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.
Probably in: 17
Work to do: 36
No change this week in the ACC in the pecking order, but we do have a three-way tie for first in the ACC. Florida State’s wins over Duke and North Carolina give them temporary possession of first, but can they win the regular season title?
Locks: Florida State (17-7) (8-2); Duke (21-4) (8-2); North Carolina (21-4) (8-2).
Florida State: That same Seminoles team that lost by 20 to Clemson reared its ugly head again, falling to Boston College this week. Florida State did beat Miami (FL) on Saturday, salvaging a split this past week.
North Carolina: An Austin Rivers buzzer beater crushed North Carolina, despite leading by as much as ten with 2:35 left. North Carolina did pick up a nice win over Virginia over the weekend, though.
Duke: Duke picked up a win over two rivals – North Carolina and Maryland.
Probably in: Virginia (19-5) (6-4).
Virginia: The Cavaliers continue to tread water in the “probably in” category, defeating Wake Forest during the week, but falling to North Carolina over the weekend. Assuming Virginia wins at least four of their remaining six, they will be in; a win at home over Florida State would do wonders, though. Wins over Michigan, Miami (FL), and North Carolina State look good, but losses to TCU and Virginia Tech are questionable.
Work to do: North Carolina State (18-7) (7-3); Miami (FL) (15-8) (6-4).
North Carolina State: Another week, another win. North Carolina State has now won six of their last eight, including three straight. Unfortunately, the Wolfpack’s wins over conference teams have come against teams who are a combined 23-51 in ACC. With their best wins over Miami (FL) and 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 10-6 enough?
Miami (FL): Miami (FL) is in a bit of a problem – other than the win over Duke, Miami (FL) really doesn’t have any other good wins; their best non-conference win was over Massachusetts. With that said, the Hurricanes have no bad losses. Miami (FL) has six games remaining, two against ranked teams (North Carolina and Florida State). If Miami (FL) can beat Florida State and win 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 20-9, 11-5 in the ACC. Anything less will require the Hurricanes to win a game or two in the ACC Tournament.
Baylor has now lost four of their last eight, including two straight. None of Baylor losses are bad – all four are to Kansas and Missouri – but they haven’t exactly shown the ability to compete with the best teams, losing by an average of 12 points per game on the season. Because of that, we drop Baylor down; Texas stays on the watch list, picking up two wins this past week.
Locks: Missouri (23-2) (10-2); Kansas (20-5) (10-2).
Missouri and Kansas: Both Missouri and Kansas picked up two wins each last week, with Kansas winning at Baylor and beating Oklahoma State at Phog Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday. Missouri picked up a road win against Oklahoma and took care of business against Baylor on Saturday. Missouri and Kansas will meet on February 25 at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, in a game which will likely decide the Big XII regular season title.
Probably in: Iowa State (18-7) (8-4); Baylor (21-4) (8-4); Kansas State (17-7) (6-6).
Iowa State: Iowa State dropped a head scratcher at Gallagher Iba Arena during the week, but beat Texas A&M on Saturday. 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 – Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Baylor – they will be NCAA Tournament bound. Anything less will require Big XII Tournament wins or some road wins – Baylor, Kansas State, and Missouri. Iowa State holds the tiebreaker over Baylor right now, by virtue of their win over Kansas.
Baylor: Baylor finished the season last year losing six of their last eight, with their lone wins over Wayland Baptist and Texas A&M; will they suffer the same swoon this season? Baylor had a pair of chances to beat Kansas or Missouri this past week and couldn’t get the job done. Still, the Bears are in good shape, with wins over Brigham Young, Saint Mary’s, West Virginia, Mississippi State, and Kansas State. Assuming Baylor sweeps Iowa State and Kansas State this week, they will return to the “lock” line.
Kansas State: The Wildcats avoided disaster by beating last place Texas Tech during the week, but followed that with a loss to Texas. Kansas State did have a few decent non-conference wins, unlike Iowa State, defeating Alabama and Long Beach State. The Wildcats have wins over Missouri and Texas, as well. Assuming Kansas State splits their last six (Kansas, at Baylor, 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.
Work to do: Texas (16-9) (6-6).
Texas: The Longhorns are alive. With a pair of wins over Texas A&M and Kansas State, Texas moves into a tie with Kansas State; the Wildcats hold the tiebreaker based on a win over Missouri. Texas has now won three straight; the win over the Aggies on the road certainly helped, as Texas was 1-5 on the road. Most of the remaining road games are winnable (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and at Kansas). The February 20th date against Baylor becomes very important, and is Texas’s last realistic chance at a quality win.
We said Pittsburgh needed to win six of their remaining eight to get in the Big Dance; since then, Pittsburgh has lost two in a row. Unless Pittsburgh strings together six straight, its over – they have been removed. Note the numerous changes this week, as Notre Dame and Louisville move to lock status, while West Virginia has work to do.
Locks: Syracuse (25-1) (12-1); Marquette (21-5) (10-3); Notre Dame (17-8) (9-3); Georgetown (19-5) (9-4); Louisville (20-5) (8-4).
Syracuse: The Orange pick up two more wins this past week, beating rivals Georgetown and Connecticut at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse now hits the road in three of their remaining five games (Louisville, Rutgers, and Connecticut on the road; South Florida and Louisville at home). The games against Louisville will be important, as the Cardinals will be looking to sew up a double-bye in the Big East Tournament.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles picked up wins over DePaul and Cincinnati, certainly not wins against impressive teams, but wins, nonetheless. Marquette has a 1.5 game lead over fifth place Louisville and South Florida. Marquette will have three of their remaining five games on the road (Connecticut, West Virginia, and Cincinnati are on the road; Rutgers and Georgetown are at home).
Notre Dame: The Irish move to “lock” status, now winners of six straight, after beating West Virginia and DePaul this past week. 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 Rutgers, West Virginia, and Providence at home, and Villanova, St. John’s and Georgetown on the road. Barring the unforeseen, Notre Dame will earn a double-bye in the Big East Tournament.
Georgetown: The Hoyas pick up a split this week, falling to Syracuse in overtime, but beating St. John’s at the Verizon Center on Sunday. Georgetown’s remaining schedule is favorable, setting up well for a potential double-bye in the Big East Tournament – at Providence, at Seton Hall, Villanova, Notre Dame, and at Marquette.
Louisville: Louisville started out 2-4 in the Big East, looking like a fringe NCAA Tournament team. Now Louisville has won six straight, by an average of 11 points per game, including wins over Connecticut and West Virginia this past week. The Cardinals remaining schedule is certainly not easy, with games against Syracuse, at DePaul, at Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Florida, and at Syracuse.
Probably in: None.
Work to do: South Florida (15-10) (8-4); Cincinnati (17-8) (7-5); Seton Hall (17-8) (6-7); West Virginia (16-10) (6-7); Connecticut (15-9) (5-7).
South Florida: To be honest, its getting tough to explain why the Bulls are not on the “probably in” line. USF only has an RPI of 73, and is 1-6 against the RPI top 50 (lone win against Seton Hall), but the Bulls do have eight 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. 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, but wins over Pittsburgh and Providence this past week certainly help. Its hard to imagine the Bulls getting turned away from the NCAA Tournament if they get to 11 conference wins, but its certainly possible. South Florida has contests remaining against Villanova, at Pittsburgh, at Syracuse, Cincinnati, at Louisville, and West Virginia.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats have won only two of their last six games, finding themselves in trouble. The two wins come against teams in the bottom third of the Big East. A split against St. John’s (win) and Marquette (loss) keeps the Bearcats in the discussion, but Coach Mick Cronin has to be getting nervous. The Bearcats have an RPI near 100, but are 3-2 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 Providence, Seton Hall, Louisville, at South Florida, Marquette, and at Villanova. Cincinnati needs to beat Providence and Seton Hall, for sure. They 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.
Seton Hall: The Pirates picked up a pair of wins this week, winning at Rutgers on Wednesday and taking care of Pittsburgh at the Prudential Center on Sunday. Seton Hall does have a glaring six game losing streak, which the NCAA Selection Committee doesn’t like to see, even if six of the losses are to potential tournament teams. Seton Hall is 3-6 against the top RPI 50. The Pirates have games remaining against St. John’s, at Cincinnati, Georgetown, Rutgers, and at DePaul. Seton Hall probably needs to defeat Georgetown; if the Pirates win three of their four remaining games, they will be NCAA Tournament-bound.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers took a step back this week, dropping contests against Notre Dame and Louisville at home, by a combined seven points. West Virginia has now lost five of their last six, with the lone win on the road in overtime against Providence. The Mountaineers have games remaining at Pittsburgh, at Notre Dame, Marquette, DePaul, and at South Florida. West Virginia does have wins over Kansas State, Miami (FL), and Georgetown, but those seem like an eternity ago. To feel comfortable about their NCAA Tournament chances, West Virginia probably needs to win four of their remaining five. Even then, that may not be enough.
Connecticut: Connecticut is on life support, after dropping two road games to Louisville and Syracuse this week. With an RPI under 30, the Huskies still have a shot at a NCAA Tournament bid, but its beginning to look bleak. Then again, Connecticut was in the same 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 against DePaul, Marquette, at Villanova, Syracuse, at Providence, and Pittsburgh. With a 5-4 record against the RPI top 50, Connecticut needs to win at least four of their remaining six games; a win against Marquette or Syracuse, in addition to three other regular season, would set up the Huskies for an NCAA Tournament bid. Winning four of their remaining six without a win over Marquette or Syracuse means Connecticut needs to win a game or two in the Big East Tournament.
With two wins this week, Michigan moves back to “lock”. Illinois’s late season slide puts their tournament chances in jeopardy, while Purdue and Michigan State score big time wins over Northwestern and Ohio State, respectively.
Locks: Michigan State (20-5) (9-3); Ohio State (21-4) (9-3); Michigan (19-7) (9-4).
Michigan State: The Spartans picked up a huge road win over the weekend, defeating the Buckeyes in Columbus. They also defeated Penn State earlier in the week. Michigan State now controls their own destiny. Michigan State has won five of their last six games, with an average margin of victory of 16.2 points per game.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes’ 39-game home winning streak is now gone, falling victim to Michigan State over the weekend. Ohio State’s last three games have been decided by no more than ten points, after their previous nine games were decided by an average of 19.3 points per game (7-2). Ohio State has a return visit to Michigan State on March 4. Prior to then, traps lie at Michigan (February 18) and home to Wisconsin (February 26).
Michigan: Michigan returns to “lock” status after a pair of wins over Nebraska and Illinois during the week. The Wolverines are now a half game behind leaders Michigan State and Ohio State; Michigan faces Ohio State on Saturday, in what will likely determine whether they will be in the race for the regular season Big Ten Title. Out of the contenders for the Big Ten Title, Michigan has the easiest remaining schedule, with Ohio State and Purdue at home, and Northwestern, Illinois, and Penn State on the road. Michigan is 7-5 against the RPI top 50.
Probably in: Wisconsin (19-6) (8-4); Indiana (19-6) (7-6).
Wisconsin: The Badgers won an overtime contest at Minnesota earlier this week, keeping pace for a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Wisconsin has now won seven of their last eight games, by an average of 7.7 points per game. The Badgers have an RPI under 30 and are 5-5 against the RPI top 50. So the question is, what does Wisconsin need to do to get to “lock” status? A sweep at Michigan State and home to Penn State, this week, would do the trick. After that, Wisconsin faces Iowa and Ohio State on the road, before finishing the season with Minnesota and Illinois at home.
Indiana: After losing four of five, the Hoosiers have three of their last four, including wins against Purdue on the road and Illinois at home. Indiana needs to continue to win games – a sweep of Northwestern and at Iowa will move Indiana to “lock” status. The Hoosiers finish the season with North Carolina Central, Michigan State, and Purdue at home.
Work to do: Purdue (16-9) (6-6); Minnesota (17-8) (5-7); Northwestern (15-9) (5-7); Illinois (16-9) (5-7).
Purdue: Purdue split contests at Ohio State and home to Northwestern this week. Purdue was very close to picking up a statement win in Columbus, but fell three points short. Purdue is 4-6 against the top 50 RPI and has an RPI north of 50, so they definitely have some work to do. Purdue has games left at Illinois, Michigan State, Nebraska, at Michigan, Penn State, and at Indiana. If Purdue wins their home games and wins at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament, they will be in the NCAA Tournament.
Minnesota: For the third straight week, Minnesota was a resident of Splitsville, winning at Nebraska, but falling at home to Wisconsin. Like Purdue, Minnesota has an RPI north of 50; the Gophers are 3-4 against the RPI top 50. Minnesota’s remaining schedule is one of the toughest: Ohio State, at Northwestern, Michigan State, at Wisconsin, and Nebraska. The Gophers will have plenty of chances to build their tournament resume, unfortunately they play three of the top four teams in the Big Ten. In order to feel good about their chances, Minnesota probably needs to win their home games, pick up one on the road, and win at least one Big Ten tournament game.
Northwestern: The Wildcats picked up a win against Iowa, but lost at Purdue. Northwestern is 2-6 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 at Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, at Penn State, Ohio State, and at Iowa. Fortunately for 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. Northwestern has an RPI around 40 and is 3-6 against the top 50 RPI. The Wildcats have beaten Michigan State, but will need more than just that. If Northwestern defeats Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State, and Iowa, and wins at least one Big Ten Tournament game, the Wildcats should make their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
Illinois: The Illini are in trouble. After losing contests to Indiana and Michigan on the road, the Illini have lost six of their last seven, with the lone win by one point. Illinois has contests remaining against Purdue, at Nebraska, at Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, and at Wisconsin. With an RPI above 40 and a 4-6 mark against the RPI top 50, Illinois needs to pick up wins against Purdue, Nebraska, Iowa, and Michigan. They may even need a win or two in the Big Ten Tournament. Of course, a win against Ohio State or Wisconsin on the road would be helpful, be certainly isn’t likely.
This week we say so long to UCLA and Stanford, as Stanford was knocked off with a loss at UCLA and UCLA dropped a home statement game against California. The PAC-12 finally has a team move to lock status; Oregon and Arizona are making their case for an NCAA Tournament bid with a sweep this past week.
Locks: California (18-6) (8-3).
California: The Golden Bears have an RPI above 40 and are 0-3 against the RPI top 50, so why are they a “lock”? Simply put, they have been the most consistent PAC-12 team to date. California has won eight of their last ten, with their lone losses coming by a combined six points. A sweep of the Los Angeles schools on the road secures an NCAA Tournament bid for California. Be warned though, a single loss, outside of a road game against Colorado, will likely drop the Golden Bears down to “probably in”.
Probably in: Washington (17-8) (10-3).
Washington: Washington has won eight of their last ten, including three of their last four 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. They lost to Oregon, but won at Oregon State this past weekend. Washington has games remaining against Arizona State, Arizona, at Washington State, at USC, and at UCLA. A sweep for Washington against the Arizona schools likely secures them an NCAA Tournament bid.
Work to do: Colorado (17-8) (9-4); Oregon (18-7) (9-4); Arizona (18-8) (9-4).
Colorado: The Buffs lost at Arizona but avoided disaster by defeating Arizona State at Wells Fargo Arena. Colorado has a number of problems: 3-5 on the road (average RPI of those teams is 100), 0-3 against the RPI top 50, and an RPI over 70. Colorado has games left at Utah, Stanford, California, at Oregon, and at Oregon State. Colorado needs wins in four of their five remaining games; they virtually have to beat California in Boulder, in addition to picking up road wins. They probably need to win a game or two in the PAC-12 Conference Tournament, as well.
Oregon: Oregon certainly helped their NCAA Tournament chances by sweeping the Washington schools this past weekend, including a 25-point win over Washington. The Ducks now have wins over Arizona and Washington in conference play. Oregon has games left at California, at Stanford, at Oregon State, Colorado, and Utah. Oregon needs a split next weekend, and needs to win their remaining three games to make the NCAA Tournament. Anything less will require a win or two in the PAC-12 Conference Tournament.
Arizona: Arizona’s sweep of the PAC-12 newcomers puts them on the right side of the bubble. The Wildcats are 0-4 against the top 50 RPI, but they are 6-3 on the road. Arizona has games remaining at Washington State, at Washington, USC, UCLA, and at Arizona State. A sweep of the Washington schools moves Arizona up to “probably in”.
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 (25-1) (11-0); Florida (19-6) (7-3).
Kentucky: Kentucky’s lone loss to date was on a buzzer beater at Indiana. I doubted the strength of Kentucky last week, and they came out and took care of Florida and Vanderbilt during the week. Kentucky still has tests remaining at Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and at Florida.
Florida: Rivalry week did not treat Florida well. After losing at Kentucky, Florida surprisingly dropped a home game to Tennessee. Florida now has been swept by Tennessee and runs the risk of losing any chance to win the SEC regular season crown. Despite how poorly Florida played, they are still a “lock”. Florida has tough games against Alabama and Arkansas on the road this week.
Probably in: Mississippi State (19-6) (6-4); Vanderbilt (17-8) (6-4).
Mississippi State: 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. After winning 13 straight home games, the Mississippi State dropped a home game to Georgia in overtime. Mississippi State did beat rival Ole Miss earlier in the week. The Bulldogs have games remaining at LSU, at Auburn, Kentucky, at Alabama, at South Carolina, and Arkansas. A sweep of LSU and Auburn won’t do much to help Mississippi State, but a loss or two would certainly hurt.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores have lost three of their last four games and panic is beginning to set in, in Nashville. The schedule doesn’t get much easier for Vanderbilt, either, as Vanderbilt finishes with games at Mississippi, at Georgia, South Carolina, at Kentucky, Florida, and at Tennessee. Vanderbilt likely needs to sweep Ole Miss and Georgia this week to remain on the “probably in” line.
Work to do: Alabama (16-8) (5-5); Ole Miss (15-9) (5-5); Arkansas (17-8) (5-5).
Alabama: The Crimson Tide are in the best shape of the three SEC West teams behind Mississippi State. Alabama has an RPI under 30, but is 3-6 on the road and is 1-4 against the RPI top 50. Alabama will have a few opportunities to pick up wins against the RPI top 50 in their remaining games. The Crimson Tide have games remaining against Florida, Tennessee, at Arkansas, Mississippi State, Auburn, and at Ole Miss. If Alabama sweeps Florida and Tennessee this week, they will be pushed up to “probably in”.
Ole Miss: The Rebels have an RPI around 50 and are 2-6 against the top 50 RPI; further, Ole Miss is 3-6 on the road. Ole Miss dropped a road game against Mississippi State, but picked up a win against Auburn. Coach Andy Kennedy is running out of time to punch an NCAA Tournament for Ole Miss. The Rebels have games remaining against Vanderbilt, at Kentucky, at Tennessee, LSU, at Arkansas, and Alabama. Ole Miss must pick up a win against either Vanderbilt or at Kentucky this week in order to keep their bleak NCAA Tournament chances alive; getting swept this week will eliminate the Rebels from further discussion.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks dropped a road game against Georgia, but avoided certain NCAA Tournament-death with a win over South Carolina. Arkansas has serious work to do, with their RPI hovering around 70. Arkansas is 3-2 against the RPI top 50, but is 0-7 on the road. Arkansas has games remaining at Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, at Auburn, Ole Miss, and at Mississippi State. Arkansas needs to win each of their road games, defeat Florida at home, and either Alabama or Ole Miss. For every road game Arkansas loses, they will need to substitute a win for in the SEC Tournament.
Temple and Saint Louis are beginning to pull away from the pack and look to be the likely 1 and 2 seeds in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament. Can the Atlantic 10 pull three or more bids? Beyond Temple and Saint Louis, teams have work left to do.
Locks: Temple (19-5) (8-2).
Temple: Temple has now won eight straight, by an average of 14.3 points per game. A sweep of George Washington and Xavier 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 three of their six remaining games, they will be in the NCAA Tournament.
Probably in: Saint Louis (20-5) (8-3).
Saint Louis: The Billikens had a huge week in Philadelphia last week, winning games over Saint Joseph’s and La Salle. Saint Louis has now won four straight and is in great shape to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2000. Saint Louis has games remaining against Richmond, Fordham, at Rhode Island, Xavier, and at Duquesne. With an RPI around 30 and 1-2 against the top 50 RPI, the Billikens probably need one more solid win to guarantee a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Games against Richmond and Fordham won’t be enough to make Saint Louis a lock, but they will certainly help.
Work to do: Massachusetts (18-7) (7-4); Xavier (16-9) (7-4); Saint Joseph’s (16-10) (6-5).
Massachusetts: Outside of Temple and Saint Louis, Massachusetts in probably in the best position for a NCAA Tournament bid. The Minutemen picked up a win over St. Bonaventure, but fell at Saint Joseph’s over the weekend. Massachusetts remaining schedule is brutal – La Salle, Xavier, at Dayton, at Temple, and Rhode Island. If Massachusetts can split against Xavier and Temple, La Salle and Dayton, and defeat Rhode Island, one win in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament will likely guarantee them a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Anything less will require a bit more of a run.
Xavier: Ever since the Eruption in the Emerald City, Xavier is 8-9. The Musketeers picked up a win over Rhode Island, but lost at Temple. Xavier has games remaining against Dayton, at Massachusetts, Richmond, Saint Louis, and at Charlotte.
Saint Joseph’s: The Hawks are barely hanging on now. They picked up a crucial win against Massachusetts, but not before dropping a home game to Saint Louis. Saint Joseph’s now has one last chance with a statement win. The Hawks have games remaining at Rhode Island, at George Washington, Richmond, Temple, and at St. Bonaventure. Saint Joseph’s does have an RPI below 50, but is 1-4 against the RPI top 50 and is 3-7 on the road. Saint Joseph’s must sweep Rhode Island and George Washington this week or will be eliminated from the watch. They will need to beat Temple and either Richmond or St. Bonaventure and win at least one Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament game in order to make the NCAA Tournament.
Drexel looks to be the best shot at an at-large bid, but this still looks like a one bid league. Old Dominion falls of the Watch with two losses in their last three. Virginia Commonwealth and Drexel look to be the strongest teams, each with double digit win streaks.
Probably in: None.
Work to do: Drexel (21-5) (13-2); George Mason (21-6) (13-2); Virginia Commonwealth (22-5) (13-2).
Drexel: Drexel is in very good shape, if not for their awful RPI, which is above 80. 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 13 straight, after sweeping James Madison and Hofstra this past week. 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 William & Mary, James Madison and at Old Dominion in conference play. The Dragons will visiting Cleveland State next Saturday for Bracket Busters.
George Mason: The Patriots have won nine of their last ten, with an average margin of victory of 9 points per game. George Mason has an RPI over 100 and is in worse shape than Drexel. George Mason likely needs to make the Colonial Athletic Association Conference Championship in order to have a legitimate shot at an at-large bid. They also need to win their remaining games against Virginia Commonwealth, Lamar (Bracket Busters), at Northeastern, and at Virginia Commonwealth.
Virginia Commonwealth: The Rams picked up wins against Towson and Old Dominion during the week. The Rams have now won 11 straight, but will need to run the table until the Colonial Athletic Association Conference Championship in order to have a legitimate shot at an at-large bid. VCU has games remaining at George Mason, Northern Iowa (Bracket Busters), at NC Wilmington, and George Mason. VCU has an RPI over 90 and is 1-2 against the RPI top 50, but they are 9-2 on the road.
Probably in: Southern Miss (21-4) (8-2); Memphis (18-7) (8-2).
Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles are 2-1 against the RPI top 50, with the loss to Memphis. Southern Miss split this past week, losing at UAB and winning against UCF. If the Golden Eagles would have beaten both UAB and UCF, they would be a lock. Southern Miss will probably be in the NCAA Tournament, but their chances for quality wins are low. USM has games remaining against Tulsa, at Houston, at UTEP, Rice, SMU, and at Marshall. If Southern Miss wins five of their last six and wins a game or two in the CUSA Conference Tournament, they will be in.
Memphis: The Tigers have won three straight and six of their last seven, with the lone loss being by three at Southern Miss. Very little is keeping Memphis from being a lock, they have an RPI of 10, are 4-4 on the road, but are 2-5 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 at Tulane, UTEP, East Carolina, at Marshall, UCF, and at Tulsa down the stretch. If the Tigers win four of their last six and win a game or two in the CUSA Conference Tournament, they will be in.
Work to do: UCF (18-7) (7-4); Marshall (15-10) (6-5).
UCF: The Knights have won three of their last four, winning against Marshall, but losing at Southern Miss this past week. UCF has games remaining against East Carolina, at Rice, UTEP, at Memphis, and UAB. With an RPI around 60 and a 2-5 road record, the Knights will need some help; they are 2-3 against the RPI top 50. If UCF wins four of their five remaining games, including a win at Memphis, they will be NCAA Tournament bound.
Marshall: The Thundering Herd are in trouble. They are 1-4 against the top four in Conference USA (5-1 against the rest). Marshall is 0-5 against the top 50 RPI, has an RPI north of 60, 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 at SMU, 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 at SMU next week, they will fall off of the Watch.
Wichita State’s dominating road victory over Creighton moves them to a lock for the NCAA Tournament. Creighton’s three straight losses leave the Jays in trouble, but still on the “probably in” line, barely. Missouri State is emerging as a potential three seed in the Missouri Valley, winners of three straight, but haven’t done enough to warrant consideration yet (Hint: win against Wichita State and we will talk).
Locks: Wichita State (22-4) (13-2)
Wichita State: Welcome to the “lock” life, Shockers fans. Wichita State is 2-3 against the top 50 RPI, has won four straight, and 12 of their last 13. The Shockers are also a gaudy 8-1 on the road. A 31-point road win for Wichita State over Creighton moves WSU from “probably in” to “lock”. A win over Missouri State on Wednesday night guarantees Wichita State the top seed in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
Probably in: Creighton (21-5) (11-4)
Creighton: The Jays were dropped to the “probably in” line with a road loss to Northern Iowa. Now with losses to Evansville and Wichita State, Creighton runs the risk of being dropped even further. Creighton has games remaining at Southern Illinois, Long Beach State (Bracket Busters), Evansville, and at Indiana State. Creighton probably needs to win their remaining regular season games to feel comfortable; a loss to Long Beach State wouldn’t end the chance of an at-large bid, though. Creighton likely needs a win or two in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, as well.
Work to do: None.
Locks: San Diego State (20-4) (6-2); UNLV (22-4) (6-2).
San Diego State: The Aztecs defeated TCU and lost at UNLV, not surprisingly. San Diego State is a lock for the NCAA Tournament with an RPI of 20 and a 4-3 mark against the top 50 RPI. The Mountain West Conference regular season title will likely come down to the last week. SDSU has games remaining against New Mexico, at Air Force, Wyoming, Colorado State, at Boise State, and at TCU.
UNLV: UNLV continues their dominance at home, knocking off the Aztecs over the weekend. UNLV is looking very good as of late, with an RPI of 10 and a 6-3 mark against the top 50 RPI. UNLV’s performance away from the Thomas & Mack Center has to improve though, as the Rebels are 6-4 on the road, with three of the six road wins coming in overtime. UNLV finishes with games at TCU, at New Mexico, Boise State, Air Force, at Colorado State, and Wyoming.
Probably in: None.
Work to do: New Mexico (20-4) (6-2); Wyoming (18-6) (4-4); Colorado State (15-8) (4-4).
New Mexico: 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. New Mexico has games remaining at San Diego State, UNLV, at Colorado State, at TCU, Air Force, and Boise State. 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. The Lobos are 2-2 against the top 50 RPI.
Wyoming: Wyoming is on the ropes now. The Cowboys lost 48-38 at the Pit over the weekend, losing a great chance to pick up a quality win. Now the Cowboys need to win games in tough environments. Wyoming has games remaining against Air Force, at Colorado State, at San Diego State, Boise State, TCU, and at UNLV. Wyoming needs to win at San Diego State or at UNLV and win three of the other four games. Wyoming is 2-2 against the RPI top 50 and has an RPI over 60.
Colorado State: Like Wyoming, Colorado State is on the ropes now. The Rams lost by four at TCU weekend. Unlike Wyoming, though, CSU has an opportunity to do some damage at home. Wyoming has games remaining against at Boise State, Wyoming, New Mexico, at San Diego State, UNLV, and at Air Force. Colorado State needs to win against UNLV, Wyoming or New Mexico, and two of their remaining three games. Colorado State is 1-4 against the RPI top 50 and has an RPI of 26.
Gonzaga’s home win over Saint Mary’s moves them to lock status, while BYU’s dominating 38-point win over Pepperdine moves them to the “probably in” line, for now. Loyola Marymount is lingering as a fourth possibility, but they simply haven’t done enough to warrant analysis; with games at Saint Mary’s and home to Valparaiso this week, a pair of wins would move the Lions onto the “work to do” line – they do have wins over Brigham Young and Saint Louis, after all.
Locks: Saint Mary’s (23-3) (12-1); Gonzaga (20-4) (10-2).
Saint Mary’s: For Saint Mary’s, the magic number is 2. Saint Mary’s hand an excellent opportunity to close out the Zags on Thursday night at The Kennel, but lost. The Gaels defeated Santa Clara on Saturday night. Saint Mary’s has games remaining against Loyola Marymount, at Murray State (Bracket Busters), at Portland, and at San Francisco.
Gonzaga: With Gonzaga’s wins over Saint Mary’s and Loyola Marymount last week, the Bulldogs move to a “lock” to make the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga has an RPI around 20 and is 3-4 against the top 50 RPI. They have games remaining at Santa Clara, at San Francisco, Brigham Young, at San Diego, and Longwood.
Probably in: Brigham Young (21-6) (9-3).
Brigham Young: Last week we said the Cougars needed to knock off Pepperdine and San Francisco, in order to bump them to “probably in”. For now, we will put Brigham Young here based on their dominance in the last three games. Be warned, however, a loss to the Dons this week will drop them back to “work to do”. BYU actually has no bad losses, and has beaten Nevada, Oregon, Weber State, and Gonzaga. BYU has games remaining at San Francisco, at Santa Clara, at Gonzaga, and Portland. If the Cougars win three of four, they will make the NCAA Tournament. If the Cougars lose to USF and Gonzaga, they will need to win a game in the West Coast Conference Tournament.
Work to do: None.
Harvard’s loss to Princeton prevents them from moving to a “lock”. Murray State, meanwhile, has trouble of their own, as they blew their lone chance to slip up. Cleveland State departs the Watch after getting swept by Valparaiso and Butler this past week; Iona’s loss to Fairfield eliminates them, as well.
Probably in: Harvard (21-3) (7-1 Ivy); Murray State (24-1) (12-1 Ohio Valley); Nevada (21-4) (10-1 WAC).
Harvard lost to Princeton on the road, which is why they are still here and not on the “lock” line; they are still in first place, but have six games remaining. We said last week that Murray State could only afford to lose one regular season game, and they did just that during the week, a 72-68 home loss to Tennessee State. They did rebound by defeating Austin Peay on Saturday. Murray State needs to win their remaining four games or win the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. Nevada picked up a pair of road wins during the week, at Hawaii and San Jose State. The Wolfpack are in excellent shape and can move to “lock” status with a sweep of Cal State Bakersfield and Iona this week.
Work to do: Akron (18-7) (10-1 MAC); Belmont (19-7) (11-2 Atlantic Sun); Davidson (19-6) (13-2 Southern); Long Beach State (19-6) (12-0 Big West); Middle Tennessee (23-4) (12-1 Sun Belt); Oral Roberts (23-5) (15-1 Summit); Weber State (20-4) (12-1 Big Sky).
Akron picked up a pair of wins over Western Michigan and Northern Illinois last week to stay on top of the MAC. Belmont kept pace with Mercer on top of the Atlantic Sun, with a win over Florida Gulf Coast. Davidson defeated Wofford and The Citadel during the week, but lost at Charleston. Another loss for Davidson will likely eliminate them from the Watch. Long Beach State has an RPI of 34, but is 0-4 against the RPI top 50. The 49ers swept Pacific and UC Davis on the road the past weekend; is LBSU wins their remaining five regular season games and wins at least one game in the Big West Conference Tournament, they will be a lock for 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 a lock for the NCAA Tournament; MTSU is 1-1 against the RPI top 50 and has an RPI under 50. 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 below 50. If Oral Roberts wins their final four regular season games and makes the Summit League Conference Championship, they will have a strong argument for an at-large bid. Weber State’s wins against Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington mean that Weber State remains tied with Montana for first in the Big Sky. If Weber State wins their remaining regular season games, they will move to the “probably in” line.