K-State improves its NCAA hopes, raises questions about Texas
K-State is in good NCAA tourney shape, pending Jacob Pullen's injury status
The reality is that practically everyone who's anyone is going to make it
While the ACC's short on tourney hopefuls, Big 12 bubble action's really heating up
MONDAY NIGHT UPDATE:
With one caveat -- and it's a big one -- you can put Kansas State down for a spot in the NCAAs after the Wildcats' gutsy 75-70 win over No. 7 Texas on Monday night in Austin.
The 'Cats have two big marquee wins, including one on the road, in addition to a home win over Missouri and a trio of wins over bubble competitors Virginia Tech, Gonzaga and Baylor.
They were a No. 9 seed in Monday's bracket before stunning Texas, so assuming they handle Iowa State at home in their regular-season finale, the 'Cats should be playing for seeding rather than selection in the Big 12 tournament ... unless Jacob Pullen's hand/wrist injury is serious.
Pullen gutted out the rest of the game after falling on his right wrist late in the second half, but if it's something significant, it would be a huge blow for the Wildcats and would make them an extremely interesting selection debate. K-State is not nearly the same team without him.
For Texas, the home loss, coming on the heels of bad fades at Nebraska and Colorado the past two weekends, really damages the Longhorns' hopes of a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs.
Now a game behind Kansas in the loss column, the 'Horns may not even grab a share of the Big 12 crown. With six overall losses, including three fairly marginal ones, their profile might not hold up to comparison against teams like BYU, Duke or even a dark horse like Notre Dame once conference tournaments are done.
Perhaps of greater concern, the No. 1 efficiency defense in the nation has been worked over three times in the last four games. Texas is not an elite offensive team, especially when Jordan Hamilton struggles, so this mini-defensive slide is worth watching. If the 'Horns' regression on that end continues, it could be a major red flag for the NCAAs.
If the NCAA tournament is supposed to be such an exclusive ticket, why does no one want to make it?
As team after team suffered damaging losses last week, the prospective field thinned to the point where there were 18 reasonable candidates for the final 14 spots in the bracket. A look was even needed at a major-conference team with six losses to teams outside the RPI top 100, three of those to 200+ opponents. No, that's not a joke.
So while it's very chic to say Team X is in danger of missing the field, the reality is that practically everyone who's anyone is going to make it. What's more, things don't look like they'll tighten up much at all. There still are very few mid-major champs that look like locks to land an at-large should the auto bid not work out, and most of the top 10 conferences have more or less tapped out on prospective bid candidates.
Those two forces combined with the three newly created spots for the 68-team event mean this has a strong chance of being the softest bubble in recent memory. The silver lining may be that the fluctuating top seeds and lack of distinguishability in the middle of the bracket could make for a really exciting tournament. We can only hope so, because on paper right now, things look very undistinguished.
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
Locks: Duke, North Carolina
Duke's loss at Virginia Tech actually puts UNC in the driver's seat for a possible ACC regular-season crown. Both teams have two league losses and Carolina hosts Duke in Saturday's season finale (although UNC has a tough game at FSU first). The VT loss also bumped Duke back down to the 2-seed line this week and that may be where the Devils end up, even if they run the table. Depends on what BYU and the others do. The bigger question: Will the ACC get more than four bids? Even that's not a given.
SHOULD BE IN
Florida State (20-8, 10-4; RPI: 48, SOS: 89)
The short-handed 'Noles fell flat at Maryland but jumped all over Miami early and held off the 'Canes for an important win. If they can take care of North Carolina on Wednesday, that will be plenty to validate their work without Chris Singleton. Even without that, one more win probably would be enough to ensure selection, especially given the state of things elsewhere.
GW: Duke, Baylor (N)?
BL: at Auburn.
IN THE MIX
Virginia Tech (19-8, 9-5; RPI: 51, SOS: 88)
Huge, impressive win for the Hokies over Duke. They've battled all season while short-handed and look like an NCAA-caliber team. That said, despite the over-the-top pronouncements from a certain TV announcer, the Hokies are not a lock to make it. They probably need to win two of their next three games to feel more comfortable about their chances. The home game Tuesday vs. desperate BC is really big. Winning at Clemson in the finale won't be easy.
GW: Duke, OK State (N)?, Penn State?, plus Florida State and sweep of Maryland?
BL: Virginia (2x), at Georgia Tech.
Boston College (17-11, 7-7; RPI: 44, SOS: 16)
Losing at home to Miami (Fla.) means the Eagles likely need to win in Blacksburg (and sweep the season series) as part of a 2-0 final week. Beating Wake in the finale means nothing except record filler. BC only has one truly questionable loss, but the Eagles also only have one quality win. The definition of marginal.
GW: Texas A&M (N), plus a so-so collection of Cal (N) and at Maryland and South Carolina.
Clemson (19-9, 8-6; RPI: 69, SOS: 97)
Like Virginia Tech, the Tigers probably need to beat Duke to have a truly legit case, but they'll need to do so at Cameron -- a much different proposition. There's not much to look at here, even at 9-7, although if that win comes in the final game, that's over Virginia Tech, a direct bubble competitor.
GW: at College of Charleston?, plus BC and FSU at home.
BL: at Virginia, at N.C. State.
Maryland (18-11, 7-7; RPI: 82, SOS: 72)
I think it's over for the Terps, who beat Chris Singleton-less FSU but then lost at UNC Sunday night. Even if you give full credit for the FSU win, the Terps are 1-9 vs. the RPI top 50. No bad losses, but no good wins, either.
GW: None, really (at Penn State by 23? Short-handed FSU?)
BL: None in a vacuum, but way too many of them. Swept by VT and BC.
Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M
After a super-sized version of the St. Mary's fade that let Gonzaga claim a share of the WCC crown, Texas seems set on allowing Kansas to keep its conference title streak going. I know Colorado is a different animal at home, but that second-half avalanche that landed on the 'Horns creates some questions after a similar crumble at Nebraska the week before. Similar intrigue has developed in the bubble hunt, where all three teams with big home chances took them on Saturday.
SHOULD BE IN
Missouri (21-7, 8-6; RPI: 28, SOS: 58)
The Tigers beat Baylor and then lost on the road (again), this time at Kansas State. The Tigers are 1-6 away in league play, but more or less are in the NCAAs. We'll hold here for one more win because the remaining schedule (at Nebraska and vs. Kansas) could land them at 8-8 heading into the B12 tourney. Worth noting: Mizzou has beaten one RPI top-75 team at home in its 7-0 mark (K-State). Soft sked.
GW: Vanderbilt, Old Dominion, vs. Illinois?
BL: None, really.
Kansas State (19-9, 8-6; RPI: 25, SOS: 6)
The Wildcats are the rare team making a strong late push to get into the NCAAs and their case has firmed up after another 2-0 week with wins at Nebraska and over Mizzou. If they can go to Austin and win tonight, it will be hard to see them missing out.
GW: Kansas, Missouri, Virginia Tech (bubble competitor), Gonzaga (N)?, at Washington State?
BL: None, really. Swept by Colorado.
IN THE MIX
Colorado (17-11, 7-7; RPI: 76, SOS: 70)
The Buffs' remarkable rally past Texas at home puts them squarely back in the bubble mix. Despite a terrible nonconference SOS (with one nonleague win against a team in the top half of D-I), Colorado has five very credible wins to offset a couple of 100+ losses. The Buffs are at Iowa State and Nebraska to close out league play, so 9-7 is very possible. They may need a QF win in the B12 tourney to make it, but we'll see.
GW: Texas, Missouri, Colorado State (for bubble)?, sweep of Kansas State.
BL: at San Francisco, at Oklahoma.
Baylor (17-10, 7-7; RPI: 74, SOS: 50)
Finishing a sweep of Texas A&M keeps the Bears in the mix, but this is another very marginal profile at the moment. No good nonleague wins and three sub-100 losses overall. Baylor likely needs to sweep this week (at OK State and vs. Texas) to have a realistic shot to hang on for an at-large.
GW: Sweep of Texas A&M.
BL: at Iowa State (by 15), at Oklahoma, Texas Tech.
Nebraska (18-10, 6-8; RPI: 79, SOS: 75)
The loss at Iowa State more or less kills off the Huskers' hopes. Their profile is a poor man's Colorado, which is a bad place to be at this stage.
GW: Texas, Texas A&M.
BL: at Texas Tech, Davidson (N), at Iowa State.
Locks: Pitt, Villanova, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Louisville, St. John's, Syracuse, West Virginia
Villanova's in free fall and Georgetown without Chris Wright isn't what it was, but no reason to change the lock list. The biggest question that remains is whether the league can get 11. It's still very possible, although the Cincinnati/Marquette loser on Wednesday may end up sweating it out. At the top, Pitt's hold on a No. 1 seed for the NCAAs loosened a bit, while St. John's continues to surge.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Marquette (18-11, 9-7; RPI: 53, SOS: 30)
That's all it took? I just needed to show up and your luck instantly turns? Had you mentioned this 15 months ago, there would have been a lot less stress. After winning at UConn in OT and pasting Providence, TBW continues to trend exactly as Bubble Watch expected. Can it close out another 11-7 campaign by taking out Cincy in a bubble battle and then winning at Seton Hall?
GW: at UConn, plus a trio of good home league wins (WV, ND, Syracuse).
BL: None, but 11 of them.
Cincinnati (22-7, 9-7; RPI: 40, SOS: 80)
The Bearcats got what looked like a near-ticket-punching win at Georgetown, but then lost at home to UConn and now face a testing last week at Marquette and home vs. the Wright-less Hoyas. A split puts them in OK shape. I don't think 9-9 and not getting to the Big East quarters is going to be enough.
GW: Louisville, Xavier, at St. John's, at Georgetown (Wright injured in 2H), Dayton (by 34)?