Bubble Watch: Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC (Cont.)
Locks: Syracuse, UConn, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette
Upon further review, shipping Syracuse out West last week was a bad decision. The Orange claim their rightful place in Boston in this week's bracket. The gloss came off Louisville and Marquette a bit, but both still have very solid profiles to this point. Watch out for UConn, which is still having some ups and downs, but has the possibility of growing into a very dangerous team come February and beyond. The Hoyas bump up after an impressive road win at Louisville and then a home slog past Providence.
SHOULD BE IN
Seton Hall (12-2, 1-1; RPI: 4, SOS: 13)
Obviously would be in today, but exercising some continued restraint given the lack of a true marquee win. After getting pantsed at Syracuse, the Pirates rebounded nicely by thrashing West Virginia at home. They seized on a big opportunity Tuesday night, with a 75-63 upset over a still Jim Calhoun-less UConn. By Big East standards, the next five after that are soft, so Seton Hall could have a very gaudy record in a few weeks.
GW: at Dayton?, Saint Joseph's?
IN THE MIX
West Virginia (10-4, 1-1; RPI: 28, SOS: 11)
The Mountaineers beat Villanova and then were pounded at Seton Hall, leaving them in the same position as last week. Now they have a home-and-home with Rutgers wrapped around a visit from Georgetown and a trip to Storrs. Still not 100 percent sure what to make of this team yet.
GW: K-State (N)
BL: None, really
Pittsburgh (11-4, 0-0; RPI: 83, SOS: 114)
Uh oh. Are the Panthers going to be in actual danger of missing the NCAAs? After getting handled at Notre Dame, Pitt lost again at home, this time to Cincinnati to start 0-2 in Beast play. If the Panthers don't win the next two -- at DePaul, home to Rutgers, they could be looking at a 1-5 start with trips to Marquette and Syracuse on tap after that.
BL: Wagner?, at Notre Dame?, Cincinnati?
Villanova (7-7, 0-0; RPI: 92, SOS: 31)
After losses at West Virginia and Marquette, the Wildcats are here for technical (two-digit RPI) reasons only. That said, they do have four of the next five at home, so maybe things improve a bit in the near term.
BL: Santa Clara (N)
Note: Providence and Cincinnati remain outside the top 100. The Bearcats got a huge win to open league play and seem to have stolen Xavier's small-ball mojo since the Crosstown Throwdown.
Locks: Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State, Wisconsin
The Spartans KO'd Indiana in a game of runs before the Hoosiers took out Ohio State for their second monster home win of the season. The top of the Big Ten should be very fun. The league should get many more bids than just four, with the middle having a ton of chances for big wins and very few weak games at the bottom of the league this season.
SHOULD BE IN
Michigan (11-2, 2-0; RPI: 31, SOS: 85)
Did what it needed to do in beating Penn State and Minnesota at home. An intriguing trip to Indiana is up next on Thursday before three more home games wrapped around a trip to Iowa. The Wolverines could have a very good Big Ten mark through seven games, but the back end of the schedule is nasty.
GW: Memphis (probably will look OK in March), Iowa State?
BL: None, really
Illinois (12-3, 1-1; RPI: 25, SOS: 39)
The Illini barely escaped Minnesota in double-overtime and then were dispatched at Purdue. That was one of those swing games in the softer front part of the schedule. They have three more winnable road games plus some quality home chances in the front half of the schedule. If they don't make a move there, the back stretch is not nearly as favorable.
IN THE MIX
Minnesota (12-3, 0-2; RPI: 19, SOS: 33)
Tough 0-2 for the game-but-undermanned Gophers, losing in double-OT at Illinois and by five at Michigan. Four of the next five, though, are very winnable before things get a lot tougher. The profile numbers continue to sing thanks to wins over solid mids like South Dakota State, Bucknell, Fairfield, Indiana State and North Dakota State. Not sure it's sustainable, though.
GW: Virginia Tech (for bubble purposes)
Purdue (12-3, 2-0; RPI: 47, SOS: 92)
Winning at Iowa looks a lot better after the Hawkeyes' shocker at Wisconsin and a strong home win over Illinois is a nice early separator in the middle of the league. Like Northwestern and others, these wins against mid-table peers will be enough to dance if you get enough of them. Road trips this week to Penn State and Minnesota will be litmus tests for how this team is maturing.
GW: Temple, Iona?
Northwestern (11-3, 1-1; RPI: 33, SOS: 58)
The Cats got plastered at Ohio State, but bounced back to see off Penn State at home. They're definitely in the mix to assume the Team Bubble Watch crown from Marquette, as they continue to do what they're supposed to do, but not a ton more to help themselves stand out for an at-large. The Seton Hall win continues to look solid and the LSU victory is decent at this stage, too.
GW: Seton Hall (for now)
Locks: None (and this is unlikely to change all season).
The opening weekend of league play went well from a league standpoint, with four of the best teams escaping unscathed. Stanford, Cal and Washington all swept home weekends and Arizona cruised past Arizona State at home. The best thing that can happen to the Pac-12 is for there to be clear separation at the top of the conference, so multiple teams ride gaudy league marks into at-large consideration.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
California (12-3, 2-0; RPI: 54, SOS: 105)
California ... knows how to parrrrrty ... in the cittttttty ... of L.A. Well, the games were at home, but the Golden Bears swept USC and UCLA to kick off their league campaign. Now a tricky trip to the Oregon schools awaits before the expansion couple arrives in Berkeley the following weekend. Like the rest of the league, there's no good nonconference win here, but the Bears are probably favored to win the league, which will be enough for a berth.
Stanford (12-2, 2-0; RPI: 82, SOS: 226)
The Cardinal held off both L.A. schools for a home sweep and now head north with Cal for a weekend in Oregon. Wins over Colorado State, Oklahoma State and N.C. State give them more to their profile than anyone else in the league.
GW: Colorado State?, N.C. State?
Arizona (10-4, 1-0; RPI: 56, SOS: 40)
After easing past in-state rival ASU, the Wildcats take to the road this week for a pair against the L.A. teams. The best thing they can do is keep winning, as the quality of opponents won't really help impress. Thanks to the unbalanced schedule, 'Zona doesn't get Cal at home this season, so they'll need to win in Berkeley to (maybe) have a top-50 win this season.
Washington (8-5, 2-0; RPI: 90; SOS: 42)
The Huskies are better than their profile, but with how down the league is, the committee may have a challenge on its hands. Tough losses at Madison Square Garden to Marquette and Duke are fine. Losing at Nevada in overtime? It happens. Getting drilled at Saint Louis? Questionable, despite the Billikens' quality. Getting shredded at home by Nate Wolters and South Dakota State? Not a good look. Any top-50 wins? Nope.
BL: Home to South Dakota State by 19, at Nevada?
Oregon (10-4, 1-1; RPI: 79, SOS: 149)
The Ducks were beaten at Washington and left the Evergreen State with a split. Since they've only played one top-50 opponent (and that was at Ezeli-less Vandy), they need to take some (relative) quality road wins in the league to have any chance.
Colorado (7-4, 1-0; RPI: 94; SOS: 84)
Woo! A 40-point win to open league play! Oh, it was over Utah. Either way, the Buffs appear better than expected after last season's talent exodus. They have a chance to back that this week at home against the Washington schools.
BL: Maryland (N)?, Wyoming?
Note: Oregon State remains outside the top 100 and got swept at the Washington schools. Not looking good.
Kentucky showed it has plenty of grit to go with its glitz, winning a battle with archrival Louisville. With others stumbling behind them, the Wildcats are starting to separate a bit from the pack. Several others should comfortably follow behind them, but this has the feel of a five-bid max already.
SHOULD BE IN
Florida (11-3, 0-0; RPI: 39, SOS: 103)
The Gators had obeyed the script so far, beating everyone they should and losing at Ohio State and at Syracuse in competitive fashion. Then they lost in double-overtime at Rutgers. Beating Yale doesn't make up for that. Florida has an incredibly soft front half of the SEC slate, opening with three games against the bottom half of the SEC East. The Gators don't play Vandy, Kentucky or Alabama until Feb. 4.
GW: Arizona?, Florida State?
BL: at Rutgers
Alabama (10-3, 0-0; RPI: 18, SOS: 18)
Only had one game this week and cruised past Jacksonville. Tonight, they're at ACC minnow Georgia Tech before opening SEC play at Georgia on the weekend. After hosting LSU on Jan. 11, 'Bama goes to Starkville and Lexington around a home date with Vandy in a big early three-game sound check.
GW: Wichita State, Purdue?
BL: at Dayton?
Mississippi State (13-2, 0-0; RPI: 55, SOS: 132)
The Bulldogs were in a pair of tight holiday contests, falling by a bucket against Baylor in a slugfest in Dallas before edging Utah State by two at home. How good the Bulldogs actually are remains up for debate. They have only played three top-100 teams so far, and Baylor's the only truly good one at this stage.
GW: Arizona?, West Virginia?
BL: Akron at home
Vanderbilt (10-4, 0-0; RPI: 32, SOS: 9)
Vandy! Didn't know you had that in you! The 'Dores earned the first #POLEAXED hashtag of the season after their wire-to-wire road destruction of Marquette. Ezeli's absence or not, the purpose with which Vandy played has been missing before now. Is this a turning point or an outlier? The seven-point home win over Miami (Ohio) on Monday night is not a lot of evidence of the former ...
GW: at Marquette, N.C. State? At Davidson?
BL: Cleveland State and Indiana State at home?
IN THE MIX
LSU (10-4, 0-0; RPI: 67, SOS: 135)
The Tigers beat Grambling but then couldn't handle Virginia at home, which is a disappointing result for a team hoping to build a profile. Playing the old West schedule, LSU doesn't have a ton of league chances for great wins, and two of the three marquee East games are on the road (Florida, Vandy).
BL: at Coastal Carolina, South Alabama
Mississippi (9-4, 0-0; RPI: 53, SOS: 64)
The bloom's quickly falling off the Rebels after a third straight loss, this time to Dayton, a possible bubble team. A win over SMU tonight won't mean much heading into SEC play, but the first seven in the league are very, very manageable. If the Rebels want to prove they're for real, they need to navigate early road games against the bottom of the league.
BL: MTSU (although the Blue Raiders are solid), at Southern Miss (very good RPI)?
Note: Georgia dropped off the list as the Bulldogs' RPI crossed above 100 despite winning.
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