NCAA Tournament 2013: Stock Watch for Bubble Teams at Week 15

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystFebruary 14, 2013

NCAA Tournament 2013: Stock Watch for Bubble Teams at Week 15

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    With Selection Sunday 32 days away, it's really starting to look as if no one is interested in going to the NCAA tournament this year.

    It was exponentially more difficult to find 10 bubble teams with rising stocks than it was to find 10 bubble teams doing everything in their collective power to play in the NIT. As such, teams like Illinois and Oklahoma ended up looking even better.

    Keep in mind: Just because a team's stock is up doesn't mean it is in the tournament field. Likewise, a falling stock doesn't necessarily mean that team would be out of the tournament if the season ended today. These are just the biggest movers of the past seven days.

Illinois: Up

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    RPI 25. 18-8 overall. 5-7 in Big Ten.

    Illinois had about the most impressive week that a bubble team can have, picking up wins over Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue since the last update. I was beyond ready to write off the Illini, but they came back from the dead with a vengeance.

    They’ll still need to pick up wins in at least three of their remaining six games, but they could rest a lot easier on Selection Sunday if they win four.

    There should really just be a four-team Round Robin tournament between Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin to determine which two teams get to go to the tournament.

Minnesota: Down

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    RPI 13. 17-7 overall. 5-6 in Big Ten.

    Following a home loss to Illinois, the Golden Gophers’ stock is dropping for a second consecutive week. They’re still a No. 6 seed in most brackets, but that probably won’t last for long. In the next two weeks, they play home games against red-hot Wisconsin and Indiana while traveling to Iowa and Ohio State in between.

    They’re 5-6 in the Big Ten right now but could drop to 5-10 by the end of the month. Given their 11 wins against the RPI Top 100, they could still make the tournament with a sub-.500 record in the Big Ten, but they’d be wise not to leave it up to the discretion of the selection committee.

Notre Dame: Up

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    RPI 43. 20-5 overall. 8-4 in Big East.

    The five overtime win over Louisville just about put an end to any debate over whether Notre Dame belongs in the tournament. Thanks to a poor non-conference schedule, the computer profile still isn’t great, but the Irish are deservedly a Top 25 team.

    There are still a handful of worrisome games left on their schedule, but as long they beat Providence on Saturday and go on to win at least one of their final five games, I believe 10-8 in the Big East will be good enough to warrant an invite to the big dance.

Villanova: Down

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    RPI 63. 15-10 overall. 6-6 in Big East.

    After Tuesday’s 18-point loss to Cincinnati, I really hope this is the last time we have to bring up the Wildcats. They weren’t deserving of a bid after beating Louisville and Syracuse, and they definitely aren’t deserving of one now.

    It would likely take a 5-1 finish in order for them to get back into the picture, and that’s unlikely based on most of the games on that schedule (@ Connecticut, @ Pittsburgh, vs. Marquette, vs. Georgetown). It was fun while it lasted, Villanova.

Virginia: Up

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    RPI 72. 18-6 overall. 8-3 in ACC.

    The Cavaliers picked up three wins in a span of six days since the last update. None of the wins were of particular RPI interest, but they were all done in convincing fashion, which is a far cry from the previous week’s loss to Georgia Tech.

    With road games against North Carolina and Miami, their stock is guaranteed to have moved in one direction or the other by this time next week. A pair of losses would drop them out of the field after a month of clawing their way in, while a win in either game would give them a good chance of getting to 13-5 in the ACC.

Florida State: Down

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    RPI 66. 13-11 overall. 5-6 in ACC.

    FSU’s season ended before it started. Well, more accurately, it ended right when it started. The Seminoles lost the season-opener to South Alabama and never really bounced back. They had a chance to get back onto the bubble this week against Wake and Miami but looked bad in both games.

    It would take a 7-0 finish and a pretty deep run in the ACC Tournament for FSU to get back in the at-large discussion.

Oklahoma: Up

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    RPI 21. 16-7 overall. 7-4 in Big 12.

    Whether the Jayhawks were mired in a slump or not, a win over Kansas is about as good as it gets. Following it up with an epic beatdown of TCU (led 53-17 midway through second half) was just icing on a great week for the Sooners.

    They have a pretty favorable schedule the rest of the way and could very realistically get to 13-5 in conference play. The Sooners haven’t gotten much respect from the bracketologists yet (they’re in the No. 8/9 game in most projected brackets), but I could see them getting the third best bid from the Big 12, perhaps a No. 5 seed.

Iowa State: Down

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    RPI 37. 16-8 overall. 6-5 in Big 12.

    I’ve been saying for a while that I’m worried about Iowa State’s ability to play on the road. Granted, Texas got Myck Kabongo back for the game and made a last-second three-pointer to force overtime, but the Cyclones picked up another two road losses this week.

    They can’t continue this trend of winning at home but losing on the road – though it would help their case if they win remaining home games against Kansas and Oklahoma State. Next Wednesday’s trip to Baylor may very well be an elimination game.

Colorado: Up

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    RPI 18. 16-7 overall. 6-5 in Pac-12.

    If not for that ugly loss to Utah on Groundhog Day, the Buffaloes would be on a six-game winning streak and comfortably in the tournament field. They did lose that game, and they do still have work left to do.

    Road wins over the Oregon schools last week were nice (even if the Oregon win was undeserved), but beginning with Thursday’s rematch with Arizona, five of the next six games could be quite difficult. The computer profile still seems inflated, but as long as they avoid losing three more games, the Buffaloes will be dancing.

Arizona State: Down

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    RPI 64. 18-7 overall. 7-5 in Pac-12.

    Speaking of ugly losses to Utah…

    The Sun Devils were up six with three minutes remaining and proceeded to let a 10-13 team outscore them 13-2 the rest of the way.

    They’ll need to win at least four of their remaining six games to have a realistic shot at the tournament, which should be interesting, since they have three road games against Colorado, Arizona and UCLA remaining.

Alabama: Up

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    RPI 62. 16-8 overall. 8-3 in SEC.

    Wins over LSU and Georgia are nothing to tell the grandchildren about, but the mantra of this season is Survive and Advance. By not losing, Alabama moves up the totem pole a few notches.

    The Crimson Tide are 8-2 in their past 10 games and have four more cakewalks before traveling to Florida and Mississippi. As long as they don’t suffer any more bad losses, they’ll get to 13-5 in SEC play (which roughly translates to 6-12 in the Big Ten) and at least get into the bubble discussion.

Kentucky: Down

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    RPI 44. 17-7 overall. 8-3 in SEC.

    I'll spare you the agony of having to look at another picture of Nerlens Noel in agony.

    I’m not yet ready to declare that the sky is falling in Lexington, but I also don’t foresee this being a situation where it’s darkest before the dawn. Losing Noel is a huge deal, and it will significantly impact how the Wildcats do in the NCAA Tournament, as I’m assuming they’ll still get there.

    Both the bubble and the SEC are so weak that I have faith in their ability to earn a No. 10 seed. They may lose their remaining home games against Missouri and Florida, but they should win the remainder of the games, even without Noel.

Temple: Up

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    RPI 41. 16-7 overall. 5-4 in Atlantic-10.

    A one-point win at Dayton is neither an RPI booster nor a triumph for the eye test. However, it’s never been easy for visiting teams to win in Dayton, and when you’re on the bubble it doesn’t matter how you win, just as long as you win.

    The Owls don’t have any especially challenging games left on their schedule, meaning they should be playing their way off of the bubble (in a good way) before long.

Richmond: Down

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    RPI 77. 14-11 overall. 4-6 in Atlantic-10.

    Much like Florida State, it was already unlikely that Richmond would earn an at-large bid, but they made it impossible by losing a pair of games this week to middling A-10 teams.

    It’s a shame the Spiders didn’t get to play more of the top-tier A-10 teams at home. They’re 0-8 against the RPI Top 100 on the road but 4-1 at home including a 12-point win over VCU. Being forced to play La Salle, Butler, Temple, Saint Joseph’s, Massachusetts and VCU on the road while only getting one of them at home was unfair.

Memphis: Up

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    RPI 35. 21-3 overall. 10-0 in Conference-USA.

    Since losing a hard-fought game against Louisville on December 15, Memphis is on a 15-game winning streak, including 13-point and 22-point wins over the two next-best C-USA teams in the past week. Perhaps I was crazy to worry about Memphis after struggling to win at home against Marshall last month.

    The Tigers are just a few more wins away from locking up a bid. They could absolutely absorb finishing the season with one conference loss, maybe even two. Most of the in-conference challenges are already behind them.

BYU: Down

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    RPI 65. 18-8 overall. 8-4 in WCC.

    BYU was a bit of a long shot before losing to San Diego and San Francisco in the past week. Now, the Cougars’ odds of making the tournament are somewhere between fat chance and a snowball’s chance in Maui.

    If they win the rest of their regular season games, it would get their RPI up to a more respectable number, but I really can’t imagine the committee inviting an eight-loss team from the West Coast Conference. It’s auto bid or NIT for BYU.

Wisconsin: Up

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    RPI 31. 17-7 overall. 8-3 in Big Ten.

    Wisconsin’s stock is on the rise for a second consecutive week. Good things happen when you win four out of five games in the Big Ten; it's even better when none of those games include Purdue, Nebraska, Northwestern or Penn State.

    They do still play a game each against those bottom-feeders, so even if the Badgers don’t pick up a win over Minnesota or Ohio State this week, there’s still a very good chance that they’ll get to 12 wins in Big Ten play. That’s about as close as it gets to a stone-cold lock.

Ole Miss: Down

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    RPI 47. 18-6 overall. 7-4 in SEC.

    Just like Minnesota, Mississippi’s stock is dropping for a second straight week, after losses to Missouri and Texas A&M. Unlike Minnesota, the Rebels more than likely can’t afford to lose another game.

    They have just one win against the RPI Top 50, and it comes with an asterisk as it was Missouri’s first game without Laurence Bowers. They won’t have another shot at an RPI Top 50 win unless it comes in the SEC tournament. Anything short of a 7-0 finish likely won’t cut it.

Air Force: Up

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    RPI 68. 15-8 overall. 6-4 in Mountain West.

    As insanely unpredictable as this season has been on the whole, it’s nothing compared to life in the Mountain West. Seven of the nine teams still have a realistic shot at an at-large bid, and despite Wednesday’s win over UNLV, Air Force has the longest odds of the group.

    When 77 percent of the conference is in the running for the tournament, there’s no such thing as an easy game in the Mountain West, but Air Force still has four very difficult games remaining. It would take at least a 4-2 finish for the Falcons to get in, but crazier things have certainly been happening on a nightly basis.

Missouri Valley Conference: Down

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    On February 1, Joe Lunardi had Wichita State projected for a No. 5 seed, Creighton as a No. 6 seed and Indiana State as a No. 12 seed. Two weeks and seven losses later, and it’s now debatable whether the Missouri Valley Conference deserves to send more than one team to the tournament.

    Wichita State has lost two straight road games and has three considerably more difficult road games still to play. Indiana State has lost two straight road games against the RPI Sub 150 and has another one of those games on Saturday that could be its 10th loss of the season.

    Meanwhile, Creighton might be the most disappointing of all. The Bluejays are 3-5 since getting to 17-1 on the season and haven’t even remotely looked like their former selves. If any of these teams is going to earn an at-large bid, this is the one, but only if they can get back to their early-season winning ways.