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NCAA Tournament 2013: Stock Watch for Bubble Teams at Week 17

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystFebruary 28, 2013

NCAA Tournament 2013: Stock Watch for Bubble Teams at Week 17

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    There are still 10 spots in the NCAA tournament that are very much up in the air for bubble teams that wish to claim them.

    Tennessee has been just about unbeatable for the past three weeks, making leaps and bounds towards the tournament field in the process.

    Are any other fringe teams going to step up as we close out the regular season?

    We have a plethora of teams trying to play their way out of the tournament, but only a handful of teams playing into it.

    These are the 20 teams whose stock has moved the most in the past seven days. Ten of the teams are more safely in the tournament field as a result of recent games. The other 10 are, well, not nearly as safe.

    The order of the slides does not represent an ascending or descending order of strength. They merely oscillate between a team that is up and a team that is down.

    Teams from the same conferences will appear in successive slides.

Tennessee: Up

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    RPI: 53

    Record: 17-10 overall, 9-6 in SEC

    Of all the teams in the BCS conferences, only Georgetown (10) currently has more consecutive wins than Tennessee’s six-game winning streak.

    The important thing for the Volunteers is that they haven’t bulked up the winning streak by playing the dregs of the SEC, picking up RPI Top 100 wins over Florida, Kentucky, Texas A&M and LSU.

    They’re still on the bubble because of their 10 losses, but extending their unbeaten streak to eight games with road wins over Georgia and Auburn would just about lock up a bid that no one could've truly believed was possible just two weeks ago.

Cincinnati: Down

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    RPI: 50

    Record: 19-9 overall, 7-8 in Big East

    Tennessee's stock is on a meteoric rise, while Cincinnati's is plummeting faster than a skydiver before he pulls the ripcord.

    Did the Bearcats remember their parachute?

    Just three weeks ago, they were 6-3 in the Big East with wins over Pittsburgh and Marquette and were projected to be a No. 4 seed.

    One win and five losses later, they’re in serious danger of missing the tournament.

    Their next two games are against Connecticut and Louisville. They could realistically finish the season in 11th place in the Big East. 

UNLV: Up

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    RPI: 16

    Record: 21-7 overall, 8-5 in Mountain West

    Two weeks ago, the Rebels lost to Air Force by 15, dropping to 5-5 in conference play. With the next three games coming against San Diego State, Colorado State and Wyoming, it wasn’t unreasonable to start wondering what would happen if they dropped to 5-8 and fell outside the top four in the conference standings.

    But, they didn’t lose those three games.

    They didn’t lose any of the three, actually, and now they close their regular season with what should be winnable games against Nevada, Boise State and Fresno State.

    Barring a total collapse, UNLV is in the tournament.

Villanova: Down

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    RPI: 56

    Record: 18-11 overall, 9-7 in Big East

    When the Wildcats upset Marquette on Saturday, the only question at the time was how much their stock would rise. After all, the only thing standing between them and a 10-6 record in the Big East was a formality trip to Seton Hall.

    Fuquan Edwin had other ideas.

    Now, Villanova returns perilously to the bubble, needing to pick up a win over Pitt or Georgetown in the next week to avoid entering the Big East tournament as one of the first five teams out of the NCAA tournament field. The Wildcats have pulled off their fair share of upsets this season, but that might be asking too much.

Minnesota: Up

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    RPI: 15

    Record: 19-9 overall, 7-8 in Big Ten

    The Golden Gophers make a cameo appearance in the Stock Watch for a third consecutive week, but for once, they’re on the rise.

    It’s funny how quickly a win over the best team in the country can almost make people forget that you had lost eight of 11 games before that unforeseen upset.

    The 77-73 win over Indiana was only the second time in the past 10 games that the Gophers scored more than 62 points. Whether or not you think it’s a sign that they might be turning their season around at just the right time, it moves them to 13-8 against the RPI Top 100 and back to a more comfortable seed.

    Remaining games against Penn State, Nebraska and Purdue should get Minnesota to either nine or 10 wins in Big Ten play. As long as it doesn’t lose two of those three games, the most disappointing team in the country for the past six weeks will still get into the tournament.

Iowa: Down

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    RPI: 90

    Record: 18-10 overall, 7-8 in Big Ten

    Since dropping to 14-9 overall and 3-7 in the Big Ten, it was never particularly likely that the Hawkeyes would make the tournament.

    However, things were looking promising after a blowout win over Minnesota. They just needed to take care of business in two remaining games against Nebraska and Purdue to get to nine wins in conference play.

    Unfortunately, they lost at Nebraska on Saturday.

    Now, with a 4-8 record against the RPI Top 100, it would likely take either an unexpected win at Indiana this weekend or a deep run in the Big Ten tournament for the Hawkeyes to crash the big dance.

Temple: Up

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    RPI: 42

    Record: 19-8 overall, 8-5 in A-10

    In the past week, the Owls picked up a pair of wins over the other two teams in the Atlantic 10 that are closest to the bubble—La Salle and Charlotte.

    In doing so, they moved back into contention for a first-round bye in the A-10 tourney, which is an honor that will very likely include a trip to the NCAA tournament.

    Fifth place in the A-10 wouldn’t be so bad, either.

    As long as Temple can win a couple of cupcake games against Fordham and Rhode Island, it should be able to finish in fifth place regardless of the outcome of the final game against VCU.

    Including Thursday’s contest with Detroit, if they win three of their last four games, it’s hard to see the Owls missing the tournament.

La Salle: Down

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    RPI: 38

    Record: 19-7 overall, 9-4 in A-10

    After losing to Temple and struggling with Rhode Island, it’s getting difficult to view the Explorers’ resume through rose-colored lenses.

    La Salle had one great stretch in which it beat both Butler and VCU.

    Sadly, it put bookends on those upsets with losses to Xavier and Massachusetts.

    However, the Explorers are in a position very similar to Temple’s—a pair of upcoming games in which two wins should make the difficult season finale at Saint Louis inconsequential to whether they make the tournament or not.

    A loss to either Duquesne or George Washington would burst their bubble.

Kentucky: Up

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    RPI: 49

    Record: 20-8 overall, 11-4 in SEC

    Left for dead after a 30-point loss vs. Tennessee in the first game without Nerlens Noel, the Wildcats have since responded with three consecutive wins to improve to 11-4 in the SEC.

    They’ll still need to pick up at least one—possibly both—of their remaining road games against Arkansas and Georgia.

    A 13-5 or 14-4 record in the SEC would clinch a bye in the conference tournament and more than likely a berth into the NCAA tournament.

    A 12-6 record would leave more up in the air, both for the SEC tournament and the NCAA tournament. Finishing the regular season outside the top four has the potential to result in a very bad second-round loss to a team like Vanderbilt or South Carolina.

    Dropping to 11-7 with three straight losses would just about guarantee a trip to the NIT.

Arkansas: Down

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    RPI: 89

    Record: 17-11 overall, 8-7 in SEC

    A lot of teams have drastic home-road splits this season—the Razorbacks take the cake.

    At home, they're 15-1 with wins over Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri and a close loss to Syracuse back in November.

    Away from home, they have wins over Auburn and Alabama A&M, but are 0-10 against the RPI Top 215—including an 18-point loss at Vanderbilt (RPI 135) and a 21-point loss at South Carolina (RPI 201).

    Their marquee home win over Florida came in the 14 days between those losses to Vanderbilt and South Carolina.

    It's a fascinating case study, but after losses at Florida and LSU this week, it's no longer a fascinating tournament resume.

    Wins over Kentucky, Missouri and Texas A&M to finish the season might get them back into the conversation going into the SEC tournament.

North Carolina: Up

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    RPI: 20

    Record: 19-8 overall, 9-5 in ACC

    With an RPI in the Top 20 and three straight wins by double digits, the Tar Heels have distanced themselves a bit from the bubble in the past two weeks.

    It wouldn’t take much for them to get back onto the bubble, though.

    Games this week against Clemson and Florida State should be wins, but this season has taught us there’s no such thing as a sure thing. A loss in either game would make the remaining games against Maryland and Duke only that much more important.

Maryland: Down

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    RPI: 73

    Record: 19-9 overall, 7-8 in ACC

    After beating Duke on Feb. 16, the Terrapins probably could've made it to the NCAA tournament by simply avoiding bad losses.

    They close the season with games against North Carolina and Virginia. By winning the games before then, they would have gotten to 10 wins in ACC play and entered the conference tournament with fewer than 10 losses on the season.

    But, they immediately lost to Boston College after the Duke win and followed it up with a loss to Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.

    Even if they could pick up wins over UNC and UVA, it might not be enough.

    They're currently 3-7 against the RPI Top 100 and have seen their strength of schedule drop all the way to 119.

    Other teams with three RPI Top 100 wins and a triple-digit SOS include Marshall, Central Florida, Oakland, New Mexico State and Iona.

    When's the last time you heard any of those schools in the bubble discussion?

California: Up

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    RPI: 46

    Record: 18-9 overall, 10-5 in Pac-12

    California is still on the rise, but not completely assured of a bid.

    The Golden Bears have won seven of their past eight games, including easily their four best wins of the season—at Arizona, UCLA and two wins over Oregon.

    Despite their hot stretch, they’re still just 7-9 against the RPI Top 100 and will need to win at least two of their three remaining home games.

    A home loss to Utah on the last day of February might as well count as two losses, and losing both games against Colorado and Stanford would put them at 7-11 against the RPI Top 100.

Creighton: Down

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    RPI: 40

    Record: 23-7 overall, 12-5 in Missouri Valley

    On Jan. 16, the Bluejays were 11-1 against the RPI Top 150. Since then, they're just 1-6 against the RPI Top 150.

    Not one of those seven teams that Creighton has played in the past six weeks is currently in the AP Top 25.

    Not only is the Jays' stock down from what was once a projected No. 3 seed, but their bid overall is in jeopardy.

    If the Bluejays can win the rematch with Wichita State on Saturday, they'll probably be okay. If not, there's a very real possibility that they wouldn't get into the NCAA tournament without winning the Missouri Valley tournament.

Saint Louis: Up

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    RPI: 30

    Record: 22-5 overall, 11-2 in A-10

    I don't know which is more ridiculous—that the Billikens have won 10 consecutive games or that their last loss before starting the streak was an OT game at home against lowly Rhode Island.

    It's getting difficult to even justify including them in this article anymore.

    At 10-4 against the RPI Top 100 and in sole possession of first place in the A-10, they're a lock for the tournament unless they lose three consecutive games to close out the season. Even then, it's hard to imagine this team not receiving an invitation.

Charlotte: Down

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    RPI: 68

    Record: 18-9 overall, 6-7 in A-10

    After the 20-point loss to Temple, Charlotte's stock was going to be down even before losing to Dayton on Wednesday night.

    Now, with losses in seven of their past 10 games, the 49ers' stock has officially bottomed out.

    Their only potential remaining path to the NCAA tournament is receiving the A-10 automatic bid by winning the conference tournament.

Saint Mary's: Up

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    RPI: 44

    Record: 25-5 overall, 13-2 in West Coast

    With wins over BYU, Creighton and Pepperdine since the last update, the Gaels' stock is as high as it has been all season.

    Since picking up their third loss of the season against Northern Iowa on Dec. 23, 2012, they're 17-0 against all teams not named Gonzaga, including five RPI Top 100 wins.

    They could lock up an at-large bid with a win in their season finale on Saturday.

    As long as they take care of Santa Clara this weekend, it's likely that we'll see the Gaels get a No. 10 seed on Selection Sunday.

Baylor: Down

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    RPI: 59

    Record: 17-11 overall, 8-7 in Big 12

    Despite Wednesday's win over West Virginia, the Bears are out of the tournament field and unlikely to return.

    Having endured a pair of three-game losing streaks in the past four weeks, they are now 4-9 against the RPI Top 100 and 1-7 against the top five teams in the Big 12.

    Remaining home games against Kansas and Kansas State might provide the necessary firepower to get back into the field, but it seems improbable that they could beat the two best teams in the conference given their recent track record.

UCLA: Up

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    RPI: 37

    Record: 21-7 overall, 11-4 in Pac-12

    By eking out a win over Arizona State, the Bruins acquired a share of first place in the Pac-12 standings while improving their record against the RPI Top 100 to 10-6.

    They aren't quite a lock for the NCAA tournament just yet, but it might take just one win in the final three games to get there.

    They host Arizona on Saturday before traveling to the Washington schools the following week. Though relatively unlikely, losses to both Washington and Washington State would be extremely detrimental to their case.

Arizona State: Down

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    RPI: 88

    Record: 20-9 overall, 9-7 in Pac-12

    After a heartbreaking OT loss to UCLA on Wednesday night, it's all over but the crying for the Sun Devils.

    Road games against USC and Arizona to finish out the season could get their stock back up—especially considering the dearth of other teams playing well—but it may be too little, too late.

    Having now lost four of their last six games and dropping to 6-7 against the RPI Top 100, they're simply running out of time to repair the damage done.

    It's always nice to get to 20 wins, but finishing in the middle of the Pac-12 with an RPI in the 80s and an SOS in the 120s is hardly good enough to get into the NIT.

    It's been fun to root for them, because they were projected to finish next-to-last in the Pac-12 in the preseason, but the dream is coming to a bitter end.

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