College Basketball Bubble Watch
BracketBusters weekend does little to clear picture
Editor's note: This file has been updated to include all games through Saturday, Feb. 21.
Saturday's BracketBusters games did little to clear up college basketball's ever-growing NCAA tournament bubble.
Butler probably locked up an NCAA at-large bid by routing Davidson 75-63 on the road Saturday, but no other team from a so-called "non-BCS" league punched its NCAA ticket by winning a BracketBusters game. Teams such as Creighton, Siena and Saint Mary's helped themselves but still haven't done enough at this point to justify their inclusion in the 65-team field.
With two weeks to play in the regular season, about a dozen at-large spots might still be up for grabs. The six BCS football-playing conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10 and SEC) have 19 teams that have probably locked up at-large bids. Another seven teams from those leagues have done almost enough to lock up bids and will probably be invited to the Big Dance when the field is announced on Selection Sunday.
|What happens when power conferences like the ACC and Big East battle for at-large spots? Bubble Insider|
Those teams figure to occupy 32 of the 65 spots in the NCAA tournament field, along with the champions of the other 20 leagues that receive automatic bids. That's a total of 52 spots, leaving 13 open spots.
Obviously, the number of available at-large bids will shrink if teams like Memphis, Butler and Gonzaga don't win their respective conference tournaments. It also would grow smaller if a team like Georgia won the SEC tournament again.
The bubble figures to get smaller this week. A Big East team such as Georgetown, which was ranked in the top 10 in the national polls earlier this season, probably can't afford to lose in the regular season again. Fellow bubble team Notre Dame might be allowed a loss on the road at UConn, but the Hoyas are definitely on their last legs going into Monday night's showdown against Louisville in Washington, D.C.
Mid-major teams like Temple and UAB, which have to be considered fringe bubble candidates at best, also need big victories this week. The Blazers host Memphis in Birmingham on Thursday night, and the Owls travel to Dayton on Saturday. Both Temple and UAB could be out of the discussion if they don't win.
Here is this week's Bubble Watch:
|Atlantic Coast Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Florida State|
Work left to do: Miami (FL), Maryland, Boston College, Virginia Tech
North Carolina's stunning 88-85 loss in overtime at Maryland on Saturday threw the ACC race wide open with only two weeks left in the regular season. Four ACC teams -- Clemson, Duke, Florida State and Wake Forest -- are only one game behind the Tar Heels in the loss column in ACC play. FSU probably all but locked up an at-large bid with its thrilling victory at Virginia Tech on Saturday night but might need to finish with a winning record in ACC play to do it. Maryland and Miami kept their postseason hopes alive with surprising wins.
Florida State [21-6 (8-4), RPI: 16, SOS: 26] It could certainly be argued the Seminoles reached "lock" status by winning at Virginia Tech 67-65 on Saturday night. FSU is in second place in the ACC standings with an 8-4 record, and it has an RPI rating in the top 20. But with four potentially difficult regular-season games left, we're going to withhold judgment for at least a few more days. FSU is in very, very good shape with only two weeks left in the regular season. It is 4-5 against RPI top-50 opponents, beating California (neutral court), Florida (home), Clemson (road) and Miami (home). The Seminoles are 11-6 against RPI top-100 foes and 7-3 on the road. Even if FSU lost its last four games -- at Boston College on Tuesday, home against Clemson on Saturday, at Duke on March 3 and home against Virginia Tech on March 8 -- it would still have a good chance for an NCAA at-large bid. With one more regular-season victory, the Seminoles will be a lock to play in their first NCAA tournament since 1998.
Miami (FL) [16-10 (5-8), RPI: 46, SOS: 9] The Hurricanes kept their at-large hopes alive by beating Boston College 69-58 on Saturday. The victory gave Miami a sweep against the Eagles, which might be important on Selection Sunday. But Miami still sits at 5-8 in the ACC standings, so there's plenty of work left to do. The Hurricanes are only 5-7 in their last 12 games and 2-7 against RPI top-50 opponents. The Hurricanes should be favored in their last three regular-season games: at Virginia on Thursday, at Georgia Tech on March 4 and home against NC State on March 7. Miami might need to win all three games and finish 8-8 in ACC play to feel confident about its at-large chances.
Maryland [17-9 (6-6), RPI: 53, SOS: 31] There aren't many schools in the country that can boast about beating two of the top five teams in the country. But Maryland can do it after stunning North Carolina 88-85 in overtime in College Park on Saturday. Coupled with its 80-62 victory over Michigan State (neutral court) on Nov. 27, Maryland has certainly worked itself back into at-large contention. But the Terrapins still have some work to do because of their middling computer numbers. Other than the aforementioned victories and home wins over Michigan, Miami and Virginia Tech, there isn't much else on their résumé. The Terps are only 1-5 on the road and 4-7 against RPI top-50 opponents. (They're 8-8 against top-100 foes.) At 6-6 in ACC play, the Terps probably need to win two of their last four regular-season games (home against Duke and Wake Forest and at NC State and Virginia), and possibly win a game or two in the ACC tournament, to feel confident on Selection Sunday.
Boston College [19-9 (7-6), RPI: 56, SOS: 50] Even after losing to Miami for the second time this season, the Eagles should still be in pretty good shape for an at-large bid. They won at North Carolina 85-78 on Jan. 4 and beat Duke 80-74 on Feb. 15. Boston College also has victories over UAB (neutral court), Virginia Tech (home, and lost to the Hokies on the road) and Maryland (road). The Eagles are 3-6 against RPI top-50 teams and 8-7 against top-100 opponents. But the Eagles should have a chance to finish at least 9-7 in ACC play, with home games against Florida State and Georgia Tech and a road game at NC State left on the schedule.
Virginia Tech [16-10 (6-6), RPI: 64, SOS: 52] Virginia Tech fans might have heard the air leaking out of the Hokies' bubble when A.D. Vassallo's 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer in Saturday night's 67-65 loss to Florida State. The Hokies are still 6-6 in ACC play, but they face a brutal four-game stretch to end the regular season. They play at Clemson on Wednesday and then play home games against Duke on Saturday and North Carolina on March 4. Tech closes the regular season at Florida State on March 8. The Hokies are 2-5 against RPI top-50 opponents and 5-9 against top-100 foes. They have one really nice victory (78-71 at Wake Forest on Jan. 21) and one really bad loss (67-66 at Georgia on Dec. 9). Tech split games with Boston College and beat Miami but lost at Maryland.
|Big 12 Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Texas|
Work left to do: Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Kansas State
Texas' 73-68 upset of Oklahoma on Saturday night moved the Longhorns a step closer to an NCAA at-large bid and created a first-place tie atop the Big 12 standings. The Sooners are tied with defending national champion Kansas with an 11-1 mark, and surging Missouri is only one game back. But if teams like Texas A&M, Kansas State and Oklahoma State don't finish the regular season strong, the Big 12 might only have four teams in the Big Dance.
Texas [18-8 (7-5), RPI: 34, SOS: 33] The Longhorns erased nearly a month of concerning results with their upset of Oklahoma in Austin on Saturday night. Texas now has six victories over RPI top-50 opponents, also beating Villanova (neutral court), UCLA (home), Wisconsin (road), Oklahoma State (home) and Texas A&M (home). Texas is 6-4 against RPI top-50 opponents and 8-7 against top-100 foes. With a 7-5 record in Big 12 play, though, the Longhorns might still need one more victory to secure an at-large bid. They play struggling Texas Tech at home Wednesday but then play at Oklahoma State, Baylor at home and Kansas on the road to finish the regular season.
Oklahoma State [17-9 (6-6), RPI: 32, SOS: 10] Because of their lofty computer numbers, the Cowboys have to still be considered at-large candidates. But their RPI rating -- which is higher than those of the four other Big 12 bubble teams -- is the product of playing a very aggressive schedule. Unfortunately, Oklahoma State didn't win any of its toughest games. In fact, the six Big 12 opponents the Cowboys have beaten (including Texas Tech twice) have a combined record of 21-51 in conference play. Oklahoma State is 2-8 against RPI top-50 opponents, beating Siena and Texas A&M. It is 6-9 against RPI top-100 foes and 3-5 in road games. Oklahoma State probably needs to beat either Texas (home) or Oklahoma (road) and do some damage in the Big 12 tournament to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive.
Texas A&M [19-8 (5-7), RPI: 38, SOS: 28] After beating Texas Tech 79-73 on the road on Saturday, the Aggies are still two games below .500 at 5-7 in Big 12 play. But Texas A&M will have a chance to finish 8-8, with games left against Nebraska (road), Iowa State (home), Colorado (road) and Missouri (home). The Aggies are 4-5 against RPI top-50 opponents, beating Oklahoma State (home), LSU (neutral court), Arizona (home) and Texas (home). The Aggies split two-game series against Oklahoma State and Baylor but lost to Kansas State.
Nebraska [16-9 (6-6), RPI: 66, SOS: 38] The Cornhuskers didn't look good in a 70-53 loss at Kansas on Saturday, but they'll stay in the at-large discussion for at least another week because of their earlier victories over Missouri and Texas. Nebraska might need to win at least three of its last four regular-season games to remain under consideration. The Cornhuskers have three wins over RPI top-50 opponents (they also beat Creighton), but their unsightly losses at Iowa State and at home against Maryland-Baltimore County will probably hurt their chances. Nebraska is 3-6 against RPI top-50 opponents and 3-6 in road games.
Kansas State [19-8 (7-5), RPI: 76, SOS: 120] The Wildcats have won eight of their last nine games, including a 50-46 victory at Iowa State on Saturday. But Kansas State's overall body of work is about as unimpressive as its latest road win. The Wildcats are 3-3 against RPI top-50 opponents, beating Missouri (home), Texas (road) and Texas A&M (road). But the Wildcats have very little to show the selection committee in terms of nonconference victories. Kansas State's nonconference schedule is ranked No. 320 in the country, and 13 of its 18 victories came against foes ranked outside the RPI top 100. Kansas State is 7-5 against Big 12 opponents but might need a 10-6 finish because of its mediocre computer numbers. The Wildcats still play road games at Missouri and Oklahoma State and home games against Nebraska and Colorado.
|Big East Conference|
|Teams that should be in: West Virginia, Syracuse|
Work left to do: Georgetown, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Providence
The league's top four teams all held serve on Saturday, with Marquette and Louisville earning big road victories. Heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, four Big East teams (Connecticut, Louisville, Marquette and Pittsburgh) have only two losses in conference play. Those four teams and Villanova are locks for at-large bids, and Syracuse and West Virginia are very close to joining the group. Four other Big East teams are trying to stay alive for what might be one or two more at-large bids. Georgetown, Cincinnati and Providence seem to be on their last legs, but Notre Dame is back in the hunt for now.
West Virginia [19-8 (8-6), RPI: 14, SOS: 6] The Mountaineers went a long way in wrapping up an at-large bid with their 93-72 rout of Villanova on Feb. 13. They beat Notre Dame 79-68 at home Wednesday, improving their record to 7-6 in Big East play. West Virginia is 3-6 against the RPI top 50 and 9-8 against the top 100. With an RPI rating inside the top 15, the Mountaineers can probably lock up an at-large bid with a winning record in Big East play. With games left at Rutgers on Sunday and home against DePaul, West Virginia is close to getting there.
Syracuse [19-8 (7-7), RPI: 19, SOS: 17] The Orange are probably one victory away from locking up an at-large bid. If it hadn't lost five of its last seven games, Syracuse probably already would have done it. Still, the Orange have five victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Memphis (road), Kansas (neutral court), West Virginia (home), Florida (neutral court) and Georgetown (home). Syracuse is 5-5 against the RPI top 50 and 8-7 against the top 100. The Orange could finish the job by beating Villanova on Sunday, but a winning record in Big East play is probably all they need. With games left against St. John's and Rutgers, they should be able to get it done.
Georgetown [14-11 (5-9), RPI: 44, SOS: 2] The Hoyas' season pretty much comes down to this: Beat Louisville at home Monday night or miss the NCAA tournament (unless, of course, they win the Big East tournament). Georgetown is the only team in the country with at-large life and a 5-9 record in conference play. The Hoyas will be given every chance to make the 65-team field because they played one of the country's toughest schedules. They're 3-7 against RPI top-50 opponents after losing to Marquette 78-72 at home Saturday. Georgetown beat Connecticut (road), Memphis (home) and Syracuse (home), but it hasn't had a significant victory in more than a month. The Hoyas have lost eight of their last 10 games and are only 2-6 on the road.
Cincinnati [17-10 (7-7), RPI: 55, SOS: 22] The Bearcats are probably in trouble after losing their last two games, including a 72-63 loss to Louisville at home Saturday. Cincinnati simply doesn't have a signature victory. In fact, the Bearcats haven't beaten any of the Big East's top eight teams, going 0-6 against them. Cincinnati is 3-8 against RPI top-50 opponents, with victories over slumping Georgetown (twice) and UAB. The Bearcats host West Virginia on Thursday night and play at Syracuse on March 1. They might have to win both of those games and beat South Florida (road) and Seton Hall (home) to have a chance on Selection Sunday.
Notre Dame [15-11 (6-8), RPI: 70, SOS: 54] The Fighting Irish have won three of their last four games to work themselves back into the discussion, but they're probably still a long shot for an at-large bid at this point. Notre Dame is 1-7 against RPI top-25 opponents and 3-9 against the top 50. Worse, it is 3-7 in road games and 4-8 in its last 12 games. But the Irish will get a lot of help from their victories over Louisville (home) and Texas (neutral court). They probably need to win at least three of their last four games to have a chance at the end. Notre Dame hosts Rutgers on Wednesday and plays at Connecticut on Saturday. The Irish close the regular season with home games against Villanova on March 2 and St. John's on March 6.
Providence [16-11 (8-7), RPI: 75, SOS: 47] The Friars are 8-7 in Big East play, but their at-large chances are fading fast. Providence probably won't get an at-large bid unless it beats Pittsburgh or Villanova in one of its final three regular-season games or does some pretty serious damage in the Big East tournament. The Friars have only one victory over an RPI top-50 opponent, beating Syracuse 100-94 at home on Jan. 28. Providence is 1-6 against RPI top-50 opponents and 5-11 against top-100 foes. Worse, with a lot on the line Saturday, the Friars lost 103-84 to fellow Big East bubble team Notre Dame.
|Big Ten Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Ohio State|
Work left to do: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State
The Big Ten could send as many as eight teams to the NCAA tournament -- or as few as five -- depending on what happens in the final two weeks of the regular season. Michigan State, Purdue and Illinois are in the driver's seat in the Big Ten race, but five other teams are battling for at-large bids. Ohio State seems to be in pretty good shape for an at-large bid, but Minnesota needs to turn things around quickly to avoid anxiety on Selection Sunday.
Ohio State [17-8 (7-7), RPI: 33, SOS: 41] The Buckeyes were in really good shape until they lost 72-69 at Northwestern on Wednesday night. They can probably lock up an at-large bid with a victory at home over Illinois on Sunday, but they face a difficult stretch to end the regular season. Ohio State also hosts Penn State on Tuesday night and then plays road games at Purdue on March 28 and at Iowa on March 3. Northwestern plays in Columbus in the March 8 regular-season finale. Ohio State has six victories over RPI top-50 opponents: Butler (home), Purdue (home), Minnesota (home), Miami (Fla., road) and Michigan (home and road). The Buckeyes should be in pretty good shape heading into Selection Sunday.
Wisconsin [17-10 (8-7), RPI: 27, SOS: 8] The Badgers have won five games in a row to move into a tie with Penn State for fourth place in the Big Ten standings. Wisconsin plays at Michigan State on Sunday, and a road victory over the Spartans would go a long way toward wrapping up an at-large bid. Wisconsin played the country's eighth-toughest schedule, so its computer numbers are still very good. But most of its damage came against other Big Ten teams. Wisconsin has three RPI top-50 victories, beating Illinois (home), Ohio State (home) and Michigan (road). The Badgers are 3-7 against RPI top-50 foes and 8-8 against the top 100. Wisconsin's best nonconference victory was a 74-72 win at Virginia Tech on Dec. 1. With an 8-6 record in Big Ten play, the Badgers probably must at least win upcoming home games against Michigan and Indiana to have a chance.
Minnesota [20-7 (8-7), RPI: 40, SOS: 60] The Gophers have lost six of their past nine games to fall into somewhat serious bubble trouble. Minnesota is still in decent shape because it has four victories over RPI top-50 opponents: Illinois (home), Wisconsin (road), Ohio State (home) and Louisville (neutral). Minnesota is 4-5 against RPI top-50 opponents and 6-7 against the top 100. But with a 7-7 record in the Big Ten standings, the Gophers have little room for error. They host Northwestern on Sunday and then play at Illinois on Thursday night. Minnesota closes the regular season with home games against fellow Big Ten bubble teams Wisconsin on March 4 and Michigan on March 7. The Gophers split two-game series against Penn State and Ohio State and won at Wisconsin, but they lost at Michigan earlier this month.
Michigan [17-11 (7-8), RPI: 50, SOS: 14] The Wolverines' 74-62 victory over Minnesota at home Thursday night kept them in the bubble discussion for at least another week. Michigan has two really good nonconference victories -- they beat Duke 81-73 at home and UCLA 55-52 on a neutral court. The Wolverines also beat Illinois, Minnesota and Penn State at home during conference play. Michigan is 4-8 against RPI top-50 opponents and 8-10 against the top 100. Michigan plays three of its last four games on the road, which might be a good thing because it needs to improve its 2-6 record away from home. Michigan plays at Iowa on Sunday and hosts Purdue on Thursday night. The Wolverines close the regular season with road games at Wisconsin on March 1 and at Minnesota on March 7. It would probably be wise for Michigan to win at least two of its last four regular-season games.
Penn State [19-8 (8-6), RPI: 61, SOS: 96] The Nittany Lions stunned Minnesota and Illinois in consecutive games last week to keep their at-large hopes alive. Penn State has five wins over RPI top-50 opponents, including big road victories at Michigan State and Illinois. It also beat Purdue and Michigan at home during Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions are tied with Wisconsin for fourth place in the Big Ten standings and need to win two of their last four games to assure themselves of a winning record against league foes. Penn State's nonconference schedule was ranked No. 325 in the country and its best non-Big Ten victory came against RPI No. 125 Mount St. Mary's. The Nittany Lions play at Ohio State on Tuesday night and host Indiana on Saturday. They close the regular season with a home game against Illinois on March 5 and a road game at Iowa on March 7.
|Mountain West Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Utah|
Work left to do: Brigham Young, UNLV
The Mountain West has three bubble teams for now, after New Mexico routed San Diego State 75-49 at the Pit on Saturday. Utah is pretty close to locking up an at-large bid, but BYU and UNLV have work to do. New Mexico and San Diego State are out of the at-large discussion for now. San Diego State has better computer numbers than the Lobos, but we can't justify putting the Aztecs ahead of New Mexico after its 26-point loss Saturday. Neither team has enough on its résumé for an at-large bid at this point, but things could change before Selection Sunday.
Utah [19-7 (10-2), RPI: 10, SOS: 18] The Utes hold a two-game lead in the Mountain West standings after BYU and San Diego State lost Saturday. If not for ugly losses to Division II Southwest Baptist and Idaho State, the Utes probably would have wrapped up an at-large bid by now. Utah has great computer numbers and owns four victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating BYU, LSU, Gonzaga and San Diego State at home. The Utes are 4-4 against RPI top-50 opponents and 10-5 against the top 100. Utah faces three difficult games in a row, starting with Wednesday's home game against UNLV. Utah plays at BYU on Saturday and at New Mexico on March 3.
Brigham Young [20-6 (8-4), RPI: 30, SOS: 49] The Cougars suffered a setback Saturday night, losing at UNLV 75-74. BYU, with an 8-4 record, trails Utah by two games in the Mountain West standings. The Cougars are 2-3 against RPI top-50 teams, beating Utah State (neutral court) and San Diego Sate (home). But BYU lost twice to UNLV and split games with New Mexico. It can't afford to lose twice to Utah, which plays in Provo on Saturday. BYU plays at San Diego State on Tuesday and finishes the regular season with a road game at Wyoming on March 4 and home against Air Force on March 7.
UNLV [20-7 (8-5), RPI: 51, SOS: 85] The Rebels kept their postseason hopes alive by beating BYU in Las Vegas on Saturday night. The sweep of the Cougars probably puts UNLV ahead of BYU in the Mountain West pecking order, unless something changes dramatically in the conference tournament. UNLV has more meat on its résum´, with road wins at Louisville and BYU and home wins over Utah, BYU and Arizona. UNLV is 5-2 against RPI top-50 opponents and 9-5 against the top 100. The Rebels are 6-4 on the road but have a trio of ugly defeats -- at TCU, Colorado State and Wyoming. UNLV plays at Utah on Wednesday night, and then closes the regular season at home against Air Force on March 4 and at San Diego State on March 7.
|Teams that should be in: California, Arizona|
Work left to do: USC
Washington State's surprising 82-81 upset of UCLA on the road puts Washington back in the driver's seat for first place in the Pac-10. Arizona State is tied with the Huskies in the loss column in the Pac-10 standings, but the Sun Devils still have five conference games to play. The Bruins have lost three of their last four games, but it's still hard to imagine any scenario in which they don't make the NCAA's 65-team field. California also stumbled Saturday, losing to Oregon State for the second time this season. But Cal and Arizona both seem close to locking up at-large bids, while USC's hopes are sliding away.
California [20-7 (9-5), RPI: 31, SOS: 59] We moved the Bears up a line last week after they won four games in a row. After we bragged about the job coach Mike Montgomery has done in his first season in Berkeley, the Bears promptly lost at Oregon State 65-54 on Saturday. California still seems to be in very good shape, though, with a 9-5 record in Pac-10 play. The Bears have beaten five RPI top-50 opponents: Utah (road), Washington (home and road), Arizona State (home) and Arizona (home). They are 5-4 against RPI top-50 opponents and 7-4 against the top 100. Cal faces a tough four-game stretch to close the regular season, with home games against USC and UCLA this week and road games at Arizona and Arizona State next week.
Arizona [18-8 (8-5), RPI: 43, SOS: 44] The Wildcats have won seven games in a row and can probably lock up an at-large bid by winning at Arizona State on Sunday night. Arizona has six RPI top-50 victories, beating Kansas (home), Washington (home), UCLA (home), Gonzaga (neutral court), San Diego State (home) and USC (home). The biggest blemish on Arizona's résumé is a 2-6 record away from Tucson. The Wildcats play their next three games on the road this week (including at Washington State and Washington) before closing the regular season with home games against California and Stanford. Arizona is 6-6 against RPI top-50 opponents and 8-7 against the top 100.
USC [16-10 (7-7), RPI: 49, SOS: 13] The Trojans seem to be in pretty big trouble after losing four of their last five games. They squandered a late lead against Washington at home Saturday before falling to the Huskies, 60-51. USC is only 3-8 against RPI top-50 opponents, having beaten Arizona State, California and Arizona at home. The Trojans' best nonconference victory came against RPI No. 104 North Dakota State. USC is only 2-6 on the road, and 13 of its 16 victories came against teams ranked outside the RPI top 100. The Trojans might need to win their last four regular-season games -- at Cal and Stanford this week and home against Oregon and Oregon State next week -- to feel remotely confident about their at-large chances.
|Work left to do: Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky|
LSU continues to run away with the SEC, beating Auburn 79-72 in Baton Rouge on Saturday to improve to 11-1 against conference foes. The SEC East remains a jumbled mess, with three teams (Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina) tied atop the standings. Tennessee continued its frustrating ways on Saturday, failing to show up for a road game at Kentucky.
Tennessee [16-10 (7-5), RPI: 25, SOS: 1] Volunteers coach Bruce Pearl said his team quit during Saturday's ugly 77-58 loss at Kentucky. It would take a complete collapse for the Volunteers to miss the NCAA tournament, but Pearl can't be thrilled about his team's direction with two weeks to play in the regular season. Tennessee has lost three of its last five games to fall into fourth place in the SEC East. The Vols still play road games at Florida and South Carolina and home games against Mississippi State and Alabama. The Volunteers have five wins over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Marquette (neutral court), Siena (neutral court), Florida (home), Georgetown (neutral court) and South Carolina (home). The Vols are 5-6 against RPI top-50 teams and 7-10 against the top 100. But Tennessee will get a lot of credit for playing the country's toughest schedule and still seems to be in better shape than the rest of the SEC's bubble teams.
Florida [21-6 (8-4), RPI: 42, SOS: 106] The Gators have bounced back nicely after their debacle at Georgia a week ago. Florida routed Vanderbilt 82-68 in Gainesville on Saturday, improving to 8-4 in SEC play. The Gators have only two victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Washington (neutral court) and South Carolina (home). In fact, 13 of Florida's 21 victories came against teams ranked outside the RPI top 100. Florida's mediocre strength of schedule (No. 106 overall and No. 226 nonconference) leaves it some work to do. The Gators still play four potentially difficult games, starting with Tuesday night's road game at LSU. Florida hosts Tennessee on March 1 and plays at Mississippi State on March 4. The Gators close the regular season against Kentucky at home March 7. As long as the Gators finish the regular season with a winning record in SEC play, it's hard to imagine them not making the NCAA field.
South Carolina [19-6 (8-4), RPI: 45, SOS: 98] The Gamecocks avoided potential disaster by beating Arkansas 82-78 in overtime at home Saturday night. South Carolina remained in a first-place tie with Florida and Kentucky in the SEC East, but it might need to beat Kentucky or Tennessee in its final four regular-season games to feel confident about its at-large chances. South Carolina has only one victory over an RPI top-50 team, beating Florida 70-69 on Jan. 21. The Gamecocks are 1-4 against RPI top-50 teams and 6-5 against the top 100. They have road victories at Kentucky and Baylor, but there isn't much else on their résumé. After hosting Kentucky on Wednesday night, South Carolina plays at Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Volunteers travel to Columbia on March 5, and the Gamecocks close the regular season at Georgia on March 7. Because of their mediocre computer numbers, the Gamecocks might need to finish 10-6 in SEC play to feel confident on Selection Sunday.
Kentucky [19-8 (8-4), RPI: 62, SOS: 84] The Wildcats got a much-needed home victory Saturday, sweeping their two-game series against Tennessee with a convincing win at Rupp Arena. Kentucky is 3-4 in its last seven games and 8-4 in its last 12. The Wildcats have beaten four RPI top-50 opponents, beating West Virginia (neutral court), Tennessee (home and road) and Florida (home). The Wildcats are 7-7 against RPI top-100 foes and 4-4 on the road. Kentucky still faces three difficult games to finish the regular season, starting with Wednesday night's road game at South Carolina. The Wildcats host SEC leader LSU on Saturday, and then play Georgia in Lexington on March 4. Kentucky closes the regular season at Florida on March 7. A 10-6 finish in the SEC and at least one victory in the SEC tournament will probably be enough for Kentucky to make the NCAA field.
|Other at-large contenders|
|Work left to do: Siena, Utah State, Temple, UAB, Creighton, Saint Mary's, Davidson|
After moving out of lock status because of two straight losses to heavy underdogs, Butler moves back up to the top line after its convincing victory at Davidson on Saturday. Siena, Creighton and Saint Mary's also helped themselves tremendously in BracketBusters games. The fate of UAB and Temple will be decided this week, when the Blazers host Memphis on Thursday night and the Owls travel to Dayton on Saturday.
Siena [22-6 (15-1), RPI: 24, SOS: 67] The Saints took care of business in their BracketBusters game Saturday, beating Northern Iowa 81-75 at home. But the victory won't do much for Siena's résumé, leaving it without a victory over an RPI top-50 opponent. Siena is 0-4 against RPI top-50 opponents, losing to Pittsburgh and Kansas on the road and Tennessee and Oklahoma State on neutral courts. The Saints have wins over Saint Joseph's (road) and Northern Iowa (home), but they also have ugly losses to RPI No. 141 Rider and No. 146 Wichita State. Siena will present an intriguing case to the selection committee. Siena's RPI rating is among the Top 25 because of its strength of schedule, but there aren't any quality victories in its gaudy record.
Utah State [25-3 (12-1), RPI: 28, SOS: 140] The Aggies probably didn't help themselves by losing at injury-depleted Saint Mary's 75-64 in a BracketBusters game on Saturday. It's hard to imagine a ranked team being left out of the NCAA tournament field, but there really isn't much to Utah State's résumé. The Aggies have one victory over an RPI top-50 opponent, beating Utah 66-64 at home Dec. 22. Utah State is 1-1 against RPI top-50 opponents and 5-3 against the top 100. Its 10-2 record away from home will certainly help, but Utah State might need to beat Nevada on the road Feb. 28 to get on the right side of the bubble. The WAC tournament will be played in Reno, Nev., and the Aggies can't afford to lose there twice.
Temple [17-9 (9-3), RPI: 37, SOS: 40] The Owls have won four games in a row and shouldn't get much resistance in their next two home games, against St. Bonaventure on Sunday and LaSalle on Thursday. Temple's bubble chances might be determined on Saturday, when it plays at Dayton. If the Owls beat the Flyers, there's a chance the A-10 could be a three-bid league. But if Temple loses at Dayton, it might have to do some serious damage in the Atlantic 10 Tournament to have a chance on Selection Sunday. Temple has only one victory over an RPI top-50 opponent, beating Tennessee 88-72 at home on Dec. 13. The Owls are 8-7 on the road and 1-4 against RPI top-50 opponents.
UAB [19-8 (9-3), RPI: 39, SOS: 71] The Blazers rolled past Southern Mississippi 86-56 on Saturday, a good sign heading into Thursday night's Conference USA showdown against Memphis. UAB might have to upset the Tigers at home, which would end Memphis' 54-game winning streak against league foes, to have a chance at an at-large bid. If UAB is competitive in that game, though, the selection committee might reward it for its tough schedule. UAB is 1-4 against RPI top-50 opponents and 2-8 against the top 100. UAB beat Arizona 72-71 on the road Nov. 18 but lost to Oklahoma (neutral court), Memphis (road), Louisville (road), Butler (road), Cincinnati (road) and Boston College (neutral court).
Creighton [23-6 (12-4), RPI: 47, SOS: 119] The Bluejays won their eighth game in a row Saturday, beating George Mason 76-63 in a BracketBusters game at home. Creighton remains tied with Northern Iowa for first place in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 12-4 record. Creighton has a much more compelling case for the selection committee, though, with a 9-5 record against RPI top-100 opponents. The Bluejays beat Dayton 77-59 on Dec. 10 and also have so-so victories over New Mexico (home) and Saint Joseph's (road). Creighton can't afford to lose its last two regular-season games, at Missouri State on Tuesday night and home against Illinois State on Saturday. It probably doesn't need any early-round exit from the MVC tournament in St. Louis, either.
Saint Mary's [22-5 (8-4), RPI: 52, SOS: 142] The Gaels took a big step toward securing an at-large bid by beating Utah State 75-64 at home in a BracketBusters game Saturday. Saint Mary's showed it's still a pretty good basketball team without injured point guard Patty Mills, who might not be back until after the upcoming West Coast tournament. Saint Mary's has only one other victory over an RPI top-50 team, beating San Diego State 67-64 on a neutral court Dec. 13. In fact, 17 of the Gaels' 20 victories came against teams ranked outside the RPI top 100. Saint Mary's is good enough to play in the NCAA tournament if Mills is healthy. It might have to prove to the selection committee that he'll be ready to go.
Davidson [22-6 (15-2), RPI: 59, SOS: 113] The Wildcats, who became a national darling by advancing to the regional finals of the 2008 NCAA tournament, might be in serious danger of missing the 65-team field if they don't win next month's Southern Conference tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn. Davidson badly needed to beat Butler in Saturday's BracketBusters game at home but fell to the Bulldogs, 75-63. The selection committee might still want to see guard Stephen Curry, the country's leading scorer, but there isn't much to justify Davidson's inclusion right now. It has only one victory over an RPI top-50 opponent, beating West Virginia 68-65 on a neutral court Dec. 9. Davidson's next-best win came against NC State. The Wildcats also lost home games to RPI No. 116 College of Charleston and No. 149 Citadel (without the injured Curry).