Chaos rules with Selection Sunday rapidly approaching
This was one of the more convoluted weeks for Bubble Watch in recent memory
The Big East is almost guaranteed to get eight bids and could get as many as 11
The Big Ten looked a virtual certainty for six bids all season, but that has changed
If things are like this a month from now, I do not envy the selection committee.
This was one of the more convoluted weeks for Bubble Watch in recent memory, as the major conferences have a staggeringly large number of "name" teams sitting at either 5-4 or .500. Here's the list (just for teams in the hunt; excludes teams like Oklahoma): Boston College, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Baylor, Texas A&M, Missouri, Cincinnati, Marquette, St. John's, Illinois, Georgia, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
When you try to compare groups of relatively indistinguishable teams at various levels of the bracket against teams from outside that pool (like mid-major conference champions), it's almost impossible to come up with a concrete order. Throw in more and more head-to-head matchups and there will be a lot of volatility in the next five weeks leading up to Selection Sunday.
Generally, by the time conference tournaments roll around, the picture is relatively clear. I don't think it's going to be that way this season. When a team like Michigan State, which is in complete free fall, remains a viable at-large consideration based on the merit of its entire profile, you know things are in flux. Stay tuned for what should be a wild next month as teams position themselves for a push.
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
There are going to be some big bubble games down the stretch, with teams jousting for league placement and to get to at least nine league wins to give off a better impression for their profiles. Duke's quest for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs continues to be hurt by the weakness of the league this season.
SHOULD BE IN
North Carolina (17-5, 7-1; RPI: 15, SOS: 18)
Larry Drew II leaves the team and freshman PG Kendall Marshall responds by dishing out 16 assists in an impressive rout of Florida State that comes on the back of a road demolition of BC. The Heels are now clearly the second-best team in the league and get a shot at No. 1 Wednesday night in Durham.
GW: Kentucky, at BC?
BL: at GT (by 20)
Florida State (16-7, 6-3; RPI: 57, SOS: 75)
FSU got mashed at North Carolina and still has three of its next four on the road, albeit the next three are against the bottom of the league. The Seminoles should remain OK as far as inclusion, but seeding could take a hit.
GW: Duke, Baylor (N)?
BL: at Auburn
IN THE MIX
Boston College (15-8, 5-4; RPI: 44, SOS: 23)
After getting crushed at home by UNC, the Eagles slipped past VT by a bucket for a really important home win. Can they go 4-3 down the stretch to stay above .500 in the league? With road games at Clemson, UNC and VT remaining, it will be tight. Will 8-8 be enough as their nonleague wins weaken?
GW: Texas A&M (N), at Maryland?, at South Carolina?
BL: Yale, Harvard?
Virginia Tech (15-7, 5-4, RPI: 65, SOS: 77)
After winning at N.C. State, the Hokies had a huge week in their grasp, but missed multiple chances to steal a big win at BC and now must wait a week before Georgia Tech visits. VT has a chance to rack up wins in the next four, with a home date vs. Maryland and trips to UVa and Wake after the GT game. (With no true pelts in nonleague play, they need to.) 9-7 very well won't be enough (especially w/o a Duke win).
GW: OK State (N)?, Penn State?
BL: Virginia, at Georgia Tech
Maryland (15-8, 5-4; RPI: 79, SOS: 62)
As mentioned to many Terps fans by e-mail: If you have to ask whether a win is a good win, it's not good enough. The rout at Penn State is the best thing Maryland has to offer as far as actual victories, and that's far short of enough after getting pounded by Duke last week. Decent team, very weak profile.
GW: at Penn State (by 23)?
BL: Virginia Tech (at home by 17)
Clemson (16-7, 5-4; RPI: 72, SOS: 113)
The Tigers lost a dreadful game at Virginia by two and that could end up being a very large mistake. They need to create separation in the league standings to overcome an empty nonleague slate and now they're lumped in at 5-4 with half the league. This week -- home dates with BC and North Carolina -- is probably two must-wins for their NCAA hopes.
GW: at College of Charleston?
BL: at Virginia
Locks: Kansas, Texas
What looked like a four- or five-pack of contenders earlier in the season has quickly been whittled to two, both in the league and as far as Final Four hopefuls. It's hard to be more impressive than Texas has been over the last three weeks and now the 'Horns are done playing ranked teams. They very well could run the table and are aiming straight for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs. Can KU get one, too? Very possible.
SHOULD BE IN
Texas A&M (16-5, 4-4, RPI: 33, SOS: 42)
Have to demote the Aggies from lockdom after they got crushed again by Texas and then lost to Baylor, both at home. Now five of the next seven are on the road, including trips to Colorado and Texas Tech this week, so there are no guarantees this current three-game slide won't mushroom into something bigger. There's plenty of buffer with their profile, but they're not a lead-pipe lock anymore.
GW: Temple (N), Washington, Missouri, Kansas State?
BL: None, really
Missouri (17-5, 4-4; RPI: 30, SOS: 71)
Beating Colorado at home got the Tigers back to .500, but the schedule isn't great down the stretch. Missouri could end up finishing 8-8 or 9-7, which feels a bit disappointing. The name wins they have are more name than quality at this point.
GW: Vanderbilt, vs. Illinois?, Old Dominion?, Short-handed K-State?
BL: None, really
IN THE MIX
Baylor (15-7, 5-4; RPI: 77, SOS: 79)
Seems like 5-4 is the new black for bubbly teams looking for spring style. The Bears split a road week in unexpected fashion, losing at Oklahoma and then winning at A&M -- by far their best victory of the season. The remaining schedule is brutal, which is both what the Bears need (for marquee win chances) and what may condemn them to the NIT. Have to handle Nebraska at home before a trip to Austin.
GW: at Texas A&M
BL: at Iowa State (by 15), at Oklahoma
Oklahoma State (16-7, 4-5; RPI: 45, SOS: 60)
The Pokes resurrected their chances by taking out Missouri (and then Oklahoma) at home. The next four will decide if those chances stay intact: at Nebraska, at Texas, vs. A&M, at Kansas.
GW: Missouri, Shorthanded K-State?, Missouri State?
Kansas State (15-8, 4-5; RPI: 31, SOS: 16)
Injuries, suspensions, players walking out ... you name it, K-State has had it this year. The schedule is there to get to 9-7 if the Wildcats play well. What that means is another question entirely. As Gonzaga and Washington State fade, so does anything good in KSU's resume.
GW: Gonzaga (N)?, at Washington State?
Colorado (14-9, 4-5; RPI: 87, SOS: 96)
The Buffaloes, losers of five of their last six, still have home shots at A&M, K-State and Texas and a trip to Kansas, so they have chances to make up ground. The Aggies and Wildcats visit Boulder this week in very big games for all parties.
GW: Missouri, at Kansas State (sans Kelly)?
BL: at San Francisco, at Oklahoma
Locks: Pittsburgh, Villanova, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Georgetown
Not too much has changed. The league looks a virtual certainty for eight NCAA bids and still is in the mix to get as many as 11, although I'd set the over/under at 9.5 right now. Georgetown gets bumped up to lockdom as the Hoyas probably only need one or two more wins down the stretch with all of their quality work. Syracuse likely will be back here next week, too.
SHOULD BE IN
Syracuse (20-4, 7-4; RPI: 18, SOS: 32)
The Orange are pretty much set after winning at UConn and then handling a trip to South Florida. With Rutgers and DePaul left as home games, .500 in the league seems a bare minimum, which will be plenty. If they can split this week home to G'town and at Louisville, they'll get re-locked.
GW: at UConn, Notre Dame, Michigan State (N)?, at St. John's?
BL: Seton Hall (by 22)
West Virginia (15-7, 6-4; RPI: 17, SOS: 5)
Perception-wise, finding three more league wins would help, but WVU has done a lot of good work already. The schedule left is ridiculous. Home cracks at Pitt, ND, UConn and Louisville (plus trips to 'Cuse and Pitt) mean the GW column should expand and their RPI/SOS will be great by season's end.
GW: Vandy (N), at Georgetown, Purdue, Cleveland State?
BL: None, really
Louisville (18-5, 7-3; RPI: 27, SOS: 40)
After a tough L at G'town, the Cards avoided making a bad mistake by edging DePaul at home. The remaining schedule, starting with Wednesday's trip to ND, is very hard. Then again, 2-5 probably will be enough to dance.
GW: at UConn, West Virginia, UNLV?, Butler?
IN THE MIX
St. John's (13-9, 5-5; RPI: 22, SOS: 1)
Slipping past Rutgers and then losing at UCLA in the Lavin Bowl was not the greatest of statement weeks for the Red Storm. DePaul and South Florida remain at home, but can the Johnnies find enough wins elsewhere to provide the bulk to their top-end quality Ws?
GW: Duke, at West Virginia, Notre Dame, Georgetown
BL: St. Bonaventure, at Fordham
Marquette (14-9, 5-5; RPI: 64, SOS: 28)
Team Bubble Watch continues to trend perfectly, losing close game after close game to strong opposition. Now the schedule eases up and they'll go 5-3 or 6-2 and make the dance. Trust me on this one. I know this team better than my own kids. I'll say the same thing next week after they split a road trip to USF and G'town.
GW: A trio of good home league wins (WV, ND, Syracuse)
Cincinnati (18-5, 5-5; RPI: 38, SOS: 98)
It speaks to the strength of this season's Big East that Cincy's RPI/SOS have become passable after a mostly embarrassing nonleague schedule and a .500 mark in league play. The Bearcats don't have any bad Ls, but they're starting to eat too many of them. The next four games -- at DePaul, vs. St. John's and Louisville and then at Providence -- could decide their NCAAs hopes. The four left after that are brutal.
GW: Xavier, at St. John's, Dayton (by 34)?