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Posted: Monday February 23, 2009 3:04PM; Updated: Monday February 23, 2009 4:52PM
Andy Glockner Andy Glockner >
BUBBLE WATCH

Left-for-dead teams showing life again in the latest Watch

Story Highlights

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

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A win over North Carolina rescued Maryland from outside of the NCAA tournament bubble.
AP

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.)

ACC

Locks: North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson
Despite the surprising collapse in College Park, the Tar Heels remain the ACC leaders and in prime position to grab one of the two spots in the Greensboro subregional. The battle for that second spot between Duke, Wake and Clemson should be heated down the stretch, and Duke took a big step by beating Wake at home on Sunday.

SHOULD BE IN
After beating Miami and winning by a deuce at Virginia Tech, Florida State (21-6, 8-4; RPI: 16, SOS: 26) is tied for second-place in the ACC and is all but in. Honestly, the 'Noles probably could lose their last five and still make it, but one more win and an plus-.500 ACC mark surely will bump them up. They've been nationally underrated all season and could land a good seed and favorable location in the NCAAs. They also want to finish in the top-four in the league to avoid a first-round game in the ACC tournament.

IN THE MIX
Boston College (19-9, 7-6; RPI: 56, SOS: 50)
lost its only game of the week, at desperate Miami, but remains solidly positioned with marquee wins over UNC and Duke and a very manageable last three games in ACC play (FSU, at NC State, Georgia Tech). If they get two of those three, it looks good for the Eagles.

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.

Big 12

Locks: Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas
Does it seem like injuries are starting to compromise almost every elite team? Oklahoma gamely battled at Texas on Saturday night after losing Blake Griffin to a concussion, but the Sooners clearly were a lesser team without their superstar. The loss does bring new locks Kansas and Missouri into the picture for a regular-season crown, and with Kansas coming to Norman tonight, Griffin's absence will be a big issue.

SHOULD BE IN
Texas (18-8, 7-5; RPI: 34, SOS: 33)
had to beat Oklahoma at home without Griffin, and the Horns held on down the stretch for a win that the computers will love despite the injury asterisk. The 'Horns have non-league wins over UCLA, Villanova and at Wisconsin, which helps keep them solidly in position for a bid at this point. Texas needs to win Wednesday's home game against Texas Tech ahead of trips to resurgent Oklahoma State and Kansas wrapped around a game with Baylor.

IN THE MIX
Last week's designated at-large sleeper, Oklahoma State (17-9, 6-6; RPI: 32; SOS: 10) handled Texas Tech and Baylor to stay in position. The Cowboys need to not look past Wednesday's trip to Colorado ahead of huge home games with Texas and K-State. Practically left for dead last week, Texas A&M (18-8, 5-7; RPI: 38, SOS: 28) upset Texas and won at Texas Tech to get back in the picture. Tuesday at Nebraska couldn't be bigger with Iowa State and at Colorado on tap after that. The Cowboys are a game up and have slightly better computer numbers, mostly due to a non-league slate that's all data, no substance. They're also 2-8 against the RPI Top 50 (vs. 4-5 for A&M). This would be an interesting call between the two.

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.

Big East


Locks: Pitt, Connecticut, Louisville, Marquette, Villanova
Pitt took a huge step toward locking up a No. 1 seed by winning at UConn last Monday. The Huskies, still adjusting to the loss of Jerome Dyson, remain well positioned for a one-seed as well. Marquette and Louisville also have just two losses in league play and are part of a four-way logjam at the top.

SHOULD BE IN
It was a good consolidation week for West Virginia (19-8, 8-6; RPI: 14; SOS: 6), which took care of business at home against Notre Dame and then rolled at Rutgers. At Cincy next won't be a picnic, but the next three all would be classified as winnable before the home finale against Louisville. A couple more wins should be enough for the Mountaineers. Syracuse (18-8, 7-7; RPI: 19, SOS: 17) fell at home to Villanova on Sunday, making it six losses in eight games. The schedule the rest of the way remains such that the Orange really should be thinking 10-8, which should be enough with wins over Florida, Kansas and at Memphis. They're not making this real easy, though.

IN THE MIX
This next block is very hard to work through given the committee's historic disinclination to leapfrog teams in conference standings. Georgetown has the best wins of any of these teams and the best RPI, but also is behind all of them in the standings, lost to Notre Dame and was swept by Cincinnati, which also beat the Irish. ND has a manageable schedule and may be best positioned out of this bunch to make it after its season-saving win at Providence, but there's no guarantee any of them does.

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.

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