Early returns aren't encouraging for mid-majors across America
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OK, maybe not, especially this early in the season, but it's never too soon to start parsing through growing profiles and see what the macro landscape looks like for this season's NCAA tournament field. At this stage, the early returns for the smaller guys are not good. Through weak scheduling and/or blown opportunities, there are very few legitimate mid-major at-large candidates at this point. Teams will have to be nearly perfect in league play to force their way into contention.
Please note at this point that a lot of the data available is still fairly limited and a solid dose of subjectivity needs to be added (both here and in
Remember, records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) and SOS (Strength of Schedule) data are from Sunday's realtimerpi.com RPI report.
GW = good wins
Even without Kyrie Irving, the Blue Devils are the best team in the nation (although Ohio State is starting to creep up on Duke). Anything more than three losses heading into the NCAA tournament would be a shock, as would anything less than yet another No. 1 seed.
After that? It's impossible to figure out which is the league's second-best team, let alone how many teams will ultimately make it, given the parity and lack of top-end quality.
A second-half offensive meltdown against Florida shouldn't alarm Wildcats fans as far as making the NCAAs, and while Kansas' addition of Josh Selby looks timely, let's not hand the league to the Jayhawks just yet. Not with the league's depth, especially in the north, where Kansas, K-State and Missouri will play a double round-robin.
UConn very well may regress toward the mean as league play moves forward, but the Huskies have to be in the lock category right now. These other four look like the solid top quarter of the league and should safely make the NCAA tournament.
A lot more teams than the Buckeyes will make it in, but since all of those clubs have shown some flaws, they're worth a quick discussion at this point.
It's very possible this is another two-bid season. No one has done much of anything of note in nonleague play, and entering the weekend, the conference sat ninth in the Conference RPI tables, just a smidge ahead of the Ivy League.
This has been a very disappointing nonleague run for the league. A year after five or six teams had reasonable at-large hopes deep into the season, we could be looking at something closer to two or three this season.
The Aztecs look real legit and could stay undefeated for some time. They have no killer wins, but at Gonzaga and Cal are certainly respectable.
There is a dearth of surefire at-large hopefuls from outside the eight largest conferences, so we'll take a first look at the remaining hopefuls here.
Other teams like Southern Miss, Utah State and George Mason have good computer numbers but not a lot of substance behind them. At-large consideration will be difficult.