You’ll be hard-pressed to find a team that picks up a bigger bubble win today than No. 25 South Carolina (KenPom: 53, RPI: 30), who finally landed a marquee win in the first game they played against a quality opponent this season, beating No. 8 Texas A&M on Saturday.
That’s not meant as a shot. It’s meant purely in RPI terms. The Gamecocks have played just one RPI top 50 team this season — Alabama twice, and they split — and the Crimson Tide are 3-6 in the SEC and barely in the top 50. Throw in that horrid non-conference schedule (318th) and what you had was a team with a great record (19-3) and RPI but without any real proof as to how good they are in on-court results.
That’s a problem, which is why this win is so big. Because not only did they beat a top ten team and the SEC favorite, but they did so in College Station, and road wins matter more than home wins in the eyes of the Selection Committee. Frank Martin’s club still has some work to do, but winning on Saturday earned them some margin for error.
The only team that comes close to South Carolina is George Washington (KenPom: 82, RPI: 49). Entering the day, the Colonials’ profile hinged almost totally on a win over Virginia on the fourth day of the season. As the Cavaliers have steadily improved, the win has looked better and better.
The problem is that GW hasn’t done much to add to in. The win over Seton Hall was nice as were wins over Davidson, Tennessee and Duquesne, but they’re not enough to overcome losses to ugly losses to Saint Louis and DePaul. Losing to Richmond at home — who is probably better than their RPI indicates — certainly didn’t do them any favors, either.
On Saturday, George Washington went down to Richmond and knocked off VCU, who, entering the day, was on a 12-game winning streak, undefeated in the Atlantic 10 and sitting in the top 30 of the RPI. That’s not quite what you would call a marquee and it certainly won’t lock the Colonials into an NCAA tournament bid, but if they intend of getting an at-large bid this season, it’s a win they really needed.
- Oregon State (KenPom: 84, RPI: 41): The Beavers landed another huge win for their profile, knocking off Colorado at home, a win that game them their second RPI top 50 win in three days and their fifth of the season. They’re 7-8 against the top 100 with no bad losses. The problem? Wayne Tinkle’s club has done almost all of their damage at home and five of their last seven games are on the road. It’s not going to be easy, but at this point, I’d argue they have the inside track towards an at-large bid. Who had that in October?
- Florida State (KenPom: 40, RPI: 38): The Seminoles are one of a handful of teams that seem to be trending for the NCAA tournament’s cut-line, and while winning at Wake Forest isn’t much of a game-changer, it is an RPI top 100 win on the road. That’s a nice addition to a résumé for a team headed to the cutline, where the difference in profiles is minimal.
- LSU (KenPom: 55, RPI: 72): The Tigers are going to be a fascinating case on Selection Sunday. They beat Mississippi State on the road on Saturday to (get this) move into first place in the SEC! The problem? They played a bad non-conference schedule, they have two sub-100 losses and their second-best win (Kentucky is the best) came at Alabama, who is a fluke of the RPI formula. But their worst losses all came when they were at less than 100 percent. They’re at South Carolina and get Texas A&M at home next week. We’ll get answers then.
- Seton Hall (KenPom: 32, RPI: 44): The Pirates landed a nice win over Georgetown at home, giving them another top 100 victory for their profile. Two good wins — and the win over Wichita State is only going to look better and better — and no bad losses with a top 50 RPI is a good combo. That No. 274 non-conference schedule? That means they still had lots of work to do to feel safe.
- Butler (KenPom: 42, RPI: 61): The Bulldogs landed a must-win at St. John’s on Saturday, setting them up for their most important week of the season. The Bulldogs are right on the cut-line right now. Win at Seton Hall and beat Xavier at home, and they can feel pretty good about getting an at-large bid as long as they win the games they’re supposed to win after that.
- Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 57, RPI: 37): Like Temple, the Hawks did well on Saturday to avoid losing to an opponent that could tank their profile. St. Joe’s is in a better spot that Temple right now — they have better computer numbers and now bad losses — but a total lack of quality wins will be an issue on Selection Sunday. They badly need to beat Dayton at home this month.
- Cal (KenPom: 43, RPI: 39): The Golden Bears added their eighth RPI top 100 win on Saturday, beating Stanford in Berkeley by 15. With three top 35 wins and just one truly bad loss, Cuonzo Martin’s club should feel pretty good about getting a bid as long as they win the games they’re supposed to win down the stretch.
- San Diego State (KenPom: 68, RPI: 57): The Aztecs needed overtime to beat New Mexico at home, which was huge because SDSU isn’t exactly in a position to lose many games and still be on the right side of the bubble. They’re 10-0 in the Mountain West and may not be an at-large team. That’s where the league is at right now. SDSU has played one RPI top 100 since Dec. 22nd.
- Temple (KenPom: 92, RPI: 74): The Owls beat Central Florida. It doesn’t do much for their profile, but a loss could have killed their already slim chances of an at-large bid. They get Villanova at home later this month. That’s a must-win.
- Valparaiso (KenPom: 23, RPI: 36): The Crusaders beat one of the four-worst teams in college basketball on Saturday. Just playing that game is going to hurt their profile. I think the Crusaders are a top 40 teams in college basketball, but they want to make sure they win the automatic bid.
- Saint Mary’s (KenPom: 30, RPI: 54): The Gaels avoided losing to San Diego, but the damage may have been done by the mid-week loss to BYU. They have no top 50 wins, no chances to land a top 50 win and some ugly scheduling numbers. I’m not sure they could survive a loss in the WCC tournament.
- Gonzaga (KenPom: 35, RPI: 71): Like Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga is in a position where they cannot afford many (any?) losses in WCC play. They beat Pepperdine on the road last night, a tougher road trip than people may realize. The Zags have the added bonus of a roadie against SMU this month. That could be the decisive game for their bubble status.
- Vanderbilt (KenPom: 52, RPI: 31): We got a glimpse of what Vanderbilt could be on Thursday, when they beat Texas A&M by 17. We got a glimpse of what they are on Saturday, when they followed that up with a loss at Ole Miss. The ‘Dores are looking like they’re going to end up right there on the cut-line on Selection Sunday.
- Cincinnati (KenPom: 33, RPI: 65): The Bearcats took a bad loss on Saturday, as they went into Memphis and lost to a team that was blown on by 20 on that very same floor by UConn on Thursday. That’s the first sub-100 loss Cincinnati has, but they still have three more road games against sub-100 teams and just one win over a team ranked higher than 49th in the RPI. That game against SMU at home in the regular season finale may be the difference between the NCAA tournament and a trip to the NIT.
- Clemson (KenPom: 49, RPI: 73): The Tigers took a loss that will look worse on their profile that it was in real life at Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Tigers have a fascinating résumé: six top 50 wins, three sub-100 losses (two of which are sub-180) and one of the nation’s 15-worst non-conference schedules. For my money, they’re on the outside looking in by a fair margin, as the selection committee has proven they factor in non-conference scheduling heavily.
- Georgetown (KenPom: 60, RPI: 70): The Hoyas lost the Seton Hall tonight. On the road, to a top 50 opponent, which isn’t a huge deal … except for the fact that it’s their third straight loss and the fourth in five games since winning at Xavier. The one win in that stretch? At home against Creighton in a game where they came back from 12 down in the last two minutes. Given what’s left on their schedule, the Hoyas can still make the tournament. In theory. But it’s becoming less and less likely they’re a team that can actually get those wins.
- Washington (KenPom: 74, RPI: 51): The Huskies lost to Arizona at home on Saturday, which, in a vacuum, isn’t a terrible loss. It was at home, yes, but it was also to Arizona, an RPI top 35 team. Where it hurts is that Washington is on the bubble, five of their next six games come against top 50 teams and four of those five are on the road. They needed that win because they’re entering the toughest part of their schedule.
- Stanford (KenPom: 102, RPI: 63): The Cardinal have three top 50 wins, no bad losses and solid strength of schedule numbers. The problem? They’re now 3-9 against the top 50 and 5-10 against the top 100 after losing to Cal. At some point, they have to start collecting wins against the good teams that they’re playing.
- Colorado (KenPom: 56, RPI: 23): The Buffs lost at Oregon State, but they’re pretty comfortably on the right side of the bubble and this was a road loss to a top 50 opponent. Not a major blow by any stretch.
- BYU (KenPom: 58, RPI: 54): For some reason, BYU was still in the bubble conversation. They aren’t after losing to Pacific.