Editor's Note: This entry is cross-posted at SB Nation.
Here is the updated look at how the NCAA Tournament field stacks up heading into the weekend. Click here for my Saturday morning bracket. My next projection will be released Sunday morning to reflect Saturday's conference championship games and other action.
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 (somewhat safe)
Conference USA: UTEP (somewhat safe)
Western Athletic: Utah State
Colonial: Old Dominion
Metro Atlantic: Siena
ACC: Duke*, Maryland, Clemson, Florida State
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, Illinois, Notre Dame, St. Mary's and Virginia Tech hold the most precarious positions. These four 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" clubs UNI and UTEP appear twice.) That leaves me to look at the last four teams in the field and the 12 who have varying chances at replacing them over the next week or so. I'll do this after the jump.
RPI data from Crashing The Dance and reflects games through Thursday, March 4. All records reflect games played against Division I opponents through Friday, March 5.
Last Four In
Florida (20-10; 9-6 SEC; RPI: 51; Non-conf. RPI: 71): On Wednesday. UConn's loss at the hands of Notre Dame and Mississippi State falling at Auburn helped move the Gators back in, but Florida's failure to beat Georgia in Athens and Vanderbilt in their home finale may yet haunt them, especially if they end up in the NIT for the third straight season. Billy Donovan's team is 3-7 against the RPI Top 50, but two of those wins came all the way back in November (at home against FSU and over Michigan State in Atlantic City). The other came last week against Tennessee in Gainesville. A 7-6 road/neutral record is OK, but likely to get worse, considering that a game at Kentucky is on the schedule for Sunday. Barring a huge win at Rupp, Florida may need to reach the SEC semifinals to get in.
Rhode Island (21-7; 9-6 A-10; RPI: 30; Non-conf. RPI: 3): The Rams haven't played well of late, but they could be turning the corner after their 22-point home win over Charlotte Wednesday night. Rhody's marquee non-conference win came against Oklahoma State, and they own respectable victories over Northeastern, Providence and Boston College. However, none of those three are likely to dance. 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. The Rams will hope to meet at least one of them in the A-10 Tourney after their regular season finale Saturday at UMass.
San Diego State (19-8; 10-5 MWC; RPI: 32; Non-conf. RPI: 36):The Aztecs won their home finale Wednesday night over Colorado State, which was more than enough to keep them in, considering all of the losses that happened around them. 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 road trip to hapless Air Force Saturday.
UAB (23-6; 11-4 C-USA; RPI: 41; non-conf. RPI: 18): The Blazers are in serious trouble now that Memphis swept them. They remain here because others (UConn, Mississippi State) lost Wednesday. However, they won't be able to rely on their early season home wins over lock Butler and fellow bubble team Cincinnati for much longer. UAB owns 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. The Blazers really need to grab a win at UTEP Saturday. Otherwise, they may need to claim the auto bid next week in Tulsa.
First Four Out
Mississippi State (21-9; 9-6 SEC; RPI: 61; Non-conf. RPI: 75): So much for the idea that the SEC West leaders were starting to pull things together, as their three-game win streak ended at the hands of a very mediocre Auburn team Wednesday. 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 really needs to grab a win at home against Tennessee Saturday, and probably a win or two in the SEC Tournament, to grab a place.
Mississippi (20-9; 8-7 SEC; RPI: 57; Non-conf. RPI: 35): 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, Ole Miss has won three straight, including Thursday's victory over laughingstock LSU, to get back on track. The Rebels close with a visit to Arkansas Saturday.
South Florida (18-11; Big East 8-9; RPI: 62; Non-conf. RPI: 69): The Bulls may have one last one run in them, as they survived a trip to DePaul Tuesday and now await a showdown with now-desperate UConn at the Sun Dome Saturday. USF 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 seven, 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.
Connecticut (17-13; 7-10 Big East; RPI: 48; non-conf. RPI: 15): The Huskies have followed up a three-game win streak, including wins over West Virginia and Villanova with a home loss to Louisville and an absolutely embarrassing performance in a 58-50 loss at Notre Dame. That defeat means UConn is now 3-9 in road/neutral games with a trip to South Florida on deck for Saturday. The Huskies are also 3-9 in games against the RPI Top 50.
Next Four Out
Dayton (19-10; 8-7 A-10; RPI: 42; Non-conf. RPI: 14): The Flyers will need to make a run in Atlantic City to go dancing. Their road/neutral record stands at 5-9 after Thursday night's setback at Richmond, a game the Flyers were in control of until the last 10 minutes. The Flyers' the best win coming against Georgia Tech in Puerto Rico way back on November 19 and the best true road victory came against George Mason on December 8. The Flyers close the regular season with a home game against St. Louis on Saturday.
Arizona State (21-9; 11-6 Pac-10; RPI: 54; 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 won the first game of their regular season-ending home set against L.A. schools, as they defeated USC Thursday. They can wrap up the two seed in the Pac-10 Tourney with a win over UCLA Saturday. They'll need it, as 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.
Washington (19-9; 9-7 Pac-10; RPI: 55; 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 swing, beating Washington State to sweep the hoops Apple Cup. The Huskies aren't very good away from Hec Ed, as their road record stands at 3-7 after a win at Oregon Thursday. They can grab a fourth road win at Oregon State Saturday.
Memphis (22-8; 12-3 C-USA; RPI: 50: Non-conf. RPI: 96): The Tigers do own a 6-5 mark against the RPI Top 100; however, only two of those wins came against a Top 50 opponent, the sweep over UAB. Memphis' two best non-league wins came against IUPUI and Oakland. A 7-5 road/neutral mark is OK, but the best of those wins (after the win at UAB) came against Marshall and Tulsa. Josh Pastner's club fattened up on Division I's worst teams, going 15-2 against teams ranked 151+ in the RPI, losing at UMass and SMU. I wouldn't consider the Tigers an at-large candidate, but they can certainly steal a bid at the conference tournament in Tulsa. They already won there once and close the regular season at home Saturday against the Golden Hurricane.
On The Fringe
Charlotte (19-10; 9-6 A-10; RPI: 59; Non-conf. RPI: 61): The 49ers loss to Rhode Island Wednesday was their fifth in six games and pretty much relegates them to the NIT. 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 9-7 road/neutral mark, featuring wins over the Spiders and Louisville, would have been a major boost, had they not lost their last two contests away from Halton Arena. Charlotte closes the regular season at home against Richmond Saturday.
Cincinnati (16-13; 7-10 Big East; RPI: 64; Non-conf. RPI: 37): The Bearcats close home loss to Villanova Tuesday night was their seventh in 10 games. 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 one final chance to correct that flaw in their resume, as they visit inconsistent Georgetown Saturday. Still, they will now need to win a couple of games in the Big East Tournament to have a realistic shot.
Minnesota (17-12; 8-9 Big Ten; RPI: 78; Non-conf. RPI: 57): After grabbing a win at Illinois Saturday, the Golden Gophers made a huge jump. Tuesday night, they gave it all back with an abysmal performance at Michigan, where they lost by 28. The defeat was costly as it cost the Gophers a shot at a bye in the Big Ten Tournament. The Golden Gophers are 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) the Michigan sweep sting. Minnesota closes with a home game against Iowa Sunday, but beating the Hawkeyes won't mean much to the Committee. The Gophers need to make a run in Indianapolis.
Seton Hall (17-11; 8-9 Big East; RPI: 56; 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 4-7 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 Thursday's win at Rutgers and a final road game at Providence won't give them much of a bump.
Games To Watch
Old Dominion vs. Towson/UNC Wilmington (Colonial Quarterfinal No. 1), 12 p.m. ET (CSN New England/Comcast Network/Full Court)
Tulsa at Memphis, 1 p.m. ET (CBS College Sports)
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)
Siena vs. Manhattan (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)