Don't give up on tourney mainstays Butler and Gonzaga just yet
Even this early in the process, this is shaping up to be a very odd bubble year
The ACC remains highly questionable after Duke, though FSU and BC should be in
Just another up-and-down week in the life of Team Bubble Watch, Marquette
On Sunday afternoon, as Butler lost to UW-Milwaukee for the second time this season, there was a lot of Twitter banter about how the Bulldogs' at-large hopes were dead. This came on the heels of Saturday night's 140-character declarations of Gonzaga's demise after the Zags dropped their second straight road game against modest opposition.
While both teams obviously hurt themselves, to make any determination at this stage without looking at the macro picture is foolhardy. As you can see in the updated bracket, both sets of Bulldogs are still in the field as at-larges.
Principally, both were helped by a lot of other teams losing around them and the fact that the 68-team field requires a total of 37 at-large teams. Even this early in the process, this is shaping up to be a very odd bubble year. What may not feel like an NCAA-caliber resume in a vacuum may very well end up as one because of the dearth of quality mid-major at-large candidates and how many of the BCS leagues are either down or have a fairly pronounced cutline at the moment.
This doesn't mean fans of teams like Butler and Gonzaga should feel too secure. Being this close to the cutline this early as a non-BCS team is a dangerous place to be. Both of those clubs will continue to be hurt by the relative lack of strength in their conference schedules and also will have eaten at least one more loss -- in their conference tournaments -- if an at-large is needed.
Bottom line: This past week didn't kill either of those two teams, but it did shave their margins for error to almost zero. That said, if either team does manage to win out for the rest of the regular season, here's one bubble watcher who thinks they'll be OK.
Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA Tournament selection guidelines. All RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) and SOS (Strength of Schedule) data are from Sunday's collegerpi.com RPI report.
GW = good wins
BL = bad losses
(N) = neutral-site game
What does it say about the middle of a league when one of the teams making the biggest at-large push has only eight scholarship players? Not sure, but I don't think it flatters the ACC at this point.
SHOULD BE IN
Florida State (15-5 overall, 5-1 ACC; RPI: 46, SOS: 61)
The 'Noles have become the second choice in the league after another 2-0 week that included a win at Miami and a rout of Boston College. They also have a much easier schedule left than BC or UNC, so the 'Noles are a pretty solid bet to end up where they currently are.
GW: Duke, at Miami?, Baylor (N)?
BL: at Auburn
Boston College (14-6, 4-2; RPI: 34, SOS: 25)
After edging past Virginia, BC was handled at Florida State and cedes its spot in the league's pecking order. The Eagles have some decent wins to fall back on, which is good because the next six in league play are brutal, starting with a visit to Cameron.
GW: Texas A&M (N), at Maryland?, at South Carolina?, Cal (N)?
BL: Yale, Harvard?
IN THE MIX
North Carolina (13-5, 3-1; RPI: 20, SOS: 13)
Pushing past Clemson in its only game of the week makes the Heels look better than some of their competition, but given how unimpressive they have been on the road in league, they could be in for some bumps ahead. The schedule is not kind at all.
BL: at Georgia Tech (by 20)
Virginia Tech (13-5, 3-2; RPI: 62, SOS: 82)
The Hokies crushed Maryland in College Park, continuing to impress despite being short-handed. There are a lot of winnable games ahead, too. Can a strong league finish compensate for nonleague misses?
GW: Oklahoma State (N)?
Maryland (12-7, 2-3; RPI: 77, SOS: 44)
The Terps slipped past Clemson by a bucket to salvage a week that started terribly with a 17-point home loss to Virginia Tech. Two road games against bottom clubs this week are pretty much must-gets for a team that has talent but no quality wins to back up mediocre computer numbers.
BL: Virginia Tech (at home by 17)
Miami (12-7, 1-4; RPI: 51, SOS: 39)
A pair of two-point losses has the 'Canes in a good amount of bubble trouble. Games this week against UNC and at Virginia Tech may decide matters if they can't get something done there.
GW: West Virginia, Ole Miss?
BL: at Rutgers
Clemson (13-6, 2-3; RPI: 93, SOS: 135)
The Tigers couldn't get it done at either UNC or Maryland and still are on the outside looking in. The next six are four at home sandwiched around trips to Virginia and Georgia Tech, but will a bunch of so-so ACC wins be enough for anyone this season?
GW: at College of Charleston?
BL: Michigan (at home)?, at South Carolina?
N.C. State (12-7, 2-3; RPI: 83, SOS: 68)
The Wolfpack couldn't handle Duke, so while they edged Miami on Sunday, they still have a pretty barren profile. Now four of the next five are on the road, including trips to Clemson and UNC this week. They'll have some chances to move up if they can get something done.
GW: George Mason (N)?
Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M
There's no need to worry about Texas' NCAA chances anymore after another impressive week that was capped with a startling win at Kansas. Texas' recent work also makes you feel like Texas A&M (and Connecticut) have legit quality, too. The Aggies also join the lock section based on current accomplishments plus the landscape and a schedule that makes it hard to see how they could miss.
SHOULD BE IN
Missouri (16-3, 3-2; RPI: 29, SOS: 77)
The Tigers also are going to make the NCAAs, but their schedule has enough hurdles left to at least wait another week and see what happens. This week at Texas and Oklahoma State should be fun.
GW: Vanderbilt, vs. Illinois, Old Dominion
BL: at Colorado?
IN THE MIX
Oklahoma State (14-5, 2-3; RPI: 37, SOS: 64)
The Pokes have some home dates coming up with which to get a couple of notable wins, but they've been so poor on the road that they could scratch those out with a couple of bad Ls, too.
GW: None, really
Kansas State (12-7, 1-4; RPI: 47, SOS: 18)
K-State's in some trouble after falling at Texas A&M. Now a home date with Baylor is almost a must-win ahead of a trip to angry Kansas. A drop to 1-6 would (obviously) be very difficult to overcome.
GW: Gonzaga (N), at Washington State?
Baylor (13-5, 3-2; RPI: 87, SOS: 110)
The Bears did what they needed to do by beating Oklahoma State. There are still five road opportunities left against credible or better teams, starting with tonight at equally desperate Kansas State.
BL: at Iowa State (by 15)?
Colorado (13-6, 3-2; RPI: 86, SOS: 163)
Losing at Oklahoma and Nebraska: very understandable in football, not good for basketball at-large hopes. Now the Buffs host Kansas and travel to Baylor, so things will move again this week.
GW: Missouri, at Kansas State (sans Kelly)
BL: at San Francisco, at Oklahoma
Locks: Pittsburgh, Villanova, Syracuse, Connecticut
Pittsburgh was expected to be at this level. But UConn? The Huskies' supporting cast is coming on strong and making them a much more dangerous proposition. Villanova showed some stones this week in two tough road spots. Was Syracuse exposed a bit? Or is the level of competition just that good?
SHOULD BE IN
Notre Dame (16-4, 5-3; RPI: 11, SOS: 12)
OK, Irish. We get it. You're nearly impossible to beat at home. Now show us something at Pitt tonight.
GW: Wisconsin (N), Gonzaga, Georgetown, UConn
West Virginia (13-5, 4-2; RPI: 14, SOS: 6)
This isn't the first time in-state rival Marshall handed the 'Eers a surprising loss. Always great that game is played on a neutral floor. This week's date at Louisville will be a nice sound check on both clubs.
GW: Vandy (N), at Georgetown, Purdue, Cleveland State?
BL: St. John's (at home)?
Georgetown (14-5, 3-4; RPI: 8, SOS: 4)
The Hoyas can get back to .500 in league play by getting revenge on St. John's and then head to Villanova for another stern test. Georgetown looks like a classic "matchups team" for March. Get the right ones and make a run. Get the wrong one and go out early again.
GW: at Missouri, Utah State, at Memphis
Louisville (15-4, 4-2; RPI: 39, SOS: 48)
The Cards' push toward to the NCAAs hit an unexpected bump with a loss at Providence, but they remain in decent shape, even as their two best nonleague wins continue to decay. If they can't handle West Virginia at home, though, they could quickly be under .500 after trips to UConn and G'town.
GW: Butler, UNLV
IN THE MIX
Cincinnati (17-3, 4-3; RPI: 38, SOS: 140)
That could be a crucial win the Bearcats got at St. John's. Assuming they can handle Rutgers at home this week, they have a ton of time to rest and prep for a trip to Pitt.
GW: Dayton, Xavier, at St. John's?
St. John's (11-7, 4-4; RPI: 24, SOS: 2)
Uh oh. Getting smoked at Louisville happens, but the Storm may lament the home loss to Cincy. Now they're at Georgetown (looking for the sweep) and then host Duke. Big opportunities, but maybe two more L's, too, as the schedule remains brutal.
GW: at West Virginia, plus a couple of strong home wins in league
BL: St. Bonaventure, at Fordham
Marquette (13-7, 4-3; RPI: 61, SOS: 45)
Crush DePaul and then blow a double-digit lead at Notre Dame? Just another week in the life of Team Bubble Watch. The Golden Eagles have a huge week on tap, with home chances against UConn and Syracuse to jump-start their NCAA push.
GW: None, really
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