College Basketball: NCAA Tournament's Safe House, Doghouse, and Outhouse

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IJanuary 15, 2010

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 19:  Matt Bouldin #15 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs drives upcourt against the Duke Blue Devils in the first half of the Aeropostale Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 19, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Instead of 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 consists of teams that need an absolute collapse to miss the NCAA tournament right now.

The Doghouse is made up of teams that are in the tournament, but have done something wrong lately to cast doubt on whether or not 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 reserved for teams that are on the outside looking in 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)

Staying in the Safe House: Brigham Young, Dayton, Duke, Georgetown, Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Michigan State, Mississippi, Northern Iowa, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Syracuse, Temple, Texas, Villanova, and Wisconsin.

New to the Safe House: Gonzaga and Tennessee.

Gonzaga has taken control of the West Coast Conference, which should almost guarantee Mark Few's club an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they falter in their conference championship.

Gonzaga challenged itself with a difficult non-conference slate, which resulted in several good wins—Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Washington State, and Illinois—and some losses to very good teams such as Duke, Wake Forest, and Michigan State.

It's the Zags' last two games, though, that have Gonzaga in the Safe House. It's pretty clear that Gonzaga will roll through the WCC after opening league play against its two main competitors, Portland and Saint Mary's. Few's club went on the road to face each team and came away with close victories.

At this point, it looks like Gonzaga might not lose again until the NCAA tournament.

Remarkably, Tennessee has not fallen apart after losing four players to suspensions or dismissals, including future NBA draft pick Tyler Smith. For now, the Volunteers are forced to play with just six scholarship players.

Bruce Pearl's team shouldn't have stood a chance against top ranked Kansas, but Skylar McBee happened and the Volunteers suddenly look like a team that can compete with Kentucky. 

After dismantling Auburn, Tennessee gets fellow Safe House member Mississippi this weekend. No matter the outcome, both teams will still find themselves in the Safe House.

The Doghouse

Staying in the Doghouse: Clemson, Cornell, Mississippi State, Ohio State, Saint Mary's, Texas A&M, UNLV, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia.

Dropped out of the Safe House to the Doghouse: Baylor, Florida State, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.

Baylor originally made the Safe House because it's hard to leave a one-loss major conference team with a handful of decent wins out of the tournament. The Bears continued to back up their Safe House standing with a thumping of Oklahoma, but later went on the road and fell to Colorado, the league's worst team.

After cruising to wins against mostly inferior competition, Florida State ran into a few teams that can really score, and the Seminoles' superior defense failed them. Getting back on track against Virginia Tech is a must.

New Mexico recently fell on hard times in conference play against San Diego State and UNLV, but any loss to the other top three teams in league is excusable.

North Carolina is falling apart, but the Tar Heels still have an outstanding resume because Roy Williams scheduled Texas, Kentucky, Syracuse, Michigan State, and Ohio State in the non-conference games.

Rhode Island has a few nice wins and can afford some losses to the Atlantic 10 teams; that's why a loss to Temple barely knocks the Rams out of the Safe House and into the Doghouse.

Teams that moved up from the Outhouse to the Doghouse: Butler, Missouri, Notre Dame, and William & Mary.

Butler doesn't have the greatest at-large resume because the Bulldogs lost most of their notable non-league games. Butler has passed several tough tests in the Horizon League, though, which makes it clear they are still the superior team in the league.

Reloading instead of rebuilding is the sign of a great coach, and that is what Missouri might have in Mike Anderson. Few expected the Tigers to be a top team in the Big 12, but Missouri's defense is better than last year and has been the focal point of Mizzou's nine-game winning streak.

The Joyce Center continues to prove to be one of the best home court advantages in the country as Notre Dame defeated West Virginia in a game that was pivotal for the Fighting Irish's at-large chances.

Lots of teams in the Doghouse struggled during the past week, but William & Mary took care of business in the CAA this week.

The Outhouse

Still in the Outhouse: Arizona State, Harvard, Illinois, Illinois State, Iowa State, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, Marquette, Maryland, Memphis, Miami, Missouri State, Northwestern, San Diego State, Seton Hall, Siena, Wichita State, Tulsa, UAB, Virginia, and Xavier.

Moved down to the Outhouse: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Oklahoma State, Richmond, Texas Tech, and Washington.

Last week, I took a look at the upsets that the teams in the Outhouse needed to pull off.

Here's a look back at the losses that will prove detrimental in March:

Arizona State lost at UCLA 72-70.

Harvard lost at Army 56-53.

Illinois lost to Bradley 72-68.

Illinois St. lost to Niagara 76-68.

Iowa St. lost to Northwestern 67-65.

Louisiana Tech lost at Arizona 83-67.

Louisville lost to Western Carolina 91-83.

Marquette lost to North Carolina State 77-73.

Maryland lost to William & Mary 83-77.

Memphis lost to UMass 73-72.

Miami lost to Boston College 61-60.

Missouri State lost to Drake 88-77.

Northwestern lost to Illinois 89-83.

San Diego State lost to Wyoming 85-83.

Seton Hall lost to Virginia Tech 103-94.

Siena lost to St. John's 77-68.

Wichita State lost to Illinois St. 72-57.

Tulsa lost to Nebraska 74-70.

UAB lost to Kent State 72-65.

Virginia lost to Auburn 68-67.

Xavier lost to Marquette 71-61.

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