NCAA Tournament Watch: February 19, 2012 Bubble Watch

by Maize_in_Spartyland

 

Every Sunday evening, after college basketball games are completed, we will cover the teams who are in good shape for an NCAA Tournament bid; we will also cover the teams who still have some work to do.

Each of the major conferences will be covered, as well as mid-major conferences that are projected to have multiple bids. Other conferences that have teams who are “locks”, “probably in”, or have “work to do” will be noted in one group.

RPI, SOS, and record against top 50 RPI are accurate as of February 19.

UPDATED 2/19/2012

Locks: 26

Probably in: 11

Work to do: 37

Total: 37

Major Conferences

ACC

Virginia is making their case to move back to a “lock”, but the bubble teams in the ACC continue to blow chances at statement wins. Beyond the three leaders and Virginia, the ACC may not get any bids.

 

Locks: Florida State (19-7) (10-2); Duke (23-4) (10-2); North Carolina (23-4) (10-2).

Florida State

RPI: 18

SOS: 10

Top 50 RPI: 4-4

Florida State picked up a pair of victories over Virginia Tech and at North Carolina State this past week. The Seminoles are on a three game winning streak and have won 10 of their last 11. Florida State has games remaining against Duke, at Miami (FL), at Virginia, and Clemson.

Duke

RPI: 4

SOS: 3

Top 50 RPI: 6-4

Duke picked up wins over North Carolina State and Boston College this past week. The Blue Devils were down by as many as 20 points to the Wolfpack, erasing the deficit in the second half and crushing North Carolina State’s hopes of an at-large bid. Duke has games remaining at Florida State, Virginia Tech, at Wake Forest, and North Carolina.

North Carolina

RPI: 5

SOS: 17

Top 50 RPI: 7-4

North Carolina beat Miami (FL) and Clemson during the week, keeping pace with Duke and Florida State for the lead in the ACC. Assuming the Tar Heels win at least one of their remaining four, they will have a first round bye in the ACC Tournament. The Tar Heels have games remaining at North Carolina State, at Virginia, Maryland, and at Duke.

Probably in: None.

Work to do: Virginia (20-6) (7-5); North Carolina State (18-9) (7-5); Miami (FL) (16-9) (7-5).

Virginia

RPI: 43

SOS: 111

Top 50 RPI: 2-3

Virginia split games this past week, falling at Clemson, but rebounding to beat Maryland over the weekend. Virginia is in good shape for the NCAA Tournament, but has a trio or bad losses to TCU, Virginia Tech, and Clemson. Wins over Michigan, Miami (FL), and North Carolina State do look good, though. Virginia has games remaining at Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Florida State, and at Maryland.

North Carolina State

RPI: 58

SOS: 40

Top 50 RPI: 2-7

The losses at Duke and home to Florida State were pretty damaging to N.C. State’s post-season chances. The Wolfpack led Duke at Cameron Indoor by 19 with 11 minutes left, only to be outscored 36-12, and falling to the Blue Devils. The Wolfpack probably have one opportunity left to post a quality win. With their best wins over Miami (FL) and Texas, North Carolina State is lacking a statement win. North Carolina State has games remaining against North Carolina, at Clemson, Miami (FL), and at Virginia Tech. If the Wolfpack beat the Tar Heels, they will move up a line. But if North Carolina State falls to the Tar Heels and wins the remaining three games, will 21-10 and 10-6 be enough?

Miami (FL)

RPI: 44

SOS: 31

Top 50 RPI: 1-7

Miami (FL) is in a bit of a problem, other than the win over Duke, as Miami (FL) really doesn’t have any other good wins; their best non-conference win was over Massachusetts. The Hurricanes lost at home to North Carolina during the week, but beat Wake Forest over the weekend. However, the Hurricanes have no bad losses. Miami (FL) needs to beat Florida State. As for their other opponents, only N.C. State doesn’t have an RPI hovering around 100; a loss to any of those teams, other than N.C. State, takes the Hurricanes out of the NCAA Tournament picture. Miami (FL)’s remaining schedule is at Maryland, Florida State, at North Carolina State, and Boston College. The Hurricanes are 1-8 against potential tournament teams.

Big XII

Missouri and Kansas continue to win and Baylor continues to disappoint. Kansas State took a step forward with a win at Baylor, while Texas took a step back with a loss at Oklahoma State.

Locks: Missouri (25-2) (12-2); Kansas (22-5) (12-2).

Missouri

RPI: 9

SOS: 99

Top 50 RPI: 8-1

Missouri picked up a pair of wins during the week, beating Oklahoma State in Columbia and Texas A&M at College Station. Neither win is against a good opponent, but the ability to win road games won’t go unnoticed by the NCAA Selection Committee. The Tigers are 10-2 on road and neutral courts. The Tigers have won seven straight, but do have a loss at Oklahoma State. Missouri will meet Kansas on February 25 at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, in a game which will likely decide the Big XII regular season title. The Tigers have games remaining against Kansas State, at Kansas, Iowa State, and at Texas Tech.

Kansas

RPI: 6

SOS: 9

Top 50 RPI: 9-4

Kansas defeated Kansas State and Texas Tech during the week, keeping pace with Missouri. For now, Missouri has the tiebreaking advantage, based on the February 4th meeting in Columbia. Kansas will meet Missouri on February 25 at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, in a game which will likely decide the Big XII regular season title. Kansas has games remaining at Texas A&M, Missouri, at Oklahoma State, and Texas. The Jayhawks are giving up an average of 60.4 points per game, second in the Big XII behind Texas A&M.

Probably in: Baylor (22-5) (9-5); Iowa State (19-8) (9-5).

Baylor

RPI: 10

SOS: 11

Top 50 RPI: 7-5

Baylor picked up a big time home win against Iowa State during the week, but fell at the Ferrell Center to Kansas State over the weekend. Baylor has lost three of their five games at home. Regardless, the Bears are in good shape, with wins over Brigham Young, Saint Mary’s, West Virginia, Mississippi State, Kansas State, and Iowa State. Baylor’s remaining schedule is at Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and at Iowa State. Baylor’s Perry Jones III is averaging 13.6 points per game in the Big XII; the Bears are 1-4 when Jones III scores below his average (8-1 when he scores 14 or more per game).

Iowa State

RPI: 40

SOS: 59

Top 50 RPI: 3-5

Iowa State lost at Baylor but beat Oklahoma in Ames. Iowa State is probably in the NCAA Tournament, if the season ended today, but could improve their profile, and make up for their lack of quality non-conference wins by doing some damage down the stretch. If Iowa State wins their home games –Texas Tech and Baylor – they will be NCAA Tournament bound. Anything less will require some road wins or Big XII Tournament wins – Kansas State, and Missouri.

Work to do: Kansas State (18-8) (7-7); Texas (17-10) (7-7).

Kansas State

RPI: 49

SOS: 63

Top 50 RPI: 5-6

Kansas State fell at home to Kansas during the week, a huge loss. They made up for that loss by beating Baylor at the Ferrell Center. The Wildcats now have their statement win – Kansas State is 5-5 on road and neutral courts. Kansas State does have a few decent non-conference wins, having beaten Alabama and Long Beach State. They also have wins over Missouri, Texas, and now Baylor, as well. Assuming Kansas State wins two of their last our (at Missouri, Iowa State, at Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State), they are probably in the NCAA Tournament; going 4-2 or winning a game or two in the Big XII Tournament would help, though. If the Wildcats beat Missouri or Iowa State during the week, we will move them up to “probably in”.

Texas

RPI: 51

SOS: 29

Top 50 RPI: 3-7

The Longhorns four-game winning streak ended this weekend with a loss in Stillwater to Oklahoma State. That loss puts Texas on the wrong side of the bubble. Texas is 3-8 on road and neutral courts. The February 20th date against Baylor becomes very important, and is Texas’s last realistic chance at a quality win. A Texas win over Baylor will move them up, but a loss will leave them needing to make some noise in the Big XII Tournament. Texas has games remaining against Baylor, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and at Kansas.

Big East

Connecticut and Seton Hall are in serious danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. The top of the Big East continues to be solid while the rest of the Big East can easily be interchangeable. Whoever ends up as the 9 seed in the Big East Tournament may be in better shape than the 8, as the 9 seed may have an opportunity to play their way in the NCAA Tournament.

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Locks: Syracuse (27-1) (14-1); Notre Dame (19-8) (11-3); Marquette (22-5) (11-3); Georgetown (20-5) (10-4); Louisville (21-6) (9-5).

Syracuse

RPI: 1

SOS: 26

Top 50 RPI: 7-1

Syracuse won two road games this week, against Louisville and Rutgers. The magic number for the Orange is two – two wins, or a win and a loss by Notre Dame. Syracuse has three remaining games (Connecticut on the road; South Florida and Louisville at home). Syracuse has already clinched a double bye in the Big East Tournament.

Notre Dame

RPI: 36

SOS: 42

Top 50 RPI: 6-4

Notre Dame has now won eight straight, five of which over potential NCAA Tournament teams. Its really hard to fathom how far Notre Dame has come – just a month and a half ago the Irish were not even in the NCAA Tournament discussion. Notre Dame is 6-4 against RPI top 50 teams. Notre Dame faces West Virginia and Providence at home; St. John’s and Georgetown on the road. Barring the unforeseen, Notre Dame will earn a double-bye in the Big East Tournament. The Irish at least have a one round bye; they also hold the tiebreaker over Marquette, having beaten the Golden Eagles in South Bend on February 4th.

Marquette

RPI: 8

SOS: 24

Top 50 RPI: 4-4

Marquette may have ended Connecticut’s NCAA Tournament chances with a 15-point win at the XL Center on Saturday. Marquette has a one game lead over fourth place Georgetown and South Florida. Marquette has games remaining against Rutgers, at West Virginia, at Cincinnati, and Georgetown. Marquette has, at the worst-case scenario, a first round bye in the Big East Tournament. The Golden Eagles have won 10 of their last 11 games.

Georgetown

RPI: 13

SOS: 22

Top 50 RPI: 6-3

The Hoyas beat two of the Big East’s worst teams during the week, winning by double digits over St. John’s and Providence. Things get tougher for Georgetown now, as the Hoyas’ remaining schedule is at Seton Hall, Villanova, Notre Dame, and at Marquette. Georgetown is 6-3 on the road this season and is 13-1 at the MCI Center. With a win by Georgetown or a loss by Seton Hall, Georgetown will be assured of no worse than an opening round bye.

Louisville

RPI: 20

SOS: 30

Top 50 RPI: 6-5

Louisville played a pair of close games during the week, losing at home to Syracuse by one, and winning at Allstate Arena (or Rosemont Horizon for those of you who are old school) in overtime, against lowly DePaul. Louisville is one game behind fourth place, which would give the Cardinals a double-bye in the upcoming tournament at Madison Square Garden. The Cardinals remaining schedule is certainly not easy, with games at Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Florida, and at Syracuse.

Probably in: None.

Work to do: South Florida (17-10) (10-4); Cincinnati (19-8) (9-5); West Virginia (17-10) (7-7); Seton Hall (18-9) (7-8); Connecticut (16-10) (6-8).

South Florida

RPI: 49

SOS: 40

Top 50 RPI: 1-6

To be honest, its getting tough to explain why the Bulls are not on the “probably in” line. USF’s RPI has gotten better since the last Watch, but still isn’t great, going from 73 to 56, and is 1-6 against the RPI top 50 (lone win against Seton Hall), but the Bulls do have ten conference wins now, and are at least in the discussion for a first round bye in the Big East Tournament, if not a double-bye. USF is up three and a half games on Seton Hall, who is currently in ninth place. With that said, USF’s best win in non-conference play is against Cleveland State, and the Bulls do have losses to Old Dominion, Penn State, and Auburn. The Bulls have wins over Seton Hall, Pittsburgh (twice), and Villanova (twice). Its’ hard to imagine the Bulls getting turned away from the NCAA Tournament if they get to 12 conference wins, but its certainly possible. South Florida has contests remaining at Syracuse, Cincinnati, at Louisville, and West Virginia. A road win against Syracuse or Louisville would likely seal up a bid for the Bulls.

Cincinnati

RPI: 80

SOS: 125

Top 50 RPI: 4-3

Cincinnati defeated Providence and Seton Hall at Fifth Third Arena during the week. The win against Seton Hall can’t be underestimated, as the Bearcats not only hold a tiebreaker on the Pirates, but likely are ahead of them in the NCAA Tournament pecking order. The Bearcats have an RPI over 70, but are 4-3 against the RPI top 50. Cincinnati’s best non-conference win is against Oklahoma, and they do have a loss to Presbyterian. The Bearcats have games remaining against Louisville, at South Florida, Marquette, and at Villanova. Cincinnati likely need to at least split in the remaining two sets of games: Louisville/Marquette and South Florida/Villanova. 11-6 should be enough, anything short of that will require some work in the Big East Tournament. A win over Louisville will move Cincinnati to “probably in”.

West Virginia

RPI: 32

SOS: 6

Top 50 RPI: 3-7

West Virginia’s road win against Pittsburgh keeps them on the Watch. Pittsburgh is having a down year, but a road win in the Big East helps the Mountaineers NCAA Tournament chances. They haven’t been great at home this season and have looked awful on the road. West Virginia has lost five of their last seven, with the two wins being on the road against Pittsburgh and in overtime against Providence. The Mountaineers have games remaining at Notre Dame, Marquette, DePaul, and at South Florida. West Virginia does have wins over Kansas State, Miami (FL), and Georgetown, but that seems like an eternity. To feel comfortable about their NCAA Tournament chances, West Virginia probably needs to win three of their remaining four.

Seton Hall

RPI: 34

SOS: 33

Top 50 RPI: 3-6

Seton Hall’s three game win streak came to an end over the weekend, falling by five at Cincinnati. Seton Hall is behind Cincinnati and might even be behind West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament pecking order. Seton Hall did have a glaring six game losing streak, which the NCAA Selection Committee doesn’t like to see, even if five of the six losses were to potential tournament teams. The Pirates have games remaining against Georgetown, Rutgers, and at DePaul. Seton Hall probably needs to defeat Georgetown to feel comfortable.

Connecticut

RPI: 25

SOS: 1

Top 50 RPI: 5-6

Connecticut has won two of their last nine. They beat DePaul during the week, but lost at the XL Center on Saturday to Marquette. With an RPI under 30, the Huskies look like an NCAA Tournament team, but the losing streak and away record suggest otherwise. Then again, Connecticut was in a similar situation last season, before rattling of 11 straight wins, winning the Big East Conference Tournament, and winning the 2011 NCAA Basketball National Championship. The Huskies have games remaining at Villanova, Syracuse, at Providence, and Pittsburgh. Connecticut needs to pick up road wins against Villanova and Providence; additionally, a win against Syracuse would set up the Huskies for an NCAA Tournament bid. Anything less will require some wins in the Big East Tournament. But hey, the Huskies are more than capable of doing that. If Connecticut loses to Villanova and Syracuse this week, they will be gone from the Watch.

Big Ten

Michigan solidifies their spot as a legitimate Big Ten contender, beating Ohio State in Ann Arbor on Saturday. Meanwhile, Minnesota and Illinois are on the verge of falling out of the NCAA Tournament discussion.

Locks: Michigan State (22-5) (11-3); Michigan (20-7) (10-4); Ohio State (22-5) (10-4).

Michigan State

RPI: 2

SOS: 2

Top 50 RPI: 9-4

Michigan State remains in sole possession of first place with wins against Wisconsin and at Purdue. Michigan State has won seven of their last eight, with the lone defeat by one in Champaign to Illinois. During that streak they have an average margin of victory of 15.5 points per game. Michigan State controls their destiny. They have games remaining at Minnesota, Nebraska, at Indiana, and Ohio State.

Michigan

RPI: 12

SOS: 8

Top 50 RPI: 8-5

The Wolverines picked up a huge home win over Ohio State on Saturday night; they also beat Illinois in Ann Arbor. Michigan has won three in a row and four of their last five. Out of the contenders for the Big Ten regular season title, Michigan has the easiest remaining schedule, with Purdue at home, and Northwestern, Illinois, and Penn State on the road.

Ohio State

RPI: 7

SOS: 16

Top 50 RPI: 7-4

If you listened at all to ESPN, you know that the basketball analysts drooled over Ohio State and how they were the best team in the Big Ten. Now, the Buckeyes risk being the third team in the conference, with losses to Michigan and Michigan State in the past week. Things only get tougher for the Buckeyes, as they play four more potential NCAA Tournament teams before the regular season ends – Illinois, Wisconsin, at Northwestern and at Michigan State. Ohio State is 7-5 against potential NCAA Tournament teams.

Probably in: Wisconsin (20-7) (9-5); Indiana (20-7) (8-7).

Wisconsin

RPI: 23

SOS: 24

Top 50 RPI: 4-6

Wisconsin dropped a road decision against Michigan State, resulting in a season sweep for the Spartans; the Badgers did beat Penn State at home, but it was closer than expected. Wisconsin has won eight of their last ten games, by an average of 8 points per game. The Badgers have an RPI under 30 and are 4-6 against the RPI top 50. Wisconsin has games remaining at Iowa, at Ohio State, Minnesota, and Illinois. If Wisconsin gets revenge from their December 31st home loss to Iowa, in Iowa City, Wisconsin will move to a lock.

Indiana

RPI: 19

SOS: 30

Top 50 RPI: 5-4

After losing four of five, the Hoosiers have won four of their last six, including wins against Purdue on the road and Illinois and Northwestern at home. Indiana beat Northwestern during the week, but lost at Iowa on Sunday. The Hoosiers finish the season with North Carolina Central, Michigan State, and Purdue at home. The Hoosiers are 4-6 in road and neutral court games. A win at Minnesota on Sunday would move Indiana to a “lock”.

Work to do: Purdue (17-10) (7-7); Northwestern (16-10) (6-8); Iowa (14-13) (6-8); Illinois (16-11) (5-9); Minnesota (17-10) (5-9).

Purdue

RPI: 53

SOS: 21

Top 50 RPI: 5-7

Three of Purdue’s seven conference losses have come against the Michigan schools. The Boilermakers picked up a crucial road win against Illinois during the week, but lost at home to Michigan State by 14 on Sunday. Despite a number of wins against the RPI top 50, Purdue lacks a marquee win. Purdue has games left against Nebraska, at Michigan, Penn State, and at Indiana. A win over Michigan, or Indiana would be helpful. Purdue is still in decent shape, and has a decent shot at finishing above 500 in conference play.

Northwestern

RPI: 37

SOS: 7

Top 50 RPI: 2-8

Northwestern lost at Indiana, but beat fellow bubble team Minnesota, avenging a loss on January 22nd. Northwestern has won four of their last six. They have a crucial game against Michigan this week, and a crucial road game against Penn State. Northwestern is 2-7 on the road, with their lone road wins against Illinois and Georgia Tech. The window is closing on Northwestern’s opportunity to earn their first NCAA Tournament bid. Northwestern has games remaining against Michigan, at Penn State, Ohio State, and at Iowa. Fortunately for the Wildcats, their easier games are on the road, giving them a chance to pick up a few more road wins. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they play Michigan and Ohio State at home. The Wildcats have beaten Michigan State, but will need more than just that. If Northwestern defeats Michigan, Penn State, and Iowa, and wins at least one Big Ten Tournament game, the Wildcats should make their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Northwestern is in much better shape than Illinois and Minnesota, and likely has better than a 50% chance to make the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa

RPI: 135

SOS: 72

Top 50 RPI: 3-6

Why is Iowa here? It is based solely on their performance at home in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes are 4-3 at home in the Big Ten, but 2-5 on the road in the conference. Iowa has some bad losses: Campbell, Clemson, Nebraska, and at Penn State. But Iowa also has wins over Wisconsin, Minnesota (twice), Michigan, and Indiana. Iowa will need to beat Wisconsin this week to stay on the Watch, which would add to their already impressive win total. Iowa’s RPI is bad, and they are 2-8 in road and neutral games. The Hawkeyes probably need to win at least three of their four remaining games, and likely needs to make a run to the Big Ten Tournament finals. Penn State did it last year, can Iowa do it this year? Penn State was 19-15 last year, including 9-9 in Big Ten play. If Iowa wins three of their last four, they would be 17-14, 9-9. Iowa has games remaining against Wisconsin, at Illinois, at Nebraska, and Northwestern.

Illinois

RPI: 63

SOS: 23

Top 50 RPI: 4-8

We are on the verge of pulling the plug on Illinois. For now we are going to wait, despite a pair of losses to Purdue and at Nebraska this week. The Illini lacked energy and have appeared to quit on Coach Weber, as evident in their 23-point loss in Lincoln on Saturday. The Illini have lost eight of their last nine, with the lone win by one over Michigan State. Illinois is 2-6 on the road. Illinois has contests remaining at Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, and at Wisconsin. Illinois likely needs to get to 9-9 in conference play, based on their recent losing streak, and that will require winning all of the last four. The Illini are likely NIT-bound. Illinois will be eliminated from the Watch with a loss at Ohio State.

Minnesota

RPI: 71

SOS: 56

Top 50 RPI: 2-6

Minnesota is going to have to win their four remaining games in order to finish 500 in conference. Minnesota lost to Ohio State and Northwestern this past week; Minnesota is 1-4 in their last five. Minnesota’s remaining schedule is one of the toughest: Michigan State, Indiana, at Wisconsin, and Nebraska. The Gophers will have plenty of chances to build their tournament resume, unfortunately they play two of the top four teams in the Big Ten. Assuming Minnesota gets to 9-9 in the Big Ten, they will need one, if not two Big Ten Tournament wins to feel comfortable. Anything less than two wins against Michigan State and Indiana will eliminate Minnesota from the Watch.

PAC-12

California remains as a lock and Washington is in decent shape. Colorado is making an argument for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament, while Arizona and Oregon are going to need the PAC-12 Tournament.

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Locks: California (22-6) (12-3).

California

RPI: 30

SOS: 85

Top 50 RPI: 0-3

The Golden Bears are 0-3 against the RPI top 50 and have a SOS above 80, so why are they a “lock”? Simply put, they have been the most consistent PAC-12 team to date. California has won ten of their last twelve, with their lone losses coming by a combined six points. California earned a season sweep of Oregon on Thursday night, and avenged a January 5th loss to Oregon State, beating the Beavers on Saturday. California has games remaining at Utah, at Colorado, and at Stanford.

Probably in: Washington (19-8) (12-3).

Washington

RPI: 55

SOS: 73

Top 50 RPI: 0-4

Washington has won ten of their last twelve, including three of their last four on the road. Washington’s concerns are their high RPI, lack of wins against the RPI top 50 and bad road record. The first two cannot be addresses, but the bad road record can, especially in the last three games. The Huskies are 4-6 on road and neutral courts. The Huskies have good wins against Oregon, Stanford, at Arizona, and UCLA, but lack a signature win. Washington defeated Arizona State and Arizona over the weekend; they now have a season sweep of the Wildcats. Washington has games remaining at Washington State, at USC, and at UCLA.

Work to do: Colorado (18-8) (10-4); Oregon (19-8) (10-5); Arizona (19-9) (10-5).

Colorado

RPI: 73

SOS: 116

Top 50 RPI: 0-3

Colorado has a number of problems: 5-7 on road and neutral courts, 0-3 against the RPI top 50, and an RPI over 70. Colorado did beat Utah in Salt Lake City over the weekend. The Buffs are 4-4 against RPIs 51-100, though, and they are 13-1 at home. Colorado has games left against Stanford, California, at Oregon, and at Oregon State. Colorado probably needs wins in three of their four remaining games; they virtually have to beat California in Boulder. They probably need to win a game or two in the PAC-12 Conference Tournament, as well.

Oregon

RPI: 55

SOS: 78

Top 50 RPI: 0-5

Oregon had the chance to pick up a win at California Thursday night, but lost by three. They stay on the Watch this week because of a road win at Stanford on Sunday. With the exception of Colorado, the remaining three opponents will not make the NCAA Tournament, short of a PAC-12 Tournament Championship, and would constitute a bad loss. Ducks now have wins over Arizona and Washington in conference play. Oregon has games left at Oregon State, Colorado, and Utah. Oregon needs to win their remaining games to make the NCAA Tournament. Anything less will require a win or two in the PAC-12 Conference Tournament.

Arizona

RPI: 69

SOS: 88

Top 50 RPI: 1-3

Arizona won at Washington State, but lost at Washington over the weekend. The Wildcats are 1-3 against the top 50 RPI, but they are 7-6 on road and neutral courts. Arizona has games remaining against USC, UCLA, and at Arizona State. The Wildcats virtually have to close the season with three wins, and win a few in the PAC-12 Tournament.

SEC

It was moving week in the SEC, as Vanderbilt moved back to a lock with a blowout win at Ole Miss and a season sweep of Georgia. We say goodbye to Arkansas and Ole Miss, as both fall further below 500 on conference play and seem destined for the NIT. Mississippi State is making their case for the NIT as well, with an embarrassing loss at Auburn.

Locks: Kentucky (26-1) (12-0); Florida (21-6) (9-3); Vanderbilt (19-8) (8-4).

Kentucky

RPI: 3

SOS: 57

Top 50 RPI: 6-1

Kentucky’s lone loss to date was on a buzzer beater at Indiana. Kentucky beat Ole Miss in Rupp Arena, never really pulling away from the Rebels. Kentucky has four games remaining: at Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Georgia, and at Florida. The Wildcats are up three games on Florida; the magic number for Kentucky is two.

Florida

RPI: 18

SOS: 47

Top 50 RPI: 3-3

Florida beat Alabama and routed Arkansas, both on the road. The Gators are poised to be the number two seed in the SEC Conference Tournament, assuming they beat Vanderbilt and win at least one more game. Florida has been swept by Tennessee and runs the risk of losing any chance to win the SEC regular season crown. Florida has games remaining against Auburn, at Georgia, at Vanderbilt, and Kentucky.

Vanderbilt

RPI: 24

SOS: 6

Top 50 RPI: 3-3

Vanderbilt’s pair of wins at Ole Miss and at Georgia move them back to a “lock”. The Commodores have won three of their last four. Vanderbilt has games remaining against South Carolina, at Kentucky, Florida, and at Tennessee. Vanderbilt has a two game lead over Mississippi State, but lost at home to the Bulldogs on January 21st.

Probably in: None.

Work to do: Mississippi State (19-8) (6-6); Alabama (17-9) (6-6).

Mississippi State

RPI: 56

SOS: 79

Top 50 RPI: 3-2

The Bulldogs have lost four of their last six, including embarrassing losses at LSU and Auburn during the week. While Mississippi State beat both Texas A&M and Arizona, when those teams were ranked back in November, but neither teams is ranked and are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. After winning 13 straight home games, the Mississippi State dropped a home game to Georgia in overtime. The Bulldogs have games remaining against Kentucky, at Alabama, at South Carolina, and Arkansas. The Bulldogs need a win against Kentucky and probably needs to win two of the other three games.

Alabama

RPI: 35

SOS: 18

Top 50 RPI: 2-5

Alabama lost to Florida at home, but beat Tennessee. Alabama is 3-5 on the road and is 2-5 against the RPI top 50. Alabama will have very few opportunities to pick up wins against the RPI top 50 in their remaining games. The Crimson Tide has games remaining at Arkansas, Mississippi State, Auburn, and at Ole Miss. Alabama needs to win their home games and likely two games in the SEC Conference Tournament, unless Alabama wins some road games. The Mississippi State game on Saturday looms large, as its Alabama’s last chance for a decent win.

Mid-Major Conferences

Atlantic 10

Temple and Saint Louis continue to look like the class of the Atlantic 10. We welcome La Salle this week to the Watch, but their welcome may be short-lived – the Explorers play Temple this week.

Locks: Temple (21-5) (10-2).

Temple

RPI: 17

SOS: 58

Top 50 RPI: 4-2

Temple has now won ten straight, by an average of 13.9 points per game. A sweep of St. Bonaventure and Duquesne puts the owls in great position to win the Atlantic 10 regular season title. Temple has wins over Wichita State, Villanova, Duke, Maryland, Saint Joseph’s, and Xavier. Assuming the Owls win at least one of their four remaining games, they will be in the NCAA Tournament. Temple’s remaining schedule is at La Salle, at Saint Joseph’s, Massachusetts, and at Fordham.

Probably in: Saint Louis (22-5) (10-3).

Saint Louis

RPI: 22

SOS: 84

Top 50 RPI: 1-2

The Billikens have won nine of their last ten games. Saint Louis is in great shape to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2000. Saint Louis has games remaining at Rhode Island, Xavier, and at Duquesne. The Billikens probably need one more solid win to guarantee a spot in the NCAA Tournament – a win over Xavier at home or Duquesne on the road should do the trick. Saint Louis beat Richmond and Fordham during the week.

Work to do: Xavier (17-9) (8-4); Saint Joseph’s (18-10) (8-5); La Salle (18-9) (7-5); Massachusetts (18-8) (7-5).

Xavier

RPI: 53

SOS: 50

Top 50 RPI: 3-6

Ever since the Eruption in the Emerald City, Xavier is 9-9. The Musketeers lost at Temple, but beat Dayton in overtime at home. Xavier has games remaining at Massachusetts, Richmond, Saint Louis, and at Charlotte. The Muskateers need to win their home games for sure. Winning at Massachusetts would certainly help; then again, avoiding a bad road loss to Charlotte is important as well. Regardless, Xavier is going to need to make a run in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament – their profile simply isn’t strong enough.

Saint Joseph’s

RPI: 47

SOS: 53

Top 50 RPI: 1-5

The Hawks picked up wins at Rhode Island and George Washington during the week. The Hawks have games remaining against Richmond, Temple, and at St. Bonaventure. Saint Joseph’s does have an RPI below 50 and is 6-7 on road and neutral courts, but is 1-5 against the RPI top 50. Saint Joseph’s will need to beat Temple and either Richmond or St. Bonaventure as well as winning at least one Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament game in order to make the NCAA Tournament.

La Salle

RPI: 68

SOS: 121

Top 50 RPI: 0-3

La Salle is probably the fourth team in the pecking order for the Atlantic 10 under “work to do”. But the Explorers are at least worth a mention. La Salle lost a tough one at home to Saint Louis during the week, but won at Massachusetts over the weekend. La Salle does have bad losses to Robert Morris, Delaware, and Richmond, but has wins over Xavier and Massachusetts, twice. La Salle has their work cut out for them, they have games remaining against Temple, at Fordham, at George Washington, and St. Bonaventure. La Salle needs to win their four remaining games and will need to win a few in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament. A loss to Temple will probably end any chance for an at large bid.

Massachusetts

RPI: 89

SOS: 148

Top 50 RPI: 2-3

Outside of Temple and Saint Louis, Massachusetts was probably in the best position for an NCAA Tournament bid. Then the Minutemen lost at home to La Salle during the week; the Explorers now hold a season sweep over Massachusetts. Massachusetts remaining schedule is brutal – Xavier, at Dayton, at Temple, and Rhode Island. A loss to Xavier at home will eliminate Massachusetts from at large consideration.

Colonial

The Colonial had a largely successful weekend in BracketBusters, posting a 7-5 mark. Drexel, Virginia Commonwealth, and George Mason all posted wins, with George Mason and VCU’s wins coming at home. Old Dominion’s road win against Missouri State is nice, and warrants their mention for an at large bid, but like the rest of the CAA teams, they have work to do.

Locks: None.

Probably in: None.

Work to do: Drexel (23-5) (14-2); George Mason (23-6) (14-2); Virginia Commonwealth (23-6) (13-3); Old Dominion (18-11) (12-4).

Drexel

RPI: 78

SOS: 278

Top 50 RPI: 0-2

Drexel is in decent shape, if not for their awful RPI. The Dragons have beaten both Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason, holding the tiebreaker over those teams. Drexel has some flat out bad losses though, losing to Norfolk State, Delaware, and Georgia State. Drexel has won 15 straight, defeating William & Mary and Cleveland State earlier this week. Drexel has games left against James Madison and at Old Dominion in conference play. Wins against James Madison and at Old Dominion would put Drexel in the “probably in” category.

George Mason

RPI: 86

SOS: 232

Top 50 RPI: 0-1

The Patriots have won 11 of their last 12, with an average margin of victory of 7.8 points per game. GMU picked up wins against Virginia Commonwealth and Lamar this past week. George Mason needs to do some damage in the CAA Conference Tournament order to have a legitimate shot at an at-large bid; a win at VCU would certainly help, as well. The Patriots have remaining games at Northeastern, and at Virginia Commonwealth.

Virginia Commonwealth

RPI: 74

SOS: 217

Top 50 RPI: 0-2

The Rams dropped a heart breaker at George Mason earlier this week, on a last second shot; the Rams made up for it with a huge win over Northern Iowa in BracketBusters. The Rams have won 12 of their last 13, but are going to need to pick up some wins between now and the CAA Conference Tournament because of their bad RPI. VCU has games remaining at NC Wilmington and George Mason. VCU is 9-2 on the road and 3-2 against teams with RPIs 51-100.

Old Dominion

RPI: 119

SOS: 139

Top 50 RPI: 0-2

Old Dominion is here based on their win at Missouri State over the weekend. The Monarchs also beat NC Wilmington during the week. The Monarchs do have some bad losses, though, to Vermont, Fairfield, and Richmond. They have also been swept by George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth. With that said, they played Kentucky and Missouri close, losing by ten and seven, respectively. A loss for ODU in either of their final games will eliminate them at large consideration. Old Dominion has games remaining at Georgia State and Drexel.

Conference USA

Memphis and Southern Miss look to make a move to lock status, if they win this week. UCF is getting better, while Marshall is holding on. Can CUSA get more than two bids?

Locks: None.

Probably in: Southern Miss (22-5) (9-3); Memphis (19-8) (9-3).

Southern Miss

RPI: 11

SOS: 45

Top 50 RPI: 2-2

Southern Miss defeated Tulsa in overtime during the week, but lost at Houston over the weekend. Regardless, USM stays at the top of CUSA with Memphis’s loss. The Golden Eagles are in great shape, looking at their RPI and record against the top 50 RPI. USM is 9-5 in road and neutral site games. They also are 7-0 against RPIs 51-100. USM has games remaining at UTEP, Rice, SMU, and at Marshall. A pair of wins against UTEP and Rice this week will put Southern Miss in the “lock” category.

Memphis

RPI: 26

SOS: 19

Top 50 RPI: 2-6

Memphis beat Tulane in New Orleans during the week, but lost to UTEP at home on Saturday. Very little is keeping Memphis from being a lock, they have an RPI below 20, are 6-6 in road and neutral site games, but are 2-6 against the top 50 RPI. Not much can help to improve Memphis’s record against the top 50 RPI, other than Xavier, Marshall, and UCF winning some games. Memphis has games against East Carolina, at Marshall, UCF, and at Tulsa down the stretch. Wins against East Carolina and at Marshall this week will seal up a big for Memphis.

Work to do: UCF (19-7) (8-4); Marshall (16-10) (7-5).

UCF

RPI: 54

SOS: 102

Top 50 RPI: 2-4

The Knights have won four of their last five, winning against East Carolina this past week. UCF has games remaining at Rice, UTEP, at Memphis, and UAB. With an RPI around 60 and a 2-5 mark on the road, the Knights have some work to do; they are 2-4 against the RPI top 50. If UCF wins three of their four remaining games, including a win at Memphis, they will be NCAA Tournament bound. If the Golden Knights lose two more games in the regular season, they will be eliminated from the Watch.

Marshall

RPI: 52

SOS: 36

Top 50 RPI: 1-4

Marshall has won three of their last five after losing four straight. Marshall won at SMU over the weekend. They are 1-4 against the top four in Conference USA (6-1 against the rest). Marshall is 1-4 against the top 50 RPI, has an RPI north of 50, has lost six of their last eight, and are 4-6 on the road. So why is Marshall still on here? Simply put, their last three games can get them from being under “work to do” to “probably in”. Marshall’s remaining schedule is against Houston, Memphis, at East Carolina, and Southern Miss. If Marshall wins out and wins a game or two in the CUSA Conference Tournament, they will make the NCAA Tournament. If Marshall loses to Houston this week, they will fall off of the Watch.

Missouri Valley

The Missouri Valley went 4-6 in BracketBusters, with wins by Wichita State and Creighton. Creighton’s thrilling home win over Long Beach State on Saturday locks up their spot in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Locks: Wichita State (24-4) (14-2); Creighton (22-5) (12-4).

Wichita State

RPI: 15

SOS: 65

Top 50 RPI: 2-3

Wichita State scored a pair of wins against Missouri State and at Davidson this past week. Wichita State is 2-3 against the top 50 RPI, has won six straight, and 14 of their last 15. The Shockers are also a gaudy 9-1 on the road. Wichita State, at worst, will share the Missouri Valley regular season crown. One additional win or a Creighton loss will ensure the top seed in Arch Madness. The Shockers remaining games are at Illinois State and Drake.

Creighton

RPI: 28

SOS: 106

Top 50 RPI: 4-2

Creighton is back to a lock with wins at Southern Illinois and home to Long Beach State. Their SOS, which is above 100, doesn’t help, but otherwise they are in good shape. Creighton is 9-3 on the road and is 4-2 against top 50 RPI teams. The Jays have games remaining against Evansville and at Indiana State.

Probably in: None.

Work to do: None.

Mountain West

New Mexico moves from “work to do” to a “lock” with big time wins over San Diego State and UNLV during the week. Meanwhile, San Diego State and UNLV remain locks for now, but are reeling with their recent play. Colorado State reappears on the Watch with a win over Wyoming, but, more importantly, with games remaining against New Mexico, San Diego State, and UNLV.

 

Locks: New Mexico (21-4) (7-2); San Diego State (20-5) (6-3); UNLV (22-5) (6-3).

New Mexico

RPI: 27

SOS: 96

Top 50 RPI: 4-2

What a week for the Lobos. New Mexico started conference play at 1-2 and has won seven straight games. With wins over Wyoming, San Diego State, and UNLV, the Lobos move to the “lock” line. With a two game lead on UNLV and San Diego State, New Mexico will need at least two more wins to secure the Mountain West regular season conference title. UNM has games remaining at Colorado State, at TCU, Air Force, and Boise State.

San Diego State

RPI: 31

SOS: 70

Top 50 RPI: 4-5

San Diego State is reeling with three straight losses, including a pair of losses to New Mexico and Air Force this past week. With that said, SDSU is still in decent shape, especially with wins over California and UNLV. SDSU has games remaining against Wyoming, Colorado State, at Boise State, and at TCU. A loss to Wyoming or Colorado this week may drop the Aztecs down.

UNLV

RPI: 14

SOS: 44

Top 50 RPI: 5-4

UNLV has lost three of their last four, with the lone win by two over San Diego State. UNLV’s performance away from the Thomas & Mack Center has to improve, as the Rebels are 8-6 in road and neutral site games, with three of the wins coming in overtime. UNLV finishes with games against Boise State, Air Force, at Colorado State, and Wyoming. A loss to either Boise State or Air Force will drop UNLV down.

Probably in: None.

Work to do: Colorado State (16-9) (5-5).

Colorado State

RPI: 29

SOS: 13

Top 50 RPI: 1-4

The Rams are here largely based on their RPI. Colorado State lost at Boise State this past week, but won against Wyoming. Colorado State has decent wins against Montana, Manhattan, Colorado, Denver, San Diego State, and Wyoming. With that said, Colorado State has a brutal stretch, with games against New Mexico, at San Diego State, UNLV, and at Air Force. The Rams need to at least split against New Mexico and San Diego State this week. Failure to win one this week will result in the Rams making their exit.

West Coast

Gonzaga is catching up to Saint Mary’s, hoping to extend their West Coast Conference regular season title streak. BYU continues to make a case for their inclusion in the NCAA Tournament while newcomer Loyola Marymount scored a huge win at Saint Mary’s during the week. LMU still has work to do, but with three wins against top 50 RPI teams, they are at least deserving of a mention.

Locks: Saint Mary’s (23-5) (12-2); Gonzaga (21-5) (11-3).

Saint Mary’s

RPI: 39

SOS: 125

Top 50 RPI: 1-3

Thanks to Gonzaga’s loss in San Francisco, the Gaels have a one game lead in the WCC. SMC has been sliding as of late, losing three of their last four, including two this past week to Loyola Marymount and at Murray State. Saint Mary’s has games remaining at Portland and at San Francisco. They would be wise to win the last two.

Gonzaga

RPI: 21

SOS: 83

Top 50 RPI: 3-2

Gonzaga’s usual slip up on the WCC occurred over the weekend, with a loss at San Francisco. The Bulldogs did beat Santa Clara on the road during the week, though. They have games remaining against Brigham Young, at San Diego, and Longwood. Wins against Notre Dame, Oral Roberts, and Saint Mary’s have helped; playing Illinois, Michigan State, Arizona, and Xavier has helped to strengthen the Bulldogs’ tournament profile. With Gonzaga’s loss to the Dons, they are in a tie with BYU, technically behind them due to the tiebreaker.

Probably in: Brigham Young (23-6) (11-3).

Brigham Young

RPI: 50

SOS: 120

Top 50 RPI: 1-4

BYU won at San Francisco and Santa Clara during the week. BYU actually has no bad losses, and has beaten Nevada, Oregon, Weber State, and Gonzaga. BYU has games remaining at Gonzaga and Portland. If the Cougars win one of two, they will likely make the NCAA Tournament. A win at Gonzaga would help an otherwise non-impressive record against the top 50 RPI; a few wins in the WCC Tournament would have the same effect.

Work to do: Loyola Marymount (18-10) (10-4).

Loyola Marymount

RPI: 87

SOS: 75

Top 50 RPI: 3-7

LMU won in Moraga against Saint Mary’s during the week and beat Valparaiso in BracketBusters over the weekend. The Lions had some early season injuries (Drew Viney – 15.9 points per game; Ashley Hamilton – 10.5 points per game), but now are healthy. LMU has won six of their last seven. The Lions have games left against San Diego and Santa Clara. They already have a split against BYU and Saint Mary’s, as well as wins against UCLA, Saint Louis, and Valparaiso. The RPI is a bit high, but winning out and a doing some damage in the WCC Tournament would change that.

Other Conferences

Murray State moves to a “lock” with a home win over Saint Mary’s. We say goodbye to Akron and Davidson, with both losing in BracketBusters over the weekend.

Locks: Murray State (26-1) (13-1 Ohio Valley).

RPI: 41

SOS: 231

Top 50 RPI: 3-0

After Murray State’s loss to Tennessee State, many were wondering whether the Racers would still make the NCAA Tournament. Murray beat SE Missouri State on the road and beat Saint Mary’s by 14 points at home, earning the Racers a “lock” for the tournament. Murray State has wins over Memphis, Southern Miss, Dayton, and Saint Mary’s. They have games remaining at Tennessee State and at Tennessee Tech. Murray State will be the top seed in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.

Probably in: Harvard (23-3) (9-1 Ivy); Nevada (22-5) (10-1 WAC).

Harvard beat Brown and Yale over the weekend, making the magic number at two; they have four games remaining. The Crimson have a huge weekend with Princeton and Pennsylvania and can clinch a NCAA Tournament bid this weekend with a sweep; if Harvard beats Princeton, they will move to a lock. Nevada picked up a win against Cal State Bakersfield during the week, but lost by six at Iona over the weekend. The Wolfpack are in still in good shape, but will probably need to win out in the regular season to make the NCAA Tournament.

Work to do: Belmont (21-7) (13-2 Atlantic Sun); Long Beach State (19-7) (12-0 Big West); Middle Tennessee (24-4) (12-1 Sun Belt); Oral Roberts (25-5) (16-1 Summit); Weber State (22-4) (13-1 Big Sky).

Belmont kept pace with Mercer on top of the Atlantic Sun, with wins over Stetson and East Tennessee State. Long Beach State has an RPI of 45, but is 0-4 against the RPI top 50. The 49ers lost a close one at Creighton over the weekend, falling by two in Omaha. The committee will be mindful that Long Beach State played a competitive schedule, including games against Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Montana, Louisville, Kansas, North Carolina, Xavier, and Kansas State. Long Beach State probably needs to win out until the conference finals in order to make the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Raiders are in decent shape, but cannot afford another conference loss if they want to stay in the discussion for a NCAA Tournament at-large bid. If Middle Tennessee wins their three remaining regular season games and makes the Sun Belt Conference Championship, they will be in strong consideration for an NCAA Tournament bid; MTSU is 0-1 against the RPI top 50 and has an RPI of 43. What if Oral Roberts had beaten West Virginia? The Golden Eagles lost by seven at West Virginia to begin the year. Oral Roberts is 0-2 against the RPI top 50, but has an RPI of 50. If Oral Roberts wins their final regular season game and makes the Summit League Conference Championship, they will have a strong argument for an at-large bid. The Golden Eagles have won 18 of their last 19. Weber State won at Montana State and against Texas-Arlington. If Weber State wins their remaining regular season games, they will move to the “probably in” line.

2 responses

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