This week's bracketing process brought to mind
Much like in life on the streets of Baltimore, your name is currency when it comes to the bubble. That's the harsh reality for outsiders trying to break into the bid cartel. Basically, if you have power (conference), you rule the block and it takes a lot to wrest away control.
A perfect example comes from these two bubble teams:
Team A: 3-2 RPI against the top 50, 7-5 RPI against the top 100, 8-5 road, two very bad losses (one at home).
Notes: Road wins at second- and fourth-place teams in No. 3 conference, beat leader of No. 6 conference.
Team B: 2-6 against the RPI top 50, 5-8 against the RPI top 100, 2-6 road, one bad home loss.
Notes: Road win at now second-place team in No. 2 conference. Other top-50 win is 49th in RPI. Lost by 22 at home to team tied for second in No. 6 conference.
Team A is William & Mary. Team B is Louisville. And the Cardinals made this week's bracket ahead of the Tribe simply because I don't think there's any way the committee would leave out a 7-5 Big East team for the fourth-place team in the Colonial, regardless of what the overall profiles suggest. Years of bracket history suggest that Williams & Mary, which has two league losses to sub-200 teams, has shown just enough weakness to be cast aside while Louisville, with its big-boy conference, big upset of Syracuse and series of competitive losses to good teams, has provided just enough reason to support its rep.
It's not fair, but that's the way the bubble world works. If there's a close decision, the committee's probably not taking the mid-major over the high-major. Gleaning once again from
The Blue Devils got the rivalry week two-fer, getting past UNC before stomping Maryland. Now back atop the ACC, the Devils have pushed back toward the 2-seed line.
After Duke? It just changes every week.
For posterity's sake, we'll note that
There's some separation starting to show between the top and bottom six in this league. A&M continues to shine while Baylor consolidated its position.
Usually, a win over Nebraska doesn't move the meter, but for sliding
West Virginia really should have closed out Pitt in regulation last Friday, but instead let the Panthers force overtime and eventually lost in three extra sessions. With a pair of drops this week, the Mountaineers will fall in seeding, but nowhere close to out of lockdom yet. Georgetown lost a bad game at Rutgers, too.
Wisconsin's surprising home loss to Illinois cost the Badgers first place in the league and dented their hopes of ending up in Milwaukee for the subregional. Any of these four teams could end up there should they win the league, behind Kentucky as the likely first team in that regional site (much closer to Lexington than any other subregional).
Cal took care of home business against the Washington schools and leads at 9-4. Everything looks pretty snazzy until you really look at Cal's resume and how thin it is (injury issues early noted). It's hard to imagine the Pac-10 champ not getting an at-large if needed, but given that the Pac-10 essentially is a mid-major league this year ... could it happen?
Kentucky plays four of the next five on the road. At worst, this will be a nice test run for the youthful Cats heading into SEC and NCAA tournament play. Vandy moves to lock status after finishing a sweep of Tennessee. The Commodores are the clear second-best SEC team now, have four top 50 wins and a 9-4 top 100 mark. They're dancing.
Things are starting to sift out in the A-10, as the heavyweights continue to feast on each other and a scrappy outsider is making its impact felt. This week's big winner: Richmond. This week's big loser: Rhode Island.
This category is now a giant mess. Xavier is 3-1 so far against the others and has the most compelling overall combination. Dayton went 2-2 against the other three and doesn't face any again in the regular season. Charlotte is 0-2 but still hosts Xavier and is at URI. Rhode Island is 1-1 and still hosts Charlotte. Right now, league standings put Charlotte fourth, by a whisker, and URI won at Dayton and is ahead in the standings, too.
Old Dominion will be the auto-bid this week after Northeastern's loss at William & Mary. The bigger question is whether the Monarchs can remain an at-large should they lose at least once more in the league.
These two are in. The excitement now is over whether a third will join them in the bracket.
The Panthers lost at Bradley and now should celebrate the solo league crown at home. Might ding the seeding a bit, though.
UTEP may have replaced UAB as the most likely at-large hopeful, but this very well may once again be a one-bid league.
Gonzaga did get that win over Saint Mary's, so the Zags are good to go. Butler moves up with the Horizon crown a lock.