College Basketball Bubble Watch
Make-or-break time for bubble teams as regular season enters stretch run
Editor's note: This file has been updated to include all games through Wednesday, March 3.
More than the ACC and Big Ten championships will be on the line during the final weekend of college basketball's regular season.There are more than a dozen games involving teams fighting for few available at-large bids to the NCAA tournament.
Time is running out for bubble teams. For some, like Mississippi State and Illinois, Saturday may present a make-or-break scenario. Bubble Insider
With only four days left in the regular season, there might be as few as nine at-large spots available for 21 teams.For the sake of argument, let's assume the following (even though the odds of it all holding up during Championship Week are probably pretty slim): • One of the teams that already has earned "lock" or "should be in" status wins the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC tournaments.
• Butler wins the Horizon League tournament.
• Gonzaga wins the West Coast Conference tournament.
• UTEP wins the Conference USA tournament.
• Northern Iowa wins the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
• Richmond, Temple or Xavier wins the A-10 tournament.
• New Mexico or BYU wins the Mountain West Conference tournament. If all of the above actually happen, and we add those 12 automatic bids to the 19 automatic bids that will be awarded to conferences not represented in Bubble Watch, we'll have our 31 automatic bids. After we include the remaining teams with "lock" or "should be in" designation, we'll be at 56 bids. That would leave only nine available at-large bids for the 21 teams currently sitting in "work to do." Hang on. It will get interesting this weekend. Here's a list of must-see TV bubble games during the next three days: Thursday:
LSU at Ole Miss (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET)
Beating the Tigers probably wouldn't help the Rebels' at-large chances very much, but it's obviously a game they can't lose. Saturday:
Cincinnati at Georgetown (ESPN360, noon ET)
A victory over the Hoyas would give the Bearcats some at-large life and momentum heading into the Big East tournament. Connecticut at South Florida (ESPN360, 2 p.m. ET)
The Huskies are in trouble after a two-game losing streak; a loss to the Bulls would all but end their at-large chances. Notre Dame at Marquette (ESPN360, 2 p.m. ET)
The Fighting Irish are red-hot without star forward Luke Harangody and need this one over another red-hot team, the Golden Eagles. Syracuse at Louisville (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET)
The Cardinals already have beaten the Orange on the road; a home win would lock up an at-large bid. Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech (ESPN360, 4 p.m. ET)
The Hokies are two games better than the Yellow Jackets in the ACC standings but probably need this victory more. Tennessee at Mississippi State (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET)
After losing at Auburn on Wednesday night, it's almost time to put a fork in the Bulldogs. Will the Vols oblige? New Mexico State at Utah State (ESPN360, 9:05 p.m. ET)
Utah State already has lost to New Mexico State this season and can't afford to fall again. Sunday:
Florida at Kentucky (noon ET)
The Gators have lost two games in a row to put themselves in a precarious spot, but beating UK would lock up a bid. Wisconsin at Illinois (ESPN, noon ET)
The Illini probably have to beat the Badgers at home to have any shot at an at-large bid. Clemson at Wake Forest (6 p.m. ET)
The Demon Deacons are suddenly in trouble after losing four games in a row. Here's Thursday's Bubble Watch:
|Atlantic 10 Conference|
|Work left to do: Rhode Island, Dayton|
Unless there's a huge upset in the A-10 on Saturday, Xavier and Temple will probably share the regular-season championship. The Owls beat Saint Louis 57-51 on the road on Wednesday night; the Musketeers routed Fordham 82-56 at home. On Saturday, Temple hosts George Washington and Xavier hosts St. Bonaventure. Temple probably eliminated the Billikens from the bubble race, even though Saint Louis could finish 11-5 in A-10 play. The Billikens just don't have a strong enough computer profile to support their league record. Charlotte also is out of the bubble discussion after getting routed at Rhode Island 80-58 on Wednesday night, the 49ers' fifth loss in six games.
Rhode Island [21-7 (9-6), RPI: 29, SOS: 57] The Rams won a bubble elimination game by blowing out the 49ers on Wednesday night, but they still have plenty of work to do for an NCAA at-large bid. Rhode Island has lost four of its last six 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 have beaten only two A-10 teams with winning records in conference play -- Dayton on the road and Charlotte at home. Rhode Island is 2-4 against the RPI top 50 and 8-6 against the top 100. The Rams probably have to win at Massachusetts on Saturday and then do some damage in the A-10 tournament to have a chance on Selection Sunday.
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 of 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. 182 Saint Joseph's on Jan. 23.
|Atlantic Coast Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Wake Forest, Florida State|
Work left to do: Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech
The ACC race got more interesting Wednesday night, when No. 23 Maryland upset No. 4 Duke 79-72 at home, grabbing a share of first place in the ACC standings. The ACC bubble mix is getting more interesting, too. Clemson became a lock after beating Georgia Tech 91-80 on Tuesday night. Florida State moved up to "should be in" status after defeating Wake Forest 51-47 on Wednesday night, but the Demon Deacons finally lost their lock status. We never like to drop teams from the top line, but the Demon Deacons are trying to play themselves right out of the NCAA tournament.
Wake Forest [18-9 (8-7), RPI: 34, SOS: 31] The Demon Deacons' overall body of work suggests they will be included in the NCAA's 65-team field. But their current four-game slide might raise a few eyebrows with the NCAA selection committee. Wake Forest has five victories over RPI top-50 teams, beating Xavier, Maryland, Richmond and Georgia Tech at home and Gonzaga on the road. The Demon Deacons are 5-4 against RPI top-50 opponents and 7-7 against the top 100. The only way the Demon Deacons might not receive an NCAA at-large bid is if they end the season with a six-game losing streak. For that to happen, they would have to lose to Clemson on Sunday at home and lose their opening game in next week's ACC tournament. The Demon Deacons are 6-7 in road games and have two RPI sub-100 losses, losing at NC State on Feb. 20 and at Miami on Jan. 9.
Florida State [21-8 (9-6), RPI: 38, SOS: 44] Florida State took a big step toward an NCAA at-large bid by beating the Demon Deacons on Wednesday night at home. It was FSU's fourth victory over an RPI top-50 opponent. The Noles also defeated Georgia Tech twice -- a sweep that won't go unnoticed by the NCAA selection committee -- and beat Marquette in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 29, a victory that looks much better than it did a few weeks ago. To feel really confident on Selection Sunday, though, the Seminoles need to win at Miami on Saturday. FSU is 4-6 against RPI top-50 foes and 9-7 against the top 100. FSU has only one bad loss, falling to RPI No. 109 NC State 88-81 on Jan. 12 at home. The Seminoles are 5-5 in true road games, and they've won four of their past five games.
Georgia Tech [19-10 (7-8), RPI: 37, SOS: 23] Even after losing 91-80 at Clemson on Tuesday night, the Yellow Jackets probably are in OK shape, having navigated their way through the toughest schedule during ACC play. But they really could use a victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday at home, after dropping four of their past six games. After hosting Virginia Tech, the Yellow Jackets will have played 10 games against the ACC's top six teams. Georgia Tech is seventh in the ACC standings with a 7-8 mark against league foes, but a .500 mark in ACC play probably would be good enough. The Yellow Jackets have four wins over RPI top-50 teams (Duke, Wake Forest, Siena and Clemson) and are 8-8 against RPI top-100 foes. Seven of their 10 losses came against RPI top-50 opponents, but their 3-8 record in true road games won't help.
Virginia Tech [22-7 (9-6), RPI: 52, SOS: 154] The Hokies stayed in the NCAA bubble mix by defeating NC State 71-59 on Wednesday night at home, which ended a three-game losing streak. But Virginia Tech could really help itself by winning at Georgia Tech on Saturday. The Hokies have only 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. It played one of the softer schedules during ACC play; it will have faced the league's top seven teams only six times after Saturday's game. Because of its soft nonconference schedule, 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 6-6 against the top 100.
|Big East Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Louisville|
Work left to do: UConn, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, Cincinnati
The Big East championship was settled Tuesday night, when Syracuse defeated St. John's 85-66 to win only its second outright title. The Orange, who are ranked No. 1 in the country for the first time since 1990, probably locked up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, too. Marquette was the league's other big winner this week, routing Louisville 69-48 at home Tuesday night to lock up an NCAA at-large bid. The Golden Eagles have won nine of their past 10 games.
Louisville [19-11 (10-7), RPI: 36, SOS: 7] Louisville certainly didn't help its at-large chances by losing at Marquette by 21 points Tuesday night. It was the kind of effort the NCAA selection committee does not like to see this late in the season. The Cardinals are probably still in OK shape, but a victory over Syracuse at home Saturday would definitely get them into the NCAA field. The Cardinals upset the Orange 66-60 on the road Feb. 14, a victory that will surely get the committee's attention. Although Louisville doesn't have much of anything to show from its nonconference schedule, it also swept Connecticut and beat fellow Big East bubble teams Cincinnati and Notre Dame. That résumé might be enough to get Rick Pitino's team back in the NCAA field. The Cardinals are 3-7 against RPI top-50 opponents and 7-10 against the top 100.
UConn [17-13 (7-10), RPI: 49, SOS: 2] The Huskies didn't have much room for error, so their at-large chances are probably on life support after they lost their second consecutive game, 58-50 at Notre Dame on Wednesday night. It was Connecticut's 13th loss of the season, which might be too many, but it will get some benefit of the doubt because it played the country's second-toughest schedule. UConn does have three impressive victories over RPI top-50 foes, beating West Virginia (home), Texas (home) and Villanova (road). But the Huskies are 3-8 against RPI top-50 opponents, 9-11 against the top 100 and 2-7 in true road games. They'll have to overcome a couple of unsightly losses, losing at RPI No. 115 Providence and No. 130 Michigan in January. To have any chance for an at-large bid, the Huskies will have to win at South Florida on Saturday and make a sustained run in next week's Big East tournament.
Notre Dame [20-10 (9-8), RPI: 61, SOS: 63] Will Notre Dame star forward Luke Harangody ever come back from a bruised knee? Do the Fighting Irish even need him? Notre Dame won its third game in a row Wednesday night, defeating the Huskies by eight points at home. The Irish now have four victories over RPI top-50 foes, having also defeated West Virginia (home), Pittsburgh (home) and Georgetown (road). Because of their soft nonconference schedule (No. 224 nationally), the Irish still have some work to do. They play at Marquette on Saturday and a victory would give them a 10-8 finish in Big East play. Notre Dame is only 2-6 in true road games, 4-4 against RPI top-50 foes and 9-7 against the top 100. The Irish will have to overcome three unsightly losses, losing to RPI No. 106 Northwestern (neutral court), No. 136 Rutgers (road) and No. 180 Loyola Marymount (home).
Seton Hall [16-11 (7-9), RPI: 63, SOS: 22] The Pirates' best hope for an at-large bid might be for Connecticut and Cincinnati to collapse. Seton Hall doesn't have the best résumé among the Big East bubble teams, and it sometimes doesn't pass the eye test of being an NCAA-worthy team. But the NCAA selection committee might have a difficult time deciding what to do with the Pirates, especially if they win their last two regular-season games at Rutgers on Thursday and at Providence on Saturday. Seton Hall has won four of its past six games and boasts RPI top-50 victories over Pittsburgh (home), Louisville (home) and Cornell (road). Nine of its 11 losses came against RPI top-50 foes, including five losses to teams in the top 10, and four of its losses overall came in overtime. Another positive: The Pirates beat fellow Big East bubble teams Notre Dame and Cincinnati at home. 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.
Cincinnati [16-13 (7-10), RPI: 65, SOS: 14] The Bearcats' late-season slide continued Tuesday night, as they lost to Villanova 77-73 at home. For the second game in a row, the Bearcats played well against one of the Big East's better teams but didn't win. The good news: Cincinnati's victories over Vanderbilt and Maryland in the EA Sports Maui Invitational in late November are looking better and 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 nine of its 13 losses came against RPI top-50 foes. Cincinnati is only 2-8 in true road games, 4-9 against RPI top-50 opponents and 6-13 against the top 100. A victory over Georgetown on the road Saturday would definitely enhance its at-large chances and is probably a must-win game at this point.
|Big Ten Conference|
|Work left to do: Illinois|
Minnesota blew its chances for an NCAA tournament at-large bid on Tuesday night, losing at Michigan 83-55. The Gophers can finish no better than 9-9 in Big Ten play, and with only two victories over the league's top teams, that probably won't be enough. Illinois' late-season collapse continued Tuesday night, too, with a 73-57 loss at Ohio State. The Illini probably will have to beat Wisconsin at home on Sunday to have a chance on Selection Sunday.
Illinois [18-12 (10-7), RPI: 72, SOS: 50] After falling at Ohio State, Illinois has lost four of five games and hasn't looked very good in the process. Sunday's regular-season finale against Wisconsin at home might be a do-or-die game for the Illini. Even with a victory over the Badgers, Illinois probably still would have some work to do in next week's Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. The Illini are 4-7 against RPI top-50 foes and 5-9 against the top 100. Their 6-4 record in true road games should help their chances. Illinois' high-end victories have come against Vanderbilt (home), Wisconsin (road), Michigan State (home) and Clemson (road). But the NCAA selection committee might not like that 13 of their 18 victories have come against teams that are ranked No. 106 or worse in the RPI ratings.
|Mountain West Conference|
|Teams that should be in: UNLV|
Work left to do: San Diego State
New Mexico won its first outright MWC championship in 16 years by defeating TCU 73-66 at home on Wednesday night. The only drama left for the MWC is whether the league will get two, three or four teams into the NCAA tournament. New Mexico and BYU are locks to make the NCAA's 65-team field, and UNLV also seems to be in really good shape. But San Diego State probably needs to beat Air Force on Saturday and beat somebody of consequence in next week's MWC tournament to earn an at-large berth.
UNLV [22-7 (10-5), RPI: 43, SOS: 103] The Runnin' Rebels trounced Air Force 77-47 on the road on Saturday, 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 at home on Saturday, it should feel pretty good about its chances of making the NCAA field. UNLV has a 9-3 record in true road games, a 4-4 record against RPI top-50 foes and a 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 in 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 [21-8 (10-5), RPI: 33, SOS: 53] San Diego State beat Colorado State 68-55 at home on Wednesday night, improving to 10-5 in MWC play. San Diego State split games against New Mexico and MWC bubble team UNLV and was swept by BYU. The Aztecs might have to win the MWC tournament or hope the league sends four teams to the NCAAs. Their big problem is that their nonconference profile isn't as strong as UNLV's. The Aztecs will also have to overcome two ugly losses: 71-63 at RPI No. 143 Pacific on Nov. 25 and 85-83 at No. 219 Wyoming on Jan. 9. San Diego State is 2-5 against RPI top-50 foes and 3-6 against the top 100. It has a 7-7 record in true road games.
|Teams that should be in: California|
Work left to do: Arizona State, Washington
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: 22, SOS: 5] No wins over an RPI top-50 opponent doesn't scream 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 clinch at least a share of the Pac-10 title. But California is 0-4 against RPI top-50 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.
Arizona State [20-9 (10-6), RPI: 54, SOS: 73] The Sun Devils' best chance at landing an NCAA at-large bid probably required them to win 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.
Washington [19-9 (9-7), RPI: 55, SOS: 55] 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. 126 or worse. The Huskies close the regular season at Oregon on Thursday night and at Oregon State on Saturday.
|Work left to do: Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi State|
Does anyone want to join the trio of SEC teams that have already locked up NCAA at-large bids? Florida has lost consecutive games, after falling to Vanderbilt 64-60 at home Tuesday night. Mississippi State, which is probably a fringe candidate at best because of its lack of quality wins, lost at Auburn 89-80 on Wednesday night. That loss might have been enough to knock the Bulldogs out of the bubble discussion, but their sweep of Ole Miss keeps them in contention for now.
Florida [20-10 (9-6), RPI: 53, SOS: 45] After losing to the Commodores on Tuesday night, it might be a stretch to say the Gators have to win at Kentucky on Sunday. But if they don't win at Rupp Arena, they better make sure they keep it close and then win at least a couple of games in the SEC tournament. Florida's loss to Vanderbilt was somewhat forgivable, but a bubble team isn't supposed to lose to a team like Georgia with so much on the line. The Gators are 3-7 against RPI top-50 foes, beating Tennessee (home), Michigan State (neutral court) and Florida State (home). Seven of their 10 losses came against teams that are ranked No. 30 or better in the RPI ratings, but they'll have to overcome one ugly eyesore (a 67-66 loss at home to No. 216 South Alabama on Dec. 22).
Ole Miss [19-9 (7-7), RPI: 56, SOS: 64] 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. Worse, 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. But 15 of the Rebels' 19 victories came against teams that are ranked No. 102 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 night 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 [21-9 (9-6), RPI: 59, SOS: 126] After losing at Auburn by nine points on Wednesday night, the Bulldogs probably only have two ways to reach the NCAA tournament: win the SEC tournament or beat Tennessee at home Saturday and then reach the finals in Nashville, Tenn. There just simply isn't enough meat on MSU's resume to garner much consideration from the NCAA selection committee. 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. Frankly, that isn't nearly enough for an at-large bid. The Bulldogs are 1-3 against RPI top-50 opponents and 6-4 against the top 100. Worse, MSU's loss to RPI No. 132 Auburn gives it five defeats against RPI sub-100 opponents, having also lost to No. 102 Alabama (road), No. 128 Western Kentucky (road), No. 137 Arkansas (road) and No. 155 Rider (home). Ouch.
|Other at-large contenders|
|Teams that should be in: UTEP|
Work left to do: Utah State, Old Dominion, UAB, Saint Mary's, Cornell, Memphis
There hasn't been much movement among bubble teams from mid-major conferences this week. Memphis stayed in the bubble discussion by beating UAB 70-65 on the road Wednesday night. That victory probably moves the Tigers ahead of the Blazers in Conference USA's bubble pecking order. UTEP is probably also in good shape after winning its first C-USA championship. Cornell can earn an automatic bid Friday if it wins the Ivy League regular-season championship, and teams such as Old Dominion and Saint Mary's begin tournament play this weekend.
UTEP [23-5 (14-1), RPI: 44, SOS: 135] The Miners won their first Conference USA championship by beating Marshall 80-76 on the road on Tuesday night, their 13th victory in a row. Even if UTEP loses to UAB at home on Saturday, it's hard to imagine it being left out of the NCAA tournament's 65-team field. UTEP is 1-1 against RPI top-50 foes and 6-4 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. 64 New Mexico State (road) and No. 105 Oklahoma (neutral court). But it did sweep games over C-USA preseason favorite Tulsa and defeated Memphis on the road. The Miners lost to BYU by six points at home on Jan. 9 and lost to Ole Miss 91-81 in overtime in Southaven, Miss., on Dec. 16.
Utah State [24-6 (13-2), RPI: 32, SOS: 97] The Aggies have won 14 games in a row after blasting Fresno State 76-39 on Monday night. Utah State can win an outright WAC championship by beating New Mexico State on Saturday at home or if New Mexico State loses at Nevada on Thursday night. Still, Utah State probably can't afford to lose Saturday's home game in terms of the NCAA bubble. Utah State has two victories over RPI top-50 opponents, as it beat BYU 71-61 at home on Dec. 2 and Wichita State 68-58 in a BracketBusters game at home on Feb. 20. The Aggies are 2-1 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 15 of its 23 victories coming against RPI sub-150 opponents (eight against sub-200 teams). The Aggies probably have to win Saturday and win at least a couple of games in next week's WAC tournament to have a decent chance on Selection Sunday.
Old Dominion [23-8 (15-3), RPI: 39, SOS: 83] The Monarchs defeated Virginia Commonwealth 73-70 on Saturday to win their first Colonial Athletic Association regular-season championship since 2004-05. ODU will play the winner of a first-round game between No. 8 seed Towson and No. 9 seed UNC-Wilmington in Saturday's semifinal 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 decent shape for an NCAA tournament at-large bid. The Monarchs are hanging their hats on one monumental victory: a 61-57 upset at Georgetown on Dec. 19. ODU also has so-so victories over Charlotte (home), William & Mary (home and road) and Marshall (home). ODU has only one loss to an RPI sub-100 opponent, losing 71-55 at No. 151 George Mason on Jan. 2. ODU is 1-4 against RPI top-50 foes and 7-7 against the top 100.
UAB [23-6 (11-4), RPI: 42, SOS: 106] The Blazers' at-large chances took a pretty big hit when they lost to the Tigers at home Wednesday night. Because Memphis swept them this season, it might be hard for the NCAA selection committee to justify taking them over the Tigers. To have any chance on Selection Sunday, UAB probably has to beat UTEP on the road on Saturday and make a sustained run in the C-USA tournament. 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 6-5 against the top 100. UAB's 9-3 record in true road games will help its chances.
Saint Mary's [24-5 (11-3), RPI: 45, SOS: 139] The Gaels defeated Pepperdine 76-49 on Feb. 25 and Loyola Marymount 88-80 on Saturday to finish second, one game behind Gonzaga, in the final West Coast Conference standings. 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 accomplishing that feat might not even be enough. Saint Mary's has two victories over RPI top-50 foes, beating San Diego State 80-58 at home on Nov. 16 and defeating Utah State 68-63 on the road on 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: 47, SOS: 203] Thanks to their 50-47 home victory over Princeton on Friday night, the Big Red can become the first team to punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament. If Cornell wins at Brown on Friday night or at Yale on Saturday, it will win the Ivy League regular-season championship and earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. 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 and loses to either Brown or Yale, it probably won't have much of a chance of earning an NCAA tournament at-large bid. Cornell doesn't have a victory over an RPI top-50 opponent but was pretty competitive in a 71-66 loss at Kansas on Jan. 6. The Big Red also won games at St. John's and Alabama and swept Harvard.
Memphis [22-8 (12-3), RPI: 51, SOS: 78] Memphis is back in the bubble discussion after beating UAB on the road Wednesday night. The Tigers' overall body of work might be lacking, but if two C-USA teams make the NCAA tournament field (and as long as UTEP wins the C-USA tournament), it's hard to imagine the NCAA selection committee taking UAB over Memphis. The Tigers swept the Blazers, having also defeated UAB 85-75 at home on Feb. 3. Memphis has won six of its past seven games, but it's only 2-5 against RPI top-50 foes. The Tigers' best nonconference wins came against Oakland and IUPUI. Five of Memphis' eight losses have come against RPI top-50 foes, including a 57-55 loss to Kansas in St. Louis on Nov. 17. The Tigers also have three losses to sub-100 opponents, including a 70-60 loss at No. 202 SMU on Jan. 30. Memphis closes the regular season at home against Tulsa on Saturday.