Bracketology: Breaking Down Teams Closest to Edge of the Bubble

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IFebruary 27, 2014

Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino calls his players to him during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa in Minneapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Minnesota won 95-89. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

It's that glorious time of the year again. 

Because of the beauty that is college basketball, every Division-I team is still alive for the big dance until they lose in their conference tournament. But, realistically, several teams have their backs against the wall. 

And when you have college kids playing desperately for a win, great things tend to happen.

The regular season officially comes to a close in 11 days (March 9), and over that span, there will be a slew of schools working to bolster their resumes in hopes of hearing their name called on Selection Sunday. 

Thanks to, we have a condensed look at 95 projected brackets from experts around the country. Using those numbers, let's stack up the current bubble teams against each other and take a closer look at the four squads closest to the "cut line."

Note: All RPI and SOS numbers courtesy of 

Bubble Comparison
Team# of Brackets Projected In (Out of 95)Average SeedProjected OutlookW-LRPISOS
Oklahoma State8210.91IN18-104842
St. John's4511.38IN18-116330
Southern Miss2411.46OUT21-533145

St. John's

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

The Johnnies won't likely find themselves in this position for much longer. 

After reeling off six wins in a row to start February—a streak that featured victories over Creighton, Marquette and Georgetown—Steve Lavin's squad was one strong victory away from feeling confident about their NCAA tourney chances. 

But the Red Storm lost at Villanova by three last weekend, and on Tuesday, they shot just 36.7 percent from the field en route to a 12-point home defeat against Xavier, a fellow bubble-dweller. 

It was a pretty poor time to come through with arguably their worst Big East loss of the season. 

"There's no excuse, this was the biggest game of the year," St. John's guard Phil Greene said after the game, via CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello. "We came out flat. This wasn't the same team we had been during the streak we were on."

The peripherals (RPI: 63, SOS: 30) aren't overwhelming, so they could have seriously used a second top-50 win. But with two opportunities down the drain—Villanova would have been a top-five win and essentially locked St. John's into the Field of 68, while Xavier (51) is right on the edge of the Top 50—and with a road game against Marquette being the only contest remaining on the schedule, they won't get another chance until the conference tourney. 

As that comes at Madison Square Garden, though, it's far too early to write off the Johnnies. 


Dave Weaver/Associated Press

Minnesota, meanwhile, is moving in the opposite direction. 

It's been tough sledding in the always-physical Big 10. The Golden Gophers are 7-9 in conference, and their two worst losses of the year have come since the calendar turned to February. That's not the kind of recent play the committee wants to see.

Nevertheless, Minnesota recently did itself a huge favor, beating Iowa on Tuesday to secure its fourth top-50 victory of the season and solidify its spot inside the bubble. 

Or is it outside because the bubble eventually gets popped? 

Either way, it looks like Richard Pitino is going to be joining his father in the big dance. It's by no means a lock yet, but a win at Michigan (RPI: 13) on Saturday would certainly start to tighten the bolt. 


Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

The Spiders entered Wednesday night just short of the bubble, but unfortunately, they put on a perfect clinic of how to fall right off of it. 

Richmond fell behind George Mason (RPI: 152) by 21 points in the first half, and although it was able to climb back to within five, it fell short of the comeback, losing 69-60. 

Road game or not, that's an atrocious defeat for the Spiders. It was just George Mason's 10th win overall and third victory in the A 10, and's Ben Weixlmann put it simply:

Now, there is still a sliver of hope for Chris Mooney's squad. The Spiders have potential resume-building games against Shaka Smart and VCU (RPI: 23), as well as Dayton (RPI: 55). If they win both of those, beat Rhode Island (RPI: 156) and make a deep run in the conference tourney, they can work their way back onto the bubble. 

Still, winning out at the Barclays Center would be much advised at this point. 



Feb 18, 2014; Providence, RI, USA; Providence Friars guard Bryce Cotton (11) dribbles the ball against Villanova Wildcats guard James Bell (32) in the first half at Dunkin Donuts Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Much like with Richmond, it very well may come down to the season finale for the Friars. Games against Seton Hall (RPI: 130) and Marquette (RPI: 73) have the potential to swing things in the negative direction, but a road game against Creighton gives them the opportunity for a second top-10 victory (the first also came against the Blue Jays). 

Ed Cooley's boys have been on a bit of a roller coaster as of late.

They've lost three of the last five, including a heartbreaking double-OT defeat at home against Villanova, but the Friars shot a scorching 66.7 percent from the field in a crucial road win against Butler the last time out. 

Bryce Cotton poured in 28 points in that one, rightfully earning him Player of the Week honors:

The senior guard has been scintillating as of late, dropping at least 28 in four of his last seven games.

Easily one of the more underrated players in the country, he hasn't logged less than 38 minutes a game since November and is undoubtedly a good candidate to carry his team into the NCAA tourney.


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