College Basketball Bubble Watch
First look at the upcoming bubble
• To be listed, BCS conference teams had to have an RPI of 100 or better. That currently excludes teams like Nebraska, which might have a chance to make a run in league play.
• Teams outside the Big Six and the Atlantic 10, this year's breakout league, had to have an RPI of 60 or better. Yes, Air Force made it a few years ago at No. 70, but league play doesn't usually provide these teams with the same RPI pop as a BCS conference, so this seemed like a decent place to start. That's why teams like one-loss Stephen F. Austin are not listed.
• The current record had to be better than .500, which eliminates teams with schedule-enhanced RPIs like Miami (Ohio) and Southern Illinois.
• As always, the records listed are Division I only, per NCAA Tournament selection guidelines.
If you have a legitimate grievance, or just like talking bubble in mid-January, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your feedback is a huge part of this drill. This should be fun. Go ahead and dig in. Next update: Jan. 18
|Atlantic 10 Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Rhode Island|
Work left to do: Massachusetts, Saint Joseph's, Duquesne
This season's Valley, which had become this decade's A-10. There's no question this league is getting at least two bids, so Xavier and Dayton (despite Chris Wright's injury) will take those for now, and should get a third (minimum), which is why Rhode Island gets the "Should be in" nod. Then throw in legit candidates UMass and Saint Joseph's, and even teams like Duquesne, and you know this is a good year in the league, the Saint Louis fiasco at GW on Thursday night notwithstanding.
Should be in:
Rhode Island [21-9 (13-5), RPI: 65, SOS: 145] The wins over Syracuse and Providence will help, but will the Rams rue letting one get away at BC? No shame in a tight loss at Dayton to open league play. The issue this season is bounceback; the Rams now have to return home and be ready to face the 40-minute freak show that is the vastly improved Duquesne team. The Rams have a good profile and a strong bet to get a bid right now.
Work left to do:
Massachusetts [17-15 (10-8), RPI: 80, SOS: 36] The Minutemen won an important bubble game at home against Houston but missed a big chance for a statement win at Vandy. Then they compounded it by losing to a quality Saint Joe's team at home on Wednesday night. Like Rhode Island, UMass beat Syracuse. Unlike the Rams, the Minutemen also beat BC. No rest for the weary, either. The next five are at Dayton, Charlotte, at Saint Joseph's, Xavier and at Duquesne. UMass will move strongly one way or the other over the next two weeks.
Saint Joseph's [13-18 (7-11), RPI: 182, SOS: 103] The Hawks have one of the toughest collection of nonleague Ls in the land. Two were in OT (vs. Gonzaga and at Creighton) and two others were last-possession defeats (at Syracuse and vs. Holy Cross). The Hawks picked the right season to need to make up some ground, though, as they will have ample chance in league play to get RPI-helping Ws. They took the first step on Wednesday night when they won at UMass. The back half of the league slate is very difficult, so the Hawks need to make hay in January.
Duquesne [11-19 (6-12), RPI: 221, SOS: 106] No great wins and no bad losses means the Dukes have some work to do, but the A-10 will provide those chances this season. The three defeats are to at Drake by four, to Pitt (when fully healthy) by five and at West Virginia where they got rocked but so do most teams. The Sunday game at Rhode Island is a big one, as the five after that are all winnable.
|Atlantic Coast Conference|
|Work left to do: Virginia, NC State, Miami (FL), Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest, Boston College, Virginia Tech|
After UNC and Duke, this conference is a complete mess right now. Can anyone say who the third-best team is with any conviction, let alone the sixth- or seventh-best club that inevitably will be in the mix for NCAA consideration? Since there's no clear-cut hierarchy, no one gets a "should be in" tag this week.
Work left to do:
Virginia [29-3 (16-2), RPI: 7, SOS: 25] Another team that's been very up and down. The win at Arizona is terrific. The two-point home loss to Syracuse may prove very costly, as will the neutral-site L against Seton Hall. The disaster at Xavier didn't help impressions, but it's only one game against a very good team. After the ACC opener at Cameron, there are some winnable games, so if Sean Singletary can get any help, UVa should stay in the mix.
NC State [20-13 (10-8), RPI: 40, SOS: 6] Team Enigma has a lot of very good pieces, but without quality PG play, it's not coming together. The chemistry also doesn't seem the same with J.J. Hickson getting a lot of Ben McCauley's minutes. The Wolfpack beat Villanova and Davidson, but lost at home to New Orleans and at East Carolina. They also could very quickly find themselves in an 0-2 hole in league play, as they open at UNC and at Clemson.
Miami (FL) [21-12 (10-8), RPI: 62, SOS: 77] The record is great, but the schedule strength is very poor, which leaves the Canes about where they should be on merit. Early wins over VCU and Providence in Puerto Rico should be useful. You hate to make too much of a conference opener, but the Canes really need to handle Georgia Tech. The next six after that are at BC and NC State, home to UNC and Clemson, and then at Wake and Duke..
Clemson [16-15 (8-10), RPI: 103, SOS: 64] The Tigers stepped into the Letdown Pantheon on Wednesday night, dropping a home game to Charlotte after Sunday night's crushing last-second loss to UNC. The computer numbers right now are so-so, and there's no real heft anywhere in the nonconference slate. Crushing Alabama on the road is probably the best statement.
Florida State [17-16 (8-10), RPI: 111, SOS: 71] Surprisingly good computer numbers and they already nicked a league road win at Georgia Tech. The win in Gainesville is holding up nicely right now, thanks to the Gators' schedule-fueled 14-2 mark, but the neutral-site losses to South Florida and Cleveland State in a November tourney could haunt this team come Selection Sunday. Can the Noles split their next two, at Clemson and home to Duke? That would be a nice step toward NCAA bid legitimacy.
Wake Forest [13-19 (5-13), RPI: 147, SOS: 27] Cheers to Dino Gaudio and the Deacons for persevering in the face of Skip Prosser's untimely death. A decisive home win over BYU is a nice boost heading into the rest of league play. WF already edged Va. Tech in its league opener.
Boston College [13-19 (4-14), RPI: 161, SOS: 50] Getting blistered by Kansas was understandable, but following up 48 hours later with a home loss to Robert Morris reinforces how young this Eagles team is. The computer profile is terrible right now, but the Eagles have more quality than that. The neutral-site loss to Providence could come back to haunt them, too, in a head-to-head comparison. The home W over Rhode Island is the best on the ledger right now. BC better get some Ws in the next four games, because the four-pack after that includes roadies to UNC, Clemson and Duke.
Virginia Tech [11-22 (2-16), RPI: 227, SOS: 81] A very fringe candidate here on RPI terms only at this point. Depending on the day, they don't even have a top-100 win.
|Big 12 Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Oklahoma|
Work left to do: Baylor, Kansas State, Texas Tech
Kansas, Texas and A&M look virtually certain to be dancing, but this league is much deeper than that. Oklahoma has been coming on strong, Baylor finally is parlaying its talent into wins and there are several other teams that could force their way into consideration. Two of them -- Missouri (record) and Nebraska (schedule) -- aren't even in the RPI top 100, but could make a move.
Should be in:
Oklahoma [22-10 (12-6), RPI: 18, SOS: 17] Good team that looks like the fourth-best team in a league that certainly will get at least four bids. Early losses to Memphis and USC were understandable. The home loss to Stephen F. Austin was less so, even though SFA, at 12-1 overall (8-1 D-I), is better than you think. The Sooners bounced back to beat Gonzaga and West Virginia on "neutral" floors, solidifying their credentials. The first three league home games (K-State, Texas Tech and OK State) are critical because they are mixed in with games at Kansas, Baylor and Texas A&M and then a home meeting with Texas.
Work left to do:
Baylor [23-9 (11-7), RPI: 10, SOS: 3] Believe it. The Bears beat Wichita State, Notre Dame and Winthrop to win the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, and they also won at South Carolina. That helps take the sting off the three-point home loss to Washington State and the recent loss to Arkansas in Dallas, which was a bit of a disappointment. They open league play at home against Iowa State and Oklahoma State, so a 2-0 start seems possible.
Kansas State [15-17 (8-10), RPI: 96, SOS: 20] Maybe we're setting up for a Beasley-Mayo NIT final? The Wildcats would be on the outside of the NCAAs looking in right now, but they've spent all season without David Hoskins. If they can get him back (no guarantee at this point with a knee injury) and thrive in Big 12 play, the committee might gave them a pass on some of the early ups and downs. A win over Cal is the best thing on their nonconference resume, stacked against losses to George Mason, Notre Dame, Oregon and Xavier.
Texas Tech [13-19 (3-15), RPI: 179, SOS: 57] Some up-and-down results here, with a computer profile being carried more by SOS than quality of performance. They beat Gonzaga but lost to Butler, New Mexico, Stanford, at Sam Houston State (good team) and Centenary (less so).
|Big East Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Syracuse, Pittsburgh|
Work left to do: Villanova, Notre Dame, Louisville, Providence, West Virginia, Connecticut, Seton Hall, South Florida
Georgetown and Marquette look like locks on the basis of team quality and league pecking order. Pitt and Syracuse have solid computer profiles but are facing injury issues, so their situations could be fluid. Notre Dame wins like crazy at home but needs to show some road chops. Villanova and West Virginia have had their moments but need some more to keep heading in the right direction. This field will get whittled down some over the next few weeks as head-to-head results start to create some separation. Right now, it's a free-for-all.
Should be in:
Syracuse [18-13 (9-9), RPI: 67, SOS: 35] Great computer numbers are masking some inconsistency as the Orange attempt to stabilize after the losses of Eric Devendorf (ACL) and Josh Wright (left team) left them with seven scholarship players. Luckily for Cuse, the healthy starters are all playing very good ball. The road win at Virginia is the best on an OK slate. Home losses to UMass and Rhode Island are no disgrace this season. The loss at scrappy Cincinnati was more disappointing.
Pittsburgh [18-14 (8-10), RPI: 74, SOS: 43] The Panthers will be one of this season's most debated teams re: inclusion and/or seeding. The entire profile looks good right now, but they will be evaluated on their performance without Mike Cook and Levance Fields. Of course, if Fields returns before the NCAAs, that makes the first part of the Panthers' profile more valid.
Work left to do:
Villanova [32-2 (16-2), RPI: 4, SOS: 52] The next four league games could be pretty important for a team that hasn't looked all that good in its first two in Big East play. The schedule stiffens some after that, so the Cats would be wise to bank some league wins. The best nonleague win is over George Mason. The only loss was on the questionable late foul call against NC State in Orlando.
Notre Dame [29-5 (14-4), RPI: 16, SOS: 94] The Irish have become unstoppable at home. We'll find out a lot more about the upside of this team in the next four games, three of which are on the road at Marquette, Georgetown and Villanova.
Louisville [24-8 (12-6), RPI: 21, SOS: 22] The Cardinals are getting healthier and should be able to overcome some early-season wobbles on their way to an NCAA bid, but it's no certainty at this point. They have three or four OK-but-not-great wins and a couple of home losses that have contributed to the very suspect RPI. Thursday night's win over West Virginia was a good step in the right direction.
Providence [22-11 (11-7), RPI: 23, SOS: 5] This is a team that's all over the map. The computer numbers are good. The actual results are so-so. Wins over Arkansas, BC and Florida State sound better than they really are. If they get a healthy Sharaud Curry back, though, this could be a pretty dangerous club in a wide-open league. The next three are winnable, which would be important ahead of trips to Syracuse and Notre Dame.
West Virginia [23-9 (11-7), RPI: 24, SOS: 39] The Mountaineers showed against Marquette how inhospitable Morgantown will be this season. How well WVU holds up on the road (and over the rigors of an 18-game league slate) will decide their NCAA fate. Thursday night at Louisville was another missed chance on that end. The other three losses are to Tennessee and Oklahoma on neutral courts (although the Sooners loss was in Charleston, W. Va.) and at Notre Dame. No shame in any of those.
Connecticut [20-14 (10-8), RPI: 70, SOS: 65] The Huskies definitely are better than last season. How much better will become more clear in the next handful of games, starting Saturday at Georgetown. They don't have any good wins at this point, and all three losses (Memphis-N, Gonzaga-N and at Notre Dame) are against quality foes.
Seton Hall [16-15 (6-12), RPI: 94, SOS: 72] Seton Hall is a fringe case right now. Like Syracuse, the best nonconference win is over Virginia. That one was at the Palestra in Philly. They're in a tough spot at Pitt this Saturday, but there are some wins to be had in the couple of weeks after.
South Florida [8-23 (3-15), RPI: 273, SOS: 96] A fringe candidate at the moment, we'll know much more about the about the Bulls after these next four games (at Provy and SHU, and then home to WVU and Louisville). Wins over Florida State and UAB highlight a modest nonconference slate.
|Big Ten Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Ohio State|
Work left to do: Minnesota
Michigan State, Indiana (despite suspect computer numbers because of a soft schedule) and Wisconsin look almost certain to be dancing. Ohio State looks a strong bet to be fourth. After that, it's anyone's guess. The bids could end there unless Minnesota validates its record, or one of the six over-100 RPI teams rallies strong.
Should be in:
Ohio State [23-10 (11-7), RPI: 39, SOS: 74] The Buckeyes appear to be the fourth-best team in the league, and that means there are some wins to be had, especially against the bottom six. They've started 3-0 in league play, but we'll find out more about their growth in the next three (at Purdue, Michigan State and Tennessee). The win over Syracuse at MSG is the bright spot in nonconference play, although they beat Florida, too. They also lost to Texas A&M, UNC and Butler.
Work left to do:
Minnesota [17-15 (6-12), RPI: 100, SOS: 69] There's nothing in the Gophers' profile right now that suggests they are a viable NCAA Tournament team, but Tubby Smith has done a good job rebuilding a winning attitude in Minneapolis. They also had a strong effort in a six-point loss at Michigan State to open league play before beating Northwestern. The Gophers best get a win at Penn State on Saturday, as the next three after that are Indiana, Michigan State and at Ohio State.
|Teams that should be in: Arizona, Stanford|
Work left to do: Oregon, California, Arizona State, USC
With only 10 teams in the conference, getting six (or more?) into the Dance, like last year, is a tremendous achievement. Having Oregon State around for two wins helps (although the RPI hit doesn't), but the overall prospects show the depth and quality of the conference overall.
Should be in:
Arizona [31-3 (16-2), RPI: 6, SOS: 38] The Wildcats would be in today, but they have lost three of four without freshman PG Jerryd Bayless, which underscores his importance. Good thing the Selection Committee will account for that come seeding time. Once Bayless comes back, the performances should start to come closer to matching the excellent computer numbers fueled by the No. 1 SOS in the land.
Stanford [19-13 (9-9), RPI: 61, SOS: 51] This team looks a lot more dangerous with Brook Lopez back, which will be factored into selection and seeding. That was a solid effort against UCLA, and the Cardinal then backed it up with an important home win over USC and then by rolling past Oregon State on Thursday night. The nonleague run was nondescript and includes a loss at Siena. The back half of the Cardinal's league slate is more difficult, so they should notch some Ws early to feel good about NCAA hopes.
Work left to do:
Oregon [24-9 (13-5), RPI: 26, SOS: 48] Those were good wins at Arizona and over Cal to bounce back after losing the league opener in Tempe. K-State and Utah, teams that beat Cal, are the best wins, but the Ducks also have lost at St. Mary's, Nebraska (which should move to the Pac-10 with all its wins against the conference) and Oakland, which could prove damaging. The next two -- home to Stanford and then at Washington -- are big, ahead of a difficult trip to Pullman.
California [18-15 (7-11), RPI: 92, SOS: 62] The Golden Bears have played a slate that's better in name than in actuality this season. Wins over San Diego State, Nevada and Missouri highlight a so-so nonconference schedule that also features losses to K-State and Utah. A home split against the L.A. schools was an acceptable start to Pac-10 play, and they were game at Oregon on Thursday night, but they need to start picking up some conference Ws. That has to begin Saturday at league minnow Oregon State.
Arizona State [17-15 (9-9), RPI: 102, SOS: 66] Big win for the Sun Devils over in-state foil Arizona on Wednesday night. Take out the first six minutes of the season against Illinois, and ASU has been quite good. The 22-point home win over Xavier, last seen destroying BCS teams left and right, cancels out the disappointing 15-point loss at Nebraska. Now off to a 3-0 Pac-10 start (albeit all at home), the Sun Devils are well-positioned despite a suspect RPI handicapped by a terrible SOS.
USC [12-20 (3-15), RPI: 201, SOS: 88] Could O.J. Mayo's first (and only?) college season end in the NIT? It's looking possible. The Saturday game against Washington is just about a must-win given the 0-3 league start and a trip to Pauley coming up after that. The win over Oklahoma looks solid and Miami (Ohio) and Southern Illinois are decent as well. But there's that Mercer loss at home, and the Trojans just missed on big-name chances against Kansas and Memphis (two four-point Ls).
|Teams that should be in: Ole Miss|
Work left to do: Arkansas, Florida, Alabama
It's a nontraditional year in the SEC with Kentucky struggling and Florida so young, but people in the state of Tennessee don't mind. Neither do people in Mississippi, at least in the Oxford area. Mississippi State looks like it's awakening from an early-season slumber, but is it too late with an RPI north of 100? The Bulldogs are not alone. Half the league is outside the top 100, which is shocking.
Should be in:
Ole Miss [20-12 (11-7), RPI: 57, SOS: 49] The Rebels got moral-victory validation Wednesday night at Tennessee, but the entirety of the slate and their performances says this looks like an NCAA team at this point. The win over Clemson in Puerto Rico is the out-of-league highlight, but the win over South Alabama is looking like a quality one, too. The test for Ole Miss will be to take care of business against comparable or lesser SEC foes, especially at home. That starts now, with LSU and Florida coming to Oxford.
Work left to do:
Arkansas [26-8 (13-5), RPI: 19, SOS: 41] That was an important win at Baylor on Saturday that preceded Thursday's conference road win at Auburn. Nonconference wins over VCU and Missouri are decent, but they weren't enough to offset a neutral-site losses to Providence and Appalachian State (the latter in Little Rock). With a manageable first half of the league season on tap, the Hogs need to keep stringing Ws together.
Florida [16-17 (8-10), RPI: 71, SOS: 4] Don't be fooled by the record. The SOS is horrible. The Baby Gators have a lot of raw talent, though, and given the state of the SEC, it's not out of the question they could find enough wins to have a chance to go for the three-peat. The win at Alabama was a nice start to SEC play. With home games against Auburn and Kentucky and a trip to South Carolina mixed into the next four, Florida could get off to a nice league start.
Alabama [17-14 (8-10), RPI: 84, SOS: 59] Richard Hendrix and Alonzo Gee are good players, but the Tide have some ground to make up to find the NCAA Tournament this season. Bama had three shots at ranked teams in nonconference play and lost all three, leaving its resume barren.
|Other at-large contenders|
|Teams that should be in: Drake|
Work left to do: VCU, Valparaiso, Illinois State, Sam Houston State, Kent State, UNLV, Creighton, New Mexico, George Mason, Ohio, South Alabama, CS Northridge, Nevada
Overall, this appears to be a pretty weak crop, which means that the BCS leagues might get a very high percentage of this season's at-larges. Other than (probably) the WCC and (maybe) the Valley, there's no league right now that's screaming to have more than one NCAA Tournament rep. There are several solid teams that missed the RPI cutoff for this week. The best of those might be BYU, which could be the team to beat in the Mountain West.
Should be in:
Drake [8-22 (6-12), RPI: 269, SOS: 90] The Bulldogs would certainly make the field if the season ended today, but the overall slate so far has been somewhat light and now leading scorer Josh Young is out indefinitely, so this feels more reasonable for now. The best wins are over in-state rivals Iowa and Iowa State, along with Duquesne. They also have beaten Southern Illinois and won at Wichita State in league play on their way to a 4-0 start. The only loss is at St. Mary's by six.
Work left to do:
VCU [26-9 (12-6), RPI: 14, SOS: 9] The other presumptive favorite in the CAA, even though neither the Rams nor George Mason leads the league. The wins over Houston and Maryland aren't bad, but a loss to MEAC favorite Hampton (much better than you think) won't help. This team is talented enough to play its way into serious at-large consideration.
Valparaiso [25-5 (13-3), RPI: 50, SOS: 278] The home loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Thursday night doesn't help what are probably slim at-large chances. The Crusaders have lost four of their last five, but the computer numbers keep them here for now.
Illinois State [20-12 (11-7), RPI: 66, SOS: 63] The second surprise unbeaten in the Valley, the Redbirds don't have quite the paper profile of Drake but they're definitely in the at-large mix. The nonconference heft isn't really there -- the best win is over Cincinnati -- but you can't discount the 4-0 Valley start that has included wins at Creighton and Wichita State and at home over Southern Illinois and Northern Iowa.
Sam Houston State [21-8 (15-3), RPI: 82, SOS: 217] They have four non-DI wins and the profile looked a lot better two days ago, before the Bearkats lost to SE Louisiana and A-10 victim Saint Louis set an NCAA shot clock-era record low in points in a 49-20 loss at GW. Wins over Texas Tech and Fresno State, though, show these Kats are not kittens.
Kent State [20-11 (12-6), RPI: 90, SOS: 153] Is this the year the MAC gets two in? The smart bet, as always, is no, but that doesn't mean the league doesn't have quality teams. Kent State is one of them, and the wins over Illinois State and George Mason could come in handy in head-to-head bubble comparisons. If the Golden Flashes can create some separation in the notoriously grinding MAC, they could have a shot.
UNLV [17-15 (8-10), RPI: 104, SOS: 70] Beat Minnesota, but the three-point home loss to Arizona was a big missed opportunity. You would imagine the MWC regular-season champ would have a pretty decent claim for an at-large, and the Rebels are in the mix to compete for that.
Creighton [14-19 (4-14), RPI: 146, SOS: 60] The Bluejays entered MVC play as the presumptive favorite after Southern Illinois' struggles and proceeded to lose their first two league games. Are wins over DePaul, Nebraska and Saint Joe's enough of a nonconference statement? Probably not without a strong Valley finish.
New Mexico [15-16 (7-11), RPI: 172, SOS: 115] Wins over Texas Tech and at UTEP highlight an unremarkable nonconference profile. The Lobos lost at Ole Miss and archrival New Mexico State, but took out the Aggies at home in the return match. With the MWC being down this season, the Lobos likely will need a very strong (top two?) league finish to be a legitimate at-large contender.
George Mason [8-22 (4-14), RPI: 223, SOS: 54] The Patriots have been all over the place, beating Dayton (the Flyers' only loss), Kansas State and South Carolina, while losing to East Carolina and then suffering surprising CAA losses at Georgia State and Delaware. The Patriots are still probably the slight favorite in the league, but they can't afford more slip-ups if they entertain at-large hopes.
Ohio [10-20 (5-13), RPI: 230, SOS: 78] The Bobcats beat Maryland and Saint John's on the road as part of a huge slate of nonconference away games, but they probably have too many losses to overcome. A MAC division championship would be a good place to start, but that won't be easy at all with Kent State, Miami (OH) and Akron all looming.
South Alabama [10-21 (9-11), RPI: 276, SOS: 206] With a win over Western Kentucky, the Jaguars are probably the Sun Belt favorite now. The three losses are at Ole Miss by three, at Vandy by three in 2OT and by five to Miami (OH) in Anaheim. The best nonleague win is at home over Mississippi State. This is a solid team, even after losing coach John Pelphrey to Arkansas after last season.
CS Northridge [7-24 (4-12), RPI: 281, SOS: 93] There's nothing in the profile or looming in the Big West that says an at-large is a legit possibility, but they qualify for consideration for now.
Nevada [7-22 (5-13), RPI: 305, SOS: 194] Can any team get an at-large from the hugely disappointing WAC this season? It doesn't look that way. The Wolf Pack's computer profile looks decent, but they haven't really beaten anyone.