Bubble Banter: West Virginia sliding fast, while UConn, Purdue in danger zones

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West Virginia is moving in the wrong direction.  Marquette rallied Friday night in Morgantown and handed the Mountaineers their seventh loss in nine games.  Not that WVU is alone.  Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi have also created some potential bubble trouble for themselves.  Southern Miss has posted consecutive losses to Houston and UTEP – which follows an earlier loss this month to UAB.  Mississippi State has dropped four straight and faces two straight on the road – starting with a trip to Alabama.  These teams: Arkansas, Illinois, and Minnesota have left the bubble entirely.

Championship Week is shaping up to be quite interesting.  What are the odds that every favorite wins its conference tournament?  Certainly less than fifty percent – meaning we’ll have a few bid stealers before Selection Sunday.  March is less than a week away.  Who’s ready for a little Madness?

RPI data is for games played through Feb. 23.

UPDATED: Friday, February 24 | 11:30 p.m. ET

Total Spots (68): Number of teams in the Field.

  • Projected Locks (15): Teams who have secured a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
  • Should Be In (17): Teams in solid position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (31): Teams projected to be at or near the cutline for being selected as at-large candidates.
  • Spots available (13): Estimated number of openings after Automatic Bids, Locks, and Should Be Ins are considered.
  • RPI and SOS: RPI and SOS data are updated through games on Thursday, February 23
  • Teams Leaving the Bubble: Davidson, Cleveland State, Arkansas, Wyoming, Illinois, Minnesota
  • Teams Joining the Bubble: West Virginia, Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi, VCU
Atlantic 10
Locks: Temple | Should Be In: St. Louis | Bubble: Dayton, St. Joe’s, Xavier
  • Dayton (17-10 | 7-6) | RPI: 66 | SOS: 58 | – The Flyers have won three of four games to stay in the bubble picture. An 8-7 mark vs. the Top 100 is worth noting. It’s the losses to Miami-OH and Rhode Island that hurt Dayton’s case. Non-conference wins include Alabama, Ole Miss, and Minnesota. They’ve also beaten Temple, St. Louis, and Xavier inside the A-10. The Flyers’ last three (UMass, Richmond, Geo Washington) are all winnable games. A sweep would put UD in decent position heading into the A-10 tournament.
  • St. Joe’s (18-11 | 8-6) | RPI: 57 | SOS: 57 | – Wednesday’s home loss to Richmond puts a lot of pressure on the Hawks to win their last two A-10 regular season games (Temple, St. Bonaventure). St. Joe’s is just 1-5 vs. the Top 50, but is 6-7 vs. Top 100 teams. Wins include Creighton, Dayton, and Drexel at home. Beating Temple will be critical. And the Hawks may need a couple of A-10 tournament wins to stay in the hunt down the stretch.
  • Xavier (17-10 | 8-5) | RPI: 53 | SOS: 48 | – Non-conference wins over Vanderbilt, Purdue, and Cincinnati continue to help the Muskies despite some recent troubles. But XU is far from safe, especially after Tuesday’s loss at Massachusetts. The Musketeers are 6-9 vs. Top 100 teams, and 11-10 vs. the Top 200. A losing mark against the Top 200 has traditionally spelled bubble trouble. XU has home games left with Richmond and Charlotte. Those are critical. The Muskies also travel to St. Louis. XU’s only really bad loss was at Hawaii while several players were suspended.
ACC
Locks: Duke, North Carolina | Should Be In: Florida State, Virginia | Bubble: Miami-FL, NC State
  • Miami-FL (16-10 | 7-6) | RPI: 50 | SOS: 34 | – It’s hard to think that a single win at Duke will carry the Hurricanes into the NCAAs. Right now, that’s about all Miami has to offer. The ‘Canes are 1-7 vs. the Top 50 and just 3-10 vs. Top 100 teams. Several other bubble teams have a more balanced profile. Overall, Miami has lost 3 of 4 including Tuesday’s loss at Maryland. The closing stretch includes Florida State and NC State. Miami may need both.
  • NC State (18-10 | 7-6) | RPI: 62 | SOS: 30 | – The Wolfpack have a win at Miami (Fla) and a neutral courty victory over Texas. Those are the highlights: two wins over bubble teams. NC State is 1-8 vs. Top 50 teams and just 4-9 vs. the Top 100. Closing games include Clemson, Miami, and Virginia Tech. The Wolfpack may need all three to stay in the at-large picture heading into the ACC tournament.
BIG EAST
Locks: Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette | Should Be In: Louisville, Notre Dame | Bubble: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Seton Hall, West Virginia
  • Cincinnati (20-8 | 10-5) | RPI: 74 | SOS: 114 | – Cincinnati rallied for a big win over Louisville at home on Thursday. It gives the Bearcats a little margin for error down the stretch. How much remains to be seen. We’ve noted several times that a No. 300-plus non-conference schedule has been a major no-no among committee voters in recent years. Every year is different, but it’s something to keep in mind. Next up is a game at fellow bubble dweller South Florida. Then it’s home to Marquette before closing at Villanova. Cincy has been a decent road team and needs to win at least one of its final two away from home. Winning two of three might be enough, but losing two of three will put a lot of pressure on UC to win a game or two in New York. Overall, the Bearcats are 5-3 vs the Top 50 and 6-5 vs. Top 100 opponents.
  • Connecticut (17-10 | 7-8) | RPI: 23 | SOS: 3 | – With a 6-6 mark vs. the Top 50 and 8-8 mark vs. the Top 100, the Huskies remain in decent bubble position – especially given the nation’s No. 3 ranked strength of schedule. That said, UConn can’t afford a late slide. Next up is a home game with Syracuse. After that, the Huskies close with winnable games against Providence and Pittsburgh. Key non-conference victories include Florida State and Harvard. Losses at Tennessee and Rutgers are the blemishes.
  • Seton Hall (19-9 | 8-8) | RPI: 32 | SOS: 27 | – The Pirates have won 4 of 5 games and have certainly boosted their at-large profile. The only loss during that span, however, was at fellow bubble-dweller Cincinnati. Overall, SHU is 3-7 vs. the Top 50 and 7-8 vs. the Top 100. Notable non-conference wins are Dayton, St. Joe’s, and VCU. How much will those help? The Pirates have winnable games with DePaul and Rutgers left. Win both of those and SHU will be in decent shape heading to New York. Lose either or both and it becomes more concerning.
  • West Virginia (17-12 | 7-9) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 7 | – The Mountaineers have lost 7 of 9 games and find themselves in some trouble after Friday’s home loss to Marquette. A lopsided loss at Notre Dame earlier in the week was particularly ugly. Overall, a victory over Georgetown and a neutral court win over Kansas State are the highlights – along with victories over Oral Roberts and Miami(Fla). Several close losses and a Top 10 schedule will help. The Mountaineers are 8-10 vs. Top 100 teams and nine losses have come to teams in the Top 35 of the RPI. WVU closes with a home game against DePaul before a trip to South Florida. Winning one of those is very important. Losing both would make the Big East tournament a pressure cooker.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan | Should Be In: Indiana, Wisconsin | Bubble: Northwestern, Purdue
  • Northwestern (16-11 | 6-9) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 7 | – If Northwestern misses the NCAAs in a close call, Tuesday’s overtime home loss to Michigan will loom large. The Wildcats have a home win over Michigan State and neutral court victory over Seton Hall. But NW is just 5-11 vs. Top 100 teams, with those other wins being against LSU, Illinois, and Minnesota – none are NCAA caliber right now. A 2-7 road record is also concerning. A Top 10 SOS is a huge plus and NW has no “bad” losses. In fact, all but two losses are to teams ranked in the RPI Top 50. Road trips to Penn State and Iowa remain, sandwiched by a home game with Ohio State. The Wildcats really need to beat PSU and Iowa to get to 8-10 in Big Ten play heading into the Big Ten tournament.
  • Purdue (18-10 | 8-7) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 24 | – The Boilermakers are now without Kelsey Barlow, so that has to be a consideration for the Selection Committee. In his absence, Purdue showed well in a home loss to Michigan State and then routed Nebraska. Overall, the Boilers are in decent shape with five Top 50 wins and an 8-8 mark vs. the Top 100. The real issue is the lack of a marquee win – especially within the Big Ten. Purdue beat Temple and Iona in Puerto Rico and Miami(Fla) in the ACC Challenge, but the Boilers best conference win(s) are a sweep of Northwestern. Purdue has road trips left at Michigan and Indiana, along with Penn State at home. Two of three might be enough. Losing both road games, however, could leave the Boilers without a conference victory over a team above them in the standings.
BIG 12
Locks: Baylor, Kansas, Missouri | Should Be In: Kansas State | Bubble: Iowa State, Texas
  • Iowa State (20-9 | 10-5) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 64 | – The real issue for Iowa State is a low number of quality wins. Beating Kansas and Kansas State at home are solid victories, but those are the best highlights. Overall, ISU is just 3-6 vs. Top 100 teams. The Cyclones split with Texas (on the bubble list below). Three potential “big wins” remain: at Kansas State, at Missouri, and Baylor. Winning one might be enough to slip the Cyclones into the NCAAs but it would be close. Losing all three could prove disasterous. That would leave ISU at 3-9 vs. Top 100 teams. Right now, 17 of ISU’s 20 wins are to teams outside the Top 100.
  • Texas (17-11 | 7-8) | RPI: 54 | SOS: 17 | – The Longhorns have wins over Temple, Kansas State, and Iowa State at home. But they are 3-8 vs. Top 50 teams and 4-9 vs. the Top 100. Equally concerning is an 11-11 mark vs. Top 200 teams. That would suggest UT has no margin for error down the stretch. Texas has to beat Texas Tech and Oklahoma. Period. The Longhorns close with a game at Kansas. Winning all three would help. Winning the first two will keep Texas in the conversation heading into the Big 12 tournament. An strong overall SOS is helping. Losses at Oklahoma State and Oregon State are blemishes.
CONFERENCE USA
Locks: None | Should Be In: Memphis | Bubble: Southern Mississippi, Central Florida
  • Central Florida (17-8 | 8-5) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 105 | – Time might be running out on the Knights after a bad loss at Rice, UCF’s third sub-100 loss this season. That’s because the Knights are just 3-5 vs. Top 100 teams and 8-8 against the Top 200. UCF is just 3-6 on the road and has a very unimpressive non-conference SOS (185). Other than a neutral court win over Connecticut in November, UCF has beaten Memphis and Marshall at home. It may very well take a closing sweep (UTEP, at Memphis, UAB) to stay in the at-large picture.
  • Southern Mississippi (20-6 | 9-4) | RPI: 16 | SOS: 50 | – The Golden Eagles have suffered two bad losses in a row (UTEP and Houston). Combine those with an earlier loss to UAB, and USM’s profile is reeling a bit. The Golden Eagles are 3-2 vs. the Top 50 and 9-3 vs. the Top 100, but only one of those wins is against a projected NCAA team outside the conference (Colorado St). Four are against New Mexico State (2) and UCF (2). USM does have a win over South Florida. While there are plenty of good points on the Eagles’ resume, USM is certainly closer to the bubble than Should Be In at this point. Rice, SMU, and Memphis close out USM’s regular-season slate. A loss to anyone but the Tigers would be damaging, especially because it would a bad loss at home.
MISSOURI VALLEY
Locks: Wichita State | Should Be In: Creighton | Bubble: None
  • Right now the Missouri Valley looks to be a two-bid league with Creighton and Wichita State firmly in the Field of 68. Arch Madness is always unpredictable, so a third bid is certainly possible.
MOUNTAIN WEST
Locks: UNLV | Should Be In: San Diego State, New Mexico | Bubble: Colorado State
  • Colorado State (16-9 | 6-5) | RPI: 24 | SOS: 9 | – Back-to-back wins over Wyoming and New Mexico have re-energized the Rams’ hopes. CSU is 7-8 vs. Top 100 teams although just 2-4 vs. the Top 50. The Rams have wins over San Diego State and New Mexico within the league. Outside the MTW, CSU’s best wins are Colorado and Denver – neither of which will move the Rams into the NCAAs. While the Rams’ RPI power numbers are solid, they are somewhat deceiving. The closing stretch will prove decisive. Up next, CSU travels to San Diego State and then hosts UNLV. A split would be okay, but two losses could leave the Rams light on quality wins. A 2-8 mark in road games won’t help CSU if it’s a close call.
PAC-12
Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington
  • Arizona (20-9 | 11-5) | RPI: 70 | SOS: 101 | – Arizona has won 6 of 7 games and remains in the hunt despite some very questionable power numbers (RPI and SOS). Other than a win at California, the Wildcats have no wins over projected at-large teams right now. UA was swept by Washington. If there’s a plus, it’s a 6-8 mark vs. Top 100 teams, but again most of those are not NCAA teams right now. The Wildcats are 7-4 on the road, which is a bonus. Arizona closes with UCLA and Arizona State. The Wildcats need to win both heading into the Pac-12 tournament.
  • California (23-6 | 13-3) | RPI: 36 | SOS: 96 | – If Cal can manage to win an outright Pac-12 title, it could be hard to deny the Bears an NCAA bid. While Cal is 7-4 vs. Top 100 teams, they are 0-3 in the Top 50, largely because the Bears are the only Pac-12 team in that category. Overall, Cal has won 6 of 8 games. Blemishes are losses at Oregon State and Washington State. Two road trips remain (Colorado, Stanford). Winning both might be enough to slide Cal into the Should Be In category. But nothing is a sure thing.
  • Oregon (19-8 | 10-5) | RPI: 51 | SOS: 76 | – A victory at Nebraska is all the Ducks have outside of conference play, and it’s hard to think that wins over Washington and Arizona will be enough for the Ducks, even though the win was at Arizona. Overall, the Ducks are just 4-7 against the Top 100. At the same time, the bubble overall remains weak. What Oregon can’t afford is a bad loss, and that’s why the closing stretch is potentially dangerous. The Ducks close with Oregon State, Colorado, and Utah. None of those will help Oregon much, but a loss would certainly hurt.
  • Washington (19-8 | 12-3) | RPI: 55 | SOS: 74 | – The Huskies have won 8 of 9 games and 10 of 12; that’s the good news. The troubling news is that none of those wins were over a Top 50 RPI opponent. Washington is just 4-8 against the Top 100, meaning all but four wins are against teams ranked 101 or below in the RPI. The Huskies have been just an average road team (4-4) so it’s interesting that UW closes with three straight away from home. It could be make or break time for the Huskies – especially since all three road tilts (Wash St., USC, UCLA) could be bad losses. Washington’s best bet is to remain tied with Cal at the top of the Pac-12.
SEC
Locks: Kentucky | Should Be In: Florida, Vanderbilt | Bubble: Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State
  • Alabama (18-9 | 7-6) | RPI: 29 | SOS: 15 | – Alabama is redefining itself following some team turmoil and suspensions. Back-to-back wins over Tennessee and Arkansas will help, but won’t necessarily prove the Tide are an NCAA team. Although just 2-5 vs. the Top 50, Alabama is 9-8 vs. the Top 100. Non-conference wins include Wichita State and Purdue. How much the committee will values those wins given that they came with a different team make-up remains to be seen. Up next is a key home game with Mississippi State. It could be ‘Bama’s final chance to beat an NCAA-level team before the SEC tournament. They close with Auburn and Ole Miss.
  • LSU (17-10 | 7-6) | RPI: 63 | SOS: 59 | – The Tigers have won four straight to move back into the at-large picture. Quality wins include Marquette, Alabama, and Mississippi State at home. A 4-6 road mark is somewhat concerning, as is a No. 202 non-conference schedule. Overall, LSU is 2-5 vs. Top 50 teams and just 5-8 vs. the Top 100. With games left against Ole Miss, Tennessee and Auburn, its conceivable that LSU could close the regular season on a seven-game winning streak. It might take that kind of effort to be in the hunt heading into the SEC tournament.
  • Mississippi State (19-9 | 6-7) | RPI: 60 | SOS: 67 | – A four-game slide has certainly put the Bulldogs in a slippery situation. MSU is now sub-500 in SEC play and 2-5 on the road. On the plus side, MSU is 3-3 vs. Top 50 teams and 7-7 against the Top 100. A win at Vanderbilt is particularly noteworthy. The Bulldogs also have non-conference wins over West Virginia and Arizona. Up next is a big trip to Alabama, followed by games with South Carolina and Arkansas. There’s no reason why MSU shouldnt’ be an NCAA team. But a late slip has put some added pressure on the Bulldogs. Losing two of its final three would be concerning.
WEST COAST
Locks: None | Should Be In: St. Mary’s, Gonzaga | Bubble: BYU
  • BYU (21-7 | 11-4) | RPI: 46 | SOS: 91 | – After a loss at Gonzaga Thursday, the Cougars are 1-5 vs. Top 50 teams. An earlier home win over the ‘Zags is BYU’s only NCAA-level win right now, although Nevada, Oregon, and Weber State could reach the Field of 68. Overall, BYU is 5-5 vs. the Top 100. The only really bad loss is at Utah State. With the Cougars being swept by St. Mary’s, it could be important for BYU to reach the WCC title game. That means they will have beaten Gonzaga (again) or St. Mary’s to earn a second Top 50 win. Up next is Portland.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: None | Should Be In: Murray State | Bubble: Harvard, Iona, Long Beach State, Middle Tennessee State, Nevada, Oral Roberts, VCU
  • Harvard (22-3 | 9-1) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 193 | – Will early wins over Florida State, St. Joseph’s and Central Florida be enough if Harvard loses the regular-season Ivy League crown? That’s a question the Crimson hope doesn’t need answering.
  • Iona (23-6 | 14-3) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 138 | – Beating Nevada in the BracketBusters event helps the Gaels’ profile, along with a win over St. Joseph’s. That said, Iona is 0-1 vs. against the Top 50, a loss to Purdue in Puerto Rico. A 6-3 mark vs. the Top 100 in decent but none are against guaranteed NCAA teams. Losses to Siena and Hofstra – both sub 200 teams – is somewhat costly given the lack of high-level wins.
  • Long Beach State (18-7 | 13-0) | RPI: 34 | SOS: 97 | – When the Selection Committee asks teams to challenge themselves in non-conference play, it speaks volumes that Long Beach has the No. 1 non-conference SOS. During that stretch, the 49ers won at Pittsburgh and Xavier. LBSU’s only so-so loss is a two-point defeat at Montana. LBSU’s remaining losses are to Top 50 RPI teams. If there’s a concern, it’s a two-point BracketBusters’ loss at Creighton. On the surface, that’s another “good loss.” But how many such losses are okay? With Xavier and Pitt struggling, LBSU is left with an 0-6 mark vs. Top 50 teams and a 2-7 mark vs. the Top 100. An at-large bid is by no means guaranteed.
  • Middle Tennesse State (24-4 | 14-1) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 173 | – The Blue Raiders are in complete control of the Sun Belt and have wins over Ole Miss, Belmont, and Akron outside the league. They also beat UCLA in November. Will that be enough if MTSU fails to win an automatic bid? MTSU’s only losses are at Vanderbilt, Belmont (2 OT), at UAB, and at Denver. If the Blue Raiders can make it through the Sun Belt with only one loss, a defeat in the championship game would certainly keep them in the mix for an at-large bid.
  • Nevada (20-5 | 10-1) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 150 | – Nevada will keep rooting for Washington to win the Pac-12 as the Wolfpack’s win over the Huskies is their only potential NCAA-level win at this point. Nevada lost a competitive BracketBusters game at Iona, but that could be a missed chance that costs the Wolfpack. Overall, Nevada is 0-3 vs. Top 50 teams and just 3-3 vs. the Top 100. With 12 wins over teams ranked 200-plus in the RPI, an at-large case is somewhat suspect. If Nevada wins out and loses in the WAC title game, the Wolfpack will be discussed. It’s hard to know if that discussion would generate an at-large bid.
  • Oral Roberts (25-5 | 16-1) | RPI: 45 | SOS: 172 | – ORU has a win at Xavier along with a victory over Missouri State outside the Summit League. Considering the XU victory came against a post-brawl Xavier squad without its best players, there is some question as to how much weight that victory will hold. Only the loss to UT-Arlington is questionnable (No. 184). Other losses are to Gonzaga, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and South Dakota State on the road. When you consider that 15 of ORU’s 25 wins are against teams ranked 200 or higher in the RPI, the margin for error is pretty small. ORU beat Akron in the BracketBusters game, but it’s unclear how much that victory will help (Akron did beat Mississippi State).
  • VCU (24-6 | 14-3) | RPI: 68 | SOS: 199 | – The Rams have moved into the at-large picture but still have work to do. In some ways, VCU has been helped by South Florida’s surge. It’s the Rams’ lone Top 50 win. Because the Colonial is down a bit, the league hasn’t provided the same chances for quality wins. VCU is just 3-4 vs. Top 100 teams and has 13 wins over teams ranked 200 or higher in the RPI. Other notable wins are at Akron (OT) and over Northern Iowa. A closing win over George Mason would keep VCU in the hunt, but it will still take a run to the CAA title game for serious consideration. VCU lost games to Alabama and Seton Hall and it’s only matchup with Drexel.