Bubble Watch: Power leagues have fingers crossed for tourney week
If VCU wins its tourney, the CAA would likely have three teams in the NCAAs
Four Big Ten teams (Michigan, MSU, Illinois, Penn St.) are hardly tourney locks
Will Richmond's December win over Purdue help the Spiders' tourney chances?
This part of the season's final week is always fun, as major-conference bubble teams sit and watch and hope smaller-conference teams don't hose them. There are fewer bid thieves than usual this season, but the next couple of days will have some tournament results worth watching:
The most obvious one is VCU's quest to make the Colonial Athletic Association a three-bid league Monday night, playing in its hometown against Old Dominion. It's unlikely the Rams can get an at-large after a four-game skid to close CAA play, so bubblers are praying the already-locked-up Monarchs take care of business and use the auto bid as entry rather than burn an at-large.
With St. Mary's and Gonzaga set for the WCC final Monday night, it's not impossible to think both teams could make it. A Gonzaga win would likely create a two-team scenario.
Indiana State's win over regular-season champ Missouri State on Sunday drops the Bears into the at-large pool. It's unlikely they can nab one with a resume that lacks top-end quality, but they have more than the nil chance ISU did, so it muddles the picture a bit more.
Butler will play at Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Tuesday for the Horizon auto bid, with a modest chance of landing an at-large if they lose. Bubblers are rooting hard for the Bulldogs.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, folks. Buckle in. It should be a blast. Bubble Watch and Bracket Watch will be daily through Selection Sunday. Enjoy!
Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA Tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Sunday's collegerpi.com RPI report.
GW = good wins. BL = bad losses. (N) = neutral-site game.
(Last updated: 2 a.m. EST on March 7)
Duke, North Carolina
North Carolina stormed past Duke Saturday night to claim the outright ACC title, boosting its own surging seed aspirations while putting a crimp in Duke's push for a No. 1. Florida State will likely be the third team in. The real question is: Will that be all?
Should Be In
Florida State (21-9, 11-5; RPI: 45, SOS: 81)
Next game: Friday vs. Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech winner in ACC quarterfinals
Harrison Barnes cashiered the 'Noles in the final seconds last week, but FSU looked pretty good without Chris Singleton, so they should be OK in a year of bubble weakness. Beating N.C. State moves FSU to 11-5 and a solid third-place league finish. The Seminoles haven't done a ton, but they've also done more than enough.
GW: Duke, Baylor (N)
BL: at Auburn
In The Mix
Boston College (19-11, 9-7; RPI: 44, SOS: 25)
Next game: Thursday vs. 12-seed Wake Forest in ACC first round
The Eagles came up huge, crushing Virginia Tech in Blacksburg to get a sweep and then taking care of Wake Forest. Now, they have to beat the league minnow again to get a crack at Clemson in a possible win-and-in quarterfinal for both teams.
GW: Texas A&M (N), sweep of VT, plus so-so collection of others.
Virginia Tech (19-10, 9-7, RPI: 66; SOS: 88)
Next game: Thursday vs. 11-seed Georgia Tech in ACC first round
What's left to say? The Hokies are inexorably -- and squarely -- on the bubble again after a dispiriting 0-2 week that let BC and Clemson tighten things up. Now they have to win a useless first-round game against Georgia Tech before a meeting with Florida State in the quarters. I don't think their profile will hold up if they lose that game.
GW: Duke, Florida State, plus batch of other OK Ws
BL: Virginia (2x), at Georgia Tech
Clemson (20-10, 9-7; RPI: 57, SOS: 74)
Next game: Friday vs. BC-Wake Forest winner in ACC quarterfinal
Clemson gave it a decent go at Cameron but lost, but then handled Virginia Tech to get to 9-7 and avoid having to play a first-round ACC tourney game. It may not be enough simply to beat Boston College (or, especially Wake, with a big upset), but North Carolina would await in the semis for the marquee victory Clemson lacks.
GW: BC, VT and FSU at home? Plus, at C of C
BL: at Virginia, at NC State
Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas State
With the help of Texas losing three of its last five games, Kansas remarkably claimed a seventh straight Big 12 crown and seems headed for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs. The 'Horns better figure things out quickly, as this team looks nothing like it did three weeks ago, when people were touting Texas as a national title favorite. The other team in the Sunflower State continues to surge, as well, and joins the lock party. K-State is suddenly looking like a team no one wants to see in their bracket.
Should Be In
Missouri (21-9, 8-8; RPI: 34, SOS: 42)
Next game: Wed. vs. 11-seed Texas Tech in Big 12 first round
With the talent on this roster, this is pretty much the absolute minimum this team could have accomplished. They'll make the NCAAs, but with one top-75 Big 12 win and 1-7 road mark, this has been anything but impressive.
GW: K-State, Vanderbilt, Old Dominion, vs. Illinois?
BL: None, really
In The Mix
Colorado (18-12, 8-8; RPI: 76, SOS: 71)
Next game: Wed. vs. 12-seed Iowa State in Big 12 first round
The Buffaloes elbowed Nebraska aside to get to .500, but they could really end up lamenting the loss at Iowa State earlier in the week (and their atrocious nonleague schedule). They have a decent set of quality Ws, including a sweep of Kansas State and a win over Texas -- but more work is needed. Beating Iowa State this week won't help, but what would beating K-State for a third time in the quarters mean?
GW: Texas, Missouri, Colorado State (for bubble)?, sweep of Kansas State
BL: at San Francisco, at Oklahoma
Baylor (17-12, 7-9; RPI: 83; SOS: 39)
Next game: Wed. vs. 10-seed Oklahoma in Big 12 first round
The Bears' NCAA hopes are on life support. Too many losses everywhere -- in the league, on the road, against the top 50. If they beat Oklahoma, they'll get another shot against Texas after wasting one on Saturday. It'll likely take a run to the tourney final to get in. Best nonleague win: Lipscomb
GW: Sweep of Texas A&M
BL: at Iowa State (by 15), at Oklahoma, Texas Tech
Pitt, Villanova, UConn, Notre Dame, G'town, Louisville, St. John's, Syracuse, WVU, Cincinnati
The Bearcats locked up their spot with a really impressive two-win week. In the process, they may have edged the league closer to 10 bids than 11. Notre Dame's résumé is begging for No. 1 seed consideration in a week. Georgetown is begging for Chris Wright to get healthy. Jay Wright is begging for his team to stop a staggering free fall.
Should Be In: None
In The Mix
Marquette (18-13, 9-9; RPI: 53; SOS: 30)
Next game: Tuesday vs. 14-seed Providence in Big East first round
All the goodness of the OT win at UConn was washed away with a home loss to Cincy, compounded by a poor effort in a loss at Seton Hall. Now, Team Bubble Watch is vulnerable to a snub and would have no right to complain if it happens. If they get past Providence, they get a manageable second-round game vs. West Virginia Wednesday night. I think they'll need to win that one to feel on solid NCAA footing.
GW: at UConn plus a trio of good home league wins (WV, ND, Syracuse)
BL: at Seton Hall. 13 overall
Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Purdue's stunning loss at Iowa dings the Boilermakers' hopes for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs, but the most compelling news comes from the bubble, where Michigan's second win over MSU has created a mess in the middle.
Should Be In: None
In The Mix
Illinois (19-12, 9-9; RPI: 42, SOS: 16)
Next game: Friday vs. 4-seed Michigan in Big Ten quarterfinals
Another expected split, another week where the Illini spurned the chance to impress. They seem like the prototype 8/9-seed right now. They'll joust with Michigan in a game the Illini probably don't need to win, but could put the Wolverines into the dance.
GW: UNC, MSU, Wisconsin, Maryland (N)?, Gonzaga (N)?
BL: Illinois-Chicago (N), at Indiana
Michigan State (17-13, 9-9, RPI: 46, SOS: 9)
Next game: Thursday vs. 10-seed Iowa in Big Ten first round
A loss at Michigan on Saturday, giving the Wolverines a season sweep, has more or less eliminated any wiggle room and puts the Spartans in a sticky situation. With Penn State's win over Minnesota, the Spartans are now the 7-seed and staring at a quarterfinal matchup with Purdue. If they don't win that game, this could end badly.
GW: Washington (N), plus Wisconsin and Minnesota at home
BL: Swept by Michigan (for bubble purposes), at Iowa
Michigan (18-12, 9-9; RPI: 53, SOS: 19)
Next game: Friday vs. 5-seed Illinois in Big Ten quarterfinals
The Wolverines got the critical sweep of Michigan State and now let the debates begin. Whichever team ends up ahead in the pecking order will come down to Big Ten tourney performance. Right now, I think the Spartans are barely ahead on the basis of better top-quality wins (although two of MSU's three top-50 wins came with Korie Lucious on the roster).
GW: Sweep of Michigan State, Harvard
BL: at Indiana
Penn State (16-13, 9-9; RPI: 61, SOS: 4)
Next game: Thursday vs. 11-seed Indiana in Big Ten first round
The Nittany Lions are 9-9 like three others, but have a weaker profile that's fueled mostly by schedule strength. They probably need to make the tournament final to have a truly legit claim.
GW: MSU, Illinois and Wisconsin all at home in league play
Arizona won the league. The Bruins remain safe. Washington most likely will be OK. Is there a bid thief lurking in USC with the conference tournament in Los Angeles? This league is the most likely major conference to generate an extra bid out of nowhere.
Should Be In
Washington (20-10, 11-7; RPI: 45, SOS: 52)
Next game: Thursday vs. 6-seed Washington State in Pac-10 quarterfinals
The Huskies got a second win over UCLA, which looms even larger after they lost to USC Saturday night. Third place in a weak Pac-10, with the three best wins over the two teams ahead of them? Not terribly compelling, but very likely enough this season to dance. Danger lurks in the Pac-10 tourney: A third meeting with cross-state rival Wazzu, which has beaten UW twice already.
GW: Arizona, Sweep of UCLA
BL: at Oregon, at Oregon State, at Stanford (plus swept by Wazzu)
In The Mix
USC (18-13, 10-8, RPI: 69; SOS: 41)
Next game: Thursday vs. 5-seed California in Pac-10 quarterfinals
Is a road split enough? The Trojans got the "good" one with a win at Washington and they have a pretty sizable stash of quality wins, but the overall résumé is still heavily specked with warts. The Trojans get Cal (season split with road teams winning both) and then probably would see top-seeded Arizona.
GW: Texas, at Tennessee, Arizona, UCLA, at Washington
BL: Rider (N), Oregon twice, at TCU, at Oregon State, Bradley (N)
Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky
Tennessee moves up a category simply because the field overall is too weak. The Vols have nine top-50 and 11 top-100 wins. Congrats to Florida for winning the SEC title. The league tourney should be interesting, starting with a possible eliminator quarterfinal between Georgia and Alabama.
Should Be In
Tennessee (18-13, 8-8; RPI: 32; SOS: 3)
Next game: Thursday vs. W4-seed Arkansas in SEC first round
The Vols must be thrilled not to have to play at home again this season. They are a poor 10-7 at home and a very solid 8-5 road/neutral, with their three best wins coming away from Knoxville. They have too many good wins to miss the NCAAs this year, so the SEC tourney is really just for seeding.
GW: Villanova (N), at Pitt, at Vandy, VCU (N)?, at Georgia?
BL: at Charlotte, at Arkansas (plus Oakland and C of C at home?)
In The Mix
Georgia (20-10, 9-7; RPI: 40; SOS: 36)
Next game: vs. W5-seed Auburn in SEC first round
The Bulldogs could have firmed things up but lost at Alabama and now will face the Tide again if they can handle Auburn in a first-round SEC tourney affair. The Bulldogs lack quality wins, but all but the loss at Bama are inside the top 35. They're just 5-10 vs. the RPI top 100, though. Not good. Can they survive with an early SEC tourney loss?
GW: Kentucky, at Tennessee, UAB?, Colorado? (for bubble purposes)
BL: None, really
Alabama (20-10, 12-4; RPI: 80, SOS: 125)
Next game: Friday vs. Georgia-Auburn winner in SEC quarterfinals
After beating Georgia at home, the Tide likely will get another chance at the Bulldogs in the SEC quarters. Lose there and they're done. Win there, it very well could be a chance at Kentucky and a possible golden ticket into the NCAAs. The middle ground (loss in SEC semis) means a debate, with the computer numbers not at all favorable. Bama's RPI would be way higher than the worst team picked as an at-large since the adjustments to the formula a number of years ago.
GW: Kentucky, at Tennessee
BL: Iowa (N), St. Peter's (N), at Arkansas?