With nine days left until Selection Sunday, I currently have 25 teams battling it out for the final 13 spots in the NCAA tournament.
As always, I am not trying to guess how teams will finish the year; I am simply seeding them based on their current résumés.
I like to break teams down into three categories:
"Wallflowers" are bubble teams because everyone wants to get into the Big Dance, but not all have the guts to ask a girl out onto the dance floor.
Elite teams are safely in the field—"Dancing with a Hottie"—and in the middle are the schools that are "Dancing with Their Sister."
With so little time remaining in the season, however, I have eliminated the middle classification to divide teams into those that are definitely in and those that still have some work to do.
Dancing with a Hottie: Duke (2 seed), Maryland (6), Clemson (7), Florida State (8)
Wallflowers: Wake Forest (9), Georgia Tech (10), Virginia Tech (12)
One of the big arguments right now is who will be the final No. 1 seed. I had Duke in that position on Monday, but following its loss at Maryland, the Blue Devils slip to a two.
Of the six teams in the conversation, Coach K's kids have the highest RPI and best record against the top 25, 50, and 100, outside of New Mexico. However, their top wins—Clemson (twice) and Maryland—are a bit lacking, and they have that eyesore loss at NC State.
Florida State punched its ticket with a victory over Wake on Tuesday, but I refuse to believe the Demon Deacons are a lock, being that they've lost four straight to fall to 8-7 in conference play. A 5-4 mark versus the top 50 keeps Wake Forest in good shape, but it better beat Clemson on Sunday.
But the biggest game in the ACC this weekend is Saturday's contest between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. The Hokies have the better league record (9-6 versus 7-8), but the Yellow Jackets have the more impressive nonconference résumé with wins over Siena and Charlotte. The loser of this game will be in a lot of trouble.
Dancing with a Hottie: Syracuse (1), Villanova (1), West Virginia (2), Pittsburgh (3), Georgetown (5)
Wallflowers: Marquette (9), Louisville (11), Notre Dame (11), South Florida (12), Connecticut (first out), Seton Hall (seventh out)
I begrudgingly gave the final No. 1 seed to Villanova over New Mexico. Of those two schools, Duke, Kansas State, West Virginia, and Ohio State, the Lobos have the best record against the top 25 (4-0), top 50 (7-2), and top 100 (11-2), not to mention the best road/neutral mark at 11-2.
But a relatively weak strength of schedule (56) and a bad loss at Oral Roberts forced me to give the nod to the Wildcats, who have the best victory of the bunch (at West Virginia) and no losses outside of the top 50.
All six of these teams, however, have a chance to play themselves onto the top line in the coming week.
Marquette has won four in a row to climb to 11-6 in conference, but with a relatively easy Big East schedule (four games against DePaul and Providence), the Eagles aren't out of the woods yet. One more victory—over Notre Dame Saturday or in the conference tournament—should do the trick.
Louisville scored only 48 points in a 21-point loss at Marquette on Tuesday and now welcome top-ranked Syracuse for the final game ever at historic Freedom Hall on Saturday. Win that and the Cardinals are obviously in; otherwise they'll need a win next week.
Notre Dame continued its impressive run without Luke Harangody by beating UConn on Wednesday to reach 9-8 in the Big East. It was also the Irish's fourth win over a top-50 opponent.
Hello, South Florida. The Bulls (18-11, 8-9) have stampeded their way back into my final at-large spot by winning their last two games. Mind you, those victories were over Big East bottom feeders Providence and DePaul, but when you compare all the bubble teams, USF stands out with a solid 51 SOS, 8-7 road/neutral record, only one sub-100 loss, and three top-50 wins (at Georgetown, Pitt, Kent State).
The biggest Wallflower game of the weekend will take place in South Florida, where the Bulls host UConn on Saturday. The loser there will have to reach the Big East championship game to have any shot because the Huskies have been sliding recently with losses to Louisville and Notre Dame. A 7-10 conference record doesn't qualify for a bid right now.
Seton Hall suffered a crushing one-point loss to Marquette last Sunday but responded with a win at in-state rival Rutgers. The Pirates (17-11, 8-9) must win at Providence to remain in the discussion and then pick up a big win or two next week. SHU is not out of it yet, though, thanks to a 25 SOS and no bad losses.
Dancing with a Hottie: Ohio State (3), Purdue (3), Michigan State (4), Wisconsin (5)
Wallflowers: Illinois (12), Minnesota (10th out)
Illinois (18-12, 10-7) is trying its hardest not to be in the NCAA tournament. The Illini have lost four of five, and their 73 RPI is one of the worst among bubble teams. Wins over Clemson (road), Vanderbilt (home), Michigan State (home), and Wisconsin (road) are keeping Illinois afloat for now, but if it doesn't beat Wisconsin at home on Saturday, the Illini will have some work to do in the Big Ten Tournament.
Minnesota pretty much sealed its fate with a 28-point loss at Michigan on Monday. The Gophers must beat Iowa in their season finale and reach the Big Ten finals to have any shot.
Dancing with a Hottie: Kansas (1), Kansas State (2), Baylor (3), Texas A&M (4), Texas (7), Missouri (7), Oklahoma State (8)
Only the seeds are in doubt for the Big 12 tournament teams. Kansas State misses out on the fourth No. 1 seed because it only has two RPI top-25 wins (Xavier, Texas A&M), the fewest among top-seed hopefuls. A conference tournament title would change all that, though.
Wallflowers: California (9), Washington (sixth out), Arizona State (12th out)
Despite no top-50 wins, Cal looks pretty safe because three of its victories are over teams ranked 53 and 54 in the RPI. However, the Bears can't afford a loss at Stanford on Saturday or an early exit in the Pac-10 Tournament.
Washington jumps back into the bubble discussion with its third consecutive win. The Huskies have mediocre computer numbers (RPI 53, SOS 60) and just two top-50 victories, but a 6-5 mark versus the top 100 is better than a lot of other Wallflowers. The Huskies must win at Oregon State in their regular-season finale and probably need a victory over Cal next week to earn a bid.
I had Arizona State a bit higher in the pecking order on Monday, but crunching the numbers, I find that its résumé pales in comparison to the other 24 bubble teams, including Saint Louis. The Sun Devils are just 1-5 against the top 50, 3-7 versus the top 100, and have two sub-100 losses (at UCLA, at USC).
Dancing with a Hottie: Kentucky (1), Vanderbilt (4), Tennessee (4)
Wallflowers: Florida (10), Mississippi State (third out), Mississippi (eighth out)
Florida missed another opportunity when it lost by four points at home to Vanderbilt on Tuesday. But the bubble is weak, so the Gators are a 10 seed, thanks to a 52 RPI, 36 SOS, three top-50 wins, seven top-100 victories, only one bad loss, and a 7-6 road/neutral record. They've also swept the other two SEC Wallflowers.
Mississippi State drops out of the field with its fifth sub-100 loss—this one at No. 133 Auburn. The Bulldogs are just 1-3 versus the top 50, so they'll need to defeat Tennessee at home on Saturday.
Ole Miss lost both of its games this season to Miss State, so the Rebels remain third in the SEC bubble pecking order. They kept their slim hopes alive by beating LSU, 72-59, on Thursday night.
Dancing with Their Sister: Temple (5), Xavier (6), Richmond (6)
Wallflowers: Rhode Island (10), Dayton (11), Charlotte (ninth out), Saint Louis (11th out)
Rhode Island crushed Charlotte, 80-58, on Wednesday to keep the Rams in the field and knock the 49ers further out. Among all Wallflowers, URI has the best RPI (30) and solid records against the top 100 (8-6) and away from home (9-5).
I still have Dayton in my field despite its recent defeat at Richmond. Losing by four at the No. 28 team in the RPI isn't a damning setback, and the Flyers still have solid computer numbers (RPI 42, SOS 34), not to mention wins over Georgia Tech (neutral), Old Dominion (home), and Xavier (home).
Dancing with a Hottie: New Mexico (2), BYU (6)
Wallflowers: UNLV (10), San Diego State (fourth out)
San Diego State's three top-100 wins are tied with Arizona State for the fewest among bubble teams. Because of that, the Aztecs need to beat one of the big three in next week's conference tournament.
Dancing with a Hottie: Butler (5), Gonzaga (7)
Wallflowers: UTEP (8), Northern Iowa (8), Old Dominion (9), Saint Mary's (11), Utah State (12), UAB (second out), Memphis (fifth out)
Saint Mary's has no way to improve its résumé other than beating Gonzaga, and since that can't happen until the WCC title game, their at-large hopes seemed bleak on Monday. But with so many bubble teams losing this week, the Gaels actually enter my field as an 11 seed. The good parts of SMC's résumé include a 45 RPI, above-.500 record versus the top 100 (5-4), just one bad loss, and a 10-3 road/neutral mark.
Memphis improved its at-large hopes while also keeping UAB in a holding pattern when the Tigers defeated the Blazers, 70-65, in Birmingham on Wednesday.
13 seeds: Siena, Cornell, Kent State, Murray State
14 seeds: Oakland, Weber State, Sam Houston State, Wofford
15 seeds: North Texas, Coastal Carolina, Morgan State, UCSB
16 seeds: Jacksonville, Stony Brook, Quinnipiac, Lehigh, Jackson State
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Jordan Schwartz is one of Bleacher Report's New York Yankees and College Basketball Featured Columnists. His book Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and authorhouse.com.
Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org