Posted by Ryan Clark at 11:29AM

It’s the final Saturday of college basketball’s regular season, with a handful of leagues already knee-deep in their post-season tournaments. For the Longhorns, the calculus at this point is fairly simple — a win today against Kansas State and versus Texas Tech in the Big 12 tournament would likely get them in. An additional win in the tournament quarterfinals against Baylor, Iowa State, or Oklahoma would practically guarantee a bid.

Of course, Texas’ results don’t happen in a vacuum. If other bubble teams perform well, a 20-win season without an additional Top 50 RPI win might not be enough. On the other side of the coin, if the bubble teams falter and no bid thieves emerge in middle-tier conferences, the Longhorns can breathe even easier if they take care of their own business.

For a full look at all of Texas’ bubble competition, check out the table below. It includes all teams currently seeded 10th or lower by the composite Bracket Matrix, which was last updated after Thursday’s games, plus their First Four Out. The teams at the very bottom of the table are essentially dead in the water at this point, but we’ve been tracking them for a few weeks, so why stop now?

The asterisks next to a team’s name denote how many of the wins in their “W-L” column came against opponents not in Division I, which won’t count when the committee gets down to selecting and seeding teams. You’ll also see an asterisk in the “100+ Ls” column next to Tulsa, which does actually mean that they lost to a D-II school. All RPI numbers and records vs. RPI segments are updated through last night’s games.

The “KP W-L” column is a prediction of a team’s final regular-season record, according to Ken Pomeroy’s magical computers. The lone exception to that is BYU, who is already playing in their league tournament. Pomeroy only predicts games that are currently scheduled, so for the Cougars, we added a 2-1 record in the conference, assuming that chalk holds and BYU loses to Gonzaga in the WCC title game.

If you have a lot of free time on Saturday and an affinity for average college basketball, the viewer’s guide below should come in handy. The current RPI of each bubble team’s opponent is listed in parentheses, but since the Purdue-Illinois game matches up two bubblers, both team’s RPI ranks are included.

Saturday Viewer’s Guide

NC State vs. Syracuse (63) – 11 A.M. CT, CBS
Indiana vs. Michigan State (20) – 11 A.M. CT, ESPN
Pitt at Florida State (120) – 11 A.M. CT, ESPN2
Miami (FL) at Virginia Tech (225) – 11 A.M. CT, Watch ESPN
LSU at Arkansas (15) – 1 P.M. CT, ESPN
Texas A&M vs. Alabama (90) – 1 P.M. CT, ESPN Full Court and Watch ESPN
Temple vs. UConn (76) – 1 P.M. CT, ESPN2
Rhode Island vs. St. Joseph’s (175) – 1 P.M. CT, No TV
UMass at George Washington (81) – 2:30 P.M. CT, NBC Sports Network
Texas vs. Kansas State (80) – 3 P.M. CT, ESPN2
Stanford at Arizona (7) – 3 P.M. CT, CBS
Purdue (61) vs. Illinois (57) – 3:30 P.M. CT, Big 10 Network
Old Dominion vs. Western Kentucky (104) – 4:30 P.M. CT, American Sports Network (Regional)
Davidson at Duquesne (223) – 6 P.M. CT, A-10 Network ($)
Boise State vs. Fresno State (186) – 7 P.M. CT, Watch ESPN
Richmond vs. Saint Louis (259) – 7 P.M. CT, A-10 Network ($)
Colorado State at Utah State (132) – 8 P.M. CT, ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain
Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt (99) – 8 P.M. CT, SEC Network
BYU N-vs. Santa Clara (201) – 10 P.M. CT, ESPN2

Posted by Ryan Clark at 11:32AM

Bubble teams listed in bold.

Looking for a quality win (vs. T100 RPI)
Rhode Island at La Salle – 11:30 A.M. CT, NBC Sports Network
Ole Miss at LSU – 1 P.M. CT, Fox Sports Net (Regional)
North Carolina at Miami – 1 P.M. CT, CBS
Texas at Kansas – 4 P.M. CT, ESPN
George Washington at Davidson – 6 P.M. CT, TWC Sports (Regional)
Tulsa at Memphis – 7 P.M. CT, ESPNU
Boise State at San Diego State – 7 P.M. CT, ESPN2
BYU at Gonzaga – 9 P.M. CT, ESPN2

Trying to avoid a bad loss (vs. 100+ RPI)
Missouri at Georgia – 11 A.M. CT, ESPNU
NC State at Boston College – 11 A.M. CT, ESPN Full Court/Watch ESPN
Cincinnati at Tulane – 1 P.M. CT, ESPN News
Fordham at UMass – 3 P.M. CT, A10 Network ($)
Old Dominion at North Texas – 4:30 P.M. CT, American Sports Network (Regional)
Northwestern at Illinois – 6 P.M. CT, Big Ten Network
Auburn at Texas A&M – 7:30 P.M. CT, SEC Network

Posted by Ryan Clark at 11:00AM

With just three games to play in the Big 12 regular season, the Texas Longhorns find themselves squarely on the bubble. Despite being ranked in the Top 10 nationally during the non-conference slate, the Longhorns have squandered numerous opportunities for quality wins, and would now need a miraculous run to reach .500 in league play.

However, it seems that every year fans forget just how average the teams are that you find on the famous bubble. Texas fans can be excused for overestimating the quality of bubble competition, considering that their team has only had to sweat the bubble twice in over a decade. It’s even more understandable when you remember that, in the south, basketball is a cute distraction that fills the time between football and spring football.

Still, the fact remains that every February, when it’s time for the college basketball world to finally assess the state of the bubble, the same annual conclusion is reached — it’s a soft bubble. Perhaps we can just do away with the idea of a soft bubble, and realize that it’s always mushy. There is no surface tension on the bubble, and all of the cute TV graphics saying “Poppin’ Bubbles” are misguided because the thing is always so damned squishy it could never pop.

With all that in mind, perhaps it will come as less of a surprise that the Longhorns still control their own destiny when it comes to the NCAA tournament. Win two of their final three games, and they should be in the field. Furthermore, if any of the other bubble teams play like bubble teams, two out of three wins could even help the Longhorns avoid the dreaded First Four.

Now, to the data. In this chart, the “Matrix” column is a ranking of the teams based on The Bracket Matrix. Due to some participants not updating their brackets as frequently, it can lag a little bit behind real-world results, but the composite can be more helpful than focusing on one or two bracketologists at the big-name sites.

A team’s W-L mark includes all games, but the committe only looks at D-I results. If a team has an asterisk next to its name, that means that one of its wins came against competition not in D-I. If it has two — that’d be you, Boise State and BYU — then they have two wins against scrubs. If it has one in the “100+ Ls” column, that means that the team actually lost to a team outside of Division I. That’s not a hot look for Tulsa.

The records, RPI, and SOS are updated through Thursday’s games. The KP W-L column is a team’s projected finish, as of Friday night.

Some key stats to consider as you look at the table above and consider the road ahead for Texas:

First, the highest RPI for a power-conference team left out of the tournament was 2005-06 Cincinnati, with an RPI rank of 40. That year, the Bearcats played three teams outside of Division I, so the exclusion was likely a verdict on their scheduling.

Second, the committee has been kind to teams from tough conferences that miss the .500 mark by a game. In each of the last three seasons, at least one team sporting an 8-10 mark in one of that season’s toughest leagues made it into the tournament. This year, the Big 12 is the nation’s toughest league in terms of both RPI and KenPom rankings.

However, you have to go all the way back to 1998 to find a team two games below .500 in conference play that made the Big Dance. If the Longhorns cannot win two of their final three to reach the 8-10 mark, they would have to log some pretty impressive victories in the conference tournament to still be in contention for bid.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 1:19PM

Just hours before the 2012 NCAA bracket is finally revealed, St. Bonaventure has become the first and only bid thief of the year, stealing the final at-large slot in the Big Dance and sending one mystery team into the NIT field. A week ago, a development like that might have been terrifying for fans of the Texas Longhorns. But after a week in which in appeared that nobody wanted to win and punch their ticket, the Horns look to be safely in the field as the clock counts down towards the Selection Show.

It now appears most likely that Texas will be an 11-seed in the NCAA field, but with teams being moved up and down one line to accommodate bracketing rules, we could see the Longhorns as high as 10th or as low as 12th. Perhaps most importantly, it seems like Texas has played its way right past the First Four in Dayton, giving a young and thin roster a little more rest before playing on Thursday or Friday.

Of course, it’s been a crazy year, and the profiles at the bottom all start to look the same after a few minutes of staring at them. The committee could come out of left field and leave a team out that most have thought was safe all along. But when you compare Texas’ four RPI Top 50 wins to other bubble teams, it would be hard to find enough teams that could reasonably be included before the Longhorns.

With that in mind, we’re taking a look at where the Longhorns might end up. What’s important to remember when looking at potential landing spots is that the top four seeds are geographically protected as much as possible, while teams from the same conference can’t be put in the same pod. If Texas is an 11-seed or 12-seed, they will end up in a pod with the 3/14 and 6/11 games or a pod with the 4/13 and 5/12 games.

What all that means is that the Longhorns won’t be making any hotel reservations in Omaha. Missouri and Kansas will be protected seeds and should both land in Nebraska for their second and third round action, ruling that out as a destination for Texas. It also most likely eliminates Greensboro, as Duke and North Carolina should be the protected seeds for that site, and both look to be on the top two seed lines. Unless Texas is slid up to a 10-seed, they wouldn’t be able to play in the Greensboro pods.

The other teams that should be on the top two seed lines are Syracuse, Kentucky, Ohio State, and Michigan State. The Buckeyes aren’t allowed to play in the Columbus pods, so their most likely destination is Pittsburgh. That’s certainly where Syracuse will end up, so we can scratch the Steel City off of the list of possible Texas destinations, as well. Kentucky will take up one of the two Louisville pods, while Michigan State should get sent to Columbus.

The only other pod that we can safely eliminate from consideration at this point is one of the two in Albuquerque. Baylor is likely destined for a 3-seed, and although Albuquerque is only about 50 miles closer to Waco than Nashville, there are certainly more top seeds in the eastern half of the U.S. Somebody has to go to the Albuquerque and Portland pods, so it just makes the most sense to put Baylor there.

What we’re left with, then, are seven possible pods for the Longhorns: Two in Portland, two in Nashville, one in Albuquerque, one in Columbus, and one in Louisville. Of course, all of this deduction is thrown out the window if the committee surprises us and puts Texas on the 10-seed line.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 11:46AM

The Longhorns are now in wait-and-see mode until Selection Sunday, having bowed out of the Big 12 Championship in last night’s semifinals. Texas is slotted 48th in the latest update from ESPN’s Daily RPI, with a 4-11 mark against the RPI Top 50. Fortunately for the Longhorns, most of their comparable bubble peers failed to improve their standing in conference tournaments, while the Horns snagged a big victory over Iowa State.

Yesterday proved fairly uneventful on the bubble, although Colorado’s late-night upset of Cal in the Pac-12 semifinals could lead to one case of bid larceny on the West Coast. Elsewhere, in that dangerous land on the wrong side of the cutline, a few bubble teams kept their hopes alive, as Marshall and Ole Miss grabbed wins in games they couldn’t afford to lose. N.C. State earned a big win as well, but is still probably right in the danger zone. If the Wolfpack wants to feel completely safe on Selection Sunday, a win today would likely erase all doubt.

Marshall vs. Memphis (10:30 A.M. CT, CBS)
This game is already at half on CBS, and the Tigers are continuing their impressive march through the C-USA tournament. The Thundering Herd has a profile that’s certainly worthy of bubble consideration, but would probably still be on the wrong side of things if the bracket were released today.

Marshall is currently 4-4 against the RPI Top 50 and has an impressive 19th-ranked SOS, but one troubling loss to East Carolina taints the résumé. The Herd might still squeak into the field with a loss to the Tigers, but Memphis is in the Big Dance no matter what. Bubble Nation is definitely hoping that Memphis maintains their lead for another 20 minutes.

North Carolina State vs. North Carolina (12 P.M. CT, ESPN)
The Wolfpack is right on the razor’s edge entering today’s play, and the arguments for and against Mark Gottfried’s bunch are both compelling. The Pack is 2-8 against the RPI Top 50 and 7-9 against the Top 100, but all victories came against teams ranked 45th or worse in today’s Daily RPI update. The easiest way for N.C. State to get into the tournament is to earn it with a win over the Heels today. Fans of other bubble teams will be hoping that John Henson is ready to go and that UNC can keep the Wolfpack sweating in the at-large pool.

Xavier vs. Saint Louis (2:30 P.M. CT, CBS College Sports)
Xavier might have punched its dance ticket with a win over fellow bubbler Dayton in last night’s A-10 quarters, but a win over the Billikens would probably clinch things. With two possible bid thieves in the other A-10 semifinal, Bubble Nation is hoping that the winner of this game can also win the league title tomorrow. Those bubblers who need even more help would prefer that Saint Louis is the team to shut out the bid thieves.

Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt (2:30 P.M. CT, ABC)
Ole Miss is one of those fringe bubble teams that could use some extra help, but the Rebels still have the opportunity to earn a bid themselves. Mississippi is currently just 1-6 against the RPI Top 50, but 6-11 against the Top 100. They’ll have a shot at another quality win today when they face Vandy, which is currently ranked 29th in the RPI. The Rebs would also get a shot at either Kentucky or Florida if they can get past the Commodores, although at that point, a win would equal an auto-bid. Bubble teams will be firmly in Vanderbilt’s corner this afternoon.

Colorado vs. Arizona (5 P.M. CT, CBS)
This game has no real impact on the bubble, as the Pac-12 is required to get at least one bid. (Trust us. We checked the bylaws.) Of course, now the committee has the difficult decision of what other teams are worthy of a bid in this putrid conference. California has been considered the most likely candidate all season long, but their fade down the stretch makes things more complicated. Would the committee leave out regular-season champ Washington for a Cal team that finished second and lost in the tournament semis? Does that mean that the Pac-12 actually ends up stumbling into a three-bid scenario? Trying to sort out this conference’s outlook only gives us a raging headache, so one can only imagine what is happening in the Selection Committee’s war room.

As for the minor bubble implications of this game, Arizona has a marginal edge on Colorado when it comes to at-large profile, so bubble fans should be pulling for the ‘Cats. It’s incredibly unlikely that either team will earn an at-large, but Arizona does have slightly better odds. (Cue Lloyd Christmas.) At this point, even those fractions of a percentage point matter to Bubble Nation.

Long Beach State vs. UC Santa Barbara (9 P.M. CT, ESPN2)
The 49ers reached the Big West title game despite a sluggish start against UC-Irvine in last night’s semifinal. Long Beach would be a very interesting test case for the committee if they were to fall short in the league title game. A loss here would leave the 49ers with a 1-6 mark against the RPI Top 50 and a 2-7 record against the Top 100. With an ugly 150+ RPI loss against Cal State Fullerton, would that be enough to get LBSU into the tournament? Other bubble teams don’t want to find out, so they are pulling for the 49ers to win the auto-bid and preempt the debate.

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