Will multiple Pac-12 teams make the NCAAs? More Bubble Watch
Lack of bid thieves could help several Pac-12 teams make the NCAA tournament
After beating Baylor, Missouri (18-1) is by far this season's biggest surprise
Can New Mexico recover to score a third bid for the Mountain West conference?
Last night on Twitter, I posted the Pac-12's updated nonconference records: 1-23 against the RPI top 50 (the one is Stanford over Colorado State) and 8-41 against the top 100.
By any interpretation, those numbers are horrific. The Pac-12 does not have one marquee win all season and the Sun Belt, as a conference, has been more imposing in both of those subcategories. Even California, with an RPI of 35 as of Monday, has zilch in the way of at-large legitimacy, and the league leaders keep dropping games, further weakening their causes.
So how is it that two Pac-12 teams are in this week's bracket and two others very easily could have squeezed in? Because you have to have 37 at-large bids to complete the bracket and we're assuming, for now, that there are no upsets in smaller conference tournaments. That means that the cutline is as weak as it possibly can be, since there are no unanticipated bid thieves in the process.
Whether the Pac-12 becomes the first "power conference" to garner just one bid in the 64-plus team era depends on a few things (with a huge piece being Cal winning both the league and the auto bid), but it's not impossible. Teams from other leagues lurking around the cutline will have chances to add marquee wins that the Pac-12 candidates will not. As those wins add up and the bubble contracts, like it always does during championship week when the unexpected happens, Pac-12 resumes will look weaker and weaker unless someone can create clear separation at the top of the conference.
If things continue as they have been, the NCAA selection committee's mantra of "teams, not conferences" could be put to a very stringent test. It's worth noting that the committee will have members from the WCC (Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich), Big West (UC Riverside AD Stan Morrison), WAC (Utah State AD Scott Barnes) and Big Sky (Commissioner Doug Fullerton). That means 40 percent of the committee should be familiar with the Pac-12 ... and represent leagues that may benefit from its current condition.
A quick reminder on the standard rules of engagement:
1) Auto bids go to the best RPI of the conference leaders (based on fewest league losses).
2) Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Monday's collegerpi.com RPI report. GW = good wins. BL = bad losses. (N) = neutral-site game.
Locks: Duke, North Carolina
Remember last week when I mentioned the top of the ACC is down? Yup, Duke then got Snaered at Cameron for the first time in about 300 seasons. Also, you know it's a crazy year when the preseason No. 1 team (North Carolina) isn't part of a three-way tie for first that includes N.C. State and Florida State. That said, this kind of mayhem may lead to more bids for the muddled middle of the league.
SHOULD BE IN
Florida State (13-6, 4-1; RPI: 23, SOS: 4)
Without researching it, I'll go out on a limb and say that the Seminoles are the first team ever to beat Duke and North Carolina and lose to Princeton and Harvard in the same season. The team many thought would appear in November seems to have arrived in January, with Michael Snaer's Duke-beating three at the buzzer providing the marquee win of all marquee wins in this league.
GW: North Carolina, at Duke
BL: Princeton at home, at Clemson
Virginia (15-3, 2-2; RPI: 53, SOS: 136)
Off the Duke near-miss last week, a home loss to Virginia Tech (as desperate as the Hokies were) is disappointing. We may continue to see some inconsistency as the home schedule remains soft for awhile but the road slate gets testing. Computer numbers are slipping as Michigan and LSU add losses.
GW: Michigan, at LSU?
BL: Virginia Tech?
IN THE MIX
North Carolina State (15-5, 4-1; RPI: 55, SOS: 54)
It's a soft 4-1, but it's 4-1, which is the kind of start the Wolfpack needed heading into the meat of the ACC schedule. Now things get real with a trip to Chapel Hill and then a visit from Virginia.
GW: at Miami?
BL: Georgia Tech
Miami (10-7, 1-3; RPI: 67, SOS: 20)
The Canes get one more week of injury-related benefit of the doubt, but a home loss to N.C. State is a killer for a team that needs wins badly. If the Canes can't sweep at Georgia Tech and Boston College this week, it doesn't look very good.
BL: None, really
Note: Maryland has one win in the top 98 of the RPI as of Monday. No bad losses + no good wins = no good profile. Virginia Tech got a good win at Virginia, but is still 1-4 in the league. Not close right now.
Locks: Kansas, Missouri, Baylor
Baylor's profile is still a clear lock, but the outlook for the Bears is much cloudier after they were manhandled at Kansas and then outworked at home by Missouri. The Tigers, up to No. 2 in the nation, are the biggest surprise in the land. If you're still waiting for them to fold, don't bother.
SHOULD BE IN
Kansas State (14-4, 3-3; RPI: 25, SOS: 40)
The Wildcats slipped past Texas and then won at Oklahoma State to even up their league mark. The next five include a home-and-home with Texas Tech and home dates with Oklahoma and Texas A&M. In other words, they should be 7-4 (or better) heading into a mid-February gauntlet.
GW: Alabama, Missouri
BL: at Oklahoma?
IN THE MIX
Iowa State (14-5, 4-2; RPI: 52, SOS: 64)
The Cyclones did TCOB, getting two wins over the bottom of the league. That's going to be part of the magic formula this season. Now they need to pick up a quality win or two and they'll be in strong shape.
GW: None, really
BL: at Drake?
Note: Texas and Oklahoma are both 2-4 in the league and only have one strong win apiece, with neither team inside the RPI top 70. It's not happening right now. We can revisit as needed.
Locks: Syracuse, Georgetown, West Virginia, Seton Hall
Seton Hall's profile remains a lock for now, but things are slowly unwinding. In truth, this league has six teams that look extremely likely to dance and two others who could.
SHOULD BE IN
Marquette (15-4, 4-2; RPI: 17, SOS: 16)
There ain't gonna be no three-peat. After a back-to-back reign as Team Bubble Watch, the Golden Eagles are going to pass on the crown. Post your new #TBW suggestions at that Twitter hashtag.
GW: at Wisconsin, Louisville?, Ole Miss (N)?
BL: at LSU?
Connecticut (14-5, 4-3; RPI: 17, SOS: 8)
Two losses last week -- home to Cincinnati and at Tennessee -- makes it four defeats in six games and drops the Huskies a level. They better handle Notre Dame at home on Sunday because the four after that are rough, with trips to Georgetown, Louisville and Syracuse around a visit from Seton Hall.
GW: Florida State (N), West Virginia, Harvard?
BL: at Rutgers, at Tennessee
IN THE MIX
Cincinnati (15-6, 5-3; RPI: 91, SOS: 164)
Will the Bearcats end up ruing these last few days, where they let a huge road win at West Virginia slip away and then couldn't take out Melo-less Syracuse at home? Four of the five remaining road games are against the soft portion of the league, so 10-8 or better is very possible, but will that be enough?
GW: at Georgetown, Oklahoma?, Pitt?
BL: St. John's, Presbyterian
Louisville (15-5, 3-4; RPI: 41, SOS: 47)
The Cardinals did what everyone's done: beat Pitt, but at least this was on the road. The Cardinals still have four very difficult road tests and home dates with Syracuse and Connecticut, so this could be close.
GW: Vanderbilt, Long Beach State?, Memphis?
BL: Home to Notre Dame?, at Providence by 31
Locks: Ohio State, Michigan State
Only seven games into the league slate and everyone has at least two losses. The quality of depth in the league this season is outstanding. Will some of the teams eat their own, though? Teams like Iowa and Minnesota may not make the dance, but each win they nab weakens someone else's case, too.
SHOULD BE IN
Indiana (16-4, 4-4; RPI: 20, SOS: 37)
The Hoosiers dumped a bad game at Nebraska before handling Penn State at home. Forget the rest of the league slate this week, though. Why on Earth is Indiana hosting North Carolina Central on Feb. 22? Totally useless RPI killing game when your kids could get an additional week's rest ahead of March? Not sure I like it ...
GW: Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan, at N.C. State?
BL: Minnesota?, at Nebraska
Illinois (15-5, 4-3; RPI: 37, SOS: 27)
Missouri as my preseason "flop team" was a megawhiff, but did I properly sniff out the Illini as my midseason fade? They're starting to play with some fire after losing at Penn State and home to Wisconsin last week. The league road schedule still has trips to Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin, plus this week's trip to feisty Minnesota. Several home games are testers, too.
GW: Ohio State, Gonzaga, at Northwestern?
BL: at Penn State
Michigan (14-5, 5-2; RPI: 28, SOS: 36)
From last week's BW: "Every time I really want to buy on Michigan, they have a so-so performance that worries me." So yeah, fresh off a stirring one-point home win over Michigan State, the Wolverines went to Arkansas and trailed 198-2. Or something like that. Hard team to figure out.
GW: Michigan State, Memphis (N)?, Iowa State?, Wisconsin
BL: at Iowa, at Arkansas?
Wisconsin (16-5, 5-3; RPI: 32, SOS: 26)
The Badgers continue their roll, beating Northwestern handily and then picking up a solid road win at Illinois, with Jordan Taylor looking the part. Now the Badgers need to make Kohl back into the fortress it normally is, with Indiana and Ohio State visits around a trip to Penn State.
GW: UNLV, BYU (N), at Illinois
IN THE MIX
Purdue (14-6, 4-3; RPI: 50, SOS: 46)
The Boilermakers were only a four-point dog at Michigan State, which led me to search the web for 10 minutes to see if I somehow missed multiple Spartan injuries. The line made no sense and neither did Purdue's performance, which was straight ugly. There are no easy road games left, so the Boilers will have to ride some Mackey magic if they want to dance.
GW: Temple, Iona?
BL: Butler, at Penn State
Minnesota (15-5, 3-4; RPI: 47, SOS: 49)
Give the short-handed Gophers credit. They have battled all season and now they're getting wins to reward the effort. They pummeled Northwestern on Sunday and now have a big week ahead with a trip to East Lansing before a visit from Illinois. The double-overtime loss in Champaign looms pretty large for both teams right now.
GW: at Indiana
Northwestern (12-7, 2-5; RPI: 38, SOS: 7)
For some preposterous reason, @ryanmgreene and I were transfixed on the Wildcats' awful first half effort at Minnesota while watching the Patriots-Ravens game at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. I believe there's a rule that says if you go scoreless for the first eight minutes in an almost-must-win road game, you cannot make the NCAA tournament.
GW: Michigan State, Seton Hall
BL: None, but too many
So league leaders Cal and Stanford travel to the Washington schools and the one team that goes 2-0 for the weekend is Wazzu. That makes perfect sense in this year's Pac-12, which continues its startling march toward one NCAA bid if Cal wins the auto bid (and maybe even if it doesn't).
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
California (16-5, 6-2; RPI: 35, SOS: 65)
Cal got a huge road win at Washington to create some separation ... and then promptly lost at Washington State. Sigh. Other than the fact that we think the team's decent and could win a BCS league, why exactly does Cal have a legit at-large profile? Huge home game with Stanford up next.
BL: at Washington State, at Oregon State
Stanford (15-5, 5-3; RPI: 69, SOS: 184)
Bad weekend for the Cardinal as they were swept in Washington and now have to bounce over to Berkeley for a huge showdown with the Bears. Stanford has the best nonconference wins in the league, but that's not saying much.
GW: Colorado State?, N.C. State?
BL: Butler, at Washington State
Oregon (15-5, 6-2; RPI: 61, SOS: 92)
The Ducks won another pair of games by single digits and move into a share of the league lead. Now they host Oregon State and then play at Utah and Colorado. Should be 8-3, minimum. Mix in that two of the nonleague losses came without Devoe Joseph, and maybe there's an argument the Ducks are ahead of Stanford, even without any real quality wins.
GW: at Arizona? Stanford??
Washington (12-7, 5-2; RPI: 89; SOS: 50)
Lost at home to Cal, which puts a huge dent in Washington's at-large hopes. Beating Stanford was mandatory after that, but Cal was the top-50 win Washington doesn't have. Now the Huskies head to the Arizona schools, with Saturday's matchup in Tucson being crucial.
BL: Home to South Dakota State by 19, at Nevada?
Arizona (13-7, 4-3; RPI: 72, SOS: 68)
The Wildcats missed a final shot to get an important road win at Colorado and remain stuck in neutral. Saturday's home game with Washington is a virtual elimination match as far as at-larges go.
BL: at UCLA?
Colorado (11-6, 5-2; RPI: 62; SOS: 31)
The Buffs bounce back with a sweep of the Arizona schools, holding off the Wildcats by a point to nab a crucial victory. The bad news: seven of their final 11 league games are away.
BL: Maryland (N)?, Wyoming?