Saturday Bubble Wrap: Bid Thieves Move In

We’ll take a quick trip around conference tournaments each night this week with an eye toward bubble implications. For background, refer to Tuesday’s Projected Field of 64 and our in-depth feature, Breaking Down The Bubble.

There weren’t that many significant moves by bubble teams Saturday since most have already been knocked out of their tournaments—a microcosm of how this year’s bubble shaped up. We’ll bounce around quickly.

• We start in the Big Ten, where Indiana was eliminated in the semifinals by Maryland. The Hoosiers’ 14-12 record in league play isn’t overwhelming for a Big Ten team, but their No. 34 RPI, 15-9 top 50 record and hot finish (11-4 in their last 15) mean they should be safe regardless.

• The Terps should also be safe even if they lose the title game to Michigan, having risen to No. 40 in the RPI and improved to 13-9 against the top 50, complimenting their tied for third place finish in the regular season. In case anyone has wondered about Michigan’s at-large hopes, their RPI has climbed to No. 61 this week, but that’s still not enough, especially since you figure it’d drop a spot or two with a loss Sunday. So the Wolverines still qualify as a potential bid thief.

• North Florida has officially joined the bubble ranks after losing to Lipscomb in the Atlantic Sun title game, opening the possibility that becomes a two-bid league. UNF’s No. 45 RPI is good enough, and the committee will like their 16-4 road record to go with their regular-season title. Their 9-8 top 100 record doesn’t blow you away but isn’t a disqualifier either. Most signs point to the Ospreys making the grade, which would indeed mean a bid has been stolen.

• Texas has advanced to face Oklahoma State in the Big 12 championship game. Bubble teams absolutely need to cheer for the Cowboys.

• UNC Wilmington took itself off the bubble by winning the CAA tournament title game against College of Charleston. With an RPI in the 30s before the game and a second-place finish in the regular season, the Seahawks would’ve been in the mix regardless of the result, but it’s a moot point now. The Colonial is assured of two bids.

• The Missouri Valley title game between bubble dweller Bradley and Missouri State was postponed to Sunday by rain.

• Florida International and Alabama-Birmingham will face off in the Conference USA title game. This is obviously bad news for someone as neither of those were teams were at-large candidates, though it’s possible the team they’ll knock out is fellow C-USA member Southern Mississippi, squarely on the bubble at No. 55 in the RPI. C-USA was in shape to get three bids before the league tournament and now it’s a definite, with the UAB-FIU winner joining Rice and Florida Atlantic. But for Southern Miss, the anxiousness grows.

• The news was better out of the Summit League, where Oral Roberts (No. 35 RPI) completed a perfect run through the tournament to ensure that stays a one-bid conference.

• You could make a case for Louisiana-Lafayette as an at-large should it lose to South Alabama in the Sun Belt title game. It wouldn’t be an overwhelming case by any means, as the Cajuns are No. 51 in the RPI and finished in third place in the regular season. But they’ve gone 22-12 against league foes so far, 16-10 on the road and 10-10 against the top 100, all decent figures. Most likely, the RPI and third-place finish would keep them out, but if you’re a fellow bubble team, you’d still rather see them just win on Sunday. South Alabama, despite winning the regular-season title, is not a threat at No. 77 in the RPI.

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