Big East Bubble Watch: Who Will Be Dancing?

    
February 12th, 2010
The Big East is nearly as strong at the top as it was a year ago, when it could claim three of the four number one seeds in the NCAA Tournament. This season, however, nearly half of the Big East teams lie squarely on the bubble. There seems to be very little separation between teams 6-12 in the conference and it is difficult to determine who will end up where when the season ends. The Big East Tournament may be the deciding factor on which bubble teams make it, and which fall short.

 

Team

Record

RPI*

SOS*

vs. Top 100

Louisville

15-9

43

6

4-7

South Florida

15-8

49

26

5-7

Cincinnati

14-9

52

16

5-9

Connecticut

14-10

57

7

7-7

Marquette

15-8

59

48

3-7

Notre Dame

17-8

62

60

4-5

Seton Hall

13-9

65

9

4-9

*RPI #'s updated through yesterday morning, and doesn't include last night's games.

 

If you are judging by this chart, it appears Louisville and South Florida have the strongest cases. Both have respectable computer numbers and have gotten the job done against the top 100. Connecticut is close behind. Because the Big East has five teams (Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, West Virginia, and Pitt) locked in at this point, it is likely that only three from this group will go dancing. However, when examining bubble teams, the Committee puts a certain weight on the big win category. It’s imperative that a bubble team be able to boast a win over a big time opponent. That’s something South Florida and Connecticut can claim, over Georgetown and Texas, respectively. Louisville can not. All four of their top 100 wins come over teams outside the top 50. Meanwhile, Cincinnati has wins over Vanderbilt and Maryland. These were not home wins, as all four of Louisville’s top 100 wins were. They came at the Maui Invitational. Marquette has wins over Georgetown and Xavier. Notre Dame beat West Virginia. Even Seton Hall, who seems the least likely to garner a bid as of right now, beat Pittsburgh. But if the season ended today, it would be likely that Louisville, Connecticut and South Florida would get the three bubble Big East bids. Looking down the road, however, that could change.

 

Louisville’s season may come down to a two game road stretch where they travel to Storrs and Milwaukee. If they win both those games, they should be able to feel confident about their Tournament status, especially considering the rest of their remaining schedule. If they lose both, they stand on shaky ground. A split would likely be enough to get them in.

 

Connecticut will have to defend its home court against the likes of Cincinnati, Louisville and West Virginia, and go on the road to face Syracuse, South Florida, Notre Dame and Villanova. That’s a gauntlet of a schedule, and the Huskies have to win at least four of those games to rest at ease on Selection Sunday.

 

South Florida has the easiest path to the Dance. It’s probably safe to assume they lose at Villanova, and Marquette will likely defeat them in Milwaukee, but the only other road trip is at DePaul, and the teams they do play at home, Cincinnati, Connecticut, St. John’s and Providence, aren’t extremely scary. It would be surprising if South Florida didn’t finish with at least 19 wins going into the Big East Tournament.

 

Marquette has a great shot at making the Big Dance as well, and could potentially win out. Their most difficult opponent, Pittsburgh, they get at home, and the rest of the teams they play are either on the Big East bubble or are out of the picture. 20 wins should be the goal for Buzz Williams.

 

Things look grim for the Bearcats. A two game road trip against fellow bubble teams UConn and South Florida begins their final stretch, and they close out with West Virginia, Villanova and Georgetown. That’s not a good way to end the season, but it does give Cincinnati numerous chances for a big win, as well as skyrockets it’s SOS into the top ten, most likely.

 

Seton Hall is only 4-7 in conference now, but they close on a good note. Marquette travels to the Hall to play, and the only game that looks impossible is a trip to Morgantown to do battle with the Mountaineers.

 

Notre Dame is only three wins away from 20, but with their relatively weak computer numbers, that may not be enough. They are notorious for being strong at home and inept on the road (they've lost 4 in a row away from home), and their three remaining road games are all against difficult opponents. The Irish do have three very winnable games at home, however.

 

Ultimately, only three of these teams are likely to go dancing, barring a nosedive from Pittsburgh. Right now, those three would be Louisville, South Florida and Connecticut. However, with Marquette’s easier road to the finish, they seem to be the team most likely to unseat Connecticut and go dancing.