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Last chance for teams to move off NCAA tourney bubble

Mar 7, 2011, 5:35 PM EDT

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Welcome to Bubble Banter.

Bubble Banter highlights the teams we believe are on the NCAA Bubble. If a team isn’t listed, they aren’t a bubble team at the time of the update. RPI and SOS data is credited to CollegeRPI.com. If you would like great access to regular RPI information, Jerry Palm provides great information for all NCAA Tournament fans. A subscription is very reasonable.

UPDATED: Monday, March 7

Automatic Bids (4): UNC-Ashville (Big South), Morehead State (OVC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Indiana State (MVC)

Total Spots (68): Number of total teams in the Field.

  • Projected Locks (29): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
  • Should Be In (4): These teams are teams in solid position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (26): Teams projected to be at or near the cutline for being selected as at-large candidates.
  • Spots available (11): Number of projected available openings for the bracket.
  • Leaving the Bubble: Cleveland State (out), Southern Mississippi (out)
  • Joining the Bubble: New Mexico, USC
  • RPI and SOS: RPI and SOS data are updated 11:00 p.m. ET on March 6.
Atlantic 10
Locks: Xavier, Temple | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Richmond
  • Richmond (24-7 | 13-3) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 138 | – The Spiders closed with 10 wins in 12 games – their only losses to Xavier and Temple. The win over Purdue continues to be a major helping point, and a victory over VCU is looking better again. Because the Spiders suffered lopsided losses against Xavier and Temple in their regular-season meetings, do they need to beat one of them in the A-10 tournament? We’ll see. Doing so would certainly make them feel more secure on Selection Sunday.
ACC
Locks: Duke, North Carolina | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech
  • Boston College (19-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 25 | – After closing out Wake Forest Sunday, BC enters the ACC tourney on a three-game winning streak. Winning at Virginia Tech could prove really big as the Eagles swept the Hokies. That said, BC remains just 1-5 vs. Top 50 RPI teams (Texas AM), even though they are 7-10 vs. the Top 100. Although the Eagles are in just “in” right now, BC needs to win its opening ACC tournament game.
  • Clemson (20-10 | 9-7) | RPI: 57 | SOS: 74 | – The Tigers won their critical home game with Virginia Tech on Saturday in the only meeting between the two. Clemson’s resume remains pretty modest (2-5 vs. Top 50 teams – BC and Florida State), however, and is backed by a rather weak No. 204 non-conference schedule. Clemson has non-league losses to Old Dominion, Michigan, and South Carolina to go along with hiccups against NC State and Virginia. Whether the Tigers end up in the NCAAs will depend on how they perform at the ACC Tournament.
  • Florida State (21-9 | 11-5) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 78 | – While it’s hard to see FSU missing the NCAAs with an 11-5 ACC record, most of their wins are against teams below them in the standings. The Seminoles’ win over Duke is helping, but FSU was swept by Carolina. Outside the league, Florida State’s best win is Baylor (Hawaii). They also lost to Butler. The Seminoles are 2-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 6-8 vs the Top 100 – other bubble teams have more such wins. Beating NC State on Sunday was important. Avoiding a one-and-done at the ACC tourney should be enough.
  • Virginia Tech (19-10 | 9-7) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 87 | – Losing back-to-back games against bubble teams in your own conference has certainly created a lot of doubt after the win over Duke. The Hokies enter the ACC Tournament squarely on the cutline. An opening-round loss could very well mean another year of heartbreak. Besides Duke, the Hokies beat Florida State in the ACC, and Penn State. They were swept by Boston College and lost their only game with Clemson. They were also swept by Virginia, lost at Georgia Tech, and are 4-6 in road games. VT is 2-6 vs. the Top 50 and 7-7 vs. the Top 100.
BIG EAST
Locks: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, Louisville, St. John’s West Virginia, Cincinnati | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Marquette
  • Marquette (18-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 67 | SOS: 31 | – By losing at Seton Hall, Marquette has left some doubt about their once-promising NCAA hopes. The Golden Eagles are 4-11 vs. Top 50 RPI teams – an amazing number of high-level games. But they are also just 11-13 vs. the Top 200 – a stat that has often meant the NIT. We’ll see if the strength of the Big East and a strong SOS overall helps the Golden Eagles. Winning at Connecticut was huge because it proved that Marquette could win away from home. Still, Marquette is just 4-7 on the road. Out of conference, Marquette’s best win is Bucknell. A first-round loss to Providence at the Big East tourney would create some uncertainty.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State
  • Illinois (19-12 | 9-9) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 17 | - The Illini took out some frustration on Indiana Saturday in Champaign and avoided a costly loss. While the general feeling is the Illini will make it, their outlook would be clearer if they can beat Michigan (again) in the Big Ten quarterfinals. Good wins include N. Carolina, at Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and perhaps Michigan State. Down the stretch, however, Illinois has gone 5-7 in its last 12 games. Strong SOS numbers and 10 Top 100 wins are a plus. The loss at UIC is a major sore point – along with the dropped game at Indiana in January.
  • Michigan State (16-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 9 | The Spartans won 3 of 5 down the stretch, but struggled on the road against Michigan on Saturday – giving the Wolverines a season sweep. MSU is hoping its strong SOS will be rewarded; we’ve seen it in the past. The Spartans are just 3-9 vs. Top 50 teams, but 9-12 vs. the Top 100. They are 12-12 vs. the Top 200. What’s it all mean? Michigan State plays Iowa in its Big Ten tourney opener. A second loss to the Hawkeyes could prove too much. A victory and a good showing against Purdue? Close call.
  • Michigan (18-12 | 9-9) | RPI: 55 | SOS: 18 | Michigan played well down the stretch, going 8-4 in its last 12 Big Ten games. Through a series of tiebreakers, the Wolverines earned the 4-seed in the Big Ten tourney and play Illinois Friday. The Illini won in Champaign – the only meeting between the two. A 3-8 mark vs. Top 50 teams is somewhat offset by a 9-11 mark against the Top 100. Outside the league, Michigan’s best win is at Clemson, although they did beat Harvard, too. In the Big 10, Michigan swept Michigan State and Penn State. Their only “bad” loss was at Indiana in early January. If good losses help, Michigan took Kansas to OT in Ann Arbor. If they lose to Illinois, it could go right down to the wire.
  • Penn State (16-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 53 | SOS: 6 | The Nittany Lions staved off bubble elimination by winning at Minnesota Sunday. Penn State has three solid victories at home (Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State) but the Lions are a just 3-8 on the road – a major disparity. PSU was also swept by Michigan. Despite a solid SOS, PSU’s best non-conference victories are Fairfield and Duquesne. They also lost at Virginia Tech. Penn State has to beat Indiana in its B10 tourney opener, and probably upset Wisconsin to sneak in. They are 3-7 vs. the Top 50 and 9-12 vs. the Top 100.
BIG 12
Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas AM, Missouri, Kansas State | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Baylor, Colorado
  • Baylor (17-12 | 7-9) | RPI: 84 | SOS: 39 | – Baylor has dropped 5 of 6 and is clinging to life support after losing to Texas at home. The Bears’ RPI is sliding fast and the only thing keeping them afloat is a world of talent and a sweep of Texas AM. It’ll take a deep run in the Big 12 tourney at this point. It starts with Oklahoma.
  • Colorado (18-12 | 8-8) | RPI: 76 | SOS: 72 | – Colorado’s win over Nebraska Saturday did two things – kept them near the cutline and kept Nebraska off the immediate bubble. While the Buffs have some high-level wins (5-6 vs. the top 50 and a sweep of Kansas State), a horrific non-conference SOS (No. 322) could still prove to be an at-large killer. That, and a 3-9 record in true road games. It’s also worth noting that Colorado is just 10-12 vs the Top 200 – often an NIT qualification. The Buffs best non-conference win is over fellow bubble-dweller Colorado State. Colorado gets a rematch with Iowa State in its Big 12 tourney opener. Another loss to the Cyclones (in 10 days) might very well end their hopes of an NCAA bid.
MOUNTAIN WEST
Locks: BYU, San Diego State, UNLV | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Colorado State, New Mexico
  • Colorado State (18-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 33 | – The Rams lost 4 of 5 down the stretch after falling at San Diego State. CSU is just 1-6 vs. the Top 50 and 4-8 vs. the Top 100. CSU has to reach the MTW final to warrant re-evaluation. Next up is New Mexico in an elimination game.
  • New Mexico (19-11 | 8-8) | RPI: 70 | SOS: 90 | – While still a long-shot, we have to welcome back the Lobos who have won three straight and own a season sweep of BYU. They also split with Colorado State and beat Colorado. UNM’s non-conference SOS (No. 257) is still an eyesore, but if the Lobos could reach the MTW final, they would be in the picture. First, UNM has to beat Colorado State in an elimination game.
PAC 10
Locks: Arizona | Should Be In: UCLA | Bubble: Washington, Washington State, USC
  • Washington (20-10 | 11-7) | RPI: 46 | SOS: 52 | – The Huskies have left themselves on the bubble by playing some very inconsistent basketball. They beat UCLA at home (season sweep), then lost on their same home floor to USC two days later. Keep in mind that Washington accomplished nothing outside the Pac-10 – Long Beach State is the Huskies best non-league win. Thus, it’s hard to move Washington above the fray just yet. They open the Pac-10 tourney against Washington State. What if they lose and WSU or USC makes a run? Washington also has losses at Stanford, Oregon, and Oregon State.
  • Washington State (19-10 | 9-8) | RPI: 74 | SOS: 86 | – With Klay Thompson suspended, the Cougars coughed up a late lead to UCLA and lost in OT. That could be a major blow if the Cougars lose to Washington in their Pac 10 tourney opener. WSU is 6-8 vs. Top 100 teams, but just 2-6 vs. the Top 50. The Cougars have beaten Gonzaga and Baylor, but lost to Butler. WSU also swept Washington, but was swept by Arizona.
  • USC (18-13 | 10-8) | RPI: 68 | SOS: 42 | – Having won 5 of 6, it might be prudent to add Southern Cal to the bubble, but the Trojans have a long way to go. Yes, they have 5 Top 50 wins (Texas early, and then at Tennessee included), but they also have 6 sub-100 RPI losses – including 3 sub-200 losses (TCU, Oregon State, Bradley). They were also swept by Oregon. That type of resume suggests the NIT. But if USC can reach the Pac-10 final? We’ll see how the landscape looks.
SEC
Locks: Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt | Should Be In: Tennessee | Bubble: Georgia, Alabama
  • Georgia (20-10 | 9-7) | RPI: 39 | SOS: 36 | – Having won at Tennesse and beaten Kentucky, the Bulldogs remain decent position. They also have a win over UAB. A victory at Alabama would have helped, but the Bulldogs do have one edge on some other bubble teams – no “bad” losses. In fact, every loss except at Alabama has been to teams in the Top 40 of the RPI. Outside the league, Georgia beat Colorado but lost to Xavier and Temple. Overall, the Bulldogs are 3-9 vs. the Top 50 and 5-10 vs. the Top 100. Is Georgia safe? Not yet. They can’t afford a loss to Auburn in their SEC tourney opener.
  • Alabama (20-10 | 12-4) | RPI: 79 | SOS: 127 | – What will the Selection Commitee do with Alabama? That’s a big topic of debate. Winning the SEC West was hardly epic work, but a 12-4 SEC mark is hard to ignore. Outside the SEC, Alabama’s profile is very questionable. Their non-conference SOS ranks No. 280 and the Tide’s best non-league win is Lipscomb. They also have early losses to St. Peter’s, Iowa, and Seton Hall. With just 4 Top 100 wins, it’s hard to move Alabama off the bubble. Yes, the Tide beat Kentucky at home, but UK has been an average team on the road. Their other notable win – other than Georgia at home Saturday – is at Tennessee. But the Vols are very unpredictable. Is that enough? Alabama had better win at least one game in Atlanta. They might need two.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: George Mason, Old Dominion | Bubble: Butler, Missouri State, Memphis, UAB, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Utah State
  • Butler (21-9 | 14-5) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 71 | – Butler has done what it had to do by reaching the Horizon League final. They play at Milwaukee on Tuesday. Certainly, winning the automatic bid would be best, but the Bulldogs have won 8 straight to be squarely in the conversation. A win over Florida State in Hawaii helps as could a win over Washington State – although that is more questionable. It’s the five league losses – including a sweep by Milwaukee – causing the question mark. Butler played a strong non-conference schedule (No. 12), and might be rewarded. That said, losing three times to Milwaukee could be a stumbling block.
  • Missouri State (25-8 | 17-4) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 124 | – Long wait coming up for the Bears who lost to Indiana State in the finals of the MVC tournament. With no Top 50 wins and just a 3-6 mark vs. the Top 100, Missouri State has to hope the Selection Committee values an outright MVC regular season title. Odds aren’t promising, we’ll see how the week develops.
  • Memphis (22-9 | 10-6) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 55 | – Memphis lost 3 of 5 down the stretch and needs to do some hefty work in the C-USA tourney. The Tigers swept UAB and Southern Miss in league play but also managed to lose at East Carolina, Rice, and SMU. Further, Memphis was blown out in its prime-time matchups with Kansas, Georgetown and Tennessee. The win at Gonzaga is Memphis’ only non-conference victory of note. Have to think the Tigers need to at least reach the C-USA final.
  • UAB (22-7 | 12-4) | RPI: 28 | SOS: 68 | – UAB wrapped up the C-USA regular-season title – something to note. Whether that would warrant an at-large bid is questionable. The Blazers are just 3-4 vs. Top 50 teams (but two of those are Marshall at No. 50). However, they do have 8 top 100 wins overall. The Blazers’ best non-conference win is VCU – they lost at Georgia and Duke. Within the league, UAB was swept by Memphis, we’ll see if that matters. A 9-5 road mark helps, but there’s just not a lot to be excited about. UAB needs to reach the C-USA final.
  • VCU (23-10 | 14-6) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 91 | – After losing 4 of 5 down the stretch, VCU rallied to beat Drexel and then upset George Mason in the CAA tournament. Now, the Rams are in the title game against Old Dominion. Winning would erase all doubt, although VCU should be in the conversation either way. The Rams have a neutral-court win over UCLA and also won at Wichita State in the BracketBuster. VCU is 3-4 vs. the Top 50 and 8-7 vs. the Top 100. A loss at UAB could come into play.
  • Gonzaga (21-9 | 11-3) | RPI: 66 | SOS: 103 | – Gonzaga had won 9 of 10 heading into the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas and held off San Francisco Sunday to advance to the title game with St. Mary’s. That’s a good spot, and helps their at-large case. They have wins over Xavier, Marquette, and Baylor, as well as a home loss to Memphis. The ‘Zags split two games with St. Mary’s. A 2-6 mark vs. Top 50 RPI teams is somewhat concerning, but a 5-7 mark vs. the Top 100 helps a little.
  • St. Mary’s (22-7 | 12-3) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 114 | – The Gaels beat Santa Clara to advance to the WCC title game. An early win over St. John’s helps, and St. Mary’s split with Gonzaga. The rest of the resume is light, however, (1-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 3-5 vs. the Top 100). In the at-large discussion, the Gaels would likely fall behind Gonzaga. A home loss to Utah State could also pose a problem. In an interesting note, SMC has a game with Weber State on March 11 – after the WCC tourney concludes.
  • Utah State (27-3 | 15-1) | RPI: 17 | SOS: 122 | – The Aggies thoroughly dominated the WAC and may very well have done enough. Still, with a very light 2-2 mark vs. Top 100 teams – and one of those being Long Beach State (No. 95) – we can’t assume USU is a lock. Avoiding an early WAC flameout would be advised. Reach the final and it could be difficult to leave the Aggies home on Selection Sunday.
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