Bubble Banter, BracketBusters edition

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Ahead of a busy weekend of hoops and some BracketBuster games, here’s the latest Bubble Banter at Bracketville.  We could see some teams move up after this weekend, and we’re likely to lose a few bubble teams, too.  Another update early next week, and a new bracket projection on Monday.

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: Friday, February 18

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 (18): 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: None
  • Joining the Bubble: None
  • Below is a conference breakdown of the bubble picture
Atlantic 10
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: Temple, Xavier | Bubble: Duquesne, Richmond
  • Duquesne (16-7 | 9-2) | RPI: 75 | SOS: 122 | – Duquesne ended a two-game slide by winning at UMass on Wednesday, but back-to-back losses to Xavier and St. Bonventure are missed opportunities. It’s critical the Dukes stay at the top of the A-10 standings because there’s nothing to report in the non-conference season. Duquesne has a win over Temple at home, but little else is helping. Key losses include Penn State and a 2-OT affair with George Mason. The Dukes need a strong finish and a solid run in the A-10 tourney.
  • Richmond (20-7 | 9-3) | RPI: 69 | SOS: 144 | – The Spiders looked overmatched in a lopsided loss at Temple on Thursday. Just as important, it was a missed opportunity to put another quality win on their resume. Richmond is just 1-2 vs. Top 50 RPI teams, an early win over Purdue. With dwindling power numbers, the Spiders probably can’t afford another slip. At this point, it may also take a long A-10 tourney run. Remember, Richmond lost to Xavier at home by 23 – so they haven’t shown well against the league’s best.
ACC
Locks: Duke | Should Be In: North Carolina | Bubble: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech
  • Boston College (16-9 | 6-5) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 21 | – Beating Maryland Saturday gave the Eagles a season sweep of the Terps, something that could come in handy if Maryland re-appears on the bubble. That said, the loss at Clemon keeps BC in a questionable spot – hovering around .500 in the mediocre ACC. Other than the early win over Texas AM, there’s nothing out of conference helping the Eagles, and BC is just 1-5 vs. Top 50 RPI teams. BC has also lost (at home) to two Ivy League schools and has dropped 4 of its past 6 games. A trip to Carolina is next followed by a must have at home vs. Miami-FL.
  • Clemson (17-9 | 6-6) | RPI: 79 | SOS: 90 | – Falling Thursday at NC State wasn’t a step in the right direction. Now, it’s critical that the Tigers pick up a victory at Miami this weekend. Without it, Clemson won’t be able to reach 10 league wins, and 9-7 won’t be enough without a long run in the ACC tournament. The game at Duke is the Tigers’ last chance to post a marquis win, but that doesn’t look promising. Other than a home win over Florida State, the resume is light. Clemson has non-league losses to Old Dominion, Michigan, and South Carolina.
  • Florida State (18-7 | 8-3) | RPI: 51 | SOS: 83 | – If the Seminoles sweep a week of winnable road games (@Wake Forest, @Maryland), they’ll be in good shape to move off the bubble. While the loss at Auburn was probably a fluke, it’s an example of inconsistent play. A weak non-conferense SOS (no. 230), could still spell trouble if FSU stumbles down the stretch. The Seminoles are just 2-4 vs. Top 50 teams, so there’s not a lot of high-level wins. Beating Duke was huge. Finishing third in the ACC standings would likely be enough.
  • Virginia Tech (17-7 | 7-4) | RPI: 57 | SOS: 89 | – The Hokies took care of business by beating Georgia Tech at home last week. Next up is Maryland at home followed by a trip to Virginia. In reality, VT needs to win its next three ahead of Duke’s arrival on Feb. 26. 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. Virginia Tech controls its destiny. Can the Hokies take advantage?
BIG EAST
Locks: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Georgetown | Should Be In: Syracuse, Villanova, Louisville,West Virginia, St. John’s | Bubble: Cincinnati, Marquette
  • Cincinnati (20-6 | 7-6) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 95 | – The home-court victory over Louisville Wednesday was a good way for UC to start a tough closing stretch. UC needs quality wins. Now, can the Bearcats keep momentum on upcoming road trips to pesky Providence and surging Georgetown? That’s the question at hand. The Bearcats are 3-6 vs. Top 50 teams (Xavier, St. John’s, Louisville) and it will still take a 9-9 finish in the Big East to feel good – especially given UC’s horrible non-conference SOS.
  • Marquette (15-11 | 6-7) | RPI: 66 | SOS: 29 | – Another loss to a good team Tuesday as the Golden Eagles dropped a home game to St. John’s. With a 3-8 mark away from home, losing home games could yet prove disasterous. If there’s good news, it’s that Marquette’s schedule is favorable down the stretch – other than a road trip to UConn. Posting wins is critical as Marquette is 3-10 vs. Top 50 teams and just 5-11 vs. Top 100 teams. If Marquette wins the games it should down the stretch, the Golden Eagles may still Dance. But their margin for error is now very thin.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State | Should Be In: Purdue, Wisconsin | Bubble: Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Michigan
  • Illinois (17-9 | 7-6) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 20 | – Ugly or not, Illinois’ win over Michigan Wednesday kept the Illini from a potential downward spiral. After splitting last week – winning at Minnesota and losing at home to Purdue – the Illini failed to gain ground. At least now they have head-to-head wins over Minnesota and Michigan – two teams the Illini play only once. Next up: trips to Michigan State and Ohio State. Finishing 9-9 in the Big 10 could make Selection Sunday somewhat tenuous without a run in the league tournament. Good wins include N. Carolina, at Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. The losses at Indiana and UIC are sore points.
  • Michigan State (13-11 | 6-7) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 5 | After a debacle at Iowa, the Spartans pounded Penn State in East Lansing ahead of a good showing in Columbus on Tuesday. That said, MSU has just two wins since the dismissal of Korie Lucious – Indiana and Penn State at home. Can’t imagine those wins will carry a lot of weight. If there’s any magic left in Tom Izzo’s hat, now’s the time to pull out the rabbit. MSU is 3-8 vs. Top 50 teams and is 9-11 vs. the Top 200 – stat lines that often suggest NIT. Can MSU get to 10 league wins? That might be what it takes. Up next is home visit from Illinois.
  • Michigan (15-11 | 6-8) | RPI: 60 | SOS: 19 | While there’s not a lot to love about the Wolverine’s profile (2-7 vs. Top 50 teams), they have won 5 of 7 to creep into the at-large conversation. The loss Wednesday at Illinois won’t help, as the Wolverines and Illini only play once in the regular-season rotation. The win at Michigan State is helping, and the Wolverines also have a sweep of Penn State. It’ll take a strong finish to warrant serious consideration. Michigan has remaining games against Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Minnesota. Win those, and the Wolverines could have the league’s fourth-best in-conference profile. Would that be enough?
  • Minnesota (17-9 | 6-8) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 28 | The Gophers’ struggles continued Thursday at Penn State as Minnesota dropped further down the Big 10 pecking order. Overall, Minnesota has lost 5 of 6 – with the lone win at Iowa. This isn’t the same team that posted quality wins early in the season – a result of injuries and other issues. The Selection Committee has to evaluate the current squad, and the results aren’t favorable. Much like Michigan State, it could take 10 league wins for the Gophers to feel good heading into the Big 10 tourney. If there’s good news, it’s that three of the Gophers’ final four games are at home.
BIG 12
Locks: Kansas, Texas | Should Be In: Missouri, Texas AM | Bubble: Kansas State, Baylor, Colorado, Oklahoma State
  • Baylor (16-8 | 6-5) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 64 | – While the win at Texas AM helps, the Bears can’t rely on one quality victory as a ticket to the Dance. Their overall profile remains very weak with a 1-4 mark vs. Top 50 teams and only 4 Top 100 victories. Out of conference, the Bears failed to win a Top 100 RPI game and their non-league SOS ranks No. 236. Up next is a must-win at home over Texas Tech followed by a trip to Missouri. The closing three won’t be easy, so time if of the essence. Baylor may need four more Big 12 wins.
  • Colorado (15-10 | 5-6) | RPI: 90 | SOS: 85 | – Thanks to a replay that saved Colorado from Jacob Pullen’s last-second trey in Boulder, the Buffaloes remain on the bubble. The victory also gave CU a season sweep of the Wildcats – something that could be useful. Three of the Buffs’ closing games are away from home – including a trip to Kansas – and one of the remaining home games is Texas. Tough spot, but the Buffaloes need big wins, so opportunity awaits. A non-league win over Colorado State is notable, but Colorado’s overall non-conference SOS ranks No. 307. Ouch. It’ll be tough to overcome weak power numbers, but CU remains alive.
  • Kansas State (16-9 | 5-6) | RPI: 31 | SOS: 8 | – Beating arch-rival Kansas in Manhattan gave K-State it first Top 50 RPI win (1-6 overall). But … one big win won’t push the Wildcats into the Field of 68. Other than a trip to Texas, the closing stretch is favorable for a nice run. K-State was swept by Colorado – we’ll see if that comes into play. So far, the Wildcats have avoided a bad RPI losss, something other bubble teams can’t necessarily say. A resurgence by Baylor, Washington State and Gonzaga would also help. Next up is a home date with Oklahoma followed by a trip to Nebraska.
  • Oklahoma State (16-9 | 4-7) | RPI: 52 | SOS: 46 | – The Cowboys’ loss at Nebraska last week put OSU in a difficult spot because the upcoming stretch was brutal. That was apparent Wednesday as the Cowboys were blown out at Texas. Without a win over Texas AM this weekend, OSU will leave the bubble. After that, it’s a trip to Kansas. OSU is 2-7 in road games so time is urgent. Oklahoma State has head-to-head losses against several other bubble teams (Gonzaga, Colorado, Baylor), too. It’s best non-conference win is Alabama in December.
MOUNTAIN WEST
Locks: BYU, San Diego State | Should Be In: UNLV | Bubble: Colorado State, New Mexico
  • Colorado State (17-7 | 8-3) | RPI: 39 | SOS: 48 | – Beating New Mexico last weekend set up a tough closing stretch with 4 of 6 away from home – including trips to league frontrunners BYU and San Diego State. After taking care of TCU on the road Wednesday, CSU hosts UNLV this weekend – a win would give them a season sweep of the Rebels. CSU may need to beat San Diego State and/or BYU to feel confident, but they are in the mix. CSU is 2-3 vs. the Top 50 and 5-5 vs. the Top 100. Winning at UNLV is a high point, but the losses to Sam Houston and Hampton are not.
  • New Mexico (16-9 | 5-6) | RPI: 63 | SOS: 87 | – After falling at Colorado State to split the season series, the Lobos put up a fight before losing Wednesday at San Diego State. Now it’s two must-win games at home (Utah and UNLV). Losing either will make it hard for the Lobos to stay in contact with the league leaders. The power number are okay, but not ideal. Out of conference, there’s not much helping the Lobos and the number of quality wins remain light (2-4 vs. Top 50 / 4-7 vs the Top 100). Plus, there’s troubling road losses to Utah and Wyoming. It might come down to UNM upsetting BYU in Provo – that would give the Lobos a sweep.
PAC 10
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: Arizona | Bubble: Washington, Washington State, UCLA
  • Washington (18-7 | 10-4) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 69 | – The Hukies took care of their home games with Stanford and Cal last week in preparation for a swing through Arizona this weekend. It started well at Arizona State on Thursday. With a win at Arizona this weekend, Washington will put itself in good position for a closing slate of home games. UW’s top wins are Arizona and at UCLA – and overall Washington remains just 2-3 vs. Top 50 RPI teams. At this point, Washington still looks pretty good, and a sweep over Arizona could push the Huskies off the bubble.
  • Washington State (17-9 | 7-7) | RPI: 72 | SOS: 88 | – WSU saved a potentially disasterous homestand by beating Cal on Saturday, but fell at Arizona Thursday and are probably on the wrong side of the bubble for now. Overall, WSU is just 1-5 vs. Top 50 teams and 5-7 vs. Top 100 teams – so work remains. 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 next two (@Arizona State, and @Washington) may decide in which direction the Cougars head. WSU can’t afford to fall below .500 in the Pac-10.
  • UCLA (19-7 | 10-3) | RPI: 36 | SOS: 40 | – Having won 6 straight, the Bruins are good position with a second-place standing in the Pac-10. Victories over St. John’s and BYU are solid, although UCLA is still light on quality wins (2-4 vs. Top 50 teams). RPI and SOS numbers are good, but not outstanding. The Bruins only real blemish is an early defeat to Montana. So what’s ahead? … trips to Cal and Stanford this weekend. Getting both would be ideal, as the Arizona schools come to Pauley next week.
SEC
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt | Bubble: Georgia, Alabama
  • Georgia (17-8 | 6-5) | RPI: 46 | SOS: 35 | – The Bulldogs are talented enough to make the NCAAs, but can they win enough SEC games? A tough trio of games didn’t start well as the Bulldogs lost a home game to Vanderbilt on Wednesday. Next up are road trips to Tennessee and Florida. Losing both would really put a lot of pressure on the ‘Dawgs. UGA has an early victory over Kentucky, and a win over UAB could also help. All of the Bulldogs losses have been to teams ranked in the Top 40 of the RPI, so that’s a plus. Sounds a lot like Marquette. Time to start a winning streak.
  • Alabama (17-8 | 9-2) | RPI: 83 | SOS: 127 | – Assuming Alabama continues to beat its SEC West opponents, the Tide’s biggest closing games are at Florida and vs. Georgia. Thanks to a rough November and early December, Alabama’s overall resume remains questionable. Whether the Committee will overlook the Tide’s poor start (losses to St. Peter’s, Iowa, Seton Hall) largely depends on how the Tide finish. If they win the SEC West by multiple games, and notch another win or two over East Division contenders, there could be enough to warrant at-large consideration in March.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: NONE | Bubble: Butler, Cleveland State, Missouri State, Wichita State, Old Dominion, George Mason, VCU, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, UAB, UTEP, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Utah State
  • Butler (18-9 | 11-5) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 51 | – Butler has won 5 straight to re-enter the Bubble picture. Still some work ahead for the Bulldogs who probably need to reach the Horizon League tournament final. Wins over Washington State and Florida State in Hawaii could still help, but BU has a few too many in-league losses – being swept by Milwaukee and losing at Youngstrown State. A sweep of Cleveland State could be helpful.
  • Cleveland State (21-5 | 12-4) | RPI: 34 | SOS: 118 | – 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 would keep hopes alive. After being swept by Butler in head-to-head games, the best thing CSU can do is try to pass Valparaiso in the Horizon League standings. Then, make a long run in the Horizon League tournament.
  • Missouri State (21-6 | 13-3) | RPI: 50 | SOS: 132 | – Missouri State has won four straight MVC games and remains tied with Wichita State atop the standings. The good news is the Bears have league wins at Wichita State and Northern Iowa. MSU hosts Wichita State on Feb. 26 with a chance to sweep the series. A non-conference SOS of No. 225 hurts as does a 2-4 mark vs. Top 100 RPI teams. The Bears’ best non-conference win is Pacific, so an MVC title might be necessary.
  • Wichita State (21-5 | 13-3) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 113 | – The Shockers are just 2-4 vs. Top 100 teams, so an outright Missouri Valley title might be necessary for serious at-large consideration. The good news is Wichita State travels to Missouri State on Feb. 26 – so avoiding any league losses between now and then is critcal. The winner would claim the MVC’s top seed in the league tournament. Missed chances in Maui continue to haunt WSU. An 8-1 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 big as well.
  • Memphis (20-6 | 8-3) | RPI: 26 | SOS: 38 | – With a season sweep of Southern Miss and and UAB in hand, the Tigers are in the best at-large position of any Conference USA team. Memphis also has nice road win at fellow bubble-dweller Gonzaga. The main prize, however, remains winning the C-USA title. The big date with co-leader UTEP is Feb. 26 – assuming the Miners don’t fall off the pace. It doesn’t help that Memphis was largely non-competitive in losses to Kansas, Tennessee, and Georgetown – and an ugly loss at SMU still lingers – but the Tigers’ outlook is better than some.
  • UAB (18-7 | 8-4) | RPI: 35 | SOS: 60 | – The Blazers are a pretty solid team that lacks a marquee win. They didn’t get it Wednesday by losing at Memphis – falling in both games to the Tigers this season. Now, the pressure is on. UAB is 0-4 vs. Top 50 teams (Duke, Memphis, Georgia, So. Miss), and their best non-conference win is VCU at home. Within the league, UAB’s best win is a 3-OT affair with UTEP. There’s also losses at Tulsa and Arizona State. Overall, the Blazers close with 2 of 4 on the road. Another loss could be one too many without a run to the C-USA title game.
  • Southern Mississippi (17-6 | 8-4) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 97 | – The Eagles picked up a critical win over UTEP on Wednesday to stay with the conference leaders, but USM is still just 1-3 vs. Top 50 teams. They’ve also been swept by Memphis. Losses to Colorado State and Mississippi won’t help; neither will a non-conference SOS ranked No. 256. A regular-season title would be a huge plus. Without it, the Eagles probably need a run to the C-USA final for serious consideration.
  • UTEP (18-6 | 7-3) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 117 | – The Miners at-large chances took a hit with the loss at Southern Miss Wednesday. UTEP is on the bubble by virtue of its status atop the C-USA standings. If that disappears, so will the Miners. Of UTEP’s 18 D-I wins, 15 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 have big concerns. UTEP needs every win it can get down the stretch, and must avoid an early exit in the C-USA tournament.
  • Old Dominion (21-6 | 12-4) | RPI: 30 | SOS: 67 | – Winning at VCU was a big get for the Monarchs, who look to be in decent shape at this point. Solid non-conference wins include Xavier, Richmond, and Clemson. ODU also played Georgetown to within three points. An 8-5 mark vs. Top 100 teams will help as will a non-league SOS ranked No. 25. Next is the BracketBuster with Cleveland State. Closing the regular season on a three-game winning streak would put ODU in a good spot heading into the CAA tournament.
  • VCU (20-8 | 12-4) | RPI: 63 | SOS: 130 | – Losing back-to-back home games to George Mason and Old Dominion could put VCU in a tough spot. VCU is 5-5 vs. Top 100 teams but would fall behind George Mason and Old Dominion in the CAA at-large pecking order. Not a great place to be. The Rams BracketBuster game at Wichita State might be a must-get ahead of the CAA Tournament. A game at Drexel to close won’t be easy, either.
  • George Mason (22-5 | 14-2) | RPI: 21 | SOS: 66 | – After a dominant road win at VCU on Tuesday, the Patriots lead the CAA by two full games. Winning the league by that margin could be enough to give GMU an at-large bid, if needed. The Patriots are 8-4 vs. Top 100 teams. The lone miscue is Wofford in November. The BracketBuster game at Northern Iowa isn’t critical, but another Top 100 victory would certainly make the Patriots’ case even stronger. GMU’s final two CAA games are very winnable (N’Eastern, Ga. State).
  • Gonzaga (16-9 | 7-3) | RPI: 71 | SOS: 69 | – The Zags’ home loss to Memphis could still hamper the Bulldogs’ at-large chances. There are some good wins – Baylor, Xavier, Marquette – but only Xavier is a solid NCAA team at this point. A good SOS always helps. At the same time, Gonzaga is 1-6 vs. Top 50 RPI teams and 7-9 vs. the Top 200 – generally a big no-no for at-large consideration. Winning at St. Mary’s (Feb. 24) is important, too.
  • St. Mary’s (20-4 | 10-1) | RPI: 31 | SOS: 116 | – Winning an outright WCC title would likely be enough as long as St. Mary’s doesn’t slide to the finish. 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 3-4 vs. Top 100 teams, St. Mary’s can’t breathe too easy. A BracketBuster matchup with Utah State holds some weight, too.
  • Utah State (23-3 | 12-1) | RPI: 26 | SOS: 144 | – The Aggies have a lot of wins but only one (Long Beach No. 99) to a team ranked in the Top 100 of the RPI. That could still be a major hurdle – especially if the Aggies lose their BracketBuster game at St. Mary’s. USU missed against BYU and Georgetown. Would the Committee leave USU out if they lose in the WAC tournament? We’ve seen it happen before.