Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Bracket Breakdown: Three Conference Tournaments That Bubble Teams Should Fear

February 13, 2010 Columns No Comments

Conference tournaments will start in about two weeks, and bubble teams from San Diego State to Connecticut will cross their fingers that the NCAA Tournament-worthy favorites from one-bid conferences take care of business.

Three conference tournaments in particular figure to stress out the fringe tournament teams. The Horizon League, Missouri Valley Conference and Western Athletic Conference have the looks of one-bid conferences. But if those conferences’ leaders fail to receive the automatic bid by winning their conference tournament, they have a good shot of making the tournament with an at-large bid.

Butler is the most comfortable conference leader of the three, as the Bulldogs remain undefeated in the Horizon League. Despite posting only two wins against the RPI top 50, the Bulldogs are ranked No. 17 in the RPI, thanks largely to a non-conference slate ranked No. 14 in difficulty. The good news for bubble teams is that the Horizon League tournament will be in Butler’s backyard in Indianapolis. And Butler has dominated the Horizon League’s most likely threats, beating Cleveland State, Wright State and Green Bay six times by an average of 14 points.

In the Missouri Valley, Northern Iowa has four more conference wins than second-place Wichita State. The Panthers sport a higher RPI than Butler at 15, though that will likely change tomorrow because Northern Iowa dropped a road game to Bradley, only the team’s second loss in conference play. Despite two losses to teams outside the RPI top 100, Northern Iowa still figures to receive an at-large bid if necessary because the team is 22-3 and has two wins against the RPI top 50. However, Northern Iowa’s road to the conference’s automatic bid is tougher than Butler’s. The tournament will be in St. Louis, and the Panthers have not exactly blown out most MIssouri Valley opponents — winning by less than 10 points in six of 13 victories.

Utah State would likely join the bubble if the Aggies lose in the WAC tournament in Reno, Nev. Although the Aggies have the best marquis win of Butler, Northern Iowa and Utah State — against BYU — they also have the most losses, six, including two against teams outside the RPI top 100. Utah State has a respectable strength of schedule hovering around 100, and the Aggies might continue to rise if they finish strongly in the 10th toughest conference. With four home games remaining, the Aggies could easily enter the WAC tournament with 24 wins. However, playing in Reno means the Nevada Wolf Pack will have home-court advantage knowing they must earn the conference’s automatic bid to make the NCAA Tournament. If Utah State loses to the Wolf Pack in the WAC championship game, the conference could end up with two bids in the NCAA Tournament.

With nearly half the Big East on the bubble, several prominent teams, such as Louisville, Connecticut and Marquette, will need to hope that Butler, Northern Iowa and Utah State ensure that seemingly one-bid conferences don’t unexpectedly become two-bid conferences. All three conference favorites will face upset-minded opponents in their tournaments, especially when their opponents know they can only earn an NCAA Tournament bid by receiving an automatic bid.

Comment on this Article:

Like Hoopville on Facebook


Your Phil of Hoops

Big East looks the same in some ways and quite different in other ways

November 13, 2015 by


As year three of the new-look Big East tips off, the conference looks the same in a few ways. In other ways, though, it’s not the same, and much is to be determined.

Though a contender, Purdue will need to earn more relevance

October 15, 2015 by


Purdue has the makings of a contender in Big Ten play, but you wouldn’t know it from the conversations about the conference teams. The Boilermakers will have to earn their way to relevance despite their potential to contend.

New challenge ahead for Harvard

October 6, 2015 by


If Harvard’s great run through the Ivy League is to continue in 2015-16, the Crimson will have to get through quite a challenge this time around with a team that looks a little different.

Hoopville Archives

Reader Poll

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 2015-11-12 10:09:26
end_date 2015-11-17 23:59:59
Poll Results:
Who is your pick to win the 2016 national championship?

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed listening to COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT, a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, joined by former St. John's and George Washington head coach Mike Jarvis, former Fairfield head coach Terry O'Connor and many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

Here are links to the shows:

March 15, 2015 - First hour | Second hour

March 22, 2015 - First hour | Second hour

March 29, 2015 - First hour | Second hour

April 5, 2015 - First hour | Second hour | Third hour

Recruiting Coverage

2015 Boston Back to School Showcase recap

September 18, 2015 by


The Boston Back to School Showcase gave high school teams from three states and north of the border a chance for a couple of early games. We take a look back at the day and a few who stood out.

2015 Hoopville Spring Finale Notes

June 30, 2015 by


We look back at more from the 2015 Hoopville Spring Finale, where some of the championship games were worth the price of admission.

A big championship day for a local program at the Hoopville Spring Finale

June 23, 2015 by


The 2015 Hoopville Spring Finale saw a number of good championship games on Sunday to close it out, and we start our look back with a look at those games.

Player highlights from Mass Elite and Boston Warriors college showcase

June 4, 2015 by


Two big programs, Mass Elite and the Boston Warriors, got together once again on a college showcase for many of their high school players. We look at some who stood out on the evening.

2015 Massachusetts AAU Tournament notes

June 3, 2015 by


Massachusetts held its AAU championship rounds in a few age groups and its entire tournament for the oldest age group this weekend. We take a look at some of Sunday’s action in Foxboro.