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NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch: Detailed Insanity For 02/04/2011

Since it's the first Friday in February, bubble talk has begun its yearly transition from the whispers of January to the full-fledged cacaphony of March. Right now, we're at the "reasonable discussion between reasonable people" stage.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've had a bracket math version of the Bubble Watch post over at SB Nation. That continues this week, but for those of you who want more information, I've brought team profiles back to Blogging the Bracket.

Here's how I see the at-large pool stacking up at the moment. (For more information, check out my post at SB Nation.)

20 Locks + 9 Looking Good = 29 teams are in good shape.
6 of these 29 hold their conference's auto bid at the moment, so that means 23 at-larges are accounted for.
37 Total At-Large Bids - 23 = 16 Available Bids

In this post, you'll find the three classes of teams treated differently in terms  of the information displayed.

Locks are represented by team logos. If you'd like to read more information about these teams, take a look at the team profiles for my Wednesday bracket.

I have a paragraph explaining the status of the nine teams who are Looking Good. Again, there's more detailed information in the team profiles.

For teams with Work to Do, I have a full profile including record and win/loss breakdowns.

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, Horizon, C-USA, 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 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.

After the jump, the fun begins, starting with the ACC.

RPI and schedule data from Basketball State (subscription), accessed on Thursday, February 3, 2011. RPI information only reflects games played against Division I opponents through Wednesday, February 2, 2011. Records only reflect games played against Division I opponents through Thursday, February 3, 2011.



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Work To Do


Florida State Seminoles
16-6 overall; 6-2 conference; 2-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 4-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 10-1 vs. RPI 150+; 6-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 182 Loss: 81
RPI: 56
SOS: 79
RPI 1-50 Wins: Duke, Boston College
RPI 51-100 Wins: Clemson, at Miami, Baylor (N), NC State
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Auburn
Other Losses: Ohio State, Florida, Butler (N), at Clemson, at Virginia Tech
This Week: def. Wake Forest 85-61, at North Carolina (Sun.)
Next Week: at Georgia Tech (Thu.), Virginia (Sat.)
At first glance, the Seminoles should be in better shape than they are, thanks to a win over Duke and a decent road/neutral mark. However, thanks to their offense (or lack thereof), FSU is constantly playing at the edge of disaster. The two most prominent examples of this are last Saturday's 44-point performance at Clemson and the now infamous 65-60 loss at Auburn (RPI 286) on January 3rd. The good news for Seminole fans is that there are wins available the rest of the way, with Sunday's trip to UNC and February 23rd's visit to Maryland the most daunting of the five remaining road games (by far) and a March 2nd rematch against the Heels the toughest of three home contests. Of course, this team's definition of "easy" isn't quite the same as yours or mine.


Boston College Eagles (Next Four In)
14-8 overall; 4-4 conference; 1-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 6-3 vs. RPI 51-100; 5-1 vs. RPI 150+; 5-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 138 Loss: 58
RPI: 45
SOS: 21
RPI 1-50 Wins: Texas A&M (N)
RPI 51-100 Wins: California (N), at Maryland, Massachusetts (N), Bucknell, NC State, Providence
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: Yale
Other Losses: at Duke, North Carolina, Wisconsin (N), Harvard, at Florida State, at Miami, at Rhode Island
This Week: lost to North Carolina 106-74, Virginia Tech (Sat.)
Next Week: at Clemson (Tue.), Maryland (Sat.)
The Eagles very much look like a team that peaked before Christmas. They entered the holidays at 10-2, with one of the losses being their worst (Yale), and have gone 4-6 since. If you combined FSU's defense and Boston College's offense, you might have an excellent team; however, the Eagles' have numerous issues in stopping their opponents, as evident in their 32-point home loss to UNC on Tuesday night. With just one victory against a team solidly in the field, BC will need to get good results in their last four games against ACC tourney contenders, especially a home-and-home against Virginia Tech.


Virginia Tech Hokies (Last Four In)
Record: 15-6 overall; 5-3 conference; 1-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 5-0 vs. RPI 51-100; 8-2 vs. RPI 150+; 7-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 171 Loss: 67
RPI: 69
SOS: 85
RPI 1-50 Wins: Penn State
RPI 51-100 Wins: Oklahoma State (N), Florida State, at Maryland, Miami, at NC State
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: Virginia, at Georgia Tech
Other Losses: Purdue, at North Carolina, UNLV (N), at Kansas State
This Week: won at NC State 77-69, at Boston College (Sat.)
Next Week: Georgia Tech (Sun.)
It's very impressive that Seth Greenberg's team is in the discussion, given all of the injury issues they've had to deal with this season. Honestly, you could argue the Hokies are six to nine points away from being a near lock, thanks to 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. A home-and-home series with Boston College; games at Cassell Coliseum against Duke and Maryland; and a trip to Clemson are the most crucial contests of the eight remaining on the Hokies' slate. An impressive 7-4 record away from Blacksburg is a key selling point for Virginia Tech, and if they can add to that against the Eagles and Tigers, in particular, they'll be able to breathe a little easier.


Maryland Terrapins
Record: 14-8 overall; 4-4 conference; 1-7 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 10-0 vs. RPI 150+; 4-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 195 Loss: 31
RPI: 70
SOS: 60
RPI 1-50 Wins: at Penn State
RPI 51-100 Wins: Clemson, College of Charleston
Losses: Pittsburgh (N), at Duke, Duke, at Villanova, Boston College, Temple (N), Illinois (N), Virginia Tech
This Week: lost to Duke 80-62, Wake Forest (Sat.)
Next Week: Longwood (Wed.), at Boston College (Sat.)
Wednesday's loss to Duke was particularly damaging to the Terrapins' chances, as they still own just one top 50 win, and a victory over Penn State doesn't exactly scream "tournament-worthy." And it's not like Maryland didn't have a lot of chances outside of the ACC, with losses to Pitt, Illinois, Temple, and Villanova littering their profile. Over the next few weeks, Gary Williams' team will be challenged, thanks to road games against Boston College, Virginia Tech (two teams they've already lost to in College Park), and North Carolina, and a home contest against Florida State. If the Terrapins want to get in, they will have to earn it through that slate.

Atlantic 10

Looking Good


Temple Owls

Thanks to Xavier's unexpected loss at Charlotte on Wednesday night, Temple is the closest thing there is to a lock in the Atlantic 10 right now. The Owls already own an excellent win over Georgetown and could grab another at Duke on February 23rd. A win over Georgia in Orlando over Thanksgiving week is helpful as well, but the Bulldogs need to keep winning for it to have maximum impact. However, earlier losses to the Musketeers and A-10 leader Duquesne, which featured an embarrassing first half scoring output, keep the Owls from lock status for the moment. If they keep winning in the conference, which is very possible given a relatively soft final eight games, Fran Dunphy's team will be in excellent shape.

Work To Do


Xavier Musketeers
Record: 15-6 overall; 7-1 conference; 2-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 5-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 6-1 vs. RPI 150+; 5-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 128 Loss: 78
RPI: 18
SOS: 22
RPI 1-50 Wins: Temple, Butler
RPI 51-100 Wins: Richmond, Dayton, at Rhode Island, Massachusetts
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Charlotte
Other Losses:
Florida, Old Dominion (N), at Cincinnati, at Gonzaga, at Miami (OH)
This Week: lost at Charlotte 66-62, Saint Louis (Sat.)
Next Week: at Georgia (Tue.), at Duquesne (Sun.)
The Musketeers were rolling along until Wednesday night, when they lost at Charlotte (RPI 191), a defeat that cost them a share of the Atlantic 10 lead, now held solely by Duquesne. Up until that point, Xavier had won seven in a row, including wins over Temple and Richmond, and was starting to look like a completely different team that stumbled through the early part of the season, capped by losses to Florida and Cincinnati. However, unlike most bubble teams, the Musketeers have a chance to grab a late quality non-conference win, as they visit Georgia Tuesday. Otherwise, trips to Duquesne and Dayton look to be their most challenging A-10 contests, with a March 2nd home game against Charlotte gaining extra importance after last night. Road wins against the Dukes and Flyers would be a major boost to Xavier's profile, no matter what happens in Athens Tuesday.


Richmond Spiders (Last Four In)
17-6 overall; 6-2 conference; 1-2 vs. RPI Top 50; 5-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 11-1 vs. RPI 150+; 8-3 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 171 Loss: 82
RPI: 62
SOS: 94
RPI 1-50 Wins: Purdue (N)
RPI 51-100 Wins: VCU, at Dayton, at Massachusetts, at Seton Hall, Wright State (N)
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: Georgia Tech (N)
Other Losses: Xavier, at Old Dominion, Rhode Island, Bucknell, at Iona,
This Week: def. St. Joseph's 62-52, Saint Louis (Sat.)
Next Week: at George Washington (Wed.), at Fordham (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. They 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 falling to the Bison, Chris Mooney's team has taken care of the weaker teams on their slate. The Spiders play five of their last eight away from home, with a February 17th game at Temple the most serious of those trips. However, Richmond should feel confident about building on an impressive 8-3 record away from home. Depending on how things go in the over the next few weeks, Richmond's home finale, a March 5th game against Duquesne, could be significant in the A-10 race.


Duquesne Dukes (A-10 auto bid holder)
15-5 overall; 8-0 conference; 1-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 1-0 vs. RPI 51-100; 11-0 vs. RPI 150+; 6-3 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 184 Loss: 47
RPI: 78
SOS: 144
RPI 1-50 Wins: Temple
RPI 51-100 Wins: Dayton
Losses: at Pittsburgh, West Virginia, George Mason, at Penn State, at Robert Morris
This Week: def. George Washington 84-59, at St. Bonaventure (Sat.)
Next Week: Xavier (Sun.)
Despite an undefeated 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 will be tested down the stretch, as they host Xavier and visit Dayton and Richmond in the league. In other words, don't expect Duquesne to stay unbeaten in the conference much longer.


Dayton Flyers
16-7 overall; 4-4 conference; 1-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-3 vs. RPI 51-100; 9-0 vs. RPI 150+; 3-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 168 Loss: 61
RPI: 70
SOS: 80
RPI 1-50 Wins: George Mason
RPI 51-100 Wins: New Mexico, at Mississippi, Miami (OH)
Losses: at Xavier, at Old Dominion, at Cincinnati, Richmond, at Duquesne, at Massachusetts, East Tennessee State
This Week: def. St. Bonaventure 62-61, at La Salle (Sat.)
Next Week: at Rhode Island (Wed.), Temple (Sat.)
Dayton is another team that owns a lot of nice losses, but hasn't beaten anyone that really compares. This simple fact sees them on the outside looking in. One thing working in the Flyers' favor is the schedule, as they host Temple, Duquesne, and Xavier between now and the end of the regular season, so they'll be a factor in determining the seedings for Atlantic City, even if they don't claim the regular season crown.

Big East


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Work To Do

Marquette Golden Eagles (Next Four In)
Record: 14-9 overall; 5-5 conference; 3-8 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 7-0 vs. RPI 150+; 2-7 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 175 Loss: 23
RPI: 61
SOS: 33
RPI 1-50 Wins: Notre Dame, West Virginia, Syracuse
RPI 51-100 Wins: Bucknell, Rutgers
Losses: Connecticut, at Pittsburgh, at Notre Dame, at Villanova, Duke (N), at Louisville, at Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Gonzaga (N)
This Week: lost at Villanova 75-70
Next Week: at USF (Wed.), at Georgetown (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 11 games against the RPI top 50, winning three. Besides a few more quality wins, the Golden Eagles are in desperate need of good road victories--Rutgers and Milwaukee won't move the needle in the committee room. The problem is that of Marquette's four remaining road games, only contests against Georgetown and Connecticut will have much impact. The Golden Eagles may very well sneak in on the basis of home results only.


St. John's Red Storm
13-8 overall; 5-5 conference; 4-6 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-0 vs. RPI 51-100; 4-1 vs. RPI 150+; 5-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 106 Loss: 61
RPI: 25
SOS: 3
RPI 1-50 Wins: Georgetown, Notre Dame, Duke, at West Virginia
RPI 51-100 Wins: Northwestern, Rutgers, Providence
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Fordham
Other Losses: at Georgetown, at Notre Dame, Syracuse, at Louisville, at St. Mary's, Cincinnati, St. Bonaventure
This Week: def. Rutgers 58-56, at UCLA (Sat.)
Next Week: Connecticut (Thu.), at Cincinnati (Sun.)
The Red Storm looked to be on their way out of the bracket until Sunday's emphatic victory over Duke, but another impressive victory means they improve their position. The big question is if they can keep it up, as Wednesday's close win over Rutgers began another tough stretch. In their next seven, Steve Lavin's team will fly across country to face UCLA, return home to face UConn, visit Cincinnati and Marquette, host Pitt (and DePaul), then travel to Villanova. After those contests, we'll have a better idea of how good the Johnnies' prospects actually are.


Cincinnati Bearcats
18-4 overall; 5-4 conference; 2-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 4-0 vs. RPI 51-100; 9-0 vs. RPI 150+; 4-3 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 175 Loss: 14
RPI: 41
SOS: 118
RPI 1-50 Wins: Xavier, at St. John's
RPI 51-100 Wins: Dayton, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Wright State
Losses: at Notre Dame, West Virginia, at Villanova, at Syracuse
This Week: at Pittsburgh (Sat.)
Next Week: at DePaul (Tue.), St. John's (Sun.)
Sure, the Bearcats weren't able to stay undefeated after ripping off 15 straight wins to start the season, but they haven't suffered any bad losses either, remaining perfect in games played against teams outside of the RPI Top 50. The good news is that they should be in good shape in that department, as they'll only play two non-contenders the rest of the way, as Cincinnati visits DePaul and Providence. However, that's also potentially the bad news, as seven quality teams are left to play.  The Bearcats are 1-4 against Big East teams with tournament hopes, and 4-0 against those who are playing for the NIT at best.


Big Ten


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Looking Good

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Illinois Fighting Illini
Minnesota Golden Gophers

Both the Illini and Gophers are close to locking up bids, but need a bit more consistency. Minnesota's biggest issue will be proving to the committee that they can be competitive in the Big Ten without the injured Al Nolen. Two consecutive losses to Purdue, and most damagingly, Indiana have hurt their case. As for the Illini, they've dropped four of six, and they have that RPI-killing loss to Illinois-Chicago hanging around their necks too. However, an 8-5 record against the top 100 should see them make it in easily.

These two meet just once this season, a game that takes place on February 10th at the Barn.

Work To Do


Michigan State Spartans (Next Four In)
12-9 overall; 5-5 conference; 3-7 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 4-1 vs. RPI 150+; 3-7 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 133 Loss: 42
RPI: 38
SOS: 6
RPI 1-50 Wins: Minnesota, Washington (N), Wisconsin
RPI 51-100 Wins: Oakland, Northwestern, at Northwestern
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Iowa
Other Losses:
Texas, Connecticut (N), at Purdue, at Duke, Syracuse (N), at Illinois, at Penn State, Michigan
This Week: lost at Iowa 72-52, at Wisconsin (Sun.)
Next Week: Penn State (Thu.)
The Spartans have dropped four of five, a stretch, that when combined with an uninspiring overall profile (their best non-league wins after Washington: Oakland and South Carolina), means they barely avoid the First Four. And things won't get any easier for Tom Izzo's team, as they play six in a row against the other Big Ten tournament contenders before closing with Iowa and Michigan, two teams they've lost to in the past week or so.


12. Penn State Nittany Lions (First Four Out)
Record: 12-9 overall; 5-5 conference; 3-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 1-4 vs. RPI 51-100; 4-0 vs. RPI 150+; 1-6 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 126 Loss: 55
RPI: 45
SOS: 5
RPI 1-50 Wins: Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State
RPI 51-100 Wins: Duquesne
Losses: at Ohio State, at Purdue, Purdue, at Illinois, at Virginia Tech, Maryland, at Mississippi, at Michigan, Maine
This Week: lost at Illinois 68-51, Michigan (Sun.)
Next Week: at Michigan State (Thu.), Northwestern (Sun.)
Penn State's issues are twofold, no quality non-conference wins and just a single home victory (Indiana). While the Nittany Lions have done a respectable job in the Big Ten, they still have a long way to go, especially with a daunting final eight, which includes trips to East Lansing and Madison, a pair with Minnesota, and a visit from Ohio State. Thanks to those five games, the Lions still very much control their destiny.

Big 12


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Work To Do


Kansas State Wildcats (Last Four In)
14-8 overall; 3-5 conference; 0-6 vs. RPI Top 50; 6-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 7-0 vs. RPI 150+; 3-7 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 143 Loss: 33
RPI: 40
SOS: 15
RPI 1-50 Wins: None
RPI 51-100 Wins: at Washington State, James Madison, Virginia Tech, Baylor, Gonzaga (N), Nebraska
Losses: at Kansas, Duke (N), at Texas A&M, Florida (N), at Missouri, UNLV (N), at Oklahoma State, Colorado
This Week: def. Nebraska 69-53, at Iowa State (Sat.)
Next Week: at Colorado (Sat.), Kansas (Mon.)
While the Wildcats don't yet own an RPI top 50 win, they do have plenty of victories against teams that find themselves on the bubble, which gives them a bit of an edge on their competitors. One of the biggest things the committee will look at in Kansas State's case, however, will be how they perform with the current roster (as Wally Judge and Freddy Asprilla) are now gone. Luckily for Frank Martin's team, the remaining schedule includes plenty of winnable games, along with some marquee win opportunities (Kansas and Missouri at home and Texas away).


Oklahoma State Cowboys (Last Four In)
Record: 15-7 overall; 3-5 conference; 3-2 vs. RPI Top 50; 0-4 vs. RPI 51-100; 7-0 vs. RPI 150+; 4-6 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 167 Loss: 72
RPI: 58
SOS: 66
RPI 1-50 Wins: Missouri, Kansas State, Missouri State
RPI 51-100 Wins: None
Losses: Texas, at Texas A&M, Virginia Tech (N), at Baylor, at Gonzaga, at Colorado
This Week: def. Missouri 76-70, Oklahoma (Sat.)
Next Week: at Nebraska (Sat.)
The Cowboys stopped a three-game skid with a big win over Missouri on Wednesday night, a victory that provided a needed boost to the team's flagging hopes, as Oklahoma State had dropped five of their previous six. Travis Ford's team built up a nice non-conference record while beating just one team of note (1-3 against the top 100 outside of the Big 12) or grabbing any significant road wins, which are major minuses. However, victories over fellow bubble residents Kansas State and Missouri State, and Wednesday's win over protected seed contender Missouri, help significantly, even if the wins all came in Stillwater. However, to get into the field, the Pokes are likely going to have to win at least one away from home, with a victory over Kansas or Texas preferable to one over either Oklahoma or Nebraska, even if those teams have improved as the season's gone on.


Colorado Buffaloes (First Four Out)
Record: 14-8 overall; 4-4 conference; 3-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 1-3 vs. RPI 51-100; 8-0 vs. RPI 150+; 3-7 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 189 Loss: 67
RPI: 91
SOS: 104
RPI 1-50 Wins: Missouri, at Kansas State, Colorado State
RPI 51-100 Wins: Oklahoma State
Losses: Kansas, at Georgia, at Harvard, New Mexico (N), at Nebraska, at Baylor, at San Francisco, at Oklahoma
This Week: def. Iowa State 95-69, at Missouri (Sat.)
Next Week: Texas A&M (Wed.), Kansas State (Sat.)
Colorado looked destined for big things in the Big 12 after rattling off three big wins to start the conference season, but four straight losses, with three coming in winnable road games (at Baylor, at Nebraska, at Oklahoma) sent them tumbling back down to earth. The Sooners' recent improvement means that loss is no longer a really bad one, but it remains one of several missed opportunities, 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. Colorado can make up for those disappointments with a strong late push, which is possible thanks to trips to Missouri and Kansas and home game against Texas A&M, Kansas State, and Texas.


Baylor Bears
14-7 overall; 4-4 conference; 0-2 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-3 vs. RPI 51-100; 9-0 vs. RPI 150+; 2-6 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 185 Loss: 72
RPI: 84
SOS: 84
RPI 1-50 Wins: None
RPI 51-100 Wins: Oklahoma State, Colorado, Lipscomb
Losses: Kansas, at Kansas State, Florida State (N), Washington State (N), Gonzaga (N), at Oklahoma, at Iowa State
This Week: lost at Oklahoma 73-66, at Texas A&M (Sat.)
Next Week: Nebraska (Wed.), at Texas (Sat.)
It's becoming increasingly difficult to justify including the Bears in any type of Bubble Watch feature, and not just because of Wednesday afternoon's loss at Oklahoma. Baylor still hasn't won a game against a top 50 opponent, and has just two wins away from Waco, and victories over San Diego in Hawai'i and at Texas Tech aren't exactly what you'd call resume-builders. But the Bears are not out of chances, as all four of their remaining road trips are against quality opponents, with the March 1st game at Oklahoma State setting up as a potential elimination match. Plus, Texas and Texas A&M both must visit Waco in the closing weeks of the season.

Mountain West


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Looking Good


UNLV Runnin' Rebels

UNLV could really use a win against either BYU or San Diego State to make the committee's decision simple, and they happen to get a chance against each over the next two Saturdays, with the game against the Aztecs taking place at home. While the Rebels own a nice win over Wisconsin, they really need Kansas State, Virginia Tech, and New Mexico to play well to boost the quality of those three victories.

One potential issue for UNLV (besides a December 15th home loss to UC Santa Barbara): they must play five of their last eight away from the Thomas & Mack, starting with Saturday's game against BYU.

Work To Do


Colorado State Rams (Next Four Out)
Record: 14-7 overall; 5-3 conference; 1-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 7-1 vs. RPI 150+; 7-3 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 154 Loss: 67
RPI: 48
SOS: 58
RPI 1-50 Wins: at UNLV
RPI 51-100 Wins: Southern Miss (N), Mississippi (N)
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: Sam Houston State
Other Losses: Kansas (N), San Diego State, BYU, at New Mexico, at Colorado, Hampton (N)
This Week: lost to San Diego State 56-54, at Wyoming (Sat.)
Next Week: New Mexico (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 inaugural field. Colorado State will have to take care of business in the Mountain West to earn a bid, a task made more difficult by Wednesday's last second home loss to San Diego State. To get in, Tim Miles' team will need to sweep their four remaining games against the bottom four in the league, take advantage of UNLV and New Mexico's visits to Moby Arena, and possibly steal a game at either BYU or San Diego State.


New Mexico Lobos (Next Four Out)
Record: 15-7 overall; 4-4 conference; 2-2 vs. RPI Top 50;  1-3 vs. RPI 51-100;  8-1 vs. RPI 150+; 5-6 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 154 Loss: 90
RPI: 52
SOS: 73
RPI 1-50 Wins: BYU, Colorado State
RPI 51-100 Wins: Colorado (N)
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Wyoming
Other Losses: San Diego State, at UNLV, Northern Iowa (N), at California, at Dayton, at Utah
This Week: won at Air Force 75-61
Next Week: Wyoming (Wed.), at Colorado State (Sat.)
The Lobos returned to the bubble picture with a home win over BYU, but still have a lot to do to earn their way into the field, thanks to non-conference season 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 New Mexico either, as they only welcome one MWC contender, UNLV, to the Pit, meaning road trips to San Diego State, BYU, and Colorado State remain. This is just another team that will have to earn its way into the field.


Looking Good


Washington Huskies

The Huskies drop out of lock status after Thursday night's bad loss at Oregon State. Much like Arizona, 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.


Arizona Wildcats

The Wildcats aren't quite a lock, thanks to a weak non-conference schedule and a terrible January 2nd road loss to Oregon State. If you take that setback out of the equation, Arizona's three defeats are understandable--Kansas in Las Vegas, BYU in Salt Lake City, and at Washington. To secure their place, the Cats will need to keep winning in conference, but they play only four more games at home. The most important of those is a home set against the Washington schools on February 17th and 19th.

Work To Do


UCLA Bruins
Record: 15-7 overall; 7-3 conference; 1-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-3 vs. RPI 51-100; 9-0 vs. RPI 150+; 4-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 168 Loss: 42
RPI: 46
SOS: 31
RPI 1-50 Wins: BYU (N)
RPI 51-100 Wins: California, Washington State
Losses: at Kansas, Villanova (N), at Arizona, Washington, VCU (N), at USC, Montana
This Week: def. USC 64-50, St. John's (Sat.)
Next Week: Oregon (Thu.), Oregon State (Sat.)
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 does a win over BYU.) After Saturday's visit from former coach Steve Lavin and St. John's, the schedule opens up for the Bruins, as they don't play another legit tournament contender until Arizona visits Pauley on February 26th. But that game begins a difficult three-game span to end the regular season, as the Bruins head to Washington for the final weekend.


Washington State Cougars (Next Four Out)
15-7 overall; 5-5 conference; 1-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 10-1 vs. RPI 150+; 6-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 178 Loss: 48
RPI: 64
SOS: 86
RPI 1-50 Wins: Washington
RPI 51-100 Wins: Portland (N), Baylor (N), Gonzaga
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Oregon
Other Losses: Arizona, Kansas State, Butler (N), at UCLA, at California, at USC
This Week: lost at Oregon 69-43, at Oregon State (Sat.)
Next Week: Stanford (Thu.), California (Sat.)
Washington State's impressive win over Washington on Sunday, a pair of wins over bubble teams, and a decent record away from Pullman had them in the bracket at midweek, but a terrible 26-point loss at Oregon Thursday night dropped them back out.  Up next, one more game in the state that's the graveyard of Pac-10 RPIs, as a matchup with Oregon State (who just beat Washington) awaits on Saturday. Three straight road games, a trip to Arizona, then the Apple Cup rematch in Seattle will help dictate their fate, as will a regular season-ending homestand against USC and UCLA.




Looking Good

120px-florida_medium 120px-vanderbilt_logo_medium 120px-tennessee_medium

Florida Gators
Vanderbilt Commodores

Tennessee Volunteers

These three teams, once again, are just looking for a bit of consistency. The Gators can look like world-beaters one minute and like a JV team the next (even during games), which reflects in their 10-2 record against teams in the top 100, and their 4-3 mark against teams ranked between 101 and 200. Tennessee's issues have been well-chronicled, but even they've won four/five in a row in the league. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt has a 7-5 mark against the top 100, while losing to South Carolina in Columbia and Arkansas in Fayetteville. 

With the bulk of each three's schedules against the tougher East, it's difficult to predict which of the three will finish highest in the division, but with the bubble as soft as it is, expect to see all three in the lock column at some point.

Work To Do


Georgia Bulldogs
15-6 overall; 4-4 conference; 2-6 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-0 vs. RPI 51-100; 10-0 vs. RPI 150+; 6-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 169 Loss: 20
RPI: 44
SOS: 41
RPI 1-50 Wins: Kentucky, UAB
RPI 51-100 Wins: at Mississippi, at Arkansas, Colorado
Losses: Notre Dame (N), at Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, at Vanderbilt, Temple (N)
This Week: won at Arkansas 60-59, Auburn (Sat.)
Next Week: Xavier (Tue.), at South Carolina (Sat.)
The Bulldogs really need to start grabbing some East Division wins, as fattening up on the West (3-0) is negatively impacting Georgia's RPI. Mark Fox's team is 1-4 against the East, but considering the win was against Kentucky and the losses have all been close, there's hope the rest of the way. One other thing working in the Bulldogs' favor, a late season non-conference home game, against Xavier on Tuesday. Things working against them: road trips, specifically to Knoxville, Gainesville, and Tuscaloosa. That's right, of Georgia's four remaining games against SEC contenders, only Vanderbilt visits Athens.


Alabama Crimson Tide (SEC auto bid holder)
14-7 overall; 6-1 conference;  1-1 vs. RPI Top 50; 1-4 vs. RPI 51-100; 11-1 vs. RPI 150+; 2-7 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 217 Loss: 91
RPI: 120
SOS: 169
RPI 1-50 Wins: Kentucky
RPI 51-100 Wins:  Lipscomb
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses:  Iowa (N)
Other Losses: at Purdue, Oklahoma State (N), at Arkansas, Seton Hall (N), at Providence, St. Peter's (N)
This Week: def. Mississippi State 75-61, at Tennessee (Sat.)
Next Week: at Vanderbilt (Thu.), Mississippi (Sat.)
In this week's bracket, the Crimson Tide are a rare major conference bid thief, as they lead the SEC as the conference's only one-loss team. For the purposes of Bubble Watch, they're the token SEC West representative, as each team that has a glimmer of hope in this division (Arkansas, Mississippi, and, yes, Mississippi State) has significant flaws in their respective profiles that prevent them all from being listed here. (I do have a day job after all.) As you can see, the Crimson Tide have a win against Kentucky and little else, particularly outside of the SEC. The good news for Alabama is that they have four games left against the East; however, three of those contests are on the road. Five West Division games round out the slate, with two against Ole Miss looking like they'll be the most important, thanks to the Rebels' win over Kentucky on Tuesday night.

The Rest of Division I

Work To Do


Cleveland State Vikings (Horizon auto bid holder)
19-3 overall; 10-2 conference; 0-2 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 10-0 vs. RPI 150+; 9-3 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 162 Loss: 39
RPI: 29
SOS: 140
RPI 1-50 Wins: None
RPI 51-100 Wins: Valparaiso, Kent State, Wright State
Losses: at West Virginia, at Butler, at Valparaiso
This Week: def. Valparaiso 76-65, Butler (Sat.), at Detroit (Mon.)
Next Week: Youngstown State (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. After Thursday's win over Valparaiso, the Vikings can end the conference race, for all practical purposes, with a home win over fading Butler. Saturday. Cleveland State's final chance to make a statement before the Horizon Tourney will be a BracketBuster at CAA contender Old Dominion.


St. Mary's Gaels (WCC auto bid holder)
17-4 overall; 7-1 conference; 1-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 1-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 11-0 vs. RPI 150+; 7-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 167 Loss: 23
RPI: 34
SOS: 110
RPI 1-50 Wins: St. John's
RPI 51-100 Wins: at Gonzaga
Losses: BYU (N), at San Diego State, at Vanderbilt, at Portland
This Week: def. Pepperdine 79-71, Loyola Marymount (Sat.)
Next Week: at Santa Clara (Thu.), at San Francisco(Sat.)
The Gaels' best win of the season, a home triumph over St. John's in mid-November, got a significant boost in prestige when the Red Storm defeated Duke last Sunday. However, St. Mary's only other win of note, at Gonzaga was nearly canceled out two days later, when the Gaels were blasted by Portland. Still, St. Mary's impressive ability to take out bad teams helps its case, as does a good road/neutral mark. As for the Gaels' remaining slate,  three straight late home games against Utah State (BracketBusters), Gonzaga, and Portland are crucial to their hopes, particularly if they can't take care of business at the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas.


Utah State Aggies (WAC auto bid holder)
21-2 overall; 10-0 conference; 0-2 vs. RPI Top 50; 0-0 vs. RPI 51-100; 18-0 vs. RPI 150+; 8-2 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 208 Loss: 3
RPI: 28
SOS: 162
RPI 1-50 Wins: None
RPI 51-100 Wins: None
Losses: at BYU, at Georgetown
This Week: def. Nevada 67-45, Boise State (Sat.)
Next Week: at Iowa (Wed.), Fresno State (Sat.)
Thanks to a very weak WAC, Utah State is in real trouble if they don't win the conference tournament. Why? Because they could very well end the season without a top 100 victory, unless they happen to win at St. Mary's in their BracketBuster. The precedent: 2004-05 Davidson, who went 16-0 in the SoCon but ended up in the NIT after falling in the conference semifinals, and that team won at Missouri in its opener! The Aggies did earn an at-large last year with two WAC losses, but that team also beat BYU.


Old Dominion Monarchs (Next Four In)
Record: 18-5 overall; 9-3 conference; 2-2 vs. RPI Top 50; 5-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 8-0 vs. RPI 150+; 7-3 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 145 Loss: 55
RPI: 31
SOS: 52
RPI 1-50 Wins: Xavier (N), George Mason
RPI 51-100 Wins: Richmond, James Madison, Clemson (N), Dayton, at Hofstra
Losses: Georgetown, at Missouri, at Drexel, VCU, at Delaware
This Week: def. Delaware 67-58, at George Mason (Sat.)
Next Week: at William & Mary (Wed.), at VCU (Sat.)
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 now that Old Dominion is within a game of co-leaders George Mason and VCU. The Monarchs can take control of the conference race, but it won't be easy. They visit both the Patriots and Rams during this week's three-game road swing. On February 20th, they have one last chance at grabbing a decent non-league win, as they host Cleveland State in a BracketBuster.


Gonzaga Bulldogs (First Four Out)
14-8 overall; 5-3 conference; 1-5 vs. RPI Top 50; 5-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 7-1 vs. RPI 150+; 4-6 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 168 Loss: 56
RPI: 88
SOS: 55
RPI 1-50 Wins: Xavier
RPI 51-100 Wins: Portland, at Portland, Oklahoma State, Marquette (N), Baylor (N)
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Santa Clara
Other Losses: San Diego State, at Notre Dame, St. Mary's, Illinois (N), Kansas State (N), at Washington State, at San Francisco
This Week: won at Portland 67-64, Memphis (Sat.)
Next Week: at Loyola Marymount (Thu.), at Pepperdine (Sat.)
Gonzaga struggled through a typically difficult schedule, then dropped three conference games in a row for the first time in 14 years. That means the Bulldogs may have too much ground to make up. Gonzaga really needs Xavier, Oklahoma State, and Marquette to keep winning because that would improve the value of those wins. Beating Memphis in an unintentional quasi-BracketBuster on Saturday would also provide a little bit of a boost. However, the Bulldogs really need to take care of business in the WCC. Thursday's win at Portland was a good start, but the game at St. Mary's on February 24th is particularly critical heading into the conference tournament.


George Mason Patriots (CAA auto bid holder)
18-5 overall; 10-2 conference;  1-1 vs. RPI Top 50;  4-3 vs. RPI 51-100;  9-0 vs. RPI 150+; 7-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 155 Loss: 87
RPI: 32
SOS: 79
RPI 1-50 Wins: Harvard
RPI 51-100 Wins: Drexel, at James Madison, at Duquesne, Hofstra
Losses: at Old Dominion, at Dayton, at Hofstra, NC State (N), Wofford (N)
This Week: def. Hofstra 87-68, Old Dominion (Sat.)
Next Week: at UNC Wilmington (Wed.), James Madison (Sat.)
At first glance, the Patriots don't look like an at-large candidate, but guess what neither did the 2005-06 edition. Actually, with wins over Harvard and Duquesne, it's possible the 2010-11 version could have better non-conference wins than the Final Four squad, and that doesn't even take into account GMU's BracketBuster against resurgent Northern Iowa (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 two biggest obstacles to the crown are Saturday's home game against ODU and a February 15th trip to current co-leader VCU.


Wichita State Shockers (MVC auto bid holder)
18-4 overall; 10-2 conference; 0-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 0-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 14-0 vs. RPI 150+; 8-2 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 190 Loss: 28
RPI: 42
SOS: 106
RPI 1-50 Wins: None
RPI 51-100 Wins: None
Losses: at San Diego State, Connecticut (N), Missouri State, Northern Iowa
This Week: won at Indiana State 70-54, Illinois State (Sat.)
Next Week: Southern Illinois (Tue.), at Northern Iowa (Sat.)
Like Utah State, Wichita State is an at-large candidate despite not having a top 100 win. However, unlike the Aggies, the Shockers have opportunities outside of their home BracketBuster against VCU. That's because they have to visit both Northern Iowa and Missouri State, two teams they've lost to already this season, and it's very possible they'll have to play those teams again at the Missouri Valley Tournament in St. Louis.


Northern Iowa Panthers (First Four Out)
17-6 overall; 9-3 conference;  2-2 vs. RPI Top 50;  1-0 vs. RPI 51-100;  10-2 vs. RPI 150+; 6-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 171 Loss: 107
RPI: 53
SOS: 112
RPI 1-50 Wins: at Wichita State, at Missouri State
RPI 51-100 Wins: New Mexico (N)
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Iowa, at Southern Illinois
Other Losses: at Syracuse, Missouri State, at Indiana State, at Milwaukee
This Week: def. Illinois State 53-51, at Drake (Sat.)
Next Week: at Evansville (Tue.), Wichita State (Sat.)
Thanks to a Las Vegas Classic title, which included wins over New Mexico and an improving Indiana squad, the Panthers have the best non-conference wins of the three Missouri Valley contenders. (The loss at Iowa stings, however.) Plus, they own a 2-1 record over Northern Iowa and Wichita State, with a final meeting against the Shockers set for next Saturday in Cedar Falls. The Panthers get one more chance out of the league too, hosting CAA co-leader George Mason in a BracketBuster. Basically, don't think of writing UNI off, especially with Arch Madness, an event they've dominated of late, still to come.


VCU Rams (Next Four Out)
Record: 18-6 overall; 10-2 conference; 2-2 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 13-2 vs. RPI 150+; 8-6 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 183 Loss: 106
RPI: 55
SOS: 156
RPI 1-50 Wins: at Old Dominion, UCLA (N)
RPI 51-100 Wins: Drexel, Hofstra
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Northeastern, at Georgia State
Other Losses: Tennessee (N), at UAB, at Richmond, at South Florida
This Week: lost at Northeastern 91-80, at James Madison (Sat.)
Next Week: at Delaware (Wed.), Old Dominion (Sat.)
The Rams were cruising along in the CAA until they lost at Northeastern (RPI 172) on Wednesday night. That's VCU's second bad CAA loss (the other came at Georgia State on January 3rd). That means the Rams have little margin for error, especially with consecutive home games against Old Dominion and George Mason to come. And if that wasn't enough, the Rams visit Wichita State in BracketBusters after that homestand. A sweep of those three games would be a tough ask, but when combined with an earlier win at ODU and win over UCLA in New York, it could be enough to book the Rams' place.


Memphis Tigers
Record: 16-6 overall; 5-3 conference; 1-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 5-1 vs. RPI 51-100; 8-1 vs. RPI 150+; 4-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 155 Loss: 70
RPI: 35
SOS: 48
RPI 1-50 Wins: at UAB
RPI 51-100 Wins: Marshall, at Southern Miss, Miami, UCF, Lipscomb
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at SMU
Other Losses: Kansas (N), Georgetown, at Tennessee, at Marshall, Tulsa
This Week: lost to Tulsa 68-65, at Gonzaga (Sat.)
Next Week: at UCF (Wed.), Southern Mississippi (Sat.)
The Tigers missed an opportunity to stay in a first place tie at the top of Conference USA (though they would have led UTEP by a half-game) by dropping a rare league home game to Tulsa. While that loss isn't as damaging as the one they suffered on January 12th at SMU (RPI 225), it definitely shows that Josh Pastner's team can't dominate C-USA the way John Calipari's did. Memphis' league struggles are 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 is the Tigers' best non-Conference USA triumph. They can grab another decent win Saturday at Gonzaga, but three conference games--two at home (Southern Miss and UAB) and one at UTEP--will also play a part in determining the Tigers' March fate.


Butler Bulldogs
13-9 overall; 6-5 conference; 1-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 3-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 6-1 vs. RPI 150+; 6-7 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 134 Loss: 70
RPI: 43
SOS: 29
RPI 1-50 Wins:
Cleveland State
RPI 51-100 Wins: Florida State (N), Valparaiso, Washington State (N)
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Youngstown State
Other Losses: Duke (N), at Xavier, at Louisville, at Valparaiso, at Wright State, Evansville, Milwaukee, at Milwaukee
This Week: lost at Youngstown State 62-60, at Cleveland State (Sat.), Illinois-Chicago (Mon.)
Next Week: Wright State (Thu.), Detroit (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. However, it's likely auto bid or bust or the Bulldogs, thanks to some atrocious losses (swept by Milwaukee, losses at Youngstown State and at home to Evansville). Since Brad Stevens' team isn't participating in BracketBusters this year, its imperative that they run the table in the Horizon, if only to grab a bye to the semifinals. Saturday's game at Cleveland State and a mid-February homestand against Wright State and Detroit are the biggest obstacles toward that goal.


Missouri State Bears
17-6 overall; 9-3 conference; 1-1 vs. RPI Top 50; 1-2 vs. RPI 51-100; 13-0 vs. RPI 150+; 6-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 186 Loss: 82
RPI: 47
SOS: 121
RPI 1-50 Wins: at Wichita State
RPI 51-100 Wins: at Northern Iowa
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses:
Losses: at Tennessee, Northern Iowa, at Oklahoma State, at Tulsa, at Evansville, at Indiana State
This Week: lost at Evansville 77-65, Indiana State (Sat.)
Next Week: Bradley (Wed.), at Illinois State (Sat.)
The Bears dropped their third conference game of the season on Wednesday, which means they fall out of a first place tie (with Wichita State) and into one for second (with Northern Iowa). Making matters worse, the Bears were arguably handed the most uninspiring BracketBuster draw of the three MVC contenders from an at-large perspective, a game at Valparaiso, though the Crusaders would beg to differ. Cuonzo Martin's team only has one game left against a UNI or Wichita State, a home game with the Shockers to close the regular season when they'll look to sweep the series and head into Arch Madness on a high.


UTEP Miners
17-4 overall; 5-2 conference; 0-2 vs. RPI Top 50; 1-0 vs. RPI 51-100; 10-1 vs. RPI 150+; 4-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 181 Loss: 92
RPI: 67
SOS: 134
RPI 1-50 Wins: None
RPI 51-100 Wins: Michigan (N)
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: Georgia Tech (N)
Losses: at BYU, at UAB, at Tulsa, Pacific
This Week: UCF (PPD), at Rice (Sat.)
Next Week: SMU (Sat.)
The Miners lead Conference USA at the moment, as they are the only two-loss team in the league; however, Wednesday night's scheduled home game against UCF was canceled due to weather. UTEP will need to take care of business in conference because they simply don't have the wins out of it to make a decent case. Keep in mind that the Miners host the Conference USA tournament, which gives them a sizable advantage, if they can adjust for the final's ridiculously early 9 a.m. Mountain tip time.


UAB Blazers
15-6 overall; 5-3 conference; 0-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 6-1 vs. RPI 51-100;  8-1 vs. RPI 150+; 5-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 179 Loss: 71
RPI: 37
SOS: 72
RPI 1-50 Wins: None
RPI 51-100 Wins:  VCU, Marshall, UTEP, at UCF, Kent State, Arkansas
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Arizona State
Other Losses: at Duke, Memphis, at Georgia, Southern Mississippi, at Tulsa
This Week: lost to Southern Mississippi 75-71, at Tulane (Sat.)
Next Week: at Marshall (Wed.), Rice (Sat.)
The Blazers are just a few points away from being in better position, as two of their losses against Top 50 teams (Memphis, at Georgia) were by a total of five points, and they lost at home to Southern Miss by four. A December 21st home win over VCU has potential, but a November 20th loss to Arizona State is a serious wart. A factor working against UAB's chances, the schedule, as they must visit Marshall, Memphis, and Southern Miss between now and the end of the season.


Marshall Thundering Herd
13-7 overall; 3-4 conference; 2-3 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-2 vs. RPI 51-100;  8-1 vs. RPI 150+; 5-5 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 148 Loss: 76
RPI: 60
SOS: 65
RPI 1-50 Wins: West Virginia (N), Memphis
RPI 51-100 Wins: Southern Mississippi, James Madison
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: Chattanooga
Other Losses: at Louisville, at UAB, at Memphis, at UCF, at James Madison, East Carolina
This Week: won at Houston 63-62, at Southern Mississippi (Sat.)
Next Week: UAB (Wed.), at East Carolina (Sat.)
The Thundering Herd owns Conference USA's best non-league win, a neutral court triumph over in-state rival West Virginia, along with several red flags (a home loss to Chattanooga, a split with James Madison, a home loss to East Carolina, serving as UCF's only conference victim so far). This team is potentially dangerous, but too inconsistent to really be a threat for an at-large at the moment. That could change based on what happens during the Herd's three biggest remaining games, trips to Southern Miss and UTEP and a home game against UAB.


Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
15-5 overall; 6-3 conference; 1-2  vs. RPI Top 50;  2-2 vs. RPI 51-100;  9-1 vs. RPI 150+; 7-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 151 Loss: 87
RPI: 63
SOS: 131
RPI 1-50 Wins: at UAB
RPI 51-100 Wins: at California, UCF
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at SMU
Other Losses:
Memphis, Colorado State (N), at Marshall, at Mississippi
This Week: won at UAB 75-71, Marshall (Sat.)
Next Week: at Memphis (Sat.)
Southern Miss is in the thick of the C-USA race, despite losing at SMU (like Memphis), they also own a decent non-conference 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. The Golden Eagles will likely need to win the Conference USA crown to dance, and they have three big home games (Marshall, UTEP, and UAB) and one tough road trip (Memphis) left to improve their seeding.


Valparaiso Crusaders
14-7 overall; 8-3 conference; 2-4 vs. RPI Top 50; 2-0 vs. RPI 51-100; 8-2 vs. RPI 150+; 8-4 Road/Neutral
Average RPI win: 147 Loss: 115
RPI: 59
SOS: 101
RPI 1-50 Wins: Cleveland State. Butler
RPI 51-100 Wins: at Oakland, at Wright State
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Ohio, at Toledo
Other Losses: at Kansas, Purdue, at Cleveland State, at Butler, Green Bay
This Week: lost at Cleveland State 76-65, at Youngstown State (Sat.)
Next Week:  Detroit (Thu.), Wright State (Sat.)
The Crusaders are another team that really needs to take care of business in its conference to have any hope, but considering some of the other teams on this list, it would be poor form to ignore them. 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 Thursday night may ultimately be fatal to Valpo's at-large chances, however.

The next update to Bubble Watch will come at some point on Friday, February 11th, with hopefully a little more clarity.

In the meantime, I'm interested to hear about who you think is in and out. Please leave your thoughts in the comments, but please keep your discussion fact-based and respectful.

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