College Basketball Bubble Watch
How will the Bubble treat the Big East?
Editor's note: This file has been updated to include all games through Wednesday, Feb. 24.
With 16 teams, the Big East is the biggest conference in college basketball.
And with five of its teams ranked in the top 11 of the Ratings Percentage Index, it can certainly be argued that the Big East is the best league in the country, too.
But how many other Big East teams will be dancing in the NCAA tournament after Selection Sunday on March 14?
Six other Big East teams remain on the NCAA bubble, and trying to weigh one over the other is like trying to decide which player you want at the foul line in the final seconds. Texas freshman Avery Bradley (48.1 percent) or Syracuse forward Arinze Onuaku (43.1 percent)?
Each of the Big East's bubble teams has had memorable moments and moments it would rather forget.
Here's a breakdown of the Big East teams with work left to do as we get closer to Selection Sunday:
Good: The Cardinals have won five of their past seven games, including a 66-60 upset at Syracuse on Feb. 14. Louisville won head-to-head games against Big East bubble teams Cincinnati and Notre Dame.
Bad: The Cardinals are only 2-6 against RPI top-50 opponents and only 3-6 in true road games.
Ugly: Louisville lost to RPI No. 119 Western Carolina 91-83 at home Dec. 12 and lost at RPI No. 74 St. John's by 19 points Feb. 11.
Good: The Huskies have won three games in a row, including upsets of Villanova (road) and West Virginia (home). UConn also beat Texas 88-74 at home Jan. 23.
Bad: UConn is only 2-6 in true road games and lost to fellow Big East bubble teams Louisville (road), Marquette (home) and Cincinnati (home and road).
Ugly: The Huskies lost a pair of road games to RPI sub-100 opponents, losing at RPI No. 151 Michigan 68-63 on Jan. 17 and at RPI No. 109 Providence 81-66 on Jan. 27.
Good: The Pirates have won four of their past five games and have three victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Pittsburgh (home), Louisville (home) and Cornell (road).
Bad: Seton Hall padded its record with victories over cupcakes, with 10 of its 16 victories coming against teams that are ranked No. 125 or worse in the RPI ratings.
Ugly: The Pirates have lost six of their past seven road games, with the only victory coming at St. John's 59-50 on Feb. 17. They play two of their final three regular-season games away from home.
Good: The Bearcats have four victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Vanderbilt (neutral court), Maryland (neutral court) and Connecticut (home and road). Their wins over the Commodores and Terrapins look a lot better now than they did in late November.
Bad: Cincinnati has lost five of its past eight games, losing to fellow Big East bubble teams Louisville (road), Notre Dame (road) and Marquette (home) along the way.
Ugly: The Bearcats are only 2-7 in true road games and play two of the Big East's better teams away from home (at West Virginia and at Georgetown) before season's end.
Good: The Golden Eagles have won seven of their past eight games, including road victories over fellow Big East bubble teams Cincinnati and Connecticut (road).
Bad: The Golden Eagles are only 2-6 against RPI top-25 foes and 3-7 against the top 50.
Ugly: Marquette will have to overcome a pair of losses to RPI sub-100 teams, falling to No. 120 NC State at home and No. 187 DePaul on the road.
Good: The Fighting Irish have a pair of impressive victories over Big East heavyweights, beating West Virginia 70-68 on Jan. 9 and Pittsburgh 68-53 on Wednesday.
Bad: Notre Dame is only 1-6 in true road games, including losses to fellow Big East bubble teams Connecticut, Louisville, Seton Hall and Cincinnati.
Ugly: The Irish have a pair of losses to RPI sub-100 opponents, losing to No. 181 Loyola Marymount 87-85 at home on Dec. 12 and at No. 125 Rutgers 74-73 on Jan. 30.
|Atlantic 10 Conference|
|Work left to do: Rhode Island, Dayton, Charlotte, Saint Louis|
The A-10 bubble race is about as muddled as the middle of the pack in the Big East. It cleared up a little bit this week when Xavier and Richmond joined Temple in "lock" status. Those three teams are tied for first place in the A-10 standings with 11-2 records, and all seem very safe in terms of NCAA at-large bids. But four other teams are battling for what could be as few as one other at-large spot. Dayton certainly didn't help its chances by losing its second straight game, and Saint Louis has absolutely no room for error after losing to Xavier at home Wednesday.
Rhode Island [20-6 (8-5), RPI: 28, SOS: 64] The Rams walloped Fordham to end a three-game losing streak, but they still face an uphill climb for an NCAA at-large bid. The Rams have only two wins over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Dayton (road) and Oklahoma State (neutral court). Worse, the Rams were swept by Temple and lost to fellow A-10 bubble teams Xavier (road) and Richmond (home). They have only a 1-5 record against the A-10's other teams in contention for an at-large bid. Rhode Island is 0-4 against RPI top-25 foes, 2-4 against the top 50 and 5-6 against the top 100. It might be victimized by the A-10's unbalanced schedule, as it played Dayton, Richmond, Xavier and Charlotte only once, decreasing its chances to pick up signature wins. The Rams play at St. Bonaventure on Saturday and host Charlotte on March 3. They close the regular season at Massachusetts on March 6.
Dayton [18-9 (7-6), RPI: 43, SOS: 31] The Flyers lost their second game in a row Wednesday, falling 49-41 at Temple. The recent slide really puts a dent in Dayton's 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. 194 Saint Joseph's on Jan. 23. Dayton is 2-4 against the A-10's other bubble teams, splitting games against Xavier, beating Charlotte (home), and losing to Temple (road), Rhode Island (home) and Saint Louis (road). Dayton probably needs to win at least two of its last three regular-season games to have a chance. It hosts Massachusetts on Saturday, plays at Richmond on March 4 and hosts Saint Louis on March 6.
Charlotte [19-8 (9-4), RPI: 55, SOS: 118] The 49ers proved once again that they can be really good or really bad on any given night. They routed Saint Joseph's 95-58 at home Wednesday, improving to 9-4 in A-10 play and ending a three-game losing streak. Charlotte has three victories over RPI top-50 foes, defeating Temple (home), Richmond (road) and Louisville (road). Seven of Charlotte's eight losses came against RPI top-50 opponents, but they weren't competitive in all of them, losing by 42 at Duke, 33 at Old Dominion, 17 at Tennessee and 28 at Dayton. The 49ers are 2-4 against RPI top-25 foes, 3-7 against the top 50 and 4-8 against the top 100. They went 3-3 against A-10 bubble teams, beating Temple (home), Richmond (road) and Saint Louis (home) and losing to Xavier (home and road) and Dayton (road). Charlotte plays at George Washington on Saturday and at Rhode Island on March 3, before closing the regular season at home against Richmond on March 6.
Saint Louis [18-9 (9-4), RPI: 90, SOS: 131] The Billikens' late-season magic finally ran out of steam in a 73-71 loss to Xavier at home Wednesday. The loss ended Saint Louis' six-game winning streak and dropped its record to 9-4 in A-10 play. Saint Louis has three home victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Richmond, Rhode Island and Dayton. The Billikens are 4-5 in road games, 3-2 against RPI top-50 opponents and 4-6 against the top 100. The Billikens also have three unsightly losses against RPI sub-100 opponents, losing to Iowa State (neutral court), George Washington (road) and Bowling Green (road). The Billikens host Duquesne on Saturday and Temple on March 3, before closing the regular season at Dayton on March 6. If Saint Louis wins out, the NCAA selection committee might be hard-pressed to take fellow A-10 bubble teams like Dayton and Rhode Island instead of the Billikens.
|Atlantic Coast Conference|
|Work left to do: Georgia Tech, Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech|
We've seen enough. After beating Clemson 88-79 at home on Wednesday, Maryland joins Duke and Wake Forest on as locks. The Terrapins' overall body of work still leaves a little bit to be desired, but with a 10-3 record in ACC play it's just very difficult to imagine their being left out of the NCAA's 65-team field. As long as Georgia Tech gets its act together, there seems to be a good possibility that seven of the league's teams might be headed to the NCAA tournament.
Georgia Tech [18-9 (6-7), RPI: 33, SOS: 13] The Yellow Jackets haven't played since their buzzer-beating heartbreaker at Maryland on Saturday, which dropped their record to 3-7 in true road games. Georgia Tech sits in seventh place in the ACC standings at 6-7, but it also has the highest RPI rating among the ACC bubble teams. The Yellow Jackets have four wins over RPI top-50 teams (Duke, Wake Forest, Siena and Clemson) and are 6-8 against RPI top-100 foes. Six of their nine losses came against RPI top-50 opponents. Georgia Tech plays two of its last three games at home, hosting Boston College on Saturday, playing at Clemson on March 2 and hosting Virginia Tech on March 6.
Florida State [20-7 (8-5), RPI: 34, SOS: 48] Beating North Carolina doesn't mean as much as it used to, but the Seminoles' 77-67 victory over the Tar Heels on Wednesday -- their first win in Chapel Hill since 2000 -- was pretty big. The victory assured FSU of finishing at least 8-8 in ACC play and evened its record in true road games to 5-5. Florida State plays consecutive home games against Clemson on Sunday and Wake Forest on March 3, and it could really use another victory over one of the ACC's better teams. The Noles close the regular season at Miami on March 6. They are 3-6 against RPI top-50 foes, sweeping Georgia Tech and defeating Virginia Tech at home. FSU is 6-6 against the top 100, and all but one of its seven overall losses have come against RPI top-50 foes.
Clemson [19-8 (7-6), RPI: 36, SOS: 34] The Tigers fell into sixth place in the ACC standings after losing at Maryland by nine points on Wednesday. Clemson still seems to be in pretty good shape for an at-large bid, though. It has three victories over RPI top-50 foes, beating Butler (neutral court), Maryland (home) and FSU (home). The Tigers are 1-3 against RPI top-25 foes, 3-6 against the top 50 and 6-7 against the top 100. Clemson has only one RPI sub-100 loss, falling 75-69 at Boston College. The Tigers have won four of their last six games and play at FSU on Sunday. They host Georgia Tech on March 2 and close the regular season at Wake Forest on March 7.
Virginia Tech [21-6 (8-5), RPI: 47, SOS: 159] There isn't a lot of shame in losing an ACC road game, but the Hokies probably hurt themselves by not even showing up at Boston College on Wednesday night. Virginia Tech's 80-60 defeat to the Eagles was a performance it really couldn't afford this late in the season. The Hokies have lost consecutive road games to fall to 8-5 in ACC play. Because of its soft nonconference schedule, Tech might need to finish 10-6 in the ACC to separate itself from the league's other bubble teams. The Hokies have just two wins over RPI top-50 foes, beating Wake Forest and Clemson at home. Other than a so-so win over Seton Hall (neutral court), there isn't much else to crow about on Tech's resume. The Hokies host Maryland on Saturday and NC State on March 3, before closing the regular season at Georgia Tech on March 6. Tech might need to win two of those contests, or at least beat the Terps or Yellow Jackets and win a couple of games in the ACC tournament.
|Big 12 Conference|
|Work left to do: Oklahoma State|
There was very little movement in the Big 12 this week, besides Oklahoma State falling 69-59 at Texas on Wednesday. The Pokes still have some work to do to join six Big 12 teams that are in very good shape to receive invitations to the NCAA tournament. The Cowboys don't have much time to lick their wounds -- No. 1 Kansas visits Stillwater on Saturday.
Oklahoma State [19-8 (7-6), RPI: 30, SOS: 35] The Cowboys couldn't pull off a Top 25 win for the second time in as many games, losing at Texas by 10 points on Wednesday. The loss ended OSU's three-game win streak, which included an 82-75 defeat of Baylor this past weekend. The Cowboys are 3-6 in true road games, 3-5 against RPI top-50 foes and 4-7 against the top 100. The Pokes have three high-quality Big 12 victories (in addition to the Baylor win, they defeated Kansas State 73-69 on the road on Jan. 23 and Texas A&M 76-69 at home on Jan. 27), but their nonconference work leaves a lot to be desired. OSU's best non-Big 12 victory came against RPI No. 105 Bradley. OSU will have two more chances to make a claim for an at-large bid when it hosts No. 1 Kansas on Saturday and plays at Texas A&M on Wednesday. The Pokes close the regular season at home against Nebraska on March 6.
|Big East Conference|
|Work left to do: Connecticut, Louisville, Seton Hall, Marquette, Cincinnati, Notre Dame|
Connecticut and Notre Dame, which were left for dead a couple of weeks ago, continue to take giant steps in the right direction. The Huskies are winning now that coach Jim Calhoun has returned from a leave of absence, while the Fighting Irish are winning without the country's second-leading scorer, Luke Harangody, who remains sidelined with a bone bruise in his right knee. UConn upset West Virginia 73-62 at home on Big Monday, and Notre Dame surprised Pittsburgh 68-53 at home on Wednesday. South Florida, which lost for the fourth time in five games to fall to 6-9 in the Big East standings, is out of the bubble discussion for now. But the Bulls could come back if they finish the season strong.
Connecticut [17-11 (7-8), RPI: 40, SOS: 2] The Huskies made another big statement on Monday, upsetting West Virginia by 11 points at home. Connecticut has won three of four games since Calhoun has returned from a medical leave of absence (it went 3-4 without him), which might mean something to the NCAA selection committee. The Huskies have won three straight games for the first time since late December and also won at Villanova 84-75 on Feb. 15. UConn will host Louisville on Sunday afternoon before finishing the regular season with road games at Notre Dame on Wednesday and at South Florida on March 6. UConn is only 2-6 in true road games, 3-6 against RPI top-50 foes and 9-9 against the top 100. The Huskies have played the country's second-toughest schedule, which will earn them some points on Selection Sunday, and six of their 11 losses have come against top-50 foes.
Louisville [18-10 (9-6), RPI: 42, SOS: 9] Louisville coach Rick Pitino told his team that he believes it will need 11 Big East victories to make the NCAA tournament's 65-team field. After losing to Georgetown 70-60 at home on Tuesday night, the Cardinals need to win two of their last three regular-season games (or do some damage in the Big East tournament) to pull it off. The Cards' Big East record is 9-6, which is better than the record of most of the league's other bubble teams. They also upset Syracuse 66-60 on the road on Feb. 14. But Louisville doesn't have much of anything to show the NCAA committee from its nonconference schedule. The Cardinals play their next two games on the road against bubble teams -- at Connecticut on Sunday and at Marquette on Tuesday -- before finishing the regular season and closing out Freedom Hall against Syracuse on March 6. The Cardinals are only 2-6 against RPI top-50 opponents, 6-9 against the top 100 and 3-6 in true road games.
Seton Hall [16-10 (7-8), RPI: 52, SOS: 18] The Pirates kept their at-large hopes alive by beating Rutgers 76-70 on Tuesday, but their overall body of work still trails many of the Big East's other bubble teams. Seton Hall has won four of its past five games, but three of the victories have come against the league's lesser teams (DePaul, St. John's and Rutgers). Nine of its 10 losses are to RPI top-50 foes, including overtime defeats to West Virginia (home) and Virginia Tech (neutral court). Seton Hall is 3-6 in true road games, 3-9 against RPI top-50 opponents and 6-10 against the top 100. The Pirates might be able to pad their league record in their last three regular-season games. After hosting Marquette on Sunday, they play at Rutgers on March 4 and at Providence on March 6.
Marquette [18-9 (9-6), RPI: 54, SOS: 65] Jimmy Butler might have saved the Golden Eagles' at-large chances when he made a baseline jumper as time expired in a 63-61 overtime victory at St. John's on Wednesday night. With a mediocre computer profile, Marquette probably could not have absorbed a loss to the Red Storm, even on the road. The Golden Eagles have won seven of their past eight games, with the only loss coming to Pitt (58-51) at home on Feb. 18. Marquette has three wins over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Georgetown (home), Xavier (neutral court) and Connecticut (road). The Golden Eagles will have to overcome two RPI sub-100 losses, losing to RPI No. 120 NC State 77-73 at home and to No. 187 DePaul 51-50 on the road. Marquette faces three Big East bubble teams to close the regular season: at Seton Hall on Sunday, home against Louisville on Tuesday and Notre Dame on March 6.
Cincinnati [16-11 (7-8), RPI: 59, SOS: 29] The Bearcats' at-large hopes seem fleeting at best, even after a 74-69 victory over DePaul at home Wednesday. Cincinnati has lost four of its past six games, including three to Big East bubble teams Notre Dame, South Florida and Marquette. The Bearcats really could use some high-end victories to help their cause, so their last three regular-season games (at West Virginia on Saturday, home against Villanova on Tuesday and at Georgetown on March 6) stand to be ultraimportant. Cincinnati picked up four wins over RPI top-50 foes, beating Vanderbilt and Maryland at the Maui Invitational in late November and sweeping Connecticut. It has lost three overtime games (against Xavier, Gonzaga and Marquette), and six of its 11 losses have come against RPI top-50 foes. Cincinnati is only 2-7 in road games, 4-6 against RPI top-50 opponents and 6-11 against the top 100.
Notre Dame [18-10 (7-8), RPI: 72, SOS: 63] The Fighting Irish picked up a huge victory Wednesday night, beating Pittsburgh by 15 points at home. Notre Dame won even without Harangody, who missed his third straight game. The upset of the Panthers was the Irish's second victory over an RPI top-50 foe; they also defeated West Virginia 70-68 at home on Jan. 9. Other than beating Cincinnati at home and sweeping games against South Florida, there just isn't much meat on the Irish's résumé. So there's still plenty of work to do between now and Selection Sunday. Notre Dame is just 1-6 in true road games, 2-4 against RPI top-50 foes and 6-8 against the top 100. ND will have myriad chances to impress the NCAA selection committee down the stretch. It plays at Georgetown on Saturday, hosts Connecticut on Wednesday and plays at Marquette on March 6.
|Big Ten Conference|
|Work left to do: Illinois, Minnesota|
Big Ten leader Purdue won the game Wednesday night, coming from behind to beat Minnesota 59-58 on the road. But star forward Robbie Hummel injured his right knee in the first half, throwing a potentially serious wrench into the Big Ten race, as well as the Boilermakers' hopes for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Minnesota's loss sets up a huge game at Illinois on Saturday. The Illini and Gophers still have plenty of work to do before Selection Sunday.
Illinois [18-10 (10-5), RPI: 64, SOS: 66] After losing consecutive games to Ohio State (home) and Purdue (road), the Illini got back on track Tuesday night, defeating Michigan 51-44 on the road. Illinois closes the season with three potentially difficult games: home against fellow Big Ten bubble team Minnesota on Saturday, at Ohio State on March 2 and home against Wisconsin on March 6. With a pretty mediocre computer profile, Illinois might need to win at least two of those games -- or perform well in the Big Ten tournament -- to have a solid chance on Selection Sunday. The Illini are 4-6 against RPI top-50 foes and 6-8 against the top 100. Their 6-3 record in true road games should help their chances. Illinois has four high-end victories, beating Vanderbilt (home), Wisconsin (road), Michigan State (home) and Clemson (road). But the NCAA selection committee might not like the fact that 12 of their 18 victories came against teams that are ranked No. 150 or worse in the RPI ratings.
Minnesota [16-11 (7-8), RPI: 81, SOS: 39] The Gophers missed a golden chance at getting back on the right side of the bubble, falling to Big Ten leader Purdue by one point at home Wednesday. The Gophers' third loss in five games sets up a huge game at Illinois on Saturday. After playing the Illini, the Gophers play winnable games at Michigan on March 2 and home against Iowa on March 7. The Gophers have three quality victories, defeating Butler (neutral court), Wisconsin (home) and Ohio State (home). They're 3-6 against RPI top-50 opponents, 4-9 against the top 100 and 2-6 in true road games. The Gophers have two RPI sub-150 losses, falling to Michigan 71-63 at home on Feb. 11 and losing at Indiana 81-78 in overtime on Jan. 17.
|Mountain West Conference|
|Work left to do: San Diego State, UNLV|
New Mexico and BYU are "locks" for NCAA at-large bids. But the Lobos and Cougars will play Saturday at Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, in a game that will probably decide the Mountain West Conference regular-season championship. The Cougars dealt a blow to San Diego State's at-large hopes with an 82-68 victory at home Wednesday. The Lobos beat BYU 76-72 in Albuquerque, N.M., on Jan. 27.
San Diego State [20-8 (9-5), RPI: 37, SOS: 50] The Aztecs saw their four-game winning streak end with an 82-68 loss at BYU on Wednesday. They had won eight of 10 games before losing to the Cougars. San Diego State split games against MWC bubble team UNLV and New Mexico and was swept by BYU. The big problem is that San Diego State's nonconference profile isn't as strong as UNLV's. The Aztecs will also have to overcome two ugly losses: 71-63 at RPI No. 122 Pacific on Nov. 25 and 85-83 at No. 215 Wyoming on Jan. 9. San Diego State is 2-5 against RPI top-50 foes and 4-6 against the top 100. San Diego State closes the regular season with a home game against Colorado State on March 3 and road game at Air Force on March 6, so there really isn't another chance to impress the NCAA selection committee during the regular season. The Aztecs might have to make some serious noise in the MWC tournament to have a chance at an NCAA at-large bid.
UNLV [21-7 (9-5), RPI: 44, SOS: 81] The Runnin' Rebels won their second game in a row Wednesday, routing TCU 78-62 at home. UNLV shouldn't face much resistance in its last two regular-season games, either, as it plays at Air Force on Saturday and hosts Wyoming on March 6. UNLV should be in pretty good shape, with an 8-3 record in true road games, a 4-4 record against RPI top-50 foes and a 7-5 record against the top 100. UNLV beat traditional powers such as Louisville (home) and Arizona (road) and won in tough environments like The Pit at New Mexico. The Rebels split games against MWC leaders BYU and New Mexico, as well as fellow MWC bubble team San Diego State.
|Work left to do: California, Arizona State, Washington|
Three Pac-10 teams remain fringe bubble candidates at best, making this weekend's round of games that much more important. If Cal and Arizona State can win Thursday night -- the Bears host Arizona and the Sun Devils play at Stanford -- they'll play for the Pac-10 lead at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, Calif., on Saturday. Cal won the first meeting between the teams, 78-70 in Tempe, Ariz., on Jan. 28.
California [18-9 (10-5), RPI: 24, SOS: 3] The Bears' at-large chances really took a jolt with their 80-64 loss at RPI No. 184 Oregon State last week. Cal bounced back to beat Oregon 64-49 on the road Saturday, but its loss to the Beavers was its second to an RPI sub-100 opponent (it also lost to UCLA 76-75 in overtime on Jan. 6). The Bears have a great computer profile and have played one of the country's toughest schedules. But Cal hasn't beaten an RPI top-50 opponent and is 0-4 against such foes. The Bears are 5-7 against the top 100, with their best nonconference win coming against RPI No. 73 Murray State and No. 99 UC Santa Barbara. The Bears play home games against Arizona on Thursday and Arizona State on Saturday, before closing the regular season at Stanford on March 6.
Arizona State [19-8 (9-5), RPI: 56, SOS: 75] The Sun Devils' overall body of work hardly suggests they're a legitimate bubble team, but it's hard to ignore a team that is tied in the loss column for first place in the Pac-10 standings. Arizona State beat rival Arizona 73-69 on the road Sunday, improving its record to 9-5 against Pac-10 foes. The Sun Devils have one victory over an RPI top-50 opponent, defeating San Diego State 55-52 at home on Dec. 19. It has only three other wins over the RPI top 100, beating Washington (home), UC Santa Barbara (home) and Arizona (road). The Sun Devils have won five of their past six games and play their next two contests on the road: at Stanford on Thursday and at California on Saturday. Arizona State closes the regular season with home games against USC on March 4 and UCLA on March 6.
Washington [18-9 (8-7), RPI: 62, SOS: 57] The Huskies had a mixed bag of results last week, losing to USC 67-64 at home Thursday before drilling UCLA 97-68 on Saturday. With a 1-6 record in true road games and a middling computer profile, the Huskies remain a fringe bubble candidate at best. The Huskies have a couple of RPI top-50 wins, beating Texas A&M (neutral court) and Cal (home). But Washington's woeful record in road games definitely won't help its cause, nor will a 2-2 mark against RPI top-50 foes. The Huskies finish the regular season with three straight road games: at Washington State on Saturday, at Oregon on March 4 and at Oregon State on March 6.
|Work left to do: Florida, Mississippi State|
After a two-year hiatus from the NCAA tournament, Florida coach Billy Donovan has the Gators headed toward March Madness again. Florida routed Tennessee 75-62 at home Tuesday, its third consecutive victory. But the Gators still play three potentially difficult games, starting with Saturday's road game at Georgia. The Bulldogs have beaten three nationally ranked opponents at home: Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt and Tennessee. Florida won the first meeting 87-71 in Gainesville, Fla., on Jan. 27.
Florida [20-8 (9-4), RPI: 48, SOS: 54] The Gators took a big step toward ending their two-year absence from the NCAA tournament by blasting Tennessee 75-62 at home Tuesday. The victory moved Florida into third place in the SEC East standings -- one game ahead of the Volunteers -- with three games to go in the regular season. Florida plays at Georgia on Saturday, before playing two tough games against Vanderbilt at home on March 2 and at SEC leader Kentucky on March 7. The victory over Tennessee was Florida's third over an RPI top-50 opponent; it also defeated Michigan State (neutral court) and Florida State (home) in November. The Gators are 3-6 against RPI top-50 foes and 7-7 against the top 100.
Mississippi State [20-8 (8-5), RPI: 58, SOS: 121] The Bulldogs took care of business Wednesday, beating Alabama 74-66 at home. But their at-large chances still seem remote because of their dearth of quality victories. MSU's only win over an RPI top-50 opponent came against Old Dominion in the South Padre Island Invitational in late November. Besides sweeping rival Ole Miss and beating the Monarchs, the Bulldogs' best victories came against Wright State and Georgia. That's probably not enough to impress the NCAA selection committee. The Bulldogs are 1-4 against RPI top-50 opponents and 5-4 against the top 100. MSU plays at South Carolina on Saturday and at Auburn on March 3. It might have to beat Tennessee at home on March 6 and win a couple of games in the SEC tournament in Nashville to have a realistic shot at making the NCAA field.
|Other at-large contenders|
|Teams that should be in: Northern Iowa, UTEP|
Work left to do: UAB, Utah State, Old Dominion, Saint Mary's, Cornell
We finally say good-bye to William & Mary, which lost to Towson 83-77 at home on Wednesday. The Tribe was slowly drowning before falling to the 8-19 Tigers. Northern Iowa certainly didn't help itself, either, by losing at Evansville 55-54 on Tuesday night. The Purple Aces are 2-15 against Missouri Valley Conference opponents, but beat the league's top two teams (UNI and Wichita State). The rest of the bubble candidates from mid-major conferences stayed on course so far this week.
Northern Iowa [24-4 (14-3), RPI: 23, SOS: 133] There was a reason the Panthers didn't earn lock status after they defeated Old Dominion 71-62 at home in a BracketBusters game. We weren't convinced they weren't capable of losing to a team like Evansville. The Purple Aces are ranked No. 258 in the RPI ratings, a loss that will certainly cause a lot more anxiety for UNI. It was Northern Iowa's third RPI sub-100 loss (it also fell to Bradley and DePaul). It's still hard to imagine UNI not making the NCAA field. The win over the Monarchs was UNI's second over an RPI top-50 opponent (it also defeated Siena by 17 points at home). The Panthers are 2-0 against RPI top-50 foes and 8-1 against the top 100. The Panthers close the regular season at home against Illinois State on Saturday.
UTEP [21-5 (12-1), RPI: 45, SOS: 125] The Miners won their 11th game in a row on Wednesday, defeating Southern Mississippi 59-56 on the road. UTEP opened a two-game lead in the C-USA standings after Memphis lost 92-75 at Houston on Wednesday. UTEP is 1-1 against RPI top-50 foes and 5-4 against the top 100. Its lone top-50 victory was a 74-65 win in double overtime at UAB on Jan. 30. The Miners don't have much to show the NCAA selection committee from their nonconference schedule, with their best wins coming against RPI No. 66 New Mexico State (road) and No. 104 Oklahoma (neutral court). The Miners host Rice on Saturday, play at Marshall on March 2 and host UAB on March 6.
UAB [22-5 (10-3), RPI: 32, SOS: 103] The Blazers won their third straight game Wednesday night, beating Central Florida 53-49 on the road to tie Memphis for second place in the Conference USA standings. The Blazers trail first-place UTEP by two games in C-USA play. UAB is still riding a 67-57 victory over RPI No. 16 Butler at home on Dec. 22 and so-so wins over Cincinnati (home), Tulsa (home), Georgia (home) and Marshall (road). The Blazers are 1-0 against RPI top-25 foes, 1-2 against the top 50 and 6-4 against the top 100. UAB's 9-3 record in true road games will help its chances. UAB hosts Tulane on Saturday, before playing two key C-USA games in the final week: home against Memphis on March 3 and at UTEP on March 6.
Utah State [22-6 (11-2), RPI: 35, SOS: 78] The Aggies have won 12 games in a row and seem to be in better position as other teams keep falling off the bubble board. Utah State has one victory over an RPI top-50 opponent, beating BYU 71-61 at home on Dec. 2. Utah State's schedule strength is still questionable, with 13 of its 21 victories coming against RPI sub-100 opponents (seven against sub-200 teams). The Aggies play at Hawaii on Thursday and host Fresno State on March 1. They close the regular season at home against New Mexico State on March 6. The Aggies probably can't afford another loss in the regular season and need to win at least a couple of games in next month's WAC tournament to have a decent chance on Selection Sunday.
Old Dominion [22-8 (14-3), RPI: 41, SOS: 86] ODU bounced back from its BracketBusters loss with a 75-62 victory at Georgia State on Tuesday. The nine-point loss at Northern Iowa might raise ODU's anxiety level, but the Monarchs still seem to be in OK shape for an NCAA 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 George Mason on Jan. 2. ODU is 1-4 against RPI top-50 foes and 6-7 against the top 100. It closes CAA play at home against Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday.
Saint Mary's [22-5 (9-3), RPI: 46, SOS: 134] The Gaels' decision to pull out of a BracketBusters game could really come back to haunt them. After losing two of their past three games, they could have really used a marquee victory over another team from a mid-major conference. Saint Mary's beat RPI No. 221 San Diego 61-49 on the road last week, but that win didn't do much for its schedule strength and won't raise an eyebrow with the NCAA selection committee. Saint Mary's has two victories over RPI top-50 foes, beating San Diego State 80-58 at home on Nov. 16 and beating Utah State 68-63 on the road on Dec. 5. The Gaels are 2-3 against RPI top-50 foes and 5-5 against the top 100. Saint Mary's will get some help from its 9-2 record in true road games, but probably needs to do some serious damage in the WCC tournament to have any chance at an NCAA at-large bid. Saint Mary's plays its last two regular-season games at home, against Pepperdine on Thursday and Loyola Marymount on Saturday.
Cornell [23-4 (9-1), RPI: 49, SOS: 199] Cornell took a big step toward winning the Ivy League regular-season championship -- and claiming the corresponding NCAA tournament automatic bid -- by beating Harvard 79-70 on the road last week. After defeating Dartmouth 88-70 on the road on Saturday, the Big Red maintained a one-game lead over Princeton in the Ivy League standings, and the teams will play at Cornell on Friday. The Big Red has a couple of so-so victories over teams from BCS conferences, winning 71-67 at Alabama and 71-66 at St. John's. It also lost at Syracuse by 15 points and at Kansas by five. Cornell is 0-2 against RPI top-50 foes and 3-3 against the top 100. Its 11-3 record in true road games will help its chance of earning an at-large bid if it doesn't win the Ivy League crown.