On Wednesday this past week, my latest edition of The Diff covered some aggregate math for NCAA tournament bracket and bubble predictions. I’ve been keeping track all week — and posting occasional thoughts on Twitter @udjrosen — so I thought I’d share a brief weekend update on bubble teams for today.
Overall, things went fairly ho-hum for the general bubble outlook since last Wednesday. Bubble teams were happy with Belmont‘s Saturday victory in the Ohio Valley Championship. The Bears would have been a potentially fearsome bubble team with a very solid strength of schedule for a mid-major.
Then, the expected tournament championship matchups again fell into place for the Missouri Valley and West Coast conferences, the two conferences many expect to have exactly 2 teams in the tournament: Creighton-Wichita State (won by the Jays on Sunday) and Gonzaga-St. Mary’s (to take place Monday). Such chalk movement was again a helpful break for resident bubble teams, as both teams were practical tournament locks already.
But then, there was finally some unexpected movement in the bubble race on Sunday evening: heavy conference favorite Middle Tennessee lost in the semifinals of the Sun Belt tournament. The Blue Raiders were an automatic qualifier and 11 or 12-seed in all five brackets I sampled as of Saturday evening, theoretically placing them right in the thick of the bubble race. They now join the bubble fold while Florida International moves on in the Sun Belt tourny.
Thus, without further narratives, here’s the table with a new approach of looking at the bubble. These aggregate bracket projections are as of Saturday evening. At the moment, these bubble teams (plus now Middle Tennessee) are fighting for the final 8 spots:
|1||Saint Mary’s||WCC||IN||IN||IN||IN||Last 5 In|
|2||Temple||A-10||Last 4 In||IN||IN||IN||IN|
|3||Villanova||Big East||IN||IN||IN||Last 4 In||IN|
|4||La Salle||A-10||IN||IN||Last 4 In||IN||Last 5 In|
|5||Boise State||MWC||Last 4 In||Last 4 In||IN||Last 4 In||IN|
|6||Iowa State||Big 12||IN||Last 4 In||Last 4 In||Last 4 In||Last 5 In|
|7||Tennessee||SEC||Last 4 In||Last 4 In||Last 4 In||First 4 Out||Last 5 In|
|8||Virginia||ACC||Last 4 In||First 4 Out||OUT||IN||Last 5 In|
|9||Kentucky||SEC||Next 4 Out||Last 4 In||Last 4 In||Last 4 In||First 5 Out|
|10||Ole Miss||SEC||First 4 Out||First 4 Out||First 4 Out||First 4 Out||First 5 Out|
|11||Alabama||SEC||First 4 Out||First 4 Out||First 4 Out||OUT||First 5 Out|
|12||Massachusetts||A-10||OUT||First 4 Out||First 4 Out||OUT||First 5 Out|
As one can quickly tell, each of the top 6 teams in this outlook all made the tournament as at-large teams each time. Then, the true debate comes into play with the next three teams — Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky — who went back-and-forth with tournament entry in the proverbial final two slots. Middle Tennessee likely will be right in this final mix too.
With very few of these teams — only St. Mary’s tonight in the West Coast championship — in action until Wednesday, I’ll share another update by then to discuss how these teams did this past weekend, what they might need to still do in order to push the committee’s hand a bit more and additional peripheral games to keep an eye on as it relates to the bubble. I thought it would just be helpful for the WFNY readership again today to see my math and line of thinking for the NCAA tournament bubble picture.
[Related: The Diff: NCAA tournament bracket math]