Posted: Thursday February 9, 2006 1:59PM; Updated: Thursday February 9, 2006 3:44PM
Junior Ronnie Brewer leads Arkansas in scoring with 18.7 points per game.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Seth Davis will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his Hoop Thoughts column.
This is the time of year when the bubble starts to grow. The bubble never looks all that big in early February, but invariably a handful of teams you stopped thinking about long ago play their way into consideration.
Usually we only notice these wild cards after they emerge, but my loyal Hoop Thinkers deserve a little foresight dealt from the top of the deck. Herewith are my seven wild cards to watch as we head into Bubble Season:
Arkansas. The Hogs are 4-5 in the SEC, but their five losses have come by a total of 13 points, and only one (at Mississippi State) came against a team ranked outside the top 100 in the RPI. Arkansas just missed a huge opportunity to win at LSU on Wednesday night, but it still gets Florida and Tennessee on the road. If the Razorbacks can get one win there and then hold serve against Alabama at home on Feb. 21, it would do wonders for their case.
Kansas State. After dropping three of its last four (including an overtime loss at Baylor), this team has a good bit of ground to make up. But it also has some pretty good chances to do just that. The Wildcats have three home games remaining (Colorado, Texas and Kansas), and a road date at Oklahoma. If they can split those, they'll be in the ballgame, especially since a victory over Kansas would give them a regular-season sweep of the Jayhawks.
Seton Hall. This has to be the most unlikely resurrection in years. Not only is the Hall tied for fifth in the Big East, but it is also ranked 26th in the RPI, with a big-time road win at N.C. State to hang its hat on. The schedule isn't easy from here on out (it isn't easy for anyone in this league), but even a 3-4 finish would leave Seton Hall at a comfortable 9-7 in the conference.
Temple. The Owls definitely hurt themselves with back-to-back road losses at LaSalle and Charlotte, but they do have wins over top-50 Alabama and Maryland on their resume. So if all three are on the bubble, that should work in the Owls' favor. An upset of Duke on Feb. 25 would obviously be huge, but a 6-1 finish at least vaults them into the conversation.
UAB. With Conference USA looking like a two-bid league at best, the Blazers put themselves in at-large jeopardy when they got blown out at UTEP on Wednesday night to drop to 6-2 in the conference (16-5 overall). Still, UAB is ranked 47th in the RPI and has a golden opportunity on March 2, when the Blazers get Memphis at home.
USC. The Trojans had two bad losses against Cal-State Northridge and Oral Roberts to start the season, but the selection committee might be inclined to overlook those warts if USC can end with a flourish. A home date with UCLA on Feb. 19 is the Trojans' best chance to enhance their status, and a 5-2 finish would lift them to 11-7 in the Pac-10. And remember, they have home wins over North Carolina and Arizona to buttress their argument.
Virginia. The Cavaliers could have really improved their lot if they had knocked off Maryland in College Park last weekend. As it stands, Virginia is in seventh place in the ACC, which probably won't get more than five teams. But the Cavs do have a win over North Carolina. If they can get two wins over remaining opponents Boston College, North Carolina and Maryland, they could at least make things interesting.