Bubble Watch: Atlantic 10, Mountain West, Missouri Valley (Cont.)
Not a great week for the league as Saint Joe's, Saint Louis and Xavier all punted on chances for solid resume-building wins. Dayton continues to impress while Temple continues to confound. With Xavier's ongoing fade, when these teams start meeting head to head in league play, there's really no telling what will happen.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Temple (9-3, 0-0; RPI: 28, SOS: 65)
Two more close calls against modest or worse foes aren't helping the Owls inspire confidence entering a "home" date (at the Wachovia Center) against Duke. Their start to A-10 play isn't easy, either, with Dayton visiting and then trips to Saint Louis and Richmond.
GW: Wichita State (N)
BL: at Bowling Green
Dayton (11-4, 0-0; RPI: 36, SOS: 16)
The Flyers picked up another good win, taking out Ole Miss by double digits. Combine that with the win over Alabama and Dayton could be favored to take the SEC West. There's no grace period for the start of A-10 play. The Flyers host Saint Louis and then travel to Temple.
GW: Alabama, Minnesota (N)?, Fairfield (N)?, Ole Miss
BL: at Miami (Ohio), Buffalo by 29?
Xavier (9-4, 0-0; RPI: 58, SOS: 35)
No excuses this time, as the full-strength Musketeers couldn't handle Gonzaga at home on New Year's Eve. That's now four losses in five games heading into league play (with a Feb. 4 game against Memphis also remaining). The A-10 slate opens up favorable for the struggling X-men, with a road trip to La Salle and Fordham before having four of the next five at home. Something's got to give. This team's too good to cave.
GW: at Vandy, Purdue
BL: at Hawaii
Saint Joseph's (9-4, 0-0; RPI: 37, SOS: 45)
The Hawks could barely miss the basket for the first three-quarters of the game at Harvard and then watched a double-digit lead evaporate in the final 10 minutes to lose by five. That game kicked off a stretch of seven of 10 on the road, so we'll see what the Hawks are made of over the next few weeks.
BL: at American
Saint Louis (11-2, 0-0; RPI: 59, SOS: 211)
The Billikens missed a great chance for a nice resume boost, falling by four at New Mexico. That may have been the best win on a docket that already includes Washington, BC, Villanova and Oklahoma. They're at Dayton on Wednesday in what's suddenly a pretty meaningful matchup.
GW: Oklahoma (N), Villanova (N)?, Washington?
BL: at Loyola Marymount
Massachusetts (11-3, 0-0; RPI: 75, SOS: 187)
The Minutemen squeak in on the RPI cutoff. They're going to have to do some serious A-10 work to bolster a profile that's currently 1-3 against the top 100.
The Rebels left it late on their Hawaiian holiday, but they got past the Rainbows and continue to sit comfortably atop the conference pecking order. San Diego State and New Mexico continue to make this look like a three-bid league. And that doesn't count Colorado State as a potential bidjacker.
SHOULD BE IN
San Diego State (11-2, 0-0; RPI: 43, SOS: 120)
The Aztecs have taken the holiday season literally. Since a Dec. 4 win over Cal, San Diego State has played San Diego, UC Riverside, Elon, D-III University of Redlands and now hosts NAIA San Diego Christian on Thursday before hosting RPI 317 Chicago State. The Aztecs played a bunch of good games in a row early, so the overall slate isn't bad, but think they might have an adjustment issue when UNLV visits on Jan. 14?
GW: at Arizona, Cal, Long Beach State
IN THE MIX
New Mexico (11-2, 0-0; RPI: 48, SOS: 125)
Plaster New Mexico State on the road to avenge an earlier upset? Check. Hold off Saint Louis to pick up a solid home win? Check. The turn-of-the-year was kind to the Lobos, who made a big move up the S-curve this week. Now they must navigate Great West tandem Houston Baptist and North Dakota before opening league play at Wyoming on Jan. 14.
GW: Saint Louis?
BL: Santa Clara (N), New Mexico State?
Colorado State (9-4, 0-0; RPI: 35, SOS: 37)
The Rams won the Sun Bowl Invitational at UTEP this past week, beating the host Miners for a victory that's better than the RPI looks on paper. This week is non-DI only before a tricky in-state battle with Denver. The computer numbers look good, but the Rams have whiffed on their four best quality chances.
GW: None, really
This season has started as the converse of 2006, with a couple of top teams already losing at home. That will drag down the RPIs across the league if that pattern keeps happening. That said, this still feels like it should end up a multi-bid league.
SHOULD BE IN
Creighton (11-2, 1-1; RPI: 21, SOS: 60)
The Bluejays avoided a damaging 0-2 league start, rallying from a halftime deficit at Wichita State to win after losing at home to Missouri State. The next five are more manageable before a return trip to Missouri State on Jan. 18.
GW: at San Diego State, at Wichita State, Northwestern?
BL: Missouri State at home?
IN THE MIX
Wichita State (9-3, 1-1; RPI: 29, SOS: 21)
Doh. The Shockers had a chance to get a big jump on Creighton and couldn't close the deal, getting throttled in the second half at home. Not that any night is easy, but the next four are against the bottom part of the league before a testing trip to Indiana State and Northern Iowa. The final seven games are very stiff, so the Shockers need to rack up some wins now.
Northern Iowa (9-4, 0-2; RPI: 23, SOS: 8)
Whoops. After losing to Ohio, the Shockers entered league play and suffered two more defeats, both to teams outside the top 150. As mentioned last week, the computer numbers were better than what the team likely was, but this was unexpected. Real trouble now looms. Eight of the next nine league games are against top-100 teams, including at Creighton, Missouri State and Indiana State.
GW: at Iowa State?, Colorado State?
BL: at Illinois State, Evansville
Indiana State (9-3, 1-1; RPI: 63, SOS: 147)
Drake's not bad, but getting handled there by double-digits isn't the stuff of at-large contenders. They can make up for that misstep this week at Northern Iowa and then home to Missouri State.
GW: at Vandy, Fairfield (N)?
BL: at Boise State
SHOULD BE IN
Southern Miss (11-2, 0-0; RPI: 17, SOS: 66)
The Golden Eagles won twice more and dropped 14 spots in the RPI. Thanks, Alcorn State and McNeese State! Southern Miss should be able to navigate league-opening games against East Carolina and at Tulane before heading to Memphis on Jan. 11 for the first of two meetings in about three weeks.
GW: Ole Miss, at Colorado State, sweep of New Mexico State?
IN THE MIX
Memphis (8-5, 0-0; RPI: 40, SOS: 5)
The Tigers looked better last week, handling decent Robert Morris and Charlotte teams in a proxy for what much of the C-USA schedule will feel like. They host Tennessee on Wednesday in what's really a must-win game against the struggling Vols. Then they're at UAB before hosting Southern Miss.
GW: Belmont?, at Miami?
Marshall (8-4, 0-0; RPI: 73, SOS: 62)
Vey bad week for the Herd, who lost at Belmont (understandable) and at home to Akron (Mississippi State approves!). They still have a nonleague meeting with West Virginia and have six games against Southern Miss, Memphis and UCF, so all's not lost, but it's leaking.
BL: Akron at home
Gonzaga and Saint Mary's continue to set the pace in the conference, although neither has tested the unfriendly confines of the Marriott Center yet. Those games come back-to-back on Jan. 28 and Feb. 2. The league looks quite solid for two bids and three is certainly possible, especially with a surprise tourney winner.
SHOULD BE IN
Gonzaga (11-2, 0-0; RPI: 6, SOS: 10)
Big week for the Zags, who crushed Portland and then got a big win at Xavier. Santa Clara may give the Zags half a game on the back end of this upcoming two-game homestand before they visit Saint Mary's for the first of what very well could be three meetings this season.
GW: at Xavier, Arizona (N)?
Saint Mary's (11-2, 2-0; RPI: 24, SOS: 70)
The Gaels welcomed BYU to the league by scorching the Cougars for 98 points in a 16-point win, the rolled at Pepperdine. After what should be wins at San Diego and home to South Florida, Gonzaga comes calling.
GW: Northern Iowa, BYU?
IN THE MIX
BYU (10-4, 1-1; RPI: 64, SOS: 78)
The Cougars found out the top of the league is pretty darn tough when they got rolled at Saint Mary's in their WCC debut. Now the schedule turns really soft until a trip to Virginia Tech for some nonleague fun on Jan. 25.
BL: at Utah State?
Note: Not all teams in the RPI top 50 are included. A lot would need to go right for any of these teams to earn an at-large, but it's not impossible, especially for the first two on the list.
Murray State (11-0, 2-0; RPI: 15, SOS: 146)
The Racers have about a one in three chance of running the table. A game on Wednesday against Eastern Kentucky, at No. 192, is the only top-200 opponent currently on the schedule, although the eventual BracketBusters game in February will be a very good opponent.
GW: at Memphis, Dayton, Southern Miss
Harvard (11-1, 0-0; RPI: 22, SOS: 137)
The Crimson rolled at Boston College, winning there for the fourth straight season, and then rallied past Saint Joe's at home, setting the table for what could be a very, very big season. As mentioned earlier, if Harvard can (mostly) take care of business in the second half of the slate, a really high seed in the NCAAs is in the offing.
GW: Florida State (N), UCF (N)?, Saint Joe's
Long Beach State (6-6, 1-0; RPI: 13, SOS: 1)
The 49ers won their league opener Monday night. The Big West isn't a walkover (especially not UC-Santa Barbara), but Long Beach State better be pretty close to perfect through the conference tourney final if they want to have serious at-large consideration. The win at Pitt is starting to lose some luster and the win over Xavier came with the X-men short-handed.
GW: at Pitt, Xavier (N)
BL: at Montana
Ohio (11-2, 0-0; RPI: 38, SOS: 110)
Oops. Robert Morris is solid, but that's a game an at-large candidate from a mid-major conference has to get at home. Wiggle room is rapidly diminishing in the always-balanced MAC.
GW: at Marshall, at UNI
BL: Robert Morris at home?
Iona (10-3, 2-0; RPI: 30, SOS: 87)
The Gaels couldn't get through the last game of their month-long road trip unscathed, dropping a surprising decision at Hofstra. With Saint Joe's and Denver also losing this week, Iona's profile took a hit. They open MAAC play tonight against Siena.
GW: Saint Joe's, at Denver
BL: at Hofstra
Wagner (10-3, 1-1; RPI: 45, SOS: 110)
An at-large from the NEC? Remains highly unlikely, but the league's decent at the top this season and Wagner's done a bit of work already. The Seahawks won the Cable Car Classic on one of the shots (albeit technically illegal) of the season to keep the roll going.
GW: at Pittsburgh
BL: at Long Island, home to Lehigh