WeAreDePaul.com Bubble Report - 3/10/06

I don't think there's any need for a prelude today. Every college basketball fan has been watching the past 48 hours with some serious fervor. I do have to use warrennolan.com for RPI ranks this morning, though.

BIG EAST Scores of Bubble Relevance

Syracuse 74, Cincinnati 73

Syracuse 86, Connecticut 84 (OT)

We're back to Syracuse (21-11, 9-9, RPI: 21), the saga of which has gotten pretty old to me at this point. Jim Boeheim is griping and moaning about everything, from Gerry McNamara's respect level to unbalanced schedules. Speaking of McNamara, I wonder how spin control is going in upper New York today after he hit two of the most clutch three-pointers in his career on back-to-back days, shortly after his own community decided he was overrated.

Anyway, Jim, you could have solved all your problems a long time ago by scheduling two road games against the mid-majors of your choice. ANY mid-major would have jumped at the chance to host the Orange. Your RPI rank would have turned out just fine, and since you're Syracuse, no one would have thought twice about your NCAA Tournament inclusion. Instead, you choose to isolate yourself in the castle that is the Carrier Dome (with the exception of a non-hostile neutral site game here and there) until mid-January and then whine about the BIG EAST schedule being unfair to you.

But we can all go on with our lives now that the Orange upset Connecticut. Syracuse is in the NCAA Tournament. Every game from here on out for them is to improve seeding. This score does allow me to make the point that BBD made: Connecticut was lucky not to play DePaul in the BIG EAST Tournament. If DePaul beats Syracuse by 39 and Syracuse beats Connecticut by 2…well, you know the rest. (Someone on the Old Dominion board is doing the same thing right now, I'm sure.)

Now let's move to Cincinnati (18-12, 8-9, RPI: 40). Obviously with a lot of basketball to play yet this weekend, my opinion could change, but I think they're in. Why? On Thursday morning, their RPI rank sat at 41. The team who ended the 2004-2005 season at RPI rank 41 was Texas, and the profiles of '04-'05 Texas and '05-'06 Cincinnati look pretty similar:

Overall Record

Texas: 19-10

Cincinnati: 18-12

Conference Record (excluding conference tournament)

Texas: 9-7

Cincinnati: 8-8

Record in Last 10

Texas: 5-5

Cincinnati: 5-5

Road/Neutral Record

Texas: 5-8

Cincinnati: 5-8

Interestingly, both teams scored huge victories in the last game of the regular season (Texas at Oklahoma State, Cincinnati vs. West Virginia), and both teams proceeded to lose in their first conference tournament game. For Texas' efforts, they earned an #8 seed. Cincinnati might be worthy of a #9 or a #10, but I'd say they're "in" right now with a small margin for error.

Rutgers 61, Seton Hall 48. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to suggest that Seton Hall (18-11, 9-8, RPI: 56) has won every game it should have lost and vice versa since Valentine's Day. They beat West Virginia, Cincinnati and Pitt, and lost to Notre Dame, St. John's, DePaul and Rutgers. The RPI rank is awful for someone who has scored as many marquee wins as they have over the past three weeks, and the lasting image the Selection Committee has is the ugly loss to a Rutgers squad going to the NIT. They are a really, really tough call, but I'm going to say "out" right now, with the possibility of moving back "in" if the chips fall correctly.

Atlantic-10/14 Scores of Bubble Relevance

Before we get into the summaries, this one qualifies as the screwiest tournament out there at the moment. The better seeds are 2-6 overall, and all four better seeds lost on Thursday. The semi-finals are featuring a #9 seed playing a #5 seed, and a #10 seed playing a #6 seed.

Temple 68, George Washington 53. The first official "pop" comes from the A-10/14, as Temple (17-13, 9-8, RPI: 71) knocks off the Colonials handily. It was not a good day for the Connecticut mentor and protege, as Messrs. Calhoun and Hobbs lost as conference tournament #1 seeds in the quarterfinals of their tournaments. Although Temple garnered all the highlights with this win, they probably still need to win the conference tournament to get into the NCAAs. It won't be easy; there are some quiet lurkers in this conference that could win this tournament.

St. Joseph's 56, Saint Louis 37. A team who has been flying up the ranks lately and could feasibly put themselves in position for an at-large is St. Joseph's (17-12, 11-7, RPI: 48 ). Their non-conference strength-of-schedule is superb, as they played NCAA Tournament qualifiers Penn, Gonzaga and Davidson, plus Kansas, Ohio State, Bucknell, and Villanova. And they're hot, winning seven in a row. I would love to see the Hawks get in as an at-large over an ACC team, then watch Phil Martelli heartily laugh in Billy Packer's face on Selection Sunday. That's MY idea of a fun reality show.

ACC Scores of Bubble Relevance

Wake Forest 78, Florida State 66. Here we go. Get ready for three days of hearing how Wake Forest's win shows the overall strength of the ACC and that Florida State (19-9, 9-8, RPI: 61) was already in the Tournament after beating Duke no matter what happened here. The Selection Committee historically has occasionally dipped into the 60s to pluck a team from there and put them in the NCAA Tournament, but I don't know if Florida State warrants it. Their whole resume right now is essentially beating Duke. Would you take Florida State or Seton Hall right now, if it came down to those two schools? I'd be inclined to go with the Pirates. You know, DePaul beat Wake Forest by three, and Wake Forest beat Florida State by 12, and Florida State beat Duke…oh, never mind.

Maryland 82, Georgia Tech 64. With Florida State's loss, Maryland (18-11, 9-8, RPI: 44) comparatively looks a lot better rampaging over Georgia Tech. But where ESPN analysts lost perspective last night was that the ACC is not promised five bids. You can't just substitute Maryland's name for Florida State's name and call it a day. Georgia Tech had the lowest RPI rank in the conference going into last night's game, so the win for the Terrapins didn't do a lot for their overall profile. Beat Boston College today, and then I'll start to buy that Maryland is an NCAA Tournament team.

As a side note, I can't get this image out of my head of Gary Williams calling his secretary and asking for his phone messages. "Yes, a Mark Turgeon called from Wichita State about a scheduling issue. A Greg McDermott from Northern Iowa called and just wanted to meet you for lunch. A Chris Lowery from Southern Illinois called and…"

Big 10 Scores of Bubble Relevance

Minnesota 59, Michigan 55. Speaking of coaching trees, it's not been a good year for the Coach K one. Quin Snyder is out, much to my chagrin. He was good for at least one joke a week. Mike Brey spent the season in the BIG EAST's version of the movie "Groundhog Day". And now it appears as if Tommy Amaker may have frittered away an NCAA bid. How much juice is a home win over Illinois worth? I think Michigan's (18-10, 8-9, RPI: 45) about to find out. The Wolverines are 3-7 in their last 10. No team who finished 4-6 made the NCAAs as an at-large last year, much less 3-7. They're only 5-7 on road/neutral courts, which was the lowest amount of road/neutral wins any at-large qualifier had last season. I'm not feelin' you, Michigan.

SEC Scores of Bubble Relevance

Kentucky 71, Mississippi 57. This game was a little closer than it should have been, considering that the Wildcats (20-11, 10-7, RPI: 37) just pasted the Rebels by 40 two weeks ago. A late run at the end of the game made the score a bit more optically-pleasing for those in Kentucky blue. But with some of the other carnage that was happening at roughly the same time on Thursday (Florida State, Michigan), Kentucky comes out looking like a survivor and punching a ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Arkansas 80, Georgia 67. Since I have no real analysis on this game other than this eliminated the last bit of doubt that Arkansas (22-8, 11-6, RPI: 42) is in the NCAA Tournament, I'm left pondering a question: how do you think former President Bill Clinton will celebrate come Selection Sunday?

Conference USA Scores of Bubble Relevance

UAB 69, SMU 55. This was probably the win that secured UAB's (22-5, 13-2, RPI: 43) spot in the NCAA Tournament. No, beating SMU isn't really a big deal, but losing to them would have been a huge one. The Blazers have had two clunkers all season – losing at home to Western Kentucky in November and then getting drilled at UTEP (pun intended) in early February. The other three losses all came on the road by a combined 14 points. And now you can see why Mike Anderson might be anxious to get out of Dodge (Birmingham). If this sort of resume nets you a result of being squarely on the bubble every year, you belong to one sorry conference. I sure hope those trips to the Humanitarian Bowl end up justifying blowing up a good basketball conference for C-USA.

Big 12 Scores of Bubble Relevance

Colorado 65, Baylor 61. How much confidence does this result inspire in anyone that Colorado (20-8, 10-7, RPI: 51) belongs in the NCAA Tournament? The correct answer: none. Squeaking by the last-place team in a must-win game is not a way to impress. Is today's quarterfinal against Texas A&M an elimination game for the loser? Boy, I hope so.

Pac-10 Scores of Bubble Relevance

California 82, USC 67. I think this win puts Cal (19-9, 13-6, RPI: 57) in the Tournament. Third place in a BCS conference and a semi-final appearance in the conference tournament is usually an iron-clad resume. That having been said, given those credentials, we're still talking about Cal as a bubble team. So which conference is going to lose all its teams before the Sweet Sixteen: a) the Pac-10, b) the Big XII, c) both "a" and "b"?

Mountain West Scores of Bubble Relevance

Bubble teams in other conferences are both happy and nervous about the results here. Two of the three bubble teams took very bad quarterfinal losses. San Diego State is expected to breeze to the title at this point, but if any of the other three remaining teams should win this tournament, a bubble will pop somewhere.

Wyoming 57, Air Force 55. The Falcons (22-6, 12-5, RPI: 50) went from "in" to "uh, oh" in the course of two hours Thursday night. Even a semi-final loss could have been brushed off, but to lose in the quarterfinals to an 11-17 team? That's a big problem. And that zero is STILL sitting there, as in zero wins over the RPI Top 50. If the Selection Committee is as serious as it says it is about strength-of-schedule, Air Force is in deep trouble. This score likely brought much rejoicing from many bubble teams, but isn't it un-American to cheer against the Air Force?

Utah 74, BYU 70. As Don Meredith used to sing, "Turn out the lights…the party's o-ver." BYU (19-8, 12-5, RPI: 65) had a very tenuous case at best coming into the tournament, and now they're relegated to the NIT for sure.

San Diego State 64, Colorado State 52. This win could be enough for the Aztecs (20-8, 14-3, RPI: 59) although one more certainly wouldn't hurt. And the tournament opened up wide open on the other side of the bracket, given the scores above.

WAC Scores of Bubble Relevance

Utah State 76, San Jose State 69. It's hard to come up with a scenario that involves Utah State (21-7, 12-5, RPI: 55) making the NCAA Tournament field as an at-large unless they advance to the conference tournament finals. Louisiana Tech looms in the semi-finals, which would be a nice win if the Aggies could pick it up. Then they'd be in the conversation.

And with that, the third season of the "Bubble Report" closes. I want to thank everyone who commented, read, or just accidentally clicked on the link for any, some or all of them I wrote this year. I had a chance to meet quite a few of you for the first time in person this season while watching DePaul games, and to quote Carl Reiner's character from "Ocean's Twelve", "you're all aces in my book". Some friends of mine and I are going to spend the first Friday of the NCAA Tournament hunkering down at Joe's on Weed Street from 11 am to…quite possibly the last second of the last game on that day. I extend an open invitation to anyone who wants to come at any point - and yes, that includes our friends from Marquette or others who root for other schools, so long as the DePaul jabs are kept to a minimum.

While I know this board is meant to be DePaul-centric, I try to keep everyone aware of the rest of the college basketball world so we can better understand our little corner of it. I hope I succeeded in some small part.

Let's go, Demons.

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