College Basketball Bubble Watch
Teams are missing out on opportunities to get off the bubble
Does anyone want to dance?
The weakest bubble in years combined with teams' uncanny ability to throw away needed wins in spectacular fashion makes for an interesting watch -- and one huge headache for the selection committee if things don't clear up in the next 14 days.
Just look at a representative sample of what happened on Saturday to teams with a ton at stake:
• Syracuse completely gave away a game to Pitt at home
• Kent State followed up its big BracketBuster win by losing at Bowling Green
• Houston lost at East Carolina
• George Mason was pounded at Northeastern
• Ohio State was handled at Minnesota
• Texas A&M was destroyed at Oklahoma
• Southern Illinois lost at home to Illinois State
Oh, and Kentucky, which actually was playing its way into the bracket, lost its best player for the season.
All this backsliding is why teams like New Mexico, Virginia Tech, Villanova and Western Kentucky are not only in the mix, but in some cases, would make the field of 65 right now, warts and all. There's plenty of room for everyone. Just go win a couple of games. No one else is.
As always, the records listed are Division I only, per NCAA Tournament selection guidelines. If you have a legitimate grievance or just like talking bubble, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Next update: Wednesday, March 5.
|Atlantic 10 Conference|
|Work left to do: Dayton, Rhode Island, Temple, Massachusetts, Saint Joseph's|
After Sunday's games, you'd have to like Saint Joe's and UMass' chances of ultimately making it out of this conference alive, but things can change rapidly, as they have all season. Former favorites Rhode Island and Dayton appear to have large hills to climb now with minimal time left in which to do it.
Work left to do:
Dayton [23-7 (15-3), RPI: 28, SOS: 71] You have to walk before you can fly, even if you are the Flyers. Dayton took the first step needed by staving off Fordham. They need to win at St. Bona and then at home against Saint Joe's to get back to .500 and have a chance entering the A-10 tourney. Dayton does have two outstanding nonconference wins -- at Louisville and versus Pitt -- which others in their position don't, and several other solid nonleague wins. If Chris Wright can make it back and they look good with him, they could get some consideration there, too.
Rhode Island [23-9 (13-5), RPI: 37, SOS: 51] Following up the three-game "sweeps week" at home with a disaster at GW put the Rams in extremely bad shape. Not even the win at La Salle on Saturday makes things that much better. URI probably needs to win out until the conference title game to have an at-large chance. A nonconference road win over Syracuse, which might not make the NCAAs, had been the best the Rams could offer in that category, but it now may be their neutral-court win over UAB.
Temple [16-16 (7-11), RPI: 136, SOS: 85] The Owls are here more to throw a wrench into other team's plans at this point. It would take something like running the table to the league final and losing a barnburner to Xavier, but stranger things have happened, especially if the Owls can take out Saint Joseph's and end up finishing second in the league. Their nonconference schedule is littered with seven losses, which could be too many to make up.
Massachusetts [15-18 (4-14), RPI: 194, SOS: 119] The Minutemen continued down the path to an at-large, taking out Richmond on Saturday. That's now four wins in a row for a team that has a very solid mark against the RPI Top 50. UMass' last two (La Salle, at GW) are fairly soft for this league, even though neither is a gimme. UMass was swept by Saint Joseph's and lost to Xavier, but swept Rhode Island and beat Dayton and Charlotte in its only meetings with those teams. Like Rhode Island, it beat Syracuse. They also beat BC and Houston in nonconference play.
Saint Joseph's [11-20 (4-14), RPI: 199, SOS: 81] The Hawks unexpectedly bit the dust at home to Saint Louis Thursday and now faces an absolutely critical home game against Temple on Sunday. The last two are home to Xavier and at Dayton, so beating the Owls is basically a must. The season sweep of UMass could be a chip with the Hawks and Minutemen jousting for the second and third positions in the A-10 pecking order, but right now, UMass seems to be ahead. Saint Joe's has a really tough collection of nonleague losses. Two were in overtime (Gonzaga, at Creighton), and two were close defeats (at Syracuse, Holy Cross). One problem -- only the Zags look like they will be an NCAA team from that group. A 10-6 league mark should put them in pretty good shape, even though the RPI is a little lower than you'd like.
|Atlantic Coast Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Miami, Clemson|
Work left to do: Maryland, Virginia Tech
Miami gets a push toward the bracket while Wake Forest got pushed out of the watch. The ACC is starting to look very good for four bids and Maryland and Virginia Tech still have decent control over their own fates.
Should be in:
Miami [21-11 (10-8), RPI: 42, SOS: 41] The Canes got a very important two-point win over Virginia on Saturday and remain on course to make the NCAAs. The strong computer numbers hint that Miami merely needs two more wins, either regular-season or ACC, to feel pretty good about its chances, so they get a bump up in pecking order. Miami had a few credible wins in nonconference play, including victories over Mississippi State and VCU, which is more than a number of other bubble teams have to offer.
Clemson [17-15 (6-12), RPI: 69, SOS: 29] If the Tigers can handle Maryland on Sunday, they're all but in the dance. They're at Georgia Tech and home to Virginia Tech to close things out, so 10 wins looks very attainable. Victories over Purdue and Mississippi State in nonconference play look very solid now, as do the computer numbers.
Work left to do:
Maryland [23-8 (12-6), RPI: 34, SOS: 54] The Terps got a very important win Thursday night at Wake Forest. Now they host Clemson ahead of the season finale at Virginia. Get both and things are looking a whole lot better. Remember, Miami and Virginia Tech (sweep) have head-to-head tiebreakers. Their RPI remains very questionable for an at-large bid, due in part to a number of home and neutral losses in nonconference play. One of those, to VCU, could hurt if the Rams don't win the CAA's auto bid. Maryland needs to find a least two more wins, and preferably three, to have a truly legit claim.
Virginia Tech [22-10 (10-8), RPI: 47, SOS: 75] Three wins in a row have the Hokies in the mix. They host Wake Forest before closing the regular season at Clemson in a game that could have huge bubble implications for the Hokies. They need all the league wins they can get; their nonconference schedule has next to nothing in it, other than losses to very good (and a couple of OK) teams. The RPI remains questionable, as well.
|Big 12 Conference|
|Work left to do: Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma|
The Big 12 is now officially a complete mess. K-State has lost five of six. Texas A&M has lost four of five and has a really rough last two. Now Oklahoma State has poked its way into the mix while Texas Tech took out Texas for a marquee win. How anyone would sort through this bunch today is anyone's guess. ... You can see anywhere from four to six bids coming out of this conference, depending on the stretch run.
Work left to do:
Baylor [24-7 (12-6), RPI: 11, SOS: 5] This is the way this season has gone: The Bears lost six out of seven in one stretch in Big 12 play and now look to be ahead of K-State for third in the pecking order. They handled Colorado and Mizzou and now have a chance to really help themselves by beating Texas A&M on Wednesday. They close at Texas Tech. In nonconference play, Baylor beat Notre Dame and Winthrop on its way to the Paradise Jam title in the Virgin Islands, and it also won at South Carolina. The Bears' nonconference losses were by three to Washington State at home and to Arkansas in Dallas.
Oklahoma State [19-12 (9-9), RPI: 39, SOS: 15] It's time to take a quick peek at the Pokes. Five straight wins have them at .500 in the league, and they have chances against Oklahoma (to beat a bubble rival) and at Texas (marquee road win) to improve their lot considerably by this time next week. The pounding of Washington is the best result in a less-than-great nonconference run that includes losses to Marquette, Pitt, Oral Roberts, Illinois and North Texas.
Kansas State [20-13 (8-10), RPI: 56, SOS: 43] Early foul trouble more or less defused the rematch with Kansas. K-State has lost five of its last six and is in some bubble trouble, for now. The Wildcats have a very manageable last two (Colorado, at Iowa State) and probably need to get both of them to feel good about their position entering the Big 12 tourney. 10-6 might be good enough to get a first-round bye, so K-State might need to win its quarterfinal game, which would be against one of the other bubblers. Having a win over Kansas never hurts, but a win over Cal is the best thing on a nonconference résumé that includes losses to George Mason, Notre Dame, Oregon and Xavier.
Texas A&M [16-15 (8-10), RPI: 93, SOS: 42] Aggies fans should now be considerably concerned after Saturday's awful performance in Norman gave A&M four losses in five games. Now the Aggies travel to Baylor for a huge game on Wednesday before closing at home with Kansas. Neither is a gimme in the least, and it's not certain that A&M can overcome a 7-9 league mark. The Aggies really need to get at least one of these next two. Their best nonconference win, over Ohio State, is rapidly losing steam. The other wins -- over UTEP, Washington, Alabama and LSU -- were decent but not great. Having blown a big lead and lost at Arizona might prove costly. They do have a big win in league play over Texas.
Texas Tech [18-14 (6-12), RPI: 125, SOS: 122] What do you make of the Red Raiders? They lost by 43 at reeling Texas A&M and then stunned Texas at home for a marquee win. They have two more big chances -- at Kansas and vs. Baylor -- to improve their position. They'll need at least one of those plus some damage in the Big 12 tourney to have a real shot, but the opportunity is still there. Texas Tech beat Gonzaga in nonconference play (in Alaska) but also lost at Sam Houston State and Centenary.
Oklahoma [11-20 (5-13), RPI: 169, SOS: 31] The Sooners throttled Texas A&M on Saturday to get a huge win for their profile and really put a dent in the Aggies' hopes. Wednesday's game at OK State is now huge for both teams with the Pokes' recent surge. For tiebreaker purposes, remember that Oklahoma swept Baylor, which may be No. 3 in the league pecking order at the moment. OU's three-game skid earlier this month came when Longar Longar was out, so they should get some consideration there. As far as nonconference play, early losses to Memphis and USC were understandable. The home loss to Stephen F. Austin was less so, even with the excellent season SFA is having. The Sooners did beat Gonzaga and West Virginia on neutral floors for some heft and some good tiebreaking chips, if needed.
|Big East Conference|
|Teams that should be in: Pittsburgh|
Work left to do: Villanova, West Virginia, Seton Hall, Syracuse
Pitt moves into a virtual lock position after beating Cincy and then stealing one from Syracuse on Saturday. That loss is very damaging for the Orange, but West Virginia doesn't mind. The Mountaineers couldn't handle UConn but still sit in OK position heading into a home meeting with Pitt.
Should be in:
Pittsburgh [16-17 (4-14), RPI: 73, SOS: 6] Pitt is all but in after stealing the win Saturday at Syracuse. They might not even need one more win, but that would definitely do it. The marquee win over Duke still looks nice, and nonconference wins over Washington and Oklahoma State aren't bad, either.
Work left to do:
Villanova [31-3 (15-3), RPI: 1, SOS: 37] Back under .500 in league play, the Cats would be well-served by at least handling South Florida and a trip to Provy in their last two to ensure at least a 9-9 mark. If they are close, will there be any weight given to the questionable last-second foul calls against NC State and Georgetown that helped decide those games? Nova's best nonconference win was over George Mason and the Wildcats were routed by bubble and city rival Saint Joseph's earlier in February.
West Virginia [26-8 (12-6), RPI: 24, SOS: 72] The Mountaineers are guaranteed at least a .500 mark in Big East play, but who they have beaten to get there isn't very impressive. They have one win over a team in the top half of the league. Given that the best thing WVU did in nonconference play was probably the two-point loss to Tennessee, the Mountaineers should want to get at least 10 league wins to feel solid about their chances, even with OK computer numbers given the landscape.
Seton Hall [21-11 (10-8), RPI: 44, SOS: 52] Losing at St. John's on Saturday is a crushing blow to whatever hopes the Pirates had. Now they probably need four or five straight wins to have a chance. As with Syracuse, their best nonconference win was over Virginia, although the Pirates won that one on a neutral court at the Palestra in Philly.
Syracuse [18-14 (10-8), RPI: 84, SOS: 63] The Orange gave away a game to Pitt on Saturday and now are in very serious bubble trouble. In a vacuum, it seems the Orange really need four straight wins now (at Seton Hall, vs. Marquette and then into the Big East semis) to have a legit chance. In nonconference play, their wins over Saint Joseph's at home and at Virginia are the best on an OK slate, and the Cavaliers aren't helping matters with their standing in the ACC. Home losses to UMass and Rhode Island are no disgrace, but certainly don't help.
|Big Ten Conference|
|Work left to do: Ohio State|
The Big Ten looks more and more likely to be a four-bid conference. Ohio State hasn't done anything to stop its slide toward the NIT and Minnesota, despite a .500 record in the league, doesn't have the profile for at-large consideration.
Work left to do:
Ohio State [17-15 (7-11), RPI: 88, SOS: 40] The Buckeyes are completely on the ropes now after losing at Minnesota. They are 1-9 against the RPI Top 50, so they almost certainly need to win their last two (Purdue, Michigan State) and get to the Big Ten semis to have any kind of legit at-large claim. Wins over Syracuse at Madison Square Garden and over Florida in Columbus were the nonconference bright spots, but both continue to lose oomph. OSU also lost to Tennessee, Texas A&M, North Carolina and Butler.
|Teams that should be in: Arizona, USC|
Work left to do: Oregon, Arizona State
With so many crummy teams in legitimate contention nationwide, it's basically impossible to see a way that Washington State wouldn't get in. So the Cougars get locked even after another split this weekend. USC is in very good shape after winning at Arizona, and Arizona State really helped its cause by turning around and beating the Trojans. Arizona has a huge chance to take the disaster scenario off the table at home against UCLA on Sunday. Cal drops off the watch and Oregon remains on the edge.
Should be in:
Arizona [30-4 (16-2), RPI: 2, SOS: 24] The Wildcats are insisting on doing this the hard way, eating another home loss Thursday night to USC and now facing UCLA on Sunday. Up after that is the have-to-get-it game against Pac-10 winless Oregon State and then a huge game at Oregon on Saturday -- especially if the Ducks can beat Arizona State before that. It's hard to believe the No. 1 SOS team would be left out, but if they finish 8-10 and lose in the Pac-10 quarters, the Wildcats would close with eight losses in their last 12 games. They should get some consideration for injuries to Jerryd Bayless and Nic Wise. Their best nonconference win looked like it was over Texas A&M, but that is looking dicier by the day. It might be better to focus on the road wins at UNLV and Houston.
USC [24-9 (10-8), RPI: 41, SOS: 76] The Trojans could more or less have locked things up had they taken care of Arizona State on Saturday, but getting a split of the trip may very well be enough. They close at home against the Bay Area schools and probably only need one win there to feel very good about their chances. In nonconference play, USC beat Oklahoma, Miami (Ohio) and Southern Illinois for its best wins. The season-opening loss to Mercer at home hurts some, and the Trojans just missed on big-name chances against Kansas and Memphis with two four-point losses.
Work left to do:
Oregon [28-5 (16-2), RPI: 9, SOS: 44] There is no way to sugarcoat this: The Ducks probably need to win four straight games (assuming they're not in the 7-10 game in the Pac-10 tourney) to make the NCAAs. That would get them to 9-9 and into the tourney semis. The first should be the gimme of the bunch (at Oregon State). After that, the Arizona schools come calling. The Ducks are 1-7 against the top four teams in the league, which isn't a great indicator of upside. Kansas State and Utah were their best nonconference wins, but the Ducks also lost at Saint Mary's, Nebraska and Oakland.
Arizona State [15-18 (7-11), RPI: 127, SOS: 57] The Sun Devils came up huge in the second half Saturday, hanging a 55-spot on USC to grab a very, very crucial home win. The RPI/SOS combo suggests that the Sun Devils might need to get both this week in Oregon, and they get first shot at extinguishing the Ducks' at-large hopes Thursday night. ASU's rout of Xavier is a very good chip, but it's the only game from their nonconference run that will help.
|Work left to do: Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Ole Miss|
The RPI is a touch high, but with the bubble the way it is, there's no way the committee will omit Mississippi State after the Bulldogs have won the SEC West and have at least 11 league wins. They did start 5-5 in nonconference play, but four of those teams (Clemson, Miami, South Alabama and Southern Illinois) might be in the NCAAs. That gives the SEC three bids. Now what? The Patrick Patterson situation really complicates Kentucky's status, especially if they can win a couple more games without him. Arkansas is hanging around. Ole Miss could make a run with its schedule and the Rebels have some meat in their nonconference slate. Florida needs to get some more wins. Arkansas probably is in the best shape, and then the three other teams all have work to do. There still is a pretty wide range of possibilities here. Four bids seems pretty likely. Six seems possible, too.
Work left to do:
Kentucky [28-5 (16-2), RPI: 4, SOS: 23] What was already an intriguing at-large case became even more complicated with the loss of Patrick Patterson for the season. UK probably won't be able to win in Knoxville on Sunday, but what happens if they still can handle a trip to South Carolina and a home game with Florida. How do you judge this team if it does finish 12-4 in the SEC? It's amazing we're even talking about this after a bad nonconference slate that included crippling home losses to Gardner-Webb and San Diego? The ultimate Billy Gillispie irony is still possible, with UK making it and Texas A&M not.
Florida [24-8 (14-4), RPI: 10, SOS: 8] After beating Georgia on the road midweek, the Gators dropped a critical home game to Mississippi State on Saturday. Now Tennessee comes to the Swamp on Wednesday before a season finale at crippled Kentucky, which could be a huge break for Florida's chances. Florida's best nonconference win was over Temple, which tells you all you need to know about that part of its schedule. With the SOS really weighing on the RPI, it could take 10 SEC wins or a deep tourney run for this club.
Arkansas [25-8 (12-6), RPI: 25, SOS: 58] The Hogs took advantage of Vandy's suspect road form to grab a huge home win for their profile. That was especially critical after losing at struggling Alabama Wednesday night. Tuesday night's trip to Ole Miss looms very large for both teams. Arkansas closes at home to Auburn, which should be a win, but who knows. The Hogs' nonconference win over Baylor still looks good. Victories over VCU and Missouri are decent, too. Losses to Providence and Appalachian State (the latter in Little Rock) are less so.
Ole Miss [20-13 (10-8), RPI: 75, SOS: 73] Watch out for this team. The Rebels could be the Arkansas of this season. Yes, they had lost eight of 11 in league play before Saturday's three-point win over Alabama, but they have winnable games left against Arkansas and at Georgia. If they can get to 7-9, they likely would finish third in the SEC West and would be able to avoid Tennessee until the SEC tourney finals. Everyone else is beatable, so why couldn't the Rebels make a run to the title game like last season's Hogs? They are 5-3 against the RPI Top 50, which is a lot better than most bubble candidates. A win over Clemson in Puerto Rico was the out-of-league highlight, but their victory over South Alabama was quality, too.
|Other at-large contenders|
|Teams that should be in: Saint Mary's, BYU, Kent State, South Alabama, UNLV|
Work left to do: VCU, Creighton, Illinois State, Houston, New Mexico, Davidson, Southern Illinois, UAB, Stephen F. Austin, Western Kentucky, Oral Roberts
Gonzaga's win over Saint Mary's makes the WCC look like two bids is a near certainty. The Mountain West is heading in that direction, too, as BYU and UNLV keep pace. What about the Valley? Can Illinois State make a good enough case now that the Redbirds have repelled Southern Illinois? It will take two more wins, but they could get there. UAB is now clearly No. 2 in the C-USA pecking order; will that be enough if they can't get one from Memphis? VCU has a dominant CAA title in its possession, which looks good. One team that now needs to be a bit careful: Kent State, after dropping a game at Bowling Green. The Flashes can probably survive one more loss. Maybe not two.
Should be in:
Saint Mary's [28-4 (16-2), RPI: 17, SOS: 78] The Gaels got a very important home win over San Diego on Monday night. Now they look safe to finish in the top two, however the showdown at Gonzaga this weekend ends up, and that probably should be enough with what they have already done. That also would clinch a bye into the WCC semis, although that game could be against San Diego again at the Slim Gym, where the Gaels lost earlier this season. Their solid nonconference slate includes victims like Drake, Oregon, Seton Hall, San Diego State and Ohio.
BYU [22-11 (12-6), RPI: 66, SOS: 87] The Cougars handled Air Force and now are a home win over Wyoming from clinching a share of the MWC title. Wins against the lower-division Cowboys and at TCU would give the Cougars the crown by themselves. They remain in very good shape. One more win probably locks them up. The Cougars also have a very good nonconference win over Louisville. They also lost to North Carolina and Michigan State in competitive efforts. Their loss at Wake Forest doesn't look nearly as bad now as it did at the time.
Kent State [21-13 (10-8), RPI: 143, SOS: 224] Losing at Bowling Green wasn't exactly the follow-up Kent State wanted after winning at Saint Mary's in BracketBusters, and it uses up one of the Golden Flashes remaining missteps. With Miami and a trip to Akron remaining, it's not a lock that Kent won't lose again before the MAC tourney. Can they absorb two more losses? Wins over Illinois State and George Mason out of conference could come in handy. One other side note -- if Kent loses one more game and Western Michigan wins its last two, WMU would be in line for the NIT auto bid, just like Akron was trumped by Toledo last season, which had a better record in the inferior MAC West.
South Alabama [12-18 (7-11), RPI: 230, SOS: 169] The Jags locked up a share of the Sun Belt crown and the No. 1 seed in the conference tourney, so they remain in very solid shape for an at-large. A finals appearance in the Sun Belt tourney might be enough, even though they are playing the event at home. South Alabama's three nonconference losses were at Ole Miss by three, at Vandy by three in double overtime and by five to Miami (Ohio) in Anaheim. Its best nonleague win was at home over Mississippi State.
UNLV [11-21 (4-14), RPI: 238, SOS: 121] Tuesday's game at New Mexico is really important for the Rebels, who need to keep winning to stay in line for an at-large. The computer numbers look pretty good, but if UNLV needs a safety net, the Rebels also get the conference tourney on their home court. Their three-point loss to Arizona at home was a big missed opportunity in nonconference play. They also lost to Louisville by 20 and don't have a really good nonconference win, so league positioning and overall record will be important.
Work left to do:
VCU [26-7 (14-4), RPI: 19, SOS: 56] The Rams closed out the season in style, winning eight of their last nine to take the CAA by three games over George Mason and UNC-Wilmington. They beat Akron, Houston and Maryland in nonconference play, so there's some good stuff there, too. The committee seems to value conference regular-season championships, especially by multiple games in good leagues, so this bodes well for VCU's ability to overcome a conference tourney loss.
Creighton [24-9 (10-8), RPI: 26, SOS: 50] The Bluejays won the Valley game of the year Saturday night, edging Bradley 111-110 in double overtime. The best part? Those two teams now meet again in the 4-5 game in the Valley quarters. Fun! Would a trip to the league title game, including a win over Drake in the semis, be enough? Chances are it wouldn't after the loss midweek at Illinois State, but it's not impossible. They have an OK nonconference slate, in which they beat Nebraska and (more importantly, for bubble purposes) Saint Joseph's. They also won at Oral Roberts in BracketBusters.
Illinois State [26-6 (17-1), RPI: 33, SOS: 158] The Redbirds got a huge win at Southern Illinois Saturday night and now may be two MVC wins away from an at-large. Illinois State's best nonconference win was over Cincinnati, so there's not much out of MVC play that will help. That said, finishing second by multiple games in a top-10 league is a pretty solid statement, and the RPI is in pretty good shape.
Houston [21-10 (12-6), RPI: 57, SOS: 74] Ugh. Losing by one at East Carolina may be the loss that cripples Houston's at-large hopes. They really needed to run the table to avoid a "bad loss" if they wanted the committee to give them credit for all of their "good" ones. First things first: Houston needs to beat UCF at home Thursday to stay out of Memphis' half of the tourney bracket. That would also set up a rematch with UAB, which Houston clearly would have to win. Its nonconference losses were to VCU, UMass and Arizona, so there's no shame in any of those.
New Mexico [17-14 (10-8), RPI: 86, SOS: 53] The Lobos suffered a crushing one-point overtime home loss to league leader BYU on Tuesday night, which really dampened their at-large hopes. Now the home game against UNLV on Tuesday is a must-win; catching the Rebels in the standings might be the only way an at-large is reasonable. There is not much in their nonconference profile that will help. You can see that just by looking at the SOS.
Davidson [17-15 (8-10), RPI: 91, SOS: 65] The Wildcats ran the table in the SoCon and remain in the at-large mix. If they lose in the SoCon final, would they be one of the 34 "best" teams available? Probably. Would they have one of the 34 best profiles? Probably not. The Wildcats showed in close early losses to North Carolina, Duke, NC State and UCLA how good they are, but can a SoCon team really overcome a 2-6 record in D-I nonconference games? For the Wildcats' sake, let's hope they don't want to have to find out.
Southern Illinois [16-16 (9-9), RPI: 145, SOS: 94] The Salukis suffered a crushing home loss Saturday to second-place Illinois State and now very well might have to win the auto bid to get into the NCAAs. The good news is that SIU still finished third, which means they can get another crack at the Redbirds in the tourney semis. But Ill. State already swept them this season and finished two games ahead in the standings. That will be hard for the committee to overlook. In nonconference play, they beat Mississippi State, Saint Mary's and Western Kentucky, so there is some good stuff in their profile, which also includes losses to USC, Indiana, Charlotte, Saint Louis, Western Michigan and Butler.
UAB [16-16 (9-9), RPI: 200, SOS: 178] The Blazers won at UTEP and crushed Tulane to stay on track for the 2-seed in C-USA. They are definitely ahead of Houston now that the Cougars lost at East Carolina, but with the teams possibly meeting in the C-USA semis, the Blazers probably have to beat them again to maintain their at-large hopes. UAB closes the regular season at Memphis, and if they can get one win over the Tigers, that would get them the auto bid and give them the marquee win they currently lack. The Blazers beat Cincinnati and Kentucky for their best nonconference wins.
Stephen F. Austin [15-14 (12-6), RPI: 206, SOS: 258] The Jacks lost their third Southland conference game on Saturday and pretty much need the auto bid now. They have four non-DI wins as part of their profile, and they are not even leading the Southland.
Western Kentucky [15-17 (9-9), RPI: 225, SOS: 277] WKU finished tied with South Alabama atop the Sun Belt, so that's one thing in their favor. Can they make the NCAAs while losing three times to the Jags? It seems unlikely, even with the big win total. Their best nonconference win was over Nebraska. The Toppers did come close against Gonzaga and Tennessee, but no cigar.
Oral Roberts [6-22 (4-12), RPI: 292, SOS: 112] If the last-second BracketBusters home loss to Creighton didn't end this debate, the season-ending loss at North Dakota State did. The Golden Eagles still don't have a top-50 win and now they have two league losses. ORU beat Oklahoma State, but whiffed on every other big chance in nonconference play (losses to Texas A&M, Arkansas and Texas).