Bubble Watch, Part 2 – The rest of the NCAA

Examining the NCAA tournament bubble with less than two weeks to go until Selection Sunday. Contenders are listed by conference and in two parts, starting geographically with the Big Ten and moving west.

Records are as of Tuesday morning, Feb. 28. Opinions are strictly those of the writer.

BIG TEN

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: 6 – Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue (new addition this week)

AND THE OTHER TOURNAMENT HOPEFULS …

ILLINOIS (17-12, 6-8 in the Big Ten)

Illinois_bradleyleebUSP_02052012.jpg

BEST WINS: Gonzaga, Ohio State, Michigan State

BAD LOSSES: at Penn State, Northwestern, at Nebraska, at Minnesota

BODY OF WORK: The Illini finally got a win over Iowa to end a rut that took them from virtual tournament lock to likely tournament dreamer — a run that could also cost Bruce Weber his job. The overall body of work is still tournament-worthy except for the conference record, which happens when you follow a win over Ohio State by losing nine of 10.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Out after an amazing free fall. The resume is strong enough to still be considered with a strong finish, but that seems unlikely.

————————

NORTHWESTERN (17-11, 7-9)

Northwestern_marilynindahlUSP_01222012.jpg

BEST WINS: Michigan State, Seton Hall

BAD LOSSES: Illinois, at Minnesota

BODY OF WORK: Northwestern was pretty good against a weak non-conference schedule; the Wildcats simply haven’t finished (with the exception of Michigan State) their upset attempts and have been overwhelmed a few times. It collapsed late last week and lost a huge chance to beat Michigan, and Wednesday night it hosts an angry Ohio State team. The Wildcats desperately need a big win.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Wrong side of the bubble, but alive — albeit barely. The solid year the Big Ten is having as a whole can help, but only if Northwestern helps itself over the next 11 days.

————————

BIG 12

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: 5 – Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State (new addition this week)

AND THE LONE OTHER TOURNAMENT HOPEFUL …

TEXAS (18-11, 8-8 in the Big 12)

Texas_brendanmaloneyUSP_02112012.jpg

BEST WINS: Temple, Iowa State, Kansas State

BAD LOSSES: Oregon State, N.C. State

BODY OF WORK: The Longhorns’ overall resume is just OK, and close losses to Missouri and Baylor could end up biting them. They’d like to be the kind of program that would never have to think about playing in the First Four, but at this point they’d take it.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: On the wrong side of the bubble, but they still have chances to change that.

————————

MOUNTAIN WEST

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: 3 – New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego State

AND THE LONE OTHER TOURNAMENT HOPEFUL …

COLORADO STATE (17-10, 6-6)

ColoradoState_markdolejsUSP_12072011.jpg

BEST WINS: New Mexico, San Diego State, Denver

BAD LOSSES: at Stanford, at TCU, at Wyoming

BODY OF WORK: Shaky, but around this bubble it’s worth examining. The Rams have very good RPI and strength of schedule numbers, but it’s hard to see a team with a .500 Mountain West record getting in. They’d be wise to win at least once in the conference tournament.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Squarely on the bubble after beating New Mexico last week. Stay tuned.

————————

MISSOURI VALLEY

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: 2 – Wichita State and Creighton
BUBBLE TEAMS: None

————————

OHIO VALLEY

TOURNAMENT LOCK: Murray State
BUBBLE TEAMS: None

————————

WEST COAST CONFERENCE

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: 3 – Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga, BYU
BUBBLE TEAMS: None

————————

PAC-12

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: None

AND THE OTHER TOURNAMENT HOPEFULS …

CAL (23-7, 13-4 in Pac-12)

California_jaynekaminonceaUSP_02112012.jpg

BEST WINS: at Washington, Oregon (2), Denver

BAD LOSSES: at Oregon State, at Washington State

BODY OF WORK: Tough to judge, really. The Pac-12 is bad and might be a one-bid league. The Bears have played like the best team for much of the year, but don’t have any wins that jump off the page and just got done getting blown out at Colorado.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Squarely on the bubble. Washington is creeping closer towards passing Cal as the league’s best at-large candidate. The Bears will have to sweat on Selection Sunday if they don’t win the conference tournament.

————————

ARIZONA (21-9, 11-5)

Arizona_jasonowatsonUSP_02042012.jpg

BEST WINS: at Cal, at Stanford, Valparaiso, at New Mexico State

BAD LOSSES: at UCLA

BODY OF WORK: Just OK. Losing five or six games in this conference this year isn’t going to merit a long look from the committee even with 23 or 24 wins.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Out. The Wildcats have talent, but will really regret losing at UCLA and at home to Oregon if they can’t bounce back and win the Pac-12 tournament.

————————

WASHINGTON (20-8, 13-3)

Washington_stevenbisigUSP_02042012.jpg

BEST WINS: Oregon, Arizona (2)

BAD LOSSES: South Dakota State, at Colorado

BODY OF WORK: Another team that played good teams away from the league (Saint Louis, Duke, Marquette), but didn’t beat them. The Huskies are playing well now, but it might be too late. A three-point home loss to Cal and a two-point loss to Marquette loom very large.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Wrong side of the bubble, but making a push. Washington’s computer numbers aren’t very strong and the overall resume isn’t, either. The Huskies have probably the league’s best player in Tony Wroten, Jr. and easily could win the Pac-12 auto bid.

————————

OREGON (20-8, 11-5)

Oregon_ronchenoyUSP_02042012.jpg

BEST WINS: Washington, at Arizona

BAD LOSSES: Oregon State

BODY OF WORK: Not very strong. The Ducks played Virginia, BYU and Vanderbilt out of conference, but didn’t beat any of them. The Ducks have won five of seven and are trying to finish strong, but they started many lengths behind the teams they’re trying to catch.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Out. Like many of its Pac-12 rivals, Oregon has a resume that’s somewhere between poor and mildly interesting, but not good enough.

————————

SUN BELT

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: None

THE TOURNAMENT HOPEFULS …

MIDDLE TENNESSEE (25-5, 14-2 in Sun Belt)

MidTenn_jimbrownUSP_12132011.jpg

BEST WINS: at UCLA, at Loyola Marymount, Belmont, Akron, Ole Miss

BAD LOSSES: at UAB, at Western Kentucky

BODY OF WORK: Pretty solid — and potentially very interesting to the committee. Those wins over Loyola Marymount and Akron will impress the committee more than you might think. It’s not the Blue Raiders’ fault their league stinks; it is their fault they just lost to Western Kentucky, though.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Wrong side of the bubble, but worth considering. Middle Tennessee had better save itself the sweat and win the Sun Belt tournament.

————————

DENVER (21-8, 11-5)

Denver_andrewfieldingUSP_12072011.jpg

BEST WINS: Southern Miss, Saint Mary’s, Wyoming, Middle Tennessee

BAD LOSSES: Arkansas-Little Rock (2), at North Texas, at Florida Atlantic

BODY OF WORK: The Pioneers played a very tough non-conference schedule and usually represented themselves well. But five losses in one of the country’s worst leagues all but eliminates them from at-large consideration.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Out. Must win the Sun Belt tournament, and they just might.

————————

WAC

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: None

THE LONE AT-LARGE CONTENDER …

NEVADA (23-5, 11-1 in WAC)

Nevada_douglascpizecUSP_12022011.jpg

BEST WINS: Washington, New Mexico State

BAD LOSSES: Idaho, Missouri State

BODY OF WORK: Not tournament worthy. The Wolfpack’s overall profile is weak, as the best basketball in the western part of the country is being played in the West Coast Conference and by Long Beach State.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Needs to win the WAC tournament to get in. The quality wins just aren’t there.

——————————-

BIG WEST

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: None

THE LONE CONTENDER …

LONG BEACH STATE (21-7, 14-0 Big West)

LBSU_dennymedleyUSP_01102012.jpg

BEST WINS: at Pitt, Xavier, Boise State

BAD LOSSES: at Montana

BODY OF WORK: Solid, yet complicated. Long Beach has taken on all comers, and though the 49ers have taken their lumps, they’re tournament ready. However, they need to prove they’re tournament worthy, and a close loss at Creighton last weekend might have been the clincher had it gone the other way. They’ve been rolling through the Big West and hope to win the automatic bid. If they don’t, they still have a case as one of the 37 best at-large teams.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: On the bubble if they don’t win the Big West tournament, but if the committee truly rewards teams for playing quality competition, the 49ers will be in — and be very dangerous when they get there.

————————

SUMMIT LEAGUE

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: None

THE LONE CONTENDER …

ORAL ROBERTS (26-5, 17-1 in Summit)

OralRoberts_frankvictoresUSP_12182011.jpg

BEST WINS: Missouri State, at Xavier, Akron, South Dakota State

BAD LOSSES: Texas-San Antonio, at Oklahoma

BODY OF WORK: The Eagles have won 19 of 20 and have a quality team, but the overall body of work is lacking. Oral Roberts has strong computer ranking numbers, but its schedule strength ranks above 150.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Worth considering, but probably out. Oral Roberts will be the heavy favorite to win the Summit League tournament and the automatic bid, and it will need to.