Bubble watch: Who's in trouble?
An updated look at who's in and who's still scrambling to be included in the field for the NCAA tournament (RPI and SOS rankings as of midnight PT Saturday):
Should be in (1): Virginia.
Bubble (2): Miami, NC State.
Virginia (22-9 overall, 9-7 conference, RPI 53, SOS 86): If you took away the Cavaliers’ Nov. 29 home win over Michigan, would this really be an NCAA tournament team? Perhaps not, especially after getting bounced from the ACC quarterfinals by NC State on Friday. Virginia hasn’t done much else of note, and there are three sub-100 RPI losses on the resume. Virginia is likely in, but if there’s a seemingly safe team that somehow gets snubbed by the committee, it could be this one.
Miami (19-12 overall, 9-7 conference, RPI 58, SOS 43): It’s looking like the NIT for the Hurricanes. They came to the ACC tournament knowing they needed two wins. They only got one, losing to Florida State in the quarterfinals. A 3-11 record against the RPI top 100 just isn’t going to be good enough.
NC State (22-12 overall, 9-7 conference, RPI 47, SOS 25): The Wolfpack lost a tough, last-possession semifinal to North Carolina on Saturday following ACC tournament victories over Virginia and Boston College. Will it be enough? NC State finished 1-8 against the RPI top 50 and 6-10 against the top 100. That’s a pretty vulnerable resume, but that win over Virginia on Friday might allow them to squeak in.
Locks (6): Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Purdue.
Should be in (0): None.
On the Bubble (1): Northwestern.
Northwestern (18-13 overall, 8-10 conference, RPI 62, SOS 21): Ouch. You could see the strain and pressure on Northwestern’s shoulders as it came down to the wire with Minnesota on Thursday. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, it doesn’t look like they’ll be making their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance after a 75-68 overtime loss. Northwestern went 1-10 against the RPI top 50, and when you combine it with a losing record in the Big Ten and a first-round tournament loss, that simply doesn’t get it done.
Should be in (1): Texas.
On the bubble (0): None.
Texas (20-13 overall, 9-9 conference, RPI 49, SOS 18): No shocker Texas lost to Missouri in the Big 12 semifinals. The Longhorns got the win they needed against Iowa State, and that should be just enough to put them in the field, though it’s possible they could get sent to Dayton for the First Four. Given other bubble developments, it would be a mild surprise at this point if Texas got left out.
Should be in (1): UConn.
UConn (20-13 overall, 8-10 conference, RPI 32, SOS 3): UConn showed well in a 58-55 Big East quarterfinal loss to Syracuse. The loss didn’t really impact UConn’s status; the Huskies should be solidly in with nine top-100 wins, including Wednesday's victory over West Virginia at Madison Square Garden. The Huskies could be looking at the 8-9 game next week, at best.
South Florida (20-13 overall, 12-6 conference, RPI 52, SOS 28): Yikes. If somehow the Bulls get snubbed Sunday, they’ll remember the final minute of Thursday night’s game against Notre Dame for a long time. Up by three with the ball, South Florida couldn’t close it out and lost in overtime when a win certainly would’ve clinched a bid. Now, the Bulls have to overcome a 2-9 record against the RPI top 50. Getting a late-season win at Louisville, which went on to win the Big East tournament, could push the Bulls over Seton Hall in the pecking order.
West Virginia (19-13 overall, 9-9 conference, RPI 55, SOS 19): This can’t be a comfortable position for the Mountaineers after losing in overtime to UConn on Wednesday. They’re 4-8 against the RPI top 50, 9-11 against the top 100 and have a couple of bad losses to Kent State and St. John’s. The good news is that West Virginia’s resume stacks up decently against, say, Seton Hall. So if it comes down to that, West Virginia should have an edge in the selection process over its fellow Big East member. The Mountaineers should get in.
Seton Hall (20-12 overall, 8-10 conference, RPI 68, SOS 49): This will be a nervous wait for Seton Hall after Wednesday’s loss to Louisville. In the Pirates’ favor are early-season wins over VCU, St. Joseph’s and Dayton, as well as conference wins over West Virginia and UConn. It might not be enough, though, after those late-season losses to Rutgers and DePaul. It’s a 50-50 proposition right now whether Seton Hall makes the field, and it could come down to the Pirates or South Florida.
Should be in (1): Alabama.
Alabama (21-11 overall, 9-7 conference, RPI 35, SOS 29): The Tide missed a game-tying 3-point try at the buzzer against Florida in Friday’s SEC quarterfinal, but there’s probably no reason to be nervous. Alabama stayed ahead of the true bubble with a couple of key wins down the stretch of the regular season and now will just await its NCAA draw.
Mississippi State (21-11 overall, 8-8 conference, RPI 74, SOS 76): The Bulldogs were a train wreck down the stretch, losing five in a row in February before righting the ship somewhat in the final week of the regular season. But those problems cropped back up in a 71-61 loss to Georgia in the SEC quarterfinals, and now it’s hard to imagine how they get a bid. Mississippi State went 7-9 against the RPI top 100, and its entire case rests on a nonconference win over West Virginia and a win at Vanderbilt. The committee probably will take a pass.
Tennessee (18-14 overall, 10-6 conference, RPI 85, SOS 34): The Volunteers were a trendy bubble pick down the stretch thanks to four top-35 RPI wins, including a sweep of Florida. But they pretty much took themselves out of the debate with a 77-72 overtime loss to Ole Miss in the SEC tournament quarterfinals. Tennessee is almost certainly headed to the NIT.
Ole Miss (20-12 overall, 8-8 conference, RPI 60, SOS 45): Welcome to the bubble, Rebels. With teams playing their way out of the tournament, there’s room for late comers, and Ole Miss fits the bill after beating Tennessee in the SEC quarterfinals. The overall profile still isn’t very good, with a 1-7 record against the RPI top 50 and a 6-12 record against the top 100. Good enough? Probably not.
Locks (3): San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico.
Should be in (1): Colorado State.
On the bubble (0): None.
Colorado State (20-11 overall, 8-6 conference, RPI 30, SOS 7): With its bid possibly on the line, the Rams got an impressive 81-60 win over TCU in the Mountain West quarterfinals on Thursday. With their computer numbers, that should pretty much lock them into the field regardless of Friday’s semifinal loss to San Diego State. It’s worth nothing Colorado State is just 7-9 against the RPI top-100, so nothing is certain.
Locks: Colorado (won automatic bid).
Should be in (0): None.
California (24-9 overall, 13-5 conference, RPI 36, SOS 85): The Pac 12’s messy situation didn’t get any better when Cal lost to Colorado in the semifinals on Friday night. Cal has no RPI top-50 wins, and its best non-conference win was Weber State. It didn’t win the Pac-12 regular season title, so what exactly does it have? If the Bears get in on the strength of their nine top-100 wins, they’ll likely be in Dayton for the First Four.
Arizona (23-11 overall, 12-6 conference, RPI 75, SOS 112): Arizona had a good chance at the automatic bid but came up short, 53-51, against Colorado in Saturday’s championship game. As it is, the Wildcats appear likely to come up short on the NCAA tourney too, given their 5-9 record against the RPI top 100.
Oregon (22-9 overall, 13-5 conference, RPI 64, SOS 94): The Ducks delivered another gut-punch to the Pac 12’s chances of getting multiple bids by losing to Colorado in Thursday’s quarterfinals. Oregon had been playing well, but an 0-5 record against the RPI top 50 combined with no notable nonconference wins and a first-round loss likely will put them in the NIT.
Washington (21-10 overall, 14-4 conference, RPI 71, SOS 92): Could the Pac-12 regular-season champion miss the NCAA tournament? That’s looking more and more like a possibility after the Huskies dumped their quarterfinal against Oregon State. With a 1-7 record against the RPI top 50 and a 4-8 mark against the top 100, the resume just isn’t there, especially given the no-show in the tournament. If Washington gets in, it’s solely on the fact that the committee put stock in their Pac-12 regular-season title.
Locks (2): Wichita State, Creighton.
On the bubble: None.
Should be in (1): Xavier.
On the bubble (0): None.
Xavier (21-11 overall, 10-6 conference, RPI 38, SOS 37): The A-10 picture is now pretty clear. Xavier’s win over Saint Louis in Saturday’s semifinal means the Muskateers are NCAA-bound. Now the question is what happens in the final between Xavier and potential bid-stealer St. Bonaventure. If the Bonnies can pull the upset, they’ll get an automatic bid and take one away from another bubble team. Xavier is in either way.
Locks (2): Gonzaga, St. Mary’s.
Should be in (0): None.
On the bubble (1): BYU.
BYU (25-8 overall, 12-4 conference, RPI 45, SOS 100): The Cougars went 1-4 against the league’s top two teams, including last Saturday’s semifinal loss to Gonzaga in Las Vegas. That seemed like a tough blow at the time, but BYU actually has improved its standing since then due to other bubble teams losing. Nothing’s guaranteed, but it appears as though the Cougars will sneak into the field.
Locks (2): Memphis, Southern Miss.
Should be in (0): None.
On the bubble (1): Marshall.
Marshall (20-13 overall, 9-7 conference, RPI 48, SOS 24): Getting beat by 26 in the C-USA championship game at Memphis didn’t do the Thundering Herd any favors. However, you can’t dismiss this team’s overall resume, including four top-50 RPI wins over the likes of Cincinnati, Iona and Southern Miss twice. This team played a good non-conference schedule and could get rewarded for that as a longshot pick.
Nevada (26-6 overall, 13-1 WAC, RPI 63, SOS 158): The Wolf Pack lost in the WAC semifinals to Louisiana Tech, a loss that likely will doom them to the NIT. This is a quality team, and had it gotten to the finals and lost to New Mexico State, an argument could be made for an at-large. It’s highly unlikely now.
Middle Tennessee (25-6 overall, 14-2 Sun Belt, RPI 56, SOS 184): Unfortunately, it appears the Blue Raiders are going to miss the NCAA tournament after flaming out against Arkansas State in the first round of the Sun Belt tournament. That followed a loss in the final game of the regular season to Western Kentucky, and teams from the Sun Belt just can’t absorb losses like that late in the season, especially with so few big wins. This is an NCAA-quality team likely headed to the NIT.
Drexel (27-6 overall, 16-2 Colonial Athletic Assn., RPI 66, SOS 212): The Dragons won the CAA regular-season title and played VCU to the buzzer Monday night in Richmond in the tournament championship game, losing 59-56. But will it be enough? That’s going to be a huge question for the selection committee. Drexel didn’t lose a game between Jan. 2 and Monday night, but its schedule strength is poor and it went just 4-3 against RPI top-100 teams with the four wins coming against VCU, George Mason, Cleveland State and Princeton. It won’t be an easy call either way.
Oral Roberts (27-6 overall, 17-1 Summit League, RPI 51, SOS 190): The shocker of championship week so far is Oral Roberts going down to Western Illinois in the Summit League semifinals Monday. The conventional wisdom was that a trip to the finals and a road loss to South Dakota State — the tournament is on South Dakota State’s campus — might have been enough for an at-large bid. But what to make of Oral Roberts now? This team had a very good season but went 3-3 against the RPI top 100. It does own solid wins over Xavier and Akron, but its resume probably comes up slightly short compared to Drexel, especially with Monday’s loss to a team ranked No. 154 in the RPI.
Iona (25-7 overall, 15-3 Metro Atlantic, RPI 41, SOS 144): Don’t sleep on the Gaels as a possible Selection Sunday surprise. At first glance, Iona’s resume doesn’t look good. But it actually stacks up well against the likes of Drexel and Oral Roberts, and if the committee is looking for more mid-major flavor, the Gaels might be a decent choice. They finished 5-3 against the RPI top 100, including wins over St. Joseph’s, Denver and Nevada.