It's another Bubble Watch Friday, and the NCAA Tournament field is still very much a mystery with just a little more than three weeks before Selection Sunday. Over at SB Nation, I've counted through the at-large pool, while over here, I have more details on the teams who find themselves on the crowded bubble.
First, a quick look at how the at-large bid picture looks headed into the weekend.
19 Locks + 10 Looking Good = 29 teams in good shape.
8 of these 29 hold their conference's auto bid at the moment, so 21 at-larges are accounted for.
37 Total At-Large Bids - 21 = 16 Available Bids
This week, there are 40 detailed profiles in this post, as Butler, Cleveland State, Valparaiso return, while Mississippi drops out completely and Illinois and Minnesota find themselves squarely on the bubble. Six of the 40 hold their respective league's auto bid in the bracket right now.
As a reminder, here are the ground rules for how teams are represented in this post.
I've broken the teams up by conference, with the Big Six leagues, Atlantic 10, and Mountain West listed separately, as they're the most likely to earn more than a single bid at this point. As for teams from conferences like the CAA, WCC, C-USA, Ivy, and MVC, these are all grouped together at the bottom of the page.
Within their conferences, I've listed teams in S-curve order. If a team in the Looking Good or Work to Do groups owns its respective league's lead (and auto bid), I've noted that. I've also indicated if a bubble team falls within the Next/Last Four In and First/Next Four Out groups.
Locks are represented by team logos.
I have a paragraph explaining the status of the ten teams who are Looking Good. Again, there's more detailed information in the team profiles.
For teams on the Bubble, I have a full profile including record and win/loss breakdowns.
The ACC tips things off after the jump.
RPI and schedule data from Basketball State (subscription), accessed on Thursday, February 17, 2011. RPI information only reflects games played against Division I opponents through Wednesday, February 16, 2011. Records only reflect games played against Division I opponents through Thursday, February 17, 2011.
Duke and North Carolina continue to be the two ACC teams in best positions. Florida State should be in good shape; however, the foot injury Chris Singleton suffered against Virginia last Saturday means the Seminoles' position will depend on their performance without him.
Florida State Seminoles
Record: 18-7 overall; 8-3 conference; 2-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 4-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 11-1 vs. RPI 150+; 7-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 178 Loss: 69
RPI 1-50 Wins: Duke, Boston College
RPI 51-100 Wins: Baylor (N), at Miami, Clemson, NC State
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Auburn
Other Losses: Ohio State, at North Carolina, Florida, Butler (N), at Virginia Tech, at Clemson
This Week: at Wake Forest (Sat.)
Next Week: at Maryland (Wed.), Miami (Sat.)
The Seminoles still own a win over Duke and a decent road/neutral mark; however, Chris Singleton's absence could negatively affect their chances, especially with their well-documented offensive woes. The good news for Seminole fans: there are wins available the rest of the way. The bad news: they'll have to show they can play well without Singleton. February 23rd's visit to fading Maryland is the most daunting of the three remaining road games and a March 2nd game against North Carolina, who topped the Seminoles by 20 in Chapel Hill on Super Bowl Sunday, the toughest of three home contests.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Record: 17-7 overall; 7-4 conference; 1-5 vs. RPI Top 50; 7-0 vs. RPI 51-100; 8-1 vs. RPI 150+; 8-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 168 Loss: 64
RPI 1-50 Wins: Florida State
RPI 51-100 Wins: Oklahoma State (N), Penn State, Miami, at Maryland, Maryland, at NC State, St. Bonaventure (N)
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Georgia Tech
Other Losses: at North Carolina, Purdue, UNLV (N), at Kansas State, at Boston College, Virginia
This Week: def. Maryland 91-83, at Virginia (Sat.)
Next Week: at Wake Forest (Tue.), Duke (Sat.)
You could argue the Hokies are eight to ten points away from being a near lock, thanks to a two-point setback at fellow ACC bubble team Boston College, a three-point home loss to Purdue in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, a three-point come-from-ahead loss at North Carolina, and, a consternating three-point defeat at Virginia to start the ACC season. On the plus side, Virginia Tech topped Maryland Tuesday night, a costly sweep for the Terps' and their now slender NCAA hopes. The Hokies do get another shot at BC at Cassell Coliseum, a place that will also see a visit from Duke down the stretch. However, the Hokies face three road games, including a major hurdle at the end of the regular season--a trip to Clemson, who's starting to make a late push for a bid. A decent 7-5 record away from Blacksburg is a key selling point for Virginia Tech, and if they can add to that against the Tigers, they'll be able to breathe a little easier.
Boston College Eagles (Next Four IN)
Record: 16-9 overall; 6-5 conference; 1-5 vs. RPI Top 50; 6-3 vs. RPI 51-100; 5-0 vs. RPI 150+; 5-6 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 135 Loss: 53
RPI 1-50 Wins: Texas A&M (N)
RPI 51-100 Wins: Virginia Tech, California (N), Bucknell, at Maryland, Maryland, NC State
Losses: at Duke, North Carolina, Wisconsin (N), Harvard, at Florida State, at Miami, at Rhode Island, at Clemson, Yale
This Week: at North Carolina (Sat.)
Next Week: Miami (Wed.), at Virginia (Sat.)
The Eagles very much look like a team that peaked before Christmas, as they were 10-2 before the holiday (with one of the two losses being their worst overall [Yale]) and 6-7 since. Plus, the shine of the Eagles' best win, against Texas A&M in Orlando, has worn off slightly, thanks to the Aggies' up-and-down performance in the Big 12. But Boston College is not without hope, as they recently defeated Virginia Tech and Maryland at home, but a loss at Clemson is problematic, BC will need positive results in their last two games against ACC NCAA contenders, particularly their rematch against the Hokies in Blacksburg on March 1st. First, they'll need to avoid getting blown out again by the UNC, who pounded the Eagles by 32 in Chestnut Hill at the beginning of February.
Record: 16-10 overall; 5-6 conference; 0-8 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 12-0 vs. RPI 150+; 4-67 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 216 Loss: 33
RPI 1-50 Wins: None
RPI 51-100 Wins: at Penn State, Clemson, College of Charleston
Losses: Pittsburgh (N), at Duke, Duke, at Villanova, Temple (N), Illinois (N), Boston College, at Boston College, at Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech
This Week: lost at Virginia Tech 91-83, NC State (Sun.)
Next Week: Florida State (Wed.), at North Carolina (Sun.)
After losses at (and season sweeps at the hands of) Boston College and Virginia Tech, Maryland looks to be finished, barring an unbeaten run through the rest of the regular season and two to three wins at the ACC Tournament. The Terrapins' best victory came against Penn State, a team who's falling off the bubble themselves. Plus, they squandered numerous chances outside of the ACC, as losses to Pitt, Illinois, Temple, and Villanova litter their profile, whose highlights are numerous wins over the bottom half of Division I. The two biggest games remaining on Maryland's schedule are both next week, as they host Florida State, a winnable game with Chris Singleton out for the Noles, and visit North Carolina. A sweep of those two is imperative to get Maryland back on even the "out" side of the bubble.
Record: 17-9 overall; 6-6 conference; 2-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 5-3 vs. RPI 51-100; 9-0 vs. RPI 150+; 4-6 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 166 Loss: 64
RPI 1-50 Wins: Boston College, Florida State
RPI 51-100 Wins: Miami, at College of Charleston, Seton Hall (N), NC State, Long Beach State (N)
Losses: at North Carolina, North Carolina, Old Dominion (N), at Florida State, Michigan, at Maryland, at NC State, at South Carolina, at Virginia
This Week: lost at NC State , at Miami (Sun.)
Next Week: Wake Forest (Sat.)
The Tigers' late push for a bid may have been derailed in Raleigh on Thursday night, but it wasn't like a lack of quality wins, particularly outside of the ACC, may ultimately push them into the NIT (which honestly wouldn't be the worst fate, considering where this team was at the first of the year). Clemson has just two top 50 wins on the year, victories over Boston College and Florida State at Littlejohn. Otherwise, the Tigers' wins are rather middling. The only really bad loss came at Virginia (thanks to a woeful offensive performance), but defeats to South Carolina and Michigan aren't really helpful either. Brad Brownell's team may need to pick up a win or two on the road, as their best results away from campus are at the College of Charleston and over Seton Hall at the Paradise Jam. Unfortunately for the Tigers, their only remaining away game of impact comes on March 2nd, at Cameron Indoor.
Xavier and Temple continue to march toward a bid. All they need to do is avoid the dreaded bad loss, something that's a distinct possibility in a down Atlantic 10.
Xavier Musketeers (A-10 Auto Bid Holder)
Xavier took control of the A-10 race with Sunday's win at Duquesne, and didn't stumble at St. Joseph's on Wednesday night. With a game at Dayton the biggest (by far) of the Musketeers final five games, Xavier looks to be safe.
Temple, who crushed Richmond Thursday night, they should be able to cruise through the rest of Atlantic 10 play. However, the Owls need to be leery of an three-game road swing, since it begins with a trip to Duke, not because of the conference games (against George Washington and Massachusetts) that follow. The Owls will have to make a push without their second-leading rebounder, Micheal Eric, who's out for the year with a patella fracture.
Richmond Spiders (Last Four IN)
Record: 20-7 overall; 9-3 conference; 1-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 4-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 13-1 vs. RPI 150+; 10-3 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 177 Loss: 82
RPI 1-50 Wins: Purdue (N)
RPI 51-100 Wins: VCU, at Dayton, at Seton Hall, Wright State (N)
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: Georgia Tech (N)
Other Losses: Xavier, at Temple, at Old Dominion, Rhode Island, Bucknell, at Iona
This Week: lost at Temple 73-53, St. Bonaventure (Sun.)
Next Week: at Charlotte (Sat.)
Richmond owns perhaps the best win of any bubble team, a thorough 11-point victory over Purdue at the Chicago Invitational Classic over Thanksgiving. But the Spiders also own some confounding losses, with the ones against Georgia Tech in the Bahamas and Bucknell at home the two that stand out the most. Still, since that loss to the Bison, Chris Mooney's team has taken care of the weaker teams on their slate, including Fordham, George Washington, and Saint Louis in the past two weeks. The Spiders' own an impressive 9-4 record away from home. However, the Spiders weren't competitive in their losses to the top two teams in the league, Xavier and Temple. More than ever it looks like Richmond's home finale, a March 5th game against Duquesne, could be significant in the A-10 race.
Duquesne Dukes (Next Four OUT)
Record: 17-7 overall; 9-2 conference; 1-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 11-0 vs. RPI 150+; 7-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 177 Loss: 59
RPI 1-50 Wins: Temple
RPI 51-100 Wins: Dayton, IUPUI
Losses: at Pittsburgh, Xavier, West Virginia, George Mason, at Penn State, at St. Bonaventure, at Robert Morris
This Week: won at Massachusetts 81-63, at Dayton (Sat.)
Next Week: Rhode Island (Wed.), at Saint Louis(Sat.)
Despite a two-loss Atlantic 10 mark, the Dukes aren't the strongest at-large candidate, thanks to a lack of wins outside of the league, and no quality wins away from home (their best road win: Green Bay). Duquesne lost their share of the A-10 lead when they lost at home to Xavier on Sunday, and they could fall further down the table (and off this list) thanks to the visits to Dayton and Richmond that remain on their slate.
It's looking increasingly like the number of Big East bids will be nine or ten. West Virginia slips down from lock status this week, while St. John's jumps up to relative safety, thanks to two straight road wins. Last week, I wrote that the Red Storm and Cincinnati were the two teams most likely to fall out of the field, but seven days later, Marquette looks the most likely to head to the NIT from the group.
West Virginia Mountaineers
St. John's Red Storm
Since beating Purdue on January 16th, the Mountaineers have struggled, going 4-5 through a difficult stretch of their schedule (which included Casey Mitchell's second suspension of the season). That wouldn't necessarily be a problem if they hadn't lost to Marshall to start that run or if their best win during it was over a team better than Cincinnati. West Virginia should be safe because of the win over the Boilermakers, a victory at Georgetown, and one over Vanderbilt in San Juan, but their seeding could take a hit with more losses, which are likely given a game at Rutgers is the closest thing to a breather the 'Neers have left.
As for the Red Storm, they won their second straight road game Tuesday night, toppling Marquette. They should pick up three more victories in their final five, and an upset in one of their two remaining tough contests (Pitt at the Garden on Saturday and at Villanova a week later) should lock Steve Lavin's senior-laden team up.
Record: 20-6 overall; 7-6 conference; 3-6 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-0 vs. RPI 51-100; 11-0 vs. RPI 150+; 5-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 173 Loss: 16
RPI 1-50 Wins: at St. John's, Xavier, Louisville
RPI 51-100 Wins: Dayton, Rutgers, Seton Hall
Losses: at Pittsburgh, at Notre Dame, St. John's, at Syracuse, at Villanova, West Virginia
This Week: def. Louisville 63-54, at Providence (Sat.)
Next Week: at Georgetown (Wed.), Connecticut (Sun.)
I think the Bearcats may have hacked the blog and caught what I was planning to write in this space before their big home win over Louisville on Wednesday night. That victory boosted a profile that was starting to look thin. Since starting the season 15-0, Cincinnati has gone 5-6, picking up a pair of quality wins in that span, at St. John's and Wednesday's victory over the Cardinals. Of course, Cincy couldn't sweep the Red Storm, falling to them at home last Sunday. While the Bearcats haven't suffered any bad losses, though they had a very close call against DePaul on February 8th. March 7th's game at Marquette is setting up as a significant one in the bubble race.
Marquette Golden Eagles
Record: 15-11 overall; 6-7 conference; 3-10 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 9-0 vs. RPI 150+; 3-8 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 181 Loss: 19
RPI 1-50 Wins: Notre Dame, West Virginia, Syracuse
RPI 51-100 Wins: Bucknell, Rutgers
Losses: at Georgetown, at Pittsburgh, Duke (N), at Notre Dame, Connecticut, at Vanderbilt, St. John's, Wisconsin, at Villanova, at Louisville, Gonzaga (N)
This Week: lost to St. John's 80-68, Seton Hall (Sat.)
Next Week: at Connecticut (Thu.), Providence (Sun.)
Thanks to some early season games against the absolute worst Division I has to offer (Centenary, Prairie View, South Dakota, Longwood), the computers don't quite recognize the difficulty of Marquette's schedule yet. Buzz Williams' team has played a whopping 13 games against the RPI top 50; however, they've won just three. Besides a few more quality wins, the Golden Eagles are in desperate need of good road victories--wins at Rutgers, Milwaukee, and USF won't move the needle in the committee room. Marquette missed another opportunity at Georgetown last Sunday, leaving a game at Connecticut on February 24th as the team's final chance at a quality away win. The Golden Eagles may very well sneak in on the basis of home results only.
Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Purdue all remain in good shape, while Illinois and Minnesota drop down to the Bubble group after their recent struggles. Michigan and Penn State remain on that list, though their hopes are rather slim at this juncture.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Record: 17-9 overall; 7-6 conference; 4-5 vs. RPI Top 50; 6-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 4-2 vs. RPI 150+; 5-7 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 117 Loss: 73
RPI 1-50 Wins: North Carolina, Wisconsin, at Minnesota, Michigan State
RPI 51-100 Wins: Michigan, Penn State, Gonzaga (N), Oakland, Northwestern, Maryland (N)
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Indiana, Illinois-Chicago (N)
Other Losses: Ohio State, Texas (N), Purdue, at Wisconsin, Missouri (N), at Penn State, at Northwestern
Last Week: def. Michigan 54-52, at Michigan State (Sat.)
This Week: at Ohio State (Tue.), Iowa (Sat.)
The Big Ten slate has been unkind to the Illini, who started out like a house on fire with three straight wins, but have since dropped six of their last nine. A 9-9 or 10-8 finish is looking likely for Illinois, thanks to three winnable home games (the first of which resulted in a close win over Michigan Wednesday) and a trio of difficult road trips (that includes struggling Michigan State). The bulk of Illinois' best results have come at Assembly Hall, including wins against North Carolina and Wisconsin, with victories at Minnesota and over Maryland (in New York) and Gonzaga (in Seattle) the big away wins. Bruce Weber's team should be OK to get in, but unless they win at Purdue or Ohio State down the stretch, they seem destined to end up in the 8-10 seed range.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (Next Four IN)
Record: 17-8 overall; 6-8 conference; 3-6 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 10-1 vs. RPI 150+; 6-6 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 147 Loss: 53
RPI 1-50 Wins: North Carolina (N), Purdue, West Virginia (N)
RPI 51-100 Wins: at Michigan, Northwestern
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Indiana
Other Losses: Ohio State, at Ohio State, at Purdue, at Wisconsin, Illinois, at Michigan State, at Penn State, Virginia
Last Week: lost at Penn State 66-63
This Week: Michigan State (Tue.), Michigan (Sat.)
Like Illinois, the Golden Gophers have found the Big Ten slate to be a bit more difficult than anticipated, though you have to wonder how much better off they'd be with Al Nolen playing the point. A recent four-game losing streak (which followed a run of four wins) has Minnesota reeling, but it appeared relatively soft closing schedule, which began with an easy win over Iowa on Sunday would see Tubby Smith's team grab a few wins and some hope. However, those ideas came to a halt with the loss at Penn State on Thursday. With the Gophers' personnel issues, expect Minnesota's seed to suffer and for there to be a lot of questions about what might have been.
Michigan State Spartans (Last Four IN)
Record: 13-11 overall; 6-7 conference; 3-8 vs. RPI Top 50; 4-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 5-0 vs. RPI 150+; 3-9 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 127 Loss: 36
RPI 1-50 Wins: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington (N)
RPI 51-100 Wins: Penn State, Oakland, Northwestern, at Northwestern
Losses: at Ohio State, at Duke, Texas, at Purdue, Connecticut (N), Syracuse (N), at Illinois, Michigan, at Penn State, at Iowa
This Week: lost at Ohio State 71-61, Illinois (Sat.)
Next Week: at Minnesota (Tue.), Purdue (Sat.)
The Spartans remain in the bracket, barely, after losing to Ohio State on Tuesday night. Their position is courtesy of an uninspiring overall profile (their best non-league wins after Washington: Oakland and South Carolina). Michigan State can jump up the S-curve by knocking off fading Illinois (in East Lansing) and Minnesota (at Williams Arena) or upsetting Purdue at home. After those three, Tom Izzo's team closes with Iowa and Michigan, two teams they've lost to in the past three weeks.
Penn State Nittany Lions (First Four OUT)
Record: 14-11 overall; 7-7 conference; 4-5 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-5 vs. RPI 51-100; 4-1 vs. RPI 150+; 1-7 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 121 Loss: 59
RPI 1-50 Wins: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan State
RPI 51-100 Wins: Duquesne, Northwestern
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: Maine
Other Losses: at Ohio State, at Purdue, Purdue, at Illinois, at Michigan State, at Michigan, Michigan, at Mississippi, at Virginia Tech, Maryland
This Week: def. Minnesota 66-63, at Wisconsin (Sun.)
Next Week: at Northwestern (Thu.)
Penn State's issues are twofold, no quality non-conference wins and just a single road victory (Indiana) on the profile. While the Nittany Lions have done a respectable job in the Big Ten, they've struggled of late, which isn't good considering the schedule they have ahead of them. A sweep at the hands of Michigan isn't helpful, and a loss at Michigan State last Thursday looked to have booked their NIT ticket. However, a win over Minnesota Thursday night gave the Nittany Lions a modicum of hope, as they still must visit Madison, play the Gophers in the Twin Cities, and head to Ohio State.
Record: 15-11 overall; 6-8 conference; 2-8 vs. RPI Top 50; 5-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 6-1 vs. RPI 150+; 3-7 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 141 Loss: 39
RPI 1-50 Wins: Harvard, at Michigan State
RPI 51-100 Wins: at Penn State, Penn State, at Clemson, Oakland, Northwestern
Bad RPI (150+) Losses: at Indiana
Other Losses: Kansas, Ohio State, at Ohio State, Purdue, at Wisconsin, Syracuse (N), Minnesota, at Illinois, UTEP (N), at Northwestern
This Week: lost at Illinois 54-52, at Iowa (Sat.)
Next Week: Wisconsin (Wed.), at Minnesota (Sat.)
Sure the Wolverines dropped six in a row and seven of eight just a few weeks ago, but as I have written before, if you're going to consider Michigan State (who the Wolverines beat in East Lansing on January 27th) and Penn State (a team Michigan swept), you also need to take a closer look at John Beilein's team. Michigan already owns two more road wins than Penn State, with all three (the third came at bubble newcomer Clemson) being more impressive than the Nittany Lions' lone triumph at Indiana. However, Michigan did lose at both Assembly Halls, and at Northwestern, and were swept by Syracuse and UTEP in Atlantic City over Thanksgiving weekend. Other than the Clemson victory, the Wolverines' best non-league wins came at home against Harvard and Oakland. The Wolverines missed an opportunity on Wednesday, when they had a chance to beat Illinois in Champaign, but they have three more quality win opportunities before the end of the regular season, a trip to Minnesota and home games against Wisconsin and Michigan State, with that last one looking to be the most significant of the trio.
Texas and Kansas continue to look like the class of the Big 12, but Texas A&M should join them as a lock soon. The Aggies' biggest issue is a difficult late schedule, which features three road games.
Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies have seen their fortunes improve thanks to wins at Colorado and Texas Tech, a two-game run that followed a disappointing three-game losing streak. A&M will need to keep on doing what they're doing away from College Station, as three of their final five are away from home and tough (Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Kansas).
On the other hand, Missouri has improved its record by grabbing some home wins, but their road form leaves much to be desired and could cost them in the seeding department. The Tigers last won away from Columbia on December 22nd, when they beat Illinois in St. Louis, with their last true road win coming at Oregon on December 2nd. Mizzou can improve that mark over its final five games, as three will be played away from home, starting Saturday in Ames, Iowa.
Kansas State Wildcats
Record: 17-9 overall; 5-6 conference; 1-7 vs. RPI Top 50; 6-3 vs. RPI 51-100; 8-0 vs. RPI 150+; 4-8 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 135 Loss: 38
RPI 1-50 Wins: Kansas
RPI 51-100 Wins: Baylor, Virginia Tech, Gonzaga (N), at Washington State, James Madison, Nebraska
Losses: at Kansas, Duke (N), Florida (N), at Missouri, at Texas A&M, UNLV (N), at Oklahoma State, Colorado, at Colorado
This Week: Oklahoma (Sat.)
Next Week: at Nebraska (Wed.), Missouri (Sat.)
The Wildcats finally earned a top 50 win, thoroughly dominating Kansas on Monday night in Manhattan. So, they can add the Jayhawks to a somewhat impressive list of victims that's heavy on fellow bubble teams. The win over KU was significant because it illustrated the Wildcats can win games with a depleted roster. Plus, it came 48 hours after K-State was swept by Colorado, a major demerit on their profile. Frank Martin's team can improve their position significantly if they can grab a pair of upsets in their final marquee win opportunities (Missouri at home and Texas away).
Baylor Bears (Last Four IN)
Record: 16-8 overall; 6-5 conference; 1-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 10-0 vs. RPI 150+; 3-7 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 165 Loss: 63
RPI 1-50 Wins: at Texas A&M
RPI 51-100 Wins: Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Colorado
Losses: Kansas, at Texas, at Kansas State, Florida State (N), Gonzaga (N), Washington State (N), at Oklahoma, at Iowa State
This Week: def. Wayland Baptist 64-50, Texas Tech (Sat.)
Next Week: at Missouri (Wed.), Texas A&M (Sat.)
The Bears put themselves back in position by topping Texas A&M on the road and Nebraska at home, but they missed an opportunity to really get on the good side of the bubble when their comeback attempt in Austin fell short on Saturday afternoon. Tuesday night's game against NAIA Wayland Baptist didn't help Baylor's cause, since games against non-Division I opponents are not counted on a team's profile. Saturday's home game against Texas Tech won't provide much of a boost either, but it will be the final easy win (on paper) for the Bears, as they visit Missouri and Oklahoma State and host,the Longhorns and Texas A&M in the final two weeks of the season.
Colorado Buffaloes (First Four OUT)
Record: 15-10 overall; 5-6 conference; 4-5 vs. RPI Top 50; 1-3 vs. RPI 51-100; 9-0 vs. RPI 150+; 3-8 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 183 Loss: 61
RPI 1-50 Wins: Missouri, at Kansas State, Kansas State, Colorado State
RPI 51-100 Wins: Oklahoma State
Losses: Kansas, at Missouri, Texas A&M, at Georgia, at Harvard, at Baylor, New Mexico (N), at Nebraska, at Oklahoma, at San Francisco
This Week: at Kansas (Sat.)
Next Week: at Texas Tech (Wed.), Texas (Sat.)
Colorado looked destined for big things in the Big 12 after rattling off three big wins to start the conference season, but six losses in their last eight, with three coming in winnable road games (at Baylor, at Nebraska, at Oklahoma) sees the Buffs at the very edge of the conversation. The Sooners' recent improvement means that loss is no longer a really bad one, but it remains one of several missed opportunities on Colorado's profile, along with losses at Harvard, Georgia, San Francisco, and against New Mexico in Las Vegas. The San Francisco and Oklahoma defeats are particularly responsible for weighing down the Buffs' RPI. On the other hand, a season sweep of Kansas State is a feather in the Buffs' cap. Colorado can make up for those disappointments with a strong late push, which is possible thanks to trips to Missouri and Kansas and a home game against Texas.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Record: 16-9 overall; 4-7 conference; 3-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-5 vs. RPI 51-100; 7-1 vs. RPI 150+; 4-8 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 163 Loss: 64
RPI 1-50 Wins: Missouri, Kansas State, Missouri State
RPI 51-100 Wins: Alabama, at Tulsa
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Texas Tech
Other Losses: Texas, at Texas, at Texas A&M, at Baylor, Virginia Tech (N), at Gonzaga, at Nebraska, at Colorado
This Week: lost at Texas 73-55, Texas A&M (Sat.), at Kansas (Mon.)
Next Week: Texas Tech (Sat.)
The Cowboys are yet another team that's all but unstoppable at home, but the complete opposite on the road, as their last two wins away from Stillwater were a pair of December in-state neutral site contests against Tulsa and Alabama. Home victories over fellow bubble residents Kansas State and Missouri State and a relatively safe Missouri squad help significantly, but the road struggles and fact this team seems destined to finish below .500 in the Big 12 don't. Oklahoma State's last chance may be to beat Kansas in Lawrence on Monday night, but even that may not be enough.
The MWC's bid picture looks roughly the same on the surface, though UNLV's lack of good, recent wins keep them far from the lock group, and they could fall squarely onto the bubble if they lose at Colorado State on Saturday. The Rams are in my projection for now, but New Mexico's chances are on life support.
UNLV Runnin' Rebels
UNLV's position is a bit dicey, thanks to a 1-5 mark against the Mountain West's tournament contenders (with the only win coming against New Mexico, the team furthest from the field). While the Rebels own a nice win over Wisconsin, and their victory over Kansas State in Kansas City received a major boost with the Wildcats' win over Kansas Monday night, they need those teams to keep playing well. Plus, they need to take care of business in the league, particularly over the next few days. The Runnin' Rebels' next two games, on the road against Colorado State and New Mexico, are vital to their hopes.
Colorado State Rams (Next Four IN)
Record: 17-7 overall; 8-3 conference; 2-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 9-1 vs. RPI 150+; 9-3 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 151 Loss: 71
RPI 1-50 Wins: at UNLV, Southern Mississippi (N)
RPI 51-100 Wins: Mississippi (N), New Mexico, Air Force
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: Sam Houston State
Other Losses: BYU, Kansas (N), San Diego State, at New Mexico, at Colorado, Hampton (N)
This Week: won at TCU 69-55, UNLV (Sat.)
Next Week: at BYU (Wed.), at Air Force (Sat.)
The Rams' biggest issue is a pair of very questionable losses, one at home to Sam Houston State Thanksgiving weekend, and another against Hampton in San Francisco over New Year's. A Cancun Governor's Cup crown provides a little bit of a boost, but not much, thanks to the relative weakness of that particular field, but Southern Mississippi's place on the bubble makes that achievement look even better. Colorado State will have to take care of business in the Mountain West to earn a bid. This weekend, Tim Miles' team, which has already split with New Mexico, will go for a sweep of UNLV. That would be a boost, but a win at either BYU or San Diego State, as difficult of an ask as that is, would be even more significant for the program.
New Mexico Lobos
Record: 16-9 overall; 5-6 conference; 2-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-3 vs. RPI 51-100; 9-1 vs. RPI 150+; 5-8 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 165 Loss: 75
RPI 1-50 Wins: BYU, Colorado State
RPI 51-100 Wins: Colorado (N), Air Force
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Wyoming
Other Losses: San Diego State, at San Diego State, at UNLV, at Colorado State, at Dayton, at California, Northern Iowa (N), at Utah
This Week: lost at San Diego State 68-62, Utah (Sat.)
Next Week: UNLV (Wed.), at TCU (Sat.)
The Lobos returned to the bubble picture with a home win over BYU on January 29th, but still have a lot to do to play their way into the field, especially after Saturday's loss at Colorado State. New Mexico's case is already weak because non-conference slate that featured some disappointing losses and a whole slew of wins that haven't panned out from a quality perspective. The remaining schedule isn't kind to Steve Alford's team either, as they only welcome one MWC contender, UNLV, to the Pit. On Wednesday night, they dropped the first of two road games against the league's leaders, falling at San Diego State by six. A game at BYU remains on March 2nd.
Arizona jumped into the lock group after their Thursday night win over Washington State, even ahead of Saturday's crucial game against Washington. Even if the Wildcats are swept by the Huskies, they're in good shape. On the other hand, a win in Tucson would boost the Huskies up.
Washington doesn't have any great non-conference wins (their best is against Portland), so they've had to do their work within the Pac-10. Inconsistent road form doesn't help their case. A win in Tucson Saturday would do all but solidify a bid for the Huskies.
Record: 19-7 overall; 10-3 conference; 2-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 9-0 vs. RPI 150+; 5-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 159 Loss: 49
RPI 1-50 Wins: BYU (N), St. John's
RPI 51-100 Wins: California, Washington State
Losses: at Kansas, at Arizona, Villanova (N), Washington, VCU (N), at USC, Montana
This Week: won at Stanford 69-65, at California (Sun.)
Next Week: Arizona State (Thu.), Arizona (Sun.)
For the most part, the Bruins have taken care of business in the Pac-10, a pattern of events that's improved their situation considerably. (So do wins over BYU and St. John's.) The schedule really opens up for the Bruins over the next few weeks, as they don't play another legit tournament contender until Arizona visits Pauley on February 26th. UCLA began that stretch with a close win over Stanford Thursday, and if they beat Cal Sunday, they'll be in far better shape. Ben Howland's team sees difficult three-game span to end the regular season, as the Bruins head to Washington for the final weekend, right after they host league leader Arizona.
Washington State Cougars (Next Four OUT)
Record: 17-9 overall; 7-9 conference; 1-5 vs. RPI Top 50; 4-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 9-0 vs. RPI 150+; 7-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 168 Loss: 69
RPI 1-50 Wins: Washington
RPI 51-100 Wins: Baylor (N), California, Gonzaga, Portland (N)
Losses: Arizona, at Arizona, Kansas State, at UCLA, Butler (N), at California, at USC, Stanford, at Oregon
This Week: lost at Arizona 79-70, at Arizona State (Sat.)
Next Week: at Washington (Sun.)
Much like Penn State, Washington State has been unable to maintain consistency this season, particularly when they make the jump into a bracket projection. For example, they made the first bracket of February after grabbing an impressive win over Washington, but were out a few days later, thanks to a terrible 26-point loss at Oregon. While the Cougars did manage to beat Oregon State two days later, they split the next weekend at home, losing to Stanford and beating Cal. The win-lose pattern continued with a setback in Tucson on Thursday. Wazzu should beat Arizona State Saturday, but the Apple Cup rematch in Seattle next Sunday looks like a must-win for their dwindling hopes, as a regular season-ending homestand against USC and UCLA.
Florida and Kentucky remain in the best position of the SEC's contenders. Mississippi falls out of consideration after their home loss to Alabama on Saturday dropped them below .500 in the weaker SEC West.
Vanderbilt picked up a much-needed win at Georgia Wednesday night, their second SEC road win of the season (the other came at Mississippi State). The Commodores' biggest issue has been their play away from Memorial Gym, and while they should grab two more wins on the road (Auburn and LSU), March 1st's game at Kentucky will be the true test.
The Commodores in-state rivals topped South Carolina to snap a three-game losing streak, but could fall right back into trouble, as a desperate Georgia team visits Thompson-Boling on Saturday, and, more dangerously, the Vols have to visit Nashville on Tuesday. This stretch is crucial for Bruce Pearl's team in terms of seeding, and potentially selection.
Georgia Bulldogs (Next Four IN)
Record: 17-8 overall; 6-5 conference; 2-8 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-0 vs. RPI 51-100; 10-0 vs. RPI 150+; 7-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 171 Loss: 18
RPI 1-50 Wins: Kentucky, UAB
RPI 51-100 Wins: at Mississippi, Colorado
Losses: Notre Dame (N), Florida, at Kentucky, at Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt, Xavier, Tennessee, Temple (N)
This Week: lost to Vanderbilt 64-56, at Tennessee (Sat.)
Next Week: at Florida (Thu.), South Carolina (Sat.)
The Bulldogs' SEC mark of 6-5 looks decent enough, but danger lurks behind that pair of numbers. With Wednesday night's loss to Vanderbilt, a true missed opportunity given how cold Georgia was late in the game, Mark Fox's team is now 2-5 against the East, with the wins coming against Kentucky at home (good) and at South Carolina (not particularly helpful). That means a 4-0 record against the West is inflating the Dawgs' conference mark. The road ahead, specifically trips to Knoxville, Gainesville, and Tuscaloosa, provides them some opportunities, but away wins are far from a given in the SEC (even if UGA is 3-2 in conference road games). A late non-conference home loss to Xavier also hurts Georgia's cause.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Record: 17-8 overall; 9-2 conference; 2-2 vs. RPI Top 50; 1-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 10-0 vs. RPI 150+; 4-8 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 188 Loss: 84
RPI 1-50 Wins: Kentucky, at Tennessee
RPI 51-100 Wins: Mississippi
Losses: at Purdue, at Vanderbilt, at Oklahoma State, Seton Hall (N), at Providence, at Arkansas, St. Peter's (N), Iowa (N)
This Week: won at LSU 67-56, Arkansas (Sat.)
Next Week: Auburn (Wed.), at Mississippi (Sat.)
The Crimson Tide have a win against Kentucky, another at Tennessee, and little else, particularly outside of the SEC. The good news for Alabama is that they have three games left against the East; however, only the one against Georgia is in Tuscaloosa. After Thursday's win in Baton Rouge, the Tide have three more West Division games on the slate, along with games at Florida and against Georgia in Tuscaloosa.
The Rest of Division I
Thanks to some uncertainty in the major conferences, and some significant shifts in several mid-major conference races, this category sees a few returnees for this week. BracketBusters this weekend should result in even more changes, with a few teams potentially moving closer to safety.
George Mason Patriots (CAA auto bid holder)
Record: 22-5 overall; 14-2 conference; 2-1 vs. RPI Top 50; 6-3 vs. RPI 51-100; 12-1 vs. RPI 150+; 9-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 145 Loss: 86
RPI 1-50 Wins: Old Dominion, Harvard
RPI 51-100 Wins: at VCU, Drexel, at James Madison, James Madison, at Duquesne, Hofstra
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: Wofford (N)
Other Losses: at Old Dominion, at Dayton, at Hofstra, NC State (N)
This Week: won at VCU 71-51, at Northern Iowa (Sat.)
Next Week: Northeastern (Thu.), at Georgia State (Sat.)
At first glance, the Patriots don't look like an at-large candidate, but guess what? Neither did the 2005-06 Final Four team. Actually, with wins over Harvard and Duquesne, it's possible the 2010-11 version could have better non-conference wins than the 2006 East Region champions, and that doesn't even take into account GMU's BracketBuster against Northern Iowa, even if the Panthers have struggled without Lucas O'Rear (the Kryptonite Kids won at Wichita State in 2006, the same team they beat in the Sweet 16 a month later). As for the CAA race, the Patriots have already locked up at least a tie for the regular season crown, thanks to a dominating win at VCU on Tuesday night. If the Patriots don't slip up against Northeastern and Georgia State, two teams they should obliterate, they'll be the top seed in Richmond.
Old Dominion Monarchs
Record: 21-6 overall; 12-4 conference; 2-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 6-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 11-1 vs. RPI 150+; 9-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 155 Loss: 57
RPI 1-50 Wins: Xavier (N), George Mason
RPI 51-100 Wins: at VCU, Dayton, Richmond, Clemson (N), James Madison, at Hofstra
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Delaware
Other Losses: Georgetown, at George Mason, at Missouri, VCU, at Drexel
This Week: def. Georgia State 60-43, Cleveland State (Sun.)
Next Week: at James Madison (Wed.), William & Mary (Sun.)
In terms of their non-conference resume, the Monarchs are the CAA's best hope for an at-large, thanks to three wins against teams that are in contention. So, winning conference games is imperative, especially as Old Dominion sits two games behind leader George Mason. After a win at VCU last Saturday (and the Rams' home loss to GMU on Tuesday), the Monarchs will most likely finish second or third, depending on what happens over the final week of the regular season. That means a potential rubber match (and NCAA elimination game?) with their archrival could be in the cards in the semifinals of the conference tournament. On Sunday, ODU has one last chance at grabbing a decent non-league win, as they host Cleveland State in the season's final televised BracketBuster.
Utah State Aggies (WAC auto bid holder)
Record: 23-3 overall; 12-1 conference; 0-2 vs. RPI Top 50; 1-0 vs. RPI 51-100; 19-1 vs. RPI 150+; 8-3 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 190 Loss: 54
RPI 1-50 Wins: None
RPI 51-100 Wins: Long Beach State
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Idaho
Other Losses: at BYU, at Georgetown
This Week: def. Montana Western 100-66, at St. Mary's (Sat.)
Next Week: Idaho (Sat.)
If they don't win at St. Mary's on Saturday, the Aggies will be in real trouble if they fail to win the WAC tournament. That's because the BracketBuster with the Gaels is their last chance to grab top 100 victory, of which they have just one, a freshly-minted one against Long Beach State. Keep in mind that the Aggies earned an at-large last year with two WAC losses (this year's version lost to Idaho last week), but that team also beat BYU. Plus, last year's WAC wasn't quite as weak as this one's edition.
St. Mary's Gaels (WCC auto bid holder)
Record: 20-5 overall; 10-2 conference; 1-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 13-1 vs. RPI 150+; 9-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 173 Loss: 84
RPI 1-50 Wins: St. John's
RPI 51-100 Wins: at Gonzaga, Long Beach State (N)
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at San Diego
Other Losses: BYU (N), at San Diego State, at Vanderbilt, at Portland
This Week: lost at San Diego 67-65, Utah State (Sat.)
Next Week: Gonzaga (Thu.), Portland (Sat.)
The Gaels' picked up the dreaded bad loss at just about the worst possible time, falling at travel partner San Diego on Wednesday night, thanks to a rare cold shooting performance. St. Mary's best win of the season, a home win over St. John's looks more and more impressive, but Wednesday's loss damaged a pair of key pluses on their profile, their ability to take out bad teams, and their respectable road/neutral mark. The weak bubble works in St. Mary's favor, but the remaining schedule doesn't, even with all three games in Moraga. Saturday's BracketBuster with Utah State takes on added significance with both teams losing recently, and the Gaels' two toughest league foes, Gonzaga and Portland come calling during the next week. A sweep of all three games is vital, particularly if St. Mary's can't take care of business at the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas.
Memphis Tigers (Conference USA auto bid holder)
Record: 20-6 overall; 8-3 conference; 4-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 5-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 8-1 vs. RPI 150+; 6-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 144 Loss: 66
RPI 1-50 Wins: at UAB, UAB, at Southern Mississippi, Southern Mississippi
RPI 51-100 Wins: Marshall, Miami, at Gonzaga, UCF, at UCF
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at SMU
Other Losses: Kansas (N), Georgetown, at Tennessee, at Marshall, Tulsa
This Week: def. UAB 62-58, at Rice (Sat.)
Next Week: Houston (Tue.), at UTEP (Sat.)
Memphis jumped to the top of Conference USA on Wednesday night, thanks to a win over (and season sweep of) UAB, and UTEP's loss at Southern Miss, another team the Tigers have swept. That being said, the Tigers only lead the Miners by a half-game and their inability to dominate the league is especially problematic because there isn't much for them to hang their hat on outside of the it, as a November 15th home win over Miami and a triumph at Gonzaga are the Tigers' best non-conference wins. That means Josh Pastner's team still has a bit to do to get in. Next Saturday's trip to UTEP is particularly significant, as it's a potential C-USA championship game preview, right down to the venue (though hopefully not the tip time). If the Tigers win that one, they will likely clinch the regular season crown and establish themselves as the odds-on favorite to take the league's auto bid back.
Wichita State Shockers (MVC auto bid holder)
Record: 21-5 overall; 13-3 conference; 0-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 13-1 vs. RPI 150+; 10-2 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 180 Loss: 68
RPI 1-50 Wins: None
RPI 51-100 Wins: at Northern Iowa, Tulsa
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: Southern Illinois
Losses: at San Diego State, Connecticut (N), Missouri State, Northern Iowa
This Week: won at Evansville 80-74, VCU (Fri.)
Next Week: Creighton (Wed.), at Missouri State (Sat.)
Like Utah State, Wichita State is an at-large candidate despite not having an impressive win. Both teams will attempt to pick one up in BracketBusters this week, a little more than a week after picking up the dreaded bad loss. The Shockers arguably have a better shot at being successful, as they host their game with VCU, a team that's been prone to slow starts lately. In the grand scheme of things, Wichita State has another advantage since they have quality win opportunities outside of Saturday, as they must visit Missouri State to close the regular season and are, barring an upset, likely to meet them for a bid in the final of the Missouri Valley Tournament in St. Louis.
Butler Bulldogs (Last Four IN)
Record: 18-9 overall; 11-5 conference; 3-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 8-1 vs. RPI 150+; 8-7 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 136 Loss: 90
RPI 1-50 Wins: Cleveland State, at Cleveland State, Florida State (N)
RPI 51-100 Wins: Valparaiso, Washington State (N)
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Youngstown State
Other Losses: Duke (N), at Xavier, at Louisville, at Valparaiso, at Wright State, Milwaukee, at Milwaukee, Evansville
This Week: won at Green Bay 64-62, at Illinois-Chicago (Sat.)
Next Week: Loyola-Chicago (Sat.)
The Bulldogs are huge fans of Florida State and Washington State right now, as those two bubble teams fell victim to Butler in Hawai'i over Christmas week, and thus represent the Horizon League power's two best non-conference wins. After a week away from Bubble Watch, the Bulldogs stormed back into my Tuesday projection because of some changes in the Horizon race and the national landscape. For starters, their bad losses against Milwaukee (a team tied with them for third in the conference) and Evansville don't look so bad now. Plus, the Bulldogs are winning again, picking up five wins in a row. Additionally, the Bulldogs are 3-1 against the two teams ahead of them in the Horizon race. If Brad Stevens' team can sweep the Chicago schools over the next two Saturdays, they may even earn a bye to the semifinals in the Horizon tournament, depending on what their competition does. Still, a loss at UIC or at home to Loyola, will make things very difficult for Butler, both in terms of tournament seeding and the national picture.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (First Four OUT)
Record: 17-9 overall; 8-3 conference; 1-6 vs. RPI Top 50; 6-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 10-1 vs. RPI 150+; 6-6 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 171 Loss: 59
RPI 1-50 Wins: Xavier
RPI 51-100 Wins: Oklahoma State, Marquette (N), Baylor (N), Portland, at Portland, IUPUI
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Santa Clara
Other Losses: San Diego State, at Notre Dame, St. Mary's, Kansas State (N), Memphis, Illinois (N), at Washington State, at San Francisco
This Week: def. Santa Clara 85-76, San Francisco (Sat.)
Next Week: at St. Mary's (Thu.), at San Diego (Sat.), Cal State Bakersfield (Mon.)
Gonzaga has not only struggled with a typically difficult non-conference schedule, capped by an early February home loss to C-USA leader Memphis, but they've had trouble in the league too, as they dropped three straight WCC games for the first time in 14 years a few weeks back. Just a few days ago, it looked like the Bulldogs may have too much ground to make up, despite decent wins over Xavier, Oklahoma State, and Marquette, but that changed when St. Mary's lost at San Diego on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs can tie the Gaels up at the top of the WCC standings when they visit Moraga on February 24th, but they can't be caught looking ahead this weekend. The Zags' homestand started well enough, as they avenged a bad loss to Santa Clara, but a game against San Francisco, another team the Bulldogs lost to on the road, is on deck for Saturday.
VCU Rams (First Four OUT)
Record: 20-8 overall; 12-4 conference; 2-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 15-3 vs. RPI 150+; 10-6 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 178 Loss: 91
RPI 1-50 Wins: at Old Dominion, UCLA (N)
RPI 51-100 Wins: Drexel, at James Madison, Hofstra
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at USF, at Northeastern, at Georgia State
Other Losses: Tennessee (N), Old Dominion, George Mason, at UAB, at Richmond
This Week: lost to George Mason 71-51, at Wichita State (Fri.)
Next Week: at Drexel (Wed.), James Madison (Sat.)
The Rams dropped consecutive home games for the first time since their on-campus arena opened, which means they're in double trouble. Losses to Old Dominion and George Mason not only ceded control of the CAA race to the Patriots, but are missed opportunities to improve a resume that includes three particularly bad losses. VCU's last chance at an at-large may be Friday's BracketBuster at Wichita State, though they'll need to start more quickly than they did against GMU and ODU to stand a chance against the Shockers. If they fail, at least the Rams get the CAA tournament near campus.
Missouri State Bears (Next Four OUT)
Record: 21-6 overall; 13-3 conference; 1-1 vs. RPI Top 50; 1-3 vs. RPI 51-100; 13-0 vs. RPI 150+; 7-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 180 Loss: 80
RPI 1-50 Wins: at Wichita State,
RPI 51-100 Wins: at Northern Iowa
Losses: at Tennessee, at Oklahoma State, Northern Iowa, at Tulsa, at Indiana State, at Evansville
This Week: def. Drake 60-51, at Valparaiso (Sat.)
Next Week: at Southern Illinois (Wed.), Wichita State (Sat.)
Things are looking up for the Bears. Unlike the other Valley contenders, Missouri State has been able to take care of business against the conference's bottom-feeders, winning three in a row against Bradley, Illinois State, and Drake. That means the Bears are still tied with Wichita State at the top of the league, with a meeting to come at the JQH Arena to close the regular season. Thanks to Northern Iowa's recent struggles, the Bears once again own the best overall profile in the conference, and their BracketBuster game at new Horizon leader Valparaiso doesn't look as uninspiring as it did when it was announced. But no matter the result at the ARC on Saturday, that season finale against the Shockers and a likely meeting at Arch Madness will play a bigger role in determining Missouri State's fate.
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (Next Four OUT)
Record: 17-5 overall; 8-3 conference; 1-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 4-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 10-1 vs. RPI 150+; 7-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 145 Loss: 73
RPI 1-50 Wins: at UAB
RPI 51-100 Wins: UTEP, at California, Marshall, UCF
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at SMU
Other Losses: Memphis, at Memphis, Colorado State (N), at Mississippi, at Marshall
This Week: def. UTEP 64-51, East Carolina (Sat.)
Next Week: at UCF (Sat.)
Southern Miss now looks to be the second best at-large candidate out of C-USA after their win over UTEP Wednesday night and Memphis' sweep of UAB. One problem for the Golden Eagles, they were also swept by the Tigers. Outside of the league, the Golden Eagles own a decent road win, as they knocked off Cal in Berkeley; however, a five-point loss to Colorado State in the Cancun Governor's Cup final is a major missed opportunity, especially since the Rams have picked up steam as an at-large candidate. The Golden Eagles will likely need to win the Conference USA crown to dance, and they need to finish well to improve their seeding for the conference tournament. A March 2nd home game with UAB is the biggest on the slate, but road trips to UCF and Tulsa won't be easy.
Cleveland State Vikings (Horizon League auto bid holder)
Record: 20-5 overall; 11-4 conference; 0-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 12-0 vs. RPI 150+; 10-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 156 Loss: 62
RPI 1-50 Wins: None
RPI 51-100 Wins: Valparaiso, Kent State, St. Bonaventure
Losses: at West Virginia, at Butler, Butler, at Valparaiso, at Detroit
Last Week: won at Wright State 74-72, at Old Dominion (Sun.)
Next Week: Milwaukee (Thu.), Green Bay (Sat.)
The Vikings are one of numerous teams in this portion of Bubble Watch who have built up a nice record without grabbing a marquee win, meaning they'll provide an interesting case for the committee to review if they don't win their conference (in this case, the Horizon) tournament. The Vikings took the conference lead back on Wednesday night, by a half-game, thanks to a win over Wright State and Valparaiso's loss to Milwaukee. One thing that works against Cleveland State in the league race (and is a file and save for the tournament) is their 1-3 record versus Butler and Valparaiso. The Vikings' final chance to make a statement before the Horizon Tourney will be a BracketBuster at CAA contender Old Dominion on Sunday afternoon.
Record: 17-8 overall; 11-4 conference; 2-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 1-0 vs. RPI 51-100; 8-3 vs. RPI 150+; 9-6 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 150 Loss: 114
RPI 1-50 Wins: Cleveland State. Butler
RPI 51-100 Wins: at Oakland
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Ohio, at Toledo
Other Losses: at Kansas, Purdue, at Cleveland State, at Butler, at Milwaukee, Green Bay
This Week: lost at Milwaukee 79-76, Missouri State (Sat.), at Green Bay (Mon.)
Next Week: Loyola-Chicago (Thu.), Illinois-Chicago (Sat.)
The Crusaders are another team that really needs to take care of business in its conference to have any hope. Valparaiso already owns wins over the other three Horizon contenders and Summit League leader Oakland; however, losses at Ohio (RPI 174) and Toledo (322) really torpedo the squad's at-large hopes. A home BracketBuster against Missouri State will help a little, but probably not enough. Ceding control of the Horizon race to Cleveland State on Wednesday night may ultimately be fatal to Valpo's at-large chances. Keep in mind that the Crusaders topped the Vikings and Butler at the ARC, particularly if they can pass CSU and take the top seed (and the bulk of the hosting duties) for the Horizon tournament.
Record: 16-4 overall; 7-1 conference; 1-2 vs. RPI Top 50; 1-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 13-0 vs. RPI 150+; 6-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 185 Loss: 37
RPI 1-50 Wins: at Boston College
RPI 51-100 Wins: Colorado
Losses: at Connecticut, at George Mason, at Princeton, at Michigan
This Week: at Cornell (Fri.), at Columbia (Sat.)
Next Week: at Brown (Fri.), at Yale (Sat.)
While Princeton is the Ivy leader, the Crimson have a better chance at an at-large, granted its an extremely slim chance. Harvard will have to beat the Tigers in Cambridge, and not lose any more games (which will be difficult given the number of recent close calls the Crimson have faced), to force a one-game playoff for the Ivy crown. As I've insinuated, Harvard doesn't really have a chance at an at-large, thanks to what the Ivy schedule will do to their computer numbers, but wins at Boston College and in Cambridge over Colorado should earn them more of a look than they'll receive.
Record: 18-7 overall; 8-4 conference; 0-5 vs. RPI Top 50; 6-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 10-1 vs. RPI 150+; 7-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 174 Loss: 58
RPI 1-50 Wins: None
RPI 51-100 Wins: UTEP, VCU, Marshall, at Marshall, at UCF, Kent State
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Arizona State
Other Losses: at Duke, Memphis, at Memphis, at Georgia, Southern Mississippi, at Tulsa
This Week: lost at Memphis 62-58, UCF (Sat.)
Next Week: at Houston (Sat.)
The Blazers are just a few points away from being in better position, as three of their losses against Top 50 teams (Memphis, at Georgia) were by a total of nine points, and they lost at home to Southern Miss by four. A December 21st home win over VCU works in their favor, but a November 20th loss to Arizona State is a serious wart. Wednesday night's loss at Memphis, a game the Tigers seemed to want to hand to the Blazers, all but ended UAB's at-large hopes. March 2nd's game at Southern Miss will be crucial for the league race and seeding at the conference tournament in El Paso, both teams' best chance at entry.
Record: 18-6 overall; 7-3 conference; 0-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 13-1 vs. RPI 150+; 5-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 178 Loss: 81
RPI 1-50 Wins: None
RPI 51-100 Wins: Michigan (N), Air Force, Tulsa
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: Georgia Tech (N)
Losses: at BYU, at UAB, at Southern Mississippi, at Tulsa, Pacific
This Week: lost at Southern Mississippi 64-51, Houston (Sat.), UCF (Mon.)
Next Week: at East Carolina (Wed.), Memphis (Sat.)
The Miners lost the Conference USA lead on Wednesday night, thanks to their loss at Southern Miss. UTEP will now most likely need to win the C-USA Tournament because they simply don't have the wins out of the league to make a decent case (though a win over Michigan in Atlantic City is looking better). Remember that the Miners host the season-ending event, which gives them a sizable advantage, if they can adjust for the final's ridiculously early 9 a.m. Mountain tip time.
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