With just under three weeks remaining until Selection Sunday, I thought I would throw out a bubble radar. This report will deal nothing with projections or seedings; strictly what teams are getting in, what teams are heading to the NIT. It will be updated every one to two days and adjusted based on results.
Before proceeding to the bubble picture, we have to decipher what teams already have the body of work to be in the tournament now. Below are teams labeled as lock teams. These teams could lose every game (with the exception of, say, a Butler, who most likely will not do that considering schedule) and still make the field of 65.
LOCKS: Pittsburgh*, Oklahoma, North Carolina*, Duke, Michigan St., Connecticut, Clemson, Memphis*, Villanova, Kansas*, Louisville, Xavier*, Missouri, Illinois, Wake Forest, Washington*, Butler*, Marquette, Arizona St., Purdue, LSU*.
Now, the teams with asterisks are the conference leaders and assumed to be conference champions come tournament time. The 12 teams in bold are teams that will eat into the at-large pool of 34 bids. So that leaves us with 22 bids to give to bubble teams, assuming no upsets in the conference tournaments.
The bubble teams will be broken down by division. All bubble teams are not created equal, some teams needing maybe one more victory, while others need to win out until the conference finals. So for each team, I'll state what still needs to be done to grab that at large bid. The order the teams are listed is the pecking order, top teams in first, bottom teams out first.
All records are against strictly Division I teams. All RPI and SOS rankings are from realtimerpi.com. Without further ado, here is the bubble...
21-7 (8-5); RPI 17; SOS 28
Most people would already consider Florida St. in, but if they were to lose out the remaining games that might not be the case. With difficult games left, this is not entirely impossible either. Still, tied second place in the brutal ACC along with good non-conference wins against Cincinnati, Cal, and Florida should have Florida St. just one win away from locking up a bid. IN.
20-9 (8-6); RPI 55; SOS 44
With marquee wins at UNC and at home to Duke, BC is safe. They also had nice wins over fellow bubblers Florida St., Providence, and UAB to overshadow a bad loss at home to Harvard (RPI 277!). Winning one of the last two in conference would lock up a bid (at NC St., GT). IN.
17-9 (6-6); RPI 54; SOS 30
How much can one win change your tournament life? Saturday’s win over UNC put them outside the bubble to probably in the tournament. That win, along with non-conference victories over Michigan St. and Michigan, can probably overshadow earlier blowouts and a loss to Morgan St. To be safe, they should probably win two or three more games with at least two coming in the regular season. IN.
15-10 (5-8); RPI 45; SOS 9
Miami kept themselves in the picture with the victory over bubble team Boston College Saturday. But 5-8 in conference play? Miami most likely needs to win out in ACC play (at Virginia, at GT, NC St.) and at least win one ACC tourney game. They had a nice early season win at Kentucky to go along with a blowout of Wake Forest. OUT.
16-10 (6-6); RPI 66; SOS 47
VT most likely lost all chances with the home loss to Florida St. Now with their remaining schedule (at Clemson, Duke, UNC, at FSU), the NIT is most likely on the way. The only positive note is they have a chance to notch RPI-changing wins, which is necessary as VT had no non-conference victories of note to go with a bad loss to Georgia. They need three more wins, or two and two (ACC tourney). OUT.
BIG 12 (1)
18-8 (7-5); RPI 37; SOS 32
Texas had a very big win Saturday night versus Griffin-less Oklahoma. With wins over Villanova, UCLA, and Wisconsin, they are in pretty good shape. The 6-4 record versus the RPI top 50 also helps. Two wins at anytime would lock up a bid, which seems doable (Texas Tech, at Oklahoma St., Baylor, at Kansas). IN.
19-8 (6-7); RPI 40; SOS 33
The RPI is getting better and better, with wins over LSU and Arizona. A&M is still two games under .500, though. They had a couple good conference wins against Texas and Oklahoma St., but they need to get to at worst 8-8. This seems possible, since they will be favored in every game except the home finale against Missouri. A&M needs three to four more victories. OUT.
18-8 (7-5); RPI 75; SOS 108
A tough scenario here. Kansas St. really did nothing in the non-conference. Their only saving grace is how well they have been playing in the Big 12, now winning eight of their last nine games. In conference, they have a couple impressive wins, Missouri, at Texas, and at Texas A&M. To be safe they would probably want to get to 10 wins, and not lose in the first round in the Big 12 tournament. OUT.
17-9 (6-6); RPI 32; SOS 11
Yes, the computer numbers are great and would seem to spell tournament bound. But there is really no substance behind the numbers. Their best two wins are Siena and Texas A&M, winning just two of 10 against the RPI top 50. They just need quality wins, which would come in the form of Texas or at Oklahoma. If they get four more wins, either regular season or conference tourney, they are there. OUT.
16-10 (6-7); RPI 65; SOS 46
Nebraska is very close to slipping off the bubble. They lost a game they could not afford last night at home against Texas A&M. Wins against Creighton, Texas, and Missouri really can’t help overshadow losses to Iowa St., MD.Balt-Co. (RPI 207), and a weak non-conference schedule. Nebraska really must win their last three four to be in the discussion, and would be best off winning a couple games in the Big 12 Tournament too. OUT.
BIG EAST (3)
19-8 (8-7); RPI 25; SOS 12
Syracuse has a lot of non-conference heft to fall back on, with wins at Memphis, Kansas, and Florida. They've slipped slightly in-conference, but really just need to stay at .500. They've beaten West Virginia, thus giving them the heads up. One more victory seems certain (which moves them to a lock), with games against Cincinnati and Rutgers at home. IN.
19-8 (8-6); RPI 14; SOS 10
The record is starting to reflect the strong computer numbers. West Virginia played a strong non-conference game, routing Ohio St. on the road. They've done well in-conference as of late, blowing out Villanova before beating Notre Dame. They're very close at this point. Just securing 9-9 would lock them up. IN.
17-11 (9-7); RPI 77; SOS 43
See Maryland for what one victory can do for you. Beating the RPI No. 1 always helps the profile. Other than that they had beaten up the bottom of the league to get their lofty league mark. Providence can’t really stop there. They need one more regular season win, and at least one in the Big East Tournament. They also have the season sweep of Cincinnati to fall back on. IN.
14-11 (6-8); RPI 72; SOS 39
Notre Dame played a tough non-conference, but only picked up a win against Texas. It appears they have righted the ship, but is it too late? They've won three of their last four, including Louisville and at Providence. Finishing 9-9 would probably do it, thus they need to either beat Villanova or win at Connecticut, and then go and get at least one win in the Big East Tournament. OUT.
16-10 (7-7); RPI 53; SOS 23
It would appear Cincinnati would be in good shape, but a closer look at their wins in conference shows they are not. Of their seven victories in-conference, ZERO have come against the top seven teams. Cincinnati needs a good win as their earlier victory over UNLV is losing luster. They must get either Villanova or Syracuse and win the two cupcakes to have a shot, and then get two victories in the Big East tourney. OUT.
BIG TEN (4)
18-8 (8-7); RPI 43; SOS 29
Ohio St. played a very difficult non-conference schedule, which included wins at Miami, Notre Dame (neutral), and Butler. They hit a bit of a wall in conference play, but could they not get in with 9-9? Probably not, but to be safe they should get two more wins, which seems quite doable (at Iowa, Northwestern). IN.
16-10 (8-7); RPI 28; SOS 4
Wisconsin missed a golden chance to win at Michigan St., as they had the lead most of the game, although they have won five out of the last six to get back into the race. A tough SOS featured a win at Virginia Tech and a home win over Illinois. Winning two more would make them safe with home games left against Michigan, Indiana, and a road game at Minnesota. IN.
19-7 (8-7); RPI 34; SOS 48
A team that was close to a lock but has slipped as of late, Minnesota has lost six out of 10 games, but that is expected in conference play. A huge win against Louisville (neutral) will help. The key, though, is them handling their last three games, which will be tough, at Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Win two and you are in. Or, win one and get two in the Big Ten Tournament. IN.
19-8 (8-7); RPI 61; SOS 86
With nothing in the non-conference at all, they best keep winning in conference. They have huge road wins in-conference against Michigan St. and Illinois. All their remaining games are winnable. Penn St. would be best to win two of those three and pick up a Big Ten victory. IN.
16-11 (7-8); RPI 56; SOS 19
Michigan may be an interesting case come selection time. Solid non-conference wins over Duke and UCLA (neutral), as well as a near miss at Connecticut. Conference wins include Minnesota, Penn St., and Illinois. They basically need to either win out in-conference (Purdue, at Wisconsin, at Minnesota), or get two and two in the Big Ten Tournament. A sweep of Minnesota could go a long way. OUT.
20-7 (9-5); RPI 35; SOS 49
Most people will criticize UCLA not being a lock yet, but they have been slipping as of late, losing three of four including a home loss to Washington St. To be honest, UCLA didn’t do much out of conference either, beating Notre Dame being the highlight. One or two more victories will do it, with a favorable schedule down the stretch. IN.
20-7 (9-5); RPI 31; SOS 52
California and UCLA are very close, but UCLA holds the edge head-to-head. But, Cal has the out-of-conference victories UCLA does not, with wins at Utah and at UNLV. They need to start taking care of business in-conference with a tough schedule remaining (USC, UCLA, then at the two Arizona schools). They most likely only need one more victory. IN.
18-9 (8-6); RPI 42; SOS 36
What a time to get hot. Winners of seven of their last eight, Arizona's only loss was a 70-68 defeat at Arizona St. Sunday. Their out-of-conference work, winning against San Diego St., Kansas, and Gonzaga, will help as well. Two more victories (at WSU, at WU, Cal, Stanford), or one and two in the Pac-10 Tournament will do it. IN.
16-10 (7-7); RPI 50; SOS 17
USC is playing themselves off the bubble, losing four of their last five. They need to right the ship fast, probably needing three or all of their last four games. This is to make up for nothing done in their non-conference schedule, which included a loss to Seton Hall. USC has the talent, but now they need to produce with four more victories. OUT.
19-6 (8-4); RPI 44; SOS 93
Winners of seven of their last nine, SC has really put themselves in a good position in conference play. They will most likely have to continue that as they have nothing in non-conference play, with their best win at a sliding Baylor. They have a favorable schedule, with a chance to sweep Kentucky and knock off Tennessee at home. If they get one of those and the two easier games (at Vandy, at Georgia), and possibly an SEC tourney win, they'll be a lock. IN.
16-10 (7-5); RPI 26; SOS 2
Tennessee has played one of the nation’s toughest non-conference schedules, picking up good wins against Siena (neutral), Georgetown (neutral), and Marquette (neutral). The only problem is there is no way a group this talented should lose five games in the down SEC. They most likely need only one or two more victories to secure a bid with a decent remaining schedule (MSU, at Fla., at SC, Alabama). IN.
19-8 (8-4); RPI 62; SOS 80
Kentucky is really a little better off than Florida with the head-to-head win, despite what the computer numbers say. With non-conference wins over West Virginia (neutral) and fellow bubbler Kansas St. (neutral), they played a decent schedule. They also have a sweep of Tennessee. Kentucky now has a tough remaining schedule (at SC, LSU, Georgia, at Fla.), from which they will most likely need two wins. IN.
21-7 (8-5); RPI 41; SOS 103
Are we watching a repeat of last year? With the weak non-conference schedule (although they have a nice win against Washington) and the tough remaining schedule, we just might be. Losers of three of their last five and the potential to lose the rest (Tenn., at MSU, Kentucky), the Gators may be in trouble. To secure a bid they would be best winning two of those games, and possibly an SEC Tournament win. IN.
ATLANTIC 10 (1)
23-4 (9-3); RPI 29; SOS 124
Dayton's not quite a lock yet with the tough remaining schedule, but they're very close. With wins over George Mason, Xavier, and Marquette (neutral), they have a very solid profile. They now need to stop losing conference games they should be winning. That starts in the next two, going at Rhode Island and Temple. Dayton needs to get those two or they may need to beat Xavier or win a couple A-10 tourney games. IN.
17-9 (9-3); RPI 36; SOS 50
Temple may be an interesting case come Selection Sunday. They brings a lot to the table: 8-7 away record, non-conference wins over Tennessee and Penn. St., and they're tied for first place in the A-10. They also have bad losses at Long Beach St. and at Massachusetts. Temple really needs to grab at least a tie of the regular season crown in the A-10, which most likely means winning their last four. If not, win three, and the A-10 tourney finals. OUT.
MOUNTAIN WEST (2 At-Large, 1 Division Winner)
19-6 (10-2); RPI 11; SOS 22
Utah seems to be very legit, with non-conference victories over Mississippi and Gonzaga, and also blowing out SEC-leader LSU. They're also cruising through the MWC nicely, winning every game they should be. Now comes the tough test with games remaining at BYU and New Mexico, and home to UNLV. If they get one or two of those, they are a lock. IN.
20-6 (9-4); RPI 30; SOS 56
BYU doesn't have much in the non-conference with a win against Utah St. (neutral) and near misses against Arizona St. and Wake Forest. They're getting hot in-conference, though, as winners of six of their last seven games. They have a sweep of San Diego St., but they've also been swept by UNLV. BYU would be best winning their last three games in conference (Utah, at Wyoming, Air Force). IN.
20-7 (8-5); RPI 49; SOS 81
UNLV would most likely earn a bid with at worst a third-place tie in the MWC, with non-conference wins at Louisville and at home to Arizona. They've swept BYU, but they have lost some questionable games in-conference (at Colorado St., at TCU, at Wyoming). They can probably stand one more loss in-conference (at Utah, Air Force, at San Diego St.), but UNLV would be best off getting the split against San Diego St. IN.
18-10 (9-4); RPI 70; SOS 69
Are they really an at-large threat? Hard to say, really. But they have to be in the discussion now, sharing second place. Their only positive non-conference win was a blowout over Mississippi to go with questionable losses to UCF, Drake, and at Texas Tech. To get in real consideration, New Mexico will have to win out, which includes a game over Utah, and possibly a share of the regular season title. OUT.
San Diego St.
16-8 (8-5); RPI 47; SOS 73
They have a non-conference schedule littered with good losses but no top 100 RPI wins. Now losers of three of their last four, including a blowout loss at New Mexico, SDSU is fading fast. They are making the early season wins against Utah and at UNLV seem like a distant memory. Their only chance for an at-large means winning out in-conference, and most likely the MWC Tournament finals. OUT.
OTHER CONTENDERS (1)
Note: This assumes that Butler (RPI 20), Gonzaga (RPI 33), Davidson (RPI 59), Siena (RPI 26), Memphis (RPI 8), and Utah St. (RPI 28) all win automatic bids.
20-5 (8-4); RPI 51; SOS 143
St. Mary's non-conference wins include San Diego St. and Providence. But they will be a tough case, with the injury to star Patrick Mills, losing four of eight without him, after going 16-1 with him. They need to win out in-conference. They do have a huge win against Utah St., which shows they can win without Mills, but to be an at large team they need Mills back by WCC tourney time. IN.
19-8 (9-3); RPI 39; SOS 71
UAB played a very tough non-conference schedule, getting a solid win at Arizona. The loss at Tulsa hurts, so they now most likely need to run the table, including a win at home against Memphis and a tough hurdle at UTEP. OUT.
LAST FOUR IN (in order): Maryland, St. Mary’s, Penn St., Providence
FIRST FOUR OUT (in order): Notre Dame, Temple, Cincinnati, Texas A&M
NEXT FOUR OUT: Kansas St., UAB, Miami, Oklahoma St.
Thanks very much for reading. If you have any questions or concerns, I will be glad to chat back and forth. I will next update this article Friday, Feb. 27.