Where's the bubble beef? (cont.)
Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
The Buckeyes' perfect run ended at the hands of Jordan Taylor and the Badgers, who now get a crack at Purdue in West Lafayette. Then the Buckeyes visit Purdue in a fun Lockdom Round-Robin. Given the national landscape, these three teams are now clearly heading to the NCAAs. How many more will this league get? That's a very interesting question.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Illinois (16-9, 6-6; RPI: 38, SOS: 22)
Just another week for the enigmatic Illini. They won at point guard-less Minnesota and then lost at home to Purdue sandwiched around head coach Bruce Weber killing point guard Demetri McCamey (and his assorted hangers-on) in an interview for his poor work ethic of late. (Good thing McCamey made the Cousy and Naismith lists ahead of Jordan Taylor ...) With three very winnable home games and three very difficult road games left, the Illini are staring at 9-9. That likely would be enough, but we'll see.
GW: UNC, plus MSU and Wisconsin at home, Maryland (N)?, Gonzaga (N)?
BL: Illinois-Chicago (N), at Indiana
Minnesota (17-8, 6-7; RPI: 35, SOS: 28)
The Gophers grabbed a crucial win at Iowa on Sunday after falling at home to Illinois. The schedule is super-soft the rest of the way, with a home-and-home against Penn State, home dates with Michigan State and Michigan and a trip to Northwestern. Al Nolen injury issues or not, if the Gophers can't make the NCAAs with this stretch run, that's their own doing. They need to get some more wins.
GW: North Carolina (N), West Virginia (N), Purdue
Michigan State (13-10, 6-6; RPI: 47, SOS: 8)
The Spartans beat Penn State in their only game of the week and now enter a four-game gauntlet (at Ohio State, Illinois, at Minnesota, Purdue) that very well will decide their NCAA hopes. The last two (Iowa and at Michigan) are both winnable (even though both have already beaten MSU), but even 9-9 might not be good enough without some better wins down the stretch.
GW: Washington (N) -- plus Wisconsin and Minnesota at home
BL: Michigan, at Iowa
Penn State (13-11, 6-7; RPI: 65, SOS: 7)
PSU can't afford to be splitting weeks, especially when the loss is at bubble foe Michigan State. The Nittany Lions probably need to go 4-1 now down the stretch, and their schedule is really hard.
GW: MSU, Illinois and Wisconsin, all at home in league play
Arizona took care of in-state business and now readies for a huge homestand against the Washington schools. UCLA continues to look like an at-large, giving the league three viable NCAA teams. Beyond that? Not much to look at at this point.
SHOULD BE IN
Arizona (21-4, 10-2; RPI: 16, SOS: 54)
One game and one easy win sets the table for a league-defining stretch that sees the Washington schools visit before a trip to the L.A. schools. With four homes games out of the six remaining, the 'Cats remain favored to win the league title.
GW: None, really
BL: at Oregon State
IN THE MIX
UCLA (17-7, 9-3; RPI: 41, SOS: 37)
The Bruins swept the Oregon schools at home to stay on Arizona's tail. Also, they remain a game in the loss column ahead of Washington. With four of the last six away, including a season-ending trip to the Washington schools, this isn't in the bag yet, but the trend is good. Next up: a trip to the Bay Area.
GW: BYU (N), St. John's?
Washington (17-7, 9-4; RPI: 35, SOS: 55)
The Huskies took care of the Bay Area duo at home and now head to Arizona State and then Arizona on Saturday for a huge showdown for both teams. UW needs to win that game in Tucson; otherwise, the Huskies could finish 3-plus games behind the Wildcats and in third place in a league that's not a lock to get three bids. Quality wins are sadly lacking.
GW: Arizona (at home), at UCLA?
BL: at Oregon, at Oregon State
Washington State (17-6, 7-6; RPI: 76, SOS: 98)
Losing at home to Stanford on Thursday was a crushing blow to Wazzu's fading at-large hopes. They still have to play at Arizona and at Washington, and even 11-7 probably isn't enough with their overall profile.
GW: Gonzaga?, Baylor (N)?, Washington
BL: None, really
Alabama's tough loss at Vandy makes the Gators this week's auto bid recipient and drops the Tide into the at-large pool, where they are not yet in position for a bid. Kentucky continues to come up short down the stretch on the road. The league may end up with only four NCAA bids if things continue this way.
SHOULD BE IN
Kentucky (17-7, 5-5; RPI: 14, SOS: 10)
Beating Tennessee at home was solid, but youth and execution issues cost them again on the road as they fell late at Vandy. The 'Cats now have three straight (two at home) against league also-rans, so they could get healthy in time for a closing stretch of Florida, Vandy and at Tennessee.
GW: Tennessee, at Louisville, Notre Dame (N), Washington (N)?
BL: None, really (at Alabama?)
Tennessee (15-10, 5-5; RPI: 25, SOS: 3)
The Vols couldn't get either game on the Kentucky/Florida trip, although they had a huge chance to take out the Gators before losing by a point. By SEC East standards, the remaining schedule is reasonable, with four at home and one of the two away at South Carolina.
GW: Villanova (N), at Pitt, VCU (N)?, at Georgia?
BL: at Charlotte, Oakland (at home), College of Charleston (at home)?
Vanderbilt (18-6, 6-4; RPI: 17, SOS: 13)
The 'Dores got a hard-earned home sweep of Alabama and Kentucky by identical 81-77 scores to slip into second place in the East. If they can hold onto that spot, they'll get a first-round bye in the SEC tournament, which would be a nice bonus. It won't be easy, though. Four of the last six are away from Memorial Gym and the two home games are Tennessee and Florida.
GW: North Carolina (N), Saint Mary's, Kentucky
IN THE MIX
Georgia (17-7, 6-4; RPI: 42, SOS: 39)
The Dawgs got their SEC game, slipping past South Carolina in Columbia, but the home loss to A-10 leader Xavier could be a damaging one. Now they host Vandy before a trip to Tennessee and Florida. If they can survive those three, the last three are pretty manageable and they could push their way in.
GW: Kentucky, UAB?, Colorado? (for bubble purposes)
Alabama (16-8, 8-2; RPI: 86, SOS: 119)
'Bama looks like an NCAA team. Its résumé doesn't. Thus the issue as the Tide tries to roll its way into the mix via a gaudy SEC mark. After a tough loss at Vandy, they beat Ole Miss in the first of five straight against the terrible SEC West. The next three (at LSU, Arkansas, Auburn) are must-wins. Get to 11-2 and a 13-3 mark isn't crazy (at Ole Miss, at Florida, Georgia). Hard to see that not being enough in a BCS league. 12-4 seems to be the flux point that would require more work.
GW: Kentucky, at Tennessee
BL: Iowa (N), St. Peter's (N), at Arkansas?
A huge week for Xavier and more wins for Temple makes both of those teams look extremely likely to dance. Richmond continues to win, too, and is pushing for a third slot. That doesn't mean one of those teams will be the auto bid, as there are several other clubs who could catch lightning in a bottle, including Duquesne.
SHOULD BE IN
Xavier (18-6, 9-1; RPI: 19, SOS: 29)
This may have been the week when Xavier sewed up its NCAA tournament status, as road wins at Georgia and then at Duquesne really strengthen both at-large position and their spot in the A-10 race. With the possible exception of a rivalry game at fading Dayton, the rest of Xavier's schedule is really soft. Expect the Musketeers to win the league and head comfortably to the big dance.
GW: Butler, Temple, at Georgia, at Richmond?, at Duquesne?
BL: at Miami (Ohio)?, at Charlotte
Temple (19-5, 9-2; RPI: 33, SOS: 98)
The Owls took care of Fordham and then won at Dayton to stay one back in the loss column behind Xavier (although the X-Men won the teams' only meeting, so it's really two as far as A-10 seeding go). Temple hosts Richmond this Thursday and still gets a shot at Duke, with their four other games beyond that being against lesser A-10 opponents.
GW: Georgetown, Maryland (N)?, Georgia (N)?
BL: None, really.
IN THE MIX
Richmond (20-6, 9-2; RPI: 71, SOS: 153)
The Spiders' records look nice. Their computer numbers do not. They would be advised to win at Temple on Thursday. The season-ending home date with Duquesne could be important for league seeding, but they really need another marquee win to help the cause. The remaining schedule beyond that is soft but has a couple of road games, so take nothing for granted.
GW: Purdue, VCU
BL: at Iona?, Georgia Tech (N), Bucknell
Duquesne (15-7, 8-2; RPI: 84, SOS: 128)
The Dukes were banking on an A-10 title push as their main claim to at-large hopes, and now that looks less likely after losing at home (in the Consol Energy Center) to Xavier. The stretch run remains difficult, with four road games (including Dayton and Richmond) and a visit from frisky Rhode Island.
BL: at Robert Morris
Dayton (17-9, 5-6; RPI: 62, SOS: 62)
After getting swept at URI and home to Temple, the Flyers are pretty much kaput as an at-large candidate. Disappointing. Not much more to say other than they'll likely have a chance to match South Carolina's back-to-back NIT titles.
GW: George Mason, at Ole Miss, New Mexico?
BL: East Tennessee State, at Cincinnati (by 34), at UMass
Rhode Island (16-9, 7-4; RPI: 69, SOS: 87)
Beating Dayton and squeaking past Charlotte at home at the buzzer pushed the Rams into fifth place in the A-10. It seems unlikely that they'll have enough for true at-large consideration, but if they can run the table (including a win at Duquesne)? Might be worth half a look going into championship week.
GW: Boston College
BL: at Quinnipiac, La Salle