Thursday March 10th, 2011

Andy Glockner will offer a full edition of the Bubble Watch each morning, then provide updates as the action plays out. Check back throughout the day for ongoing bubble analysis. All times are ET.

Friday 2:04 a.m. update: A relatively calm day in Bubbleville turned a bit cloudy as the West has spawned multiple bid thieves who could throw the at-large pool into chaos.

In Pac-10, bubblers are now rooting very hard for a Arizona-Washington final, as USC (modest chance at an at-large) and Oregon (no chance) are the opponents. Any other combination of results puts at at-large spot in jeopardy Saturday night.

In the Mountain West, New Mexico lines up against depleted and struggling BYU in its semifinal. The Lobos have a very real chance of taking the Cougars down for a third time this season and not only playing for an auto bid, but presenting a profile that's not impossible to consider for an at-large should they lose in the title game to San Diego State or homestanding UNLV.

If two extra bids do go poof because of West Coast carnage, what was looking to be an extremely soft bubble could tighten up rapidly by Saturday night. That makes it all that much more important that bubblers like Colorado, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Michigan State all grabbed wins and can firm up their positions with another on Friday. It also means bad things for those teams already done and hoping to squeeze in, like VCU, St. Mary's, Missouri State and now UAB, which was stunned in the C-USA quarters.

At the other end of the bracket, the race for the No. 1 seeds continues and Pitt opened the door a bit with a quarterfinal loss to UConn in the Big East. As discussed earlier, it's reasonable to think that Kansas and Notre Dame, should they win their tournaments, could pass the Panthers, but a third team would also need to do so. Can Duke bump Pitt off the 1-seed line with an ACC crown? That seems harsh, given Pitt's much better schedule strength, quality of wins and regular-season crown in the nation's best conference. Expect the Panthers to hold on to a spot on the top line, with Notre Dame being two wins away from being the second Big East team on that line, squeezing out Duke.

Thursday 9:02 p.m. update: Irish roll, continue quest for No. 1 seed

Notre Dame began its three-game quest to nail down a No. 1 seed in style, crushing Cincinnati by 38 in the Big East quarterfinals. The Irish will play Louisville (which routed Marquette) in the semis tomorrow, and with Pitt out of the bracket, the door is open a bit wider for a Big East tourney crown that very likely would lead to Notre Dame on the top seed line Sunday evening. Things would get simpler if Duke doesn't win the ACC tournament title, but the Irish's resume should be considered stronger if both teams win out.

7:42 p.m. update: Will New Mexico's ownership of BYU continue?

New Mexico survived a back-alley brawl with Colorado State in the Mountain West quarters, condemning the Rams to the NIT and moving into a mouthwatering semifinal against BYU, a team the Lobos have gone 4-0 against over the past two seasons. With the way BYU has looked for the better part of three games without Brandon Davies, it wouldn't be any surprise to see UNM in the title game Saturday night, with bubble teams everywhere suddenly very concerned about the Lobos. It still seems unlikely that UNM could get an at-large, although with others losing and potentially three wins (albeit two without Davies) over BYU on the résumé, this team is impossible to fully count out.

5:31 p.m. update: Buffs punch tourney ticket ... probably

There's big bubble news from the Big 12, where Colorado completed a three-game sweep of Kansas State and advanced to the semifinal. I'd stop short of calling Colorado a lead-pipe lock to be in now, but this was a huge victory for their at-large chances. The Buffs are now 6-6 vs. the RPI top 50 and provided added evidence that they can beat a quality team away from Boulder (even though the same team has provided both of their best road/neutral wins). Colorado now gets a marquee shot at Kansas, which clearly would do it with a win, but chances are this win was a ticket-puncher.

5:25 p.m. update: Bubblers better root against USC

There may be bubble trouble brewing in the West, where USC cruised past Cal to make the Pac-10 semifinals. The Trojans' résumé is like a very poor man's version of Tennessee's (which USC beat in Knoxville), with a slew of really suspect losses and some really impressive wins. A team making it as an at-large with six sub-100 and three sub-200 losses would be unprecedented, but this is a weird (and expanded) year. Bubblers better hope the Trojans lose to (assumedly) Arizona in the semis, or there could be a lot of talk about them -- win or lose -- Saturday night.

5:01 p.m. update: BYU trending down

These are not good times in Provo. BYU held off TCU in the 1-9 game of the Mountain West tournament, but is creating more and more questions about its ability to compete at a top level without Brandon Davies. The final verdict could come tomorrow, especially if New Mexico beats Colorado State to advance. The Lobos have won all four meetings with BYU over the last two seasons and blasted them by 18 in Provo in the Cougars' first game after Davies was suspended. If the Cougars don't look better quickly, they could be looking at a seeding slide similar (or worse) than Purdue's last year, when Robbie Hummel's absence dropped them to a No. 4.

4:10 p.m. update: UAB's bubble bursts

We had the day's first bubble burst in Conference USA, where top-seeded UAB lost in OT in the quarterfinals to East Carolina and surely is headed to the NIT. The Blazers entered today with a very solid RPI but lacking true quality wins that would impress the committee. Had they beaten Memphis in tomorrow's semifinal, there was some possibility they could have snuck in with a loss in the title game, but not now. Now bubble teams are rooting hard for Memphis to lose before the final, or for the Tigers to win the auto bid. Either scenario should leave C-USA as a one-bid league and free up extra space for someone else.

4:00 p.m. update: Georgia advances to bubble bout vs. 'Bama

In the SEC, Georgia made easy work of Auburn and advanced to a crucial quarterfinal matchup against Alabama. The Bulldogs may be able to survive a loss in that game. I don't think Alabama can afford to.

2:40 p.m. update: Will loss cost Pitt a No. 1 seed?

For the third straight season, Pitt lost its Big East tournament opener after receiving a double-bye (76-74 to UConn this time). Will Kemba Walker's buzzer-beating heroics cost the Panthers a No. 1 seed on Sunday? It seems unlikely.

The Panthers entered today as the No. 2 overall seed on the S-curve and even if Kansas (which barely escaped against Oklahoma State), Notre Dame and Duke all win their respective conference tournaments (or even if BYU looks great in the Mountain West), I don't think those titles should eclipse a profile that includes a Big East regular season championship and six RPI top 25 wins. It's very possible for any of those three teams to make it to the top seed line, but I don't see how all three could do so at the expense of Pitt.

I thought about ending today's column just before the final, crucial paragraph, but I didn't want to be like Big East refs, so you will continue to get 100 percent bubble satisfaction.

After three interesting but (relatively) light days, our national hoops load gets nice and heavy on Thursday as we begin the final four-day push to Selection Sunday. The three remaining major-conference events get under way and the landscape is riddled with critical matchups:

• ACC: BC must handle league minnow Wake Forest again while Virginia Tech gets Georgia Tech.

Big East: Marquette looks to have wrapped up a bid by beating WVU Wednesday night, but can take any semblance of doubt away against Louisville.

Big 12: Colorado may be playing for its NCAA life against Kansas State in the quarters.

Big Ten: Michigan State (Iowa) and Penn State (Indiana) face clear first-round must-wins.

Pac-10: USC needs multiple wins (if not the auto bid), and that starts against Cal in the quarters.

SEC: Georgia has a must-not-lose game with Auburn to set up a huge QF with Alabama.

MWC: Colorado State and New Mexico face off in an elimination bout of longshots.

CUSA: Memphis and UAB both open tournament play; wins by both set up a head-to-head semi.

GLOCKNER: Thursday's bracket projection

In auto bid news, congratulations are in order for the LIU Blackbirds (Northeast) and the Northern Colorado Bears (Big Sky), who played their way into the dance Wednesday night. No golden tickets are up for grabs on Thursday (full automatic bid list).

Bubble Watch and Bracket Watch will be daily through Selection Sunday. Enjoy!

Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Wednesday's RPI report.

GW = good wins. BL = bad losses. (N) = neutral-site game.

Send your feedback to or to @aglock on Twitter. All submissions are read; polite, fact-based ones stand the best chance of a response.

(Conference Tournament Bracket)

Locks: Duke, North Carolina

North Carolina stormed past Duke on Saturday night to claim the outright ACC title, boosting its own surging seed aspirations while putting a crimp in Duke's push for a No. 1. Florida State will be the third team in from this league. The real question is: Will that be all?


Florida State (21-9, 11-5; RPI: 45, SOS: 79) Next game: Friday vs. Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech winner in ACC quarterfinals Harrison Barnes cashiered the Noles in the final seconds, but FSU looked pretty good without Chris Singleton, so they should be OK in a year of bubble weakness. Beating NC State moves them to 11-5 and a solid third-place league finish. They haven't done a ton, but they have done more than enough. GW: Duke, Baylor (N)? BL: at Auburn


Boston College (19-11, 9-7; RPI: 44, SOS: 28) Next game: Thursday vs. 12-seed Wake Forest in ACC first round The Eagles came up huge, crushing Virginia Tech in Blacksburg to get a sweep and then taking care of Wake Forest. Now they have to beat the league minnow again to get a crack at Clemson in a possible win-and-in quarterfinal for both teams. GW: Texas A&M (N), sweep of VT, plus so-so collection of others. BL: Yale

Virginia Tech (19-10, 9-7, RPI: 64; SOS: 86) Next game: Thursday vs. 11-seed Georgia Tech in ACC first round What's left to say? The Hokies are inexorably -- and squarely -- on the bubble again after a dispiriting 0-2 week that let BC and Clemson tighten things up. Now they have to win a useless first-round game against Georgia Tech before a meeting with Florida State in the quarters. I don't think their profile will hold up if they lose that game. GW: Duke, Florida State, plus batch of other OK Ws BL: Virginia (2x), at Georgia Tech

Clemson (20-10, 9-7; RPI: 59, SOS: 74) Next game: Friday vs. BC-Wake Forest winner in ACC quarterfinal Clemson gave it a decent go at Cameron but lost, but then handled VT to get to 9-7 and avoid having to play a first-round ACC tourney game. It may not be enough simply to beat Boston College (or, especially Wake, with a big upset), but North Carolina would await in the semis for the marquee win Clemson lacks. GW: BC, VT and FSU at home? Plus at College of Charleston BL: at Virginia, at NC State

(Conference Tournament Bracket)

Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas State

With the help of Texas losing three of its last five games, Kansas remarkably claimed a seventh straight Big 12 crown and seems headed for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs. The Horns better figure things out quickly as this team looks nothing like it did three weeks ago, when people were touting it as possibly the national title favorite. The other team in the Sunflower State continues to surge, as well, and joins the lock party. K-State is suddenly looking like a team no one wants to see in their bracket.


Missouri (22-9, 8-8; RPI: 32, SOS: 43) Next game: Thurs. vs. 3-seed Texas A&M in Big 12 quarterfinals The Tigers handled Texas Tech on Wednesday night and now get a crack at the Aggies in the quarters. They're playing, more or less, for seeding and to try to get out of the dreaded 8-9 game. GW: K-State, Vanderbilt, Old Dominion, vs. Illinois? BL: None, really


Colorado (19-12, 8-8; RPI: 68, SOS: 75) Next game: Thurs. vs. 4-seed Kansas State in Big 12 quarterfinals Iowa State damaged the Buffs' at-large hopes in the last week of the regular season and almost ended them Wednesday. Colorado escaped with a two-point win to set up a crucial third meeting with Kansas State, which the Buffs swept in league play. Would this be the win that gets CU an NCAA berth? GW: Texas, Missouri, Colorado State (for bubble)?, sweep of Kansas State BL: at San Francisco, at Oklahoma

(Conference Tournament Bracket)

Locks: Pitt, Villanova, UConn, Notre Dame, G'town, Louisville, St. John's, Syracuse, WVU, Cincinnati

The league looks set to get its 11 NCAA bids with Marquette's victory over West Virginia. Villanova and Georgetown are going to be very interesting seeding discussions based on form and injury. Incredibly, the Wildcats could end up getting the league's worst seed.


Marquette (20-13, 9-9; RPI: 63; SOS: 34) Next game: Thursday vs. 3-seed Louisville in Big East quarterfinals TBW looks to have put itself in position to dance with a win its second-round West Virginia. A takedown of Louisville in the quarters would certainly clinch things and help the seeding cause. GW: at UConn, West Virginia (N), plus a trio of good home league wins (WV, ND, Syracuse) BL: at Seton Hall



(Conference Tournament Bracket)

Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

Purdue's stunning loss at Iowa dings the Boilermakers' hopes for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs, but the most compelling news is coming from the bubble, where Michigan's second win over MSU has created a mess in the middle.




Illinois (19-12, 9-9; RPI: 40, SOS: 16) Next game: Friday vs. 4-seed Michigan in Big Ten quarterfinals Another expected split, another week where the Illini spurned the chance to impress. They seem like the prototype 8/9-seed right now. They'll joust with Michigan in a game the Illini probably don't need to win, but could put the Wolverines into the dance. GW: UNC, (plus MSU and Wisconsin at home), Maryland (N)?, Gonzaga (N)? BL: Illinois-Chicago (N), at Indiana

Michigan State (16-13, 9-9, RPI: 47, SOS: 7) Next game: Thursday vs. 10-seed Iowa in Big Ten first round A loss at Michigan on Saturday, which gives the Wolverines a season sweep, has more or less eliminated any wiggle room and puts the Spartans in a sticky situation. With Penn State's win over Minnesota, the Spartans are now the 7-seed and are staring at a quarterfinal matchup with Purdue. If they don't win that game, this could end badly. GW: Washington (N) (plus Wisconsin and Minnesota at home) BL: Swept by Michigan (for bubble purposes), at Iowa

Michigan (18-12, 9-9; RPI: 57, SOS: 18) Next game: Friday vs. 5-seed Illinois in Big Ten quarterfinals The Wolverines got the critical sweep of Michigan State and now let the debates begin. Which team ends up ahead in the pecking order will come down to Big Ten tourney performance. Right now, I think the Spartans are barely ahead on the basis of better top-quality wins (although two of MSU's three top-50 wins came with Korie Lucious on the roster). GW: Sweep of Michigan State, Harvard BL: at Indiana

Penn State (16-13, 9-9; RPI: 56, SOS: 5) Next game: Thursday vs. 11-seed Indiana in Big Ten first round The Nittany Lions are 9-9 like three others, but have a weaker profile with an RPI fueled mostly by schedule strength. They probably need to make the tournament final to have a truly legit claim. GW: MSU, Illinois and Wisconsin all at home in league play BL: Maine

(Conference Tournament Bracket)

Locks: Arizona, UCLA

Arizona won the league. The Bruins remain safe. Washington most likely will be OK. Is there a bid thief lurking in USC with the conference tournament in its home city? This league is the most likely major conference to generate an extra bid out of nowhere.


Washington (20-10, 11-7; RPI: 46, SOS: 51) Next game: Thursday vs. 6-seed Washington State in Pac-10 quarterfinals The Huskies got a second win over UCLA, which now looks even larger after they lost to USC on Saturday. Third place in a weak Pac-10, with the three best wins over the two teams ahead of them? Not terribly compelling, but very likely enough this season to dance. Danger lurks in the Pac-10 tourney: a third meeting with cross-state rival Wazzu, which has beaten UW twice already. GW: Arizona, Sweep of UCLA BL: at Oregon, at Oregon State, at Stanford (plus swept by Wazzu)


USC (18-13, 10-8, RPI: 68; SOS: 44) Next game: Thursday vs. 5-seed California in Pac-10 quarterfinals Is a road split enough? The Trojans got the "good" one with a win at Washington and they have a pretty sizable stash of quality wins, but the overall resume is still heavily specked with warts. The Trojans get Cal (season split with road teams winning both) and then probably would see top-seed Arizona. GW: Texas, at Tennessee, Arizona, UCLA, at Washington BL: Rider (N), Oregon twice, at TCU, at Oregon State, Bradley (N)

(Conference Tournament Bracket)

Locks: Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky

Tennessee moves up a category simply because the field overall is too weak to find any reasonable way to omit them now that they're .500 in the SEC. They have nine top-50 and 11 top-100 wins. Congrats to Florida for winning the SEC title. The league tourney should be interesting, starting with a possible eliminator quarterfinal between Georgia and Alabama.


Tennessee (18-13, 8-8; RPI: 36; SOS: 3) Next game: Thursday vs. W4-seed Arkansas in SEC first round The Vols must be thrilled not to have to play at home again this season. They are a poor 10-7 at home and a very solid 8-5 road/neutral, with their three best wins of the season coming away from home. They have too many good wins to miss the NCAAs this year, so the SEC tourney is really just for seeding. GW: Villanova (N), at Pitt, at Vandy, VCU (N)?, at Georgia? BL: at Charlotte, at Arkansas (plus Oakland and College of Charleston at home?)


Georgia (20-10, 9-7; RPI: 39; SOS: 36) Next game: vs. W5-seed Auburn in SEC first round The Bulldogs could have firmed things up but lost at Alabama and now will face the Tide again if they can handle Auburn in a first-round SEC tourney affair. The Bulldogs lack quality wins, but all but the loss at 'Bama are inside the top 35. They're just 5-10 vs. the RPI top 100, though. Not good. Can they survive with an early SEC tourney loss? GW: Kentucky, at Tennessee, UAB?, Colorado? (for bubble purposes) BL: None

Alabama (20-10, 12-4; RPI: 83, SOS: 126) Next game: Friday vs. Georgia-Auburn winner in SEC quarterfinals After beating Georgia at home, the Tide likely will get another chance at the Bulldogs in the SEC quarters. Lose there and they're done. Win there, it very well could be a chance at Kentucky and a possible golden ticket into the NCAAs. The middle ground (loss in SEC semis) means a debate, with the computer numbers not at all favorable. Bama's RPI would be significantly higher than NC State in 2005 (RPI: 63) and Stanford in 2007 (RPI: 63) -- the two highest RPI at-large teams to be invited since the formula was adjusted. GW: Kentucky, at Tennessee BL: Iowa (N), St. Peter's (N), at Arkansas?

Locks: Xavier, Temple

Xavier won the league. Temple kept pace. Both will dance. Richmond continues to win the games it needs to win, but probably needs more to survive. No one else has a chance other than an auto bid. Pretty clean picture heading to Atlantic City




Richmond (24-7, 13-3; RPI: 58, SOS: 141) Next game: Friday vs. Rhode Island in A-10 quarterfinals Good for the Spiders. They had a series of very winnable games and won them all down the stretch. This season, that's reason for praise. It would be a bad idea to eat a loss in the quarters, though. The Spiders' profile has a decent chance of holding up with a loss to Temple in the semis. GW: Purdue, VCU BL: Georgia Tech (N), Bucknell (at home)

Locks: San Diego State, BYU, UNLV

The Rebels finished strong and make it three teams in for the MWC. The biggest story will be BYU's continued play without Brandon Davies. If they crash out before the MWC final and San Diego State wins it, the Aztecs could swipe the West region away. It doesn't appear that either Colorado State or New Mexico is a realistic at-large candidate at this point, but one will be done after they meet on Friday. The other should get a third shot at BYU.




Colorado State (18-11, 9-7; RPI: 43; SOS: 31) Next game: Thursday vs. 5-seed New Mexico in the MWC quarterfinals No dice for the Rams at San Diego State and now they're probably auto bid or bust. GW: at UNLV, Southern Miss (N)? BL: Sam Houston State, vs. Hampton, at Air Force

New Mexico (19-11, 8-8; RPI: 72; SOS: 89) Next game: Thursday vs. 4-seed Colorado State in the MWC quarterfinals The Lobos would have a better case if they had done better overall in league play once Drew Gordon became eligible. The two wins over BYU are great, but there's not much more to look at. The MWC is good, but not that good to think .500 is enough. GW: Sweep of BYU BL: Swept by Utah, at Wyoming

Auto bids: Belmont (A-Sun), Butler (Horizon), Gonzaga (WCC), Indiana State (MVC), LIU (Northeast), Morehead State (OVC), Northern Colorado (Big Sky), Oakland (Summit), Old Dominion (CAA), Saint Peter's (MAAC), UALR (Sun Belt), UNC-Asheville (Big South), Wofford (SoCon)

Locks: George Mason

No real action of note in this category on Wednesday, but things heat back up with the C-USA quarterfinals on Thursday. SHOULD BE IN

Utah State (27-3, 15-1; RPI: 17, SOS: 123) Next game: Friday TBD in WAC semifinals The bubble's likely too weak to see USU dinged at this point, but I hope they win the auto bid so some thoroughly undeserving team doesn't litter the bracket. This league is Exhibit A for the ridiculousness of smaller conferences holding tournaments. Just send your best team. GW: at Saint Mary's BL: at Idaho


UAB (22-7, 12-4; RPI: 28, SOS: 70) Next game: Thursday vs. East Carolina in C-USA quarterfinals It's a bit unfair to say the Blazers lack top-50 wins, since they have seven Ws from 49-58 in Monday's RPI. The issue is the (perceived) quality of those wins, so they better hope the committee thinks Marshall and Central Florida are decent teams. They have won some legit road games and only have one truly questionable loss. In this bubble year, they're in consideration at this point. GW: None BL: at Arizona State

Memphis (22-9, 10-6; RPI: 38, SOS: 58) Next game: Thursday vs. Southern Miss in C-USA quarterfinals The Tigers still have the best collection of wins in C-USA as far as an at-large profile, but they finished in third (even with the balanced schedule), two games behind UAB (even after beating the Blazers twice). GW: Sweep of UAB, at Gonzaga (bubble purposes), some 50-60ish league wins BL: at ECU, at Rice, at SMU

Saint Mary's (22-7, 11-3; RPI: 48; SOS: 101) Season complete. The Gaels lost to Gonzaga in the WCC final and now need to hope their late-season fade doesn't cost them an NCAA bid. There's not a ton of meat to their profile. SMC still plays Weber State before Selection Sunday, but that won't impact the Gaels' at-large hopes unless they lose. GW: St. John's BL: at San Diego

VCU (23-11, 12-6; RPI: 50, SOS: 82) Season complete. The Rams almost rallied from a huge deficit, but fell to Old Dominion in the CAA final and now must wait and see if their profile is good enough to withstand a week of scrutiny and high-major tournaments. They have more solid wins than some on the list, but the L4 at the end of CAA play that dropped them into a tie for third place may end up condemning them to the NIT. GW: at ODU, George Mason (N), UCLA (N), at Wichita State? BL: at South Florida, at Northeastern, at Georgia State

Missouri State (25-8, 15-3; RPI: 42; SOS: 122) Season complete. The Bears fell to Indiana State in the Valley final and probably don't have the quality of profile to be a serious at-large consideration, despite the Valley's title. Nothing to do now but wait. GW: Sweep of Wichita State BL: at Tulsa?, at Evansville

Harvard (21-5, 12-2; RPI: 35, SOS: 157) Next game: Playoff on Saturday vs. Princeton in New Haven, Conn. The Crimson clinched at least a share of the Ivy crown by beating Princeton on Saturday, but now will need to win the rubber match between the two to claim the Ivy's auto bid after Princeton won at Penn Tuesday night to snag a share of the regular-season crown. Can Harvard get an at-large if it loses? Despite solid RPI numbers, it seems unlikely they could make it that way. That three-point loss at Michigan looks pretty meaningful now. GW: at Boston College, Colorado (for bubble purposes) BL: at Yale

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.