Bubble Watch: Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, Atlantic 10 (Cont.)
Locks: Ohio State, Michigan State
No one is untouchable in this deep conference, but the Buckeyes and Spartans remain very well positioned even after road losses this week. In a league that should get at least seven bids, having only two locks is probably strict, but standards are increasing this week across the board.
SHOULD BE IN
Indiana (15-3, 3-3; RPI: 12, SOS: 32)
A surprising loss to feisty Minnesota and then getting routed at Ohio State drops the Hoosiers to 3-3 and into this category for now, even though they're still a 3-seed in this week's bracket. Indiana doesn't shoot the three a ton, but was the nation's best three-point shooting team before going 11-for-39 in the two losses. This is a "should get healthy" week at Nebraska and then home to Penn State.
GW: Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan, at N.C. State?
Illinois (15-3, 4-1; RPI: 16, SOS: 23)
The Illini played once last week, but what a one it was, with Brandon Paul's explosion taking them past Ohio State for a huge marquee win their resume lacked. Offensive consistency remains a question but some things are percolating on that end. The next five games -- at Penn State, Wisconsin, at Minnesota, Michigan State, Northwestern -- are a big chance to consolidate what they have accomplished before a challenging final stretch of road games.
GW: Ohio State, Gonzaga, at Northwestern?
Michigan (13-4, 4-2; RPI: 26, SOS: 34)
Every time I really want to buy on Michigan, they have a so-so performance that worries me, and a 16-point loss to Iowa would qualify. After hosting Michigan State tonight in a huge intrastate battle, the Wolverines head to Arkansas for a no-win late-season nonconference clash.
GW: Memphis (probably will look OK in March), Iowa State?, Wisconsin?
BL: at Iowa
IN THE MIX
Wisconsin (14-5, 3-3; RPI: 46, SOS: 39)
The Badgers played their worst game of the season Sunday and were crushed by the Giants ... oh, wait, that was the Packers. Sorry, the Badgers won twice last week to get back to .500 in the league, including a credible win at Purdue. Now Northwestern arrives for an unexpectedly big game on Wednesday before a trip to league-leading Illinois on the weekend.
GW: UNLV, BYU (N)
Northwestern (12-5, 2-3; RPI: 25, SOS: 7)
The Wildcats won't care that Michigan State was slightly shorthanded and neither will the NCAA committee, which doesn't discount wins assuming the foe would have performed better at full strength. Beating the Spartans was a huge lift for the profile. Now the Wildcats need to show they can do some work on the road. This week at Wisconsin and Minnesota is a good place to start.
GW: Michigan State, Seton Hall
Purdue (13-5, 3-2; RPI: 49, SOS: 48)
The Boilermakers may regret the home loss to Wisconsin. After this week's visit from Iowa, the schedule gets murderous. The next eight include home-and-homes with Michigan State and Northwestern, away to Ohio State and Illinois, and home to Michigan and Indiana. There will be lots of chances for resume enhancing wins, but will there be enough wins, even with two soft home games coming late.
GW: Temple, Illinois, Iona?
BL: Butler, at Penn State
Minnesota (14-5, 2-4; RPI: 40, SOS: 31)
Want to stay on the watch? Go grab two road wins, including a huge one at Indiana. Nice job, Gophers. Northwestern is next up in a huge swing game for both teams. The Gophers likely need to win that one to have reasonable at-large hopes.
GW: at Indiana
There are no true quality wins to be had, so quantity will be the currency of the realm. Cal and Stanford are best positioned, but things will continue to change as the schedule unfolds.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
California (15-4, 5-1; RPI: 41, SOS: 92)
The Golden Bears staved off Colorado in a clunky affair before doing what teams are supposed to do Utah. The only thing Cal can do is keep holding serve, win the league and assume (probably correctly) that that will be enough for a bid, just like in 2010. They very well could end the season without a top-50 win again. Big game on tap at Washington on Thursday. Separation at the top will be important.
Stanford (15-3, 5-1; RPI: 69, SOS: 184)
Barely beating Utah: bad. Trouncing Colorado: good. Another 2-0 week: All the Cardinal can do is to keep adding wins to a lightish profile. I think Cal's the better team, but the Cardinal have better wins. We'll find out on the court at the end of the month after a trip to the Washington schools this weekend.
GW: Colorado State?, NC State?
Arizona (12-6, 3-2; RPI: 64, SOS: 45)
In a league where you have to keep holding serve at home, the Wildcats dropped a disappointing game to Oregon last week after needing overtime to dispatch Oregon State. This is not very convincing at this stage. The profile is empty and the team is so-so at the moment. Now they have the Newbie Roadie at Utah and Colorado.
BL: at UCLA?
Washington (11-6, 4-1; RPI: 94; SOS: 90)
Needing a final-minute's push to dispatch Seattle was not a great statement, but beating Washington State by 10 keeps the Huskies in a tie for first in the loss column. Up next is a home weekend against Cal and Stanford, where a sweep will greatly help the Huskies chances of nabbing an at-large.
BL: Home to South Dakota State by 19, at Nevada?
Oregon (13-5, 4-2; RPI: 57, SOS: 61)
My preseason "best darkhorse pick to win a high-major league" is back in the mix after a road sweep of the Arizona schools. Now the Ducks get the L.A. schools and Oregon State at home before a trip to Utah and Colorado. Anything less than 8-3 entering the Washington home game would be disappointing.
GW: at Arizona?
Colorado (9-6, 3-2; RPI: 63; SOS: 17)
So much for that first-place thing for now after getting swept in the Bay Area. Now the Buffs need to sweep the Arizona schools at home, as seven of their last 11 are away and Colorado is rarely a good road team.
BL: Maryland (N)?, Wyoming?
More than any other conference, the NCAA picture looks fairly clear here. The SEC looks fairly likely to only be a five-bid league, unless someone else can string something together quickly. As Kentucky is finding out, road games are never easy, so I'm eager to see the Cats tested away at one of the other probable NCAA teams.
SHOULD BE IN
Alabama (13-4, 2-1; RPI: 19, SOS: 21)
A close road loss at Mississippi State may have slightly shifted the balance between the old "West" foes, since they're still playing the same schedules this season. Home to Vanderbilt and then away to Kentucky provides a huge proving ground week for the Tide.
GW: Wichita State, Purdue?
BL: None, really
Vanderbilt (13-4, 3-0; RPI: 32, SOS: 22)
Quietly, the Commodores are 3-0 in the league and showing signs of being the team many thought they could be before the season. This is a testing week, with a Thursday trip to Alabama before a quick Saturday turnaround against Mississippi State at home.
GW: at Marquette, NC State? At Davidson?
BL: Indiana State, Cleveland State?
Mississippi State (15-3, 2-1; RPI: 39, SOS: 89)
Good job to handle Tennessee and Alabama at home in a pair of four-point decisions. Now the Bulldogs must show they can handle the road after the league-opening defeat at Arkansas. Trips to Mississippi and Vanderbilt this week will provide the latest soundcheck.
GW: Arizona?, West Virginia
BL: Akron at home
IN THE MIX
Florida (14-4, 2-1; RPI: 45, SOS: 115)
The Gators continue to tread through the soft beginning of their SEC schedule, and now get LSU at home and a trip to Mississippi before things get trickier (albeit heavily at home). Check back next week.
GW: Arizona?, Florida State?
BL: at Rutgers, at Tennessee
No one's unbeaten in conference play after just four games, and 12 of the 14 teams in the league have one or two defeats. It should continue to be wild in this league, with no true heavyweight at this point and 11 teams in the RPI top 100. How many bids will depend on how much separation can be created by the top few and the others.
SHOULD BE IN
Dayton (13-5, 3-1; RPI: 27, SOS: 10)
Give the Flyers a bit of a pass on their first conference loss, since they were shorthanded at St. Bonaventure without Chris Johnson (in addition to losing Josh Benson for the season). With Johnson back, they edged La Salle to split the week. Next up: the standard grudge match with Xavier.
GW: Alabama, Ole Miss, at Temple (plus a couple others losing steam)
BL: at Miami (Ohio), Buffalo by 29?
Temple (11-5, 1-2; RPI: 24, SOS: 18)
Beat Duke, lose to Dayton, win at Saint Louis, lose at Richmond. The inconsistency continues for the Owls, who should be much more stable (and formidable) when Michael Eric gets back to give them some size inside. They stay local this week, hosting city rival La Salle before facing Maryland at the Palestra.
GW: Wichita State (N), Duke, at Saint Louis
BL: at Bowling Green, at Richmond?
IN THE MIX
Xavier (12-5, 3-1; RPI: 43, SOS: 27)
The Musketeers are re-finding their footing in time for a trio of tests. Saint Joe's arrives at Cintas Center Wednesday night, followed by a weekend trip to Dayton before Saint Louis comes in next week. This team had too much solid mojo for it to completely disappear, but we'll see after this series of games.
GW: at Vanderbilt, Purdue
BL: at Hawaii, at La Salle?
Saint Louis (13-4, 2-2; RPI: 59, SOS: 116)
Losing at home to Temple was a step back in the early shuffle atop the league, dropping the Billikens to 0-2 against presumed contenders and losers of three of their last five, all in fairly tough fashion. They need to handle Duquesne at home before shot No. 3, this one at Xavier.
GW: Oklahoma (N), Villanova (N)?, Washington?
BL: at Loyola Marymount
Saint Joseph's (12-6, 2-2; RPI: 52, SOS: 43)
Losing at surprising UMass drops the Hawks a peg and now they have to go to the Cintas Center before playing a Big 5 game at scrappy Penn. Then Dayton arrives before trips to Temple and Richmond. Conclusion: This could be a make-or-break stretch for Saint Joe's.
BL: at American, Charlotte?
Massachusetts (14-4, 3-1; RPI: 61, SOS: 131)
Credit to the Minutemen for winning games they should to get into position. Home wins over Charlotte and St. Joe's are credible. Now seven of the next 11 in league play are on the road, so we'll see how much UMass has improved from last season. Nothing huge in the profile, so it needs to rack up wins.
GW: None, really
BL: None, really
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