Bracketology: Analyzing Most Intriguing March Madness Contenders After Week 17
While those at the top of the college basketball world shuffle for seeding, the focus at this time of year has to be on the bubble teams for the NCAA tournament.
There are a number of squads contending to be a part of March Madness that are on the brink of inclusion. Unfortunately, poor performances continue to keep these them out of the conversation.
The week of Feb. 25 might have been the most interesting part of the season so far. Many bubble teams had notable performances that solidified their places either in or out of the tournament.
Although the next couple of weeks are certain to change a lot, here are the biggest movers among those contending for spots in the NCAA tournament.
Results: Win vs. No. 3 Duke, 73-68; Loss at Boston College, 53-52
It has become a common story. A team beats Duke at home and then cannot keep up the intensity and loses on the road in its next game.
North Carolina State did it, Maryland did it and now Virginia did it.
The good will that the Cavaliers received from beating the Blue Devils was gone in an instant. Of course, Boston College is a tough place to play. Duke and Miami each only escaped with a one-point win. However, it sill does not look good on the résumé.
Virginia has some impressive wins over Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State and at Wisconsin. However, it also has seven losses to teams with an RPI of 120 or lower.
Fortunately, winnable games at Florida State and home against Maryland should give them a good enough conference record to put them in the NCAA tournament.
Results: Loss at Seton Hall, 66-65; Loss at No. 23 Pittsburgh, 73-64
It is amazing to consider the little difference between a great week and a terrible week at this point of the college basketball season.
After beating Marquette, Villanova had as good of a collection of wins as any team in the country.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats were unable to keep the momentum. They lost to Seton Hall thanks to a three-point shot by Fuquan Edwin with 10 seconds left. They then lost to Pittsburgh after a James Robinson three with 30 seconds left sent the game into overtime.
If these two shots do not fall, Villanova is probably close to being a lock in the NCAA tournament. However, the team is now on the outside looking in.
There is one more great chance to boost the résumé with a home game against Georgetown on Wednesday. However, another loss could be devastating.
Results: Win at West Virginia, 65-62; Loss vs. No. 13 Kansas State, 64-61
Throughout Baylor's conference season, the Bears have won and lost games as expected. Seven of the eight Big 12 wins are against teams below them in the standings.
However, this is not what the selection committee wants to see, especially with a non-conference slate that features losses to Northwestern and College of Charleston.
They once again lost another chance to get a big win this week as they came up short in a close game against Kansas State.
With a 1-8 record against Top 50 RPI teams, Baylor has shown that it is consistent, but not good enough to be in the postseason field.
Unless the Bears are able to upset Kansas on Saturday, the NIT is looking more likely.
Results: Win vs. Arizona State, 79-74; Win vs. No. 11 Arizona, 74-69
Throughout the season, UCLA has struggled against fellow California teams. Losses to Cal Poly, San Diego State, USC and Cal will not help the profile.
However, it is the success against Arizona that will put them in the field of 68.
The Bruins completed the season sweep over the Wildcats this week after defeating Arizona State in overtime. While Arizona is no longer a Top 10 team, the two victories are still impressive.
As of Monday, UCLA is also tied for the lead in the jumbled Pac-12 conference.
Of course, it is important not to get too excited. The Bruins would make the tournament if the season ended now, but a road loss against Washington or Washington State could put them back on the bubble.
Still, the team has played well lately and could be a factor in March.
Results: Win vs. Texas A&M, 82-73; Loss at Mississippi State, 73-67
There may have been no more damaging loss in college basketball this week than Ole Miss falling to Mississippi State. Sure, this was a rivalry game on the road, but the Bulldogs are one of the worst power-conference teams in the nation.
Not only does Mississippi State have a 3-13 conference record with an RPI of 227, but the team also lost by 25 or more in seven different conference games. Two of the losses were by more than 40.
For Ole Miss to drop this game, it shows that it should not be considered one of the best at-large teams in the country.
In addition, the Rebels win over Missouri is the only one over a team even considered for the NCAA tournament. It would take a great run in the SEC tournament for this team to go dancing this year.
Results: Win vs. Nevada, 73-47; Win vs. Colorado State, 78-65
While many bubble teams are playing their way out of the NCAA tournament, Boise State is making a late push to get in.
Few people probably realize that the Broncos even had a basketball team, but they have now won four straight, including an impressive win over Colorado State on Saturday.
This victory, plus the home win against UNLV last month, gives Boise State two wins over Top 25 RPI teams. The team also defeated Creighton on the road earlier in the year.
The top of the Mountain West conference is stronger than almost any group in the nation, and the fact that Boise State can stick with these teams is a great sign. A road win at UNLV could be enough to clinch a spot in March Madness.
Results: Win at Troy, 66-56; Win at Western Kentucky, 70-62
Middle Tennessee will be an interesting case if it does not win the Sun Belt conference tournament.
One thing is certain, the committee and every bubble team will hope it does not come to that.
After 16 wins in a row and a 27-4 overall record, the Blue Raiders have moved up to No. 24 in the RPI. However, the best win of the season was a home game against Ole Miss.
When they had a chance to get a big win, they lost by 21 to Florida and by 15 to Belmont. It is nice that they are doing well in the Sun Belt, but there is simply not enough on the profile to prove that they are as good as other at-large contenders.