The Big East bubble picture
March, 7, 2012
By Joe Lunardi | ESPN Insider
J. Meric/Getty ImagesRon Anderson Jr. and USF need a strong Big East tourney showing to avoid the bubble's dark side.Today marks Day 2 of Big East intrigue, but the games with bracket impact won't happen until this evening.
Though they aren't quite into lock territory yet, neither the Connecticut Huskies nor the West Virginia Mountaineers will fall out of the bracket with a loss in their noon clash.
The Seton Hall Pirates and South Florida Bulls linger closer to the dark side of the bubble, however, and likely need wins to feel good about their tournament chances. That's particularly true for South Florida, which remains light on quality wins. Beating the Villanova Wildcats (RPI 104) would not help in that regard. The Bulls will need to top the Notre Dame Irish in the Big East quarterfinals to feel secure about their Selection Sunday status.
Here's how the S-Curve shapes up on before Wednesday afternoon's action starts.
This is where teams would fall if Selection Sunday were today. Remember, the curve flows left to right, then right to left, then back again as you read down the chart. Teams with an asterisk currently lead their conferences and project to receive automatic bids, per the rules of bracketology. While Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan tied for the Big Ten regular-season title, the asterisk goes to the Spartans as they are the highest of the three teams on the S-Curve. Teams with an asterisk in bold have won their conference tournaments and clinched auto-bids.
ALL CAPS: Regular-season champion (NIT auto-bid if needed) or highest remaining seed
Bold: NCAA automatic qualifier
GREEN: Teams with tourney odds of 90 percent or better through games of Feb. 28.
YELLOW: "Last four in" (will play March 13-14 in Dayton, Ohio)
GOLD: Lowest four auto-bids (will play March 13-14 in Dayton, Ohio)
RED: "First four out" (teams 69-72 on the S curve)
PURPLE: "Next four out" (teams 73-76 on the S curve)
Add the current AQs to the "solid" at-large candidates (current tournament odds at 90 percent or better) and there are 37 teams in the field. Add in the remaining automatic qualifiers yet to be decided and that's another 18 spots. All told there are 55 of the 68 spots accounted for, with 13 still up for grabs among current "bubble" teams.
The bubble (25 teams for 13 spots)IN (13, in S-Curve order):
36-Saint Louis, 37-Southern Miss, 38-California, 39-West Virginia, 40-Connecticut, 44-Mississippi State, 45-Colorado State, 46-South Florida, 47-BYU, 48-Northwestern, 49-Seton Hall, 51-Drexel, 52-Xavier
OUT (12, in S-Curve order)
69-Texas, 70-Tennessee, 71-Oregon, 72-NC State, 73-Miami (FL), 74-Iona, 75-Arizona, 76-Saint Joseph's, 77-Dayton, 78-Oral Roberts, 79-Marshall, 80-Ole Miss
After Tuesday night, we now have 12 teams that have locked up automatic bids, including Harvard's first invitation to the Dance since 1946. Of course, back then the "Big Dance" was little more than a postseason sock hop with all of eight teams in the field. Right now I have the Crimson pegged as a No. 11 seed.
Among Tuesday's other automatic qualifiers, Western Kentucky completed its improbable run into the bracket by beating North Texas on Tuesday night. With an RPI of 191 it will likely play in the first-round games in Dayton.
Here's the current conference breakdown: Big East (10), Big Ten (7), Big 12 (5), SEC (5), ACC (4), Mountain West (4), Atlantic 10 (3), West Coast (3), CAA (2), Conference USA (2), Missouri Valley (2), Pac-12 (2).
NCAA automatic qualifiers (12)
• UNC Asheville (Big South)
• Murray State (OVC)
• Belmont (Atlantic Sun)
• Creighton (Missouri Valley)
• VCU (Colonial)
• Loyola-Maryland (MAAC)
• Davidson (SoCon)
• Saint Mary's (WCC)
• Harvard (Ivy League)
• Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)
• Detroit (Horizon League)
• South Dakota State (Summit)
NIT AQs (4)*
• Drexel (CAA)
• Iona (MAAC)
• Oral Roberts (Summit)
• Middle Tennessee (Sun Belt)
• Valparaiso (Horizon)
* if not selected at-large