College Basketball Bubble Watch
As the calendar turns to March, let the madness begin
Editor's note: This file has been updated to include all games through Sunday, Feb. 28.
The calendar turns to March 1 today, which means March Madness is officially under way.With only one week left in college basketball's regular season, there is still plenty at stake for more than two dozen teams on the NCAA tournament bubble.
For the sake of argument -- though we can reasonably assume this logic won't hold up come Champ Week -- let's assume that a team with a "lock" or "should be in" designation wins the automatic bid for each of the Big 6 conferences, as well as those for the Atlantic 10, Mountain West, Horizon (Butler), West Coast (Gonzaga), Missouri Valley (Northern Iowa) and Conference USA (UTEP). If we add those 12 bids to the 19 automatic bids that will be awarded to conferences not represented in Bubble Watch, we've got our 31 automatic bids. Once we include the remaining teams with a "lock" or "should be in" designation, we're at 55 bids.That only leaves 10 remaining bids for the 25 teams that are currently designated as having "work to do," which is why teams across the country will be rooting for teams like Butler, Gonzaga, Northern Iowa and UTEP to win their respective conference tournaments. Here's a look at some games that will affect the bubble watch this week: Monday: Fresno State at Utah State (ESPN360, 9:05 p.m. ET)
The Aggies have won 13 games in a row, but can't afford any losses because of their mediocre computer profile. Tuesday: Villanova at Cincinnati (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET)
The Bearcats squandered a great opportunity to pick up a signature victory at West Virginia and could really use a home win over the Wildcats. Vanderbilt at Florida (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET)
The Gators put themselves right back on the bubble by losing at Georgia on Saturday. An upset of the Commodores would go a long way in erasing that loss. Minnesota at Michigan (7 p.m. ET)
The Gophers really helped themselves by winning at Illinois on Saturday, but they can't afford a loss to Michigan or Iowa this week. Georgia Tech at Clemson (ESPN360, 8 p.m. ET)
Both ACC teams seem to be in pretty good shape for an at-large bid. The winner of this game probably moves to "lock" status. Illinois at Ohio State (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET)
The Illini are running out of chances to enhance their profile. They might need to beat the Buckeyes or Wisconsin on Saturday to have a real chance for an at-large bid. Louisville at Marquette (ESPNU, 9:30 p.m. ET)
Both teams have probably climbed on the right side of the bubble during the past two weeks. The winner probably punches its NCAA ticket. Wednesday: Memphis at UAB (9 p.m. ET)
The Blazers are probably in better shape than the Tigers, but UAB can't afford a second loss to Memphis this season. Wake Forest at Florida State (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET) The Seminoles could really use a victory over an ACC team like Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons could really use a win to end a three-game slide. Connecticut at Notre Dame (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET)
The Fighting Irish knocked off Pittsburgh and Georgetown without Luke Harangody. The Huskies are trying to make up for lost time while coach Jim Calhoun was gone. Charlotte at Rhode Island (7 p.m. ET)
It's probably an elimination game between two A-10 bubble hopefuls. Both teams have hit the skids after promising starts. NC State at Virginia Tech (7 p.m. ET)
The Hokies have lost three games in a row to put themselves in a precarious spot. Beating the Wolfpack is a necessity at this point. Temple at Saint Louis (8 p.m. ET)
The Billikens have a long way to go to earn an NCAA at-large bid, but an upset of the Owls would make up a lot of ground in a hurry. Here's Monday's Bubble Watch:
|Atlantic 10 Conference|
|Work left to do: Rhode Island, Dayton, Charlotte, Saint Louis|
Temple and Xavier are tied for the A-10 lead with two games to go. But the real battle will happen below them, where four teams -- Charlotte, Dayton, Rhode Island and Saint Louis -- might be fighting for as few as one NCAA at-large spot. Saint Louis, which was left for dead weeks ago, has probably done more good work during the past two weeks than any of the other A-10 bubble teams. Charlotte, Dayton and Rhode Island keep tripping over themselves heading into the final week.
Rhode Island [20-7 (8-6), RPI: 37, SOS: 68] The Rams seem to be doing all they can to knock themselves out of NCAA at-large contention. Rhode Island has lost four of its last five games, including a what-were-you-thinking 81-74 loss at St. Bonaventure on Saturday. The Rams have only two wins over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Dayton (road) and Oklahoma State (neutral court). Worse, the Rams were swept by Temple and lost to Xavier (road), Richmond (home) and Saint Louis (road). They have only a 1-5 record against A-10 teams in contention for an at-large bid. Rhode Island is 2-4 against the RPI top 50 and 6-6 against the top 100. It might be victimized by the A-10's unbalanced schedule, as it played Dayton, Richmond, Xavier and Charlotte only once, decreasing its chances to pick up signature wins. The Rams face two must-win games this week: home against Charlotte on Wednesday and at Massachusetts on Saturday. They will have to do some damage in the A-10 tournament to separate themselves from the other A-10 bubble teams.
Dayton [19-9 (8-6), RPI: 41, SOS: 37] The Flyers blasted Massachusetts 96-68 at home on Saturday, setting up a huge final week to the regular season. Dayton plays at Richmond on Thursday night and hosts Saint Louis on Saturday. It could really use a sweep to improve its fading at-large chances. The Flyers have a decent resume, with three quality wins over RPI top-50 foes, beating Xavier (home), Georgia Tech (neutral court) and Old Dominion (home). But Dayton is only 1-5 against RPI top-25 opponents, 3-6 against the top 50 and 5-8 against the top 100. The Flyers also will have to overcome one eyesore on their resume: a 60-59 loss at RPI No. 195 Saint Joseph's on Jan. 23. Dayton is 2-4 against the A-10's other bubble teams, splitting games against Xavier, beating Charlotte (home), and losing to Temple (road), Rhode Island (home) and Saint Louis (road).
Charlotte [19-9 (9-5), RPI: 62, SOS: 112] It's almost time to put a fork in the 49ers after they lost at George Washington 75-70 on Saturday, their fourth loss in five games. The only thing keeping Charlotte in the bubble discussion for now is its three high-end victories and two remaining games. After taking a huge step back last weekend, the 49ers can take a big leap forward by beating Rhode Island on the road on Wednesday night and Richmond at home on Saturday. Charlotte has three victories over RPI top-50 foes, defeating Temple (home), Richmond (road) and Louisville (road). Seven of Charlotte's nine losses came against RPI top-50 opponents, but the 49ers weren't competitive in all of them, losing by 42 at Duke, 33 at Old Dominion, 17 at Tennessee and 28 at Dayton. The 49ers are 3-7 against the RPI top 50 and 4-8 against the top 100. They went 3-3 against A-10 bubble teams, beating Temple (home), Richmond (road) and Saint Louis (home) and losing to Xavier (home and road) and Dayton (road). The NCAA selection committee probably won't like the fact that 15 of Charlotte's 19 wins came against teams which are ranked No. 119 or worse in the RPI ratings.
Saint Louis [19-9 (10-4), RPI: 87, SOS: 137] With an RPI rating of No. 87, the Billikens still face long odds in earning an NCAA at-large bid. But it might be hard for the NCAA selection committee to overlook them if they win both of their games this week -- home against Temple on Wednesday and at Dayton on Saturday. Two wins this week would leave Saint Louis with a 12-4 record against A-10 foes. Saint Louis has three home victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Richmond, Dayton and Rhode Island. The Billikens are 4-5 in true road games, 3-2 against RPI top-50 opponents and 5-6 against the top 100. The Billikens will have to overcome three unsightly losses against RPI sub-100 opponents, losing to Iowa State (neutral court), George Washington (road) and Bowling Green (road).
|Atlantic Coast Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Clemson|
Work left to do: Georgia Tech, Florida State, Virginia Tech
We nearly did what we hate to do: drop a team from "lock" status. But Wake Forest has lost three games in a row, including a 77-68 loss to North Carolina at home Saturday. With games left at Florida State on Wednesday and home against Clemson on Sunday, a five-game losing streak to end the regular season isn't out of the question. And if the Demon Deacons were to lose in their first game in the ACC tournament, what are the chances they would receive an NCAA at-large bid with a six-game losing streak? Clemson sits in much better shape after beating Florida State on the road Sunday. Virginia Tech needs to have a big week to feel good about its bubble chances.
Clemson [20-8 (8-6), RPI: 27, SOS: 30] The Tigers moved into a four-way tie for third place in the ACC standings after rallying from a 13-point deficit to beat Florida State 53-50 on the road Sunday night. Just as important, Clemson earned a sweep of the Seminoles, another ACC bubble team. Clemson has four victories over RPI top-50 foes, beating Butler (neutral court), Maryland (home) and FSU (home and away). The Tigers are 2-4 against RPI top-25 foes, 4-5 against the top 50 and 7-7 against the top 100. Clemson has only one RPI sub-100 loss, falling 75-69 at No. 102 Boston College on Jan. 26. Clemson seems to be hitting its stride, too, winning five of its past seven games. The Tigers close the regular season at home against Georgia Tech on Tuesday night and at Wake Forest on Sunday.
Georgia Tech [19-9 (7-7), RPI: 33, SOS: 20] The Yellow Jackets took care of business on Saturday, beating Boston College 73-68 at home. Georgia Tech might still need one more regular-season victory -- it plays at Clemson on Tuesday night and hosts Virginia Tech on Saturday -- to feel really good about its at-large chances. Georgia Tech is seventh in the ACC standings with a 7-7 mark against league foes, but it has played the most difficult ACC schedule among the bubble teams. The Yellow Jackets have four wins over RPI top-50 teams (Duke, Wake Forest, Siena and Clemson) and are 7-7 against RPI top-100 foes. Six of their nine losses came against RPI top-50 opponents. Tech could really use a victory at Clemson to improve its 3-7 record in true road games.
Florida State [20-8 (8-6), RPI: 42, SOS: 50] Even with a three-point home loss to Clemson, the Seminoles seem to be in OK shape for an NCAA at-large bid. At this point, it would probably take a three-game losing streak to end the regular season and an early exit from the ACC tournament to keep the Noles out of the NCAA field. The big concern: FSU has only three wins over RPI top-50 foes, with two of them coming against Georgia Tech and one against Marquette on a neutral court. FSU is 3-7 against RPI top-50 foes and 6-7 against the top 100. But FSU has only one bad loss, falling to RPI No. 109 NC State 88-81 at home on Jan. 12. In fact, all but one of FSU's eight losses came against RPI top-50 teams. The Noles host Wake Forest on Wednesday and play at Miami on Saturday.
Virginia Tech [21-7 (8-6), RPI: 52, SOS: 156] It can get much more gut-wrenching for Virginia Tech than its 104-100 loss to Maryland in double overtime Saturday. It was the Hokies' first home loss of the season and their third defeat in a row, which seriously damages their at-large hopes. The Hokies have two wins over RPI top-50 foes, beating Wake Forest and Clemson at home. Other than so-so wins over Seton Hall (neutral court), Georgia (home) and North Carolina (home), there isn't much else to crow about on Tech's resume. Because of its soft nonconference schedule -- and the fact it played nearly all of the ACC's better teams only once -- Virginia Tech might need to get to 10-6 in conference play to have a chance on Selection Sunday. The Hokies are 2-4 against RPI top-50 foes and 5-5 against the top 100. Tech hosts NC State on Wednesday and plays at Georgia Tech on Saturday.
|Big East Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Louisville, Marquette|
Work left to do: Connecticut, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Notre Dame
Syracuse could be headed to No. 1 in the country after rolling Villanova 95-77 at home Saturday night. But Notre Dame might have been the Big East's biggest winner last week, and the Fighting Irish aren't even playing with their best player on the floor. Notre Dame took two big steps toward moving to the right side of the bubble by upsetting Pitt and Georgetown last week. Marquette and Louisville also moved closer to "lock" status. Cincinnati, Connecticut and Seton Hall might be on the outside looking in heading into the final week of the regular season.
Louisville [19-10 (10-6), RPI: 32, SOS: 5] The Cardinals guaranteed themselves a winning record in Big East play by beating Connecticut 78-76 on the road Sunday in an important bubble game. Louisville won on Edgar Sosa's layup with eight seconds to play, which gave the team only its fourth true road victory of the season. The Cardinals have one big feather in their caps: a 66-60 upset of Syracuse on the road on Feb. 14. Although Louisville doesn't have much of anything to show the NCAA committee from its nonconference schedule, it also swept Connecticut and beat fellow Big East bubble teams Cincinnati and Notre Dame. That resume should be enough to get Rick Pitino's team back in the NCAA field. The Cardinals are 3-6 against RPI top-50 opponents and 7-9 against the top 100. They play at Marquette on Tuesday night and host Syracuse on Saturday.
Marquette [19-9 (10-6), RPI: 49, SOS: 67] At some point, Marquette's good fortune is going to end, but it might not happen anytime soon. The Golden Eagles won a third straight game in overtime, beating Seton Hall 84-83 on Sunday. The Golden Eagles have won eight of their past nine games, with the only loss coming against Pittsburgh 58-51 at home on Feb. 18. With home games left against Louisville on Tuesday night and Notre Dame on Saturday, the Golden Eagles can finish no worse than 10-8 in Big East play. It's hard to imagine any team not making the NCAA field with a winning record in the Big East this season. Marquette has three wins over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Georgetown (home), Xavier (neutral court) and Connecticut (road). The Golden Eagles will have to overcome two RPI sub-100 losses, losing to RPI No. 109 NC State 77-73 at home and to No. 192 DePaul 51-50 on the road.
Connecticut [17-12 (7-9), RPI: 44, SOS: 2] The Huskies' home loss to Louisville on Sunday might be pretty damaging to their NCAA at-large hopes. Because Connecticut played so poorly until the past couple of weeks, it just doesn't have much room for error. Connecticut has won three of five games since coach Jim Calhoun returned from a medical leave of absence (it went 3-4 without him), which might mean something to the NCAA selection committee. It does have three impressive victories over RPI top-25 foes, beating West Virginia (home), Texas (home) and Villanova (road). The Huskies are 3-8 against RPI top-50 opponents, 9-10 against the top 100 and 2-6 in true road games. They'll have to overcome a couple of unsightly losses, losing at RPI No. 113 Providence and No. 149 Michigan in January. Connecticut plays at Notre Dame on Wednesday and at South Florida on Saturday. It can not afford to lose both games, and might need to sweep them to have a real chance at an at-large bid. The Huskies have played the country's second-toughest schedule, which will earn them some points on Selection Sunday, and eight of their 12 losses came against top-50 foes.
Cincinnati [16-12 (7-9), RPI: 58, SOS: 17] The Bearcats squandered a great opportunity when they blew a 10-point lead in the second half of a 74-68 loss at West Virginia on Saturday. Cincinnati has lost five of its past seven games and really could have used a victory over a team like the Mountaineers. The good news: Cincinnati's victories over Vanderbilt and Maryland in the EA Sports Maui Invitational in late November are looking better every day. The bad news: Other than sweeping games against Connecticut and beating Notre Dame at home, the Bearcats haven't done much of anything during Big East play. Cincinnati lost three overtime games (against Xavier, Gonzaga and Marquette) it probably wishes it could have back, and eight of its 12 losses came against RPI top-50 foes. Cincinnati is only 2-8 in true road games, 4-8 against RPI top-50 opponents and 6-12 against the top 100. While the Bearcats probably face long odds in earning an at-large bid, they still have a chance because they have two chances to really impress the Selection Committee. Cincinnati hosts Villanova on Tuesday night and plays at Georgetown on Saturday.
Seton Hall [16-11 (7-9), RPI: 63, SOS: 16] The Pirates are in about the same boat as Cincinnati, but won't have similar opportunities to make a statement. Seton Hall doesn't have the best resume among the Big East bubble teams, and it sometimes doesn't pass the eye test of being an NCAA-worthy team. But we're betting the NCAA selection committee has a difficult time deciding what to do about the Pirates, especially if they win their last two regular season games at Rutgers on Thursday and at Providence on Saturday. Seton Hall lost at home to Marquette 84-83 in overtime Sunday, which was a pretty important bubble game. But Seton Hall has won four of its past six games and boasts RPI-top 50 victories over Pittsburgh (home), Louisville (home) and Cornell (road). Furthermore, nine of its 11 losses came against RPI top-50 foes, including five losses to teams in the top 10. Seton Hall is 3-6 in true road games, 3-9 against RPI top-50 opponents and 6-11 against the top 100. To have any chance at an NCAA at-large bid, the Pirates will probably have to win both games this week and win at least once in the Big East tournament.
Notre Dame [19-10 (8-8), RPI: 68, SOS: 60] Maybe Notre Dame should just leave star forward Luke Harangody on the bench. After sputtering through much of the season, the Fighting Irish have beaten ranked opponents in consecutive games with Harangody sitting out with a bruised bone in his right knee. On Saturday, the Fighting Irish upset Georgetown 78-64 on the road. Three nights earlier, Notre Dame stunned Pittsburgh by 15 points at home. The Irish now have three victories over RPI top-50 foes, also beating West Virginia 70-68 at home on Jan. 9. But because of its soft nonconference schedule (No. 216 nationally), Notre Dame still has some work to do. It hosts fellow Big East bubble team Connecticut on Wednesday and plays at Marquette on Saturday. It can't afford to lose both of them.
|Big Ten Conference|
|Work left to do: Minnesota, Illinois|
Purdue lost star forward Robbie Hummel to a season-ending knee injury last week, and then the Boilermakers lost the Big Ten lead with a 53-44 loss to Michigan State at home Sunday. The Boilermakers probably lost a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, too. Despite all that, Illinois still looked like the Big Ten's biggest loser last week. The Illini lost to Minnesota 62-60 at home Saturday, after scoring only 14 points in the first half. If the Illini don't upset Ohio State or Wisconsin this week, they could be in big trouble heading into the Big Ten tournament.
Minnesota [17-11 (8-8), RPI: 70, SOS: 38] The Gophers nearly blew a 19-point lead in their two-point win at Illinois, but it was good enough to even their record at 8-8 in Big Ten play. The good news: Minnesota plays two very winnable games this week at Michigan on Tuesday night and home against Iowa on Sunday. Minnesota's body of work is nearly identical to Illinois' resume. The Gophers have three quality victories, defeating Butler (neutral court), Wisconsin (home) and Ohio State (home). They're 3-6 against RPI top-50 opponents, 5-8 against the top 100 and 3-6 in true road games. The Gophers also have three RPI sub-100 losses, losing to No. 101 Miami (road), No. 148 Michigan (home) and No. 217 Indiana (road).
Illinois [18-11 (10-6), RPI: 73, SOS: 64] Illinois didn't look like a team that wanted to play in the NCAA tournament until the second half of Saturday's 62-60 loss to Minnesota at home. The Illini scored 14 points in the first half and trailed by as many as 19. They rallied to a one-point deficit and missed a shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. Illinois has lost three of four games and faces two very difficult contests this week: at Ohio State on Tuesday night and home against Wisconsin on Sunday. It probably has to win at least one of them -- and win one or two games in the Big Ten tournament -- to have a chance on Selection Sunday. The Illini are 4-6 against RPI top-50 foes and 6-9 against the top 100. Their 6-3 record in true road games should help their chances, too. Illinois' high-end victories came against Vanderbilt (home), Wisconsin (road), Michigan State (home) and Clemson (road). But the NCAA selection committee might not like the fact that 12 of Illinois' 18 victories came against teams that are No. 149 or worse in the RPI ratings.
|Mountain West Conference|
|Teams that should be in: UNLV|
Work left to do: San Diego State
New Mexico beat BYU 83-81 on Saturday at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, to clinch the top seed in the MWC tournament and at least a share of the regular-season championship. The loss ended the Cougars' 21-game winning streak at home. UNLV also looks to be pretty safe in securing an NCAA at-large bid, while San Diego State needs to avoid any pitfalls the rest of the way.
UNLV [22-7 (10-5), RPI: 43, SOS: 96] The Runnin' Rebels trounced Air Force 77-47 on Saturday on the road, assuring them of at least a 10-6 record in MWC play, which should be good enough for an at-large bid. As long as UNLV beats Wyoming on Saturday at home, it should feel pretty good about its chances of making the NCAA field. UNLV has a 9-3 record in true games, 4-4 record against RPI top-50 foes and 7-4 record against the top 100. UNLV beat traditional powers such as Louisville (home) and Arizona (road), and won in tough environments like The Pit at New Mexico. The Rebels split games against MWC leaders BYU and New Mexico, as well as fellow MWC bubble team San Diego State. The Rebels have three losses to sub-100 opponents, losing to Utah (home and road) and Southern Cal (neutral court).
San Diego State [20-8 (9-5), RPI: 39, SOS: 56] The Aztecs haven't played since losing 82-68 at BYU on Wednesday night. They had won eight of 10 games before losing to the Cougars and will be heavily favored in their last two regular-season games: home against Colorado State on Wednesday and at Air Force on Saturday. San Diego State split games against MWC bubble team UNLV and New Mexico, and was swept by BYU. The big problem for San Diego State is that its nonconference profile isn't as strong as UNLV's. The Aztecs also will have to overcome two ugly losses: 71-63 at RPI No. 139 Pacific on Nov. 25 and 85-83 at No. 217 Wyoming on Jan. 9. San Diego State is 2-5 against RPI top-50 foes and 3-6 against the top 100. San Diego State probably needs to win its last two regular-season games and reach the MWC tourney semifinals to feel confident about making the NCAA field.
|Teams that should be in: California|
Work left to do: Washington, Arizona State
California clinched at least a share of the Pac-10 regular-season championship by blasting Arizona State 62-46 in Berkeley, Calif., on Saturday. But will that be enough to earn the Bears an NCAA at-large bid? The only way the Bears can feel really secure on Selection Sunday is to win the Pac-10 tournament. If not, the Bears will be sitting on pins and needles. Arizona State and Washington probably face the same dilemma in what might be a one-bid conference.
California [20-9 (12-5), RPI: 21, SOS: 4] The Bears' overall profile might not suggest they deserve an NCAA at-large bid, but who thinks the Pac-10 regular-season champion is going to be left out of the NCAA field? The Bears blasted Arizona State at home Saturday to win at least a share of the Pac-10 title. But California still doesn't have a victory over an RPI top-50 opponent; it's 0-4 against such opponents. In fact, Cal has only one victory over a nonconference opponent ranked in the top 100 of the RPI ratings: 75-70 over No. 69 Murray State on Nov. 9. Other than that win, the Bears will present a resume that includes so-so wins over Arizona State (home and away), Washington (home) and Arizona (home). The Bears close the regular season at Stanford on Saturday.
Washington [19-9 (9-7), RPI: 53, SOS: 58] The Huskies remain a fringe bubble candidate at best after beating Washington State 59-52 on the road Saturday. With a 2-6 record in true road games and a middling computer profile, the Huskies will probably have to win the Pac-10 tournament to make the NCAA field. The Huskies have a couple of RPI top-50 wins, beating Texas A&M (home) and Cal (home). But Washington has very little else to show from Pac-10 play, other than so-so home victories over Arizona State and Arizona. The Huskies are 2-2 against RPI top-50 opponents and 6-5 against the top 100. They have four losses to teams that are ranked No. 100 or worse in the RPI ratings, and 13 of their 19 victories came against teams that are ranked No. 128 or worse. The Huskies close the regular season at Oregon on Thursday night and at Oregon State on Saturday.
Arizona State [20-9 (10-6), RPI: 54, SOS: 74] The Sun Devils' best chance at landing an NCAA at-large bid probably required them to win a share of the Pac-10 regular-season championship. Instead, Arizona State lost to California for the second time this season. The Sun Devils have one victory over an RPI top-50 opponent, defeating San Diego State 55-52 at home on Dec. 19. They have only two other wins over RPI top-100 foes, beating Washington (home) and Arizona (road). The Sun Devils are 1-5 against RPI top-50 opponents and 3-7 against the top 100. Arizona State closes the regular season with home games against USC on Thursday and UCLA on Saturday. Unless the Sun Devils win the Pac-10 tournament, they are probably bound for the NIT.
|Work left to do: Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi State|
Kentucky carries a one-game lead in the SEC standings into the final week of the regular season. The Wildcats lost at Tennessee 74-65 on Saturday, at least delaying UK's championship celebration. Ole Miss joins Florida and Mississippi State in the bubble discussion, but all three teams sit in precarious situations. The Gators seemed to be in good shape before losing at Georgia on Saturday. Now the Gators have to prepare to play Vanderbilt and Kentucky in the final week.
Florida [20-9 (9-5), RPI: 48, SOS: 59] Just when it seemed Florida was ready to end a two-year absence from the NCAA tournament, the Gators lost at Georgia 78-76 on Saturday. That road loss doesn't entirely wipe out last week's 75-62 upset of Tennessee at home, but it certainly leaves Florida with some work to do. The bad news: Florida's last two games are at home against Vanderbilt on Tuesday night and at Kentucky on Sunday. The Gators still seem to be in OK shape with 20 victories and three high-end wins. The Gators are 3-6 against RPI top-50 foes, beating Tennessee (home), Michigan State (neutral court) and Florida State (home). Six of their nine losses came against teams that are ranked No. 28 or better in the RPI ratings, but they'll have to overcome one ugly eyesore (a 67-66 loss at home to No. 214 South Alabama on Dec. 22).
Ole Miss [19-9 (7-7), RPI: 55, SOS: 65] The Rebels are back in the bubble discussion not as much for what they've done over the past few weeks, but for what other bubble teams haven't done. Ole Miss has dropped five of its past eight games, but won the past two against Auburn (home) and Alabama (road). The Rebels have two high-end victories, beating Kansas State 86-74 in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Nov. 20 and UTEP 91-81 in overtime in Southaven, Miss., on Dec. 16. Since then, Ole Miss hasn't beaten much of anybody. It has only two other victories over RPI top-100 opponents, beating South Carolina at home and Georgia on the road. The Rebels were swept by SEC bubble team Mississippi State and lost to Florida at home. Five of Ole Miss' nine losses came against teams that are ranked in the top 16 of the RPI ratings, and it has only one loss to a sub-100 opponent (No. 142 Arkansas). But 15 of the Rebels' 19 wins came against teams that are ranked No. 112 or worse in the RPI ratings. To have a chance for an at-large bid, Ole Miss needs to win its last two regular-season games against LSU at home on Thursday and at Arkansas on Saturday. It probably needs to win at least a couple of games in the SEC tournament in Nashville, Tenn., too.
Mississippi State [21-8 (9-5), RPI: 56, SOS: 128] The Bulldogs won for the fifth time in six games Saturday, defeating South Carolina 76-63 on the road. But like Mississippi State's previous four victories during that stretch, beating the Gamecocks won't do much to enhance its chances of earning an NCAA at-large bid. MSU's only win over an RPI top-50 opponent came against Old Dominion in the South Padre Island Invitational in late November. Besides sweeping rival Ole Miss and beating the Monarchs, the Bulldogs' best victories came against Wright State and Georgia. That's probably not enough to impress the NCAA selection committee. The Bulldogs are 1-4 against RPI top-50 opponents and 6-4 against the top 100. To have any chance at an at-large bid, the Bulldogs will probably have to beat Auburn on the road Wednesday and upset Tennessee at home Saturday.
|Other at-large contenders|
|Teams that should be in: UTEP|
Work left to do: Utah State, UAB, Old Dominion, Saint Mary's, Cornell, Memphis
Northern Iowa, which wrapped up its Missouri Valley Conference championship more than three weeks ago, joins Butler and Gonzaga as "locks" from mid-major conferences. The Panthers didn't help themselves by losing at Evansville 55-54 last week, but they recovered by beating a solid Illinois State team and have done enough to earn a spot in the NCAA's 65-team field. UTEP has a two-game lead in the Conference USA race heading into the final week, and Cornell can wrap up the Ivy League regular-season title (and an NCAA auto bid) on Friday night.
UTEP [22-5 (13-1), RPI: 50, SOS: 151] The Miners take a two-game lead in the C-USA standings into the final week of the regular season after beating Rice 78-64 at home Saturday. It was UTEP's 12th victory in a row. The Miners play at Marshall on Tuesday and host UAB on Saturday. UTEP is 1-1 against RPI top-50 foes and 5-4 against the top 100. Its lone top-50 victory was a 74-65 win in double overtime at UAB on Jan. 30. The Miners don't have much to show the NCAA selection committee from their nonconference schedule, with their best wins coming against RPI No. 65 New Mexico State on the road (they lost to them at home) and No. 106 Oklahoma on a neutral court. But UTEP did sweep games against C-USA preseason favorite Tulsa and defeated Memphis on the road. The Miners lost to BYU by six points at home Jan. 9 and lost to Ole Miss 91-81 in overtime in Southaven, Miss., on Dec. 16.
Utah State [23-6 (12-2), RPI: 34, SOS: 92] The Aggies have won 13 games in a row and head into the final week of the regular season with a one-game lead in the WAC standings. Utah State hosts Fresno State on Monday night and New Mexico State on Saturday. The Aggies can clinch at least a share of the title tonight, but the 1-seed still might be on the line this weekend. USU lost to New Mexico State 55-52 on the road Jan. 2. Utah State has one victory over an RPI top-50 opponent, beating BYU 71-61 at home Dec. 2. The Aggies are 1-1 against RPI top-50 opponents, 8-4 against the top 100 and 8-5 in true road games. Utah State's schedule strength is still questionable, with 14 of its 22 D-I victories coming against RPI sub-150 opponents (eight against sub-200 teams). The Aggies probably can't afford a single loss in the regular season and need to win at least a couple of games in next month's WAC tournament to have a decent chance on Selection Sunday.
UAB [23-5 (11-3), RPI: 35, SOS: 111] The Blazers won their fourth game in a row Saturday, defeating Tulane 76-55 at home. It was the final warm-up before two C-USA games that will go a long way in determining their postseason fate. UAB hosts Memphis on Wednesday night and plays at UTEP on Saturday. The Blazers really can't afford to lose both, because they've already dropped games to the Tigers and Miners this season. But another loss to Memphis would especially hurt their chances for an NCAA at-large bid. UAB is still riding a 67-57 victory over RPI No. 17 Butler at home on Dec. 22, and so-so wins over Cincinnati (home), Tulsa (home), Georgia (home) and Marshall (road). The Blazers are 1-0 against RPI top-25 foes, 1-2 against the top 50 and 6-4 against the top 100. UAB's 9-3 record in true road games will help its chances.
Old Dominion [23-8 (15-3), RPI: 38, SOS: 77] The Monarchs defeated Virginia Commonwealth 73-70 on Saturday to win their first Colonial Athletic Association regular-season championship since 2005. ODU will play the winner of a first-round game between No. 8 seed Towson and No. 9 seed UNC Wilmington in Saturday's semifinals of the CAA tournament in Richmond, Va. As long as the Monarchs aren't bounced from the CAA tourney in their first game, they should be in pretty good shape for an NCAA at-large bid. They are hanging their hats on one monumental victory: a 61-57 upset at Georgetown on Dec. 19. ODU also has home victories over Charlotte and Marshall and a sweep of William & Mary (home and road). The Monarchs have only one loss to an RPI sub-100 opponent, losing 71-55 at No. 152 George Mason on Jan. 2. ODU is 1-4 against RPI top-50 foes and 7-7 against the top 100.
Saint Mary's [24-5 (11-3), RPI: 45, SOS: 142] The Gaels defeated Pepperdine 76-49 on Thursday and Loyola Marymount 88-80 on Saturday to finish second in the final West Coast Conference standings, one game behind Gonzaga. The Gaels earned a bye to the semifinals of this week's WCC tournament in Las Vegas. To have any chance of earning an NCAA at-large bid, Saint Mary's needs to reach the finals of the WCC tourney. But even that feat might not be enough. SMC has two victories over RPI top-50 foes, beating San Diego State 80-58 at home Nov. 16 and defeating Utah State 68-63 on the road Dec. 5. The Gaels are 2-3 against RPI top-50 foes and 5-4 against the top 100. Saint Mary's will get some help from its 9-2 record in true road games, but its overall body of work seems to be lacking without a win over Gonzaga.
Cornell [25-4 (11-1), RPI: 46, SOS: 203] Thanks to their 50-47 victory over Princeton at home Friday, the Big Red can become the first team to punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament. If Cornell defeats Brown on the road Friday night, it will win the Ivy League regular-season championship and the league's automatic bid to the NCAAs. Cornell has a two-game lead over Harvard and Princeton in the loss column of the Ivy League standings with two games to go. If Cornell doesn't win the Ivy League title -- which would mean losses to Brown and Yale -- it wouldn't stand a chance of earning an NCAA at-large bid after falling to a pair of teams that take 11-18 records into the final week of the regular season. Cornell doesn't have a victory over an RPI top-50 opponent, but was very competitive in a 71-66 loss at Kansas on Jan. 6. The Big Red also won games at St. John's and Alabama.
Memphis [21-8 (11-3), RPI: 64, SOS: 98] We're not entirely convinced the Tigers have done enough to justify their place on the bubble board, but they could very well work their way into the discussion during the next two weeks. Memphis has won five of its past six games, but its 92-75 loss at Houston on Feb. 24 hardly suggests it is an NCAA-worthy team. Memphis has one victory over an RPI top-50 foe, beating UAB 85-75 at home Feb. 3. The Tigers' best nonconference wins came against Oakland and IUPUI. Five of Memphis' eight losses came against RPI top-50 foes, including a 57-55 loss to Kansas in St. Louis on Nov. 17. The Tigers have three losses to sub-100 opponents, including a 70-60 loss at No. 206 SMU on Jan. 30. Memphis is 1-5 against RPI top-50 opponents and 5-5 against the top 100.