John’s in a road game in their Big East tournament opener, but even with a loss there, can enough others pass them?
GW: Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown, at Connecticut
BL: Columbia, Swept by Providence, at Seton Hall

Cincinnati (21-10, 9-9; RPI: 49, SOS: 31)
Whewwwww. The Bearcats needed a late rally to avoid a devastating home loss to league minnow South Florida. Now they need to do some work in the Big East tournament. They have a collection of solid wins, but no headliner. Beating Providence won’t help much. Beating Georgetown in a quarterfinal would.
GW: Oregon (N), Marquette, at Pitt, Iowa State (N)?, Xavier (N)?, UConn?
BL: at Providence, St. John’s?

Big Ten

Locks: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State
Indiana’s stirring win at Michigan on Sunday gave the Hoosiers the solo crown and the inside path to the 1-seed in the Midwest regional. Michigan still has a chance at a 1-seed if it wins the Big Ten tournament. The league should get seven teams in, with an eighth not impossible depending on this week’s results.

SHOULD BE IN
Minnesota
(20-11, 8-10; RPI: 24, SOS: 2)
Woof. The Gophers lost at Nebraska and then got destroyed at Purdue to finish under .500 in the league. With their quality wins and computer numbers, I can’t see how they get left out, but they dropped 10 of their final 15 games with really no excuse for that kind of slide. I don’t think they need a win in the Big Ten tourney, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt, especially since they play the team listed next.
GW: Indiana, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Memphis (N), at Illinois, at Florida State?
BL: at Northwestern, at Iowa (by 21)?, at Purdue?, at Nebraska

Illinois (20-11, 8-10, RPI: 43, SOS: 9)
They have beaten two teams that look like they will be 1-seeds and have three other solid quality wins, with only two questionable losses, both in league play. Like Minnesota, they probably have done enough. Like Minnesota, not losing their opening-round game later this week would be a good idea. And hey! They play Minnesota! This should be fun.
GW: Butler (N), at Gonzaga, Indiana, Ohio State, at Minnesota
BL: at Purdue?, Northwestern?

IN THE MIX
Iowa
(20-11, 9-9; RPI: 77, SOS: 99)
OK, the Hawkeyes beat Illinois and Nebraska to get to 9-9. Now let’s see what they can do in the first couple round of the Big Ten tournament and then we can reevaluate. They really need a huge win (or two) to make this close. The draw isn’t bad. If they handle Northwestern, they get a crack at Michigan State, with Ohio State/Purdue/Nebraska as a potential semifinal.
GW: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa State??
BL: At Virginia Tech, at Purdue?, at Nebraska

Big 12

Locks: Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Kansas and Kansas State ended up tied for the league’s regular-season title when both lost on the final Saturday. Kansas is the 1-seed in the conference tournament and still in the discussion for a 1-seed in the NCAAs with three more wins. Did Baylor’s win over the Jayhawks propel them back into the discussion?

SHOULD BE IN
None

IN THE MIX
Oklahoma
(20-10, 11-7; RPI: 33, SOS: 17)
When you’re relying on strong computer numbers to make your case, losing at TCU is a really bad idea. Now the Sooners face a sticky Big 12 quarterfinal on Thursday against fellow bubbler Iowa State. Is the loser in any bracket trouble? The Sooners just smashed the Cyclones in Norman two Saturdays ago.
GW: Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Sweep of Baylor?
BL: Stephen F. Austin, at TCU

Iowa State (21-10, 11-7; RPI: 47; SOS: 65)
This resume looks very, very similar to Oklahoma’s after the Cyclones topped Oklahoma State this past week, and the two teams face off in the Big 12 quarters. Winner will dance. Loser still looks decent to get in but no guarantees.
GW: Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Sweep of Baylor?, BYU??
BL: at Texas Tech, at Texa
s

Baylor (17-13, 9-9; RPI: 63, SOS: 26)
There’s still much work to be done, but the upset of Kansas obviously helps. The Bears get Oklahoma State in the Big 12 quarters, with Kansas State also on that side of the bracket. Would winning both of those games to get to the final be enough?
GW: Kansas, Oklahoma State, at Kentucky (with Noel), BYU?
BL: Northwestern, College of Charleston, at Texas

Pac-12

Locks: Arizona, UCLA
UCLA won the league outright after a last-week comedy of errors around the conference. The league tournament should be incredibly unpredictable and could give rise to an unexpected champ, like last year.

SHOULD BE IN
Colorado
(20-10, 10-8; RPI: 36, SOS: 19)
A perfect week for the team that can’t stand prosperity. The Buffaloes (sans ailing forward Andre Roberson) manhandled Oregon last Thursday. So, of course, they came back and lost at home to last-place Oregon State. Getting Roberson back healthy before Selection Sunday may be the biggest question for Colorado in Vegas. The committee won’t assume he’ll be healthy if he doesn’t play this week.
GW: Arizona, Baylor (N), Sweep of Oregon, Colorado State, Cal?, Murray State (N)??
BL: at Utah, Oregon State

California (20-10, 12-6; RPI: 48, SOS: 33)
The Golden Bears got thumped at home by Stanford in the finale, costing themselves a share of the league title. Now they get the USC/Utah winner in a quarterfinal in Vegas. Probably should think about winning that one, just to make sure.
GW: At Arizona, UCLA, Sweep of Oregon, Colorado?
BL: Harvard, Washington??

Oregon (23-8, 12-6; RPI: 54, SOS: 111)
The Ducks looked horrid at Colorado last Thursday (I was there) and weren’t much better at Utah, where they also lost. Now what? Dominic Artis finally played almost a full load on Saturday, but he hasn’t made much of an impact since his return and the Ducks are 1-2 in that span. The way they look in Vegas will go a long way toward determining whether they’re actually in some trouble. If the committee doesn’t think they’re back to pre-Artis injury form, then judgment will be harsher. They get Washington or Washington State in the Pac-12 quarterfinals.
GW: at UNLV, Arizona, at UCLA
BL: At Utah

IN THE MIX
Stanford
(18-13, 9-9; RPI: 66, SOS: 39)
Beating Cal on the road keeps the Cardinal in the mix for now. They have the first game of the Pac-12 tourney on Wednesday against Arizona State. The winner gets UCLA on Thursday.
GW: Oregon, at Arizona State?
BL: Swept by USC

Arizona State (20-11, 9-9; RPI: 91, SOS: 115)
Same as Washington. Looks like they need four wins in Vegas after losing their last four.
GW: Sweep of Colorado, UCLA
BL: DePaul, Stanford?, Washington?

Washington (17-14, 9-9; RPI: 88, SOS: 49)
Looks like auto-bid or bust. The four-game run starts with in-state rival Washington State.
GW: Saint Louis, Colorado
BL: Albany, Nevada, Utah, at Oregon State

SEC

Locks: Florida
I don’t know what to think about Florida anymore. The Gators lose every close game in a different fashion. This time, they actually attacked the rim and nothing fell. They didn’t allow field goals down the stretch and Kentucky beat them from the line. The quant guy in me is at war with my eyeballs. Huge win for Kentucky that pushes them closer to getting in. A couple others moved a touch closer, too.

SHOULD BE IN
Missouri
(22-9, 11-7; RPI: 34, SOS: 50)
The Tigers pounded Arkansas and then lost by a deuce at Tennessee. The Tigers actually finished as the league’s 6-seed and require an extra game now before possibly advancing to play 3-seed Ole Miss. It’s not a great resume, but it should be more than enough this year.
GW: Florida, VCU (N), Illinois (N), Mississippi?
BL: at LSU

IN THE MIX
Tennessee
(19-11, 11-7; RPI: 55, SOS: 42)
Wins at Auburn and over Missouri got the Vols to 11-7 and earned them a 5-seed in the SEC tournament. Assuming they handle the 12/13 game winner, Tennessee and Alabama will meet up in an at-large elimination bout in the quarterfinals.
GW: Florida, Missouri, Wichita State, UMass (N)?, Kentucky?
BL: Georgia

Kentucky (21-10, 12-6; RPI: 50, SOS: 60)
After clanking the game at Georgia, the Cats came back and got the marquee win they needed over Florida. Now they get Vanderbilt or Arkansas in a quarterfinal game you’d think they need to win.
GW: Florida, Missouri, Maryland (N)?, at Ole Miss
BL: at Georgia; (also lost at Tennessee by 30 w/o Noel, in case of bubble tiebreaker)

Mississippi (23-8, 12-6; RPI: 56, SOS: 130)
The Rebels won a crucial home game against Alabama and finished things out with a win at LSU to get to 12-6. They’re still probably behind Tennessee and Kentucky in the pecking order, and those two are barely in at the moment. Their record earned them a 3-seed in the SEC tournament, and they stand to face Missouri if the Tigers win their first game. Will doubling up on the Tigers be enough? Kentucky or Arkansas would be the most likely semifinal game, which could provide a leapfrog opportunity for the Rebels.
GW: Missouri
BL: at South Carolina, at Mississippi State

Alabama (18-10, 11-5; RPI: 62, SOS: 88)
After losing a big bubble game at Ole Miss, the Tide were saved for now by a halfcourt shot against Georgia. They absolutely have to beat Tennessee in the quarters and then would have a potential shot at Florida in the semis. Would getting to the final be enough? Probably not, but we’ll see.
GW: Kentucky?
BL: Mercer, Tulane, at Auburn, at LSU

Mountain West

Locks: New Mexico
New Mexico is the outright champ, but will a last-second loss at Air Force in the finale derail their hopes at a No. 1 seed? After Boise State beat San Diego State to put both teams at 9-7, the league is well positioned to get five bids. That said, the Aztecs and Broncos meet in Wednesday’s final quarterfinal. Will the loser have something to fear as they sit while other bubble teams continue to push?

SHOULD BE IN
UNLV
(22-8, 10-6; RPI: 22, SOS: 27)
The Rebels edged Boise State and then, ummm, lost at home to Fresno State, completing a season sweep for the Bulldogs. So, yeah. Now UNLV gets the early game on Wednesday against an Air Force team that’s outplayed them twice this season. Danger in terms of seeding?
GW: Sweep of San Diego State, New Mexico, Colorado State, Iowa State?, at Cal
BL: Swept by Fresno State

Colorado State (22-7, 11-5; RPI: 15, SOS: 32)
Two more wins landed the Rams the 2-seed and a date with Fresno State in the quarterfinals. They’re not in any risk of missing the NCAAs, so this is for seed this week.
GW: UNLV, San Diego State, at Air Force?, at Washington?
BL: At Illinois-Chicago

IN THE MIX
San Diego State
(19-9, 9-7; RPI: 31, SOS: 23)
After beating Air Force, the Aztecs lost at Boise State and now face the Broncos again in the 4/5 game in the Mountain West quarters. Do they need to win that game to stay in the NCAA field? This resume is thinner than a lot of their fans want to believe.
GW: UCLA (N), Indiana State (N), Colorado State, New Mexico
BL: None

Boise State (19-9, 9-7; RPI: 37, SOS 51)
The Broncos did get all three of their home games down the stretch, including a crucial decision over San Diego State in the regular-season finale. Now the two teams meet again in the MWC quarters. The winner surely is going to dance. The loser still should hang on, but stranger things have happened.
GW: at Creighton, San Diego State, UNLV, Colorado State, sweep of Wyoming?
BL: at Utah?, at Nevada

Air Force (15-12, 8-8; RPI: 74; SOS: 54)
It’s very unlikely, but the Falcons have played 13 top-50 games and have four very credible wins (albeit all at home). Could they beat UNLV in a road quarterfinal and then dump Colorado State in the semis and be in the mix? Again, not very likely, but we’ll see.
GW: New Mexico, UNLV, Boise State, San Diego State
BL: At Fresno State, at Nevada

Atlantic 10

Locks: Saint Louis
Saint Louis is the outright champ after putting away La Salle in the regular-season finale. VCU and Butler look set to dance. La Salle very well may have to beat Butler in a quarterfinal to hold on to their bubble spot. Can anyone else — UMass, Xavier? — push their way into the mix and give the A-10 a record six bids?

SHOULD BE IN
VCU
(24-7, 12-4; RPI: 26, SOS: 59)
Not bad. The Rams came through the season-ending gauntlet 3-2, losing at Saint Louis and at Temple. With 10 top-100 wins and no bad losses, they should be fine, even without any marquee wins. The Rams draw the Xavier/Saint Joseph’s winner in the quarterfinals.
GW: Memphis (N), Butler, Belmont?, Alabama?
BL: None, really

Butler (23-7, 11-5; RPI: 21, SOS: 43)
Butler bounced back with two wins to close the season and now are focused on seed appreciation. They actually ended up as the 5-seed in the league, so they have to play 12-seed Dayton in a first-round game, with La Salle waiting in the quarterfinals.
GW: Indiana (N), Marquette (N), North Carolina (N), Gonzaga
BL: None

Temple (23-8, 11-5; RPI: 38, SOS: 63)
An up-and-down season on North Broad Street ended on an upswing, with the Owls winning their last seven to seemingly push their way into the field of 68. The victory over VCU on Saturday was a plus. The Owls get UMass or George Washington in the quarterfinals.
GW: Syracuse (N), Saint Louis, VCU, La Salle?, at UMass?, at Charlotte?
BL: Canisius, St. Bonaventure

IN THE MIX
La Salle
(21-8, 11-5; RPI: 42, SOS: 81)
The Explorers got manhandled in the second half at Saint Louis, missing out on what would have been a huge boost for their profile. Now it appears likely they need to beat Butler (or Dayton) in the quarters.
GW: Butler, at VCU
BL: Central Connecticut State

Massachusetts (19-10, 9-7; RPI: 58, SOS: 75)
The Minutemen needed to beat Butler at home and couldn’t. Now they have to get past GW and Temple, at bare minimum, and then see what the landscape looks like in the semis. The quality wins just aren’t here right now.
GW: at La Salle?
BL: George Washington, at St. Bonaventure

Xavier (17-13, 9-7; RPI: 78, SOS: 52)
The Musketeers have some good home wins. Can they pick up more in the A-10 tourney to make this worth looking at closer? It starts with Saint Joseph’s, with VCU waiting in the quarters.
GW: Butler, Memphis, Temple, La Salle, Saint Louis
BL: Wofford, Vanderbilt, Pacific (N), At Wake Forest, At Dayton

Missouri Valley

Auto bid: Creighton
Other locks: None

Creighton finished off a double in the Valley by holding off Wichita State in the conference tournament final. They’re in and the Shockers look like they’ll make it, too. That should be that in this league.

SHOULD BE IN
Wichita State
(26-8, 12-6; RPI: 39, SOS: 91)
The Shockers fell for the second time in a week to Creighton, but should have enough in the resume to make the field as an at-large. Several quality road wins are a big plus.
GW: at VCU, Creighton, at Air Force?, Southern Miss, at Indiana State?
BL: at Evansville, at Southern Illinois

IN THE MIX
None

West Coast

Auto bid: Gonzaga
The Zags won the West Coast Conference tournament decisively over Saint Mary’s Monday night. Now the waits begin. Will the Zags be a 1-seed? Probably. Is Saint Mary’s safe? We’ll see.

SHOULD BE IN
Saint Mary’s
(26-6, 14-2; RPI: 32, SOS: 95)
The Gaels were outclassed in the WCC final and now have to wait to find out their at-large fate. They’re rooting very hard for teams from the middle of the Big 12 and SEC to clank their conference tournaments. A few teams making runs could make this really uncomfortable.
GW: Creighton, sweep of BYU
BL: Pacific (N), Georgia Tech (N)

IN THE MIX
None

Best of the Rest

Auto bids: Belmont, Harvard, Florida Gulf Coast, Liberty, Iona, Davidson, Western Kentucky, James Madison, LIU Brooklyn, South Dakota State, Valparaiso
Other locks: Memphis

Memphis finished a perfect season in Conference USA and will make the field despite nonconference foibles. Middle Tennessee State is now officially a bubble team after being upset in the Sun Belt semis.

SHOULD BE IN
Memphis
(27-4, 16-0; RPI: 16, SOS: 80)
12 top 100 wins and no bad losses = NCAA bid. Can the Tigers avoid the dreaded 8-9 game, though?
GW: Sweep of Southern Miss, at Tennessee?
BL: None, really

IN THE MIX
Middle Tennessee State
(28-5, 19-1; RPI: 29, SOS: 128)
Disaster struck the Blue Raiders, who were upset in the Sun Belt semifinals after rampaging through the conference. Now what? They have (barely) two top-100 wins. Their one “decent” win is over Ole Miss, who may not make the NCAAs. They were handled by Florida and lost at Belmont and Akron. On paper, they don’t deserve an at-large, but the resume feels close enough to a couple recent surprise inclusions, so we’ll see.
GW: Mississippi
BL: at Arkansas State, Florida International (N)

Louisiana Tech (25-5, 16-2; RPI: 46, SOS: 179)
This isn’t happening. The Bulldogs were handled at New Mexico State and crushed at Denver as the schedule finally put them on the road against the two other good teams. Go win the auto bid.
GW: Southern Miss?
BL: at Northwestern State?, At McNeese State

Akron (22-5, 13-1; RPI: 51, SOS: 139)
It’s never a good time to have your starting point guard arrested for felony drug trafficking, but right before the conference tournament is a really bad time. I don’t see how Akron will have much of a chance to “impress” without its lead guard while still losing in the conference tournament.
GW: Middle Tennessee State?
BL: at Coastal Carolina, at Buffalo, Kent State

Bucknell (24-5, 12-2; RPI: 52, SOS: 192)
The Bison will host Lafayette in the Patriot League final on Wednesday. It’s doubtful they can get in with a home loss.
GW: La Salle?
BL: At Penn State, at Lafayette

6 comments
Tom Tucker
Tom Tucker

Glockner – You forgot to list Texas A&M as a Bad Loss for Kentucky. If Tennessee is a bad loss for Kentucky, then surely losing at home to Texas A&M is a bad one. Time to update. 

rebelboom
rebelboom

Why does Kentucky's resume' include a "good win" over Ole Miss and Tennessee is considered "ahead" of Ole Miss in the pecking order yet Ole Miss' resume' doesn't include 2 wins--home and away--over Tennessee as "good"??? It's contradictory...either Ole Miss doesn't count as a good win...or Tennessee is behind them in the pecking order...or the Ole Miss resume' should, in fact, have the two wins over Tennessee counted as good.

gravity_fails
gravity_fails

Why does everyone keep listing BYU as quality wins for St Marys? The truth is - they have 1 quality win, Creighton. Every decent team that played BYU this year beat them.

connorchampions
connorchampions

It will be exciting to see who gets in on Selection Sunday! We have installed the Final Four floor since 2006 and each year we are surprised by the upsets and teams that make it to the championship game. Visit our Facebook page for more on the Final Four: http://www.facebook.com/ConnorSports

JohnnyL.Williams1
JohnnyL.Williams1

I mostly like this report, but it has been updated for some teams, but not for others, like Saint Louis, which makes it a bit confusing. Also, let's see some more respect for mid majors, who always make a big impact in the tourney. Here's hoping Middle Tennessee State gets in.

JohnnyL.Williams1
JohnnyL.Williams1

I like this report, but it has been updated for some teams, but not for others, which makes it a bit confusing.