By Stewart Mandel
March 11, 2007

Welcome to's real-time Bubble Watch. The following chart will be updated continuously between now and Sunday to reflect the results of the conference tournaments.

Here's how it works: The left-hand column lists every team that is expected to receive an NCAA berth regardless of whether it wins its conference tournament. The middle column lists every team that has secured an automatic berth (for likely one-bid conferences whose tournaments haven't been completed, the top remaining seed is used as a placeholder). The final column is for bubble teams, both those we're projecting to make the cut and those who, as of this moment, would likely miss it.

The number of available spots for bubble teams will change, either when unexpected tourney teams lock up automatic berths, or if certain bubble teams play their way into the "lock" column. will continually update the list based on the latest developments. At any time, you can determine how many berths are actually still in play by adding the number of "locks" and "automatics" and subtracting them from 65.

• Saturday night update: It comes down to this: the only teams that can still crash the party at this point are N.C. State and Arkansas. If either or both win their conference tourney championship games Sunday, they will take away berths from whichever one or two teams currently hold the at-large berths in the committee's eyes. In my eyes, those teams would be Drexel and Illinois (in that order). Even before facing Florida, the Razorbacks will merit serious at-large consideration, but are by hurt by three factors: 1) The highest-ranked RPI foe they've beaten during their current run is No. 46 Vanderbilt (and that was the second-highest team they've beaten all season); 2) Because of time constraints, the committee will likely have to determine Arkansas' fate before seeing how they perform against the Gators and 3) On a neutral floor earlier this season, the Hogs lost 71-56 to Texas Tech, one of the primary teams they're being considered against.

• Saturday afternoon update: With the bubble tightening up so much in the past 24 hours, I really felt both Purdue and Kansas State needed upsets Saturday over top seeds Ohio State and Kansas, respectively, to secure a berth. Both threatened nearly until the end but fell short. I don't see the Boilers making the field. The Wildcats, however, present the most vexing case for the committee. As was pointed out during their game broadcast, it would be unprecedented for a major-conference team that posted 22 overall wins, 10 league wins and finished fourth in the Big 12 to be left out.

The fact remains, however, they only beat two Top-50 teams, and when you put them up against the other primary contenders -- at least on paper -- they don't have an argument. Considering the NCAA repeatedly stresses the importance of tough scheduling, it would be pretty hypocritical to take K-State, which played the No. 226-rated non-conference schedule, at the expense of, say, Drexel, which played the seventh-toughest slate in the country (and beat the three best foes they played, Villanova, Creighton and Syracuse). That said, the committee could view the Wildcats' close loss to Kansas as evidence they're a better team than their numbers and include them over, say, Stanford, which hasn't played as well down the stretch.

• Friday night update II: The bubble picture is so fluid right now that over the past 12 hours, Kansas State managed to play its way on to my bracket, only to get bounced back off. Who stole its spot? Illinois, which knocked off Big Ten third seed Indiana in overtime Friday night. The Illini and Wildcats have similar profiles -- both posted nice regular-season conference records (9-7 for Illinois, 10-6 for K-State) but few signature wins. The difference is, Illinois played a much tougher non-conference schedule (40th vs. 224th), which the committee loves. Beating the Hoosiers, a Top-30 foe, puts Illinois over the top -- though K-State still has a chance to one-up them against Kansas tomorrow.

• Friday night update: Suffice to say, it has not been a good day for the nation's bubble hopefuls. With the upsets of Nevada (by Utah State) and Xavier (by Rhode Island), the WAC and, most likely, the Atlantic 10 are now going to be two-bid leagues. (Nevada is safe; Xavier is on the bubble but relatively safe.) That means two less at-large berths for everyone else -- and there weren't that many left to begin with.

So who's out? For now, I'm removing Florida State and Purdue. The Boilers still have a chance to play their way in, though. In the meantime, a whole host of teams are now threatening to crash the party: Arkansas, which upset Vanderbilt today, could be in with another win tomorrow over fellow bubble hopeful Mississippi State (which itself probably needs to win the SEC tourney). And what if 17-14 N.C. State - after beating Duke and Virginia on consecutive nights -- wins the ACC tournament? Or Oklahoma State, which went 6-10 in the Big 12 but just knocked off Texas A&M, lands that league's automatic berth?

I'd say it's going to be a long next 36 hours for Drexel.


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