NCAA tournament bubble watch: The rest

Examining the NCAA tournament bubble with less than four weeks to go until Selection Sunday. Contenders are listed by conference and in two parts; this part starts geographically with the Big Ten and moves west.

Records are as of Tuesday morning, Feb. 21. Opinions are strictly those of the writer.

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BIG TEN

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana

OTHER TOURNAMENT HOPEFULS …

ILLINOIS (16-11, 5-9 in the Big Ten)

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BEST WINS: Gonzaga, Ohio State, Michigan State

BAD LOSSES: at Penn State, Northwestern

BODY OF WORK: The Illini were a virtual tournament lock two weeks ago, but they’ve since lost eight of nine and now face a road game at angry Ohio State. Though their tournament resume remains stronger than what many bubble teams are sporting, the 5-9 conference record is putrid and Illinois is coming off a blowout loss at Nebraska. Yes, Nebraska.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Out. An amazing freefall.  

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PURDUE (17-10, 7-7)

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BEST WINS: Temple, Iona, Miami-FL, Illinois, Minnesota

BAD LOSSES: at Penn State, Butler

BODY OF WORK: Shaky, but probably good enough. The Big Ten has good teams at the top and good computer numbers, and as long as Purdue doesn’t finish with a losing conference record it should get in.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Right side of the bubble, which says more about the bubble than it does about Purdue.

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NORTHWESTERN (16-10, 6-8)

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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) upset tries and have been overwhelmed a few times. It’s a soft bubble, though, and they’re trending upward. Stay tuned.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Wrong side of the bubble, but headed in the right direction and facing a big chance Tuesday night vs. Michigan. The Wildcats not only need a standout win, but need to improve their conference record.

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MINNESOTA (17-10, 5-9)

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BEST WINS: at Indiana, South Dakota State

BAD LOSSES: Iowa, at Iowa

BODY OF WORK: The Gophers keep getting chances to score big wins and keep losing those games.  

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Out. The Gophers have had zero luck, but they also have zero resume-boosting wins.

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BIG 12

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State

OTHER TOURNAMENT HOPEFULS …

TEXAS (17-11, 7-8 in the Big 12)

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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 losing a second-half lead to Baylor at home Monday night counts as a big opportunity lost.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: On the wrong side of the bubble and needing a strong finish to change that.

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KANSAS STATE (18-8, 7-7)

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BEST WINS: at Baylor, Missouri, Texas, Long Beach State, at Virginia Tech, Alabama

BAD LOSSES: Oklahoma (2)

BODY OF WORK: Pretty strong, and made stronger by last weekend’s road win at Baylor. The Wildcats still are going to have to sweat, but they’ve played a good schedule and seem to fit as one of the 37 best at-large teams, which is supposedly the tournament committee’s ultimate question.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: On the right side of the bubble. No one expects the Wildcats to win at Missouri this week, so a win or two in the Big 12 tournament should seal it.  

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MOUNTAIN WEST

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego State

OTHER TOURNAMENT HOPEFUL …

COLORADO STATE (16-9, 5-5 in Mountain West)

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BEST WINS: San Diego State, Denver

BAD LOSSES: at Stanford, at TCU, at Wyoming

BODY OF WORK: Shaky. The Rams have very good RPI and strength of schedule numbers, but they’ve lost a lot of games and a couple of their bad losses figure to end up looking really bad. The Mountain West is having a good year, but it’s hard to see a team with a .500 MWC record getting in.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Out, but if the Rams can beat New Mexico on Wednesday they deserve to be in the discussion.

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MISSOURI VALLEY

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: Wichita State and Creighton
BUBBLE TEAMS: None

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OHIO VALLEY

TOURNAMENT LOCK: Murray State
BUBBLE TEAMS: None

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WEST COAST CONFERENCE

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

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PAC-12

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: None

THE CONTENDERS …

CAL (22-6, 12-3 in Pac-12)

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

BAD LOSSES: at Oregon State, at Washington State

BODY OF WORK: Far from outstanding, yet certainly the best in a bad league. The Bears have lost to Missouri, UNLV and San Diego State, but those should help the strength of schedule. If Cal loses in the Pac-12 tournament, this is going to be interesting.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: If the Pac-12 gets an at-large team, it’s probably going to be Cal. The Bears shouldn’t rest easy, but if they keep winning over the next two weeks, then fall short of the league’s auto bid, they’ll probably still get in.

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ARIZONA (19-9, 9-5)

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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 put together an impressive late-season run, but it was derailed at Washington last weekend and the overall resume just doesn’t seem strong enough.

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WASHINGTON (19-8, 12-3)

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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.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Wrong side of the bubble. 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 and easily could win the Pac-12 auto bid.

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OREGON (19-8, 10-5)

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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. Losing at Cal last week means they lost their last big chance.

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.

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SUN BELT

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: None

THE CONTENDERS …

MIDDLE TENNESSEE (24-4, 13-1 in Sun Belt)

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

BAD LOSSES: at UAB

BODY OF WORK: Solid — and 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, but they will be penalized for it.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Worth considering, and probably on the wrong side of the bubble. Middle Tennessee had better save itself the sweat and win the Sun Belt tournament.

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DENVER (20-8, 10-5)

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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.

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WAC

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: None

THE LONE AT-LARGE CONTENDER …

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NEVADA (22-5, 10-1 WAC)

BEST WINS: Washington, New Mexico State

BAD LOSSES: Idaho, Missouri State

BODY OF WORK: Not tournament worthy. The Wolfpack’s overall profile is weak and losing at Iona last weekend didn’t help.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Needs to win the WAC tournament to get in.

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BIG WEST

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: None

THE LONE CONTENDER …

LONG BEACH STATE (19-7, 12-0 in Big West)

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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. They need to prove they’re tournament worthy, however, 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 auto bid; if they don’t, they still have a case as one of the 37 best at-large teams.

CURRENT TOURNAMENT STANDING: Very much on the bubble if they don’t win the Big West tournament.

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SUMMIT LEAGUE

TOURNAMENT LOCKS: None

THE LONE CONTENDER …

ORAL ROBERTS (25-5, 16-1 in Summit)

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

BAD LOSSES: Texas-San Antonio, at Oklahoma

BODY OF WORK: The Eagles have won 18 of 19 and have a quality team, but the 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, though.