Bubble Surprises: Georgia, Cleveland State, Drexel, UCF

At the beginning of the season, most higher seeds in the NCAA tournament are given to top, established schools – and rightly so. As the seeds start to get lower, the schools picked to fill out the 68 team field start to vary. Some of these teams turn out to have poor seasons, some win their way into higher seeds. What about the teams that come out of nowhere to grab these bubble seeds? Here are four shockers:

1) Georgia, SEC (12-2, 1-0) – RPI: 48, SOS: 147, vs Top 100: 2-2 –
Although Joe Lunardi projected them as an 8 seed in his November 10th bracket, I still think they are a bubble surprise. The Bulldogs are coming off a 14 win season – they already have 12 wins including an upset of Kentucky yesterday in their SEC opener. Georgia sports a poor OOC SOS (212), their best OOC wins are against UAB (42) and Colorado (106). Fortunately for Bulldog fans, Georgia has no bad losses (Temple, Notre Dame).

Georgia continues a rough SEC stretch as they face @Vanderbilt, @Ole Miss and Tennessee at home. If the Bulldogs go at least 2-1 in that stretch, they should reaffirm that they are a bubble team to reckon with for the rest of the season.

2) Cleveland State, Horizon (13-2, 4-1) – RPI: 23, SOS: 111, vs Top 100: 0-2 –
The Vikings were a big question mark going into Friday night’s matchup with Horizon powerhouse Butler. Unfortunately, they didn’t even compete in the nationally televised showdown. Despite their falling at-large hopes, Cleveland State is still a surprise. Who would have predicted them to hold an RPI of 23 and SOS of 111 after 15 games? The team has fallen short in their two big games (@WVU, @Butler), but they scheduled a smart OOC slate (RPI:16, SOS:129).

Unfortunately for Cleveland State fans, the Vikes might need to run the Horizon table the rest of the way to even have a shot at an at-large. The Vikings have no “Good Wins” to put on their resume. Their rematch against Butler is a must.

3) Drexel Dragons, CAA (10-4, 2-2) – RPI: 57, SOS: 103, vs Top 100: 1-4 –
Like Cleveland State, the stock of Drexel is falling. After starting the CAA season with a 2-2 record (losses against VCU and Hofstra), the Louisville win is looking more and more like a fluke. The next best team that Drexel has beaten is Delaware.

If Drexel wants to salvage any at-large chance that they have, they will need to do extremely well the rest of the way in the CAA. The CAA surprisingly boasts numerous RPI boosters and even a resume booster (Old Dominion). Drexel will need to win pretty much all of these big games and not slip up against Delawares and Towsons of the world.

4) Central Florida Knights, C-USA (13-1, 1-1) – RPI: 16, SOS: 82, vs Top 100: 4-0 –
Central Florida’s resume is a lot better than the previous two teams, but they are also coming off their first loss – an upset by Houston. Although some deem UCF overrated, they have been one of, if not the, biggest mid-major surprise so far. The Florida school ran off wins against in-state opponents Florida, USF and Miami during their non-con slate. They also defeated Ivy League favorite Princeton.

UCF definitely has the marquee wins and RPI numbers to make the Dance if they keep playing like a 13-1 type team. UAB, Memphis, So. Miss and UTEP should be the only challenges in C-USA. UCF plays those teams a total of 7 times the rest of the way. They shouldn’t lose more than 1 or 2.


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