Crunch time for NCAA tournament bubble teams

1 Comment

With conference tournaments now underway, we’ll be updating Bubble Banter more frequently.  Here’s the latest update as we move into a very busy hoops weekend.  Note: The USC-Washington State game isn’t included.  It will be updated on Friday.

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. If you would like great access to regular RPI information, Jerry Palm provides great information for all NCAA Tournament fans. A subscription is very reasonable.

UPDATED: Thursday, March 3 | 11:15 p.m. ET

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

  • Projected Locks (25): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
  • Should Be In (7): These teams are teams in solid position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (27): Teams projected to be at or near the cutline for being selected as at-large candidates.
  • Spots available (11): Number of projected available openings for the bracket.
  • Leaving the Bubble: Cincinnati (SBI)
  • Joining the Bubble: None
  • Notes: RPI and SOS data are through 11:15 p.m. on March 3.
Atlantic 10
Locks: Xavier, Temple | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Richmond
  • Richmond (23-7 | 12-3) | RPI: 60 | SOS: 156 | – The Spiders have won three straight and close their regular season Saturday vs. Duquesne. A loss to anyone other than Temple or Xavier at this point can only hurt Richmond. The win over Purdue continues to be a major helping point, and a victory over VCU is worth noting. Richmond suffered lopsided losses in early meetings with Xavier and Temple. The Spiders would be a lot more comfortable if they managed to beat the Muskateers or Owls in the A-10 Tournament.
ACC
Locks: Duke, North Carolina | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech
  • Boston College (18-11 | 8-7) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 18 | – The Eagles’ victory at Virginia Tech gave them a season sweep of the Hokies. BC closes at home Sunday against Wake Forest – a game the Eagles shouldn’t lose. BC remains just 1-5 vs. Top 50 RPI teams (Texas AM), but is 7-10 vs. the Top 100. The Eagles likely need to win at least one game in the ACC Tournament. Two would make them more comfortable on Selection Sunday.
  • Clemson (19-10 | 8-7) | RPI:65 | SOS: 83 | – No shame in losing at Duke, but it leaves the Tigers just 1-4 vs. Top 50 teams and without a marquis victory. The closing game at home with Virginia Tech is huge for both teams. A loss might eliminate Clemson from the at-large pool unless they make a long ACC Tournament run. Clemson’s overall resume is very modest and is backed by a No. 204 non-conference schedule. Clemson also has non-league losses to Old Dominion and Michigan – both of whom are fighting for at-large spots.
  • Florida State (20-9 | 10-5) | RPI: 51 | SOS: 85 | – Even with the home loss to North Carolina, Florida State remains in decent position as long as they don’t drop a road game at NC State and then fizzle early in the ACC Tournament. In that scenario, a weak non-conferense SOS (No. 209), could be problematic. The Seminoles are just 2-4 vs. Top 50 teams, although they do have a home win over Duke and beat Boston College in their only meeting. FSU also beat Baylor in Hawaii.
  • Virginia Tech (19-9 | 9-6) | RPI: 63 | SOS: 89 | – The Hokies could have put themselves in a much stronger position had they not fallen flat against Boston College on Tuesday. It took some luster off the victory over Duke and sets up a critical game this weekend at Clemson. With three sub-100 RPI losses – including being swept by Virgina – the Hokies’ room for error remains small. Beating Clemson and winning one ACC Tournament game would seal it. Something less could leave the door open for another heartbreak.
BIG EAST
Locks: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, Louisville, St. John’s West Virginia | Should Be In: Cincinnati | Bubble: Marquette
  • Marquette (18-12 | 9-8) | RPI: 57 | SOS: 25 | – With its home loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday, Marquette is the final piece of the Big East puzzle left unsolved. The Golden Eagles are still in decent shape, but need to win at Seton Hall on Saturday. The Golden Eagles are 4-9 vs. Top 25 RPI teams – an amazing number of high-level games. Winning at Connecticut was huge because it proved that Marquette could win away from home. One more victory might be enough. Beating Seton Hall and winning a game in New York would likely seal it.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State
  • Illinois (18-12 | 8-9) | RPI: 39 | SOS: 13 | – No shame in losing a close game at Purdue on Tuesday, but it makes the Illini’s home game with Indiana absolutely huge. A loss would put a lot of pressure on the Illini to win a couple of games in Indy. Good wins include N. Carolina, at Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. Down the stretch, however, Illinois has gone 5-7 in its past 12 games. If there’s good news, the Illini beat Michigan in their only meeting. Strong SOS numbers and 10 Top 100 wins are a plus. The loss at UIC is a major sore point – along with a dropped game at Indiana in January.
  • Michigan State (16-12 | 9-8) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 8 | The Spartans exacted some revenge on the Hawkeyes by blasting Iowa at the Breslin Center Wednsday. MSU closes at Michigan and will try to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Wolverines. The Spartans have won 3 of 4, but are just 3-9 vs. Top 50 teams. MSU is 9-11 vs. the Top 100 and the Spartans have played the nation’s No. 8 schedule. Winning at Michigan might be enough. Two more wins would most likely punch MSU’s ticket.
  • Michigan (17-12 | 8-9) | RPI: 58 | SOS: 24 | Winning at Minnesota wasn’t a great win, but it kept the Wolverines in the conversation. While there’s not a lot to love about the Wolverine’s profile (2-8 vs. Top 50 teams), they have won 7 of 10 and were a last-second banked-in three pointer at the buzzer from beating Wisconsin. Michigan closes at home against Michigan State. A weak bubble continues to help. Much like Marquette, Michigan has several close losses and a solid strength of schedule. On another note, Michigan lost to Illinois in its only matchup with the Illini; just something to keep in mind. On the flip side, the Wolverines swept Penn State.
  • Penn State (15-13 | 8-9) | RPI: 59 | SOS: 6 | The Nittany Lions were throttled at home by Ohio State Tuesday and are now a loss at Minnesota on Sunday from leaving the bubble. Penn State has three solid victories at home (Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State) but the Lions are a just 2-8 away from home – a major disparity. PSU was also swept by Michigan. If PSU can win at Minnesota, they’ll have a chance if they can find a couple of victories in Indianapolis. Despite a solid SOS, PSU’s best non-conference victories are Fairfield and Duquesne. They also lost at Virginia Tech.
BIG 12
Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas AM | Should Be In: Missouri, Kansas State | Bubble: Baylor, Colorado
  • Baylor (17-11 | 7-8) | RPI: 77 | SOS: 50 | – Baylor has dropped 4 of 5 following its loss Tuesday at Oklahoma State. About the only thing the Bears have in their favor is a season sweep of Texas AM. Even so, Baylor is just 2-5 vs. Top 50 teams and 5-8 vs. the Top 100. Out of conference, the Bears failed to win a Top 100 RPI game and their non-league SOS ranks No. 207. Up next is home date with Texas. Win and the Bears stay alive. Lose and an at-large bid might be out of reach.
  • Colorado (17-12 | 7-8) | RPI: 81 | SOS: 76 | – After the huge rally to beat Texas, Colorado lost its momentum Wednesday (again) at Iowa State. While CU has some high-level wins (5-6 vs. the top 50 and a sweep of Kansas State), a horrific non-conference SOS (No. 322) could prove to be an at-large killer. That, and a 3-9 record in true road games. The Buffs best non-conference win is over fellow bubble-dweller Colorado State. That could give the Selection Committee a reason to leave the Buffaloes at home. The season finale is at home with Nebraska. A loss would really put Colorado in a tough spot heading into the Big 12 tournament. CU is 9-12 vs. the Top 200 – the type of record that often suggests NIT.
MOUNTAIN WEST
Locks: BYU, San Diego State, UNLV | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Colorado State
  • Colorado State (18-10 | 9-6) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 38 | – The Rams’ at-large hopes took a major hit after the loss at Air Force last Saturday. It’s likely down to this: win at San Diego State or make a run to the Mountain West tourney championship. CSU’s best wins are at UNLV and Southern Miss, and the Rams’ once strong Mountain West record has fallen a bit. Outside the league, they lost to fellow bubbler Colorado, along with Sam Houston and Hampton. CSU is 2-5 vs. the Top 50 and 5-8 vs. the Top 100.
PAC 10
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: Arizona, UCLA | Bubble: Washington, Washington State
  • Washington (20-9 | 11-6) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 60 | – Huskies earned a critical home win over UCLA Thursday to set up their finale with USC this weekend. The victory gave UW a season sweep of the Bruins – which could be huge. At the same time, the Huskies best non-league win is Long Beach State, so UW still doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room. It might be a good idea to win at least one Pac-10 tournament game.
  • Washington State (18-10 | 8-8) | RPI: 70 | SOS: 92 | – Note: Update coming Friday. After pulling an upset in Washington last weekend, the Cougars now own a season sweep of the Huskies. It also keeps WSU in the at-large discussion. With a weak bubble, who knows. Overall, WSU is still just 2-5 vs. Top 50 teams (both Washington) and 6-7 vs. Top 100 teams. Other notable wins are Gonzaga and Baylor. UCLA visits to close the season. WSU could use a couple more wins to feel safe.
SEC
Locks: Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt | Should Be In: Tennessee | Bubble: Georgia, Alabama
  • Georgia (20-9 | 9-6) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 35 | – Having won at Tennesse and beaten Kentucky, the Bulldogs are in decent position. They avoided a miscue vs. LSU and now travel to Alabama on Saturday. A victory there could be enough. A loss wouldn’t be devastating, but things could get dicey if the Bulldogs followed it with an early exit at the SEC Tournament. Outside the league, Georgia beat Colorado but lost to Xavier and Temple. An upside is that Georgia has avoided any bad losses. Overall, the Bulldogs are 3-9 vs. the Top 50 and 5-9 vs. the Top 100.
  • Alabama (19-10 | 11-4) | RPI: 86 | SOS: 129 | – Back-to-back losses have dropped the Tide below the cutline heading into action this weekend. A strong SEC record is all that’s carrying ‘Bama at this point – wins include Kentucky and at Tennessee. Then again, the SEC West is well below average. Outside the SEC, Alabama’s profile is very questionable. Their non-conference SOS ranks No. 279 and the Tide’s best non-league win is Lipscomb. Whether the Committee would have overlooked the Tide’s poor start (losses to St. Peter’s, Iowa, Seton Hall) largely depended on how the Tide finished. Right now, that isn’t looking nearly as strong as it did two weeks ago.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: George Mason | Bubble: Butler, Cleveland State, Missouri State, Old Dominion, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, UAB, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Utah State
  • Butler (20-9 | 13-5) | RPI: 45 | SOS: 80 | – Butler finished its regular season with 7 straight wins to earn the 2-seed and double bye in the Horizon League Tournament. A win over Florida State in Hawaii could still help as could a win over Washington State if the Cougars rally. It’s the five league losses – including a sweep by Milwaukee – that’s holding Butler back. Getting to the Horizon League final would put BU right on the cutline.
  • Cleveland State (23-7 | 14-5) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 121 | – Vikings have to reach the Horizon League Tournament final to stay on the bubble.
  • Missouri State (23-7 | 15-3) | RPI: 40 | SOS: 125 | – Missouri State wrapped up the Missouri Valley title by beating Wichita State a second time last weekend. That helps. However, the Bears’ best non-conference win is Pacific, and they have only two Top 100 RPI wins (both Wichita State). MSU has to reach the MVC Tournament final. After that, we’ll see.
  • Memphis (21-9 | 9-6) | RPI: 36 | SOS: 42 | – Memphis followed up its loss at UTEP with another at East Carolina – giving the Tigers 3 losses in 4 games. Memphis was also blown out in its prime-time matchups with Kansas, Georgetown and Tennessee. A win at Gonzaga is Memphis’ only non-conference victory of note. The Tigers do have a season sweep of both UAB and Southern Miss but how much weight will that hold? Memphis closes with Tulane at home. The Tigers need that one and likely a trip to the C-USA final.
  • UAB (21-7 | 11-4) | RPI: 28 | SOS: 59 | – Beating Southern Miss Wednesday pushed the Blazers into first place in the C-USA standings with a game to go. An outright title would certainly help an overall weak at-large resume. UAB can wrap it up with a win vs. East Carolina on Saturday. The Blazers are just 1-5 vs. Top 50 teams, but do have 8 Top 100 wins. Their best non-league win is VCU, and the Blazers were swept by Memphis. It might still take an appearance in the C-USA title game to earn at-large bid. UAB has won 6 of 7 games.
  • Southern Mississippi (18-8 | 9-6) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 87 | – The Eagles have lost two straight and are barely hanging on at this point. The Eagles have a win at California and beat UAB in their first meeting, but that’s about it. A non-conference SOS ranked No. 240 is hurting. USM has to win at Tulsa Saturday or their at-large hopes are effectively over.
  • Old Dominion (24-6 | 14-4) | RPI: 27 | SOS: 75 | – ODU ended its regular season by beating William & Mary. The Monarchs finished tied for second in a good Colonial conference. While ODU is in good shape, we’ll leave them here until they win a game or two in the CAA Tournament. Good wins include Xavier, George Mason and Cleveland State. ODU played the No. 15 non-conference schedule and came within 3-points of beating Georetown.
  • VCU (21-10 | 12-6) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 106 | – After losing 4 of 5 down the stretch, VCU is barely holding onto a bubble spot. Any loss before an appearance in the CAA final will end the Rams’ hopes.
  • Gonzaga (21-9 | 11-3) | RPI: 68 | SOS: 103 | – Gonzaga has won 9 of 10 heading into the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas. They have wins over Xavier, Marquette, and Baylor, as well as a home loss to Memphis. The ‘Zags split two games with St. Mary’s. A 2-6 mark vs. Top 50 RPI teams is somewhat concerning, but a 7-7 mark vs. the Top 100 helps. Reaching the WCC final might be enough.
  • St. Mary’s (21-7 | 11-3) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 113 | – The Gaels are a perfect example of why we don’t rush to move teams off the bubble. St. Mary’s lost three straight before beating Portland to close regular-season play. That left SMC in a tie with Gonzaga atop the West Coast Conference. An early win over St. John’s helps, and St. Mary’s split with Gonzaga. The rest of the resume is light, however, (1-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 4-6 vs. the Top 100). In the at-large discussion, the Gaels would currently fall behind Gonzaga. A home loss to Utah State could also pose a problem. Reaching the WCC final might be enough.
  • Utah State (26-3 | 14-1) | RPI: 19 | SOS: 107 | – The Aggies thoroughly dominated the WAC and may very well have done enough. Still, with a very light 2-2 mark vs. Top 100 teams – and one of those being Long Beach State (No. 95) – we can’t assume USU is a lock. Avoiding an early WAC flameout would be advised. Reach the final and it could be difficult to leave the Aggies home on Selection Sunday.