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

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IFebruary 24, 2010

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.

Note: The last edition of the Safe House, Doghouse, and Outhouse was on January 15th.

The Safe House (listed in alphabetical order)

Staying in the Safe House: Brigham Young, Duke, Georgetown, Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Syracuse, Temple, Tennessee, Villanova, and Wisconsin.

New to the Safe House: Baylor, Butler, Gonzaga, New Mexico, Ohio State, Vanderbilt.

Baylor's commitment to defense this season has the Bears a virtual lock to make the tournament. Barring a late season collapse against three teams Baylor has already beaten this season, Scott Drew's team should be dancing for the second time in three seasons.

Rolling through the Horizon League isn't THAT impressive, but couple that with Butler's wins against Ohio State (even without Evan Turner), Northwestern, and Xavier allow us to overlook all the non-conference losses to Clemson, Minnesota, Georgetown, and UAB.

The last edition of the Safe House dropped Gonzaga out of the Safe House because it looked like the 'Zags might struggle against the top competition in the league. That wasn't the case as Mark Few's club has rolled through Portland and Saint Mary's.

The problem is Gonzaga does have losses to San Francisco and Loyola Marymount. Those two defeats won't be enough to knock Gonzaga out of the tournament.

Despite a narrow win against Air Force, New Mexico looks to be the best team in the Mountain West, but not by much over Brigham Young. Darington Hobson and his ability to score anywhere on the court (44 percent on two's and 38 percent on three's) makes him a bona-fide superstar.

The Buckeyes simply needed Player of the Year front-runner Evan Turner to return for Ohio State to move into the Safe House. If it wasn't for Thad Matta's decision to only play six guys, Ohio State would be a great bet to make the Final Four.

If it wasn't for Kentucky and a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde like Georgia team, Vanderbilt would be unblemished in the SEC. Couple that mark with some strong non-league wins (Missouri and Saint Mary's) and Vandy should be no worse than a five seed in March.

The Doghouse

Moved Down to the Doghouse: Dayton, Northern Iowa, Rhode Island, Texas.

Earlier this season, Dayton looked like all it needed was to finish in the top two or three of the Atlantic 10 to make the tournament. But after struggling at times, Dayton may not finish that high, but should still make the tournament even if the Flyers finish fourth or fifth in the conference.

After winning its BracketBuster matchup, Northern Iowa looked like it should stay a lock for the tournament. Losing to the league's worst team Evansville keeps the Panthers from lock status.

At one point, Rhode Island was cruising through a tough Atlantic-10, but losing three in a row puts the Rams in the Doghouse. A favorable schedule where the toughest game is at home against Charlotte should give URI the three wins necessary to lock up an NCAA Tournament bid.

The teams originally stated as locks in January needed an absolute collapse to not make the tournament. Texas is making that collapse. The Longhorns lost five of their last nine games and could lose two, maybe three more before the Big 12 Tournament.

Staying in the Doghouse: Cornell, Clemson, Florida State, Missouri, St. Mary's, Texas A&M, UNLV, UTEP, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest.

The ACC only has one elite team, but has six more that have proven themselves as tournament worthy, but not really bubble teams. As long as those six ACC schools hold serve and win the games they should, they shouldn't have any issue on Selection Sunday.

Moved up to the Doghouse: Connecticut, Florida, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Louisville, Marquette, Maryland, Oklahoma State, Richmond, Xavier.

The Big East is well represented in this group of teams: Connecticut, Louisville, and Marquette all have recent wins that put them in the NCAA Tournament.

The Huskies three game winning streak which includes victories against top eight teams Villanova and West Virginia, puts UConn in a good position.

Louisville recently slipped up against Georgetown, but the Cardinals should get to at least 10 league wins including one over conference favorite Syracuse.ย 

Marquette doesn't have a marquee win since early January, but the Golden Eagles have an array of solid victories. Marquette should also get to 11 league wins which would make them a lock.

After struggling in the non-conference, UTEP suddenly looks like a legitimate NCAA Tournament team. After winning 10 in a row, the Miners' win streak should reach at least 12 games before finishing the season against Marshall and UAB.

UTEP didn't accomplish much in the non-conference, but its dominance of Conference USA makes the Miners tournament worthy.

The Outhouse

Moved Down to the Outhouse: Mississippi, Mississippi State, Notre Dame

Someone from the SEC West has to make the tournament right?

Well, Mississippi and Mississippi State have done everything possible to make that impossible. Neither team can afford another in-league loss as the Rebels have four SEC West cupcakes and Mississippi State has one final chance to pick up a marquee win against Tennessee.

Notre Dame's tournament chances are almost gone, but with games against Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Connecticut, and Marquette, Notre Dame has four shots to win games against tournament teams.

Staying in the Outhouse: Arizona State, California, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Old Dominion, Saint Louis, San Diego State, Siena, South Florida, UAB, Utah State, Washington, Wichita State.

The teams of the Outhouse pretty much have no choice but to win out in the regular season and make some noise in their conference tournaments.

Teams flushed from the Outhouse since January:

Harvard, Illinois State, Iowa State, Louisiana Tech, Miami, Memphis, Michigan, Missouri State, Northwestern, North Carolina, Seton Hall, South Carolina, Texas Tech, Tulsa, Virginia, William & Mary.

Final Rundown

There are 20 locks to make the NCAA Tournament entering 2/24's games.

There are 24 teams that are in trouble, but as of now, should be in the tournament.

Those 44 teams come from 12 different conferences. With 19 more automatic bids up for grabs, that leaves the Outhouse with two remaining bids.

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