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Monday, March 7, 2011

Bubble watch: Your rooting guide for the week

This time of year, everyone seems to forget that a team does not make or miss the NCAA tournament based on its performance alone. At-large candidates are competing for a certain number of spots, which means their fate also depends on how other teams do.

That’s why it would be wrong to say that Georgia is a lock for the tournament now, or that it will be if it beats Auburn, or it will definitely be out if it loses on Thursday, and so on.

It depends.

Georgia, with an RPI rank of 39 on Monday, should be okay if it wins one game in Atlanta – unless there are a slew of unexpected results elsewhere that punches up the quality of teams on the bubble.

Or, if the bubble remains as weak as it is right now, the Bulldogs could still make it if they gets upset by Auburn. Not likely, but possible.

So for the moment let’s pull back from Georgia’s upcoming games and look at the entire bubble:

Andy Glockner of has 14 teams playing for eight spots: Boston College, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Colorado, Marquette, Michigan State, Michigan, Southern California, Alabama, Gonzaga, Butler, Memphis, VCU and Penn State,

Then Glockner added that the four teams above that (i.e. in better shape) are Georgia, Washington, Illinois and Richmond.

Jerry Palm of has 25 teams playing for 16 spots. That’s too many to list, but there’s nothing drastically different from Glockner.

So culling everything, here are the other at-large candidates that Georgia would ideally prefer not make long runs in their tournaments:

ACC: Boston College, Clemson, Virginia Tech.
Big 12: Baylor, Colorado, Oklahoma State.
Big East: Marquette.
Big Ten: Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State.
Pac 10: Washington, Washington State.
SEC: Alabama, Tennessee.
Conference USA: Marshall, Memphis, Southern Miss, UAB.

Here’s what to watch as far as automatic bids:

- Anytime someone comes from nowhere to win a league tournament – a la the SEC tournament in 2008 and 2009 – it’s not good for bubble teams.
- Old Dominion has to beat VCU in Monday’s Colonial championship, or there’s a stolen bid for sure. VCU isn’t considered an at-large candidate.
- Butler has to win the Horizon on Tuesday. Last year’s national runner-up would be a bubble team if it lost; better for it to win and not leave a question.
- In the Atlantic 10, Temple and Xavier (two teams that beat Georgia) are assured bids, while Richmond is on the good side of the bubble. Anybody else is bad news.
- In the Mountain West, the locks are BYU, San Diego State and UNLV. And then there’s Colorado State, which is on the bubble.
- Utah State is 27-3 with an RPI of 17 but has very little else going for it so it would be a fringe at-large candidate. Again, safer to root for it to win the WAC. (Thanks to someone for correcting this one for me.)

This sets up to be quite a frenetic week. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed for regular updates, as well as the occasional summation on this here blog. We have the first spring football practice on Thursday too. But if you find a better place this week for constant and accurate Georgia basketball updates ... keep it to yourself.


stick jackson said...

Thanks for the great hoops coverage, Seth.

Anonymous said...

The coverage has been great all year. Here's to the Dawgs and you getting a trip to the dance!

AthensHomerDawg said...

With Pearl back I think the Vols take Arky ....but wouldn't it a stretch for them to beat Vandy a third time?

Anonymous said...

Old Dominion did its part and beat VCU 70-65