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Bubble Watch

After lots of upsets, at-large bids quickly vanishing

Posted: Monday March 6, 2006 3:41PM; Updated: Monday March 6, 2006 5:29PM
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Wash., D.C.   Oakland
(1) Connecticut
(16) Southern/
Fairleigh Dickinson

(8) Wisconsin
(9) So. Illinois*

(5) Florida
(12) W. Kentucky

(4) Washington
(13) Winthrop*

(6) Marquette
(11) Texas A&M

(3) North Carolina
(14) Pacific

(7) Nevada
(10) Kentucky

(2) Illinois
(15) Oral Roberts
(1) Memphis
(16) Delaware St.

(8) Bucknell
(9) Indiana

(5) Pittsburgh
(12) Florida St.

(4) UCLA
(13) UW-Mil.

(6) Oklahoma
(11) Bradley

(3) LSU
(14) Iona

(7) N.C. State
(10) Cincinnati

(2) Ohio St.
(15) Penn*
Atlanta   Minneapolis
(1) Duke
(16) Belmont*

(8) George Mason
(9) Michigan

(5) Kansas
(12) UNC-Wilm.

(4) West Virginia
(13) Kent St.

(6) Michigan St.
(11) Seton Hall

(3) Tennessee
(14) N'western St.

(7) Wichita St.
(10) Cal

(2) Gonzaga
(15) No. Arizona
(1) Villanova
(16) Albany

(8) Arizona
(9) Alabama

(5) Boston College
(12) Hofstra

(4) Iowa
(13) San Diego St.

(6) Georgetown
(11) UAB

(3) George Wash.
(14) Murray St.*

(7) Arkansas
(10) Northern Iowa

(2) Texas
(15) Davidson*
* clinched automatic bid
Bubbles burst: Air Force, Creighton, Missouri St., Colorado
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A strange thing happened on The Bubble last week: A whole bunch of contenders won really big games. Florida State (over Duke), UAB (over Memphis), Texas A&M (over Texas), Seton Hall (at Pittsburgh) and Southern Illinois (won the Missouri Valley tournament) all moved into my projected bracket this week, while Cincinnati (a win over West Virginia), Indiana (at Michigan) and Hofstra (over George Mason in the Colonial semifinals) all strengthened their cases considerably.

So if those teams are in, who are they shoving out? Creighton and Missouri State, both of whom lost in the Missouri Valley quarterfinals; Air Force, which continues to lack a top-50 RPI win; Colorado, which had a shaky resume to begin with; and Syracuse, which shot itself in the foot with a horrific blowout loss at DePaul.

Just because a team is in the mix as of today, however, doesn't mean it can breathe easy. Major-conference tournament upsets will likely bump some of the teams currently in the No. 10-12 range. In particular, Florida State and Texas A&M shouldn't get too complacent. While the Seminoles and Aggies finished above .500 in a major conference, last week's upsets were their first true quality wins of the season, and both could use another one in their respective tourneys.

Selection Sunday is just days away. Check back Wednesday through Saturday for daily bubble updates. I'll post my final projected bracket Sunday morning.

ACC

Locks (4): Duke (27-3, No. 1 in the RPI), North Carolina (21-6, No. 8), Boston College (24-6, No. 32) N.C. State (21-8, No. 40)

Bubble (2): Maryland (18-11, No. 47), Florida State (19-8, No. 56)

Projected bids (5): Duke, North Carolina, Boston College, N.C. State, Florida State

Synopsis: The main thing keeping FSU in dangerous territory is its non-conference strength of schedule, which ranks 313th out of 334 teams. Maryland, which finished 8-8 in the ACC, will need at least two wins in the conference tourney to have a chance.

Big 12

Locks (3): Texas (25-5, No. 7), Oklahoma (20-7, No. 12), Kansas (22-7, No. 34)

Bubble (2): Texas A&M (20-7, No. 49), Colorado (19-8, No. 52)

Projected bids (4): Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas A&M

Synopsis: Texas A&M is in a similar position to Florida State, ranking 252nd in non-conference schedule strength, but its 10-6 Big 12 record and seven-game winning streak certainly help. A&M and Colorado will likely meet in the Big 12 quarterfinals.

Big East

Locks (6): Villanova (24-3, No. 2), Connecticut (27-2, No. 3), Pittsburgh (21-6, No. 15), Marquette (20-9, No. 19), West Virginia (20-9, No. 27), Georgetown (19-8, No. 41)

Bubble (4): Cincinnati (19-11, No. 31), Syracuse (19-11, No. 41), Seton Hall (18-10, No. 48), Louisville (18-11, No. 64)

Projected bids (8): Villanova, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Marquette, West Virginia, Georgetown, Cincinnati, Seton Hall

Synopsis: Cincinnati's four Top-50 wins -- two of them in the past three weeks -- put the Bearcats in good shape. Seton Hall needs one more win to feel safe. Syracuse (7-9 in the Big East) and Louisville (6-10) probably need to reach the conference championship game at this point.

Big Ten

Locks (6): Ohio State (23-4, No. 5), Illinois (25-5, No. 9), Iowa (22-8, No. 14), Michigan State (19-10, No. 16), Wisconsin (19-10, No. 17), Indiana (17-10, No. 33)

Bubble (1): Michigan (18-9, No. 38)

Projected bids (7): Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan

Synopsis: Indiana's strong finish, including a road win against Michigan on Saturday, gave the Hoosiers a 9-7 conference record and sewed up a bid. The Wolverines are limping to the finish, having lost five of seven, but should be all right as long as they don't lose to Minnesota in the Big Ten first round.

Colonial

Locks (1): George Mason (23-7, No. 29)

Bubble (2): Hofstra (24-5, No. 24), UNC-Wilmington (24-7, No. 36)

Projected bids (3): George Mason, UNC-Wilmington, Hofstra

Synopsis: It's tough to imagine the Colonial getting three bids; however, Hofstra's semifinal win over George Mason bumped its RPI up into what has traditionally been at-large territory. Realistically, the loser of Monday night's UNC-Wilmington-Hofstra title game is likely out.

Conference USA

Locks (1): Memphis (27-3, No. 4)

Bubble (3): UAB (22-5, No. 44), Houston (19-8, No. 57), UTEP (19-8, No. 74)

Projected bids (2): Memphis, UAB

Synopsis: Beating Memphis sent UAB into the AP Top 25, but it's not completely safe yet. Houston and UTEP may have no recourse but to win the C-USA tournament at this point.

Missouri Valley

Locks (2): Wichita State (24-8, No. 28), Southern Illinois* (22-10, No. 30)

Bubble (4): Missouri State (20-8, No. 21), Northern Iowa (23-9, No. 26), Bradley (20-10, No. 35), Creighton (19-9, No. 42)

Projected bids (4): Wichita State, Southern Illinois, Northern Iowa, Bradley

Synopsis: You won't find a stranger case than Missouri State, which went 4-7 against The Valley's other NCAA contenders yet is its highest-rated team. The Bears could shatter the record for highest RPI-rated team left out (34). Bradley helped itself by reaching the league title game. Creighton may get a pass from the committee if injured PG Josh Dotzler is cleared to return.

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