Where's the bubble beef?
Every year at this time, there's moaning about how soft the bubble is. This year, though, those gripes may have merit.
Beyond this being the first season with three extra spots in the at-large pool, making the bubble seem more forgiving, there are two other major themes worth watching:
1) There are clear drop-offs between the last at-large holders and the next group of teams in many of the top conferences.
2) There are very few mid-major conferences in which the regular-season winner will be assured a spot if it doesn't claim the auto bid.
The result of these trends is that there are very few potential bid thieves at the moment. Ordinarily, the bubble constricts down the stretch because major-conference teams make late runs and/or sure things in the smaller leagues lose in their conference tournaments and snag bonus bids. As things currently stand, there are far fewer possibilities for that kind of shrinkage this season. Basically, everyone who looks deserving to be in is already getting in and there are many spots beyond that still open.
So, when you look at
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 collegerpi.com RPI report.
GW = good wins
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Duke's strong rally past North Carolina midweek and then a win at Miami keeps the Blue Devils very much in the mix for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs, but no one ahead of them is losing much, either. Right now, it looks like five teams for four spots on the top line, so one region will have a very compelling 1-2 punch. The Tar Heels join Duke in this category after nabbing a tight road win at Clemson to get to 8-2 in the league. It would be almost impossible for them to miss and they're peaking at a good time.
KU and Texas are still tracking toward No. 1 seeds in the NCAAs. Can we get a rematch in the Big 12 title game (and then maybe one more in Houston)? I'm down for that. Once again, the league is sitting at four very likely bids and then it's a question whether anyone will make it after that. Someone(s) probably will, but who?
The Big East is going to create a bracketing quandary for the committee if this keeps up and all five of these teams hang in the first two or three seed lines. It might be better for the bracket as a whole if UConn (and/or someone else) slips a bit to lessen the logjam and allow the committee to place teams geographically more easily.
The Buckeyes' perfect run ended at the hands of Jordan Taylor and the Badgers, who now get a crack at Purdue in West Lafayette. Then the Buckeyes visit Purdue in a fun Lockdom Round-Robin. Given the national landscape, these three teams are now clearly heading to the NCAAs. How many more will this league get? That's a very interesting question.
Arizona took care of in-state business and now readies for a huge homestand against the Washington schools. UCLA continues to look like an at-large, giving the league three viable NCAA teams. Beyond that? Not much to look at at this point.
Alabama's tough loss at Vandy makes the Gators this week's auto bid recipient and drops the Tide into the at-large pool, where they are not yet in position for a bid. Kentucky continues to come up short down the stretch on the road. The league may end up with only four NCAA bids if things continue this way.
A huge week for Xavier and more wins for Temple makes both of those teams look extremely likely to dance. Richmond continues to win, too, and is pushing for a third slot. That doesn't mean one of those teams will be the auto bid, as there are several other clubs who could catch lightning in a bottle, including Duquesne.
The beat goes on for the two best teams in the league, with San Diego State keeping the inside track on the league title by winning at UNLV and keeping pace with BYU with the home rematch still in its pocket. Below them, though, there's a shake-up under way. UNLV fans, start to get nervous.
Some intriguing situations are developing in the other conferences, with convoluted league races and teams with solid nonleague work trailing the packs. The circumstances, locally and in a big-picture sense, are ripe for some multibid action if things continue to break the right way. Stay tuned ...