Left-for-dead teams showing life again in the latest Watch
Teams like Maryland that were considered finished showed new signs of life
The Big East leads with five NCAA tournament locks while the ACC has four
After a crazy week, the picture in the Big Ten is getting complicated
If Dr. Jack Kevorkian was overseeing Bubble Watch this season, he'd quickly go out of business. Nobody wants to die.
Yours truly bagged on Maryland on national radio Friday, so of course the Terps rallied to stun North Carolina the next day. Notre Dame found a pulse just in time at Providence. Oklahoma State is kicking in the Big 12. Wisconsin is solidly in the bracket despite that pesky six-game skid from a couple weeks ago. Suddenly the Missouri Valley has a bona fide at-large prospect in Creighton. The WCC might have two again with Saint Mary's recovery. Temple is making like it's 2008 again in the A-10.
Given how soft the bubble is right now (and check out this week's 12-seeds in the bracket for proof), just win a couple of games and you'll be thrust right back in the mix. Of course, things likely will tighten during championship week when the inevitable upsets come and shrink the at-large pool, but right now, it looks harder to be out of the mix than in it.
(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: North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Is Maryland (17-9, 6-6; RPI: 53; SOS: 31) next in the order after its shocking rally past the Tar Heels on Saturday? Both Virginia Tech and Miami might be better teams, but that doesn't necessarily mean they have better profiles at this point. The Terps still have Duke (on Wednesday) and Wake coming to them and have winnable road games at NC State and Virginia left. Having a second marquee win to go with Michigan State helps offset some of the Terps' foibles (five blowouts against top teams and a home loss to MEAC leader Morgan State).
Virginia Tech (16-10, 6-6; RPI: 64; SOS: 52) is in trouble after losing at Virginia and falling at home to FSU ahead of a brutal last four games (at Clemson, Duke, UNC, at FSU). The silver lining is the Hokies (like Maryland) clearly have the opportunities to play their way in. The near misses in non-league play may be too much to overcome, but they could finish at 8-8 with two more very good wins to consider. Miami (15-10, 5-8; RPI: 46, SOS: 9) ended a run of six losses in seven games by beating BC at home, but the 'Canes probably need to win their last three (at Virginia and Georgia Tech and home to NC State) given the lack of relative strength of those opponents. Barring an ACC tourney run, 7-9 would be a hard sell for a team that only has a win over Kentucky in non-league play to fall back on.
Locks: Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Kansas State (18-8, 7-5; RPI: 76; SOS: 120) did what it had to do, scraping past Iowa State on the road after romping past outclassed N.C. Central in a no-win non-league tilt. The Wildcats still have the league standings advantage, but with a horrid non-league SOS in the 320s, they likely need to pick off either Missouri or Oklahoma State on the road to go with beating Nebraska and Colorado at home to be in consideration. It's doable. Nebraska (16-9, 6-6; RPI: 66; SOS: 38) didn't help itself this week, losing at Kansas after edging former league doormat Colorado at home. The Huskers have two virtual elimination games this week: Tuesday vs. Texas A&M and Saturday at Kansas State. After losing at Oklahoma State in its only game of the week, Baylor (15-10, 4-8; RPI: 57; SOS: 12) probably needs to win its last four. If the Bears can upset Texas on the road on March 2, the other three are gettable.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Cincinnati (16-10, 7-7, RPI: 55, SOS: 22) couldn't beat Louisville at home and now has a huge home game against West Virginia on Thursday that it really needs. Notre Dame (14-11, 6-8; RPI: 70; SOS: 54) got a crucial road win at Providence to salvage a split for the week after falling at West Virginia. With three home games left, 9-9 remains in play, and that would put the Irish in interesting position heading into the Big East tournament, where seeding could play a huge role. Remember, the No. 9 seed in the Beast now needs to play the 16-seed on Tuesday. That game would do nothing for ND other than tire it ahead of the must-win against a rested No. 8 seed if it breaks that way.
Georgetown (14-11, 5-9; RPI: 44; SOS: 2) couldn't get it done against Marquette at home, which really hurts. You hate using the term "must-win" this early, but it's hard not to think tonight at home against Louisville is a game that qualifies for the Hoyas. Providence (16-10, 8-7; RPI: 65; SOS: 52) lost at Louisville and then suffered a very harmful home loss to ND on Saturday to diminish its at-large hopes. Pitt comes in on Tuesday before the Friars have roadies at Rutgers and Villanova to close.