Bubble Watch: Mountain West, Missouri Valley, C-USA, More (Cont.)
The Rebels have been extremely impressive in Dave Rice's first season, taking down then No. 1 North Carolina and crushing Cal and Illinois (in Chicago). This may be the best-ever season in the MW, though, with six of the league's eight teams in the RPI top 100, and one of the two that isn't -- Boise State -- is much improved. Expect the Rebs to get pushed and another three-bid season to be very possible.
SHOULD BE IN
San Diego State (11-2, 0-0; RPI: 58, SOS: 135)
This was supposed to be the transition year for the Aztecs after last season's Sweet 16 run, but they have been very solid. Home wins over Cal, USC and Long Beach State, plus a road win at Arizona, auger well for the league season.
GW: at Arizona, Cal, Long Beach State
IN THE MIX
New Mexico (9-2, 0-0; RPI: 75, SOS: 203)
The schedule has been soft and early Ls to New Mexico State and vs. Santa Clara in the 76 Classic opener dampened what could have been. Still, the Lobos have ripped off eight in a row since and enter important games at New Mexico State and vs. Saint Louis with some confidence. Tony Snell is a difference-maker.
BL: Santa Clara (N), New Mexico State?
Colorado State (7-4, 0-0; RPI: 45, SOS: 20)
The Rams have played three of the current RPI top 5 (Duke, Southern Miss and Northern Iowa), all on the road, which explains the strong computer numbers. Not a great candidate at this stage on merit.
GW: None, really
TCU (7-4, 0-0; RPI: 74, SOS: 79)
The Horned Frogs beat Virginia in the Virgin Islands, but then lost the next day to Norfolk State and blew a shot at Marquette. Beyond that, it's more computer profile than actuality at this stage.
GW: Virginia (N)
BL: Norfolk State (N)
The Bluejays are living up to preseason billing, albeit against a modest schedule, but they're not alone. The Valley has four legitimate at-large contenders at this stage and several other capable teams. After a few years of drop-off following the amazing 2006 four-bid haul, the Valley may finally be back.
SHOULD BE IN
Northern Iowa (9-2, 0-0; RPI: 5, SOS: 4)
The Panthers haven't played a sub-200 team yet, which helps explain the incredible computer numbers. The actual depth of their accomplishments doesn't match those, but this is still a very credible team with wins over decent teams like ODU, Providence and Milwaukee.
GW: at Iowa State, Colorado State
BL: None, but margins at SMC (16) and home to Ohio (17) are big
IN THE MIX
Wichita State (8-2, 0-0; RPI: 28, SOS: 40)
The Shockers have had three excellent opportunities for statement wins, and got the last of the three, sandblasting UNLV at home. Will they regret not handling Alabama or Temple (an OT loss) in Puerto Rico?
Indiana State (8-2, 0-0; RPI: 47, SOS: 103)
The Sycamores got the nation's attention with a win at Vanderbilt, a surprise after falling at Boise State in their previous D-I game. The Valley almost certainly won't be a four-bid league, so ISU will have to close ground on one of the top three. They're capable of that, for sure.
GW: at Vandy, Fairfield (N)?
BL: at Boise State
The league is down a bit, and if the league's best team -- Memphis -- doesn't pick things up quickly, it could end up being a one-bid league despite the presence of several solid teams.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Southern Miss (9-2, 0-0; RPI: 3, SOS: 7)
The Golden Eagles just polished off an SEC/Pac-12/Big East trifecta of wins. The losses -- at Denver and to Murray State in 2OT on a neutral floor -- are to two teams that are a combined 20-2 this season. The good news is that USM plays on the "stronger side" of CUSA's equal-but-separate one-division setup. That means two games each against Memphis, Marshall and UCF, which will help keeps numbers solid.
GW: Ole Miss, at Colorado State, sweep of New Mexico State?
Marshall (8-2, 0-0; RPI: 38, SOS: 68)
Beating Iona and Belmont is no small achievement this season and the two losses, to Ohio and at Syracuse, come to opponents that are a combined 23-1. The Herd are crashing the offensive glass with abandon (2nd in D-I in offensive rebound percentage) and DeAndre Kane is getting the help he needs.
Memphis (6-5, 0-0; RPI: 67, SOS: 16)
Like Vandy, the Tigers are trending much closer to last season's actual performance than how most people saw this year's going. And like Vandy, I wasn't convinced by this team in the preseason. Beating Belmont, a poor Tennessee team and winning at Miami (Fla.) is not a great haul for a talented team that's played a very solid schedule.
GW: at Miami (Fla.)?
With BYU's arrival, Gonzaga's surge and Saint Mary's still-capable roster, the WCC should be good for two bids in the NCAAs and could find a way to get three.
SHOULD BE IN
Gonzaga (9-2, 0-0; RPI: 11, SOS: 12)
Beating ND, Arizona and Butler sounds better than it really is. The Zags may lament missing on two Big Ten shots. A trip to the Cintas Center to face reeling Xavier could be just what the at-large doctor ordered, though.
GW: Arizona (N)?
Saint Mary's (9-2, 0-0; RPI: 40, SOS: 93)
Iona's getting the pub, but these Gaels are plenty solid, too. A good W over Northern Iowa and no bad losses have them solidly positioned heading into a strong WCC. First up on Thursday? BYU.
GW: Northern Iowa
IN THE MIX
BYU (9-3, 0-0; RPI: 61, SOS: 78)
No real shame in any of the Cougars losses -- at Utah State is a brutal rivalry game and Baylor's excellent, even with BYU at home. They certainly have the talent to win the league in their debut season; Charles Abuou has been far superior to the returning Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock has been outstanding.
BL: at Utah State?
It will take a lot of things to break right for these teams to have at-large profiles that will stand up to the test of bigger-conference alternatives, but with really solid starts, they have at least given themselves a chance for a safety net if the conference tournament fails them.
Ohio (10-1, 0-0; RPI: 16, SOS: 92)
The Bobcats narrowly missed at Louisville and won at Marshall and Northern Iowa, which could be big wins down the line in direct comparison. Standout guard D.J. Cooper is getting good support, but will it be enough to get through the rugged MAC mostly unscathed? The East division is very stiff this season.
GW: at Marshall, at UNI
Murray State (10-0, 1-0; RPI: 17, SOS: 122)
What can you say? The unbeaten Racers look for real. The win at Memphis was the attention-getter, but the wins over Dayton and Southern Miss could prove very important, too. They'd clearly make it in as at-large if the selection show were today, but that's not how life in the small conferences works.
GW: at Memphis, Dayton, Southern Miss
Long Beach State (5-6, 0-0; RPI: 12, SOS: 1)
Yes, the 49ers are under .500, but have you seen their schedule? Five of the six losses are roadies at SDSU, Louisville, Kansas, North Carolina and a loss in Hawaii to K-State. They also won at Pitt and beat Xavier on a neutral floor. If they roll through the Big West virtually unscathed and lose in the title game ... ?
GW: at Pitt, Xavier (N)
BL: at Montana
Harvard (9-1, 0-0; RPI: 27, SOS: 144)
The bad news: Harvard's nonconference schedule is probably too thin to help support an at-large cause. The good news: The Crimson likely won't need one, as they should win a deep-but-not-top-heavy Ivy by multiple games and there's no conference tournament in that league. Get ready for Harvard's first NCAA appearance since 1946 and don't sleep on them. This team is very, very sound and has solid depth.
GW: Florida State (N), UCF (N)?
Iona (10-2, 2-0; RPI: 19, SOS: 64)
For several years, the nation's best Gaels were from Moraga, Calif., but not this season. Iona's profile is very legit. A one-point loss to Purdue in the opener in Puerto Rico is a shame, but beating Saint Joe's and winning at Denver will stay solid, you'd think. Iona is also 6-1 on a December-long road trip, with the only defeat at Marshall. With Fairfield challenging in the MAAC, two bids isn't impossible.
GW: Saint Joe's, at Denver
Denver (10-2, 0-0; RPI: 30, SOS: 69)
Joe Scott has the Princeton Offense humming at altitude. Had the Pioneers not gacked up a double-digit lead against Iona, this profile would be very solid for a Sun Belt team. As is, wins over Southern Miss and Saint Mary's could prove useful in direct comparison later.
GW: SMC, Southern Miss
BL: None, but at Cal by 21 now looks disappointing
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