The Saturday of Championship Week proved to be quite volatile as Washington defeated California in the Pac-10 final, New Mexico State upset Utah State to capture the WAC's automatic bid, and Houston beat UTEP to win the Conference USA tournament.
Many were left to wonder whose bubble bids did these at-large teams steal, but I pondered whether or not the three championship game losers deserved at-large berths at all.
Before we get to the bubble teams, let's tackle another issue that sprung up this past week: Who should claim the last No. 1 seed?
Kansas and Kentucky are locks for the top two overall tournament seeds, while Syracuse put itself in minor jeopardy with a Big East quarterfinal loss to Georgetown, during which center Arinze Onuaku was injured.
Well, the big man appears to be alright as does the Orange's No. 1 seed thanks to RPI records of 5-2 against the top 25, 8-4 versus the top 50, and 17-4 against the top 100. SU was also 11-2 in road/neutral games and captured the regular-season conference title.
That leaves Duke, West Virginia and Ohio State. Even if the Buckeyes beat Minnesota today to win the Big Ten tournament, their profile is not good enough to jump onto the top line. OSU's RPI currently stands at 25 with a strength of schedule of 69. A 5-4 record versus the top 50 and a 9-6 mark against the top 100 does not put it in the class of the Blue Devils and Mountaineers.
The resumes of Duke and WVU, meanwhile, are very similar... except in one area. The Big East tournament champs were 6-4 against the top 25 with victories over Texas A&M (neutral), Ohio State (home), Pittsburgh (home), Georgetown (twice) and Villanova (home).
The Blue Devils, however, went just 1-3 versus the top 25 with its sole win coming at home against Maryland. Even an ACC tournament title today won't improve Duke to a 1 seed in my opinion.
Here is the first part of my projections:
1 - Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse, West Virginia
2 - Duke, Kansas State, New Mexico, Ohio State
3 - Georgetown, Purdue, Villanova, Temple
4 - Baylor, Vanderbilt, Butler, Pittsburgh
5 - Tennessee, Texas A&M, Michigan State, Wisconsin
6 - Northern Iowa, Richmond, Xavier, Maryland
7 - BYU, Clemson, San Diego State, Oklahoma State
8 - Saint Mary's, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Gonzaga
9 - UNLV, Louisville, Texas, Florida State
10 - Notre Dame, Old Dominion, Marquette, Missouri
11 - Washington
And then it gets fun. There are 14 teams fighting for the final five available spots. Let's break them all down.
11 seed - Utah State (RPI 30, SOS 100, 0-0 vs. top 25, 2-1 vs. top 50, 10-5 vs. top 100, 2 sub-100 losses, 10-6 road/neutral)
The Aggies put several teams in danger when they lost to New Mexico State in the WAC final Saturday night. But what many analysts didn't mention is that one of those teams is themselves.
Everyone seems to assume that since Utah State went 26-7, won the WAC regular season, and strung together 17 consecutive victories at the end of the season, the school would be a lock for the tournament.
But if you take away those 10 wins the Aggies got over sub-200 competition, their overall record doesn't look as good. Still, a 71-61 home victory over RPI No. 26 BYU back on Dec. 2 is what will get Utah State into the field.
11 seed - UTEP (RPI 35, SOS 111, 0-1 vs. top 25, 2-1 vs. top 50, 8-4 vs. top 100, 2 sub-100 losses, 11-4 road/neutral)
The Miners and Aggies have very similar resumes, aside from the fact that UTEP doesn't have a single big win. Its two top-50 victories came over No. 46 UAB, which certainly will not be dancing.
In fact, the Miners' only two wins over teams that will be playing the NCAA tournament are Houston, which only got in because it beat UTEP yesterday, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which most likely will be participating in the play-in game on Tuesday.
So, why does UTEP get in? The committee will certainly give the school credit for winning the Conference USA regular-season title with a 15-1 record and a stellar record away from home.
11 seed - California (RPI 20, SOS 14, 0-4 vs. top 25, 1-6 vs. top 50, 6-7 vs. top 100, 3 sub-100 losses, 8-9 road/neutral)
The Bears may be the most interesting case on Selection Sunday. They definitely do not have the wins to warrant an at-large bid, but the committee has to take into account that Theo Robertson missed three big games early in the year due to a foot injury.
The forward, who is third on the team in points per game at 14.1 and rebounds per game at 4.7, was absent for Cal's losses to Syracuse, Ohio State and New Mexico. Since his return, the Bears have been a much-improved team that captured the Pac-10 regular-season championship.
Wins over Washington, Murray State and UCSB - which will all be dancing - also help.
12 seed - Minnesota (RPI 60, SOS 44, 4-4 vs. top 25, 5-6 vs. top 50, 6-8 vs. top 100, 4 sub-100 losses, 7-9 road/neutral)
I believe the Gophers make the tournament even if they lose to Ohio State in the Big Ten final today. Minnesota's four RPI top-25 wins are more than any other team in the country not named Kansas, West Virginia, Georgetown or Syracuse.
Victories over Butler (neutral), Ohio State (home), Wisconsin (home) and Purdue (an absolute blow-out on a neutral court) would make the Gophers a mortal lock if it weren't for their four bad losses to Indiana (away), Michigan (twice) and Northwestern (away).
But Minnesota also beat No. 29 Michigan State to help the Gophers advance to today's championship game, so they should be in even with a loss.
12 seed - Mississippi State (RPI 55, SOS 97, 1-5 vs. top 25, 2-5 vs. top 50, 8-7 vs. top 100, 4 sub-100 losses, 11-8 road/neutral)
I'm putting the Bulldogs as my last team in, despite their excruciating one-point overtime loss to Kentucky in the SEC final. It took an incredible buzzer-beater put-back to send the game to OT, and the way Miss State played against one of the best teams in the country, I can't help but put them in.
Mississippi State and Virginia Tech have very similar resumes, but the Bulldogs have the best overall win, beating No. 24 Vanderbilt on a neutral court yesterday, and are definitely playing better right now.
First team out - Virginia Tech (RPI 59, SOS 132, 0-3 vs. top 25, 3-4 vs. top 50, 8-7 vs. top 100, 1 sub-100 loss, 8-7 road/neutral)
I'm not leaving Va Tech out because it played one of the weakest non-conference schedules in the country; I'm leaving the Hokies out because their best win (at Georgia Tech) is not as good as Mississippi State's, and VT's last impression (losing to 12th place Miami in the ACC quarters) is far exceeded by the Bulldogs' effort on Sunday.
Second team out - Florida (RPI 56, SOS 33, 1-8 vs. top 25, 3-8 vs. top 50, 8-10 vs. top 100, 2 sub-100 losses, 8-8 road/neutral)
The Gators' SEC quarterfinal loss to Mississippi State put them in trouble. The three conference championship game upsets on Saturday put them out.
When you get nine opportunities to pick up a huge victory over a team ranked in the RPI top 25, you have to win more than one. And when you get 11 chances to score a big triumph over a school in the top 50, you have to win more than three, because it's not fair to other teams that don't get as many shots due to the conference in which they play. 2-1 against the top 50 is better than 3-8.
Wins over Florida State (home), Michigan State (neutral) and Tennessee (home) are not enough to offset losses to No. 212 South Alabama (home) and No. 106 Georgia (away), not to mention a losing record against the top 100.
Third team out - Illinois (RPI 75, SOS 35, 3-6 vs. top 25, 5-9 vs. top 50, 6-10 vs. top 100, 4 sub-100 losses, 7-9 road/neutral)
The Illini's double-overtime loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten semis is probably what will keep them out of the Big Dance. It's cruel, but it's true. Like Florida, Illinois had a ton of chances to pick up big wins this season, and while it did pick up a couple more than the Gators did, in the end, it won't be enough.
Victories over Clemson (away), Vanderbilt (home), Michigan State (home) and Wisconsin (twice) are great, but Illinois was also a dismal 6-10 against the top 100 and suffered bad defeats to Utah (neutral), Bradley (neutral), Georgia (away) and Northwestern (away).
Fourth team out - Mississipppi (RPI 62, SOS 70, 1-6 vs. top 25, 2-6 vs. top 50, 5-9 vs. top 100, 1 sub-100 loss, 8-6 road/neutral)
Ole Miss' only really bad loss came at home to Arkansas, but the Rebels don't have enough good wins to qualify as an at-large. Beating Kansas State in Puerto Rico on Nov. 20 keeps them in the conversation, but there's not enough to back that up and they were swept by fellow bubble Mississippi State.
Fifth team out - Seton Hall (RPI 61, SOS 31, 1-7 vs. top 25, 4-9 vs. top 50, 6-12 vs. top 100, 0 sub-100 losses, 6-8 road/neutral)
This is another team that did not win enough big games considering how many opportunities it had to do so. Beating Cornell (away), Louisville (home), Pittsburgh (home) and Notre Dame (home) is good. So is not having any losses to teams ranked below 71 in the RPI, but it's not enough when you're 6-12 against the top 100.
Sixth team out - South Florida (RPI 71, SOS 61, 2-4 vs. top 25, 3-8 vs. top 50, 6-11 vs. top 100, 1 sub-100 loss, 9-8 road/neutral)
Everyone wrote the Bulls off when they lost to Georgetown in the second round of the Big East tournament on Wednesday, but I think they're a lot closer to a bid than people think. Two wins over the RPI top 25 - Pitt (home), Georgetown (away) - are more than the totals held by Cal, Virginia Tech, Seton Hall and Ole Miss, but the computer numbers aren't there and 6-11 against the top 100 won't help.
Seventh team out - William & Mary (RPI 58, SOS 109, 2-0 vs. top 25, 3-3 vs. top 50, 6-6 vs. top 100, 4 sub-100 losses, 12-7 road/neutral)
I would not be shocked to see the Tribe pop up on the board this evening. They have big non-conference wins over Richmond (home), Wake Forest (away) and Maryland (away), but three horrendous sub-200 defeats to UNC Wilmington (home), James Madison (away) and Towson (home) will most likely keep W&M out.
Eighth team out - Rhode Island (RPI 40, SOS 71, 0-5 vs. top 25, 1-5 vs. top 50, 7-7 vs. top 100, 2 sub-100 losses, 10-7 road/neutral)
The Rams have a strikingly similar resume to Cal, but without the injury excuse. URI's only top-50 win came over Oklahoma State and it didn't do enough damage in the Atlantic 10.
Ninth team out - Arizona State (RPI 63, SOS 78, 1-4 vs. top 25, 2-6 vs. top 50, 4-7 vs. top 100, 3 sub-100 losses, 6-7 road/neutral)
I'm doing the Sun Devils a favor by even including them on this list. They beat San Diego State and Washington at home and that's about it.
And here's the bottom of the bracket:
12 - New Mexico State, Siena
13 - Cornell, Oakland, Murray State, Wofford
14 - Sam Houston State, Houston, Montana, Ohio
15 - UCSB, Morgan State, North Texas, Vermont
16 - East Tennessee State, Robert Morris, Lehigh, Winthrop vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
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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 email@example.com