Bubble Banter: Washington, Alabama both in same spot — who woulda guessed?

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Welcome to Bubble Banter.  In our latest update (Feb. 9), four teams have left and three have joined the bubble.  Two of the joiners are Washington and Minnesota, who we can no longer consider as Should Be In.  We’re now at 37 bubble teams with 15 spots available.  The next two weeks should help pare down the field; then we’ll have a more accurate look at the overall picture.  More at Bracketville.

Bubble Banter highlights the teams we believe are on the NCAA Bubble. If a team isn’t listed, they aren’t a bubble team at the time of the update. RPI and SOS data is credited to CollegeRPI.com.

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 9

Automatic Bids (31): None decided | Total Spots (68): Number of total teams in the Field.

  • Projected Locks (10): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Some of these projected locks may become automatic qualifiers should they win their conference tournament.
  • Should Be In (16): While not yet locks, these are teams in good position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (37): Teams projected to be at or near the cutline for being selected as at-large candidates, or those whose profiles are not yet complete enough to be considered as Should Be In as of the this update.
  • Spots available (15): Number of available openings for the bracket based on spots reserved for automatic qualifiers, projected locks, and teams projected as Should Be In at this update.
  • Leaving the Bubble: Butler, Rhode Island, California, Northern Iowa
  • Joining the Bubble: Minnesota, Washington, Alabama

Below is a conference breakdown of the bubble picture

Atlantic 10
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: Temple, Xavier | Bubble: Duquesne, Richmond
  • Duquesne (15-6 | 8-1) | RPI: 76 | SOS: 133 | – Loss at St. Bonventure Saturday stopped some of the Dukes’ momentum, but it’s not panic time. A home date with Xavier is up next, followed by two more on the road. Nothing to report in the non-conference season, and the Dukes’ overall SOS is a concern. Right now, the Dukes’ best win is over Temple at home. Duquesne has to stay at or near the top of the A-10.
  • Richmond (18-6 | 7-2) | RPI: 74 | SOS: 138 | – The Spiders beat St. Joe’s and Fordham to hold serve. Neither win helps, but losses would have hurt. Richmond will keep hoping its non-conference win over Purdue holds a lot of weight; along with beating Seton Hall and VCU. The lopsided home loss to Xavier was troubling, and Richmond also lost to fellow-bubbler Old Dominion. Spiders need to pick up two more wins this week ahead of a big trip to Temple.
ACC
Locks: Duke | Should Be In: North Carolina | Bubble: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Virginia Tech
  • Boston College (15-9 | 5-5) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 20 | – Beating Virginia Tech at home Saturday ended a three-game slide, but Tuesday’s loss at Clemson continues to cloud the Eagles’ outlook. Losing big at home to Carolina didn’t look good, either. BC now hosts Maryland – another ACC bubble team. A loss would knock BC below .500 in ACC play – a rough spot in a down year. BC’s win over Texas Am is notable, although the Aggies are reeling. BC has lost (at home) to two Ivy League schools and has dropped 5 of its past 7 games.
  • Clemson (17-7 | 6-4) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 97 | Tigers saved their spot in Bubble Banter by winning at Georgia Tech Saturday, then backed it up by taking out fellow bubbler Boston College at home on Tuesday. North Carolina is up next and a victory over the Heels would jump the Tigers up a bit in the ACC pecking order. Other than home wins over Florida State and Miami, the resume is light, however. Clemson has non-league losses to Old Dominion, Michigan, and South Carolina. It will still take a strong month for the Tigers to be a serious at-large contender.
  • Florida State (16-7 | 6-3) | RPI: 54 | SOS: 73 | – The Seminoles took a lopsided loss at North Carolina on Saturday to tread water. Baylor is their best non-ACC win, and the Bears have struggled. While the loss at Auburn was probably a fluke, it’s an example of inconsistent play. FSU also lost to a struggling Butler team in Hawaii. A weak non-conferense SOS (no. 230), could ultimately spell trouble if FSU simply glides to the finish. The win over Duke is big, but not enough by itself. An important trip to Ga. Tech is next, followed by a home date with Virginia.
  • Maryland (15-8 | 5-4) | RPI: 79 | SOS: 66 | – Getting run over at home by Duke puts Maryland in a difficult spot as the Terps’ last chance for a marquis win is at North Carolina (Feb. 27). Between now and then, Maryland needs to pile up wins. At this point, going 50-50 won’t be good enough. Playing Longwood this week will be an RPI killer, too.
  • Virginia Tech (15-7 | 5-4) | RPI: 68 | SOS: 82 | – Hokies treaded water this week, winning at NC State and losing by two at Boston College. That type of scenario may not be enough down the stretch. Credit VT with playing a better non-conference schedule, the Hokies just failed to win many of the games – the best is over fellow bubble-dweller Oklahoma State. VT really needs to win its next four ahead of Duke’s arrival on February 26.
BIG EAST
Locks: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Villanova | Should Be In: Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville,West Virginia | Bubble: Cincinnati, Marquette, St. John’s
  • Cincinnati (19-5 | 6-5) | RPI: 35 | SOS: 105 | – As we’ve mentioned before, the Bearcats’ dreadful non-conference SOS leaves UC with little margin for error in the Big East. Cincinnati was rolled at Pittsburgh Saturday – not a surprise, but it does leave UC with only one notable road win (@St. John’s). The Bearcats escaped DePaul Tuesday ahead of a rematch with St. John’s. A sweep of the Red Storm would be helpful. Hard to say if UC can withstand a brutal closing stretch.
  • Marquette (14-9 | 5-5) | RPI: 65 | SOS: 30 | – Marquette is 3-8 vs. teams ranked in the Top 25 of the RPI. That’s an amazing number of games against strong competition. That said, the Golden Eagles can’t continue to rely on “good losses” to keep them in the Field. At some point, they have to win more games. A 2-7 mark away from home isn’t helping. And this week the Eagles road trip to South Florida and Georgetown.
  • St. John’s (12-8 | 5-5) | RPI: 22 | SOS: 1 | – The Red Storm have some very good wins – none better than a dominating win over Duke. After losing at UCLA Saturday, however, the Johnnies embark on a critcal three-game stretch. Losses are mounting. St. John’s hosts Connecticut and then travels to Cincinnati and Marquette – the other two teams on this list. We also can’t forget early losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State | Should Be In: Purdue, Wisconsin | Bubble: Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State
  • Illinois (15-8 | 5-5) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 25 | – It’s panic time in Champaign after another lackluster performance Saturday at Northwestern. The Illini have lost 5 of 7 games and would be in real trouble had they not handled Penn State at home last week. Next up is a trip to struggling Minnesota, followed by home dates with Purdue and Michigan. At some point, Illinois is going to need another road win. Good wins include N. Carolina and Wisconsin, along with Michigan State (perhaps). The losses at Indiana and UIC are sore points.
  • Michigan State (12-10 | 5-6) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 6 | The Spartans are now in real danger of missing the NCAAs after the lopsided loss at Wisconsin. It’s not a loss at the Kohl Center, it’s that MSU was non-competitive. Overall, the Spartans have lost 5 of 6 games, with the only win an OT game at home against Indiana. With Korie Lucious dismissed, the Spartans have yet to prove they are an NCAA team without him. It’s hard to count an Izzo team out in early February, but it’ll take a major comeback for the Spartans to Dance.
  • Minnesota (16-7 | 5-6) | RPI: 28 | SOS: 24 | As injuries and departures have mounted, the Gophers have put themselves in somewhat of a tough spot. They have lost three straight to fall under. 500 in league play and face an equally troubling Illinois team next at The Barn. Then it’s off for two on the road where Minnesota is just 2-5 this season. Early neutral-court wins over North Carolina and West Virginia are helping, but this isn’t the same Minnesota team – especially without point guard Al Nolan. The Gophers are 5-5 vs. the Top 100, and also have losses at Indiana and to Virginia. Much like Michigan State, Minnesota needs to re-prove itself as an NCAA team.
  • Penn State (12-10 | 5-6) | RPI: 69 | SOS: 5 | – The home loss to Michigan is troubling because the Nittany Lions are 1-4 in Big 10 road games (win at Indiana) and sub-.500 in league play. It also means Penn State will have to win at least one more road game to enter the Big 10 tournament with an even conference record. Next up is a trip to Michigan State, followed by home dates with Northwestern and Minnesota. Win all three and the Lions will have some momentum before a tough closing stretch. With non-conference losses to Maryland and Virginia Tech, there’s not much to fall back on.
BIG 12
Locks: Kansas, Texas | Should Be In: Missouri, Texas AM | Bubble: Kansas State, Baylor, Colorado, Oklahoma State
  • Baylor (15-7 | 5-4) | RPI: 75 | SOS: 79 | – The Bears finally earned a notable win Saturday at Texas AM. Otherwise, its been a very average season. Other best wins are Oklahoma State and Colorado at home. Out of conference, the Bears failed to win a Top 100 RPI game and their non-league SOS ranks No. 236. Now it’s time to see if the Bears can build momentum with Nebraska arriving ahead of a trip to Texas. Has the real Baylor shown up in time?
  • Colorado (14-9 | 4-5) | RPI: 90 | SOS: 103 | – With 5 losses in 6 games, the Buffaloes are in real danger of slipping off the bubble. A non-league win over Colorado State is notable, but overall the Buffs non-conference SOS ranks No. 307. That spells trouble. CU was routed Saturday at Missouri, and has must-win home dates with Texas AM and Kansas State this week.
  • Kansas State (15-8 | 4-5) | RPI: 31 | SOS: 16 | – Late hoop by Jacob Pullen saved the day at Iowa State Saturday, pushing the Wildcats’ Big 12 record to 4-5. Up next is a trip to desperate Colorado followed by a visit from Kansas. K-State still needs to beat a Top 50 opponent – KSU is currently 0-7 vs. such teams. Best win is Virginia Tech. Other than that, the power numbers are workable.
  • Oklahoma State (16-7 | 4-5) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 62 | – The Cowboys saved a spot on Bubble Banter by holding off Oklahoma at home Saturday. Now, it’s make-or-break time – with three of four on the road – including trips to Nebraska and Texas this week. Against the Top 100, OSU is 5-6. Oklahoma State has head-to-head losses against several other bubble teams (Gonzaga, Colorado, Baylor).
MOUNTAIN WEST
Locks: BYU, San Diego State | Should Be In: UNLV | Bubble: Colorado State, New Mexico
  • Colorado State (15-7 | 6-3) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 44 | – Holding off Wyoming Saturday was a great save, as a loss would have been a blemish the Rams didn’t need. A solid win at UNLV is a high point, but there are also losses to Hampton and Sam Houston. Overall, good wins are still lacking as CSU is 2-3 vs. Top 50 teams (only UNLV would project as an NCAA-level win at this point). CSU will probably need to beat San Diego State and/or BYU to feel good about its chances. Up next is a home date with New Mexico followed by a trip to TCU. After losing at The Pit, it would help CSU to avoid being swept by the Lobos.
  • New Mexico (15-7 | 4-4) | RPI: 61 | SOS: 88 | – While the season hasn’t gone as planned, beating BYU at The Pit is a marquis win that will help the Lobos. They’ve also beaten Colorado State and Colorado at home. Troubling road losses are to Utah and Wyoming. UNM gets a must-win rematch with Wyoming at home before road trips to San Diego State and Colorado State. A win at CSU would give the Lobos a season sweep, something that could come in handy if the teams are being compared. The power number are okay, but leave UNM in dangerous territory.
PAC 10
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: NONE | Bubble: Arizona, Washington, Washington State, UCLA
  • Arizona (20-4 | 9-2) | RPI: 16 | SOS: 45 | – If nothing else, the computers love Arizona. How that translates into seeding remains to be seen. Get through a trip to Arizona State and home dates with the Washington schools, and Arizona will move off the bubble. With a 1-3 mark vs. Top 50 teams (UCLA is the only win), the Wildcats resume is light on quality. There’s nothing from the non-conference as the ‘Cats best win is Oklahoma. UA also has an ugly loss at Oregon State. A 9-2 mark in the Pac-10 looks good, and a regular-season title would put Arizona in a very strong position.
  • Washington (15-7 | 7-4) | RPI: 40 | SOS: 58 | – After a strong start in conference play, the Huskies have lost three straight – including a winless trip through Oregon and Oregon State last week. Any team can have a bad week, but it becomes more noteable when the Huskies best non-league win is over Portland. UW’s top wins are Arizona and at UCLA. Overall, Washington is 2-3 vs. Top 50 RPI teams. Big week with Cal and Stanford visiting. Two wins would change momentum before a trip through Arizona. At this point, Washington still looks okay, but it would help to stay within contact of the league-leading Wildcats.
  • Washington State (16-7 | 6-5) | RPI: 70 | SOS: 100 | – Losing at Oregon takes a little luster off the home win over Washington last week. Overall, WSU is just 1-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 4-6 vs. Top 100 teams. An early win over Gonzaga is not helping as much as expected, although the Baylor win could hold more weight if the Bears rebound. The Pac-10 isn’t deep, so it’s important that the Cougars improve a 6-5 league record and stay among the leaders.
  • UCLA (16-7 | 7-3) | RPI: 39 | SOS: 33 | – The home win Saturday over St. John’s gives the Bruins two notable non-conference wins (BYU was the other). At 7-3 in the league, UCLA currently stands alone in second place – a nice position. RPI and SOS numbers are good, but UCLA is still just 2-4 vs. Top 50 RPI teams, and an early loss to Montana is a blemish. What the Bruins may need is a win over one of the other title contenders. Being swept by Arizona and Washington could spell trouble if UCLA struggles down the stretch. The Oregon schools visit this weekend, so any loss would be a bad one.
SEC
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt | Bubble: Georgia, Alabama
  • Georgia (16-7 | 5-4) | RPI: 46 | SOS: 41 | – Losing to Xavier at home Tuesday isn’t a killer, but it doesn’t help a profile that’s still light on quality wins. Georgia is now 2-7 vs. Top 50 teams – a mark that suggests the need for a strong finish. The Bulldogs are talented enough to make the NCAAs, but can they win enough SEC games? An early victory over Kentucky helps, as does a win over UAB – another bubble team. All of the Bulldogs losses have been to teams ranked in the Top 40 of the RPI, so that’s a plus. The next three games could make or break Georgia’s at-large hopes.
  • Alabama (15-7 | 7-1) | RPI: 96 | SOS: 145 | – If you look strictly at the power numbers, the obvious question is … how does Alabama make the bubble? A 7-1 mark that leads the SEC is the quick explanation, with two of those wins being over Kentucky and at Tennessee. A win at Vanderbilt would make Alabama’s case even stronger. If you take away disappointing losses in early November, ‘Bama’s resume looks much better. Whether the Committee will overlook a poor start (losses to St. Peter’s, Iowa, Seton Hall) largely depends on how the Tide finish. If they post a strong SEC record and win the SEC west by multiple games, it could be enough to earn at-large consideration unless the Tide have an untimely flameout at the SEC tournament.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: NONE | Bubble: Cleveland State, Missouri State, Wichita State, Old Dominion, George Mason, VCU, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, UAB, UTEP, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Utah State
  • Cleveland State (19-5 | 10-4) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 125 | – Being swept by Butler and then losing at Detroit will make an at-large bid very difficult for CSU. Assuming the Vikings avoids any further upsets, the BracketBuster game at Old Dominion is huge. A loss would likely eliminate CSU from at-large consideration; a win could keep hopes alive. Right now, CSU needs to overtake Valparaiso and win the outright Horizon League title.
  • Missouri State (18-6 | 10-3) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 117 | – The good news is the Bears have league wins at Wichita State and Northern Iowa. The bad news is those are also the Bears’ best wins. A non-conference SOS of No. 225 hurts as does a 2-4 mark vs. Top 100 RPI teams. Winning the Missouri Valley regular-season title might be necessary. Sweeping Wichita State would also help.
  • Wichita State (19-5 | 11-3) | RPI: 52 | SOS: 113 | – A home loss to Southern Illinois Tuesday adds a “bad” loss to a resume light on good wins. The Shockers are just 1-4 vs. Top 100 teams, so an outright Missouri Valley title might be necessary at this point for serious at-large consideration. Missed chances in Maui will haunt WSU all the way to Selection Sunday. A 6-1 record in road games is a plus, but losing to Missouri State at home could hurt if the Shockers are swept in the season series. The BracketBuster matchup with VCU is now critical.
  • Memphis (17-6 | 5-3) | RPI: 45 | SOS: 61 | – The win at Gonzaga Saturday could come in very handy for the Tigers. The main prize, however, remains winning the C-USA title. Winning at UAB and Southern Miss will help that effort and they get rematches at home over the next two weeks. Sweeping both could be enough if the Tigers can also win at UTEP. It doesn’t help that Memphis was largely non-competitive in losses to Kansas, Tennessee, and Georgetown. An ugly loss at SMU still lingers, but the Tigers’ outlook is stronger than last week.
  • UAB (16-6 | 6-3) | RPI: 36 | SOS: 69 | – The Blazers are a solid team that lacks a marquee win. A home loss to Southern Miss last week won’t help UAB’s chances in C-USA, either. They are 0-4 vs. Top 50 teams (Duke, Memphis, Georgia, So. Miss). UAB’s best win is VCU at home. There’s also losses at Tulsa and Arizona State. Tough trips to Marshall and Memphis are on the horizon.
  • Southern Mississippi (16-5 | 7-3) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 112 | – Step one was winning a big game at UAB last week. Still, the Eagles are just 1-2 vs. Top 50 teams, so the resume is light. Losses to Colorado State and Mississippi won’t help; neither will a non-conference SOS ranked No. 256. Huge trip to Memphis up next, followed by UTEP at home.
  • UTEP (17-5 | 6-2) | RPI: 58 | SOS: 134 | – Of UTEP’s 17 D-I wins, 14 are to teams ranked outside the Top 100 of the RPI. The best is an early victory over Michigan. Add in three sub-100 losses and the Miners are here as a fringe candidate with a 6-2 C-USA mark. Probably have to win the C-USA title for serious consideration.
  • Old Dominion (18-6 | 9-4) | RPI: 29 | SOS: 52 | – A lopsided loss at George Mason last Saturday doesn’t help the Monarchs, but at least the teams split their two meetings. Solid non-conference wins include Xavier, Richmond and Clemson. ODU also played Georgetown to within three points. A 7-5 mark vs. Top 100 teams will help as will a non-league SOS ranked No. 25. A trip to VCU is the next big challenge.
  • VCU (19-6 | 11-2) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 154 | – The Rams’ loss at Northeastern removed a little luster from a strong streak, but VCU has still won 10 of 12 games. The Rams have a good neutral court win over UCLA, but also miscues at Georgia State and Northeastern, plus a loss at UAB. VCU is 5-3 vs. Top 100 teams. Rematches with ODU and Geo Mason at home are huge, as is a BracketBuster with Wichita State.
  • George Mason (20-5 | 12-2) | RPI: 23 | SOS: 72 | – Beating Old Dominion at home gave George Mason its first Top 50 RPI win and vaulted GMU into first place in the Colonial. The Patriots are also 7-4 vs. Top 100 teams. A lone miscue is Wofford in November. The closing CAA schedule is favorable, and an outright league title would look good. The BracketBuster game at Northern Iowa would help, too.
  • Gonzaga (14-9 | 5-3) | RPI: 73 | SOS: 42 | – The Zags’ home loss to Memphis adds further doubts about the Bulldogs’ at-large chances. There are some good wins – Baylor, Xavier, Marquette – that could get better. A good SOS always helps. At the same time, Gonzaga is now 2-6 vs. Top 50 RPI teams and 7-9 vs. the Top 200 – generally a big no-no for at-large consideration. The losses at Santa Clara and San Francisco are major issues. Any more “bad” losses probably eliminate Gonzaga from the bubble.
  • St. Mary’s (18-4 | 8-1) | RPI: 34 | SOS: 130 | – Winning an outright WCC title could be enough as long as St. Mary’s doesn’t lose many more games – especially to teams other than Gonzaga or maybe Portland. An early win over St. John’s helps, but the Gaels were blown out at Vanderbilt and have only the one Top 50 win. At 2-4 vs. Top 100 teams, St. Mary’s is far from a lock. A three-game road swing is up next.
  • Utah State (22-2 | 11-0) | RPI: 25 | SOS: 160 | – The Aggies have a lot of wins but none to teams ranked in the Top 100 of the RPI. That could be a major hurdle. USU missed against BYU and Georgetown and has only one Top 100 team left on its schedule – the BracketBuster at St. Mary’s. Lose that and USU may still have to win its conference tournament.