6. South Florida Golden Bulls, 16-9 (6-7, Big East)
Key wins: at Georgetown, Pittsburgh
Heartbreaking losses: Central Michigan, South Carolina
With a budding inside/out duo, the Bulls are staying alive in the Big East bubble. They made it out of a tough road trip with a key win against hot-and-cold Georgetown and beat Cincy tonight to make it on my bubble list.
Dominique Jones is the top scorer in the Big East, who dropped 37 on Pittsburgh, and Augustus Gilchrist is back as a dominant post scorer and rebounder, scoring in double digits against Cincy. USF has a soft stretch ahead with games against St. Johns, Providence, DePaul, and UConn. If they get a winning record in Big East play—which is highly likely—the Bulls will be dancing for the first time since 1992.
5. Ole Miss Rebels, 17-7 (5-5, SEC)
Key wins: Kansas State, UTEP
Heartbreaking losses: Arkansas, two losses to Mississippi State
Ole Miss is rated this high based on the Rebels tough schedule and great win against the top 10 Kansas State Wildcats. Their two losses to the Bulldogs hurt their chances in the West, but they don't have the bad losses Mississippi State got in the nonconference.
The Rebels have a breezy stretch of games in the SEC. Four of their next six games are in Dixieland, and they're against SEC West bottom feeders Arkansas, Alabama, LSU, and Auburn. Ole Miss has potential to make the tournament, but the Rebels have to get their act together and beat the teams they should.
4. Marquette Golden Eagles, 16-8 (7-5, Big East)
Key wins: Georgetown, Xavier
Heartbreaking losses: at DePaul, NC State
The Eagles are one of the hottest teams in America, winning five straight in a manageable Big East stretch. I applaud Buzz Williams' coaching, the growth of Darius Johnson-Odom, and diminutive Maurice Acker as a leader in the backcourt.
Because they have a winning record in the killer Big East conference, the Eagles are definitely in the field of 65. But they can't stumble with a Thursday matchup vs. Pitt and then a three game road trip. Marquette is young, but it will continue the tradition of great guards like Dwyane Wade and Dominic James.
3. Charlotte 49ers, 18-6 (8-2, Atlantic 10)
Key wins: at Louisville, at Richmond
Heartbreaking losses: at Duke (42 points), at Old Dominion
Charlotte is a college basketball enigma. The Niners lost in blowouts early to Duke, ODU, and Tennessee, but right now they're on a nice run, winning seven out of eight games in the tough Atlantic 10.
Charlotte has a high-powered offense and got an upgrade this year in leading scorer Shamari Spears, who left the sinking ship at Boston College to join the golden 49ers. They have a good chance to end the season on a good note, but a road matchup against Rhode Island and home dates vs. Xavier and Richmond loom ahead.
2. St. Mary's Gaels, 21-5 (8-3, WCC)
Key wins: San Diego State, at Utah State
Heartbreaking losses: USC, at Portland
Back-to-back losses have dropped the Gaels back into the bubble discussion. St. Mary's has had to play second fiddle to the loaded Zags all year. The Gaels have three extremely winnable games vs. San Diego, Pepperdine, and Loyola and the WCC tournament to make up for lost time.
On paper, St. Mary's is unbeatable. It has two great post men and replaced the Aussie standout Pat Mills with a stable of young guards. The Gaels weakness is their depth, which could be bad down the stretch. If it wins the WCC tournament, St. Mary's will be a fifth or sixth seed; if not, they'll be somewhere in the eighth or ninth range.
1. Oklahoma State Cowboys, 17-7 (5-5, Big 12)
Key wins: at Kansas State, Texas A&M
Heartbreaking losses: at Oklahoma, Tulsa
The 'Pokes needed that blowout win against OU. After a set of wins against NCAA-bound Kansas State and the Aggies, Oklahoma State hit a free fall after starting guard Ray Penn suffered a season ending injury.
Travis Ford's run-and-gun style of basketball puts points on the scoreboard, but it also gave up 86 points to an average Tulsa squad. The Cowboys need to stay afloat in the underrated Big 12 to make the field of 65. A winning conference record will get them in, and wins against Texas, A&M, or Kansas will boost their resume and tourney seed.