Bubble banter: Purdue’s in; UConn and Pac-12 are nervous

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It’s going to be a busy and bubble-filled two weeks.  Conference tournaments are underway, so the landscape can maneuver quickly.  There aren’t a lot of changes since Saturday, but a few teams have made moves.  Purdue has moved off the bubble and into the “Should Be In” category after a victory at Michigan.  Drexel joins the bubble conversation after winning the outright Colonial crown.  St. Louis slides onto the bubble after losing to Rhode Island, and Colorado joins after beating California.

Below is your latest bubble news.  We’ll have more frequent updates through Selection Sunday.

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.

RPI data is for games played through Monday, Feb. 28.

UPDATED: Tuesday, Feb. 28 | 6:30 p.m. ET

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

  • Projected Locks (23): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
  • Should Be In (10): These teams are tin 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 (15): 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 Monday, February 27
  • Teams Leaving the Bubble: Purdue (Should Be In)
  • Teams Joining the Bubble: St. Louis, Colorado, Drexel
Atlantic 10
Locks: Temple | Should Be In: None | Bubble: St. Louis, Dayton, St. Joe’s, Xavier
  • Dayton (18-10 | 8-6) | RPI: 61 | SOS: 55 | – The Flyers rolled over Massachusetts on Saturday and have eight Top 100 RPI wins. Victories over Temple, Alabama, and Xavier continue to help. The Flyers have also beaten Ole Miss and Minnesota – although both have fallen off the bubble. It’s the losses to Miami-OH and Rhode Island that hurt Dayton’s case. The Flyers’ last two (Richmond, Geo Washington) are all winnable games and another bad loss might be too much for Dayton to overcome. They Flyers are far from safe, but winning the last two would put them in decent position heading into the A10 tournament.
  • St. Joe’s (19-11 | 9-6) | RPI: 50 | SOS: 44 | – St. Joe’s beat Temple and closes with St. Bonaventure. The Hawks margin remains thin, but seven Top 100 wins are more than several other bubble teams. That said, St. Joe’s is just 2-5 vs. the Top 50. Beating Creighton helps, even though the win was in December. SJU also has a win over Drexel, which won the Colonial. The Hawks have three questionable losses (American and Charlotte in particular). It may take two (or three) A10 tournament wins for St. Joe’s to feel somewhat safe.
  • St. Louis (21-6 | 10-4) | RPI: 35 | SOS: 108 | – Losing to Rhode Island makes you look a little harder at SLU’s profile, and an 0-2 mark vs. Top 50 teams isn’t something to take lightly. In fairness, wins over St. Joe’s, Washington, and Xavier all rank between 50-60 in the RPI, so it’s not like the Billikens aren’t close. But SLU’s win over Washington is the Billikens’ best non-conference victory, and it’s hard to know whether that will hold up as an NCAA-level win. For that reason, they have to join the bubble. A huge game with Xavier is ahead tonight (Tuesday). SLU closes with a trip to Duquesne.
  • Xavier (18-10 | 9-5) | RPI: 54 | SOS: 51 | – Non-conference wins over Vanderbilt, Purdue, and Cincinnati continue to help the Muskies despite some recent troubles. Surviving Richmond over the weekend was important. But XU is far from safe. The Musketeers are 6-9 vs. Top 100 teams, and 12-10 vs. the Top 200. A losing mark against the Top 200 has traditionally spelled bubble trouble. XU has a home game left Charlotte. That one is critical – especially because XU travels to St. Louis tonight. A loss at SLU would make the Charlotte game even more important.
ACC
Locks: Duke, North Carolina | Should Be In: Florida State, Virginia | Bubble: Miami-FL, NC State
  • Miami-FL (17-10 | 8-6) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 32 | – Beating Florida State at home added another significant victory to the Hurricanes’ resume. It still leaves Miami, however, with a 3-9 mark vs. Top 100 teams. The victory at Duke carries a lot of weight, but will beating the Blue Devils and FSU be enough? Right now, The ‘Canes are 2-7 vs. the Top 50 and their best non-conference win is Massachusetts. Other bubble teams have more balanced profiles. Another big game awaits Wednesday when Miami travels to NC State. They close with a must-have at home vs. Boston College.
  • NC State (18-11 | 7-7) | RPI: 72 | SOS: 31 | – The Wolfpack have lost four straight and just about reached the end of the line. NC State has to beat Miami at home on Wednesday or be relegated to winning the ACC tournament. If they beat the ‘Canes and win at Va. Tech to close the regular season, they will at least be on the at-large board entering the ACC tourney.
BIG EAST
Locks: Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette | Should Be In: Louisville, Notre Dame | Bubble: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Seton Hall, West Virginia
  • Cincinnati (20-9 | 10-6) | RPI: 77 | SOS: 109 | – Cincinnati came up a point short at South Florida on Sunday, reducing the Bearcats’ margin for error. A home game with Marquette looms large, as UC ends its regular season on the road at Villanova. If the Bearcats fall to Marquette, it makes the game at ‘Nova huge. 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. Overall, the Bearcats are 5-4 vs the Top 50 and 6-6 vs. Top 100 opponents. UC’s best non-conference win was at Georgia.
  • Connecticut (17-11 | 7-9) | RPI: 30 | SOS: 1 | – With a 6-7 mark vs. the Top 50 and 8-10 mark vs. the Top 100, the Huskies remain in decent bubble position – especially given the nation’s No. 1 ranked overall strength of schedule. Key non-conference victories include Florida State and Harvard. Inside the Big East, UConn has beaten Notre Dame, Seton Hall, West Virginia, and South Florida. Losses at Tennessee and Rutgers are the blemishes. Connecticut closes with Providence and Pittsburgh. Win both and the Huskies are probably okay. Split and UConn may need a win (or two) in New York. Lose both and the risk of missing the NCAAs becomes very real.
  • Seton Hall (19-10 | 8-9) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 35 | – The Pirates have made their bubble life more difficult by losing a home game to Rutgers last weekend. While SHU is 3-7 vs. the Top 50, they are 8-8 vs. the Top 100. Notable non-conference wins include Dayton, St. Joe’s, and VCU – other teams on the bubble. If SHU loses at DePaul, the Pirates’ may need a couple of wins in New York to breathe easy. Within the league, SHU has beaten UConn, Georgetown and West Virginia.
  • West Virginia (17-12 | 7-9) | RPI: 51 | SOS: 10 | – 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 last 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). Within the league, WVU has also beat Cincinnati. 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. Losing both would make the Big East tournament a pressure cooker. A split would make it important for the Mountaineers to avoid an early Big East exit.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin | Should Be In: Purdue | Bubble: Northwestern
  • Northwestern (17-11 | 7-9) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 12 | – If Northwestern misses the NCAAs in a close call, last Tuesday’s overtime home loss to Michigan might loom large. The Wildcats have a home win over Michigan State and neutral court victory over Seton Hall. NW is 6-11 vs. Top 100 teams, with those other wins being against LSU, Illinois, and Minnesota – none of which are NCAA caliber right now. A 3-7 road record is also concerning – although the Wildcats got a must-win road victory at Penn State. 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 40. Up next is a home date with Ohio State before a road trip to Iowa. If Northwestern can reach 8-10 in the Big Ten they have a fighting chance heading into the Big Ten tournament.
BIG 12
Locks: Baylor, Kansas, Missouri | Should Be In: Kansas State | Bubble: Iowa State, Texas
  • Iowa State (21-8 | 11-5) | RPI: 32 | SOS: 59 | – Winning at Kansas State was huge for the Cyclones and gave ISU as season sweep of the Wildcats. ISU also has a home win over Kansas. Still, ISU is just 4-6 vs. Top 100 teams and its best non-conference win is Lehigh. Two more “big wins” remain: at Missouri and vs. Baylor. Winning one should be enough to move the Cyclones into the NCAAs. Losing both could still put some pressure on ISU to avoid an early exit at the Big 12 tournament. Right now, 17 of ISU’s 21 wins are to teams outside the Top 100.
  • Texas (18-11 | 8-8) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 28 | – The Longhorns avoided disaster by winning a squeaker at Texas Tech in overtime. Now, it’s time to move on. Up next is another must-have game against Oklahoma at home. UT ends it’s regular season at Kansas. Texas is 3-8 vs. Top 100 teams, but all three are NCAA teams at this point (Temple, Kansas State, Iowa State). Even so, UT has no margin for error down the stretch. A strong overall SOS is helping. Losses at Oklahoma State and Oregon State are blemishes. A split will give the Longhorns hope heading into the Big 12 tournament. It may still take two wins there to feel somewhat safe.
CONFERENCE USA
Locks: None | Should Be In: Memphis | Bubble: Central Florida, Southern Mississippi
  • Central Florida (18-8 | 9-5) | RPI: 63 | SOS: 107 | – Time might be running out on the Knights after the bad loss at Rice. At least a home victory over UTEP kept it from being a disasterous week. The Knights are just 3-6 vs. Top 100 teams and 9-8 against the Top 200. Neither is overly impressive. UCF is 3-6 on the road and has a very average non-conference SOS (185). Other than a neutral court win over Connecticut in November, UCF has beaten Memphis and Marshall at home. They have lost twice to Southern Mississippi – which doesn’t help. It may very well take a closing sweep (at Memphis, UAB) to stay in the at-large picture. A loss to Memphis would drop UCF to 1-3 vs. the league’s top teams.
  • Southern Mississippi (21-6 | 10-4) | RPI: 13 | SOS: 50 | – The Golden Eagles suffered two bad losses in a row (UTEP and Houston) before sneaking past Rice by two points at home. Combine those with an earlier loss to UAB, and USM’s profile isn’t as strong as it once was. The Golden Eagles are 3-2 vs. the Top 50 and 9-3 vs. the Top 100 – which helps. USM does have a win over South Florida – so USM will keep rooting for USF to make the NCAAs. They’ve also beaten fellow bubble dweller Colorado State. While there are plenty of good points on the Eagles’ resume, USM is closer to the bubble than Should Be In. SMU and Memphis close out USM’s regular-season slate. A loss to SMU 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, San Diego State, New Mexico | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Colorado State
  • Colorado State (16-10 | 6-6) | RPI: 27 | SOS: 5 | – Back-to-back wins over Wyoming and New Mexico re-energized the Rams’ hopes. CSU is 6-8 vs. Top 100 teams although just 2-5 vs. the Top 50 after the loss at San Diego State. The Rams have home 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. A 2-9 mark in road games isn’t helping, either. While the Rams’ RPI power numbers are solid, they are somewhat deceiving. The closing stretch will prove decisive. Up next, CSU hosts UNLV before a trip to Air Force. Two losses would likely end CSU’s hopes. The home date with UNLV is huge because it would give the Rams wins over the league’s top three teams heading into the MTW tournament.
PAC 12
Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington
  • Arizona (21-9 | 12-5) | RPI: 70 | SOS: 97 | – Arizona has won 7 of 8 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. Are wins over New Mexico State, Colorado and Valparaiso (Top 100) going to push Arizona into the NCAAs? Probably not. Plus, UA was swept by Washington. Arizona closes with Arizona State. That’s a must win heading into the Pac-12 tournament.
  • California (23-7 | 13-4) | RPI: 36 | SOS: 89 | – Losing at Colorado cost the Bears a share of the Pac-12 lead and could cost the Bears an NCAA at-large bid if they stay behind Washington. An outright title still means something. While Cal is 6-5 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. Cal’s best non-conference win is Weber State or Denver. Blemishes are losses at Oregon State and Washington State. The Bears close at Stanford this weekend. A loss to the Cardinal would really hurt the Bears’ chances.
  • Colorado (17-9 | 11-5) | RPI: 76 | SOS: 85 | – We might as well throw the Buffaloes into the mix after beating California at home. It gives CU a Top 50 victory – something other Pac-12 teams (other than Arizona) don’t have. Within the league, Colorado has home wins over Cal, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon. The Buffs best non-conference win, however, is Georgia at home. That won’t help. A road swing through Oregon closes out Colorado’s Pac-12 season. They need to win both to stay in the hunt. Colorado is just 4-5 vs. To 100 teams and 9-9 vs. the Top 200. They also have 4 sub-100 RPI losses.
  • Oregon (20-8 | 11-5) | RPI: 52 | SOS: 79 | – 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 alone will be enough for the Ducks, even though the win was at Arizona. Overall, the Ducks are just 2-7 against the Top 100. What Oregon can’t afford is a bad loss, and that’s why the closing stretch is potentially dangerous. The Ducks close with Colorado and Utah. A loss to could knock the Ducks into automatic qualifier status.
  • Washington (20-8 | 13-3) | RPI: 53 | SOS: 74 | – The Huskies have won 9 of 10 games and now own the outright Pac-12 lead. That’s the good news. The troubling news is that none of those wins are over a Top 50 RPI opponent. UW”s best wins are Arizona (twice) and Oregon at home – both are bubble teams. Washington is 3-8 against the Top 100, meaning all but three wins are against teams ranked 101 or below in the RPI. Winning an outright Pac-12 title would really help Washington’s case. Two more road wins await and either would be a bad loss: USC and UCLA.
SEC
Locks: Kentucky | Should Be In: Florida, Vanderbilt | Bubble: Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State
  • Alabama (19-9 | 8-6) | RPI: 25 | SOS: 14 | – Alabama is redefining itself following some team turmoil. The Tide have won three straight – the victory Saturday over Mississippi State was particularly important. Although just 2-5 vs. the Top 50, Alabama is 9-8 vs. the Top 100. Non-conference wins include Wichita State and Purdue. Those victories keep looking better. Alabama has also beaten VCU. They close with Auburn and Ole Miss. Winning both would seal it. A split might make the SEC tournament opener more important.
  • LSU (17-11 | 7-7) | RPI: 68 | SOS: 58 | – The Tigers have won four of five but the drubbing at Ole Miss on Saturday certain moves the Tigers down a peg on the at-large board. Quality wins include Marquette, Alabama, and Mississippi State at home. Next up are Tennessee and Auburn. A loss to either probably eliminates the Tigers without a significant run through the SEC tournament.
  • Mississippi State (19-10 | 6-8) | RPI: 66 | SOS: 62 | – A five-game slide has created a desperate situation in Starkville. MSU is 2-5 on the road and plays at South Carolina next. A loss to the Gamecocks would really be bad at this point as it would ensure MSU a sub.500 league record. On the plus side, a win at Vanderbilt is noteworthy, as is a 7-8 mark vs. the Top 100. A non-conference win over West Virginia helps, but not as much as it once did – the Mountaineers are sliding, too. MSU also beat Arizona. After the USC game, MSU ends at home with Arkansas. The Bulldogs really need to have both. Otherwise, the opening games of the SEC tournament become critical.
WEST COAST
Locks: St. Mary’s, Gonzaga | Should Be In: None | Bubble: BYU
  • BYU (22-7 | 12-4) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 104 | – 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 might be critical for BYU to reach the WCC title game. That means they will have beaten Gonzaga (again) to earn a second Top 50 win. A loss prior to the WCC semifinals would really hurt, and will make it a long wait until Selection Sunday.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: Murray State | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Drexel, Harvard, Iona, Long Beach State, Middle Tennessee State, Nevada, Oral Roberts, VCU
  • Drexel (25-5 | 16-2) | RPI: 67 | SOS: 234 |What the Dragons have is an outright CAA regular-season title. How much that helps Drexel remains to be seen. Drexel is 0-2 vs. Top 50 teams and 4-2 against the Top 100. The non-conference wins in that category are Cleveland State and Princeton. Neither of which helps much. Also, 14 of Drexels’ wins are against teams ranked 200 or higher in the RPI. Losses to Virginia and St. Joseph’s weren’t particularly close. Drexel has to reach the CAA title game. If that sets up a rematch with VCU, the Dragons might have a chance. It’s hard to believe anything else would be enough.
  • Harvard (23-4 | 10-2) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 170 | – 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 (24-6 | 15-3) | RPI: 40 | SOS: 146 | – Beating Nevada in the BracketBusters event helps the Gaels’ profile, along with a win over St. Joseph’s. That said, Iona is just 1-1 vs. against the Top 50. A 6-3 mark vs. the Top 100 in pretty good given that the Gaels’ play in the somewhat underrated MAAC, 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. If Iona reaches the MAAC title game, they’ll be in the at-large discussion.
  • Long Beach State (19-7 | 14-0) | RPI: 34 | SOS: 103 | – 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, but closing out an undefeated Big West season would certainly help. UC Davis and CS-Fullerton are up next.
  • Middle Tennesse State (24-5 | 14-2) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 174 | – The Blue Raiders’ profile took a major hit with the loss at Western Kentucky. While MTSU won the outright Sun Belt title, the Blue Raiders’ best non-conference wins are Ole Miss, Belmont, and Akron. Good wins, but not the kind that carry a team into the NCAAs. A loss to anyone other than Denver in the Sun Belt tourney will likely relegate MTSU to the NIT.
  • Nevada (21-5 | 11-1) | RPI: 55 | SOS: 157 | – 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 2-3 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 will generate an at-large bid.
  • Oral Roberts (26-5 | 17-1) | RPI: 41 | 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 14 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). Reaching the Summit title game could be a must.
  • VCU (25-6 | 15-3) | RPI: 60 | SOS: 178 | – 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. VCU is 4-4 vs. Top 100 teams but has 13 wins over teams ranked 200 or higher in the RPI. Other notable wins are at Akron (OT) and over Northern Iowa. VCU lost games to Alabama and Seton Hall and it’s only matchup with Drexel. A rematch with the Dragons in the CAA tournament would be huge.