Difficult to figure out jumbled mess in middle of ACC (cont.)
Locks: Pittsburgh, Villanova, Syracuse, Connecticut
UConn got another high-quality nonleague win, this time a true road game at Texas. The rest of the top of the league continues to rumble on and could provide another sticky seeding situation come March.
SHOULD BE IN
Notre Dame (14-2, 3-1; RPI: 9, SOS: 23)
The only gripe you can have at this point is that ND hasn't been able to close the deal on the road, although the efforts at Syracuse and in Louisville against Kentucky were much better than the Irish's road performances of past seasons. They have two chances this week, at Marquette and St. John's, to do it. Without showing the ability to win away from home, can't be a lock at this point. Good team, though.
GW: Wisconsin (N), Gonzaga, Georgetown, UConn
Georgetown (12-4, 1-3; RPI: 3, SOS: 1)
With their 1-3 league start and more rough waters ahead (home against Pitt on Wednesday), the Hoyas drop down a level this week. Their overall profile would be good enough for a very strong seed today, but there's enough quality in the league that we should see where this goes for a week or two.
GW: at Missouri, Utah State, at Memphis
Louisville (13-2, 0-0; RPI: 46, SOS: 66)
The Cards are winning the games they should win to go with the two solid home nonleague wins they pocketed. After a trip to Villanova, Louisville has a pair of home games followed by a contest at Providence -- so there are wins to be had.
GW: Butler, UNLV
IN THE MIX
West Virginia (10-4, 2-2; RPI: 13, SOS: 7)
Good bounceback week for WVU, with a road win at DePaul and then a big one at Georgetown. Now the next four are in Morgantown, including a nonleague shot at Purdue. The 'Eers could make a push here.
GW: Vandy (N), at Georgetown, Cleveland State?
BL: St. John's (at home), at Miami?
St. John's (10-4, 3-1; RPI: 11, SOS: 4)
Despite a loss at Notre Dame, Red Storm fans are saying "I'm Lavin it!" about the team right now. A nice upset of Georgetown got them to 3-0 before losing in South Bend. The schedule continues to confound, but at-large hopes are starting to get more serious, an unexpected twist after the bad Ls in December.
GW: at West Virginia, Georgetown
BL: St. Bonaventure, at Fordham
Cincinnati (15-1, 0-1; RPI: 62, SOS: 316)
The Bearcats impressively dismissed Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout and then handled a punch pretty well at Villanova before losing their first of the season. I'm trying to keep an open mind. They're rugged. Just not sure what the upside is here, even after this week.
GW: Dayton, Xavier
Marquette (11-5, 2-1; RPI: 85, SOS: 99)
The Golden Eagles split their road games, winning at Rutgers and losing at Pitt in the first of a string of games against ranked teams. Four of the next six are at home, though. The computer numbers are improving, but they need to get some legit wins on the ledger.
Locks: Ohio State
The Buckeyes are having a bit of an issue with taking their feet off the gas early, but they're still one of the two best teams in the nation and are barreling toward a No. 1 seed, even without a ton of nonleague schedule heft. Illinois and Purdue are looking to separate and move to lock, although it seems extremely likely that the top six in this league all will be dancing in March.
SHOULD BE IN
Illinois (13-3, 3-0; RPI: 19, SOS: 29)
The Illini crushed Northwestern and now stand a pretty strong chance, if they can avoid pulling a Michigan State, of being 4-0 in the league heading to the Kohl Center on Saturday. Michigan State and Ohio State come to Champaign after that, so this is a big stretch.
GW: Maryland (N), UNC, Gonzaga (N)
BL: Illinois-Chicago (N)
Purdue (15-1, 4-0; RPI: 12, SOS: 44)
Too many people gave up on Purdue after Robbie Hummel's injury, but even the optimists (including me) didn't imagine a 15-1 start. This is a good testing week for the improving offense: games at rugged Minnesota and West Virginia.
GW: at Virginia Tech
Wisconsin (12-3, 2-1; RPI: 27, SOS: 51)
The Badgers cruised past Michigan ahead of a big week. They're at Michigan State on Tuesday and then host Illinois. We'll know more about all the teams in this cluster in the next week or two when the head-to-heads sort out.
GW: at Marquette, Boston College (N), N.C. State?
Minnesota (12-3, 1-3; RPI: 40, SOS: 69)
So the Gophers ended up 1-3 in the stretch that included trips to Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. They lost those games by eight, nine and three, so it's probably more encouraging than a downer. It doesn't get easier, though, with Purdue up next at the Barn.
GW: North Carolina (N), West Virginia (N)
Michigan State (9-5, 2-1, RPI: 37, SOS: 8)
Just when it looked like MSU was starting to figure things out, the Spartans suffered a clunker at Penn State. They can get healthy at home this week against Wisconsin and Northwestern, but there's still plenty of work to be done here to get anywhere close to preseason expectations.
GW: Washington (N)
BL: at Penn State
IN THE MIX
Northwestern (10-4, 1-3; RPI: 66, SOS: 82)
The Wildcats righted the ship with a win over Indiana, but with such a weak nonconference slate, they need to do a lot more winning in the league to have a legit chance for an at-large.
Michigan (11-5, 1-2; RPI: 72, SOS: 61)
The Wolverines missed their chance against Kansas on Sunday, falling in overtime, after losing at Wisconsin. Now Ohio State comes to Ann Arbor. UM's stay on the Watch could be over fairly soon.
GW: at Clemson
BL: UTEP (N)?
Washington's the best team in the league. After that, I still think it's Arizona, but who knows.
SHOULD BE IN
Washington (12-3, 4-0; RPI: 23, SOS: 39)
The Huskies did what good teams do: roll past lesser teams at home. Now they head to the Bay Area before Arizona comes calling for the first of two meetings. Nonleague play mostly includes just-missed efforts against top-level competition, so storming through the league is important.
GW: None really, but at UCLA?, at USC?
IN THE MIX
Arizona (14-3, 3-1; RPI: 39, SOS: 77)
The Wildcats bounced back from the Corvallis flop with a home sweep of the Bay Area schools. Next week, the 'Cats only host Arizona State, so they should be 4-1 heading to Seattle on the 20th for a showdown with the Huskies.
GW: at N.C. State
BL: at Oregon State
Washington State (12-4, 2-2; RPI: 63, SOS: 101)
The Cougars swept the Oregon schools at home and their RPI stayed the same, so that tells you what those wins are really worth. They get Arizona and Washington at home first, though, so they could close the gap over the next couple of weeks. First up, a trip to the Bay Area.
GW: Gonzaga, Baylor (N)
USC (10-6, 2-1, RPI: 64, SOS: 25)
The Trojans won their fourth straight meeting with archrival UCLA and slipped back into the bracket this week on the strength of wins that collectively outstrip the bad losses. Up next, a trip to the Oregon schools followed by a home weekend with the Bay Area teams. That means wins are available.
GW: Texas, at Tennessee
BL: A handful to mediocre teams
UCLA (9-6, 1-2; RPI: 75, SOS: 28)
The Bruins' six-game winning streak was halted at USC and the Trojans clearly have the better profile now. They have the same schedule as USC, so the Bruins also could make some hay the next two weeks.
GW: BYU (N)
Locks: Kentucky, Florida
Kentucky will be fine despite struggling for a half against Penn and then losing at Georgia. Florida is still second in the pecking order and Vanderbilt also remains strong, despite a league-opening loss. These upsets may also help others propel themselves into contention.
SHOULD BE IN
Vanderbilt (11-3, 0-1; RPI: 18, SOS: 33)
An overtime loss at South Carolina to open league play is a small misstep which makes the home date with Georgia very important ahead of a trip to Tennessee on Saturday. Vandy didn't do a ton in nonleague play, so strong league performance will dictate their potential NCAA seeding.
GW: North Carolina (N)
Tennessee (10-5, 0-1; RPI: 28, SOS: 3)
The Vols thrashed Memphis but couldn't back it up at Arkansas in Bruce Pearl's first game away from the team. This is a huge week with Florida and Vandy coming to Knoxville. After that, they travel to Georgia and then to UConn for a nonleague affair in which Pearl will make a mid-suspension cameo.
GW: Villanova (N), VCU (N), at Pitt
BL: at Charlotte, Oakland (at home), College of Charleston (at home)
IN THE MIX
Georgia (12-2, 1-0; RPI: 48, SOS: 143)
The Dogs' SEC slate opens very tough, so the home upset of Kentucky is a big get. They're at Vandy and Ole Miss this week before a tough three-game homestand and then a trip to Rupp. If they navigate that stretch in decent shape, they'll be well positioned for an at-large push.
Mississippi (12-4, 0-1, RPI: 58, SOS: 85)
As detailed the last two weeks, the Rebels have very few chances in league play for wins that will mean anything and they missed on the first of them, losing by six at Florida. With Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee all coming to Oxford, the last chance for a meaningful road win is at Vandy on Jan. 19.
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