SEC West hopefuls already in terrible position (cont.)
Locks: Kentucky, Florida
Tennessee's unexpected slide bumps the Vols down a level for now, just because it's hard to know exactly what will happen next. Will the Gators follow them out of lockdom? More losses like last Monday's matinee to Jacksonville won't help. This isn't a vintage year in the SEC. The East division is very competitive but lacks an elite team and the West is a mess.
SHOULD BE IN
Tennessee (8-3, 0-0; RPI; 21, SOS: 5)
The Vols looked incredible in their win at Pitt, but without a last-second bucket to beat Belmont, they would be winless in four games since. They still have two more testing nonleague home games (College of Charleston and Memphis) before Bruce Pearl starts his eight-game league suspension. Is this like last year, where the Vols rallied through controversy? Or is this a team in rapid decline?
GW: Villanova (N), VCU (N), at Pitt
BL: Charlotte, Oakland?
Vanderbilt (9-2, 0-0; RPI: 20, SOS: 44)
Marquette's up next in an important profile-builder for both teams and then the 'Dores host Davidson before embarking on a pretty manageable start to SEC play. Most of the remaining marquee opportunities are backloaded, so racking up wins will be paramount until then.
GW: North Carolina
IN THE MIX
Georgia (9-2, 0-0; RPI: 52; SOS: 127)
The Bulldogs continue to grab wins, but need to make some hay in the SEC East as their profile lacks any real heft. Star forward Trey Thompkins missed the double-OT loss to Notre Dame.
Mississippi (9-3, 0-0, RPI: 59, SOS: 74)
A home loss to Dayton more than offsets anything good the Rebels have done, so despite OK computer numbers, they will need to do some quality work in league play.
South Carolina (7-3, 0-0; RPI: 83, SOS: 190)
The Gamecocks got routed at Furman, which is less understandable than previous Ls at Michigan State and Ohio State. They have some home games coming up during which to try to recover from that misstep.
BL: at Wofford
The league mostly did what it needed to do this past week, adding a couple of solid wins to the ledger. It really appears to be a four-team show. Could all of them make it? Depends on how the head-to-heads work themselves out.
SHOULD BE IN
Temple (9-2, 0-0; RPI: 14, SOS: 33)
The Owls have a Big 5 showdown at Villanova on Thursday before easing into the A-10 slate with a handful of winnable games before a trip to Xavier on Jan. 22
GW: Maryland (N), Georgetown
BL: Cal (N)?
IN THE MIX
Richmond (9-3, 0-0; RPI: 74, SOS: 196)
The Spiders won at Seton Hall and now have five of their next six at home. They should be in solid position heading into a road swing to UMass and Dayton toward the end of the month.
GW: Purdue, at Arizona State?, VCU
BL: at Iona, Georgia Tech (N)?
Xavier (7-3, 0-0; RPI: 41, SOS: 37)
The Musketeers got handled at Gonzaga. The home showdown with Florida on New Year's Eve is followed by the Crosstown Shootout at Cincinnati, which should be huge for both teams.
GW: Seton Hall (without Jeremy Hazell), Butler
BL: Miami (Ohio)
Dayton (8-3, 0-0; RPI: 114, SOS: 189)
The Flyers joined Richmond in winning at Seton Hall this past week. Home games this week against George Mason and New Mexico are two the Flyers win if they're serious about an NCAA push. With the way Ole Miss' résumé could decay in the SEC West, that one won't be enough.
GW: Ole Miss?
BL: East Tennessee State, margin at Cincinnati (by 34)
Locks: San Diego State
The Aztecs remain unbeaten and the league continues to look good for three bids. The upcoming showdowns between SDSU, UNLV and BYU will be a lot of fun. New Mexico (and Colorado State) look more like spoilers than sleepers at this point, but we'll see how Drew Gordon continues to fit in.
SHOULD BE IN
Brigham Young (12-1, 0-0; RPI: 3; SOS: 29)
January 5 can't get here soon enough, when the Cougars travel to UNLV and start the MWC carousel. Right now, BYU is a very solid team with extremely strong computer numbers.
UNLV (12-2, 0-0; RPI: 12, SOS: 40)
The Rebels get the computer benefit of the win over Kansas State in Kansas City, but the suspensions of Curtis Kelly and Jacob Pullen prior to the game dampen the actual four-point win. That home game vs. BYU looms large, as UNLV is at San Diego State the following week.
GW: Wisconsin, Virginia Tech (N)
BL: UC Santa Barbara
IN THE MIX
New Mexico (9-2, 0-0; RPI: 69, SOS: 220)
That was a disappointing loss to Northern Iowa in Las Vegas. Now New Mexico has road games at Texas Tech and Dayton in which to prove itself heading into league play. The front part of the league slate is favorable, so the Lobos could have a fairly strong record come mid-February.
BL: Northern Iowa (N)?
No one's made it into the lock category, but there were some solid signs for a couple of the traditional non-BCS powers.
Old Dominion (8-2, 0-1; RPI: 12, SOS: 12)
The Monarchs are 3-0 vs. the top of the A-10 but a disappointing 0-1 in the CAA after an early-December loss at Delaware. They have a huge opportunity Thursday night at Missouri to get a marquee road win.
GW: Clemson, Xavier, Richmond and Dayton
BL: at Delaware
Gonzaga (6-5, 0-0; RPI: 59; SOS: 12)
The Zags backed up their win over Baylor by handling Xavier at home. New Year's Eve vs. Oklahoma State and at Wake Forest on Jan. 2 are games they should win to help preserve some at-large rope.
GW: Baylor (N), Marquette (N), Xavier
BL: None, but five of them already
Butler (6-4, 1-0; RPI: 46, SOS: 11)
Struggles? What struggles? The Bulldogs took the Diamond Head Classic, beating Florida State and Washington State along the way. A couple of their losses carry injury asterisks, but they only have Horizon League games left, so they need to hope the 'Noles and Cougars thrive.
GW: Florida State (N), Washington State (N)
BL: Evansville (without Nored)
Memphis (9-2, 0-0; RPI: 60, SOS: 83)
The Tigers were taken apart by Georgetown at home. There's no disgrace in that, but there's very little in their profile at the moment that is helpful. They still have quality nonleague shots left at Tennessee and against Gonzaga, but winning the league may become paramount.
Central Florida (10-0, 0-0; RPI: 33; SOS: 230)
Marcus Jordan limped off the bench at UMass and helped the Knights stay perfect. They play Memphis, Southern Miss and UAB twice each in league play, so there's some profile value left to be had if they can keep winning.
GW: Miami, Florida
Cleveland State (11-1, 2-0; RPI: 10, SOS: 87)
The loss at West Virginia still resonates and the Vikings have nothing left but Horizon League games and a BracketBusters contest TBD. The computer numbers remain great, but those will fade unless they come awfully close to running the table. The two Butler showdowns are huge.
GW: Kent State?
Drexel (8-2, 1-0; RPI: 15, SOS: 61)
The Dragons were routed at Syracuse, which lifted their computer profile but not their subjective one. The win at Louisville will remain strong but they'll need to do some serious work in the CAA to maintain touch with at-large possibilities.
GW: at Louisville
Wichita State (8-2, 0-0; RPI: 49, SOS: 100)
Still not much to see here before league play starts this week. The missed opportunities against UConn (which cost the Shockers two more quality games in Maui) and San Diego State will loom heavily all season.
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