College Basketball: NCAA Tournament's Safe House, Doghouse, and Outhouse
Instead publishing a new bracket each week, I'll be breaking down the potential NCAA Tournament field by placing contenders into three different categories: the Safe House, the Doghouse, and the Outhouse.
The Safe House is teams that need an absolute collapse to miss the NCAA Tournament right now. One team from this group will be profiled in depth each week.
The Doghouse is teams that are in the tournament, but they've done something wrong lately to doubt whether they belong in the dance. All teams in this category won't fit that exact description, as some might just be playing well but aren't locks yet to find a home inside the Safe House.
The Outhouse is teams that are on the outside looking in right now and need to make a run through their conference to put themselves back into contention to make the tournament.
The Safe House (listed in alphabetical order)
Baylor, Brigham Young, Dayton, Duke, Florida State, Georgetown, Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Michigan State, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Northern Iowa, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rhode Island, Syracuse, Temple, Texas, Villanova, Wisconsin
Featured Team: Baylor
In the past, Scott Drew's team hasn't exactly been known for its defense. At the end of last season, Baylor made the switch from man-to-man to a zone defense and had great success. After a disappointing season, Baylor reached the Big 12 Championship game and the NIT Championship Game.
This season, the defense continued to improve, shutting down Iona and Xavier in the Old Spice Classic. Michigan transfer Ekpe Udoh was just beginning to get his feet wet in Drew's zone at that point in the season. Over a month later, Udoh has blossomed into a full-blown star.
During his last four games, Udoh averaged 15 points, 17 rebounds, and seven blocks per game. He's the key to Baylor's emergence as a top four team in the Big 12.
LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter will hit their threes, and Baylor's wings will fulfill their roles, but it's Udoh whose offense and defense spark the Bears on both ends of the floor.
Saturday, Baylor can beat Oklahoma for the first time in three decades, and in a week and a half the Bears get a shot to hand Kansas its first loss of the season.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats have a Big East schedule that can get them 10 league wins. That should be enough in March.
Clemson: Losses to potential bubble teams Texas A&M and Illinois, as well as a thumping to Duke, hurt as the Tigers don't have many quality wins to counteract them.
Connecticut: The Huskies have beaten everyone they were supposed to and lost to everyone they've supposed to. A win against Georgetown Saturday and the Huskies move back in the Safe House for now.
Cornell: The Big Red are a hot topic right now, but they deserve to make the tournament based on the non-conference résumé. The top 40 RPI will drop because of Ivy League play, but Cornell has showed it is one of the 65 best teams in the country.
Georgia Tech: Losing to Georgia is bad. Real bad. Beating Siena, Southern Cal, and Charlotte doesn't really make up for going down to the Bulldogs.
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs have some nice wins, but also some very disappointing losses (losing badly to Duke is one). A season split against St. Mary's should get both into the tournament.
Florida: The Gators were the nation's hot team early, but recent struggles culminated in a three-game losing streak to Syracuse, Richmond, and South Alabama.
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers had a poor early season showing in Anaheim in the 76 Classic and then lost another game to Miami in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Tubby Smith has this team playing well even with the loss on the road to Purdue.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs could really use Renardo Sidney, but that doesn't look like it will happen anytime soon. For now, the roster Rick Stansbury has needs to win some marquee games in the SEC to go dancing.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes will quickly move back to the Safe House now that Evan Turner is back, but the losses started to pile up without him.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys have just one top 100 win, and that came against Pacific, but their RPI is still in the top 40. As long as OSU plays well in conference play, that RPI will stay there.
Richmond: The Spiders have four wins that look great (Missouri, Mississippi State, Florida, and Old Dominion) and four losses that could hurt in March (William & Mary, South Carolina, Wake Forest, and Virginia Commonwealth).
St. Mary's: The Gaels have a bunch of decent non-conference wins, but none that are marquee. Beating Gonzaga at least once in conference play should secure them a bid in March.
Texas Tech: Like Oklahoma State, Texas Tech has just one top 100 win, and that came against Washington. The Red Raiders would be in right now, but they'll need marquee wins in the Big 12.
Tennessee: The Volunteers are in the literal doghouse as well. No more Tyler Smith, as he was kicked out of school for his recent arrests, could mean Tennessee is headed to the bubble.
UNLV: The Rebels barely make the doghouse, as early season wins against Nevada, Louisville, and Arizona don't look as great as they did earlier.
Vanderbilt: Three good wins—St. Mary's, Arizona, and Missouri—help you forget about losses to Cincinnati, Illinois, and Western Kentucky.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies haven't exactly played anybody this season, as their non-conference schedule ranks 293rd in the nation. V-Tech has just one quality win thus far against Seton Hall.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons are on a roll, picking up victories against Xavier and Richmond as well as Gonzaga earlier in the season. Those wins outweigh losses to William & Mary and Purdue.
Washington: The Huskies are the only Pac-10 team to even make the doghouse, as the wins against Texas A&M and Portland are the best the league has to offer.
These teams need to win the games they are supposed to win and also the next possible upset.
The upset Butler needs: None. Just win the games the Bulldogs are supposed to.
The upset Harvard needs: Jan. 30 on the road against Cornell.
The upset Illinois needs: Jan. 16 on the road against Michigan State.
The upset Illinois St. needs: Jan. 9 against Northern Iowa.
The upset Louisiana Tech needs: None. Just win the games the Bulldogs are supposed to.
The upset Louisville needs: Jan. 11 against Villanova.
The upset Marquette needs: Jan. 9 on the road against Villanova.
The upset Maryland needs: Jan. 10 on the road against Florida State.
The upset Memphis needs: Feb. 6 against Gonzaga.
The upset Michigan needs: Jan. 17 against Connecticut.
The upset Missouri needs: Jan. 9 against Kansas State.
The upset Missouri State needs: Jan. 30 against Northern Iowa.
The upset Northwestern needs: Jan. 13 against Wisconsin.
The upset Notre Dame needs: Jan. 9 against West Virginia.
The upset Oklahoma needs: Jan. 9 against Baylor.
The upset Oregon needs: Jan. 21 on the road against California.
The upset San Diego State needs: Jan. 13 on the road against UNLV.
The upset Seton Hall needs: Jan. 14 on the road against Georgetown.
The upset Siena needs: None. Just win the games the Saints are supposed to.
The upset South Carolina needs: Jan. 20 on the road against Mississippi.
The upset Wichita State needs: Jan. 19 against Northern Iowa.
The upset William & Mary needs: None available. Just win the games the Tribe is supposed to.
The upset Tulsa needs: Jan. 26 on the road against UAB.
The upset UAB needs: Feb. 3 on the road against Memphis.
The upset UTEP needs: Jan. 9 against Brigham Young.
The upset Xavier needs: Jan. 16 against Dayton.
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