NCAA Soccer – Bubble Watch 5.0 – It’s The Final Countdown

It’s the final edition of Bubble Watch for the 2013 season. We’ll be back on Monday with the annual Bubble Cheat Sheet to show what our bubble candidates likely need before Selection Monday.


Lock – UCF, Louisville
Bubble – Rutgers, UConn

It’s curtains for South Florida, who really couldn’t afford that draw on the road against SMU. The Bulls could theoretically go on a run in the AAC Tournament, but they’ll probably need a few wins and a lot of help, though they could fare well on the bubble with the result against Florida. UCF is in a good position for a seed but may need to win the AAC Tournament to feel comfortable about their odds of a top two seed. Louisville’s a bit tougher off and may need multiple AAC Tournament wins to get into a seed position. Rutgers might be in trouble. Their profile looks an awful lot like Dartmouth’s last year, and the AAC Tournament game against Cincinnati is a no-win situation. I think they’re done with a loss on Sunday, but they could also be hurting if the bubble contracts. UConn’s loss against Memphis really hurt them, as has Boston College’s struggles. They don’t compare well in the bubble right now, and the Huskies need at least one win in the AAC Tournament and probably more. The optimism once around the league earlier in the year has faded, and just two bids is a very real possibility.


Lock – Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Notre Dame
Bubble – Duke, Boston College, Maryland

Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida State all look like prime contenders for #1 seeds. The first two look like locks no matter what, while Florida State might get there with just one more win. Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and Notre Dame will also go into the final few games confident of their chances of a seed, though any and all wins will obviously help. Duke’s kind of in limbo now that they’re confirmed of finishing at at least .500. They might struggle to get into a seed, though a run in the ACC Tournament would help. The big questions are whether the ACC could only be a seven bid league. Boston College is teetering at the moment. They have a win over Wake Forest, but in an increasingly tightening bubble, that may not be enough by itself to get it in. They definitely don’t want to lose to Syracuse, as if they made the ACC Tournament in that case (still unlikely), they would have to not lose their quarterfinal to stay at .500. Maryland also has just the win over Wake Forest to tout on its record. The good news is that it should be able to stay at .500, as Pittsburgh is its regular season finale opponent. The bad news is Pitt is abysmal in the computer rankings, meaning Maryland might slip even in the case of victory. If the Terps can’t pull off some magic in the ACC Tournament, it could make for a very nervous week in College Park.


Lock – West Virginia
Bubble – Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma State, Baylor

West Virginia has solidified their place in the field over the past few weeks, but the defeat to Texas Tech on Sunday may have dealt a serious blow to their hopes of a national seed. The Mountaineers probably aren’t going to get that much help in the Big XII Tournament considering their opponents either. At the same time, at least the league’s fears of being a single-bid league have been eased a bit, with a path to four bids looking realistic now. I think Texas Tech will wrap up a bid with a win over Texas, though anything but three points might have the Red Raiders a bit nervous going into the Big XII Tournament. Texas is probably a bit worse off given the quality of their wins, but their RPI is high enough that they might seal a bid with a win against Texas Tech. The Horns probably aren’t going to survive bubble scrutiny though, so they still need wins. Oklahoma State probably will survive bubble scrutiny…if they get there. The Cowgirls were just out of that range at last check and may need to beat Iowa State in the regular season finale and win a Big XII Tournament game to get to the bubble. Baylor’s technically alive, but they are low in the RPI and don’t have a profile that’s likely to stand up against bubble rivals if they get there. Regardless, they need a win in their regular season finale and probably at least two wins in the Big XII Tournament.

Big East

Lock – Marquette, Georgetown
Bubble – DePaul, Butler
Bubble (Danger) – Saint John’s (NY)

The Big East looks like…the most interesting conference in the world (of DI Women’s College Soccer). Marquette and Georgetown both look primely placed for seeds, though the former looks much more likely to get a top two seed and will do their chances no harm if they can go on to win the Big East Tournament. Beyond them, it’s really going to be a battle, with the potential for the league to balloon to five bids or just get the above two in. DePaul is best placed of the hopefuls, currently in the mid-40s of the RPI and with a draw at Georgetown as their best result. Victory over Saint John’s (NY) in the regular season finale might be enough depending on their conference tournament matchup. Butler’s a little lower in the RPI but also has a win over Michigan that should be enough if they can stay on the bubble. Their RPI doesn’t figure to drop much if they lose to Marquette in the regular season finale, while a result almost assuredly gets them in the field. If they do lose, they might need a win in the opening round of the Big East Tournament. Saint John’s (NY) is the longest shot on the board having blown chances against all the other contenders. A win against DePaul and a result in the Big East Tournament against Marquette or Georgetown though, and the Red Storm could be back in business.

Big Ten

Lock – Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State, Minnesota
Bubble – Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois

Michigan, Nebraska, and Penn State are all in the mix for national seeds, with Michigan and Nebraska looking most likely for a coveted top two seed. In this regard, the Big Ten Tournament could prove crucial. Minnesota also locked up their bid this past week and will be looking for a strong finish to net a seed of their own. There’s a mad scramble behind them for bids. Indiana is tops computer number wise, but the profile looks a bit shaky compared to other bubble teams. The good news though is that time is running out on chances for bad losses, and even two defeats might not be enough to plunge them onto the bubble, though a win against Nebraska in the regular season finale would remove all doubt. Wisconsin has a great bubble profile thanks to its earlier draw at Michigan, but they really need to avoid a bad result at Northwestern this weekend. Ohio State got the win they needed against Iowa, but they really could use a result at Michigan in the regular season finale. If they don’t get it, they might need a win in the Big Ten Tournament to solidify their spot. Iowa probably created more problems than it should have with a loss to Ohio State, but I think a win over Purdue in the regular season finale could be enough, as the Hawkeyes have a good win profile. Illinois is the longshot at this point. Really, the only thing they have on the profile of any consequence right now is the win at Louisville. If they beat Minnesota in the regular season finale, they’ve got a shot, but realistically, they’re going to need a win or two in the Big Ten Tournament.


Bubble – James Madison, William & Mary

Once a league looking like having a chance for multiple bids, the CAA has been drifting back towards single bid territory as its leaders have faltered down the stretch. James Madison really didn’t have much of a chance anyway thanks to its vanilla win profile, but the draw at Hofstra in the regular season finale pretty much sealed it despite the league title going their way. William & Mary were cruising until a few weeks ago. Three without a win down the stretch saw the CAA title slip through their fingers, while the slide of Rutgers and James Madison has also contributed to W&M falling down the rankings. With a first round bye in the CAA Tournament, the Tribe probably don’t have enough chances to up their profile into the safe range before Selection Monday.

Conference USA

Lock – Colorado College

Is Colorado College safe? The numbers and past precedent would seem to think so. But that profile looks awfully light, with the best result being a win at home over Texas. Considering what happened to Dartmouth last season, the Tigers may well want to go all the way in the C-USA Tournament just in case.


Bubble – Penn

Penn’s done pretty well to defy expectations and will probably finish in the upper-half of the Ivy League table this year. However, their odds of an at-large bid appear to be nil. Their best result is an away draw with fellow bubble side William & Mary, which just isn’t going to get it done under bubble scrutiny against potential rivals.


Lock – UCLA, Stanford, Colorado
Bubble – Cal, Washington State, Utah, Washington
Bubble (Danger) – Arizona State

UCLA looks like all but a lock for a #1 seed, meaning the road to the College Cup will run through Westwood. Stanford won’t have the same luxury in all likelihood, as the Cardinal need to finish out strong to seal a seed of any kind. Colorado probably isn’t going to find itself with a seed, but they should be in the field comfortably at this point. It’s a little more complicated after that trio. Washington State probably doesn’t have enough time to fall out of the bubble picture with three games against uRPI Top 50 teams left, meaning they should be safe. Utah’s not as high in the RPI, but they do have that key draw against UCLA. As long as they don’t lose at Arizona, they should also be in good shape. Cal caused itself no small degree of pain with it’s two straight defeats to the Oregon clubs on the road, dropping it right into bubble trouble. Draws against Santa Clara and Colorado help, but with zero wins in their past five, the Golden Bears are hemorrhaging in the rankings and really need a win or two down the stretch. Washington is in a tough way with Stanford, Cal, and Washington State left and just a game over .500. I think one more win will do it considering their away draw against UCLA, but that run-in is brutal. Arizona State is in all kinds of trouble. The win against Stanford on the road isn’t going to guarantee anything, and there’s not much left in their resume. The Sun Devils are also just a game above .500, and I think they might need to run the table to have a shot at an at-large bid.


Bubble – Boston University

Boston College isn’t going to be the only nervous Beantown club come Selection Monday in all likelihood. The Terriers are right on the cutline with their draw against South Carolina and win over UConn counting for a little but unlikely to hold up against some of the bigger guns with bigger wins. If the bubble goes weak though, BU may just be able to edge their way into the field. There’s no telling if their profile can stand a loss if they don’t get the auto bid though, so the Terriers may just want to not chance it and win the Patriot League Tournament.


Lock – Florida, South Carolina
Bubble – Kentucky, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia, Tennessee

Florida is on a roll and will be targeting a late push for a top two seed, while South Carolina has reason to believe a strong finish could see them through with a national seed as well. Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M all are looking good for the field, though it would take something special for any of the trio to earn a national seed come Selection Monday. Georgia arose from the dead with two road wins to snuff out lingering hopes for Arkansas and LSU, but their profile overall is still weak, with the Bulldogs likely on the outside looking in if they’re against a strong bubble field unless they can pick up a big result or two down the stretch. Tennessee faces a make or break game on Thursday against Vanderbilt. Lose and the season’s over, with the Lady Vols finishing under .500 and missing the SEC Tournament. They aren’t guaranteed of a postseason spot if they win, but rather fortuitously, it might work out in the end with the win over UCF potentially being good enough to get them in the field of sixty-four, even if they don’t head to Orange Beach.


Bubble – Stephen F. Austin

SFA is hanging around on the bubble for now, helped by a resume devoid of bad losses, but realistically, their best hopes went out the window with the non-conference defeat to Texas. Even then, it was a big longshot that they’d get consideration against some bubble rivals with more quality results on their resume. Their best hope is to keep winning, get to the Southland Conference Tournament final and hope they don’t get Dartmouth’d if they land above the bubble zone. I wouldn’t hold my breath though, so they probably need the auto bid.


Lock – Denver

Denver’s going to present a unique case for the Selection Committee. The Pioneers’ national seed hopes would not appear to be that great based on past precedent. But then again, I’m not sure there’s ever been as highly ranked a team from such a low ranked conference at this stage of the season. If the Pioneers lose in the Summit League Tournament, the committee probably won’t hesitate to leave the club unseeded. But if they win both games and capture the auto bid, Denver might just make a little history for the little guys and give the Summit League their first seeded team.


Lock – Santa Clara, Portland, BYU
Bubble – Pepperdine

Santa Clara and Portland are both battling for a high national seed, and if one side wins over the other and runs the table, they might just have a chance to get it. Regardless, both seem decent bets for a seed, perhaps just not a top two seed. BYU’s safely in the field, and their wins over Portland and Nebraska mean they should have a chance of a national seed if they run the table down the stretch, which certainly seems doable considering their rather tame run-in. Pepperdine is really the only WCC side with a murky future as far as their at-large bid status is concerned. Cal’s recent slide has absolutely killed the Waves, though Texas A&M’s rise is mitigating the damage slightly. Really though, it’s going to be an unbearable wait for the Waves if they can’t get a result at Santa Clara this weekend.

2 thoughts on “NCAA Soccer – Bubble Watch 5.0 – It’s The Final Countdown

  1. Brian

    Chris, I’m wondering about Illinois in relation to the other Big Ten bubble teams (Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa). The Illini now have road wins over two top-40 RPI teams (Louisville and Minnesota). Wisconsin has the tie at Michigan, but no other results vs. the top 40. Ohio State has a home win over Indiana, but no other top 40 results. Iowa beat Penn State at home for their only top 40 result. Illinois also went 2-0-1 vs those three bubble teams, beating Wisconsin and Iowa at home, tying Ohio State on the road. I think one thing’s for sure: the bubble is as hard to predict as I’ve seen in a while.

    1. Chris Henderson Post author

      I suspect head-to-head and league placement comes into play if results against teams already in the field are pretty close. It’s really hard to predict at this point, as there are enormous shifts still going on thanks to how close the clubs are in the RPI still.


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