Real-time bubble watch
Who's in, who's out? The latest on the NCAA picture
Posted: Wednesday March 12, 2008 10:18AM; Updated: Sunday March 16, 2008 2:21AM
Welcome to SI.com's real-time Bubble Watch. The following chart will be updated continuously between now and Sunday to reflect the results of the conference tournaments.
Here's how it works: The left-hand column lists every team that is expected to receive an NCAA berth regardless of whether it wins its conference tournament. The middle column lists every team that has secured an automatic berth (for likely one-bid conferences whose tournaments haven't been completed, the top remaining seed is used as a placeholder). The final column is for bubble teams, both those we're projecting to make the cut and those who, as of this moment, would likely miss it.
The number of available spots for bubble teams will change, either when unexpected tourney teams lock up automatic berths, or if certain bubble teams play their way into the "lock" column. SI.com will continually update the list based on the latest developments. At any time, you can determine how many berths are actually still in play by adding the number of "locks" and "automatics" and subtracting them from 65. Feel free to chime in via my blog at FanNation.
Saturday night update II: Two 11th-hour wildcards have a chance to crash the party -- while ruining it for somebody else -- if they can complete their improbable conference-tourney runs Sunday.
Last-place Georgia (16-16) reached the SEC title game with not one, but two upsets (over Kentucky and Mississippi State) Saturday in its tornado-relocated tournament and will now face Arkansas on Sunday for a potential automatic bid. Ditto for Big Ten 10th-seed Illinois (16-18) following its semifinal win over Minnesota, though the Illini face a significantly steeper challenge Sunday against top seed Wisconsin.
If either or both can pull off one more stunner, they will steal a bid(s) away from the shakiest remaining bubble teams, which on my bracket are Illinois State and Oregon. Neither, however, would have the worst record in the field; that would be 16-20 Coppin State, which stunned top seed Morgan State in Saturday night's MEAC final to become the first-ever 20-loss team to reach the Dance.
Saturday night update: A few things became clearer Saturday night. UNLV's title-game win over BYU assures that both teams will reach the tournament. Temple's win over St. Joe's most likely assures three berths for the Atlantic 10 (those two, plus Xavier). And Kent State's win over Akron means just one bid for the MAC -- good news for all those teams still sitting on the egde.
As you'll see the number of teams in the "bubble in" column -- which was at 15 when this piece launched on Wednesday -- has shrunk to nine.
Saturday afternoon update: Tyler Hansbrough's last-second jumper delivered a heartbreaking defeat to bubble hopeful Virginia Tech (19-13, 9-7 ACC), but I have a feeling the Hokies will enjoy happier results Sunday night. If the committee was watching, they saw a young team that's clearly peaking late in the season (they'd won five of six going in). Tech's overall numbers still aren't great (No. 51 RPI, 6-9 vs. top 100), but it finished fourth in the RPI's top-rated conference and is playing much better right now than a whole bunch of similarly rated teams that have limped to the finish. One of those is Arizona State (No. 83 RPI), who I'm bumping for the Hokies.
Elsewhere, if you'd told me a few days ago that Kentucky would lose its first SEC tournament game to last-place Georgia, I might have thought the Wildcats would be in trouble. However, I think the committee will take into account the bizarre circumstances surrounding the tornado-relocated tourney, not to mention few other bubble teams have done anything to merit bumping them.