Bubble Watch: All hope not lost for UConn on road to NCAA tournament
UConn could break into the NCAA tournament because of a weak at-large field
Syracuse, Georgtown, Marquette lead the Big East, but Louisville isn't far behind
Purdue picked up a valuable road win at Purdue to get back to .500 in the Big Ten
It's about this time every year when public overreaction becomes the rule rather than the exception when it comes to the bubble. Experts and viewers alike are certain teams are in or out -- "They're not an NCAA team!", they state authoritatively -- without actually going through a process of selecting 37 at-large teams and comparing the resume of that specific team with other realistic options.
For example, after witnessing another aimless, toothless performance from UConn Monday night (one that had a decent amount of quit in it, too, but that's a looming issue, not a current evaluation one), it's easy to say the Huskies (15-8, 5-6 Big East) should be an NIT team. They have a losing league mark. They looked terrible at Louisville, as they did at Georgetown and in parts of the losses against Notre Dame and Tennessee. They've lost seven of their last 10 after a so-so nonconference run.
And then you start to look around and count out the at-large slots. And pretty quickly you realize that you are picking teams with zero top-50 wins (Washington and Cal). You are slotting other teams with losing conference records (Dayton and Northwestern). That two of the last teams not to make it are fellow Big East schools Cincinnati (with an RPI of almost 100 thanks to an awful nonleague slate) and Seton Hall (which is sliding worse than UConn and was routed by the Huskies last week).
Suddenly, UConn's four top-50 and eight top-100 wins don't look so bad, and from a perception of maybe being an NIT team rises the reality of a 10-seed in today's new bracket. Because that's how it works. It doesn't matter one bit what you look like. It just matters that there aren't 37 who look better.
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
No change in status this week, although Duke's second home loss in league play, this one to Miami in overtime, is really costly from a seed standpoint. The Tar Heels host the Blue Devils on Wednesday in the first of two regular-season meetings. Florida State continues to shore up its position below here and would move in with another 2-0 week.
SHOULD BE IN
Florida State (16-6, 7-1; RPI: 17, SOS: 9)
It's hard to see the Seminoles missing at this point the tournament despite their sluggish nonconference performance. Two marquee wins, strong computer numbers and what looks fairly certain to be a top-three finish in the ACC should be more than enough for an NCAA bid. Edging Virginia on Saturday created solid separation from the pack and the schedule is relatively benign from here on in.
GW: North Carolina, at Duke, Virginia?
BL: Princeton at home, at Clemson
Virginia (18-4, 5-3; RPI: 39, SOS: 116)
After a really poor first 30 minutes, the Cavaliers almost stole one in Tallahassee, but fell a three-pointer short. This is still a fairly soft profile, even with Drexel's surge in the CAA helping matters. The schedule is fairly stiff the rest of the way, so the Hoos will have to take the clear wins they can get and nick one or two more to feel comfortable in five weeks.
GW: Michigan, at LSU?
BL: Virginia Tech? TCU(N)?
IN THE MIX
Miami (14-7, 5-3; RPI: 38, SOS: 37)
Under the shadow of the Super Bowl, the Hurricanes blew into Durham and snagged a monster win. They still have numerous chances to impress with a home-and-home with Florida State and a visit from North Carolina left.
GW: at Duke
BL: None, really
North Carolina State (17-7, 6-3; RPI: 57, SOS: 48)
The Wolfpack got the first two in a must-win trio of games. Now they need to win at Georgia Tech before a crack at Duke for a profile-enhancing monster road win. If they can't get that one, Florida State and North Carolina then come to Raleigh, so two weeks from now, you'll likely know your NCAA answer.
GW: at Miami?
BL: Georgia Tech
Locks: Kansas, Missouri, Baylor
Missouri continues to be perhaps the nation's biggest upside surprise, taking down Kansas with a game-ending 11-0 run to topple the Jayhawks in Columbia. (Yes, KU fans, the charge on Robinson was terrible and changed the endgame significantly. Yes, MU fans, KU still had chances to win and couldn't). Then the Tigers scrambled back and beat Oklahoma Monday night. Baylor remains tied for first in the loss column and strongly in the mix for the league crown ... as is Iowa State? The table-toppers continue their round-robin this week with Baylor hosting KU and then playing at Mizzou.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Iowa State (17-6, 7-3; RPI: 36, SOS: 53)
The Cyclones added a K-State pelt to their profile in a sweep of the week that leaves them a game behind the league tri-leaders. Road games with Baylor, K-State and Missouri remain before the Bears come to Ames in the season finale, so the Cyclones certainly will have their chances to ice things.
GW: Kansas, Kansas State?
BL: at Drake?
Kansas State (16-6, 5-5; RPI: 48, SOS: 69)
A tough loss at Iowa State leaves the EcoKats in a somewhat sticky spot. They have to handle Texas Tech at home tonight and then embark on a five-game run that will decide their fate: at Texas, Kansas, at Baylor, at Missouri, Iowa State. Alabama's slide is hurting one of the good wins. Would 9-9 in the conference be enough without another big win?
GW: Alabama (N), Missouri, Long Beach State (N)
BL: Swept by Oklahoma?
Texas (15-9, 5-6; RPI: 57, SOS: 16)
The Longhorns are creeping back toward the bubble periphery, although their league wins are pretty meat-free with the exception of the Iowa State conquest. The schedule is pretty favorable now down the stretch, though. Wins are there to be had.
GW: Temple, Iowa State?
BL: Oregon State (N)
Locks: Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette
The second-best-team-in-the-league title belt continues to change hands. Is it Georgetown? Is it still Marquette? Is it ... gasp ... Abromaitis-less Notre Dame???? What?? #Breylieve!
SHOULD BE IN
Louisville (19-5, 7-4; RPI: 22, SOS: 41)
Good job by the Cards, now with five straight wins. With only two apparent "soft spots" left on the schedule, these victories(especially the two on the road) will come in handy. Let's see what happens at hungry West Virginia this weekend. The Ville's good wins continue to look pretty good and the Notre Dame loss now clearly looks OK.
GW: Vanderbilt, Long Beach State, Memphis?, at Seton Hall?
BL: at Providence (by 31)
IN THE MIX
West Virginia (16-8, 6-5; RPI: 26, SOS: 5)
The Mountaineers found a way to beat Providence in overtime to end a worrisome losing streak. The next four are not easy: Notre Dame and Louisville at home and then at Pittsburgh and Louisville on the road. They close with DePaul and at South Florida, so if they need a couple wins late, they are relatively available.
GW: Georgetown, Kansas State (N)
BL: Kent State, at St. John's, Pitt?
Notre Dame (15-8, 7-3; RPI: 55, SOS: 37)
Amazing. The Irish unleashed a three-point avalanche to pound Marquette into submission and move to 7-3 in the league. They may already be "over" their expected Big East win total and they still have home games remaining with DePaul, Rutgers and Providence. First up, a trip to a needy West Virginia team.
GW: Syracuse, at Louisville, at Seton Hall, at UConn, Marquette
BL: Georgia (N), at Rutgers
Cincinnati (16-7, 6-4; RPI: 97, SOS: 128)
The Bearcats beat DePaul in their only game of a "Let's not murder our chances" week. This week, at St. John's and at Marquette -- is huge, because the last six after that have wins available in them.
GW: at Georgetown, at UConn, Oklahoma??, Pitt?
BL: St. John's, Presbyterian, at Rutgers
Connecticut (15-8, 5-6; RPI: 21, SOS: 3)
The news of last week clearly was Jim Calhoun's latest medical leave of absence -- I had some thoughts on that on Friday -- but the micro picture involves the Huskies suddenly scrambling to solidify NCAA tournament entry. After a dreadful midweek offensive effort at Georgetown, UConn topped Seton Hall at home to break a four-game slide -- and then promptly got smashed at Louisville on Monday night in other rollover effort. With a trip to Syracuse up next, the possibility of a 5-7 mark heading into the final six looms very large.
GW: Florida State (N), West Virginia, Harvard?
BL: at Rutgers, at Tennessee
Seton Hall (15-8, 4-7; RPI: 33, SOS: 12)
Look out below. The Pirates have now dropped six in a row after getting waxed in a bubbly showdown at UConn and things are suddenly looking very bad for an NCAA bid just a couple weeks after being considered a lock here. The silver lining is that the Pirates' remaining schedule is very soft by Big East standards. Can they get five of the last seven to get to .500? Could 8-10 possibly be enough? Stay tuned.
GW: UConn?, West Virginia?, Saint Joseph's??
South Florida (12-10, 6-4; RPI: 78, SOS: 33)
A 30-point loss at Georgetown was not the best statement. I don't know that even 11-7 would be enough for the Bulls if they can't win at Pitt, Syracuse or Louisville down the stretch.
GW: Seton Hall??
BL: Old Dominion (N)??, Penn State (N), at Auburn
Pittsburgh (15-9, 4-7; RPI: 65, SOS: 24)
If Pitt gets to 9-9, which is not impossible with the schedule and the way they're playing, how much will the committee ignore what happened this season when Travon Woodall was sidelined?
GW: Georgetown, at West Virginia
BL: Wagner, at DePaul, Rutgers
Locks: Ohio State, Michigan State
Michigan State enacted some revenge on its in-state rival. Ohio State got a sweet win at Wisconsin. The two continue to tower over the remainder of the Big Ten field, but there's some action going on below them that's worth monitoring.
SHOULD BE IN
Indiana (18-6, 6-6; RPI: 18, SOS: 32)
The Hoosiers picked up a really valuable road win at Purdue to get back to .500 in the league. Now the remaining schedule turns favorable, with four league home games and trips to Iowa and Minnesota (and a massive nonconference tilt with North Carolina Central coming on Feb. 22!). Showing a bit more away from Assembly Hall will ease any rising doubts, if there really were any. Only game this week: vs. Illinois.
GW: Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan, at N.C. State?, at Purdue?
BL: Minnesota?, at Nebraska
Michigan (16-7, 7-4; RPI: 15, SOS: 12)
After beating Indiana, the Wolverines couldn't handle the Breslin Center and fell by 10 to the Spartans. For this league, the remaining slate is quite manageable, although a number of mid-tier teams will be gunning for inclusion and/or seeding, so nothing will come easily. I still expect the Wolverines to garner a very solid seed and immediately be tagged as a team a 1 or 2-seed doesn't want in their region.
GW: Michigan State, Memphis (N), Iowa State?, Wisconsin
BL: at Iowa, at Arkansas??
Wisconsin (18-6, 7-4; RPI: 29, SOS: 17)
The Badgers couldn't handle the league's best, falling to Ohio State at home by six on Saturday. This week is a tricky road pairing at Minnesota and then at Michigan State. With trips still to Iowa and Ohio State to come, the Badgers' seeding could take a hit down the stretch if they can't conjure up some wins.
GW: UNLV, BYU (N), at Illinois, Indiana
IN THE MIX
Illinois (15-7, 5-5; RPI: 46, SOS: 21)
If the Illini had to split this home week, they did it the right way, eking out a 42-41 decision over Michigan State for a marquee win before losing at home to Northwestern. The indecision in the GW/BL section below, though, pretty much says it all about that defeat, which could prove pivotal. Now four of the next five are away, starting with Indiana and Michigan this week. Is this going to be the test of an 8-10 Big Ten profile?
GW: Ohio State, Gonzaga, at Northwestern?
BL: at Penn State, Northwestern?
Minnesota (17-7, 5-6; RPI: 49, SOS: 57)
After dropping a tough decision at Iowa, the Gophers got a crucial road split by winning at Nebraska. Now five of their last seven are at home, including shots at Wisconsin (Thursday), Ohio State, Michigan and Indiana. Big, big opportunities to turn this profile into a legit NCAA one.
GW: at Indiana
Purdue (15-8, 5-5; RPI: 63, SOS: 45)
The Boilers suffered a harmful home loss to Indiana to drop back to .500 and now margin of error is pretty slim. Either Purdue needs to grab a big road win at Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan or Indiana, or sweep the home slate (Northwestern, Michigan State, Nebraska and Penn State) just to finish .500. First up: The Buckeyes in Columbus tonight.
GW: Temple, Iona??
BL: Butler, at Penn State
Northwestern (14-8, 4-6; RPI: 37, SOS: 9)
The Wildcats got a must-have sweep last week, including a win at Illinois, to bounce back into the picture. After a home game with Iowa (no gimme), the Cats will pretty much have their season on the line at Purdue and Indiana. Without at least a split there, things will look very questionable.
GW: Michigan State, at Illinois?, Seton Hall????
BL: Illinois?, Purdue