Calling All Bubble Teams, March Madness is Coming

T.R. PetersonCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2009

As we begin to reach the end of January it’s time to take a peak at those teams that find themselves “on the bubble.”

Let’s take a quick review of the process for just a moment. 31 teams automatically qualify for the NCAA tournament by winning their respective conference tournament (or in the case of the Ivy League, the regular season champion). The NCAA tournament selection committee then selects the next best 34 at—large teams to produce the 65 teams that participate in the tournament.

The six power conferences should account for a majority of the at—large slots for obvious reasons. That leaves a combination of mid—majors and middle—of—the—road power conference teams vying for those final coveted spots.

Remember, it doesn’t take much for a team to descend from near certain at—large status to a team on the bubble or vice versa. As a result, when talking “bubble teams” this early there is a lot of fluidity.

If you have a gripe or just want to talk college basketball leave a message. I would enjoy discussing it with you. Happy bubbling!

Note: Overall record, conference record, RPI ranking, and SOS rankings are listed in that order respectively and are taken from


Atlantic 10 Conference

The A-10 sent three teams to the tournament last year. This year, three teams might be out of reach unless somebody surprises in the conference tournament. Xavier is a lock. Dayton (17—2, 3—1, 45, 201) is not far behind although they have a SOS that leaves something to be desired. With quality wins over Marquette, George Mason, and Miami (OH), it would be hard to count them out barring a collapse.

Temple (10—7, 2—1, 42, 27) has decent numbers and a couple of quality wins over Penn St. and Tennessee but they also have a couple of head scratching losses. The Owls need to put together a stretch of wins to warrant further discussion. St. Joseph’s and Rhode Island are nothing more than mentioning at this point as both have a lot of work to do.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Clemson are automatic. Florida St. (15—4, 2—2, 20, 85) and Miami (FL) (14—4, 3—2, 28, 20) have quality resumes and would be in at this point. Virginia Tech (13—5, 3—1, 44, 45) looks good after beating Boston College and winning at Wake Forest in the past week.

Boston College (14—6, 2—3, 59, 63) is just on the periphery and needs to string some quality wins together in the next couple of weeks. Maryland (13—5, 2—2, 81, 100) has a tough stretch coming up that will determine their season..

Big 12 Conference

As the season progresses, the Big 12 seems to get stronger. Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, Kansas, and Missouri are all in great shape. Oklahoma St. (12—5, 1—2, 31, 12) has great numbers, but needs to get back on track after dropping two in a row to Baylor and Missouri.

Texas A&M (15—4, 1—3, 49, 83) is worthy of discussion but losing three of four leaves them outside at this point and in a must win situation this weekend against Texas. Nebraska (12—5, 2—2, 70, 97) would need a miracle run to put themselves in position for at-large consideration.

Big East Conference

The meat grinder of college basketball conferences, the Big East is in position to put nine teams into the tournament. Pitt, Marquette, Louisville, Connecticut, Syracuse, and Georgetown are all in. West Virginia (14—4, 3—2, 14, 17) and Villanova (14—4, 2—3, 27, 33) would also be in without argument.

Notre Dame (12—5, 3—3, 66, 116) is walking on shaky ground. With low RPI and SOS numbers the Irish need some quality wins. They should have an opportunity with UConn, Marquette, and Pitt in the next week.

Providence (13—6, 5—2, 72, 77) and Cincinnati (13—7, 3—4, 56, 32) deserve discussion but both need more substance on their resumes. They should get ample opportunities in the Big East.

Big Ten Conference

From an at—large standpoint, the Big Ten looks like a six bid conference for sure and maybe seven. Michigan St., Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota, Ohio St. and Wisconsin continue to all look solid at this point. Michigan (13—6, 3—4, 50, 19) has dropped three in a row and now could be in a precarious situation.

Although not in the picture at this point, Penn St. (15—5, 4—3, 82, 148) is stating a case for consideration with wins over Purdue and Michigan. Meanwhile, Northwestern (10—6, 2—4, 37, 7) and Iowa (12—7, 2—4, 79, 78) are making some noise with recent wins over Michigan St. and Wisconsin, respectively.

Mountain West Conference

Before conference play started, the MWC looked to be a three bid conference. Since then, Utah (12—6, 3—1, 18, 15) looks to be the only solid at—large candidate and that could change quickly. BYU (14—4, 2—2, 40, 51) is slightly ahead of UNLV (15—4, 3—2, 53, 98) and San Diego St. (13—4, 3—1, 55, 89) in the pecking order.

TCU (13—6, 4—1, 65, 93) leads the MWC but has San Diego St. and Utah in two of its next three games. That will determine whether the Horned Frogs are real at large candidates.

Pac 10 Conference

The Pac—10 will put four teams in easily. UCLA, Washington, Arizona St. and California are in. Stanford (13—3, 3—3, 48, 108) and USC (12—6, 3—3, 63, 60) are on the edge. Both need to put together a run to stay in the discussion.

Southeastern Conference

Kentucky, Florida, and Tennessee all seem to be safe bets from the SEC. After those three it gets a little cloudy. South Carolina (13—4, 2—2, 67, 152) may be the next best. The Gamecocks have quality wins at Baylor and against Florida. Still, they have a lot of work left to do at this point.

LSU (15—3, 3—1, 68, 215) leads the West but doesn’t have a top—50 win to its credit. Arkansas (12—4, 0—3, 58, 110) looked great a couple of weeks ago, but lost three straight to start conference play. Mississippi (10—8, 1—3, 76, 18) and Mississippi St. (13—6, 3—1, 84, 79) lack quality wins for strong consideration at this point.


Memphis is a lock from Conference USA. After that, UAB (12—7, 2—2, 46, 30) and Houston (12—4, 3—1, 93, 202) are only worth a brief mention at this point.

The Missouri Valley Conference continues to beat itself up. At best, the MVC is a two-bid conference. Illinois St. (16—3, 5—3, 57, 240) and Creighton (15—5, 5—3, 60, 154) have the best resumes, but both are two games behind Northern Iowa (13—6, 7—1, 85, 104) for the conference lead.

Miami (OH) (10—6, 3—1, 33, 21) has great numbers for an at-large consideration. However, a closer look reveals one quality win over Temple. They will need to win the MAC East and at least get to the conference tourney final for deep consideration.

In the Southern Conference, Davidson (15—3, 8—0, 36, 112) should be in good shape even if they lose in the SoCon tourney. Charleston (15—3, 7—1, 109, 299) has no shot at an at—large spot.

The CAA is a three team race but probably only a one bid conference. George MasonVirginia Commonwealth (14—4, 7—1, 51, 159), (14—5, 7—1, 71, 180), and Northeastern (12—6, 7—1, 64, 113) all have respectable at—large resumes but, as VCU found out last year, they cannot take that for granted.

Butler (17—1, 8—0, 7, 48) is a lock while fellow Horizon League member Wisconsin-Green Bay (14—6, 6—2, 78, 185) missed a golden opportunity at Butler this week.

Western Kentucky (13—6, 7—1, 62, 114) out of the Sun Belt is a stretch as an at-large candidate but deserves a mention.

The West Coast Conference should produce at least two teams for the tournament. Gonzaga (13—4, 4—0, 41, 56) and St. Mary’s (18—1, 5—0, 52, 243) are in excellent shape to receive at-large bids if they don’t win the WCC’s automatic bid.

Siena (14—5, 8—0, 24, 25) played a very tough schedule that included Tennessee, Oklahoma St., Pitt, and Kansas. However, the Saints have no wins to show for it. Still they have a quality resume and should be in good shape if they happen to fall early in the MAAC tourney.

Perennial bubble team Utah St. (18—1, 6—0, 47, 226) should be in good shape for an at-large slot, but fellow WAC member Boise St. (13—5, 4—2, 61, 107) can’t afford any stumbles if they want at-large consideration.


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