It's hard to imagine a coach enjoying a more important week than the one Oregon State first-year head man Craig Robinson just had.
His Beavers, an 0-18 laughingstock in the Pac-10 last year, pulled off consecutive road upsets at Cal and Stanford for their second and third league wins, with 10 conference games left. Oh, and on Tuesday, Robinson attended the inauguration of his brother-in-law, Barack Obama.
Apparently, both on and off the court, yes, he can.
Why is this relevant to the Bubble Watch? Because upsets like these are happening every day, changing the texture of the NCAA tournament. Despite what gridiron enthusiasts claim, every game in college basketball does matter. Teams like Oregon State won't be in this year's NCAA tournament, but they will play a huge role in determining who will, and how favorable their seedings will be.
In the interim, for other long-suffering basketball towns, Robinson's impact in Corvallis proves you just need the right coach at the right time to inspire basketball change you can believe in.
(Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Sunday's collegerpi.com RPI report.)
Locks: Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Clemson
Nothing's changed in this category despite Clemson's blowout loss at UNC last week. No team in the country would have survived that second-half Heels surge. Anyone looking forward to Duke-Wake Wednesday night?
SHOULD BE IN
Florida State (16-4, 3-2; RPI: 18; SOS: 32) still looks to be next in line after splitting road games at Miami and Virginia. The Noles have a huge chance on Wednesday against UNC to get the marquee win they lack.
IN THE MIX
Virginia Tech (14-5, 4-1; RPI: 38; SOS: 53) is coming off a huge week after winning at Wake Forest and Miami. Imagine how well situated the Hokies would be if they had slightly better luck. Their first four losses were by a total of eight points, including a half-court buzzer-beater by Xavier. Unfortunately, Tech has nothing out-of-league to fall back on. Next up: Clemson at home Thursday night. Miami (13-5, 3-3; RPI: 29; SOS: 21) followed an important win over Florida State with a loss to Virginia Tech. Now the Canes must take care of road business at N.C. State and Maryland, because the next three after that (Wake, at Duke, UNC) are brutal.
Boston College (15-6, 3-3; RPI: 56; SOS: 58) ended its four-game skid by toppling league minnows Georgia Tech and N.C. State. The Eagles will need more to go with the road upset of UNC, but the next three games are winnable. Maryland (13-6, 2-3; RPI: 65; SOS: 90) has two virtual must-wins at home this week. The Terps didn't look like an NCAA-caliber team at Cameron.
The gap is widening between Oklahoma and the rest of this conference as the teams below the Sooners continue to pick each other off. The separation will be good for OU's push for a No. 1 seed.
SHOULD BE IN
Texas (14-4, 3-1; RPI: 27; SOS: 48) is still next in the Big 12 pecking order after rallying past Texas A&M at home. Nonleague wins over UCLA, Villanova and at Wisconsin are losing some luster but remain solid.
IN THE MIX
After the Horns, it's close, but Baylor (14-4, 3-2; RPI: 35; SOS: 49), which hosts Texas on Tuesday, is coming on strong. The Bears have a three-game stretch that includes at Missouri and home to Kansas, so things could change quickly. You also could make arguments for those two teams, both of whom swept two league games and have taken advantage of fairly favorable league schedules. Kansas (15-4, 4-0; RPI: 34; SOS: 59) arguably has better nonleague wins than Baylor but also has worse losses. Missouri (16-3, 4-1; RPI: 31; SOS: 76) has a less impressive nonleague slate but has a solid two-point win at Oklahoma State (13-5, 2-2; RPI: 26; SOS: 11), which also has lost at Baylor. The Pokes continue to have a deceptively good computer profile with relatively little in it. Their best nonconference win remains fellow computer-monster Siena. Texas A&M (14-5, 1-4; RPI: 50; SOS: 75) is hurt by a brutal conference schedule and might not survive long enough to get to the softer final five games intact.
Locks: Pitt, Connecticut, Louisville, Marquette, Syracuse
Early Sunday, it looked like the Big East would have six in this category, but Georgetown took a step back by losing at Seton Hall. Syracuse can stay, for now, and Marquette jumps up, too.
SHOULD BE IN
Being a schedule monster only takes you so far. If you're Georgetown (12-6, 3-4; RPI: 9; SOS: 1), it takes you as far as an inexcusable loss Sunday at Seton Hall. On the tails of getting destroyed at home by West Virginia, the Hoyas drop a category this week. They have beaten Memphis, UConn and Syracuse, so they're definitely capable, but the Hoyas have now lost five of seven. Next up is a test at Cincinnati on Wednesday before visiting Marquette next weekend. West Virginia (14-5, 3-3; RPI: 15; SOS: 24) had a pretty solid week, throttling Georgetown before playing Pitt tough before losing at home. The Georgetown win aids a profile that should get some injury credit, too. The Mountaineers still have road games at Louisville and Syracuse coming up.
IN THE MIX
Villanova (15-4, 3-3; RPI: 28; SOS: 54) remains the Oklahoma State of the Big East, with solid computer numbers masking a very hollow profile. The Cats played UConn tough and won at USF, but at some point, they need to beat someone in the league that's actually threatening to make the NCAAs.
Would that include Notre Dame (11-6, 3-4; RPI: 69; SOS: 110)? There's no shame in losing at Louisville or Syracuse, or at home to UConn. That said, ND's profile is terrible right now. The Irish have an abysmal nonconference SOS and are 2-5 against the RPI Top 100. Monday night's home date with Marquette looks crucial with a three-game trip to Pitt, feisty Cincy and UCLA up next before Louisville visits South Bend.
Providence (13-6, 5-2; RPI: 67; SOS: 73) is 5-2 in league play, with all the wins against the bottom of the conference and nothing in nonleague play to fall back on. The next four (Syracuse, at UConn, Villanova, at WVU) are crucial. Cincinnati (12-7, 3-4, RPI: 59; SOS: 29) hangs on at the periphery, having been swept by Providence. With Georgetown twice, Notre Dame and Villanova in their next four, it's make-or-break time for the Bearcats.
Locks: Michigan State
The Spartans showed their experience and poise in rallying from a double-digit deficit to win going away at Ohio State, recovering nicely from the shocking home loss to Northwestern. They're still the best team in this league, but may have to settle for a 2-seed.
SHOULD BE IN
Illinois (17-3, 5-2; RPI: 16; SOS: 50) now looks like the second-best team in the league after downing Ohio State and Wisconsin at home. It's a wonder what maturing talent and just average luck can do for a team compared to a year ago (scroll all the way down).
IN THE MIX
Right on the edge of this cutline, Minnesota (16-3, 5-3, RPI: 33; SOS: 66) held off Indiana to end its two-game skid. The Gophers host Illinois on Thursday night in an important game ahead of a road trip to Michigan State and Ohio State. The Gophers are one of a few teams riding the "We beat Louisville" gravy train at the moment, but they'll need to stay strong in the league. Ohio State (13-5, 3-4; RPI: 17; SOS: 25) let Michigan State off the hook on Sunday after getting smacked at Illinois, and now they're under .500 in the league. The Buckeyes have beaten Miami, Notre Dame and Butler in nonleague play, which is a nice fallback, but they need more. Are they still ahead of Purdue (15-4, 4-2; RPI: 39; SOS: 72)? Their schedule has been much tougher both in and out of league. The Boilers grabbed a nice win at Minnesota ahead of upcoming trips to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Illinois.
That W gave the Boilermakers four straight in league play, which is the exact opposite of its next opponent, Wisconsin (11-7, 3-4; RPI: 23; SOS: 2). The Badgers' skid extends a season-long theme where they have lost to virtually every good team they have played. Tuesday's meeting in Madison with Purdue is very important for Wisconsin as the Boilers already beat them in West Lafayette. Would Wisconsin even be ahead of Michigan (13-6, 4-4; RPI: 42; SOS: 20)? Likely no, given league standing. Michigan has wins over UCLA and Duke and a split with Illinois. The Wolverines also did something Michigan State couldn't do: beat Northwestern at home. They now travel to Ohio State and Purdue, with a trip to UConn looming in early February.
Wait, Penn State (16-5, 5-3; RPI: 75; SOS: 183) is in fourth place? Three straight wins have the Nittany Lions in the Watch, but the schedule really stiffens now, with a two-game swing through Michigan kicking off five road games in their next seven, all against NCAA-caliber foes. Northwestern (10-7, 2-5; RPI: 41; SOS: 10) really could have used a win at Michigan to back its upset of Michigan State. That said, six of the next seven (including a nonleague game) are at home, so the Cats could make a push.