The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 4, 2011

This Week’s Bracketological Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Races

Very Few Bubble Spots Left


With conference tournament play underway, not much has changed yet in the NCAA Tournament picture.  At least two dozen teams remain on a bubble that may have room to admit nine of those teams at the most.  With every multiple bid conference tournament that produces an upset winner, one more bubble will burst.


As we see it today, 16 conferences will definitely send just one team to the NCAA Tournament.  Six other leagues have a chance to send two teams, but they could send just one team if the favorite wins their tournament or loses in an early round and gets eliminated.  That brings the subtotal to 22 definite bids.


We believe 37 teams have already met the minimum requirement to receive a bid to the tournament no matter how they perform in their conference tournament.  The subtotal now numbers 59.


That leaves just nine spots left, and up to six of those could go to those leagues mentioned above that could send a second team.  The bubble has a very thin skin.


Let’s take a conference-by-conference look at the prospects and suspects.


Definite One Bid Leagues

These leagues will send only their automatic qualifier to the Big Dance.  The team we list here have not earned a spot, since no conference tournament championships have been played.  That will change in 24 hours.


America East

Vermont 22-7


Atlantic Sun

Belmont 28-4


Big Sky

Northern Colorado 19-10


Big South

Coastal Carolina 28-4


Big West

Long Beach State 20-10



Fairfield 23-6



Kent State 20-10



Hampton 21-8



Long Island 25-5


Ohio Valley

Murray State 23-7


Patriot League

Bucknell 23-8



College of Charleston 22-9



Stephen F. Austin 18-9



Texas Southern 17-11



Oakland 22-9



Florida Atlantic 21-9


Possible Two Bid Leagues If Favorite Loses In Final Round

These conferences have a chance to send a second team if the favorite is upset in the championship game.  If the favorite wins the automatic bid, that conference will send just one team.


Conference USA

U A B  21-7


UTEP 22-8, Southern Miss. 21-8, and Memphis 21-9 probably do not have the resumes to earn an at-large bid, but if any of these win the tournament, UAB could and probably will earn an at-large spot.  We will place allot one bubble spot for these three teams, because two will not get a spot.


Horizon League

Butler 21-9


Cleveland State 25-7 is close to becoming a bubble team, but we believe the Vikings must win the tournament.  Butler has the credentials to get in if they lose in the finals or to CSU in the semifinals, but the Bulldogs better plan on winning the league tournament, because they are vulnerable if there are two or three upsets in other tournaments.


Ivy League

Regular Season Champion


Either Harvard 21-5 or Princeton 22-5 will win the Ivy this year.  Currently, Princeton leads Harvard by half a game (10-1 to 10-2).  Princeton finishes out the season with three road games.  The Tigers play at Dartmouth tonight and at Harvard tomorrow night.  They finish at Penn on Tuesday.  Harvard hosts Penn tonight and Princeton tomorrow night.  There is a good chance that both contenders will finish 12-2, forcing a playoff game later in the week.  If Harvard loses a playoff, they would be 23-6.  Princeton would be 24-6 if they lost the playoff.  Both teams have RPIs in the 40’s, so there is a small chance that both teams could receive bids.


Missouri Valley

Missouri State 23-7


Wichita State 23-7 had a chance to wrap up a safe position, but the Shockers lost in the Bracketbuster.  This league laid an egg in the Bracketbuster and watched the Colonial take over the title of best mid-major.  Still, if somebody other than Missouri State wins the tournament, the Valley could send a second team.


West Coast

St. Mary’s 23-7


Gonzaga 22-9 has played a relatively tough schedule and owns wins over a couple of top 50 teams, but we do not believe the Bulldogs are in line for an at-large bid.  We will anoint them as conference tournament favorites, and if the Zags beat SMU in the championship game, the Gaels should be in decent shape for an at-large bid.



Utah State 27-3 is ranked in the Top 25 and has an RPI of 18.  The Aggies are going dancing even if they lose in the WAC Tournament.  


Teams That Are Locks

These teams are going to the Big Dance even if they lose the rest of their regular season games.



Duke 27-3

North Carolina 23-6

Florida State 20-9


Atlantic 10

Xavier 23-6

Temple 23-6

Richmond 23-7


Big East

Pittsburgh 26-4

Notre Dame 24-5

Louisville 23-7

Syracuse 24-6

St. John’s 19-10

West Virginia 19-10

Cincinnati 23-7

Georgetown 21-8

Connecticut 21-8

Villanova 21-9


Big Ten

Ohio State 28-2

Purdue 25-5

Wisconsin 23-6


Big 12

Kansas 28-2

Texas 24-6

Texas A&M 22-7

Kansas State 21-9

Missouri 22-8



George Mason 25-5

Old Dominion 24-6


Mountain West

B Y U 27-3

San Diego State 28-2

U N L V 22-7



Arizona 24-6

U C L A 21-9

Washington 20-9



Florida 23-6

Kentucky 21-8

Vanderbilt 21-8

Georgia 20-9

Tennessee 18-12


Das Bubble

If a team has an asterisk (*) after its name, then we feel they are on the top side of the bubble.  If a team has an “x” after its name, then we feel they are on the bottom of the bubble and need to win some big games to have any chance.


As of today, as many as nine bubble teams could earn a bid.



Virginia Tech 19-9

Clemson 19-10 *

Boston College 18-11 *


Clemson takes on Virginia Tech Saturday, and the winner will enter the ACC Tournament as a definite high bubble team.  We believe two of these three teams will get a bid.


Atlantic 10

Duquesne 18-10 x (100 RPI)

Dayton 19-11 x (81 RPI)


These teams have played themselves out of serious contention for an at-large bid.  If either gets hot and wins their season finale and then loses in the conference championship game, then that team could be back on the bubble.  Duquesne closes at Richmond, and a win there would mean a lot.  Dayton finishes at George Washington, which would be a quality win but not as impressive as a DU win at Richmond.


Big East

Marquette 18-12 *


Marquette may be at the top of the bubble.  The Big East Tournament will be stronger than some of the NCAA regionals, and it may only take one tournament win to get them in the field.


Big Ten

Michigan State 17-12

Illinois 18-12

Michigan 18-12


The Spartans venture to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines Saturday, and the winner will enter the Big Ten tournament near the top of the bubble.


Illinois hosts Indiana tomorrow, and this is a must-win game for the Illini.  We believe they will have to make it to the semifinal round in the conference tournament to be on the good side of the bubble.


Big 12

Baylor 18-11

Nebraska 19-10 x

Colorado 18-12


Baylor, 6-8 since starting 12-3, hosts Texas tomorrow, and the Bears must win that one and then at least two in the Big 12 Tournament.  If they lose to the Longhorns, then BU will have to win the automatic bid.


Nebraska plays at Colorado tomorrow.  Even if the Cornhuskers win to sweep the Buffalos, they may have to win the conference tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament.


Colorado is 4-8 in their last 12 after starting 14-4.  They will have to beat Nebraska and then win at least three in the conference tournament to have any chance at an at-large bid.  



Drexel 20-9 x  61 RPI

Virginia Commonwealth 21-10 x  62 RPI

Hofstra 20-10 x  78 RPI


Conference USA

U T E P  22-8 x

Memphis 21-9 *

Southern Miss 21-8 *


We believe that one of these three teams will play their way into an at-large bid if they do not win the automatic bid.  



Cleveland State 25-7


As we mentioned above, Cleveland State is on the bubble and could possibly receive an at-large bid if they upset Butler in the conference tournament semifinals but fail to win the championship.


Ivy League



If Harvard and Princeton both finish 12-2 in the league and face off in a playoff for the Ivy League championship, we believe the loser will still have an outside shot at receiving an at-large bid.



Washington State 19-10

The Cougars have a shot at grabbing an at-large bid if they beat UCLA to end the regular season and win a game in the conference tournament.  Two wins in the Pac-10 tourney would move them to the plus side of the bubble.



Alabama 19-10


The Crimson Tide must beat Georgia tomorrow and then get to the Final round of the SEC Tournament to have a shot at an at-large bid.


Visit this site after Midnight Eastern Time Friday, March 4/Saturday March 5 for an update on the conference tournaments and a preview of two more tournaments commencing on Satuday.

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