Where's the bubble beef? (cont.)
Locks: San Diego State, BYU
The beat goes on for the two best teams in the league, with San Diego State keeping the inside track on the league title by winning at UNLV and keeping pace with BYU with the home rematch still in its pocket. Below them, though, there's a shake-up under way. UNLV fans, start to get nervous.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Colorado State (16-7, 7-3; RPI: 39, SOS: 38)
The "Aggies," decked out in bright orange unis honoring the school's past identity as Colorado A&M, held off New Mexico to take a step toward finishing third in the league. There is one issue, though -- the Rams still play at BYU and at San Diego State. First things first, they must take care of business in front of dozens of people at TCU and then there's a huge home bubble game vs. UNLV on Saturday.
GW: at UNLV
BL: Sam Houston State, vs. Hampton
UNLV (18-7, 6-5; RPI: 30, SOS: 30)
The Rebels couldn't handle SDSU at home and now have themselves in a bit of a spot. If they can't get it done at Colorado State on Saturday, they'll be 0-6 against the three teams ahead of them, with a trip to New Mexico still remaining next Wednesday. That kind of separation is a recipe for a shock trip to the NIT, so keep an eye on the Rebels over the next 10 days.
GW: Wisconsin, Virginia Tech (N), at K-State (without Pullen/Kelly)?
BL: UC Santa Barbara
Some intriguing situations are developing in the other conferences, with convoluted league races and teams with solid nonleague work trailing the packs. The circumstances, locally and in a big-picture sense, are ripe for some multibid action if things continue to break the right way. Stay tuned ...
SHOULD BE IN
Saint Mary's (20-4, 10-1; RPI: 31, SOS: 117)
Who knew the Gaels' opener vs. St. John's would be SMC's best win of the season? No matter, as the Gaels took care of business in the Bay Area and are roaring toward a conference title that almost certainly will be enough protection in case of auto-bid loss. Assuming they get past dreadful San Diego on the road, they close with a three-pack of home fun: Utah State (BracketBusters), Gonzaga and Portland.
GW: St. John's
IN THE MIX
George Mason (21-5, 13-2; RPI: 23, SOS: 72)
Make it 11 straight for Mason, which holds a one-game lead in the CAA heading to second-place VCU on Tuesday. If Mason can win the league by multiple games, it will be difficult to bypass them as an at-large, if needed. After the VCU game, GMU travels to reeling Northern Iowa for BracketBusters. Big week.
GW: Old Dominion (plus Duquesne and Harvard)
BL: Wofford (N)
Old Dominion (20-6, 11-4; RPI: 29, SOS: 61)
The Monarchs did what they needed to do, going in to VCU and emerging with an 11-point win that closes the gap at the top of the league. ODU remains in third, two back of George Mason, but with Mason and VCU playing this week, ODU will be able to close the gap on someone. The Monarchs continue to have the best work out of league, so this is budding as an ideal scenario for a multibid CAA.
GW: Clemson (N), Xavier (N), Richmond, at VCU?
BL: at Delaware
Missouri State (20-6, 12-3; RPI: 46, SOS: 131)
The Bears got a huge break with Wichita State's home loss to Southern Illinois. Now they're back in a tie for first and get the Shockers at home in the finale, looking to win the league and sweep WSU. The BracketBusters trip to Valpo is all risk for the Bears. It will only stand out if they lose, which they could.
GW: at Wichita State
BL: at Tulsa?, at Evansville
Wichita State (20-5, 12-3; RPI: 51, SOS: 113)
A team with no real quality wins can't afford to do what the Shockers did last Tuesday: lose at home to No. 196 Southern Illinois. Now Missouri State regains the upper hand in the league race as the Bears are tied with WSU and host the rematch in the season finale. WSU also hosts VCU in BracketBusters on Saturday in what looks like an at-large elimination match.
BL: Southern Illinois
VCU (20-7, 12-3; RPI: 60, SOS: 143)
VCU has the weakest overall at-large profile of the three CAA teams, so letting ODU come to town and walk out with an 11-point win was not good news. Now the Rams host George Mason in a huge game, as a win would move them back into a tie for first and give them tiebreaker advantage. Then VCU heads to Wichita State for BracketBusters, which is another enormous game. This is fun, right?
GW: UCLA (N), at Old Dominion
BL: at Georgia State, at South Florida
Memphis (19-6, 7-3; RPI: 32, SOS: 46)
Another buzzer-beating win on the road, this time at UCF, was followed by a sweep of USM and the Tigers have emerged as C-USA's most likely at-large candidate. If they can sweep UAB, which just was ambushed by a crucial injury, the rest of the game besides the trip to league-leader UTEP on Feb. 26 should be Ws. UTEP isn't a real at-large hopeful at this point due to the much weaker league slate and no quality wins out of conference.
GW: Miami (Fla.)?, at Gonzaga?, sweep of Southern Miss, at UAB
Utah State (23-3, 12-1; RPI: 26, SOS: 144)
Uh oh. Losing at Idaho has opened the door for a disaster scenario where USU loses its BracketBusters game at Saint Mary's (which has beaten them the last two seasons) and then loses again in the WAC tournament and ends up in the NIT. With the softness of the Aggies' schedule -- Long Beach State, their best win, reached No. 100 on Sunday, so they're currently 1-2 vs. the top 100 -- I don't think they can eat two more losses. Worth noting, in case the Aggies don't win the auto bid: USU AD Scott Barnes is on the NCAA tournament selection committee. That never hurts.
BL: at Idaho
Butler (18-9, 10-5; RPI: 43, SOS: 29)
Butler swept three home games this week to stay in third place, a game and a half behind surprising Valparaiso. How the Bulldogs would love that game at Youngstown State back now. As is, they should win their final three games of the regular season and then the Horizon tourney will be crazy. Any of six teams could win the thing. Could Butler lose in the Horizon final and make it? The relative dearth of bubble teams in the major conferences means you won't see as many late surges into the tourney.
GW: Florida State (N), Washington State (N), Cleveland State twice?
BL: Evansville (without Nored), UW Milwaukee (twice), at Youngstown State
Gonzaga (16-9, 7-3; RPI: 72, SOS: 65)
The Zags might not get a piece of the league crown, but can they win out until the WCC final and get in with a tough loss to Saint Mary's? Their four nonleague wins are picking up strength and they'd have a road win at SMC to go with them. Plus assuredly a sweet home win over No. 301 Cal State Bakersfield after the WCC season ends. (Whyyyyyyy?)
GW: Baylor (N)?, Marquette (N), Xavier, OK State?
BL: at Santa Clara, at San Francisco
Harvard (16-4, 7-1; RPI: 44, SOS: 169)
The Crimson pulled off what Harvard's Kurt Svoboda says is the fourth-largest second-half comeback in NCAA history, rallying from 22 down at the break to beat Brown and stay on Princeton's heels. The dream for an Ivy at-large remains a remote possibility, as Princeton (7-0) comes to Harvard on March 5, in the Crimson's final game. A playoff between 13-1 teams won by Princeton would be interesting.
GW: at BC, Colorado
Cleveland State (20-5, 11-4; RPI: 37, SOS: 124)
I don't see the Vikings having all that much hope as an at-large with four league losses and no quality wins anywhere on the nonconference ledger. That said, with their backs against the wall and needing a win, Norris Cole delivered the line of the season with a 41-20-9 masterclass. As suggested in SI.com's Midseason Crystal Ball, remember the name if this team does make it to the NCAAs.
BL: at Detroit
Sharks beat Kings in overtime to get much-needed Game 3 win
Red Wings drub Blackhawks, even series at 1-1