North Carolina's title hopes in jeopardy, more Bubble Watch
UNC's 33-point loss to FSU left many wondering if the Tarheels are a contender
Syracuse, Georgetown, Seton Hall, UConn are poised for Big East bids this year
Cal and Stanford continue to be the only teams in the Pac-12 that could score bids
One game is usually just that -- a single data point in a team's overall resume. Bad nights happen, which is why small-sample bias exists (and should be ignored). Sometimes, though, a result is so shocking that it hints at something more to come.
On Saturday, Florida State 90, North Carolina 57, might have been one of those games.
Simply put, national title contenders very, very rarely lose by that kind of margin. Per The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy, the greatest margin of defeat in the past two decades for an eventual national champ was 26, when North Carolina lost at unranked Wake Forest on Jan. 30, 1993. For a Final Four team, this happened as recently as the 2008-09 season, when Michigan State lost at Ford Field to North Carolina by 35 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and then went on to make the national title game, where the Spartans lost by 17 to that same Heels squad.
Given it was just an eight-point game at the half, the way the Heels rolled over as the margin expanded was an alarming punctuation point on a season thus far that has mostly been stuck in third gear. Then mix in the Abandoned Five, with Roy Williams serving up a not-entirely-plausible explanation for walking off the floor early and leaving his reserves to get swamped by courtstormers, and you have a complete disaster of a day.
Yes, it's just one game. One very bad game. But sometimes, a bad game means a lot more. We'll see.
A quick reminder on the standard rules of engagement:
Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA Tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Sunday's collegerpi.com RPI report. GW = good wins. BL = bad losses. (N) = neutral-site game.
Auto bids go to the best RPI of the conference leaders (based on fewest league losses).
Locks: Duke, North Carolina
Even the top of the ACC is down. Ignore the ramifications of the 33-point UNC loss at Florida State and realize that the Heels have lost their last three road games (to UNLV, Kentucky and now Florida State), twice in decisive fashion. Duke also has not impressed recently, and really should have lost to Virginia at home on the balance of play. Due to good scheduling, both will earn strong NCAA seeds, but there are several leagues clearly better at this point, top to bottom.
SHOULD BE IN
Virginia (14-2, 1-1; RPI: 35, SOS: 145)
Moral victories rarely are acceptable, but for a rising team like Virginia, just missing at Cameron may be the rare exception. Without a complete outlier shooting performance from three, the Hoos would have won, and that validates a lot of what they have accomplished this season. Mike Scott (much like Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor last season) is not getting enough attention because of Virginia's slow tempo. He's a clear National Player of the Year candidate at this stage.
GW: Michigan, at LSU?
IN THE MIX
Florida State (11-6, 2-1; RPI: 47, SOS: 11)
Where was that -- any of that -- all season? In what is the national performance of the year so far, the Seminoles #poleaxed North Carolina, 90-57. Does one win wash over a season of disappointment? No, but it will stand out in neon lights as an indication of what this 'Noles team can do on the right night. That never hurts.
GW: North Carolina
BL: Princeton at home?, at Clemson
North Carolina State (13-5, 2-1; RPI: 58, SOS: 27)
The Wolfpack sort of canceled themselves out this week, losing at home to Georgia Tech before crushing Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. Now they get Boston College at home before the wheat meets the chaff, with five of the next seven on the road along with a visit from Virginia.
GW: None, really.
BL: Georgia Tech
Miami (9-6, 0-2; RPI: 61, SOS: 28)
Most ACC teams will lose at Virginia and North Carolina this season, so the fact that Miami is 0-2 isn't that worrisome. If Reggie Johnson can find his full groove soon, the Canes will be heard from. The schedule softens considerably now, starting with Clemson and N.C. State at home.
Virginia Tech (11-6, 0-3; RPI: 83, SOS: 72)
The annual bubble boys may not even achieve that status this season unless things turn quickly. Losing at Wake was disappointing. Losing at Boston College is flat-out bad. Now mega-peeved Carolina comes to Blacksburg ahead of a trip to Virginia. At 0-5, it would be an enormous mountain to climb. There's no certainty 9-7 will be enough in a soft ACC and the Hokies have plenty of tests left, most on the road.
GW: None, really
BL: at Wake Forest, at Boston College
Locks: Baylor, Kansas, Missouri
Well, looks like the champs won't be rolling over so easily after Kansas rolled over Baylor at Allen Fieldhouse Monday night. How will Baylor respond going home to host Missouri?
SHOULD BE IN
Kansas State (12-4, 1-3; RPI: 33, SOS: 33)
Lose at Kansas? Fine. Lose at home to Baylor by two? Understandable. Lose at Oklahoma? Hmmm. The good news is that the Wildcats are done with half of their games against the other three top teams. They need to stabilize against Texas at home and start beating the lesser teams in the league.
GW: Alabama , Missouri
BL: at Oklahoma?
IN THE MIX
Iowa State (12-5, 2-2; RPI: 54, SOS: 36)
Finding out that the Cyclones aren't quite as good as Missouri or Kansas at this point doesn't invalidate things. If they keep taking care of business when they should and nick a quality win or two at some point, they should be OK. This week -- Oklahoma State and at Texas Tech -- is one of those "take care of business" weeks.
GW: None, really
BL: at Drake?
Texas (12-5, 2-2; RPI: 63, SOS: 76)
Beat Texas A&M and lost at Missouri, so no real progress for the Longhorns this week, plus their Temple win has been getting a bit of tarnish. The schedule is brutal right now; they play at Kansas State before hosting Kansas this week. That said, they need quality win chances, and need to take some of them.
BL: Oregon State?
Oklahoma (11-5, 1-3; RPI: 67, SOS: 64)
Losing at Oklahoma State was disappointing, but then the Sooners ambushed Kansas State to save their week and maybe their season. If they can handle Texas Tech and a trip to Texas A&M this week, they'll be 3-3 when Baylor comes calling on Jan. 24, the start of a very rough stretch of tests.
GW: Kansas State
Locks: Syracuse, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Connecticut
The Pirates bricked a late front-end of a 1-and-1 and lost by a point at South Florida in a "can you handle prosperity" test. The Bulls have improved since early in the year, so this isn't a terrible loss, but it's a sign that Seton Hall may not quite be ready for the lofty expectations being formed by several big wins. UConn has stabilized again and moves back into this category.
SHOULD BE IN
West Virginia (13-5, 4-2; RPI: 14, SOS: 2)
Lost a tough game in Hartford to UConn before easily handling Rutgers at home. No shame in that week, and the Mountaineers remain well on track for a strong NCAA seed. Now they face a very tough test against in-state rival Marshall before hosting resurgent Cincinnati.
GW: K-State (N), Georgetown
BL: None, really
Marquette (15-4, 4-2; RPI: 17, SOS: 16)
After falling behind 18-2 to Louisville, the Golden Eagles stormed back to grab a comfortable win and move to 4-2 in the league. The next seven, by typical Big East standards, are very soft, so if #TBW can keep its act together, they could be in the running for a second-place finish entering the final five games.
GW: at Wisconsin, Louisville?, Ole Miss (N)?
BL: at LSU?
IN THE MIX
Louisville (14-5, 2-4; RPI: 42, SOS: 52)
Happy Homecoming, Rick! Here's a 31-point pounding at Providence to mark the occasion! Beating DePaul comfortably doesn't salve the wounds of blowing an early 16-point lead at Marquette on Monday. Now the Cards are two games under .500 in the league and head to desperate Pitt next.
GW: Vanderbilt, Long Beach State?, Memphis?
BL: Home to Notre Dame?, at Providence by 31
Cincinnati (14-4, 4-1; RPI: 107, SOS: 211)
The Bearcats' rancid nonleague schedule continues to haunt them, but this team's playing good basketball since it went smaller post-#zipemup. Now 4-1 in the league, can the Bearcats step up to the plate in road tests this week at UConn and West Virginia? They've already won at Pitt (I know, everyone's doing it) and Georgetown.
GW: at Georgetown, Oklahoma?, Pitt??
BL: St. John's, Presbyterian