As Sean mentioned earlier today, we're not dead yet. Far from it, actually. Despite an early loss to Pittsburgh in the ACC Tournament, the Syracuse Orange (19-13, 9-9) appear to have gained some new life in the NCAA Tournament conversation. More teams have been added to the potential at-large pool (thanks, San Diego State, Akron and others...), but with more teams compared to them, SU's quality wins seem to be standing out more.
So is the list of bubble teams set? Not quite. There are still a few games left to play today, and yes, they're important. Below, you'll get a quick rooting guide for today's action. Then, a check-in with how we stack up vs. fellow bubble teams.
Selection Sunday Rooting Guide
St. Joseph's and VCU both appear to be in the field with most experts. But nonetheless, if you want doubt cast on one team over the other, root for St. Joe's first and foremost. The Rams have seemed erratic in their first season post-Shaka Smart, but managed to right the ship as the year went on. Until very recently their resume was getting stacked up against Syracuse's and other bubble teams -- so again, might as well put them to the test with a loss.
"GO": St. Joseph's
The only two "safe" teams in the entire SEC in terms of an NCAA bid, Texas A&M and Kentucky don't impact the bubble directly -- rather, indirectly through resumes. Syracuse dealt A&M a loss down in the Bahamas, and if that Orange W turns into one over the SEC Tournament champs? Perhaps that's just enough to give SU an additional chip in the quality department.
"GO": Texas A&M
Don't forget about this one -- there's a definite impact in this game too. Arkansas-Little Rock was one of the country's lone "great" mid-major teams this season, racking up a record of 28-4 to-date. UL-Monroe, on the other hand, has been a pedestrian squad at 20-12 (though they did go 15-5 in the SBC). UALR probably doesn't have the profile for an at-large team should they fail to win this game (best win might be San Diego State). But let's not try to find out.
"GO": Spartans getting placed in Virginia's bracket again?
As much as it pains you, me and all of us, we're rooting for Connecticut here. Not only did Syracuse knock off the Huskies down at the Battle 4 Atlantis, but UConn's probably "in" based on its body of work already anyway. Memphis is not, after going 19-14 overall and 8-10 in the American. That's a bid-steal situation if the Tigers pull a victory. You usually want UConn to lose, but not when that loss costs SU a bid. This pains me, but...
"GO": UConn (vomits)
Everyone's been throwing around a lot of names on the bubble. But here's your quick primer on the important ones not named Syracuse:
Computer numbers are okay (RPI: 47; SOS: 69), but the Bearcats own just one true quality win (SMU). Their season ended in brutal fashion -- a 4OT loss to UConn in the AAC quarterfinals -- but the Huskies' progress might only be helping their case. Most say "in," but it's worth keeping an eye on where/when you hear Cincinnati's name called later on today, as it could give hints about SU too.
What Pitt lacks in quality wins (one over Duke is their main claim to fame), they make up for in... three wins over Syracuse. Pitt's another team that's likely in, especially because I couldn't imagine the committee passing them up for a squad (SU) they beat three separate times. Like Cincinnati, Pitt's placement could give clues as to where the committee sees the Orange.
The thinking going into the conference tournaments was that we wanted the Bonnies to either lose early or win the A-10. They did neither, as you probably noticed above. So now we have to hope there's some stock put into the Orange's victory over St. Bonaventure earlier in the year. If there isn't any (and many bracketologists say there won't be), we'll have to hope their SOS (78) drags them down compared to power conference schools sharing the bubble.
Temple has five wins over the top 50, but some questionable computer numbers (RPI: 59/SOS: 81) to go with those. Making the AAC semis was a good first step, but the Owls were only going to be assured a spot with an automatic bid. Perhaps their trump card is the five combined victories over UConn, SMU and Cincinnati? They have one of the least clear-cut cases around.
Michigan was on shakier ground going into Championship Week, but then they upset the B1G top-seed, Indiana. On top of the win over the Hoosiers, the Wolverines possess another six wins over the top 50, and have computer numbers (RPI: 57/SOS: 50) that probably spell out an at-large bid. If the committee's unimpressed by Michigan's quality wins, they won't really be thrilled with Syracuse's either.
San Diego State
San Diego State fell apart against Fresno State on Saturday night, and as a result, get relegated to an uncertain bubble situation. Usually, SDSU's non-conference plus the strength of the Mountain West are enough to push the Aztecs through, but not so much this year. Their lone quality win (over Cal) and regular season title (negligible) are what they're hanging their hat on, and they hope the committee buys in.
St. Mary's only challenged themselves once (Cal) in their non-conference schedule. And other than that, the Gaels are banking on two wins over Gonzaga and a regular season West Coast Conference title. Is that, along with an RPI of 37, enough to get them in despite a SOS of 148? I'd content that it isn't, since the committee is usually quick to punish those that fail to challenge themselves at all.
Monmouth tried to schedule tough, but it's not necessarily their fault that the bottom fell out on Georgetown and UCLA. They own two quality wins over Notre Dame and USC, respectively, and.... that's the resume. No, the Hawks don't control who they play in-conference, but you can't necessarily reward a SOS in the 160s, especially when paired with a RPI of 53. Even taking off the orange-colored glasses, it gets tough to see them in over Syracuse.
The wins are three (24 overall), but there's absolutely no quality to the Gamecocks' resume otherwise. Just one top-50 win, a SOS of 123 (non-conference SOS of 270), plus an RPI of 65 to go with that. South Carolina spent most of the season just being considered a quality team based on total wins. Now, as it gets down to selection time, the doubts are creeping up. If you reward them for scheduling easy, that means you do the same for St. Mary's, Monmouth and others with bad SOS numbers.
Vandy has two big wins (Kentucky and Texas A&M) and that's really it. No other wins over top-50 teams, an RPI of 61 and the same 19-13 record as Syracuse. The Commodores also possess a similar SOS to SU (39). I think Syracuse's profile is a little bit better than that of the 'Dores, but if it comes down to one vs. the other, perhaps this is where Jim Boeheim's absence comes into play.
Cool? Cool. "Go" teams that we mentioned in the first section. "Boo" to the ones in the lower one. Good luck with surviving today, everyone.