Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Look at the Bubble

With the Gophers somehow still tenuously clinging to a bid (or being right on the cusp) according to most projections, I thought it might make sense to look at the bubble with a more critical eye.  ESPN does a very good Bubble Watch each Tuesday, and you can probably find one at any reasonably sized, sports-related website, but I'm going to take a harder, more project-y look than the cautious look most other sites take.  To put it another way, rather than avoiding projecting where teams will end up at the end of the season, I'm going to go right ahead and project my ass off.  So here we go.  Joy.

IN (4):  Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia - FSU's loss to BC and Virginia's loss to Clemson hurt, but both teams should be ok in the end
BUBBLE TEAMS (2):  NC State, Miami - Neither team is in very good shape right now, because between the two of them Miami's win over Duke is the only good win either team has.  Plenty of chances coming up to grab a bid though.

IN (6):  Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown, Louisville, UCONN, Notre Dame - Although both UCONN (late swoon) and Notre Dame (slow start) have some issues that make them less than true locks, both have enough on the board (UCONN computer numbers and a win over FSU; Notre Dame great play in the Big East including four wins over ranked teams) that it would be pretty stunning to see either miss out.  The Irish are probably safer, but UCONN has five games left including Pitt, Nova, and @Providence.  Even if they lose their other two (vs. Marquette and Syracuse) as long as they win those they get to .500 in the Big East which would be enough combined with the rest of the profile.
BUBBLE TEAMS (4):  Seton Hall, West Virginia, Cincinnati, South Florida - The Hall and West Virginia are spiraling down, Cincy has to overcome a brutally bad non-conference schedule that included losses to Presbyterian and Marshall, and South Florida isn't even considered a bubble team by the ESPN guys (although with an RPI of 57 and a 9-4 Big East record, even with a thin resume other than that I have to include them).  There's a very good chance none of these Bubble teams get in, although if SHU can go 3-1 to close out (@Cincy, G-Town, Rutgers, @DePaul) they're probably good.

BIG 10:
IN (5):  Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana - although Wisconsin still sucks
BUBBLE TEAMS (4):  Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern - these four teams are bunched so tightly it's hard to even pick an order, although after beating Illinois on the road to get to 7-6 in the conference you'd probably have to put Purdue on top (and Illinois on the bottom).  With so many locks, rpi-hogs, and ranked teams in the conference it's going to come down to who can grab those chances to knock off a top team and get a quality win.  The only game left between two of these four bubble squads is Saturday with the Gophers going to Northwestern (huge game) so reaching up and taking down a giant when the opportunity presents itself is how these teams will have to make their mark.  (mmmmm.....maker's mark)

BIG 12:
IN (4):  Missouri, Kansas, Baylor, Iowa State - I might be being a bit optimistic with the Cyclones, but two guaranteed wins left (home vs. Tex Tech and Oklahoma) mean ISU will get to 20 wins and at worst a 10-8 conference record with a decent RPI and no truly bad losses.  The other bubble teams in the Big 12 are pretty weak, and I can't see only three teams getting in so I'm giving the Clones the nod.
BUBBLE TEAMS (2):  Kansas State, Texas - both of these teams are terrible and will lose in the first round if they sneak into the tournament.  Other than K State's win over Missouri there's not much here.  K-State also beat Alabama, while Texas has wins over Iowa State and Temple and the two teams split with each other.  Just not much to work with.  Both have two chances for big wins left (Texas: @Kansas, vs. Baylor, K-State: @Baylor, @Missouri) and if either wins one of those and the games they're supposed to win they'll probably be in, but the point remains - these teams stink.

IN (1):  Uh, nobody?  I'll put Cal in here because their RPI is significantly better than everyone else in the conference (#38 vs. mid-60s), an easier schedule the rest of the way (only 1 game versus a bubble team and it's at home), and a 5-4 record vs. the RPI top 100.  But really, nobody looks good here.
BUBBLE TEAMS (3):  Washington, Arizona, Oregon - These teams all have terrible RPIs, very few (if any) good wins, and some bad losses, but you still have to consider them as possible tournament teams because if any of them win out you're looking at things like 15-3 or 14-4 conference record and even in a down Pac-12 (again) that's tough to ignore.  Each team only has one tough game left with Washington and Arizona playing each other on Saturday, but there are enough road potholes here that it would be super easy for all three to slip and miss the tournament.

IN (3):  Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt - it would take a monumental collapse for Vandy not to make it in, and Kentucky and Florida are pretty much deadlocks
BUBBLE TEAMS (2):  Alabama, Mississippi State - Bama would have been a lock but suspensions to like, the entire team led to a loss to LSU and a home loss to Florida (a win in that one would have sealed the deal).  They're still in ok shape, but with their two best players still suspended indefinitely the bad losses could start piling up.  Miss State's back-to-back OT losses (to LSU and Georgia) have them going in the wrong direction, but a win next week at home over Kentucky would cure everything, and they have the talent to do it.

IN (3):  San Diego State, New Mexico, UNLV - Rather than taking a step back from a very successful campaign last year, the MWC might be stronger than ever, at least at the top.  All 3 of these teams are solid locks.
BUBBLE TEAMS (1):  Colorado State - Although the overall profile doesn't scream tournament team, the computer numbers are weirdly strong #28 RPI, #5 SOS.  But the main reason to consider the Rams on the bubble is they have games left against New Mexico (home), SDSU (road), and UNLV (home).  If they can somehow manage to go 2-1 in those (and beat #66 Wyoming at home) and combined with those computer numbers they're suddenly a bid stealer.  NOTE: This probably won't happen.

IN (2):  Temple, St. Louis - Temple is solidly in, and although St. Louis isn't quite as certain at this point the Billikens are almost guaranteed to win three of their final 4 (Fordham, @Rhode Island, Xavier, @Duquesne) which would get them to 12-4 in the league and 24-6 overall.  With a current RPI of 22, that'll do it.
BUBBLE TEAMS (2):  Xavier, St. Joseph's - The Musketeers season tanked hard after the brawl vs. Cincy and although everybody seemed to waiting for them to recover they just never did and pretty much have to win their last five (including @St. Louis).  I'm including St. Joe's here because of the decent RPI (#48) and their win over Creighton, but they basically have to beat Temple on Feb 25th (and win everything else) to have a chance.

IN (8):  St. Mary's, Wichita State, Creighton, Gonzaga, Murray State, Southern Miss, Memphis, Long Beach State - because of the terrible conferences these teams play in any one of them falls off with more than 1 more loss, but because I'm projecting forward I don't really see that happening to any of these teams (note: odds are it WILL actually happen to one of these teams, I just don't know which one but I have to bet I'd go with one of the C-USA squads).  St. Mary's home loss to Loyola-Marymount this week was surprising, but that's three wins for Loy-Mary over RPI top 50 teams, so it's certainly not a bad enough loss to cause any panic.
BUBBLE TEAMS (12):  Harvard, Middle Tennessee State, Drexel, VCU, George Mason, Iona, Belmont, Davidson, Weber State, Akron, Oral Roberts, Nevada - Most of these teams have gaudy records, but most also have some seriously major flaws in their profiles so they're really only included here for shits and giggles.  Harvard and Middle Tennessee State probably have the best shot with Harvard nearly a lock.  The Nevada/Iona bracketbuster game on Saturday is basically an elimination game as is Akron @ Oral Roberts, and the results in that event for Drexel (@Cleveland State), Davidson (vs. Wichita), George Mason (vs. Lamar), and VCU (vs. Northern Iowa) will go a long way towards bumping teams up or bumping them down and out.

So where does that leave things?  Well, thanks to expansion, there are 37 at-large bids and I'm calling 36 of them locked up already.  However, assuming a team with an at-large resume wins each of the conferences that puts several back in play.  Say North Carolina, Syracuse, Ohio State, Missouri, Cal, Kentucky, UNLV, Temple, St. Mary's, Creighton, Murray State, Southern Miss, and Long Beach all win their conference tournament that means there are 14 bids up in the air right now and I currently have 32 teams on the bubble for those 14 bids.  But if we go a step further and assume Harvard, Middle Tennessee, Drexel, Iona, Belmont, Davidson, Weber State, Akron, Oral Roberts, and Nevada all win their conference tournaments that puts them out of the running for a bid, so suddenly it's 22 teams for 14 bids.

So your direct competition, Gopher fans, are these 21 teams:

North Carolina State
Miami (FL)
Seton Hall
West Virginia
South Florida
Kansas State
Mississippi State
Colorado State
St. Joseph's
George Mason

The outlook is actually far more optimistic than I expected when I started doing this exercise, because some of these teams (St. Joe's, Colorado State, the Pac-10 teams, the Colonial teams, South Florida) are in far worse shape than the Gophers, so I can suddenly see why they seemed to still be in or on the cusp in most bubble watches.  What this tells me is that despite everything the Gophers are still in control of their own destiny.  Beat Northwestern, win one of the three middle games, and close it out with a win over Nebraska and get to 8-10 in this conference this year with a couple huge wins and good computer numbers and that's probably enough this year.  Lose to Northwestern and it's a bit tougher, but on the flip side there's also an opportunity here to close out 4-1 and wrap up a bid pre-B10 tournament.

Seriously, just do it for once.  Just one time.  Take the chance at a bid, capitalize on it, and just run with it and be safe and relaxed on Selection Sunday because I'm going to be in Florida and I don't want to stress out.  I just want to fish, watch the Twins a little bit and pretend they might be good, drink, read, and fish.  That's it.  There's no need to be dicks about this.


T-Mill said...

Purdue is 5-0 against the Big Ten Bubble teams already, sweeping Northwestern and Illinois with a win at Minnesota. That's a huge boost.

Also, one last note on Purdue, is that they have a win over Miami as a fellow bubble team, but losses to Xavier and Alabama. 6-2 against your bubble teams should help a lot.

WWWWWW said...

I would feel pretty good if I was in Purdue's shoes.

j. bilas said...

I agree that Purdue is in pretty good shape, but you should be aware that head to head wins mean absolutely nothing to the selection committee. The fact that Purdue swept Illinois for example means absolutely nothing other than how that affects the teams' RPI's, record v. Top 50, etc.

Dawg said...

In unrelated news, I looked at The top 100 NBA draft eligible players board yesterday and they had Draymond Green going late 2nd round to undrafted. I found this very surprising. Granted he is only 6'6" but he has a wide frame, can score in a variety of ways (mid range jumpers, 3 pt's, post moves), and rebound with the best. Does anybody else thing this seems low?

Mel Kiper said...

Green is unathletic, fat and slow. He is a good, not great, big 10 player. How do you see him being anymore than FA type player? If he gets drafted in the 2nd round that would be high, not low.

Loretta8 said...

I think the scouts' issue with Green is he doesn't really have a position at the NBA level. He's a matchup problem at the college level cuz he can do a little bit of everything but he doesn't do any one thing really well except rebound.

People did say the same stuff about DeJuan Blair though and he's done well in the NBA, so who knows.

snacks said...

blair is a decent comparison, but he's taller (I think) and (from what I've heard) has freakishly long arms that help him rebound at the next level. Take a look at the athleticism of the average 6'6" player in the NBA and then look at Green and reevaluate. He's your classic college star that doesn't quite have it to make it big in the pros. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't get drafted

Dawg said...

He's a good but not great Big 10 player? He will likely be the player of the year. Maybe you should stick to college football talent Mel.

Mel Kiper said...

Maybe you should stick to evaluating anything other than sports. Like I said, he is good not great. Being the Big 10 POY doesn't mean you are a great player. Evan Turner was great because he could take over a game and win it himself. Are you trying to tell us Green can just take the ball in the last 5 minutes of a game and take over?

Dawg said...

Mel, you said he is a good but not great Big 10 player. If he is the POY then he is by definition the best Big 10 player which would qualify as great. These were your words. Yes, Green can absolutely take over a game. He is #1 in rebounding, and top 10 in PPG, APG, BPG and SPG. Oh yeah, he also hits 37% of his 3's. He is the best player on the best team in the Big 10. He also has the most fantasy points per game in my league (for whatever that's worth)

Loretta8 said...

yeah the Blair comparison was just the first undersized 4 I could think of.

Blair was an incredible rebounder in college, better than Green was, but Green is a much better perimeter shooter and passer.

I could see Green as a second round pick and making a team.

toddb said...

Anybody happen to see the Cal-Oregon box score? How good is a Cobbs-Joseph-Williams-Mbakwe-R.White team. Final4? Sweet Sixteen for sure as well as a favorite for the big 10 title. What does Tubby do to run these kids off?

Anonymous said...

F the pac-12. Cobbs is garbage. Stop living in the past. This Gopher team is flawed. RSIII flawed. BUT they have some talent, minus the criminal tendencies/ego to be serious competitors next year. Especially when Mbakwe is back for his 6th year. But fear not worriers of change, Tubby will rest on his laurels and we still won't know how to beat the 2-3 zone and flounder in mediocrity as usual.

WWWWWW said...

Cobbs and Joseph are thriving in the Pac due to weaker competition and systems/coaches that better suit their games. That being said, Cobbs-Joseph-Williams-Mbakwe-White is absolutely a Sweet 16 type team, even with Tubby as coach.