NCAA Tournament Watch: February 5, 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.

UPDATED 2/5/2012

Locks: 19

Probably in: 20

Work to do: 45

Total: 39

Major Conferences

ACC

Some separation starts to occur this week in the ACC. We say goodbye to Maryland and Clemson, as both teams lost twice this week. Unless North Carolina State picks up a signature win, the ACC is beginning to look like a four bid league.

Locks: Florida State (16-6) (7-1); North Carolina (20-3) (7-1); Duke (19-4) (6-2).

No change in the locks in the ACC. Florida State’s wins over Duke and North Carolina still loom large. How did the Seminoles lose by 20 at Clemson again? Duke was down 14 at halftime Miami (FL), but forced overtime. In overtime, the Blue Devils were outscored 9-5 losing for the second time in three games at Cameron Indoor.

Probably in: Virginia (18-4) (5-3).

The Cavaliers split their games this week, treading water in the “probably in” category. Virginia could have been bumped up to the lock line with a win at Florida State, but at least they beat Clemson. Assuming Virginia wins at least five of their remaining eight, they will be in; a win at home over Florida State would do wonders, though.

Work to do: North Carolina State (17-7) (6-3); Miami (FL) (14-7) (5-3).

The Wolfpack picked up a pair of wins over teams in the bottom third of the ACC, defeating Boston College and Wake Forest. The wins don’t help, but losses certainly would have hurt. With their best win over Texas, North Carolina State is lacking a statement win. Fortunately, North Carolina State still has three chances to pick up one – at Duke, Florida State, and North Carolina. Assuming the Wolfpack lose to all three, but win the other remaining conference games, is 10-4 enough? Miami (FL)’s win over Duke is huge. The Hurricanes are a legitimate NCAA Tournament team, but will need to follow that up with quality wins. Miami (FL) has eight games remaining, three against ranked teams (Florida State twice and North Carolina once). If Miami (FL) can split with Florida State and beat four of the five remaining teams (Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, at Maryland, at North Carolina State, and Boston College), the Hurricanes are likely an NCAA Tournament team at 19-10, 10-6 in the ACC.

Big XII

It’s goodbye to A&M (and Oklahoma). A pair of losses for both Oklahoma and Texas A&M eliminate them from the NCAA Tournament discussion. The Big XII is certainly a top-heavy league, and the bottom teams are feeling the pressure.

Locks: Missouri (21-2) (8-2); Kansas (18-5) (8-2); Baylor (21-2) (8-2).

Kansas split their games this week, picking up a win against Oklahoma, but losing at Missouri. Missouri and Baylor picked up a pair of wins each to force a three-way tie for first. These three teams could easily be seeded between the 1 and 3 lines in the NCAA Tournament.

Probably in: Iowa State (17-6) (7-3); Kansas State (16-6) (5-5).

The Cyclones move closer and closer to “lock” status, having won three in a row (and five of their last six), defeating Kansas State and picking up a crucial road win against Oklahoma. Unlike many teams on the “probably in” line, Iowa State does have quality wins, they just need some road wins (4-4 on the road; best road win against Oklahoma). Iowa State has chances for road wins against Oklahoma State, Baylor, Kansas State, and Missouri.

Work to do: Texas (14-9) (4-6).

At this point, the Longhorns are underwater. They cannot continue to split games. Beating Texas Tech was expected, but a win over Missouri would have been nice. Texas is lacking signature wins and is really running out of time. Texas has lost five of their last seven and their best win to date is over Temple. Opportunities lie against Kansas State, Baylor, and at Kansas. Further, Texas is and abysmal 1-5 on the road. Most of the remaining road games are winnable (Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and at Kansas). Another split this week may not be enough to keep Texas in the discussion.

Big East

Very few changes in the Big East this week. Notre Dame is close to being a “lock” and Seton Hall is close to leaving. Because Pittsburgh has shown signs of life, winning three straight, we will put them on the “work to do” line, knowing they will probably need to win six of their remaining eight; the schedule is favorable, though.

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Locks: Syracuse (23-1) (10-1); Georgetown (18-4) (8-3); Marquette (19-5) (8-3).

To many, Marquette’s loss to Notre Dame was surprising. But the Irish have been playing well. The only thing that was surprising was the way Notre Dame disposed of the Golden Eagles. Despite the loss, Marquette is in excellent shape. The Golden Eagles are 4-3 against the top 50 RPI.

Probably in: Notre Dame (15-8) (7-3); Louisville (18-5) (6-4); West Virginia (16-8) (6-5).

What’s keeping Notre Dame from being a lock? Simply put, their RPI. The Irish didn’t beat anyone in non-conference (best win against Detroit, losses to Missouri, Georgia, Gonzaga, and Indiana). Ever since conference play began, Notre Dame has turned it on, winning six of their last eight, including three of their last four on the road. Provided the Irish win five of their last eight, the Irish will be in the NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame is 5-4 against the top 50 RPI.

Work to do: Cincinnati (16-7) (6-4); South Florida (13-10) (6-4); Connecticut (15-7) (5-5); Seton Hall (15-8) (4-7); Pittsburgh (15-9) (4-7).

Seton Hall has dropped six in a row and is now all but dead. So what is keeping Seton Hall in the NCAA Tournament discussion? An RPI below 40 and wins over West Virginia and Connecticut. With that said, Seton Hall needs wins, especially road wins, as the Pirates are 3-5 on the road (wins against Dayton, Longwood, and Providence). Seton Hall almost has to win each of their remaining road games (Rutgers, Cincinnati, and DePaul) and at least win three of their remaining four home games in order to feel good about their chances.

Big Ten

We were probably a bit premature in putting Michigan and Wisconsin on the “lock” line. With a home loss to Ohio State and a game they were never in, at East Lansing, Wisconsin and Michigan, respectively, drop down to the “probably in” line. Neither team is at risk for missing the NCAA Tournament, but both teams have problems they need to sort through. Michigan has to pick up a few road wins and Wisconsin has to stop losing at home.

Locks: Ohio State (20-3) (8-2); Michigan State (18-5) (7-3).

Meet two teams who can be legitimate Final Four teams: Ohio State and Michigan State. Neither team has lost at home this season. These teams meet on February 11th at Value City Arena and on March 4th at the Breslin Center. Teams like Michigan, Wisconsin, and especially Illinois will be keyed in on these games, as those three would certainly benefit from a split between Ohio State and Wisconsin.

Probably in: Michigan (17-7) (7-4); Wisconsin (18-6) (7-4); Indiana (18-6) (6-6); Illinois (16-7) (5-5).

Who can figure out the Illini? After losing three straight, Illinois knocked off Michigan State. Illinois now owns wins over Gonzaga, Ohio State, and Michigan State, and nearly knocked off Missouri. On Sunday, Illinois lost at home to Northwestern. Illinois is in good shape to make the NCAA Tournament, but will need a few road wins to help out (2-4 on the road; last road win on November 29th at Maryland). Their best chance for a road win? Nebraska. The Illini also play Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin on the road.

Work to do: Purdue (15-8) (5-5); Minnesota (17-7) (5-6); Northwestern (14-8) (4-6).

Minnesota saved their NCAA Tournament chances with a road win against Nebraska. On paper, the win doesn’t look all that great, but a loss at Nebraska would have been devastating. Purdue, on the other hand, is in serious trouble. The Boilermakers have lost three of their last four, and five of their last eight. Purdue does have wins over Temple and Illinois, but has no marquee wins. Further, Purdue has lost back-to-back home games and travels to Ohio State on Tuesday. With eight conference games remaining, Purdue probably has to win five, which means a road game has to be had (Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana); possibly two road games if they do not beat Michigan State.

PAC-12

The PAC-12 continues to be the only major conference without a team who is a “lock”. With that said, Washington has taken strides this past week to changing that. What’s holding them back? Quality wins.

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Locks: None.

Probably in: Washington (16-7) (9-2); California (18-6) (8-3).

Washington has won eight of their last nine, including three straight on the road. The Huskies have good wins against Oregon, Stanford, at Arizona, and UCLA, but lack a signature win. Washington is unlikely to get that signature win, but is in good shape to make the NCAA Tournament.

Work to do: Colorado (16-7) (8-3); Oregon (16-7) (7-4); Arizona (16-8) (7-4); Stanford (16-7) (6-5); UCLA (13-10) (6-5).

Arizona has the best RPI in this group, but Colorado has the best wins. The Buffaloes have defeated Washington, Arizona, and Oregon. Assuming Colorado wins four of their last seven (finishing with a 12-6 mark in PAC-12 play), will that be enough to make the NCAA Tournament? Or will Colorado get snubbed again?

SEC

After a tough week for Vanderbilt, with losses to Arkansas and Florida, both on the road, the Commodores have now lost three of their last five. That’s enough for us to drop them back to the “probably in” category.

Locks: Kentucky (23-1) (9-0); Florida (19-4) (7-1).

Kentucky’s lone loss to date was on a buzzer beater at Indiana. After playing an easy schedule to start the SEC, the Wildcats will play five ranked teams in their remaining seven games, including Vanderbilt and Florida twice each. Despite how well Kentucky has played, they can still lose the SEC East.

Probably in: Mississippi State (18-5) (5-3); Vanderbilt (16-7) (5-3).

The Bulldogs are 6-4 in their last ten games. While Mississippi State beat both Texas A&M and Arizona, when those teams were ranked back in November, both of those teams are no longer ranked and are in danger of missing the NCAA tournament. Mississippi State has no bad losses, and has beaten West Virginia and Vanderbilt. The remaining schedule is manageable for the Bulldogs, including meeting Kentucky at Humphrey Coliseum.

Work to do: Alabama (15-7) (4-4); Ole Miss (14-8) (4-4); Arkansas (16-7) (4-4).

Out of these teams, Alabama is probably in the best shape. The Crimson Tide have wins over Wichita State and Purdue in non-conference play, but their best win is over Arkansas in conference play. Alabama has a solid RPI and SOS, sub 40 and sub 20, respectively, but is lacking a quality win. Alabama still has chances for quality wins, when Florida and Mississippi State visit The Hump in the coming weeks.

Mid-Major Conferences

Atlantic 10

Temple picked up two more wins this past week, defeating Fordham and Rhode Island. Not exactly stellar wins, but wins, nonetheless. The game with Xavier looms large on Saturday, with the winner being in the driver’s seat for the number one seed in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament.

Locks: Temple (17-5) (6-2).

Temple has now won six straight, by an average of 15.7 points per game. Temple has wins over Wichita State, Villanova, Duke, Maryland, and Saint Joseph’s. Assuming the Owls win at least five of their eight remaining games, they will be in the NCAA Tournament.

Probably in: None.

Work to do: La Salle (17-7) (6-3); Massachusetts (17-6) (6-3); Saint Louis (18-5) (6-3); Xavier (15-8) (6-3); Saint Joseph’s (15-9) (5-4).

With a four-way tie for second in the Atlantic 10, the Explorers hold the advantage, with wins over Xavier and Massachusetts. Out of the four, however, Saint Louis probably has the most favorable schedule, with Xavier at home, not playing Temple, and road games against Rhode Island and Duquesne (but also Saint Joseph’s and La Salle in the coming week on the road). The Billikens also have Richmond and Fordham at home. If Saint Louis can split the next two games, they are in great shape to make a push for second place in the Atlantic 10.

Colonial

Last week, we stated that the Colonial was likely a two-bid league. A lot has happened since then – George Mason lost, but Virginia Commonwealth won twice; Drexel won twice, but many of the conference’s best non-conference wins lost. What does this all mean? Unless the top tier teams in the Colonial (Virginia Commonwealth, Drexel, and George Mason) make a strong push, this could very well be a one-bid league. The lowest RPI in the conference is hovering right near 100, which is barely worthy of discussion.

Locks: None.

Probably in: None.

Work to do: Drexel (17-5) (9-2); George Mason (18-5) (10-1); Virginia Commonwealth (20-5) (11-2); Old Dominion (14-9) (9-2).

Drexel is in very good 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 probably needs to run the table in the regular season and win a game or two in their conference tournament to be a legitimate contender for a NCAA Tournament bid. Drexel has games left against James Madison and Old Dominion on the road, and Hofstra, William & Mary, and James Madison at home.

Conference USA

Southern Miss’s win against Memphis pushes them all the closer to being a “lock” for the NCAA Tournament. Marshall is on the brink of falling off the bubble, while Memphis has treaded water. Keep your eye on Tulsa, as their conference record looks good, but they have no substance behind the wins. A tough stretch for Tulsa will determine if they are a NCAA Tournament team.

Locks: None.

Probably in: Southern Miss (20-3) (7-1).

The Golden Eagles are 3-2 against the RPI top 50, with the losses being to Memphis and Murray State. If Southern Miss would have beaten Murray State, they would likely be a lock. When all is said and done, Southern Miss will probably be in the NCAA Tournament, but their chances for quality wins are low, with their toughest games being against UCF and Marshall. If Southern Miss wins six of their last eight and wins a game or two in the CUSA Conference Tournament, they will be in.

Work to do: Tulsa (14-9) (7-2); Memphis (16-7) (6-2); UCF (17-6) (6-3); Marshall (14-9) (5-4).

Tulsa is here simply based on their conference record. With games left against Marshall, Southern Miss and Memphis, the Golden Hurricane can either win their way into the NCAA Tournament or completely fall out of the discussion. Memphis split their games this past week, losing a tough one to Southern Miss, but knocking off Xavier. The Tigers are in the best shape out of this group and have a favorable schedule, only playing tough games against Marshall and Tulsa, both on the road. Memphis also plays road games against East Carolina and Tulane and home games against UAB, UTEP, East Carolina, and UCF.

Missouri Valley

Northern Iowa’s win over Creighton hurt the Jays, who will likely lose their top 25 ranking. But the Jays loss is the Shockers gain, as Wichita State can avenge a loss to Creighton earlier this year and take over sole possession of first place in the MVC with a win over the Jays this week. The rest of the MVC is average; unless something happens between now and Selection Sunday, this is probably a two-bid league and no more than that.

Locks: None.

Probably in: Creighton (21-3) (11-2); Wichita State (20-4) (11-2)

How Creighton lost at Northern Iowa is a mystery. The Panthers were great in non-conference play, but struggled in the Missouri Valley. That loss drops Creighton down to the “probably in” line. Have no fear though, the Jays are in excellent shape for making the NCAA Tournament, and can likely move back up to the “lock” line with wins over Evansville and Wichita State this week. The February 18th meeting with Long Beach State looms large.

Work to do: None.

Mountain West

San Diego State is looking more and more like the best team in the Mountain West, but that can all change this week, with the Aztecs visiting Las Vegas on Saturday.

Locks: San Diego State (20-3) (6-1); UNLV (21-4) (5-2).

The Rebels road woes have continued with a loss at Laramie over the weekend. San Diego State’s wins Boise State and TCU keep them on top of the Mountain West and set up a showdown at the Thomas and Mack Center. After Saturday, the Aztecs toughest games are at the Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl, with New Mexico, Wyoming, and Colorado State visiting. San Diego State has roadies against Air Force, Boise State, and TCU remaining.

Probably in: None.

Work to do: New Mexico (19-4) (5-2); Wyoming (18-5) (4-3); Colorado State (15-7) (4-3).

The Mountain West’s best chance at getting a third bid into the NCAA Tournament lies in the hands of New Mexico. The Lobos have one bad loss to date – at Santa Clara – and have decent wins over Saint Louis, Wyoming, and Colorado State. New Mexico is lacking a solid win, but will have chances in the next two weeks, as they visit San Diego State and host UNLV. New Mexico also has games against Wyoming, Air Force, and Boise State at home, and Colorado State and TCU on the road. New Mexico needs to beat San Diego State or UNLV and probably win four of their five other games – 10-4 could be enough. 11-3, with losses to San Diego State and UNLV and either San Diego State/UNLV should be enough to return New Mexico to the NCAA Tournament after an absence in 2011.

West Coast

When playing in a mid-major conference, every game matters. Gonzaga found that out the hard way over the past week, when they failed to show up in an 83-73 loss to BYU. Gonzaga needs to focus on Thursday night’s game, a game that could virtually eliminate them from the West Coast Conference regular season title.

Locks: Saint Mary’s (22-2) (11-0).

For Saint Mary’s, the magic number is 3. They can reduce that number to 1 with a win at Gonzaga on Thursday night. After destroying Gonzaga in Moraga, the Gaels hold the tiebreaker, for now. If Saint Mary’s at least shares the West Coast Conference regular season crown, they will have a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Probably in: Gonzaga (18-4) (8-2).

It should be no surprise that Gonzaga lost at Brigham Young; the Cougars play tough at home. Gonzaga finds itself in the middle of the WCC now, with Brigham Young and Loyola Marymount. The Bulldogs have six conference games left, including contests at San Francisco and Brigham Young at home, besides the Saint Mary’s showdown. If the Bulldogs lose all three, their NCAA Tournament chances are in trouble. Assuming the Bulldogs win five of their seven remaining games, they will make their 14th straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

Work to do: Brigham Young (20-6) (8-3).

Last week we said Brigham Young needed to at least split with Gonzaga. The Cougars got that win this past week at the Marriott Center. BYU actually has no bad losses, and have beaten Nevada, Oregon, Weber State, and Gonzaga. With five games left, BYU has to probably win four to feel good about their chances. With games remaining against Pepperdine and Portland at home and San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Gonzaga on the road, BYU is in decent shape. If the Cougars knock off Pepperdine and San Francisco this week, we are prepared to bump BYU up to “probably in”.

Other Conferences

The Crimson swept Cornell and Columbia over the weekend; they are poised to move to “lock” status if they can sweep games at Pennsylvania and Princeton next weekend. Harvard, right now, is heads and tails above their competition in the Ivy League. Murray State continues to win. Keep your eyes on Davidson. If the Wildcats pick up wins at Charleston and home against Wichita State in Bracket Busters, they will be in serious consideration for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.

Locks: Murray State (23-0) (11-0 Ohio Valley).

No surprise here, although Murray State has struggled a bit lately, pulling out a squeaker at UT-Martin. The Racers are the only remaining undefeated team in Division I basketball. Murray State has impressive wins over Southern Miss, Dayton, and at Memphis to date. The Racers can probably afford to lose only one regular season game, so between their five remaining conference games and a Bracket Busters date with Saint Mary’s, the Racers will need five wins to feel comfortable. A win over the Gaels would be huge, and would offset any potential conference loss.

Probably in: Harvard (20-2) (6-0 Ivy); Nevada (19-4) (8-1 WAC).

Harvard is very close to joining Murray State on the “lock” line. With wins at Loyola Marymount, Florida State, UCF and Saint Joseph’s, Coach Tommy Amaker’s Crimson have played well to date. Harvard’s lone losses are on the road – to Connecticut and Fordham. Harvard doesn’t have a conference tournament to worry about, but they do have ten games remaining in the regular season. If Harvard is still in first place following a weekend trip to Pennsylvania and Princeton, Harvard will move to a lock. The 30-point win at Yale hasn’t gone unnoticed, though. Nevada, on the other hand, cannot afford another home loss; they may not even be able to afford another regular season loss, after a loss to Idaho over the weekend.

Work to do: Akron (16-7) (8-1 MAC); Belmont (17-7) (10-2 Atlantic Sun); Cleveland State (19-4) (9-2 Horizon); Davidson (17-5) (11-1 Southern); Iona (19-5) (11-2 MAAC); Long Beach State (17-6) (10-0 Big West); Middle Tennessee (21-4) (10-1 Sun Belt); Oral Roberts (21-5) (13-1 Summit); Weber State (18-4) (10-1 Big Sky).

We talked about Middle Tennessee last week; they promptly lost at Denver. 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. Akron picked up a pair of wins over Toledo and Eastern Michigan last week to stay on top of the MAC. Belmont kept pace with Mercer on top of the Atlantic Sun, with wins over North Florida and at Lipscomb. If Davidson defeats Wofford this week, they will be one win away from clinching the South Division of the Southern Conference, after beating Furman and Chattanooga during the week. Iona is tied with Loyola (MD); the two teams meet on Friday night. Iona knocked off Canisius; the Gaels also picked up a huge road win at Manhattan last week, avenging an earlier home loss. Finally, keep your eyes on Weber State, specifically PG Damian Lillard, who is averaging 25.5 per game, including scoring outputs of 35 against Northern Colorado and 40 against Portland State.

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  1. Pingback: New Content Added: Week of February 5th « beforevisitingthesportsbook

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