Bubble Watch: Mountain West, Missouri Valley, C-USA, More (Cont.)
The Rebels dropped from 12th to 20th in the coaches poll after losing at the buzzer at a ranked San Diego State team, which tells you all you need to know about respect levels for the conference and how much attention the "coaches" pay to actual games and team quality. It was a great start to an early round-robin among the league's three heavy hitters.
SHOULD BE IN
San Diego State (13-2, 1-0; RPI: 37, SOS: 114)
Holding serve against the other big boys is paramount for league placement and possible NCAA seeding and the Aztecs did just enough to slip past UNLV on Jamaal Franklin's last-second floater. Now they get a freeroll of sorts when they play at New Mexico before hosting Air Force on the weekend. Steve Fisher's doing as good a coaching job as there is in the nation this season.
GW: at Arizona, Cal, Long Beach State, UNLV
New Mexico (14-2, 1-0; RPI: 55, SOS: 160)
Don't discount the Lobos getting past the trip to Laramie to open the season. That will be a tricky fixture for everyone this season. Now they enter the octagon with games against San Diego State and at UNLV in a four-day span. We'll learn exactly how improved the Lobos are from some early-season stumbles.
GW: Saint Louis?
BL: Santa Clara (N), New Mexico State?
IN THE MIX
Colorado State (11-4, 1-0; RPI: 22, SOS: 14)
The Rams held off Denver to win the state championship and then escaped league bottomfeeder TCU in double-overtime in their league opener to continue along a path toward at-large consideration. The numbers are misleadingly good, but the Rams will have six shots at very legit wins in league play. Before then, they need to get to 3-0 by handling Boise State and then winning at Wyoming.
GW: None, really
This is a very competitive and tough league that should feel good about its chances of getting two bids and we'll see what happens if an outsider wins Arch Madness. Anyone at the top can beat anyone else, and even the lower-division clubs are becoming thorns in the side of the so-called contenders.
SHOULD BE IN
Creighton (16-2, 6-1; RPI: 20, SOS: 79)
The Bluejays have won six in a row after dropping their league opener to Missouri State. The second-half rally at Wichita State now looms large, given the Jays and Shockers are tied atop the league. And guess who's on the docket next? The return game at Missouri State, which needs the sweep to maintain any realistic hopes of its own.
GW: at San Diego State, at Wichita State, Northwestern?
BL: Missouri State at home?
Wichita State (14-3, 6-1; RPI: 31, SOS: 68)
The Shockers continue to handle the soft underbelly of the Valley. Now they need to handle a trip to Northern Iowa to continue to create the separation needed to make two bids look very likely. After that are two more middling foes at home before things get real down the stretch.
IN THE MIX
Northern Iowa (12-6, 3-4; RPI: 30, SOS: 12)
The Panthers lost a squeaker at Creighton, then beat Missouri State in the final seconds (aided by what looked like a blatant travel that went uncalled), but wasted that gift with a surprising loss at Bradley. If they can't beat Wichita State at home on Wednesday, it's likely lights out in the league, and at-large hopes would look very dicey despite strong computer numbers. The quality wins are missing, as is a strong league record.
GW: at Iowa State?, Colorado State?
BL: at Illinois State, Evansville, at Bradley
Memphis is starting to round into some better form, which makes two bids from this league more possible. Marshall has some huge games coming up that will determine how deep the at-large pool is.
SHOULD BE IN
Memphis (12-5, 3-0; RPI: 28, SOS: 13)
The Tigers barely held off Southern Miss and then dominated Houston on the road to move to 3-0 in the conference. A tricky trip to UCF awaits before a stretch of four of five at home that includes the Southern Miss rematch and a non-league visit from Xavier, which would be another quality win for a resume that could use some more of them.
GW: Southern Miss?, Belmont?, at Miami?
IN THE MIX
Southern Miss (14-3, 3-1; RPI: 15, SOS: 54)
Larry Eustachy. Just. Can't. Beat. Memphis. The Golden Eagles had every chance to do it at FedEx and came up a bucket short. Now they have a stiff home test against Marshall, with placement in the top two in the league likely to be paramount. The league champ was given an NCAA bid (questionably) last year and this season has more solid depth at the top.
GW: Ole Miss, at Colorado State, sweep of New Mexico State?
Marshall (12-4, 4-0; RPI: 34, SOS: 35)
After winning twice by a total of three points to stay perfect in the league, the Herd have reached their measuring point. West Virginia's up in the always heated in-state matchup, then at Southern Miss, home to UAB and at Memphis make up the next four. After that, we'll know all we need to know.
BL: Akron at home
The balance of power, for now, has shifted to Northern California, as the Gaels had another impressive showing in a major head-to-head. This league continues to arc toward a possible three bids.
SHOULD BE IN
Saint Mary's (15-2, 6-0; RPI: 23, SOS: 98)
In the four-game mini-league that will determine the league champ, the Gaels are in strong shape after crushing Gonzaga in Moraga. Combine that with an earlier home romp over BYU and Saint Mary's held serve in its two big home tests and now can freeroll the road legs. Just taking care of business outside those showdowns should see the Gaels into the NCAAs, but six of the final nine are on the road.
GW: Gonzaga, Northern Iowa, BYU?
Gonzaga (14-3, 4-1; RPI: 8, SOS: 11)
Zags fans, I apologize for picking your team as a darkhorse Final Four threat last week. The result was the Zags getting blasted at Saint Mary's and barely slipping past Loyola Marymount on the road. Gonzaga also plays at BYU first, so the Zags could find themselves two games behind Saint Mary's with a lot of pressure to hold serve at K2. First things first, they need to handle San Francisco and San Diego.
GW: at Xavier, Arizona (N)?
IN THE MIX
BYU (13-4, 4-1; RPI: 38, SOS: 64)
The Cougars have three more favorable WCC games and an odd trip to Virginia Tech before the two-game homestand against Saint Mary's and Gonzaga that will decide their league title hopes and possibly their at-large hopes, as well.
BL: at Utah State?
This pool remains very thin, which is great news for the conferences listed above. There are very few bidjackers possible from the traditional one-bid leagues.
Murray State (15-0, 6-0; RPI: 29, SOS: 218)
The computer numbers keep sagging as the Racers keep winning. The best thing Murray State can do is keep that latter trend going while hoping Memphis, Dayton and Southern Miss continue to win, as well.
GW: at Memphis, Dayton, Southern Miss
Harvard (14-2, 1-0; RPI: 50, SOS: 230)
The Crimson aren't in first place in the Ivy! OK, it's just a technicality after Penn opened 2-0 last weekend, but second place is where they'd have to land (or a playoff loss) for this analysis to matter. If the Crimson somehow don't win the league, they may pay the price for a disappointing nonconference schedule. Not their fault, as few wanted to play them, but you get judged on who you play.
GW: Florida State (N), Central Florida (N)?, St. Joe's
BL: at Fordham
Long Beach State (10-6, 5-0; RPI: 53, SOS: 60)
The 49ers better take care of as much business as possible, because Pitt is murdering what looked like their best win on paper. The next three in league play come on the road. Upset alert?
GW: at Pitt, Xavier (N)
BL: at Montana
Iona (14-4, 6-1; RPI: 35, SOS: 84)
A banked-in three at the buzzer saw the Gaels lose at home to Manhattan, a major no-no when it comes to an at-large safety net. They don't have a ton of wiggle room left, and BracketBusters won't pack a ton of punch this season, as the Gaels are a home team and the visitors list is softer.
GW: St. Joe's, at Denver
BL: at Hofstra