College Basketball Bubble Watch
Mid-major at-large bids shrinking
Editor's note: This file has been updated to include all games through Sunday, March 1.
The first weekend of the NCAA tournament is supposed to be about the little guys.
It's about Cleveland State taking out Indiana in 1986, and Arkansas Little-Rock stunning Notre Dame -- on the same day. It's about Austin Peay beating Illinois, and Santa Clara defeating Arizona.
But as we move to within two weeks of Selection Sunday, the list of at-large candidates from smaller conferences is growing thinner and thinner.
Siena, UAB and Temple all suffered what were probably bubble-bursting losses this week, knocking each of them off the list of at-large candidates. Utah State might have cost itself an at-large bid, too, by losing at Nevada 84-71 on Saturday night.
But the grim news for those small schools is great news for bubble teams from the six major conferences.
Here is this week's Bubble Watch:
|Atlantic Coast Conference|
|Work left to do: Miami, Boston College, Maryland, Virginia Tech|
Florida State became the fifth ACC team to lock up an at-large bid by beating Clemson 73-66 in Tallahassee on Saturday. North Carolina and Duke also were big winners Saturday, with the No. 5 Tar Heels crushing Georgia Tech 104-74 at home and the No. 7 Blue Devils winning 72-65 at Virginia Tech. North Carolina maintained its one-game lead over Duke in the ACC standings. If those teams win their mid-week games -- UNC plays at Virginia Tech on Wednesday and Duke hosts FSU on Tuesday -- the ACC regular-season title will be decided when the Tar Heels and Blue Devils play in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Sunday. Four other ACC teams -- Miami, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Maryland -- are fighting for what might be two open at-large bids.
Miami [17-10 (6-8), RPI: 44, SOS: 12] The Hurricanes probably have to win their last two regular-season games -- at Georgia Tech on Wednesday and home against NC State on Saturday -- to have a legitimate chance on Selection Sunday. Anything less than an 8-8 finish in ACC play would probably be a difficult sell for the selection committee. Miami has four victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Wake Forest and Florida State at home and sweeping two games against Boston College. The Hurricanes split games against fellow ACC bubble team Maryland, but lost at home to Virginia Tech. Miami's best nonconference victory came at slumping Kentucky 73-67 on Dec. 6. Six of Miami's 10 losses came against RPI top-25 foes.
Boston College [20-9 (8-6), RPI: 48, SOS: 50] Boston College lost two games against fellow ACC bubble team Miami, but the Eagles have an 8-6 record in ACC play, including three marquee victories. Boston College beat North Carolina (road), Duke (home) and Florida State (home), along with another RPI top-50 victory over UAB (neutral court). The Eagles are 4-6 against RPI top-50 teams and 8-7 against the top 100. With manageable regular-season games left at NC State on Wednesday and home against Georgia Tech on Saturday, the Eagles can probably lock up an at-large bid by finishing with a winning record in ACC play. Boston College won at Maryland and split games with Virginia Tech. The Eagles have a shaky loss (RPI No. 113 Saint Louis on the road) and an unsightly one (No. 249 Harvard at home), but their performance over the final month should more than compensate for those earlier defeats.
Maryland [18-10 (7-7), RPI: 52, SOS: 25] After Sunday night's win at NC State, Maryland is 7-7 in ACC play, with games left against Wake Forest at home Tuesday and at Virginia on Saturday. The Terrapins obviously need to win at least one of those to keep their at-large hopes alive. Maryland has two very good victories, beating North Carolina 88-85 in overtime at home on Feb. 21 and Michigan State 80-62 on a neutral court on Nov. 27. The Terps also beat Miami, Michigan and Virginia Tech at home. Maryland is only 2-5 in road games and has one very unsightly loss, falling to RPI No. 154 Morgan State 66-65 on Jan. 7.
Virginia Tech [17-11 (7-7), RPI: 59, SOS: 37] The Hokies helped themselves with an 80-77 victory at Clemson on Wednesday night, but then lost for the third time in four games Saturday, falling at home to Duke 72-65. Virginia Tech has three solid road victories against ACC foes, winning at Clemson, Wake Forest and Miami. The Hokies also split games with fellow ACC bubble team Boston College, but lost at Maryland. Virginia Tech finishes the regular season with two very difficult games -- home against North Carolina on Wednesday and at Florida State on Sunday. If the Hokies can win one of those games, they would finish 8-8 in ACC play, which would give them a chance on Selection Sunday. Virginia Tech has two ugly losses: 75-61 at Virginia on Feb. 18 and 67-66 at Georgia on Dec. 9. Its best nonconference victory came against RPI No. 103 Fairfield, which won't help its chances.
|Big 12 Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Texas|
Work left to do: Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Kansas State
All-America forward Blake Griffin returned to Oklahoma's starting lineup, and the Sooners returned to their winning ways with a 78-63 victory at Texas Tech on Saturday. Oklahoma remains a game behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings. Oklahoma State was the Big 12's big winner on Saturday, beating Texas 68-59 in Stillwater. The Cowboys, Longhorns and Kansas State are tied for fourth place in the Big 12 standings with 8-6 records. Kansas State returned to the bubble page after beating Nebraska 77-72 on Saturday.
Texas [19-9 (8-6), RPI: 38, SOS: 40] The Longhorns lost at Oklahoma State 68-59 on Saturday, but they still seem to be in very good shape for an at-large bid. Texas has six victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Oklahoma (home), Villanova (neutral court), Wisconsin (road), Oklahoma State (home), Texas A&M (home) and UCLA (home). The Longhorns are 6-5 against RPI top-50 opponents and 7-8 against the top 100. As long as the Longhorns win one of their last two regular-season games -- they host Baylor on Monday and play at Kansas on Saturday -- they should be fine on Selection Sunday.
Oklahoma State [19-9 (8-6), RPI: 31, SOS: 10] The Cowboys finally won a game they can really brag about, beating Texas 68-59 in Stillwater on Saturday. The Pokes have three victories over RPI top-50 opponents, also beating Siena (neutral court) and Texas A&M (home). Oklahoma State's computer profile is very strong, thanks to its aggressive schedule, which includes nonconference losses to Michigan State (neutral court), Washington (road) and Gonzaga (neutral court). But Oklahoma State probably still needs to beat Kansas State at home Tuesday to have a chance with the selection committee. The Pokes close the regular season at Oklahoma on Saturday, and a victory in the Bedlam Series would probably go a long way in securing an at-large bid. The Cowboys are 3-8 against RPI top-50 opponents and 7-9 against the top 100.
Texas A&M [21-8 (7-7), RPI: 35, SOS: 35] The Aggies took care of business Saturday, beating Iowa State 87-69 at home to improve to 7-7 in Big 12 play. Texas A&M needs to win at least one of its last two regular-season games -- at Colorado on Wednesday and home against Missouri on Saturday -- and then possibly win a game or two in the Big 12 Tournament. The Aggies will get a lot of mileage out of their nonconference victories over LSU (neutral court) and Arizona (home), along with Big 12 wins over Oklahoma State (home) and Texas (home). Texas A&M is 4-5 against the RPI top-50 and 7-8 against the top 100. It split games against fellow Big 12 bubble teams Oklahoma State and Texas, but lost to Kansas State at home.
Kansas State [20-9 (8-6), RPI: 73, SOS: 98] The Wildcats won what was probably a bubble elimination game Saturday, beating Nebraska 77-72 in Manhattan. Kansas State improved to 8-6 in Big 12 play, with games left at Oklahoma State on Tuesday and home against Colorado on Saturday. Kansas State might need a 10-6 finish in league play to have a chance because of its mediocre computer profile and weak nonconference schedule (ranked No. 311 nationally). Kansas State has three quality Big 12 victories (Missouri at home and Texas A&M and Texas on the road), but its best nonconference victory came against RPI No. 75 Cleveland State. The Wildcats are 3-4 against RPI top-50 foes and 5-7 against the top 100.
|Big East Conference|
|Work left to do: Georgetown, Cincinnati, Providence, Notre Dame|
Connecticut took control of the Big East race again by beating Marquette and Notre Dame. But Louisville still has just two losses as well and Pittsburgh is only one game back in the loss column. With wins on Sunday, both Syracuse and West Virginia moved into lock status. Three Big East bubble teams produced marquee victories to help their at-large chances: Cincinnati beat West Virginia; Providence upset No. 1 Pittsburgh and Georgetown knocked off Villanova. The Hoyas and the Irish continue to tread on their last legs, but both still have hope going into the last week of the regular season.
Georgetown [15-12 (6-10), RPI: 40, SOS: 1] Just when we were ready to write off the Hoyas for good, they found a way to beat Villanova 56-54 on the road Saturday. Still, Georgetown will need to win its next two games -- at St. John's on Tuesday and home against DePaul on Saturday -- to have any chance at an at-large bid. Because Georgetown played the country's most difficult schedule, the NCAA selection committee might be willing to overlook an 8-10 finish in the rugged Big East. But Georgetown would probably also have to win at least two games in the Big East tournament (considering the first would come against a bad opponent). Georgetown is 4-6 against RPI top-25 opponents, beating Connecticut (road), Memphis (home), Villanova (road) and Syracuse (home). Its overall record isn't very good, but Georgetown has more quality wins than most other bubble teams.
Cincinnati [18-11 (8-8), RPI: 53, SOS: 17] The Bearcats took a big step forward by beating West Virginia 65-61 on Thursday night, but then took a big step back by getting obliterated at Syracuse 87-63 on Sunday. Even after beating the Mountaineers, the Bearcats are probably a fringe bubble candidate at best. They have four victories over RPI top-50 opponents, including two wins over Georgetown and a home victory over UAB. Cincinnati also has a road victory at UNLV and beat fellow Big East bubble team Notre Dame at home. But the Bearcats lost two games against Providence and are 1-8 against RPI top-25 teams. Cincinnati can't afford to lose either of its last two regular-season games: at South Florida on Tuesday and home against Seton Hall on Saturday. Even with two more victories, the Bearcats might have to win a game or two in the Big East Tournament to have a chance on Selection Sunday.
Providence [18-11 (10-7), RPI: 68, SOS: 51] Even after upsetting No. 1 Pittsburgh 81-73 at home Monday and then beating Rutgers 73-66 on the road Sunday, the Friars are probably still on the wrong side of the bubble. Providence might need to beat Villanova on the road Thursday to have a legitimate chance for an at-large bid. The Friars have only two RPI top-50 victories: the aforementioned upset of Pittsburgh and a 100-94 win over Syracuse at home on Jan. 28. The Friars swept two games against fellow Big East bubble team Cincinnati and also have a home victory over surging Rhode Island. But Providence is only 2-7 against RPI top-50 foes and 5-11 against the top 100.
Notre Dame [16-12 (7-9), RPI: 69, SOS: 49] The Fighting Irish's at-large hopes are barely alive after losing at Connecticut 72-65 on Saturday. To have any chance of earning an at-large bid, Notre Dame will probably have to beat Villanova at home Monday. A loss to the Wildcats would drop Notre Dame's record to 7-10 in Big East play, and an 8-10 finish probably wouldn't be good enough on Selection Sunday. The Irish have three victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Louisville (home), Texas (neutral court) and Georgetown (home). Notre Dame's 3-8 record in road games won't help, nor will a 71-65 loss at RPI No. 146 St. John's. After playing Villanova in South Bend, the Irish close the regular season at home against St. John's on Friday night.
|Big Ten Conference|
|Work left to do: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State|
The battle for NCAA at-large bids is fierce in the Big Ten, where points are as scarce as separation in the standings. Wisconsin helped its chances with a 60-55 victory over Michigan in Madison on Sunday. But Ohio State was routed at Purdue 75-50 on Saturday, and Minnesota fell at Illinois 52-41 on Thursday. Penn State remains in the race, too, after narrowly beating Indiana 61-58 at home Saturday. Five teams continue to battle for what could be as many as three or four at-large spots outside the current locks.
Wisconsin [18-10 (9-7), RPI: 32, SOS: 6] The Badgers beat Michigan 60-55 at home Sunday, an important victory because it gives them a season sweep of the Wolverines. Wisconsin also swept fellow Big Ten bubble team Penn State and beat Ohio State, but lost to Minnesota at home. The Badgers are 4-8 against RPI top-50 opponents and 9-9 against the top 100. They will get a lot of credit for playing the country's fourth-most difficult schedule. The Badgers are 6-6 in their past 12 games and only 4-6 on the road, including not-so-great losses at Northwestern and Iowa. Wisconsin plays at Minnesota on Wednesday and closes the regular season at home against Indiana on Saturday.
Minnesota [20-8 (8-8), RPI: 37, SOS: 53] The Gophers couldn't muster much offense in a 52-41 loss at Illinois on Thursday night. The loss was Minnesota's fifth in its past seven games and dropped its record to 8-8 against Big Ten foes. The Gophers are 4-6 against RPI top-50 opponents and 7-8 against the top 100. They will get a lot of credit for their 70-64 win over Louisville (neutral court) on Dec. 20, along with home victories over Illinois and Ohio State. Minnesota split games with Ohio State and Penn State and beat Wisconsin, but lost at Michigan. The Gophers need to at least split their last two regular-season home games: against Wisconsin on Wednesday and Michigan on Saturday.
Ohio State [18-9 (8-8), RPI: 42, SOS: 28] Even after losing badly at Purdue 75-50 on Saturday, Ohio State is probably still in better shape than the other Big Ten bubble teams. The Buckeyes have six victories over RPI top-50 foes, beating Butler, Purdue, Minnesota, Michigan (twice) and Miami. Ohio State swept games against fellow Big Ten bubble team Michigan and beat Penn State. The Buckeyes split games with Minnesota, but lost to Wisconsin. Ohio State is 6-8 against RPI top-50 foes and 8-9 against the top 100, including a neutral-site win over Notre Dame. The Buckeyes are only 3-6 in road games, so they could use a victory at Iowa on Tuesday. OSU closes the regular season at home against Northwestern on Sunday.
Michigan [18-12 (8-9), RPI: 50, SOS: 11] The Wolverines lost at Wisconsin on Sunday, but it wasn't a wasted week. Michigan beat Purdue 87-78 on Thursday, their fifth victory over an RPI top-50 opponent. The Wolverines also beat Duke (home), Illinois (home), UCLA (neutral court) and Minnesota (home). Michigan is 5-9 against RPI top-50 opponents and 9-11 against the top 100. Michigan lost twice to both Wisconsin and Ohio State and split games with Penn State. The Wolverines, just 2-8 on the road this season, can't afford to lose at Minnesota on Saturday.
Penn State [20-9 (9-7), RPI: 64, SOS: 108] The Nittany Lions barely beat Indiana 61-58 at home Saturday, which gave them their first 20-win season since 2000-01, the last time they played in the NCAA tournament. Penn State has five victories over RPI top-20 opponents, including impressive road victories at Michigan State and Illinois. The Nittany Lions also beat Purdue, Minnesota and Michigan at home. But Penn State has the worst RPI rating (No. 64) of the Big Ten bubble teams and its nonconference schedule ranking of No. 321 nationally won't help, either. That ranking is ahead of only Stanford among Big Six conference teams. Penn State will probably have to beat Illinois at home Thursday and win at Iowa on Saturday to have a legitimate chance on Selection Sunday.
|Mountain West Conference|
|Teams that should be in: BYU|
Work left to do: UNLV, New Mexico
BYU beat Utah 63-50 at home Saturday, a victory that nearly locks up an at-large bid for the Cougars. The Mountain West race is very tight going into the final week of the regular season. The Utes have a one-game lead over BYU and New Mexico, and San Diego State is two games back. The Aztecs could work themselves back into contention by finishing 11-5, and UNLV probably needs a 10-6 finish to have a legitimate chance on Selection Sunday.
BYU [22-6 (10-4), RPI: 22, SOS: 44] The Cougars might have wrapped up an at-large bid by beating Utah at home 63-50 on Saturday. The Cougars will probably make the 65-team field as long as they win their last two regular-season games: at Wyoming on Wednesday and at home against Air Force on Saturday. BYU is 4-3 against RPI top-50 teams, beating Utah (home), Utah State (neutral court) and San Diego State (home and road). The Cougars have a sparkling 8-3 record in road games and they're 8-4 in their past 12 games.
UNLV [20-8 (8-6), RPI: 51, SOS: 77] The Rebels lost at Utah 70-60 on Wednesday night, but they're still in decent shape because they swept games against BYU and beat the Utes at home. UNLV also has a very impressive 56-55 victory at Louisville on Dec. 31 and 79-64 home win over Arizona on Dec. 20. UNLV is 4-1 against RPI top-25 opponents and 5-3 against the top 50. UNLV can't afford to lose either of its last two regular-season games, though, because it currently sits in fifth place in the Mountain West standings. BYU, New Mexico and San Diego State are ahead of UNLV in the league standings, but the Rebels' overall body of work is more impressive. The Rebels will have to overcome a trifecta of ugly defeats, losing at TCU, Colorado State and Wyoming. UNLV closes the regular season at home against Air Force on Wednesday and at San Diego State on Saturday. A win in the first and loss in the second would mean a 4-5 finish to the regular season, including a loss to Wyoming and a sweep at the hands of San Diego State. Will that be enough?
New Mexico [19-10 (10-4), RPI: 70, SOS: 92] After winning at Colorado State 81-79 in double overtime Saturday, the Lobos are in a second-place tie with BYU. But New Mexico's resume isn't nearly as impressive as the league's other at-large contenders. It has only two victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating BYU and San Diego State at home. The Lobos are 2-4 against RPI top-50 foes and 5-7 against the top 100. They play Utah at home on Wednesday and finish the regular season at Wyoming on Saturday. New Mexico has three unsightly losses, losing to RPI No. 133 Texas Tech, No. 149 Central Florida and No. 152 Drake.
|Teams that should be in: California|
Work left to do: Arizona
Washington stayed in first place in the Pac-10 standings with its 83-78 victory over Arizona on Saturday. Coupled with Arizona State's 51-49 overtime loss at Washington State, the Huskies earned at least a share of the Pac-10 championship. The Wildcats, who were the Pac-10's hottest team two weeks ago, have suddenly dropped three consecutive road games. As such, Arizona drops a line from "should be in" to "work to do" on the bubble page. USC is gone altogether, after losing at Stanford 75-63 on Saturday, its sixth defeat in seven games. The Trojans fell to 7-9 in Pac-10 play, after not doing much of anything during their nonconference schedule.
California [21-8 (10-6), RPI: 36, SOS: 56] The Bears are still in pretty good shape, even after losing to UCLA 72-68 at home Saturday. California is 5-4 against the RPI top-50 and 10-5 against the top 100. The Bears beat Utah (road), Washington (home and road), Arizona State (home), Arizona (home) and UNLV (road). Cal has a pair of difficult road games to finish the regular season: at Arizona on Thursday and at Arizona State on Saturday. Even if the Bears lose both road games, it's hard to imagine them not making the 65-team field.
Arizona [18-11 (8-8), RPI: 47, SOS: 34] After winning seven games in a row to climb back into the bubble mix, the Wildcats have lost three consecutive road games. With five victories over RPI top-50 opponents, including impressive home victories over Kansas, Washington and UCLA, Arizona still seems to be in OK shape. But its 2-9 record in road games, including an 83-78 loss at Washington on Saturday, certainly doesn't help. The Wildcats are 5-7 against RPI top-50 foes and 9-10 against the top 100. They also have top-50 wins over Gonzaga (neutral court) and San Diego State (home). Arizona closes the regular season with home games against California on Thursday and Stanford on Saturday. As long as it wins one of them, Arizona should feel confident on Selection Sunday.
|Work left to do: Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky|
LSU clinched the SEC regular-season title by winning at Kentucky 73-70 on Saturday. The Tigers remain the only SEC team that has locked up an NCAA at-large bid. Tennessee seems close to doing it, but Florida has work to do after losing to the Vols on Sunday and South Carolina has work to do after losing at Vandy on Saturday. Kentucky is in big bubble trouble after losing two games this past week.
Tennessee [18-10 (9-5), RPI: 21, SOS: 2] The Volunteers moved into a tie for first in the East with a 79-75 win at Florida on Sunday, their fifth straight win over the Gators. Since they continue to have the best profile among the league's bubble teams, it was probably enough to get the Vols into the tourney, but they might want to win one of their final two (at South Carolina and home versus Alabama) just to be sure. Tennessee has six victories over RPI top-50 foes, beating Marquette (neutral court), Siena (neutral court), Georgetown (neutral court), South Carolina (home) and Florida (home and away). Tennessee is 6-6 against RPI top-50 opponents and 7-10 against the top 100.
South Carolina [20-7 (9-5), RPI: 43, SOS: 78] What was more surprising? The Gamecocks absolutely dominating Kentucky 77-59 in Columbia on Wednesday night or South Carolina laying an egg in a 96-83 loss at Vanderbilt on Saturday night? The Gamecocks had opened a one-game lead over Florida and Tennessee in the SEC East, but they gave it back by losing in Nashville. South Carolina really doesn't have much room for error, either. With regular-season games left at home against Tennessee on Thursday and at Georgia on Saturday, the Gamecocks can easily finish at least 10-6 in SEC play. But they could really use a victory over the Volunteers, which would be only their second win over an RPI top-50 opponent. The other was a 70-69 win over Florida on Jan. 21. South Carolina's best nonconference victory came at Baylor on Jan. 2 and its nonconference schedule is ranked No. 260 nationally. The Gamecocks swept two games against fellow SEC bubble team Kentucky, which should help, but lost at Tennessee and Florida.
Florida [21-8 (8-6), RPI: 49, SOS: 94] The Gators didn't pick up the signature victory they desperately needed, losing to Tennessee in Gainesville on Sunday. Florida still has just two top-50 victories: Washington (neutral court) and South Carolina (home). The Gators are 2-6 against RPI top-50 opponents and 6-7 against the top 100. They're only 2-6 in road games, so they could really use a win at Mississippi State on Wednesday. Florida closes the regular season at home against Kentucky on Saturday in what very well could be a play-in game.
Kentucky [19-10 (8-6), RPI: 66, SOS: 63] After getting embarrassed at South Carolina, and losing at home to LSU 73-70 on Saturday, the Wildcats are in serious bubble trouble. Kentucky is still in the at-large conversation because it swept two games against Tennessee, beat West Virginia on a neutral court and defeated Florida at home. But that's about it as far as Kentucky's overall body of work. The Wildcats are 4-6 against RPI top-50 opponents and 6-8 against the top 100. They've lost three of their past four games and were swept by fellow SEC bubble team South Carolina. The Wildcats host Georgia on Wednesday and close the regular season at Florida on Saturday. The Wildcats need to finish at least 9-7 in SEC play to have a chance, and they might need to go 10-6 to make the 65-team field.
|Other at-large contenders|
|Teams that should be in: Dayton|
Work left to do: Utah State, Creighton, Rhode Island, Saint Mary's, Davidson
It was a rough weekend for several at-large candidates from the so-called "non-BCS" conferences. UAB lost to Memphis 71-60 at home Thursday night. Siena lost at Niagara 100-85 on Friday night. Temple lost at Dayton 70-65 on Saturday, and Utah State lost at Nevada 84-71 later that night. As a result, the Blazers, Saints and Owls have been dropped from the bubble page. Utah State would probably be gone, too, if not for its gaudy computer profile. But the Aggies will have to win the upcoming WAC tournament to feel remotely confident on Selection Sunday.
Dayton [24-5 (10-4), RPI: 28, SOS: 111] The Flyers ended a two-game losing streak by beating Temple 70-65 at home Saturday, a loss that all but eliminated the Owls from at-large consideration. Dayton is 3-1 against RPI top-50 opponents, also beating Marquette 89-75 on Nov. 29 (neutral court) and Xavier 71-58 on Feb. 11 (home). The Flyers play at Xavier on Thursday, a game that might determine the Atlantic-10 regular-season champion. Dayton closes the regular season at home against Duquesne on Saturday. Dayton has three sub-100 losses, losing at RPI No. 112 Saint Louis, No. 162 Massachusetts and No. 176 Charlotte.
Utah State [26-4 (13-2), RPI: 30, SOS: 126] The Aggies' at-large hopes were probably slim at best, even before they lost at Nevada 84-71 on Saturday night. Utah State simply doesn't have enough meat on its resume. It has one RPI-top 50 victory, beating Utah 66-64 at home on Dec. 22. The Aggies have lost three of their past five games and, worse, 20 of their 25 victories came against opponents ranked outside the RPI top 100. Utah State closes the regular season at home against San Jose State on Saturday. It will probably have to win the upcoming WAC tournament in Reno, Nev., to make the NCAA's 65-team field.
Creighton [25-6 (14-4), RPI: 39, SOS: 112] The Bluejays beat Illinois State 74-70 on Saturday to earn a share of the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship. Creighton is the No. 2 seed in this week's MVC tournament in St. Louis, and will play the winner of an opening-round game between Wichita State and Missouri State on Friday night. The Bluejays have won 10 games in a row, but might need a victory or two in St. Louis to lock up an at-large bid. They have only one victory over an RPI top-50 opponent, beating Dayton 77-59 at home on Dec. 10. The Bluejays also have victories over George Mason (home), New Mexico (home) and Northern Iowa (road). They'll also get help from their stellar 8-4 record in road games.
Rhode Island [22-8 (11-4), RPI: 54, SOS: 132] After beating Dayton 93-91 on a buzzer beater in overtime Wednesday, the Rams won at Duquesne 73-71 on Sunday. They trail Xavier by one game in the loss column of the Atlantic 10 standings with an 11-4 record. Rhode Island closes the regular season at home against Massachusetts on Saturday. Rhode Island has two victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Dayton and Temple. The Rams also beat Penn State 77-72 on a neutral court on Nov. 28 and beat Virginia Commonwealth 92-86 at home on Nov. 22. The Rams are 2-5 against RPI top-50 opponents and 5-6 against the top 100.
Saint Mary's [24-5 (10-4), RPI: 55, SOS: 186] The Gaels beat two of college basketball's worst teams this past week, winning 62-49 at Pepperdine on Thursday night and 70-57 at Loyola Marymount on Saturday night. Saint Mary's takes a five-game winning streak into the upcoming West Coast Conference tournament, where it will receive a bye until the March 9 semifinals as the No. 2 seed. The Gaels did a decent job of enduring the loss of star point guard Patty Mills, who broke his right hand during their 72-70 loss at Gonzaga on Feb. 12. Saint Mary's went 5-3 in its next eight games without Mills, who hopes to return for the WCC tournament. Saint Mary's has two victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Utah State 75-64 at home on Feb. 21 and San Diego State 67-64 on a neutral court on Dec. 13. The selection committee will consider Mills' injury when it evaluates Saint Mary's. The Gaels will have a much better chance of making the 65-team field if Mills is back.
Davidson [24-6 (17-2), RPI: 67, SOS: 155] The Wildcats continue to demolish their Southern Conference foes, beating Georgia Southern by 43 points at home Saturday. But Davidson might need to win the upcoming Southern Conference tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn., to return to the NCAA tournament, where it advanced to the region finals in 2008. Davidson has only one victory over an RPI top-50 opponent, beating West Virginia 68-65 on a neutral court on Dec. 9. The Wildcats lost at Duke by 12 points, at Oklahoma by four, against Purdue by 18 (neutral court) and against Butler by 12 (home). Davidson closes the regular season at Elon on Monday.
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