NCAA Tournament Watch: February 17, 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.

The Friday edition of Bubble Watch is a special one, as we are gearing up for a big weekend in college basketball. Once we get closer to the conference tournaments and Selection Sunday, the article will be updated a few times per week.

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 17.

UPDATED 2/17/2012

Locks: 22

Probably in: 16

Work to do: 36

Total: 38

Major Conferences

ACC

After a loss at Clemson, Virginia drops down to “work to do”. N.C. State had an excellent opportunity to pick up a statement win Thursday night, but lost a close one. With the ACC regular season winding down, there could be as few as four teams in the NCAA Tournament.


Locks: Florida State (18-7) (9-2); Duke (22-4) (9-2); North Carolina (22-4) (9-2).

Florida State

RPI: 24

SOS: 21

Top 50 RPI: 4-4

Florida State came through on a last second shot, similar to their win over Duke, escaping with a 48-47 victory over Virginia Tech on Thursday night. The win allows the Seminoles to keep pace with UNC and Duke for first in the ACC. Florida State has games remaining at North Carolina State, Duke, at Miami (FL), at Virginia, and Clemson.

Duke

RPI: 2

SOS: 2

Top 50 RPI: 7-4

Like Florida State, Duke escaped with a win over the Wolfpack at Cameron Indoor. Duke was down by as many as 20 points erasing the deficit in the second half and crushing North Carolina State’s hopes of an at-large bid. Duke has games remaining at Boston College, at Florida State, Virginia Tech, at Wake Forest, and North Carolina.

North Carolina

RPI: 7

SOS: 10

Top 50 RPI: 8-4

Tar Heels picked up a nice win in Coral Gables on Wednesday night, knocking off Miami (FL) 73-64. With their win, UNC keeps pace with Florida State and Duke. The Tar Heels have games remaining against Clemson, at North Carolina State, at Virginia, Maryland, and at Duke.

Probably in: None.

Work to do: North Carolina State (18-8) (7-4); Virginia (19-6) (6-5); Miami (FL) (15-9) (6-5).

North Carolina State

RPI: 49

SOS: 45

Top 50 RPI: 2-6

What a crushing blow to the Wolfpack. North Carolina State had the potential to pick up a statement win at Duke, but blew a 20-point lead, and ultimately losing in Durham. The Wolfpack still have some opportunities for wins, at home, but this is going to be a tough one to forget. With their best wins over Miami (FL) and Texas, North Carolina State is lacking a statement win. Fortunately, North Carolina State still has two chances to pick up one –Florida State, and North Carolina. Assuming the Wolfpack lose to both, but win the other remaining conference games, will 10-6 be enough?

Virginia

RPI: 42

SOS: 112

Top 50 RPI: 3-3

Virginia has now lost three of their last four games, all three of which were on the road. An 18-point loss to North Carolina and a 12-point loss to Clemson means Virginia drops down. Assuming Virginia wins four of their remaining five, they will be in; a win at home over Florida State would do wonders, though. The Cavaliers will need to do some damage in the ACC Tournament if they fall short of that. Wins over Michigan, Miami (FL), and North Carolina State look good, but losses to TCU, Virginia Tech, and Clemson are questionable. Virginia has games remaining Maryland, at Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Florida State, and at Maryland.

Miami (FL)

RPI: 38

SOS: 17

Top 50 RPI: 1-7

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. Things didn’t get any better this week, with a home loss to North Carolina. With that said, the Hurricanes have no bad losses. Miami (FL) has five games remaining, one against a ranked team (Florida State). 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 Wake Forest, at Maryland, Florida State, at North Carolina State, and Boston College.

Big XII

With a win this weekend, Baylor will return to lock status. Beyond Missouri, Kansas, and Baylor, the remaining Big XII teams have a lot of work to do. Kansas State is in trouble now after a home loss to Kansas.

Locks: Missouri (24-2) (11-2); Kansas (21-5) (11-2).

Missouri

RPI: 10

SOS: 88

Top 50 RPI: 9-0

Missouri avenged a loss at Stillwater with an 18-point over Oklahoma State on Wednesday night. The Tigers have won six straight, but do have a pair of curious losses. 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 at Texas A&M, Kansas State, at Kansas, Iowa State, and at Texas Tech.

Kansas

RPI: 5

SOS: 4

Top 50 RPI: 7-4

Kansas picked up a crucial road win in Bramlage Coliseum during the week. The Jayhawks will face Texas Tech over the weekend before traveling to Texas A&M next week. 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 against Texas Tech, at Texas A&M, Missouri, at Oklahoma State, and Texas.

Probably in: Baylor (22-4) (9-4); Iowa State (18-8) (8-5).

Baylor

RPI: 6

SOS: 8

Top 50 RPI: 8-4

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 picked up a crucial win against Iowa State during the week. The Bears are in good shape, with wins over Brigham Young, Saint Mary’s, West Virginia, Mississippi State, and Kansas State. A win against Kansas State will move them back to a lock. Baylor’s remaining schedule is against Kansas State, at Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and at Iowa State.

Iowa State

RPI: 36

SOS: 54

Top 50 RPI: 2-5

Iowa State lost at the Ferrell Center on Monday. The loss to Baylor wasn’t surprising, but certainly won’t help the Cyclones tournament chances. 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 some road wins or Big XII Tournament wins – Kansas State, and Missouri. Iowa State also plays Kansas State and Missouri on the road.

Work to do: Texas (17-9) (7-6); Kansas State (17-8) (6-7).

Texas

RPI: 41

SOS: 22

Top 50 RPI: 2-7

The Longhorns are alive; Texas has won four straight, including a win over Kansas State. The Longhorns are still missing a marquee win and a road win, hence why they are here. Most of the remaining road games are winnable (Oklahoma State, 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. 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 at Oklahoma State, Baylor, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and at Kansas.

Kansas State

RPI: 57

SOS: 70

Top 50 RPI: 4-6

Kansas State has now lost four of their last six, including home losses to Oklahoma and Kansas. 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 wins three of their last five (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.

Big East

Seton Hall is in the best shape of the middling teams in the Big East. South Florida has an argument for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament, but their non-conference profile demonstrates otherwise. Will the Big East end up with as few as five teams? Or as many as ten teams?

Locks: Syracuse (26-1) (13-1); Notre Dame (18-8) (10-3); Marquette (21-5) (10-3); Georgetown (19-5) (9-4); Louisville (20-6) (8-5).

Syracuse

RPI: 1

SOS: 13

Top 50 RPI: 8-1

Syracuse picked up a huge road win against Louisville, a team Coach Boeheim has historically struggled against. Syracuse has four remaining games (Rutgers and Connecticut on the road; South Florida and Louisville at home). Syracuse has already clinched a bye in the Big East Tournament; two more wins for the Orange and a Notre Dame loss will assure Syracuse the top seed in the Big East Tournament, if not the NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame

RPI: 35

SOS: 36

Top 50 RPI: 6-4

Notre Dame has now won seven 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, 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.

Marquette

RPI: 11

SOS: 26

Top 50 RPI: 3-4

Marquette last played on Saturday and won’t play again until this Saturday against a desperate Connecticut team. Marquette has a one game lead over fourth place Georgetown 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).

Georgetown

RPI: 13

SOS: 16

Top 50 RPI: 6-3

The Hoyas got some much needed rest, which they will need down the stretch, facing three potential NCAA Tournament teams, two of which are on the road. Georgetown’s remaining schedule sets up well for a potential double-bye in the Big East Tournament – at Providence, at Seton Hall, Villanova, Notre Dame, and at Marquette. Georgetown is 5-3 on the road this season and is 13-1 at the MCI Center.

Louisville

RPI: 22

SOS: 27

Top 50 RPI: 6-5

Louisville’s six-game win streak in the Big East ended this week, with a one-point home loss to Syracuse. A win would have the Cardinals a shot at the top spot in the Big East Tournament. 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 DePaul, at Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Florida, and at Syracuse.

Probably in: None.

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

South Florida

RPI: 56

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 nine 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 games on Connecticut, 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, but wins over Pittsburgh and Providence lately have helped. 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, at Pittsburgh, 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: 92

SOS: 135

Top 50 RPI: 3-3

Cincinnati has won three of their last four games, albeit all three wins have come against non-tournament contenders. The Bearcats have an RPI near 100, but are 3-3 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 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

RPI: 30

SOS: 32

Top 50 RPI: 3-6

Seton Hall has some momentum now, especially with a 30-point win, even if it is over St. John’s. 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 at Cincinnati, Georgetown, Rutgers, and at DePaul. Seton Hall probably needs to defeat Georgetown to feel comfortable; if the Pirates win three of their four remaining games, they will be NCAA Tournament-bound. Out of all the teams in the Big East on the “work to do” line, the Pirates are in the best shape.

West Virginia

RPI: 32

SOS: 7

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 those seem like an eternity ago. To feel comfortable about their NCAA Tournament chances, West Virginia probably needs to win three of their remaining four. Even then, that may not be enough.

Connecticut

RPI: 20

SOS: 1

Top 50 RPI: 5-5

Connecticut righted the ship, at least temporarily, with a 26-point win over DePaul during the week. Prior to that, the Huskies had lost six of their last seven. With an RPI under 30, the Huskies look like an NCAA Tournament team, but the losing streak and away record suggests 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 against Marquette, at Villanova, Syracuse, at Providence, and Pittsburgh. Connecticut needs to pick up road wins against Villanova and Providence; additionally, a win against Marquette or 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.

Big Ten

The train wreck that is Illinois continues. Minnesota was in a similar situation last year and never recovered, being bounced early in the Big Ten Tournament and not receiving a bid to the NCAA Tournament. A showdown in Ann Arbor on Saturday could put the Buckeyes further behind the Spartans for first place, or it could end Michigan’s chances at a regular season Big Ten Title.

Locks: Michigan State (21-5) (10-3); Ohio State (22-4) (10-3); Michigan (19-7) (9-4).

Michigan State

RPI: 3

SOS: 3

Top 50 RPI: 8-4

Michigan State picked up another solid win on Thursday night, defeating Wisconsin by 14 in the Breslin Center. Michigan State has won six of their last seven, with the lone defeat by one in Champaign to Illinois. During that streak they have an average margin of victory of 15.8 points per game. Michigan State controls their own destiny. They have games remaining at Purdue, at Minnesota, Nebraska, at Indiana, and Ohio State.

Ohio State

RPI: 8

SOS: 25

Top 50 RPI: 6-4

Ohio State rebounded from a rare home loss to knock off Minnesota in Minneapolis during the week. Ohio State’s last four 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). The Buckeyes will also play Illinois and at Northwestern.

Michigan

RPI: 14

SOS: 11

Top 50 RPI: 7-5

The Wolverines are a full game behind Ohio State for the lead in the Big Ten. Michigan’s win over Illinois during the week keep the Wolverines one and a half games in front of Indiana, who is currently in fifth. The top four teams in the Big Ten will have a first round bye in the upcoming tournament. 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 regular season title, Michigan has the easiest remaining schedule, with Ohio State and Purdue at home, and Northwestern, Illinois, and Penn State on the road.

Probably in: Wisconsin (19-7) (8-5); Indiana (20-6) (8-6).

Wisconsin

RPI: 25

SOS: 24

Top 50 RPI: 5-6

Wisconsin dropped a road decision against Michigan State, resulting in a season sweep for the Spartans. The result wasn’t complete unexpected and, thus, doesn’t change the Badgers post-season chances. Wisconsin has won seven of their last nine games, by an average of 7.7 points per game. The Badgers have an RPI under 30 and are 5-6 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 have done the trick. After that, Wisconsin faces Iowa and Ohio State on the road, before finishing the season with Minnesota and Illinois at home.

Indiana

RPI: 15

SOS: 29

Top 50 RPI: 7-4

After losing four of five, the Hoosiers have won four of their last five, including wins against Purdue on the road and Illinois and Northwestern at home. A win over 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 (17-9) (7-6); Minnesota (17-9) (5-8); Northwestern (15-10) (5-8); Illinois (16-10) (5-8).

Purdue

RPI: 46

SOS: 31

Top 50 RPI: 6-6

Purdue picked up a crucial road win against Illinois on Wednesday night, putting them at the top of the “work to do” group. Despite a number of wins against the RPI top 50, Purdue lacks a marquee win. Purdue has games left against Michigan State, Nebraska, at Michigan, Penn State, and at Indiana. A win over Michigan State, Michigan, or Indiana would be helpful; a win over Michigan State would move Purdue to “probably in”.

Minnesota

RPI: 61

SOS: 48

Top 50 RPI: 3-5

The Gophers tournament chances are slipping away. Generally teams with losing conference records do not make the NCAA Tournament. In order to avoid that, Minnesota has to win four of their remaining five games. Minnesota’s remaining schedule is one of the toughest: at Northwestern, Michigan State, 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.

Illinois

RPI: 53

SOS: 20

Top 50 RPI: 4-6

Illinois is all but done. The Illini have lost seven of their last eight games, with the lone win by one over Michigan State. Illinois is 2-5 on the road and is coming off a crushing home loss to Purdue. Illinois has contests remaining at Nebraska, at Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, and at Wisconsin. Illinois needs to get to 9-9 in conference play, that will require winning four of their last five, including winning two of three against Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The Illini are likely NIT-bound.

Northwestern

RPI: 40

SOS: 8

Top 50 RPI: 3-7

The Wildcats fell at Indiana during the week, dropping an excellent chance at another quality win. 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 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. 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.

PAC-12

California remains as a lock and Washington is in decent shape. The rest of the PAC-12 have some work to do, and time is running out.


Locks: California (21-6) (11-3).

California

RPI: 31

SOS: 83

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 nine of their last eleven, with their lone losses coming by a combined six points. California earned a season sweep of Oregon on Thursday night, skating by with a three-point win at Hass Pavilion. 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 (18-8) (11-3).

Washington

RPI: 64

SOS: 81

Top 50 RPI: 0-4

Washington has won nine of their last eleven, 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. Washington defeated Arizona State on Thursday night, but their RPI dropped in the process. Washington has games remaining against 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: Arizona (19-8) (10-4); Colorado (17-8) (9-4); Oregon (18-8) (9-5).

Arizona

RPI: 69

SOS: 94

Top 50 RPI: 1-4

Arizona kept pace with the PAC-12 leaders by winning Thursday night, 76-72 in Pullman. The Wildcats are 1-4 against the top 50 RPI, but they are 6-3 on the road. Arizona has games remaining at Washington, USC, UCLA, and at Arizona State. A sweep of the Washington schools moves Arizona up to “probably in”.

Colorado

RPI: 71

SOS: 85

Top 50 RPI: 0-3

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. The Buffs are 4-4 against RPIs 51-100, though, and they are 13-1 at home. Colorado has games left at Utah, Stanford, California, at Oregon, and at Oregon State. Colorado probably needs wins in four of their five remaining games; they virtually have to beat California in Boulder, in addition to picking up some road wins. They probably need to win a game or two in the PAC-12 Conference Tournament, as well.

Oregon

RPI: 70

SOS: 90

Top 50 RPI: 0-5

Just as easily as Oregon picked up steam with their sweep of the Washington schools last week, indicates how much trouble they are now in. Oregon had the chance to pick up a win at California Thursday night, but lost by three. 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 Stanford, at Oregon State, Colorado, and Utah. Oregon needs to beat Stanford to stay on the Watch, 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.

SEC

The SEC West schools are doing the best they can to be eliminated from the NCAA Tournament discussion. Mississippi State was a lock for the NCAA Tournament at one point and Alabama and Arkansas were in strong consideration for an at-large bid. Arkansas and Alabama could be eliminated this weekend with losses.

Locks: Kentucky (25-1) (11-0); Florida (20-6) (8-3).

Kentucky

RPI: 4

SOS: 61

Top 50 RPI: 6-1

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 has five games remaining: Ole Miss, at Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Georgia, and at Florida. The Wildcats are up three games on Florida; the magic number for Kentucky is three.

Florida

RPI: 20

SOS: 56

Top 50 RPI: 4-3

After a rough week last week, Florida picked up a road win against Alabama earlier in the week. Florida has been swept by Tennessee and runs the risk of losing any chance to win the SEC regular season crown if their losing ways continue. Despite how poorly Florida played, they are still a “lock”. Florida has games remaining at Arkansas, Auburn, at Georgia, at Vanderbilt, and Kentucky.

Probably in: Vanderbilt (18-8) (7-4); Mississippi State (19-7) (6-5).

Vanderbilt

RPI: 26

SOS: 5

Top 50 RPI: 4-4

Vanderbilt’s 26-point win over Ole Miss on Thursday stopped the Commodores slide.  The schedule doesn’t get much easier for Vanderbilt, either, as Vanderbilt finishes with games at Georgia, South Carolina, at Kentucky, Florida, and at Tennessee. A Vanderbilt win over Georgia on Sunday will put them in good shape for an NCAA Tournament bid. We are holding off on putting them as a “lock” again, mindful of their last three games of the season.

Mississippi State

RPI: 48

SOS: 71

Top 50 RPI: 3-2

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. They followed that up with a road loss to LSU. The Bulldogs have games remaining at Auburn, Kentucky, at Alabama, at South Carolina, and Arkansas. Mississippi State is on the verge of falling into the “work to do” category, if they lose at Auburn on Saturday.

Work to do: Arkansas (17-9) (5-6); Alabama (16-9) (5-6); Ole Miss (15-10) (5-6).

Arkansas

RPI: 72

SOS: 78

Top 50 RPI: 3-3

The Razorbacks have an awful RPI and SOS, and are 0-8 on the road, so why are they still in the discussion for an NCAA Tournament bid? They have won three games against the top 50 RPI, including wins over Michigan and Vanderbilt in the past month. Suffice it to say, Arkansas has serious work to do. Arkansas has games remaining Florida, Alabama, at Auburn, Ole Miss, and at Mississippi State. If Arkansas loses to Florida on Saturday, we will officially say goodbye.

Alabama

RPI: 34

SOS: 14

Top 50 RPI: 1-5

The Crimson Tide are in the best shape of the three SEC West teams behind Mississippi State. With that said, Alabama is 3-5 on the road and is 1-5 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 against Tennessee, 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.

Ole Miss

RPI: 59

SOS: 42

Top 50 RPI: 2-7

The Rebels had a golden chance to pick up a quality win at home, but got thrashed in the process. Because of how poorly Ole Miss played, allowing 100+ points to Vanderbilt, the Rebels are in danger of falling off the Watch. 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, at Kentucky, at Tennessee, LSU, at Arkansas, and Alabama. Ole Miss must pick up a win at Kentucky this week in order to keep their bleak NCAA Tournament chances alive; losing to Kentucky will eliminate the Rebels from further discussion.

Mid-Major Conferences

Atlantic 10

Temple and Saint Louis are strong bets to be dancing in March. Will anyone else join them? Massachusetts, Saint Joseph’s, and Xavier have decent arguments, but have some work to do.

Locks: Temple (20-5) (9-2).

Temple

RPI: 16

SOS: 58

Top 50 RPI: 4-1

Temple has now won nine straight, by an average of 13.4 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 two of their five remaining games, they will be in the NCAA Tournament. Temple’s remaining schedule is against Duquesne, at La Salle, at Saint Joseph’s, Massachusetts, and at Fordham.

Probably in: Saint Louis (21-5) (9-3).

Saint Louis

RPI: 23

SOS: 75

Top 50 RPI: 1-2

The Billikens have won eight of their last nine games. Saint Louis is in great shape to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2000. Saint Louis has games remaining against Fordham, 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. Games against Rhode Island 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 (17-10) (7-5).

Massachusetts

RPI: 68

SOS: 140

Top 50 RPI: 2-3

Outside of Temple and Saint Louis, Massachusetts in probably in the best position for an NCAA Tournament bid. UMass has a week between their loss at Saint Joseph’s and their next game. 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

RPI: 55

SOS: 51

Top 50 RPI: 2-6

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. 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.

Saint Joseph’s

RPI: 47

SOS: 43

Top 50 RPI: 1-4

The Hawks are barely hanging on now. They picked up a crucial win at Rhode Island during the week. Saint Joseph’s now has one last chance with a statement win. The Hawks have games remaining 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 4-7 on the road. Saint Joseph’s needs to win at George Washington this weekend 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.

Colonial

Drexel looks to be the best shot at an at-large bid, but this still looks like a one bid league. The Colonial can help its chances of multiple bids with a strong showing in Bracket Busters this weekend.

Locks: None.

Probably in: None.

Work to do: Drexel (22-5) (14-2); George Mason (22-6) (14-2); Virginia Commonwealth (22-6) (13-3).

Drexel

RPI: 90

SOS: 294

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 14 straight, defeating William & Mary in a close one earlier this week. Drexel probably needs to run the table in the regular season and do some serious damage in their conference tournament in order to be a legitimate contender for an NCAA Tournament bid. Drexel has games left against James Madison and at Old Dominion in conference play. The Dragons will visiting Cleveland State on Saturday for Bracket Busters.

George Mason

RPI: 89

SOS: 243

Top 50 RPI: 0-1

The Patriots have won ten of their last eleven, with an average margin of victory of 8.2 points per game. 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 against Lamar (Bracket Busters), at Northeastern, and at Virginia Commonwealth.

Virginia Commonwealth

RPI: 85

SOS: 236

Top 50 RPI: 0-2

The Rams dropped a heart breaker at George Mason earlier this week, on a last second short. The Rams have won 11 of their last 12, 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 Northern Iowa (Bracket Busters), at NC Wilmington, and George Mason. VCU is 9-2 on the road and 2-1 against teams with RPIs 51-100.

Conference USA

Conference USA is likely a two-bid league, with Memphis and Southern Miss separating themselves from the pack. Can a third team move into contention? The best shot at this point would be UCF, but they have some work to do.

Locks: None.

Probably in: Southern Miss (22-4) (9-2); Memphis (19-7) (9-2).

Southern Miss

RPI: 9

SOS: 47

Top 50 RPI: 2-1

A win over Tulsa during the week keeps the Golden Eagles tied for first with Memphis. Southern Miss will probably be in the NCAA Tournament, but their chances for quality wins are low. USM has games remaining at Houston, at UTEP, Rice, SMU, and at Marshall. If Southern Miss wins four of their last five and wins a game or two in the CUSA Conference Tournament, they will be in.

Memphis

RPI: 18

SOS: 19

Top 50 RPI: 2-5

The Tigers have won four straight and seven of their last eight, with the lone loss being by three at Southern Miss. Memphis beat Tulane in New Orleans during the weak. Very little is keeping Memphis from being a lock, they have an RPI below 20, are 5-4 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 against UTEP, East Carolina, at Marshall, UCF, and at Tulsa down the stretch. If the Tigers win three 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

RPI: 58

SOS: 105

Top 50 RPI: 2-4

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. If the Golden Knights lose two more games in the regular season, they will be eliminated from the Watch.

Marshall

RPI: 54

SOS: 30

Top 50 RPI: 0-4

The Thundering Herd are in trouble. They are 1-4 against the top four in Conference USA (5-1 against the rest). Marshall is 0-4 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 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 this weekend, they will fall off of the Watch.

Missouri Valley

Creighton and Wichita State will be the top two seeds in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, but their exact positions are yet to be determined. With Bracket Busters this weekend, Creighton can lock up a spot in the NCAA Tournament and other Missouri Valley teams can strengthen the conference’s profile.

Locks: Wichita State (23-4) (14-2)

Wichita State

RPI: 17

SOS: 67

Top 50 RPI: 2-3

Welcome to the “lock” life, Shockers fans. Wichita State is 2-3 against the top 50 RPI, has won five straight, and 13 of their last 14. The Shockers are also a gaudy 8-1 on the road. The Shockers took care of business during the week, winning by 15 against Missouri State. 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 Davidson, at Illinois State, and Drake.

Probably in: Creighton (22-5) (12-4)

Creighton

RPI: 28

SOS: 107

Top 50 RPI: 3-2

Creighton’s three game losing streak, including a blowout home loss to Wichita State, had a lot to do with the Jays being dropped to “probably in”. Their RPI, which is above 100, doesn’t help, either. Creighton is 9-3 on the road and is 3-2 against top 50 RPI teams, though. The Jays have games remaining against Long Beach State (Bracket Busters), Evansville, and at Indiana State. A win against Long Beach State would move them back to a lock; otherwise, wins over Evansville and Indiana State will do the trick.

Work to do: None.

Mountain West

A lot of movement in the Mountain West this week. New Mexico picks up a huge road win to vault into first and up to the “probably in” line. UNLV falls to TCU on the road, but remains a lock, while Wyoming and Colorado State leave the Watch after each lose during the week.

Locks: San Diego State (20-5) (6-3); UNLV (22-5) (6-3).

San Diego State

RPI: 27

SOS: 69

Top 50 RPI: 4-5

The Aztecs had a rare home loss during the week, to upstart New Mexico. The Lobos were in control of the game from start to finish. With that said, SDSU is still in good shape, especially with a win over California and UNLV. The Mountain West Conference regular season title will likely come down to the last week. SDSU has games remaining at Air Force, Wyoming, Colorado State, at Boise State, and at TCU.

UNLV

RPI: 12

SOS: 52

Top 50 RPI: 6-3

UNLV continues to be addicted to losing road games. During the week the Rebels blew a double-digit lead in Fort Worth, ultimately losing in overtime to TCU. The loss won’t hurt UNLV’s standing for the NCAA Tournament, but will affect their NCAA Tournament seeding, and possibly their Mountain West Conference Tournament seeding. UNLV’s performance away from the Thomas & Mack Center has to improve, as the Rebels are 5-5 on the road, with three of the five road wins coming in overtime. UNLV finishes with games at New Mexico, Boise State, Air Force, at Colorado State, and Wyoming.

Probably in: New Mexico (21-4) (7-2).

New Mexico

RPI: 29

SOS: 101

Top 50 RPI: 3-2

The Mountain West’s best chance at getting a third bid into the NCAA Tournament lies in the hands of New Mexico. New Mexico went into the Viejas Arena and knocked off the then-Mountain West Conference leader in dominating fashion. That win, which we certainly did not expect, moves the Lobos to “probably in”. The Lobos have one bad loss to date – at Santa Clara – and have decent wins over Saint Louis, Wyoming, Colorado State, and San Diego State. What’s keeping the Lobos from being a lock? Their strength of schedule. New Mexico has games remaining against UNLV, at Colorado State, at TCU, Air Force, and Boise State. New Mexico needs to probably win three of their remaining five games – that should be enough to return New Mexico to the NCAA Tournament after an absence in 2011. A win over UNLV this weekend will move New Mexico to a lock. Short of that, a sweep next week will.

Work to do: None.

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 (23-4) (12-2); Gonzaga (21-4) (11-2).

Saint Mary’s

RPI: 36

SOS: 130

Top 50 RPI: 3-2

The Gaels now have a half game lead over Gonzaga. If the Bulldogs win in San Francisco, the once two game lead will have completely evaporated. A 15-point home loss during the week to Loyola Marymount has created a problem, but the Lions have been hot as of late. Saint Mary’s has games remaining at Murray State (Bracket Busters), at Portland, and at San Francisco. They would be wise to win two of the last three.

Gonzaga

RPI: 19

SOS: 87

Top 50 RPI: 3-3

Gonzaga’s profile continues to improve. The Bulldogs defeated Santa Clara on the road Thursday night to force a virtual tie for the West Coast Conference lead. They have games remaining at San Francisco, 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.

Probably in: Brigham Young (22-6) (10-3).

Brigham Young

RPI: 44

SOS: 97

Top 50 RPI: 1-4

We warned last week that a loss to the Dons this week would drop them back to “work to do”. BYU came close to testing us, but pulled out a one-point win on the road, Thursday night. BYU actually has no bad losses, and has beaten Nevada, Oregon, Weber State, and Gonzaga. BYU has games remaining at Santa Clara, at Gonzaga, and Portland. If the Cougars win two of three, 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 (17-10) (10-4).

Loyola Marymount

RPI: 87

SOS: 77

Top 50 RPI: 3-7

We indicated last week that if LMU beat Saint Mary’s and Valparaiso, they would be worth a mention here. The Lions promptly disposed of Saint Mary’s in Moraga. We figured we would jump on the Loyola Marymount bandwagon now. The Lions had some early season injuries (Drew Viney – 16.3 points per game; Ashley Hamilton – 10.4 points per game), but now are healthy. LMU has won five of their last six. The Lions have three games left against Valparaiso (Bracket Busters), San Diego, and Santa Clara. They already have a split against BYU and Saint Mary’s, as well as wins against UCLA and Saint Louis. The RPI is a bit high, but winning out and a doing some damage in the WCC Tournament would change that.

Other Conferences

No change during the week for any teams here. But a lot of teams can change their standing by the end of the weekend, as this is Bracket Busters weekend.

Locks: None.

Probably in: Harvard (21-3) (7-1 Ivy); Murray State (25-1) (13-1 Ohio Valley); Nevada (22-4) (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. Murray State rebounded from their first loss by disposing of SE Missouri State and winning the OVC regular season title. Murray State needs to win two of their remaining three games or win the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. Nevada picked up a win against Cal State Bakersfield during the week. The Wolfpack are in excellent shape and can move to “lock” status with a win against Iona this week.

Work to do: Akron (19-7) (11-1 MAC); Belmont (20-7) (12-2 Atlantic Sun); Davidson (20-6) (14-2 Southern); Long Beach State (19-6) (12-0 Big West); Middle Tennessee (23-4) (12-1 Sun Belt); Oral Roberts (24-5) (16-1 Summit); Weber State (21-4) (13-1 Big Sky).

Akron picked up a win over Miami Ohio this week to stay on top of the MAC. Belmont kept pace with Mercer on top of the Atlantic Sun, with a win over Stetson. Davidson defeated Samford during the week, setting up a showdown with Wichita State this weekend. Another loss for Davidson will likely eliminate them from the Watch. Long Beach State has an RPI of 45, but is 0-4 against the RPI top 50. The 49ers have a crucial game against Creighton over the weekend. A win against Creighton should push LBSU to “probably in”, 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. 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 two regular season games and makes the Summit League Conference Championship, they will have a strong argument for an at-large bid. The Golden Eagles have won 17 of their last 18. Weber State won at Montana State to take a half game lead over Montana. If Weber State wins their remaining regular season games, they will move to the “probably in” line.

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