RTC Bubble Watch: January 27 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on January 27th, 2013

RTC Bubble Watch will publish on Sunday nights and Wednesday afternoons for the rest of the season.

My name is Daniel Evans and I have been doing bracketology for the last seven years. I’m new to RTC but very excited about the chance to write for one of the nation’s top college basketball websites. I have a journalism degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Bracket Matrix ranks me as one of the nation’s top bracketologists. I’ve had two perfect years of bracketology — meaning I nailed every team in the field. On a daily basis, I update brackets on my website BracketologyExpert.com and I’m going to be doing a weekly bracket update on Fridays here along with a Bubble Watch column on Sundays and Wednesdays. I always enjoy answering any questions about my field of 68 or my bubble watch, so hit me up on my Twitter name (@bracketexpert) with any comments you may have.

What is a “Bubble Watch?” Below is my bubble watch. If you are not familiar with my work, this is basically a current look at how things are shaping up for the NCAA Tournament. Each conference is broken down and the teams I am currently considering on the bubble are listed. This makes it easy to figure out how many at-large berths are left for the NCAA Tournament. Remember, 31 automatic NCAA Tournament bids go to the conference tournament winners (and the Ivy champion). The other 37 bids are at-large bids, or bids that the selection committee gives to the best remaining teams that fail to win an automatic bid.

Bracket Math: Below there are 22 locks along the right column. That means if none of my “locks” wins an auto-bid, there are 15 at-large spots available for the NCAA Tournament. It is usually safe to say that an average of six of my locks will win automatic bids, so that means nine at-large bids will be taken and I project that 28 at-large bids will remain available to the NCAA Tournament.

What Does Being a “Lock” Mean? It means that at this point, I see no way that team could miss the NCAA Tournament. Every year I end up having to move at least one team I have locked in back into the at-large pool. For example, I’ve already done it this season with Minnesota and Illinois.


ACC LOCKS:duke50x50ncstate50x50miami50x50
ACC Overview: On November 13, if anyone had told me that Miami would be 6-0 and leading the ACC in late January I probably would have laughed hysterically. November 13 is the day the ‘Canes lost by 12 to Florida Gulf Coast. Miami now has wins over Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, La Salle, Maryland, and Charlotte. They are not only fighting for a top seed in the ACC Tournament, but a very high seed in the NCAA Tournament, It is safe to lock Miami into the field. Duke has the nation’s best wins, but the Blue Devils clearly are not the same team without Ryan Kelly. Coach K’s team is sliding down the seed line some, but it is still very much a lock for the field. N. C. State can also celebrate lock status. The Wolfpack’s victories do not scream “lock” but wins over shorthanded Duke, Connecticut, and North Carolina should be enough in a year where the bubble is looking weak. Virginia is on my watch list, but I can’t include a team with a RPI of 101.

Maryland (15-5, 3-4; RPI: 60): Since my last Bubble Watch, Maryland has lost four of six games. The Terrapins’ best victory came over North Carolina State by one on January 16, but they followed that up by losing at fellow bubbler North Carolina by 10 on the road. Maryland also let a big opportunity go by the wayside when they let Duke romp on Saturday. Other than the victory over the Wolfpack, there is not a NCAA Tournament win on Maryland’s resume. The only upside here is that they still get Duke and North Carolina at home. Plus, unlike many other bubble teams, Maryland’s losses are not bad ones (Miami, North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Florida State).

North Carolina (12-6, 3-3; RPI: 35): North Carolina has one great win (over UNLV) and two mediocre ones (Florida State, Maryland), but bad losses against Texas and Virginia are not helping the Tar Heels’ resume. Losing to the 9-10 Longhorns by 18 points is inexplicable. The Heels still have not played Duke and a win over the Blue Devils might do it based off North Carolina’s history in the sport and what that rivalry usually does for NCAA Tournament chances. Of course, Roy Williams also takes his team to Miami, a scary proposition after what the Hurricanes did at home to a much more talented Duke squad. Before getting a chance to help its resume, North Carolina better make it through the next three without another blemish (@BC, VT, Wake).

Florida State (11-8, 3-3; RPI: 75): The Seminoles “Snaered” a win over Clemson on a last second three by Michael Snaer and basically kept their at-large hopes alive in the process. Florida State’s best two wins are against Charlotte and BYU, teams that are in the exact same spot as the ‘Noles. Beating them may help them move up the at-large consideration board on Selection Sunday, but it won’t get them into the top 37. This team also lost to South Alabama, Mercer, and at Auburn — teams that are all below 150 in the RPI. Losing to Miami on Sunday was a big blow because it was yet another chance for a big win blown. The good news is that Florida State still plays Duke, Miami, at N. C. State, North Carolina, and N. C. State (home) before the ACC Tournament. In other words: This is a high reward, low risk schedule. Winning a few of those games might put Florida State on the good side of the at-large bubble.

Atlantic 10 LOCKS: butler50x50
Atlantic 10 Overview: Right now the Atlantic 10 is Butler and then everyone else. VCU had a two-loss week to fall further towards the bubble cut line, while La Salle has jumped into the at-large conversation with wins against the Bulldogs and Rams this week. In the A-10, we need to some separation from the pack by the bubble teams. This is a good conference that will likely end up with three or four bids, although right now it is not easy to see who the bids will go to outside of Butler.

Virginia Commonwealth (16-5, 4-2; RPI: 40): I don’t have anything against VCU, but I am convinced more and more every day that 80% of the nation’s bracketologists are overrating the Rams’ resume. This team’s best victory is against Belmont and the second best win is over Memphis. Both of those teams are fringe at-large teams and both had better win their conference tournaments if they want to snag an a NCAA Tournament bid. Plus, losing to Richmond and La Salle is inexcusable. Coming into the week most bracket makers had this team at about a six seed. How? There isn’t a great win here. VCU is not as far into the Tournament as you’d think. The chance for a resume-defining win really comes down to a home game with Butler on March 2. Before then, Charlotte, Saint Louis, and Xavier all get the Rams at home. VCU better turn into a great road team to avoid losing to other Atlantic 10 bubble teams, beat Butler, or advance far into the A-10 tournament to get an NCAA Tournament bid.

La Salle (14-5, 4-2; RPI: 26): The last time I did a bubble watch, I only included the Explorers because of a high RPI. Boy, have things changed since then. La Salle knocked off Butler and VCU in the same week and also owns a victory over a Villanova team that just knocked off top five teams in Syracuse and Louisville. There is one gigantic blemish on the resume — a loss to #211 RPI school, Central Connecticut State — but that might be forgiven based off the good wins here. The only bad news is that La Salle does not get another shot at Butler or VCU and instead has to keep its head above water against other Atlantic 10 bubble teams.

Saint Louis (14-5, 3-2; RPI: 66): Other than a victory over New Mexico, the Billikens have little in the cupboard in the way of impressive victories. There are no other good wins on this resume. Saint Louis also lost to Rhode Island and Santa Clara, two teams that won’t be dancing without an automatic bid. Here’s the good news: They get Butler in their next game (January 31) at home. They also get the Bulldogs in late February. Right now Brad Stevens’ team has a huge bulls-eye on it, because the rest of the league knows a victory over Butler will be a season-defining win that will separate a team from the pack in the very competitive Atlantic 10.

Charlotte (16-4, 4-2; RPI: 48): The 49ers have been in the at-large conversation all along because of a great record and a mediocre RPI, but a 20-point loss to Richmond and a 28-point loss to George Washington in the last eight days have really changed the complexion of this resume. The good news is that a win against La Salle is now looking better and better, but that win is Charlotte’s only win against the top 75 of the RPI. They play Massachusetts, at Temple, VCU, at Butler, at Saint Louis, and Temple in their next six games.

Massachusetts (12-5, 2-2; RPI: 62): Last time I wrote that Massachusetts had a high RPI that would probably fall as conference play got going. It has dropped 20 points in the last 19 days. There are still no good wins on this resume, with only two wins against the RPI top 100 (barely, Harvard is #97 and Ohio is #98). This resume is loaded with chances for good wins. Let’s see how the Minutemen handle a week with games against Richmond and La Salle before we proceed any further.

Temple (13-6, 2-3; RPI: 57): Victories over Syracuse and Villanova look great for the Owls, but Temple is really only living off those wins at this point. Losses to Canisius and St. Bonaventure are bad and they are really bringing down Temple’s resume. If the Owls had been able to knock off Butler on the road Saturday, this resume would have a completely different feel to it. Instead it feels like Temple better be careful.

Xavier (11-8, 4-2; RPI: 78): The Musketeers have been sneaking back into the conversation but a high RPI is hindering their chances. Wins against Butler, La Salle, and Temple give Xavier some of the best wins among contenders in the A-10, but losses to Pacific, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, and Wofford are killing this resume. On March 9, Xavier gets a game against Butler that actually counts in conference play. They also still get VCU and Memphis down the stretch, so there is hope left for an at-large berth.

Richmond (13-7, 3-2, RPI: 69): The Spiders enter the conversation after a victory over VCU, but other than a win over Charlotte there is not much else here. Richmond is 2-6 in road/neutral games and has to play at VCU and at Temple down the stretch.

Big 12 LOCKS:kansas50x50
Big 12 Overview: Kansas is clearly a No. 1 seed right now and easily the best team in the Big 12. The rest of the contenders are trying to separate themselves. Kansas State is in the “should be in category” but just came off a two-loss week thanks to Kansas and Iowa State. Over the next two weeks, a lot of the bubble teams in the Big 12 play each other, which should provide a chance for these teams to separate themselves.

Kansas State (15-4, 4-2; RPI: 36): Coming off a two-loss week, it is not time to put Kansas State into lock status. The Wildcats should be in, but let’s see how this team handles adversity first. A victory over Florida may be the nation’s best win right now and wins over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State help make the argument that Bruce Weber’s team is the second-best team in the Big 12 right now. Before losing to Iowa State (#39 in the RPI),  Kansas State’s only losses were to Gonzaga, Michigan, and Kansas — teams that are all in the top eight of the RPI.

Oklahoma (13-5, 4-2; RPI: 24): Oklahoma’s only win against the RPI top 50 was against intrastate rival Oklahoma State. The Sooners’ RPI is probably the best tidbit on their resume, but it may not be there if they don’t add more good wins. The problem is that the Big 12, like a lot of the power conferences right now, is filled with a lot of bubble teams that have not separated themselves from the pack. Oklahoma just lost to Kansas, the one great team in this conference, by 13 on the road Saturday. They’ve also already fallen to Kansas State on the road, but Oklahoma still gets a chance for a signature win against Kansas when the Jayhawks travel to Norman on February 9.

Baylor (13-5, 5-1; RPI: 34): Very quietly, Baylor has moved into second place in the Big 12 and has three top 50 wins (St. John’s, BYU, Oklahoma State). The Bears also have wins over Kentucky and Lehigh, teams that may make the NCAA Tournament field. The only loss in Big 12 play was to Kansas, who is clearly the king of the conference. On March 9, in the Bears’ season finale, they get another shot at the Jayhawks. Until then, beating other Big 12 contenders is the key. Their next three games will speak volumes about this team: Oklahoma, at Iowa State, and at Oklahoma State.

Iowa State (14-5, 4-2; RPI: 39): The Cyclones’ resume was improved Saturday based on a big win against Kansas State, but that was only Iowa State’s second top 50 RPI win over the season. The other came against BYU, but the Cougars are probably on the wrong side of the bubble at this point. The only bad loss for Iowa State is at Texas Tech, but that game also happened this week. In the next four games, Iowa State plays at Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oklahoma, and at Kansas State.

Oklahoma State (13-5, 3-3; RPI: 42): Oklahoma State picked up wins over Tennessee and North Carolina State early in the season but only the Wolfpack have helped the Cowboys cause. The win over N. C. State is Oklahoma State’s only top 50 victory this season. Only a loss to Virginia Tech falls outside the RPI top 35. A huge game at Kansas looms on February 2, three days after Iowa State visits Stillwater in a big bubble contest.

Big East LOCKS:louisville50x50syracuse100x100marquette50x50cincy50x50
Big East Overview: I may be giving the Big East too much credit here, but obviously Syracuse and Louisville are locks. Marquette has a great RPI (#17), four pretty good wins, and only a single bad loss (Green Bay). Cincinnati has victories over Oregon, Marquette, Pittsburgh, and Iowa State. All of the Bearcats losses came against teams currently ranked in the RPI top 50. These four have separated themselves from the pack of contenders in the Big East.  I will not hesitate to push the Eagles or Bearcats back into the at-large consideration, if necessary.

Georgetown (14-4, 4-3, RPI: 38): Other than a loss at South Florida, there are not any bad results on this resume. The Hoyas caught Louisville when the Cardinals were sliding and took advantage, adding a signature victory. Wins against UCLA and Notre Dame are also nice results against NCAA Tournament competition.

Notre Dame (16-4, 4-3; RPI: 45): Notre Dame has two wins over the nation’s top 50 (BYU, Cincinnati) and a win against Kentucky. The Irish’s losses are to Connecticut, St. John’s, Georgetown, and Saint Joseph’s, so there is not a killer result against Notre Dame. Three of the next four games will help decide exactly where Notre Dame is going into late February: Villanova, at DePaul, at Syracuse, Louisville.

Pittsburgh (17-4, 5-3; RPI: 47): The Panthers’ RPI has climbed almost 30 spots since my last bubble watch, which really has helped Pittsbugh’s argument for an NCAA at-large berth. This team has victories over Georgetown, Connecticut, Lehigh, and Villanova. The losses are excusable, other than a five-point defeat at Rutgers in early January. This week the Panthers get to try to pull a Villanova: win at Louisville and then beat Syracuse at home in the same week.

Villanova (12-7, 4-3; RPI: 52) This entire profile looked different a week ago. After victories against Syracuse and Louisville, Villanova seems like a definite at-large contender. Losses to Providence and Columbia (#105 and #212 in the RPI) can almost be forgiven now. Almost. The Wildcats aren’t done. They play at Notre Dame next and a loss there would send them to .500 in the Big East, with a 12-8 record, and a sub-50 RPI. This team better keep its foot on the pedal.

St. John’s (13-7, 5-3; RPI: 50): The Red Storm have two RPI top 50 wins over Cincinnati and Notre Dame but they need a lot more to get into the NCAA Tournament. Most of St. John’s losses have come to fellow bubble teams — Baylor, Georgetown, Murray State, Villanova, Rutgers — which does not speak well for their hopes on Selection Sunday. Losses to San Francisco and UNC-Asheville in December also don’t help. It almost seems like every Big East team gets Syracuse and Louisville back to back, doesn’t it? The Red Storm get their shot against the Orange and Cardinals (both on the road) on February 10 and February 14.

Rutgers (12-6, 3-4; RPI: 55): Top 50 RPI wins over Pittsburgh and St. John’s keep Rutgers on the bubble, but the Scarlet Knights are definitely 10th on the Big East’s pecking order right now. In other words, there is a lot of work to do. Winning games at Connecticut and Cincinnati would be a great place to start.


Big Ten LOCKS:michigan50x50indiana50x50ohiostate100x100michiganstate50x50
Big Ten Overview: With Illinois and Minnesota falling quickly, the Big Ten has become very interesting. Iowa has played their way into the picture and Wisconsin continues to be just consistent enough to stay on the good side of the bubble.

Wisconsin (11-4, 5-2; RPI: 89): The Badgers have a very high RPI and have been blown out by Florida, Creighton, and Marquette. Bo Ryan’s team needs to pick up some wins in conference play. Six of the next seven opponents are Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Illinois so this team may either be clearly in or clearly out in two weeks.

Minnesota (15-5, 3-4; RPI: 11): The Gophers have some great wins against Michigan State, Illinois, and Memphis. In my last bubble watch, I had Minnesota as one of my locks but things have clearly changed since then. Losses to Northwestern, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan have pushed the Gophers into the danger zone of the bubble. Would 8-10 in the Big Ten be good enough? The next two games against Nebraska and Iowa are must-wins. Minnesota’s RPI is still incredible, which strengthens its case.

Illinois (15-6, 2-5; RPI: 29): The Illini’s story is a lot like Minnesota’s. Illinois has wins over Ohio State, Gonzaga, and Butler in non-conference play but is really struggling to find its footing in the challenging Big Ten. Losses to Northwestern and Purdue have pushed Illinois from lock status in my last update to on the verge of missing the NCAA Tournament. On Sunday, they fell at Michigan, who might be the new No. 1 team in the nation on Monday. None of the next four are easy wins: Michigan, at Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana, at Minnesota. Illinois better get going or they will miss the NCAA Tournament after a very hot start.

Iowa (13-7, 2-5; RPI 74): Wins over Iowa State and Wisconsin have put the Hawkeyes in the bubble conversation, but it is almost impossible to get an at-large berth with an RPI in the 70s. The Hawkeyes were set to make this update with only one bad loss, but lost to Purdue in overtime on Sunday. If Iowa loses to Penn State in the Hawkeyes’ next contest, you can end the at-large talk.

Northwestern (12-9, 3-5; RPI: 88): For a few days, it seemed like Northwestern was going to get into the at-large conversation. Wins at Baylor, at Illinois, and against Minnesota had pushed the Wildcats to among the last few teams out of the field before a loss Saturday against Nebraska nearly ended the ‘Cats hopes. Finding a way to win at Michigan on January 30 would really help this resume. Without a win like that, Northwestern again misses the NCAA Tournament.

Conference USA LOCKS: NONE
Memphis (16-3, 5-0; RPI: 49): The Tigers would be better off taking the easy route into the NCAA Tournament: win the Conference USA Tournament. I can’t remember CUSA down as much as it is this season. Memphis has no top 50 wins and doesn’t get a chance for a good win the rest of the way. Sure, Southern Miss is No. 43 in the RPI, but I would be shocked if they remain that high the rest of the season. Memphis doesn’t even have a top 75 win. Of course, Tigers fans will tell you that Memphis’ three losses are all to teams in the top 50 of the RPI. That’s true, but wins get you into the dance. Right now, Memphis doesn’t have any good ones and doesn’t have a chance to get any more.

Southern Miss (17-4, 6-0; RPI: 43): The Eagles are placed here because of their good RPI, but without a sweep of Memphis I don’t see Southern Miss getting a bid. Honestly, even a sweep of the Tigers wouldn’t be all that helpful, because then people would say that Memphis wasn’t even that great in a very down Conference USA. Southern Miss’ best RPI victory is over #119, Denver.

Missouri Valley LOCKS:wichitastate50x50creighton50x50
Missouri Valley Overview: It looks like Creighton and Wichita State are locks at this point to make the field. The only drama is whether or not Indiana State can play its way in over the next two months.

Indiana State (13-7, 6-3; RPI: 56): The Sycamores have victories over Mississippi and Miami (FL), perhaps the two most surprising teams of the entire college basketball season. Losses to Illinois State, Morehead State, and Southern Illinois are bringing down Indiana State’s RPI to the low 50s. That number must improve for an at-large bid to be possible. Up next, Indiana State heads to Wichita State on January 29.

Mountain West LOCKS:newmexico50x50
Mountain West Overview: This is the most difficult conference in the country to figure out. It is hard to see New Mexico missing the NCAA Tournament. Over the next week or so we should start to see some separation between the top and the bottom of the league.

Wyoming (15-4, 2-4; RPI: 54): The Cowboys’ RPI has gone from #25 to #54 in the last 19 days. A 13-0 start has turned into a 15-4 record now that conference play has started in the very competitive Mountain West. Wyoming has two RPI top 50 victories over Colorado and San Diego State, but no other wins against the top RPI 115.

Colorado State (14-4, 3-2; RPI: 23): Colorado State has a high RPI (#21 is the lowest RPI to ever miss the Big Dance) and a great win against UNLV to highlight its profile. The next best win for the Rams is at Washington (#70 in the RPI). Every loss for Colorado State is on the road and only one loss is outside the RPI top 30 (Illinois-Chicago, #99). Right now this team would be in, but things change quickly in the Mountain West. The next two games are against Boise State and Wyoming. If they win those at home, we will finally see some separation between the top and bottom of the league.

UNLV (15-4, 3-2; RPI: 14): UNLV is still lacking a huge win, although victories over Iowa State and San Diego State are more than most bubble teams. The Rebels are relying on a very good RPI to keep stay high and in the Mountain West, where seven teams have top 68 RPIs, I like the chances of it staying relatively high. The Rebels do not have a single bad loss on their resume (all four are against RPI top 35 teams).  The next three are very important to win — Nevada, at Boise State, at Fresno State. A loss in any of those three will start to make things interesting.

Boise State (14-5, 2-3; RPI: 58): The Broncos are hanging their hat on a victory at Creighton so far, but winning at Wyoming on January 9 could be huge come Selection Sunday. That’s where this profile begins to look weak. There aren’t any other RPI top 125 wins on this resume and losses at Air Force and at Nevada in the last eight days have really complicated Boise State’s argument.  The next five games are all very difficult: at Colorado State, UNLV, at San Diego State, Wyoming, at New Mexico.

San Diego State (16-4, 4-2; RPI: 30): San Diego State has some fantastic wins: UCLA, Colorado State, New Mexico, Indiana State. None of the losses are bad either: Syracuse, Arizona, UNLV, Wyoming. Like UNLV, San Diego State has a chance for some real separation with three very winnable games next: at Air Force, Boise State, Fresno State. If the Aztecs can handle those three they will be 19-4 and 7-2 in conference.

Air Force (12-6, 3-2; RPI: 68): The Falcons do not have any RPI top 50 wins, but have defeated Wyoming and Boise State. Both of those teams are sliding a little bit after hot starts, but those are still significant wins. If Air Force can take advantage of playing lowly Fresno State in their next contest, this profile will start to look more interesting. Playing in the MW gives Air Force plenty of opportunities to strengthen its profile before Selection Sunday.

Pac-12 LOCKS:oregonducks50x50ucla50x50
Pac-12 Overview: Arizona and Oregon are going to the NCAA Tournament, and I can’t see UCLA not getting in the field. Therefore, the Bruins are among my locks. The three teams below all have a lot of work to do to get into the field.

Arizona State (16-4, 5-2; RPI: 55): Just a few days after losing back-to-back games to Oregon and Arizona (the two best teams in the Pac 12), Arizona State bounced back by destroying UCLA. Outside of those two wins, the Sun Devils have only one other win against the entire RPI top 100 — Arkansas. Arizona State has only bad loss (DePaul). Now the real test begins. We’ve seen this team experience success against UCLA, but now can it go to both Washington and Washington State and win games this week?

Colorado (13-6, 3-4; RPI: 22): The Buffaloes had a top 10 RPI until last week. Now, with an RPI that is starting to fall quickly, Colorado needs to pick up wins against the Pac 12’s big three. Victories over Colorado State and Baylor in the non-conference can only keep the Buffaloes in the conversation for so long. They’ve already had chances to beat Arizona, UCLA, and Arizona State pass them by. Beating California and Utah are a must before heading to Oregon on February 7.

Washington (12-8, 4-3; RPI: 70): The Huskies have plenty of chances to improve this profile. Right now, this team is clearly not in the field, but games against Arizona, Arizona State, and UCLA are up next. Of course, coming off three straight losses is not the time to play three of the Pac 12’s top four teams. Washington has four losses to teams below the top 100 in the RPI.

SEC LOCKS: missouri100x100
SEC Overview: This conference is Florida and then everyone else. The Gators may end up being the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament field. Missouri is going to get in as well. Ole Miss will be a virtual lock if they beat Kentucky or Florida this week. If they win both, they will be the SEC favorites.

Ole Miss (17-2, 6-0; RPI: 33): Mississippi, with a win over Missouri, has now moved into the top 33 of the RPI. The Rebels are quietly tied atop the SEC standings with Florida, although most would argue the two teams aren’t even in the same league. The problem with the SEC this season is that outside of beating Florida, there is not a chance for a signature victory. This week we get to find out how good the Rebels are with a game against Kentucky on Tuesday and then a trip to Gainesville on Saturday.

Kentucky (13-6, 4-2; RPI: 61): The Wildcats are flying under the radar, but everyone is waiting for them to break out. It may be time to stop waiting. Kentucky’s best win is against Maryland in the Wildcats’ season opener. Outside of that win, Kentucky has one victory against the nation’s RPI top 100 (Tennessee). This week they can turn things around a little bit with a victory at Ole Miss and a win at Texas A&M (who has already defeated the Cats at Rupp Arena this season).

Alabama (12-7, 4-2; RPI: 63): Alabama still does not have a victory against the RPI top 50, although its best win (Villanova) looks better with every Wildcat upset. Losses to Dayton, Tulane, and Mercer in Tuscaloosa have made this profile scream NIT. The Crimson Tide get their shot at the SEC’s big boys in March. They play at Florida March 2 and at Mississippi March 5.

Others LOCKS:
Louisiana Tech (18-3, 9-0; RPI: 44): The Bulldogs’ RPI has actually risen from #51 to #44 since my last update. A victory over Southern Miss is the only top 50 win on the resume.  Teams that lose to Northwestern State and McNeese State usually do not get at-large bids, but you never know. Would 10 more wins down the stretch (to get to 28) and a trip to the WAC Tournament finals be enough for an at-large bid? I’d suggest the Bulldogs make it easy by earning the auto bid.

Middle Tennessee (18-4, 10-1; RPI: 37): Give Middle Tennessee credit for going out and playing teams from power conferences. The Blue Raiders are reaping the benefits of their early season schedule with wins over UAB, Mississippi, UCF, and Vanderbilt. They were blown out by Florida in their only chance for a top 10 win, but the victory over the Rebels continues to look better and better. Nine more games remain, so would 27-4 be enough? First, let’s see if they can make it through games at Florida International and at Florida Atlantic this week.

Bucknell (17-4, 4-1; RPI: 51): As expected, Bucknell’s RPI has dropped 22 spots since my last bubble watch. The Bison have a win over La Salle that looks great after the Explorers dropped Butler and VCU this week.  Winning out is practically a must until the conference tournament final.

BYU (16-6, 6-2; RPI: 46): BYU has played a lot of good teams, but has not won against any of them. Losses to Florida State, Notre Dame, Baylor, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, and Iowa State help the RPI but do not add a tally to the “good wins” column. BYU’s loss to the Gaels came on a Matthew Dellavedova buzzer-beating three from half-court. If the Cougars are disappointed on Selection Sunday, they can remember that shot as being one of the reasons why. BYU plays at Saint Mary’s February 21 and Gonzaga on February 28.

Stephen F. Austin (16-2, 7-1; RPI: 88): Before falling to Northwestern State, the Lumberjacks’ only defeat was against Texas A&M. That one is relatively excusable. A victory over Oklahoma has them in the at-large conversation but they will likely need to almost win out to get a serious look from the committee.

Saint Mary’s (17-4, 6-1; RPI: 59): Saint Mary’s has one top 50 victory, thanks to a buzzer-beating three by Matthew Dellavedova. Outside of that, the Gaels’ at-large resume needs work. Saint Mary’s has three losses against teams lower than #96 in the RPI: Northern Iowa, Pacific, and Georgia Tech. This team lost at Gonzaga by five, but gets a shot at the Zags at home on February 14. A victory there would change this profile immensely.

Belmont (17-4, 8-0; RPI: 20): The Bruins need a good Bracketbuster matchup (Creighton?) to help their at-large profile. Right now the only RPI top 50 win is against Middle Tennessee, another team hoping to get an at-large bid from a mid-major conference. It is really too bad that Murray State has not been the team we expected, because that would give Belmont (a very underrated team) a better shot at an at-large bid. The Ohio Valley won’t give them any chances, but an undefeated finish might be enough if their RPI stays high.

Daniel Evans (60 Posts)

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