The bubble

Projecting the NCAA tourney field is tough work. Even now, with only
3-5 games left on each team's slate, the picture is pretty fuzzy. A 5-0 run, or 0-5 slump can radically change a team's profile, even at this
late date. And since every bid is interdependent on how other team's are doing, it's safe to assume there will be a bubble team that goes 5-0 and one that goes 0-5, throwing everything out of whack. Just expect it. What I'm saying is, this picture will change.

There are 65 bids to the Big Dance, 34 of them at-large. Of the 31 automatic bids, 19 of them come from one-bid conferences. I'm only going to break down 12 conferences, and remember that their conference champ gets a free ride. Of those 19 one-bid conferences, there are eight teams which could lose the conference tourney and still merit consideration. One of them is Gonzaga, who won't just merit consideration, they are a slam dunk bid. There are eight teams that every team in a major (or mid-major) should pull for to win their conference tourney, so as not to crowd the bubble. Two of them, Utah St and Manhattan, can feel reasonably confident of getting an at-large bid should they lose their conference tourney. The other five are longshots, but they will still crowd the bubble.

Let’s do a quick bit of math. 65 team field minus 19 automatic bids from the small conferences. That leaves 46 slots for the 12 multi-bid conferences, not including those eight bubble bursters. Of those 46 slots, 12 are automatic bids, and everyone on the bubble hopes those bids don’t go to some team from left field. Of these 46 bids, 35 of them are all but locked up. That means there are 11 bids realistically in play. And I’ve got 35 teams on the bubble, not counting the eight from the small conferences. After today, we’re only paying attention to bubble teams, so pay attention now

Now, let's go through the majors.

Probable: Duke, NC State, Wake, UNC, Georgia Tech
Bubble: FSU, Maryland

FSU's 43 RPI is pretty good, but that 2-9 road record is brutal. They
look good yet can’t afford to slump, but the real problem case is Maryland. The committee loves rewarding teams which schedule tough, and the Terps have had one of the toughest schedules in the nation. However, you have to win some of those games, and they are 2-8 vs. the RPI top 25. At 5-8 in conference, they need to finish 2-1 to have a realistic shot.

Probable: St. Joe’s, Dayton
Bubble: Xavier, Richmond, George Washington

Barring something completely unforeseen, St. Joe’s is a one-seed. Dayton already has 10 conference wins and 20 wins overall, so the RPI around 40 is no big worry. Xavier’s slumming at #53, but they just picked up their 8th A-10 win. They’ve played tough teams well, but their two losses to teams ranked below 100 are killing them. Richmond’s got a slightly better RPI, but they are 1-7 vs. the RPI top 50. The committee hates to take teams out of order of their conference finish, but there is no question Xavier is the most attractive team. GW’s got 10 wins in the A-10, but that’s the end of their positives. Their #61 in the RPI, have some spectacularly bad losses (Fairfield? Appalachain St?), and a 117 non conference RPI. Their two-game edge in the A-10 standings is all that is keeping them on the bubble.

Probable: Pitt, UConn, Providence, Syracuse, Seton Hall, Boston College
Bubble: Notre Dame, Rutgers, Villanova, West Virginia

I’ve got six probables listed, and maybe a one-seed in Pitt. Cuse, Seton Hall, and BC could still blow it, but they’ve got real solid profiles right now, and none have an RPI in the 30s. The bubble teams are all longshots, but they aren’t dead yet. Rutgers has the best RPI of the group (42), and they just moved to .500 in conference by beating WVU, a likely lethal blow to their chances. Rutgers is also 2-8 on the road and 1-7 vs. the RPI top 50. A win over Seton Hall would solidify their profile. Villanova and Notre Dame are both limping down the stretch, but are hanging on by threads. But their profiles aren’t as strong as Rutgers’.

Probable: Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan St
Bubble: Iowa, Michigan, Purdue

Some bizarre profiles in a down year. The Illini and Badgers are in for sure. MSU punched their ticket this weekend, but they are leading the Big Ten without a single win over the RPI top 50. I think the conference lead outweighs the lack of quality wins. The three bubble teams theoretically have a shot, but I included them just to be nice. They are in serious trouble.

Probable: Oklahoma St, Kansas, Texas
Bubble: Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Mizzou, Colorado, Iowa St

Three are in. Tech, OU, and Mizzou are looking strong right now. All of them have some dodgy records against tourney teams, but the overall strength is there. The Buffs refuse to go away. They lack a big win or anything, but they have a light slate left. ISU has the weakest profile, but they have the big wins, and a pretty easy schedule. The winner of their head to head matchup could make the tourney by winning out.

Probable: Memphis, UAB, Cincy, Louisville, Charlotte
Bubble: DePaul, St. Louis

DePaul’s win over Louisville keeps them firmly on the bubble. They’re 3-4 vs. the top 50, 6-4 on the road, and 9-4 in C-USA. Nice numbers, but the #58 RPI isn’t. St. Louis just played their way off the bubble tonight. The other five schools are all hovering around 4-7 seeds.

Bubble: Kent St, Western Michigan

The beloved MAC has two bubble teams. Kent has the conference lead, but WMU has the slight RPI edge. They both managed nine wins on the road this year, and have near .500 records in their meager schedule against the RPI top 50. Should one win the conference tourney, the other could get an at-large bid. The MAC will not send three teams, however. Kent’s loss to Buffalo tonight is a huge black mark, probably putting WMU ahead.

Probable: Southern Illinois
Bubble: Creighton, Wichita St

The Salukis are in. That leaves the door open for either Creighton or WSU. Neither have great profiles and they hover in the mid-60s in RPI. But a nice run in the conference tourney would certainly help.

Bubble: Air Force, Utah, BYU, UNLV

I think Air Force will be close to assured of a bid once they lock up the conference title, their first ever. But Utah and BYU play this week to decide who is the best bubble team.

Probable: Stanford, Arizona
Bubble: none

How depressing is this?

Probable: Mississippi St, Kentucky, Florida, Vandy, LSU
Bubble: South Carolina, Bama, Georgia, Tennessee

LSU’s trying to play their way onto the bubble, but all four bubble teams have a decent shot. USC’s got peripherals, particularly road record. Georgia’s got a fairly unremarkable profile, but it lacks any real black marks. Bama’s got a lousy record, but they played the toughest schedule in the nation, and the committee loves to reward that. OK, Tennessee’s a longshot, but still. It’s a good group and the SEC might get EIGHT bids.

Bubble: UTEP, Rice, Nevada, Hawaii

They won’t get four. They might only get one, but there’s a lot of mediocre teams to sort through in the WAC.

From here on out, let’s focus on the bubble.

posted by Poseur 2/25/2004 11:43:00 PM

Mike Williams jumps into the breach

Williams is the first player to take advantage of the aurice Calrrett ruling. I knwo this will probably cause a whole bunch of hand-wringing, but this will not be the death of the NFL or college football. Most high schoolers just aren't physically able to compete with the full grown adults of the NFL. And NFL teams, with no real developmental system similar to baseball or hockey, are not going to invest big money in high school players. It's a win-now league. They have no interest in dismantling their free minor league system. Only the best of the best will bypass college, and that's probably good. Let's get the pro players out of college.

He probably will be the 3rd receiver taken, after Fitzgerald and Roy Williams.
posted by Poseur 2/25/2004 01:49:00 PM

I'm not feeling linkish today, but I am feeling rant-ish. and there's a few broader sports issues I have just got to get off my chest. So this is going to run more like a colum that blog today. Deal with it.

In anonymous testing conducted by Major League baseball lat year, five percent of all players tested positive for steroids. Five percent. Due to the BALCO trial, the media jackals are all over Barry Bonds, who I hope is keep a running list of the people who slander him with flase rumor and innuendo so he can sue the crap out of them, and they are generally getting on their pompous high horse about steroid use and how players back when they were kids would never dream of doing this.


Ever read Ball Four? Every player is popping greenies to improve performance. And yes, that's speed not steroids, but it's still a performance enhancing drug. So let's not pretend this a new thing, and how the younger generation doesn't respect the game. I'll put the younger generation up against the former greats. In every athletic endavour in which there are static measurements, we keep improving. Top athletes run faster, jump higher, and lift more than ever before. And they will continue to do so.

You don't care that players use steroids. Not really. You may say you do, but when push comes to shove, you really don't. I know I don't. The owners certainly don't. The media doesn't. The other players don't. Fans don't, or else we wouldn't continue to show up to games at record levels despite ever-increasing ticket prices. Jesus, the BFL is so doped up some of the players count by stomping their feet like a horse. Yet we go on and on about Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds? Are you kdding me?

Why do we do so? Why do we make such a big deal out of baseball's alleged drug use and not football's? I think the reason is twofold. One, football is more popular. Condemning baseball for steroid use isn't a reason to dislike the game, it's just support people use for turning it off. It's a convenient crutch to prop up the ghosts of yesteryear. Two, baseball owners are vile and stupid. NFL owners don't bad mouth the product. They don't run their mouths off about steroid use or parity or whatever. They sell the product. Baseball owners, constantly at war with a powerful union, consistently shhot themselves in the foot by badmouthing the very product they are trying to sell.

This season, somebody's going to get caught doping in baseball. It'll probably be some mid-level player, maybe even a marginal AAAA kind of guy. It won't be a superstar. Because not even baseball is dumb enough to actualyl crack down on steroid use. They just need to seem they are crackingdown on it, just like the NFL. The NFL is slightly more clean than the average rave, but they have the illusion of effective dru testing. And that's all we really want. The illsuion.

Chicks still dig the longball.

posted by Poseur 2/25/2004 01:45:00 PM


LeBron makes his Madison Avenue debut

Yup, still good. The Knicks stink out loud, even with Isiah's constant tinkering, but LeBron went to the biggest stage in the NBA and had a blockbuster night. You know, he may just have a future in this league.

posted by Poseur 2/23/2004 01:30:00 PM

Portis for Bailey?

"You definitely need to stay close on this one," said a source, who is intimately involved in the negotiations, late Sunday night. "There's a whole lot going on. There are a few sticking points but, if you asked me will it get done, I'd tell you, 'yeah, I think so.' "

Two player agents who represent NFL running backs that will become unrestricted free agents next month told that they approached the Redskins to make a pitch for their clients. Both agents assumed that, with the Redskins in need of a back to bolster the power running game Gibbs prefers, they might be able to fuel some interest in their clients.

Both were apprised by Redskins officials that the franchise was on the verge of a blockbuster deal for a premier running back. "One of their top officials basically told me that, while my guy is a good player, they had something else going at tailback and that it was huge," one of the agents said.

If this goes through, score one for Gibbs. Champ Bailey wants out anyway, and the chances of keeping him in Washington are slim and none. so get value for him before he walks. And Portis certainly qualifies. From the Broncos point of view, this is also a great idea. They've had a productive run game with whoever they put in the backfield, and they really need a cover corner. They are gambling that their o-line can turn another nobody into Terrel Davis.

The move wouldn't gut the Skins' secondary, as Smoot can cover just a bit. I thought the Brunell deal was stupid and almost certain to blow up in Washington's face, but this is a good one. They must get this one done.

posted by Poseur 2/23/2004 01:28:00 PM

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