How bad is the Pac-10? Bad enough to not earn one at-large bid
Every BCS conference in the 65-team era has gotten at least one at-large bid
Led by Kansas, Texas and K-State, the Big 12 is the nation's best conference
The Big East looks certain for six bids, with a couple of other teams in the mix
Bubble Watch is back! And just in time to break down the start of what could be an epic run to ignominy out West.
Check out the current nonleague performance (as of Jan. 10) of postseason-eligible teams in a certain conference that rhymes with "MAC men" (and could get the same number of NCAA bids as them):
Record against RPI Top 50: 2-24
Record against RPI Top 100: 9-31
Record against all other BCS teams: 8-21
Nonleague Top 100 wins: Texas A&M (Derrick Roland shattered-leg game), San Diego State, Oakland, Western Michigan, Louisiana Tech, Portland, Murray State, Pacific, Colorado State (twice).
Now what happens if Cal settles in and rolls to the regular-season title, Washington continues its downward spiral, the second-place team (or, gasp, ineligible USC) finishes 11-7 or so with a nondescript overall profile, and Cal wins the Pac-10 tourney and gets the league's auto bid?
(Crickets ... tumbleweeds rolling by ... uncomfortable coughing ... )
Well, you could get what you nearly had in today's bracket. Yup, the Pac-10 could become the first BCS conference in the 65-team era not to get an at-large bid to the NCAAs. As is, the league stands a strong chance of matching its 1988 version, which is the last BCS league to get only two teams into the field. And yes, that would mark the latest return of 2Pac.
Now put all eyez on me as we discuss the rest of the bubble 'bidness' ...
As Sheryl Crow knows, the first Bubble Watch cut is the deepest. Early versions of the Watch will err on the side of inclusion (to the Watch) and exclusion (from the locks category), in order to full the yummy middle with info on as many teams as possible. For the time being, the standard cutoffs (RPI Top 100 for BCS leagues; Top 60 for everyone else, based on at-large history/trends) will be reevaluated to account for a handful of interesting additional cases.
Remember, records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Sunday's collegerpi.com RPI report.
Also remember that Bubble Watch is like a public trust, and your collective knowledge helps shape every version. Send your very valuable feedback to email@example.com or to @aglock on Twitter. All submissions are read; polite, fact-based ones stand the best chance of a response. Submissions that claim your team's record is wrong because you failed to read the bold sentence in the previous paragraph will be forwarded to failblog.org.
Looking forward to the journey! Thanks for coming along for the ride ...
The Blue Devils found out on Saturday that they won't exactly stroll through the conference, but they still look like the best team in the league at this point and are in the mix for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs.
SHOULD BE IN
It seems a bit silly to have North Carolina (12-4, 1-0, RPI: 44, SOS: 42) in here since the Heels are a 3 seed in my bracket, but UNC's work so far has only been OK. Before losing at College of Charleston in a sizeable upset, the Heels' three losses had been to Syracuse (at MSG), at Kentucky and vs. Texas in Dallas. They also beat Ohio State (with Evan Turner) and Michigan State.
IN THE MIX
The Heels have more to like than anyone else in the league, including Clemson (13-3, 1-1, RPI: 36, SOS: 70), which beat Butler but lost to Texas A&M and Illinois out of conference. The Tigers were outclassed at Duke in their ACC opener, but that happens to a lot of teams. The home win over BC on Saturday was crucial ahead of upcoming home games against UNC and Duke sandwiched around a two-game road trip.
It's hard to know what to make of Wake Forest (11-3, 1-1, RPI: 30, SOS: 55). The home loss to William & Mary doesn't look bad now after the Tribe won 10 in a row and also beat Richmond, VCU and Maryland (in College Park). The win at Gonzaga looks slightly less impressive with the Zags' up-and-down form. Saturday's one-point loss at Miami puts pressure on for upcoming home games against Maryland and Virginia, as the three road games in the next five are at Duke, UNC and Georgia Tech.
The Deacons are in a similar boat to Georgia Tech (12-3, 1-1, RPI: 47, SOS: 83). Losing the Puerto Rico Shootout opener to Dayton was disappointing, as it cost shots at quality opponents in the next two games. The Jackets do get Duke, UNC, Wake and Clemson twice each, so no one will say that they didn't have chances to impress. They took advantage of the first of those on Saturday, making up for a league-opening home OT loss to Florida State. Six of the next nine are on the road, including trips to UNC, Wake, FSU and Duke.
Florida State (13-3, 1-1, RPI: 60, SOS: 202) had a disappointing loss at Maryland on Sunday. With five of their next seven at home (none of those against UNC, Duke, Wake or Clemson), the Noles have a huge chance to rack up early league wins. They also only play Duke, UNC and Wake once each, although the Duke and UNC games are both away. FSU edged Marquette for the Old Spice Classic title and does have an OT win at Georgia Tech. The Noles also got handled at Florida and at Ohio State in their only other nonleague games of note.
Miami (14-1, 1-1, RPI: 68, SOS: 297) beat Minnesota and South Carolina in nonleague play and has split a pair of one-point decisions to open ACC play. As you can tell from the SOS, the nonleague slate isn't going to carry the Canes' at-large profile, but they'll get plenty of chances in league play. Six of their next nine are on the road, so we'll find out a lot about them fairly soon.
Virginia Tech (12-2, 0-1, RPI: 71, SOS: 249) faded down the stretch in Chapel Hill and couldn't back up a much-needed nonleague win over Seton Hall (that came without star Malcolm Delaney). The rest of the resume is undistinguished, with a neutral-site (albeit in Philly) loss to Temple and wins over mediocre (or worse) "name" programs in Georgia, Penn State and Iowa.
Locks: Kansas, Texas, Kansas State
This league has the top two overall seeds in my bracket and a third team that's still in the RPI top 10 after a loss on Saturday at Missouri. The quality at the top is clearly the best of any league, but the depth seems to be a bit underrated, as well. This is the country's best conference.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Texas A&M (11-3, 1-0, RPI: 34, SOS: 51) has neutral-site wins over Clemson and Minnesota that will remain solid, and close losses to West Virginia and New Mexico (both neutral, although the UNM game was in Houston) and at Washington (in the game in which Derrick Roland shattered his leg) aren't bad by any means. We'll see what the long-term impact of Roland's injury will be. The league opener, a home win over Nebraska, was very important, as the next two are at K-State and at Texas.
Baylor (12-1, 1-0, RPI: 40, SOS: 186) became the latest team to thrash disappointment-of-the-year Oklahoma, but the impressive performance adds qualitative chops to a resume that doesn't have a ton of marquee meat in it yet. A neutral-site defeat of Xavier and road wins at Arizona State, Arkansas and South Carolina are definitely worth something, though. Baylor has a chance to get off to a good Big 12 start, which will be crucial. After a trip to improved Colorado and a home game against OK State, the next three in league are at KU, vs. K-State and at Texas. Ouch.
Texas Tech (12-3, 0-1, RPI: 37, SOS: 100) is being exposed on the road, with Saturday's thrashing in Stillwater the latest subpar effort after losses at Wichita State and New Mexico. Red Raiders fans should also be concerned that the OT win over Washington looks less and less impressive. If Tech can't handle Mizzou at home on Wednesday, it's staring at an 0-3 league start with a trip to Kansas up after that.
Missouri (13-3, 1-0, RPI: 56, SOS: 145) is quietly surging, with eight wins in a row after a home upset of Kansas State, and the Tigers have a pretty manageable first half of the league schedule. They also get home dates with Texas and Kansas in the final six games to provide late-season chances for a statement win. Nonleague play was a very mixed bag. The Tigers lost to Richmond in South Padre Island and at Vanderbilt and Oral Roberts. On the plus side, they looked impressive in beating Illinois for the first time in a decade, and their trouncing of Oregon looks better with the Ducks' recent recovery.
Texas Tech's loss was Oklahoma State's (13-2, 1-0, RPI: 21, SOS: 74) gain. The Cowboys will need a solid Big 12 campaign after a foul-plagued loss to Rhode Island at Mohegan Sun capped off an undistinguished nonleague slate that makes them a computer tiger at this point. Getting momentum might be hard, though, given their bizarrely balanced league schedule in which they don't have a homestand. They now play two away, and then alternate home and road games the rest of the way.
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