Editor's Note: This entry is cross-posted at SB Nation.
Here is the updated look at the NCAA Tournament field. Click here for my Saturday morning bracket. My next projection will be released around noon on Monday.
One-Bid Leagues (15)
America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Summit, Sun Belt
Shot At Two (9)
West Coast: Gonzaga (lock)
Horizon: Butler (lock)
Missouri Valley: Northern Iowa
Conference USA: UTEP
Western Athletic: Utah State
Colonial: Old Dominion
Metro Atlantic: Siena
ACC: Duke*, Maryland, Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest
A-10: Temple*, Xavier, Richmond
Big East: Syracuse*, Villanova, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Georgetown
Big Ten: Purdue*, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin
Big 12: Kansas*, Kansas State, Baylor, Missouri, Texas, Texas A&M
MWC: New Mexico*, BYU
SEC: Kentucky*, Vanderbilt, Tennessee
Teams with an asterisk own their respective conference's automatic bid.
Work To Do (12)
Of this group, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech hold the most precarious positions. These five teams could find themselves among either the Last Four In or First Four Out as the clock ticks down .
That takes care of 61 of the 65 teams. (No, I didn't count wrong, locks Butler and Gonzaga and "work to do" club UNI appear twice.) That leaves me to look at the last four teams in the field and the 10 who have the best shot at replacing them over the next two weeks. I'll do this after the jump.
RPI data from Crashing The Dance and reflects games through Saturday, February 27. All records reflect games played against Division I opponents through Sunday, February 28.
Last Four In
St. Mary's (23-5: 11-3 West Coast; RPI: 46; Non-conf. RPI: 28): After dropping consecutive road games to Gonzaga and Portland, the Gaels really needed a BracketBuster game. However, they skipped the event this season since that would have resulted in a four-game road trip (as SMC was designated as an away team). An extra game would have helped a resume that already includes win over bubble teams Utah State (in Logan) San Diego State (at home) and a two-point loss against Vanderbilt before the Commodores went to Maui. A win over Gonzaga would have been helpful, but the Gaels will fight for a third shot at one in Las Vegas next week. The two could meet for the conference title on March 8.
Notre Dame (19-10; 8-8 Big East; RPI: 67; Non-conf. RPI: 90): The Irish have figured out how to win without the still-injured Luke Harangody, crushing Pitt at home Wednesday, then pounding Georgetown in Washington on Saturday. Given that the Irish’s three setbacks without Harangody were by a total of six points, you have to imagine that Notre Dame would have won at least two of them if he was healthy. Expect the Committee to keep this in mind, especially as the All-Big East forward should return sometime in the next two weeks. The Fighting Irish’s closing stretch provides them with two more opportunities, as they close with UConn at home and Marquette on the road. Notre Dame may need a split to stay in, thanks to home losses against Loyola Marymount, Rutgers and St. John’s; a lackluster 3-5 mark against RPI Top 50 teams (with two wins this week); and a not very good 3-7 road/neutral mark.
UAB (23-5; 11-3 C-USA; RPI: 35; non-conf. RPI: 17): The Blazers continue to hang in there just hanging on, thanks primarily to their early season home wins over lock Butler and fellow bubble team Cincinnati. After Wednesday’s win at UCF, UAB possesses a 11-3 road/neutral record, but that’s a bit deceptive, as the losses came against three of their best four road opponents — Kent State, Memphis and Virginia — none of whom are close to the field. The Blazers will have to close strong to stay in. Things started well with a home win over hapless Tulane, but the final week — featuring a home date with Memphis and road trip to UTEP, who beat UAB at Bartow Arena — is far more crucial.
San Diego State (18-8; 9-5 MWC; RPI: 39; Non-conf. RPI: 39):The Aztecs didn't play this weekend, but they were the beneficiary of losses by Arizona State, Charlotte, Cincinnati and Rhode Island. At one point, SDSU was four points away from owning a 10-game win streak, as they lost to BYU by 2 at home and dropped a 2-point OT game at New Mexico. The Aztecs will wish they had those two games back, as they currently sit at 2-5 against the RPI Top 50 (both wins, over New Mexico and UNLV, came at home) with no opportunities left before the Mountain West Tournament. The Aztecs close the regular season with a winnable home game against Colorado State Wednesday and a road trip to hapless Air Force Saturday.
First Four Out
Cincinnati (16-12; 7-9 Big East; RPI: 57; Non-conf. RPI: 41): The Bearcats continue to struggle, as they remain 5-7 in their last 12, and 2-4 in their last six, after they gave up a lead on the road and fell to West Virginia. The last time Mick Cronin’s team won a game against an opponent who’s a lock or near lock was a pair of wins Vanderbilt and Maryland in Maui. Cincy closes the regular season with two chances to correct that flaw in their resume. The Bearcats host Villanova Tuesday and visit inconsistent Georgetown Saturday.
Mississippi State (21-8; 9-5 SEC; RPI: 54; Non-conf. RPI: 77): The SEC West leaders are starting to pull things together, as they now own a three-game win streak after Saturday's win at South Carolina. The Bulldogs’ resume is a bit thin outside of their sweep of archrival (and fellow bubble team) Ole Miss, as a win over Old Dominion in South Padre is the non-conference highlight and losses at Western Kentucky and against Rider in Starkville are major blemishes. MSU’s only real shot at a resume-building win comes at home against Tennessee Saturday. They can't get caught looking ahead at Auburn on Wednesday.
Dayton (19-9; 8-6 A-10; RPI: 43; Non-conf. RPI: 13): After Wednesday night's awful loss at Temple, I said the revolving door was pretty much shut and locked (if you can do such a thing with a revolving door) for the Flyers. However, as Rhode Island and Charlotte both suffered damaging road losses Saturday, Dayton still has some hope. UD’s road/neutral record stands at 5-8, with the best win coming against Georgia Tech in Puerto Rico way back on November 19 and the best true road victory coming against George Mason on December 8. The Flyers can better that Thursday at Richmond. Dayton then closes the regular season with a home game against St. Louis on Saturday.
Minnesota (17-11; 8-8 Big Ten; RPI: 72; Non-conf. RPI: 60): After grabbing a win at Illinois Saturday, the Golden Gophers made a huge jump. Had they beaten Purdue, who played most of the game without Robbie Hummel, Wednesday night in Minneapolis, they'd be in. With Saturday's win, the Golden Gophers are now 5-9 this season against the RPI Top 100. Three of those wins came at The Barn, where they defeated Ohio State, Wisconsin and now-out of the picture Northwestern. Minnesota’s nine-point triumph over Butler in Anaheim is useful, but the losses to Portland and Texas A&M that followed aren’t. Neither was the road loss at Miami days after the California trip. Losses to Indiana (in Bloomington) and Michigan (at home) sting, but the Gophers avenged the IU loss and can avenge the loss to the Wolverines on Wednesday in Ann Arbor. Minnesota closes with a home game against Iowa Sunday.
Next Four Out
Mississippi (19-9; 7-7 SEC; RPI: 53; Non-conf. RPI: 36): The Rebels’ marquee win is better than archrivals' Mississippi State's, as they defeated Kansas State by 12 in Puerto Rico before Thanksgiving. Still, not managing to beat the Bulldogs’ once is an issue, considering that’s the difference in the race for the weaker division of the SEC. Three straight losses, with two coming at home, didn’t help. However, the Rebels’ were able to beat Auburn Wednesday and Alabama Saturday to get back on track. The Rebels close with more SEC West SOS-crushing goodness, as they host LSU Thursday and visit Arkansas Saturday.
Washington (18-9; 8-7 Pac-10; RPI: 59; Non-conf. RPI: 27): The Huskies do own home wins over Texas A&M and Cal, but December losses at Texas Tech and against Georgetown in Anaheim are now missed opportunities in a weak bubble year. A sweep at the hands of tourney-ineligible USC doesn’t help either. In terms of building a late case, the Huskies’ schedule isn't exactly helpful. UW managed to win the first game of their closing road trip, beating Washington State to sweep the hoops’ Apple Cup. Next week, a trip to the Oregon schools awaits. Keep in mind the Huskies are only 2-7 away from Hec Ed.
Seton Hall (16-11; 7-9 Big East; RPI: 50; Non-conf. RPI: 76): Remember that string of four games at the end of 2009/start of 2010, where the Pirates lost heartbreakers, including OT games against West Virginia and Virginia Tech? Hall fans are undoubtedly wishing they’d won a couple of those right about now, as those wins would be major boosts to an OK resume. But they didn’t, meaning the Pirates own a 2-9 mark against the RPI Top 50 and a 3-7 road/neutral mark. Those stats aren’t major selling points. One thing Seton Hall has done this season is prove that they can lose to good teams, and they won’t get much of a chance to reverse that down the stretch. Tuesday, they beat Rutgers in the first of two late meetings, but they couldn't win their last game against a contender, as they fell at home to Marquette Sunday. The Pirates may as well start planning for the NIT, as a road trip to Rutgers and Providence won't provide much of a bump.
Rhode Island (20-7; 8-6 A-10; RPI: 33; Non-conf. RPI: 3): The Rams haven't played well of late. They snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over Fordham on February 20, took a week off, then promptly lost at St. Bonaventure. Rhody's marquee non-conference win came against fellow bubble team Oklahoma State, and they own respectable victories over Northeastern, Providence and Boston College. However, none of those teams are locked in right now. Making matters worse is the fact the Rams' best league win is over Dayton, as they're 0-4 against Temple, Richmond and Xavier, the three A-10 teams who look to be in the best shape. Wednesday's game at Charlotte looks to be a matchup for NIT seeding right now, and the Rams' regular season finale is at UMass, an opponent who won't help their computer numbers.
On The Fringe
Arizona State (20-9; 10-6 Pac-10; RPI: 55; Non-conf. RPI: 59): The Sun Devils loss at Cal on Saturday was doubly bad, as it kept them from grabbing an RPI Top 50 win and a share of the Pac-10 crown. The Sun Devils face home games against the L.A. schools next week, but their only real hope is to win the Pac-10 Conference Tournament on March 13. Currently, the only win the Sun Devils can hang their hat on is a home victory over San Diego State on December 19, their lone top 50 win in six tries.
Charlotte (19-9; 9-5 A-10; RPI: 61; Non-conf. RPI: 61): Like Rhode Island, the 49ers have dropped four of their last five, following a three-game losing streak with a victory (at home over St. Joe's) and a defeat (at GW). Bobby Lutz’s team will try to get to 20 victories when they visit Rhode Island and host Richmond, a team they already defeated at the Robins Center. Charlotte’s 9-6 road/neutral mark, featuring wins over the Spiders and Louisville, is a major boost for their hopes. A sweep of Rhode Island and Richmond could put the 49ers back in the picture.
South Florida (17-11; Big East 7-9; RPI: 64; Non-conf. RPI: 67): The Bulls looked like they had turned the corner with a four-game win streak in late January/early February, a run capped by a win at Georgetown on February 3. But that was a mirage, as they’ve since dropped four of six, including an ugly 16-point loss to St. John’s at home on February 20. The Bulls seem to have an issue with playing to the level of their competition, as they’re 4-4 vs. the RPI Top 50, and 1-6 against teams rated between 51 and 100. USF couldn’t grab another marquee road win last week, as they were hammered at Villanova Wednesday, but they did rebound with an exciting home win over Providence Saturday. The Bulls close with a roadie at DePaul and home game with a UConn team who could be desperate for a win.
Games To Watch
Fresno State at Utah State, 9 p.m. ET (CSN California/Full Court)
Vanderbilt at Florida, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Villanova at Cincinnati, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Minnesota at Michigan, 7 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
South Florida at DePaul, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Illinois at Ohio State, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Louisville at Marquette, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Connecticut at Notre Dame, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Charlotte at Rhode Island, 7 p.m. ET (Cox Sports New England)
Mississippi State at Auburn, 8 p.m. ET (SEC Network/Full Court)
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Memphis at UAB, 9 p.m. ET (CSS)
Colorado State at San Diego State, 10:30 p.m. ET (the mtn.)
Seton Hall at Rutgers, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Dayton at Richmond, 7 p.m. ET (CBS College Sports)
USC at Arizona State, 8:30 p.m. ET (FSN/Comcast SportsNet)
LSU at Mississippi, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Northern Iowa vs. Drake/Southern Illinois (Missouri Valley Quarterfinal No. 1), 1 p.m. ET (FS Midwest/CSN Chicago)
Old Dominion vs. Towson/UNC Wilmington (Colonial Quarterfinal No. 1), 12 p.m. ET (CSN New England/Comcast Network/Full Court)
Nebraska at Oklahoma State, 1:30 p.m. ET (Big 12 Network/Full Court)
Syracuse at Louisville, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Connecticut at South Florida, 2 p.m. ET (Big East Network/Full Court)
Notre Dame at Marquette, 2 p.m. ET (Big East Network/Full Court)
Missouri Valley Semifinal No. 1, 2:30 p.m. ET (FS Midwest/CSN Chicago)
UCLA at Arizona State, 4 p.m. ET (CBS)
Rhode Island at Massachusetts, 4 p.m. ET (Cox Sports New England)
Mississippi at Arkansas, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network/Full Court)
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, 4 p.m. ET (Raycom/Full Court)
TBD vs. Siena (Metro Atlantic Quarterfinal No. 2), 4:30 p.m. ET (MSG/FCS Atlantic/Full Court)
Tennessee at Mississippi State, 6 p.m. ET (ESPN)
California at Stanford, 6 p.m. ET (FSN/Comcast SportsNet)
St. Louis at Dayton, 7 p.m. ET (WHIO/CSN Philly/CSN Washington+)
Washington at Oregon State, 8 p.m. ET (FSN Northwest)
San Diego State at Air Force, 9 p.m. ET (the mtn.)
New Mexico State at Utah State, 9 p.m. ET (CW 30/Aggie Vision/Full Court)
Florida at Kentucky, 12 p.m. ET (CBS)
Wisconsin at Illinois, 12 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Missouri Valley Championship, 2 p.m. ET (CBS)
Colonial Semifinal No. 1, 3 p.m. ET (CSN New England/Comcast Network/CSS/Full Court)
Metro Atlantic Semifinal No. 1, 4:30 p.m. ET (MSG/MASN/FCS Atlantic/Full Court)
Iowa at Minnesota, 6 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
TBD vs. St. Mary's (West Coast Semifinal No. 2), 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)