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Tuesday, September 2, 2014
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Maneater Bracketology: The bubble begins to shrink

Although Missouri is safely in the field, a lot will be determined this week in regard to its seeding.

In my latest bracketology, I have Missouri at a No. 8 seed. But a lot could change depending on how the Big 12 tournament plays out and how other teams perform during Championship Week.

The way I see it, the bubble is down to seven available spots. Here's how it all adds up in my eyes:

There are 31 conferences that each get one automatic bid, eight of which have already been locked up. In Monday night action, potential bubble teams Old Dominion, Saint Mary's and Siena made sure they wouldn't have to sweat on Selection Sunday by winning their respective conference tournaments.

Next, I believe there are 27 "locks" at this point in the season. There are actually more than that, but I've taken the locks that are conference leaders and applied their bid to the league championship.

So that leaves seven spots, and right now I have 19 teams on the bubble (California and Utah State should be considered on the bubble but for the purpose of this entry have been applied to their conference's auto bids. Of those 19 bubble teams, I've split them into four groups to get a picture of what we could see this week. The first seven are currently "in" for my latest projections, and the remaining 12 are "out." Here's a rundown of who's in, who's out and what you can expect this week.

Nearing lock status

Notre Dame: The Irish have won four games in a row and could notch one more against Seton Hall in the Big East tournament. Even if they don't, expect ND to make the NCAAs.

Arizona State: The talk about a one-bid year for the Pac-10 should be over. Arizona State and Washington, two bubble teams, will likely meet in their tournament semifinals. ASU is the favorite, and the winner will most likely get a tournament nod.

Georgia Tech: It's tough to see a team with a losing conference record in "lock" discussion, but GT has played well for most of the year. One win in the conference tournament might be enough to give the ACC seven teams.

Memphis: The perennial Conference USA champs have been dethroned by a good UTEP team, but C-USA is still in the running for two bids. UAB looked like the favorite to get that second spot, but has fallen to Memphis twice. They'll likely meet again in their conference semifinals, and if Memphis wins again, expect them in the tournament.

In bubble trouble

San Diego State: Can the Mountain West get four teams? Perhaps, depending on what the other bubble teams do. The Aztecs have a weaker non-conference schedule than other bubble teams, but their record and a nice win over New Mexico has them in right now.

Illinois: The Illini are on life support have a blowout home loss to Wisconsin to finish the season. A rematch in the Big Ten quarterfinals awaits, though, and a win might be just enough to squeak in Illinois.

Florida: Likewise, Florida has done everything to play itself out of the tournament. If the Gators can beat Mississippi State in the second round of the SEC tournament, it might be just enough to make it. But a win over Vanderbilt the subsequent round would just about lock up a bid.

Ready to pounce

Washington: The Huskies have disappointed all season, but they'll be the Pac-10's second tournament team if they knock off Arizona State.

Rhode Island: Their computer profile is very strong, and a very manageable first two games in the Atlantic 10 tournament might be enough. A win over Temple would lock them in.

Dayton: The Flyers might also roll off a few wins in the A-10 tourney and will be fighting with Rhode Island to get their conference a fourth bid.

Ole Miss: The Rebels have arguably the highest profile win of all bubble teams, winning at Kansas State. If they can knock off Tennessee in the SEC tournament, it could be enough.

Seton Hall: A .500 Big East record is definitely an accomplishment, but the Pirates need more. Two wins in the Big East tournament would go a long way, but they might need one more (against Pittsburgh).

Fat chance

South Florida: The Bulls are in the same boat as Seton Hall, but with a slightly worse profile. Whereas Seton Hall could get lucky with two wins, though, South Florida probably needs three, meaning an upset over Syracuse.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have a pretty poor overall profile, but conference tournament wins against Florida and Vanderbilt could sneak them in. But only if the other bubble teams drop like flies.

UAB: Missouri coach Mike Anderson's former team might have to win the C-USA tournament to get in. A championship appearance probably won't cut it.

Saint Louis: They've quietly put together a great season in the strong Atlantic 10, but they're lacking in quality victories. They probably need wins against Rhode Island, Temple and maybe even the A-10 title game to get in.

Charlotte: They're pretty much in the same boat as Saint Louis but don't benefit from a first-round bye in the A-10 tourney.

Connecticut: No team has ever made the NCAA tournament with more than 14 losses. The Huskies have 14 losses. You do the math. Think they can pull off four or five straight wins against the Big East field? Me either.

William & Mary: Their tournament dreams might have been shot in the CAA title game, losing to Old Dominion. But I'll keep them in the discussion for just a bit longer because of wins against Richmond and at Wake Forest and Maryland.

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