BracketEliminators: Another weekend of carnage for mid-majors (cont.)
Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
The Buckeyes have lost twice in three games, but with the defeats coming at Wisconsin and at Purdue, their overall profile for a No. 1 seed remains fairly solid. Like the Big 12, the more confounding part of the story is in the middle of the conference, where teams are backsliding like it's their job.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Illinois (17-10, 7-7; RPI: 42, SOS: 20)
This is starting to get worrisome. I rarely assume results, but with the Illini's current form, winning at either Ohio State on Tuesday or at Purdue next week seems very unlikely. That means 9-9, max. Would that and a first-game Big Ten tourney exit condemn them to the NIT?
GW: UNC, plus MSU and Wisconsin at home, Maryland (N)?, Gonzaga (N)?
BL: Illinois-Chicago (N), at Indiana
Minnesota (17-9, 6-8; RPI: 40, SOS: 30)
If the Gophers can't get Al Nolen back healthy, I think they're in serious trouble. Even if they take care of the softness of the remaining schedule and get to 9-9, it doesn't prove they can be the same quality team they were before the point guard issues. A split leaves them at 8-10, which is huge danger territory.
GW: North Carolina (N), West Virginia (N), Purdue
Michigan State (14-11, 7-7; RPI: 43, SOS: 5)
The Spartans visit Minnesota on Tuesday in a massive game for both teams. The loser is in a lot of bubble trouble. Unless MSU can handle Purdue at home (not impossible), a loss at The Barn would mean 9-9 at best, and that's no given to happen (or be enough without postseason work).
GW: Washington (N), plus Wisconsin and Minnesota at home
BL: Michigan (at home), at Iowa
Penn State (14-12, 7-8; RPI: 60, SOS: 6)
The Nittany Lions have four solid home wins, but have one road/neutral win all season (No. 180 IU) and their overall profile is not good enough to withstand that. They'll need to win at either Northwestern or Minnesota just to have a chance at .500. At that assumes they beat Ohio State at home.
GW: MSU, Illinois and Wisconsin -- all at home in league play
Michigan (16-11, 7-8; RPI: 58, SOS: 23)
The Wolverines have swept Penn State, but lack the kind of quality wins the Nittany Lions feature. They do have the schedule to get to 10-8, though, with Wisconsin and Michigan State at home around a trip to reeling Minnesota. If the Wolverines can sweep those three, they'll also have struck further blows to the Spartans and Gophers. First things first: Beat the Badgers on Wednesday.
GW: at Michigan State, Harvard
BL: at Indiana
Arizona held off Washington in a terrific game on a sensational block (that may have been a goaltend, but it was a 52-48 call and I was fine with a no-call in that situation) by Derrick Williams. Lock 'em up, as the Wildcats are strongly positioned now to win the league, especially after UCLA's OT loss at Cal that puts the 'Cats a full two games ahead heading to L.A.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
UCLA (19-8, 10-4; RPI: 37, SOS: 42)
The Bruins' OT slip-up at Cal likely will cost them a shot at the league title, but they're still in solid shape for an at-large, if needed. The more interesting battle may be for second place, so the final-weekend trip to Seattle also looms large.
GW: BYU (N), St. John's?
Washington (18-8, 10-5; RPI: 36, SOS: 50)
Let's take you back to last season, when Washington finished in third place at 11-7 in a weak Pac-10, had a couple solid wins all season, ended up with an 11 seed and went to the Sweet 16. We're basically repeating it, with a slightly better league record and no good nonconference win. Assuming the Huskies take care of business with their final three league games at home, they'll probably be fine, but they're not nearly as safe as most people want to believe.
GW: Arizona (at home), at UCLA?
BL: at Oregon, at Oregon State, at Stanford
Locks: Florida, Vanderbilt
Alabama is continuing to make itself into an intriguing bubble debate. The Commodores get locked up. They'll finish above .500 in the league and have enough good wins to sail into the NCAAs. Kentucky more or less confirmed its NCAA spot with two strong home wins, but the remaining schedule is rough, so one more week won't hurt to see how the Wildcats handle the road again.
SHOULD BE IN
Kentucky (19-7, 7-5; RPI: 16, SOS: 17)
Routing overmatched Mississippi State and South Carolina at home was nice, but let's see if the 'Cats can compose themselves on the road at Arkansas. The last three -- Florida, Vandy and at Tennessee -- will provide a nice pre-postseason sound check. I'm still buying.
GW: Tennessee, at Louisville, Notre Dame (N), Washington (N)?
BL: None, really (at Alabama?)
IN THE MIX
Tennessee (16-11, 6-6; RPI: 33, SOS: 2)
The Vols are starting to mess around a bit too much and aren't a lock to end the season at .500 or better in league play after losing at home to Georgia. A trip to Vandy is up next and Kentucky comes in for the finale. They have several very nice wins, but a lot of suspect results, too.
GW: Villanova (N), at Pitt, VCU (N)?, at Georgia?
BL: at Charlotte, at Arkansas, plus Oakland and C of C at home?
Georgia (18-8, 7-5; RPI: 38, SOS: 31)
After collapsing down the stretch at home against Vandy, the Bulldogs went and got a big road win at Tennessee to stay firmly in the hunt. That win was huge because with road trips left to Florida and Alabama, they can win the two soft home games and still get to 9-7.
GW: Kentucky, at Tennessee, UAB?, Colorado? (for bubble purposes)
Alabama (18-8, 10-2; RPI: 76, SOS: 128)
Standing friendly bet made between bracket folk: Lunardi and I say 12-4 will get 'Bama in. Jerry Palm says no. Just taking care of business the rest of the way could get them to 13-3, and as much as I know profiles are fully evaluated and don't involve conference affiliation and blah blah blah, there is no way the selection committee will leave out a team that went 13-3 in the SEC.
GW: Kentucky, at Tennessee
BL: Iowa (N), St. Peter's (N), at Arkansas?
Locks: Xavier, Temple
The two best teams in a league that will get at least two bids will get locked up as they keep doing what they need to do. Richmond is pushing for a third slot, but that bad effort at Temple won't help.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Richmond (21-7, 10-3; RPI: 64, SOS: 134)
The Spiders had a really nice weekend and it had nothing to do with beating St. Bonaventure. As crucially, their two best wins of the season -- Purdue and VCU -- picked up big, national TV wins and continue to look good. Richmond better think of winning out, including a home date with Duquesne in the finale.
GW: Purdue, VCU
BL: at Iona?, Georgia Tech (N), Bucknell
Duquesne (16-8, 9-3; RPI: 74, SOS: 116)
The one-point loss to Dayton is a real killer for a team with no nonleague heft to rely on. Would a 13-3 league finish and a title game loss this season be enough? The answer's not no.
BL: at Robert Morris
Dayton (19-9, 7-6; RPI: 56, SOS: 67)
Taking out Duquesne was nice. Can you do it to Xavier, too, and get to 10-6 in the league? That and a deep A-10 tourney run would ... still make it somewhat unlikely, but who knows.
GW: George Mason, at Ole Miss, New Mexico?
BL: East Tennessee State, at Cincinnati (by 34), at UMass
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