I recently read the CBS version of the bubble watch, (here) and I thought it was pretty well done. Kudos to Brian De Los Sanntos for putting the whole thing together. Based on what I saw there, I put together a "bottom up" elimination scheme, leaving behind the teams to make the field. Since there are 5 teams from nontraditional powers worthy of autobids, if they win their conference tourneys each one would "add a slot" up to 20 of the 26 teams. There are a bunch of games this weekend whose outcomes will narrow the field.
My first six out, to get the bubble teams down to 20, are as follows:
1. loser of Dayton - St. Joseph's. The winner should be able to squeeze in with a good A 10 tournament run, but the loser is out.
2. Western Kentucky. After being swept by South Alabama and falling to third in the Sun Belt, they're done.
3. Southern Illinois. They blew their chance short of an MVC crown.
4. loser of Arizona-Oregon. Arizona sports the number 1 SOS but if they lose to Oregon I don't see how they've done enough with it. Oregon needs this game even more.
5. loser of Florida - Kentucky. There might be room for both, but I doubt it. Play-in game weeks ahead of schedule.
6. Syracuse or Villanova. I don't think there's enough room in the BE tournament for two teams to put together the kinds of runs these teams each need. They'd practically need to play for the title, and I don't see that happening. If this weekend goes a certain way, they could face each other Wednesday night in the first round instead.
So, that would get it down to a group of 20 teams, assuming Butler, BYU, Drake, Memphis, and Xavier all cut down some nets. But wait! One by one they all lost their tournaments! Oh no! Then I think the following teams would be out:
7. Maryland or VT. Much like the Big East tournament, the ACC only has room for one (at most) bubble-saving run. I don't see two of the top seeds going down to these two teams.
8-12. This is a near tie between, in no particular order:
Rhode Island. Too many losses too fresh in the minds of the committee.
Whoever fared better out of Syracuse/Villanova. Both of these teams need a good run, and it's possible even the better of the two doesn't cut it.
Arizona State. That loss to Oregon may have done them in if too many surprises happen in the conference tournaments.
UAB. They'd better beat Memphis if they want in.
Ohio State. Not impressed even after the win over Purdue. Another team that had better surprise this weekend.
That gets us down to 15, actually 14 because it was hard to separate teams 8-12 on my list. I would say that New Mexico and UNLV, in that order, had better avoid disappointments or they're in the next-most trouble.
So, the 15 in would then be: Massachusetts, Arkansas, West Virginia, Baylor, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Illinois State, Mississippi, winner of Dayton-St. Joseph's, Winner of Arizona-Oregon, winner of Florida-Kentucky, Virginia Tech (or Maryland, but my bet is on the Hokies), UNLV, New Mexico, and someone from that 8-12 mess above.
Now, that group doesn't necessarily have the best 15 resumes of the mess right now, but some of the teams with slightly better profiles at the moment will necessarily lose between now and Selection Sunday by virtue of head-to-head matchups.