Watching the Bubble Watchers: Tuesday Edition
Impact of Yesterday’s Games
Drexel’s loss presents an interesting case. As Joe Lunardi points out (subscription required), and Pittsburgh Wildcat and a few others so eloquently pointed out in their comments on yesterday’s post here at LTP, Drexel has a terrible strength of schedule “and would be — by far — the worst such mark to earn an at-large bid in at least 10 years.” That being said, Joe also reminds us that Drexel hadn’t lost since January 2, and he puts Drexel in.
As for Oral Roberts, which some of you mentioned yesterday as a possible at-large team that could steal a bid after the regular season champ in the Summit League fell in a one-point conference tourney semifinal upset to Western Illinois yesterday, it is looking unlikely. Joe calls them a “fringe bubble team at best”, and places them at Number 78 on his S-Curve (subscription required), which essentially is a ranking of the team’s 1-68 (and beyond) as the Selection Committee might view things. They had a high official RPI at 38 coming into the week, but after last night’s loss, RPI guru Jerry Palm (subscription required) bumped them to an estimated RPI of 49, and with no wins against RPI top 50, 3 losses to teams outside of the RPI top 100, and a strength of schedule around 200, it doesn’t look like they are a threat, and none of the bracketologists have put them into the field.
There are several games Cats fans will need to keep their eyes on tonight, but first, the latest bracketology…
Bubble Watch Watch
Joe Lunardi/ESPN.com - IN – 13 seed, “First Four” vs. Drexel, Last Four In
- As I mentioned, Joe put Drexel in as an at-large, but he kept Northwestern in also, right in the same spot, but swapping out Drexel for Texas. In Joe’s bracket, VCU’s win wound up pushing Texas out of the field. If you look at Joe’s S-Curve (subscription required), he actually has Northwestern as the furthest from the cliff of the last four out, placed ahead of Seton Hall, Drexel, and Xavier.
- No change from Jerry here for Northwestern, keeping us in as an 11 seed. Unlike Joe, Jerry does not think Drexel will get an at-large bid, saying that “despite the media shilling for the Dragons, at the moment, their tournament profile doesn’t measure up to at-large status.” Jerry also points out the Oral Roberts’ loss makes them “the fourth non-major team that started their conference tournament as the top seed and in the top 50 of the RPI to lose before the finals of their tournament,” which gives Bubble Teams like us a little bit more to sweat about.
SI.com/Andy Glockner - IN – 11 seed, “First Four” vs. BYU, Last Four In
- Andy replaced Northwestern’s opponent in his previous projection (which was an at-large VCU), with BYU, and bumped that “First Four” game to a battle for an 11 seed, placing VCU and their automatic bid as a 13 seed. Andy also does not foresee Drexel receiving an at-large bid. “Do they pass the eye test? Yes. Is their resume at-large quality on paper? No.”
Foxsports.com/Andrew Bottoms - IN – 13 seed, “First Four” vs. Dayton, Last Four In
- Same spot at yesterday’s projection, 13 seed and a “First Four” game against Dayton on their home floor. Andy places Drexel in the field as one of the Last Four In, and leaves BYU out.
Games to Watch
There are a number of games tonight that could impact Northwestern’s position on the Bubble.
- Seton Hall vs. Providence, Big East Tournament, 1st Round, 6 pm CT on ESPN – As we detailed yesterday, Seton Hall’s loss to DePaul over the weekend knocked them out of the RPI top 50, which essentially took away one of Northwestern’s quality wins. However, now that Seton Hall is sitting on the same bubble as Northwestern, it’s more important to see Seton Hall go out early in the Big East Tournament and knock them off the bubble than it is to see them win and boost their RPI. A deep run by Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament would likely secure them a bid. So, go Providence!
- Penn at Princeton, 6:30 pm CT on ESPN3 – Doesn’t it always seem to come back to Princeton for Northwestern basketball? Bill Carmody should be rooting hard for his former employer. A Penn win would put them in a tie for first place in the Ivy League with Harvard, setting up a one-game playoff. (There is no conference tournament in the Big East.) If Penn were to win that playoff game, it would give them the automatic bid and put Harvard in the at-large pool. With an RPI of 36, an impressive win over a tourney-bound Florida State team, a 5-3 record against the RPI top 100, and only one “bad loss” (to Fordham back in early January), Harvard could make a pretty compelling case to steal an at-large berth from one of the current teams on the Bubble.
- George Washington vs. Dayton, Atlantic 10 Tournament, 1st Round, 6 pm CT – Two of the four bracketologists listed above (Glockner and Bottoms) have Dayton in the field of 68, as one of the “Last Four In,” with Bottoms pitting Dayton against NU in one of those “First Four” games. It’s likely Dayton will need to win a couple of games in the A-10 tournament to make it into the field. They are 19-11, but only 9-7 in the A-10, good for just a #6 seed in the conference tourney. RPI is 72, SOS is 65, but they have 3 wins vs. RPI Top 50 – Temple, St. Louis, and Alabama. I’m pretty confident Dayton should at least win tonight’s game – GWU is awful this year (10-20, 5-11 in conference), and Dayton just beat them by 16 points 3 days ago.
- Charlotte vs. St. Joseph’s, Atlantic 10 Tournament, 1st Round, 6 pm CT – Phil Martelli’s squad at St. Joe’s is currently on the outside looking in, as one of Joe Lunardi’s “Next Four Out,” which, not surprisingly, places them behind the “First Four Out.” St. Joe’s would likely need to make a deep run in the A-10 tournament to leapfrog their way into the field of 68. Their RPI of 55 and SOS of 32 sounds OK, but they have some ugly losses, having dropped games to three teams outside of the RPI’s top 1oo – American, Charlotte, and perhaps most damaging, a loss just two weeks ago at home against Richmond. However, they do have one more quality win than NU, having defeated RPI #14 Temple and RPI #22 Creighton (something that we all know Northwestern was unable to do). So, root for Charlotte to pull a repeat of their 57-52 victory over St. Joe’s back on January 7.