O26 Resume Review: VCU & St. Joe’s Rising, Toledo & St. Mary’s Falling…

Posted by Adam Stillman on February 5th, 2014

Let’s be honest. It wasn’t a good week for O26 teams with NCAA Tournament at-large hopes. In fact, it was downright awful. It’s almost as if a few of these teams don’t want to go dancing after all. There certainly are spots to be had. Even with just 36 at-large berths handed out this season thanks to the addition of the American, an abundance of middling high-major teams has left the door open for some strong O26 candidates. They just haven’t taken advantage, and this week says it all. Let’s see who helped and hurt themselves this week.

Helped

VCU (18-4)

VCU is looking more and more like an NCAA Tournament team.

VCU is looking more and more like an NCAA Tournament team.

Is VCU even a bubble team at this point? Probably not. The Rams are probably safely into the field barring an unexpected collapse. VCU’s RPI rose from #35 to #28 as of Monday after wins against Fordham and fellow A-10 bubble-dweller Richmond this past week. The Rams have won five straight games and are off to one of their best overall starts in school history. A tricky game at surging St. Joseph’s awaits Saturday, but VCU is most definitely trending upward right now.

Projected seed for now: #10

BYU (15-9). It amazes me that a WCC team with nine losses is still in the at-large conversation, but that demonstrates just how weak the bubble is this season. Don’t we say this every year, though? BYU capped a strong week with a pair of double-figure wins against Pacific and Saint Mary’s, boosting its RPI from #49 to #45 in the process. That’s pretty much right on the fence. The Cougars need to keep taking care of business during the next couple weeks before the make-or-break portion of the schedule — at Saint Mary’s on February 15 and home to Gonzaga on February 20. Win both of those and the Cougars just might be dancing next month.

Projected seed for now: Out

Saint Joseph’s (15-6)

Phil Martelli and the Saint Joseph's Hawks have thrust themselves into the at-large conversation.

Phil Martelli and the Saint Joseph’s Hawks have thrust themselves into the at-large conversation.

Where has this come from? A HUGE week has gotten Phil Martelli’s Hawks into the at-large conversation. Saint Joseph’s went on the road and knocked off a reeling Dayton squad before outlasting Massachusetts on Saturday. That resulted in a 16-spot jump in RPI (#69 to #53) in just a week’s time. Only one loss on their resume would be considered bad as of now — a defeat at Temple in early December. The rest? Creighton, LSU, Villanova, UMass and at Richmond. The only problem with St. Joe’s resume before Saturday was the lack of a quality win, but now they have a good one with UMass. Although the Minutemen have now lost three of four, UMass’ RPI still sits at #9 in the country. An even bigger week is on tap for this group, starting with Saint Louis tonight before VCU visits on Saturday. Win those two games and Saint Joseph’s is probably sitting on the right side of the bubble. Who had that one before conference play began?

Projected seed for now: Out

Hurt

You could really take your pick of a few Atlantic 10 teams here — Richmond, Dayton, or even UMass. But I feel that I’ve discussed that league enough for one post already. In summary, UMass is still safely in while Richmond and Dayton are still out. With so many other options for this category, let’s take a look at some teams from the other conferences.

Toledo (18-3). Oh man, Toledo. The Rockets are one of those out-of-nowhere O26 teams that I thought had a good shot at stealing an at-large bid. They’re a fun team that boasts the ninth-best adjusted offense (118.2 points per 100 possessions) and they sport a gaudy overall record. They even looked respectable in a late December loss at Kansas. Even after dropping their MAC opener at Western Michigan, the Rockets had rattled off six straight wins. Then came the overtime loss Saturday at Ohio. Ouch. Not that the Bobcats are horrific or anything like that, and in fact, they might be Toledo’s main challenger for the MAC title. But for a squad looking to earn the league’s first at-large bid since 1998, that was a game it couldn’t afford to lose. Yet somehow the Rockets’ RPI jumped from #36 to #31 after the loss — don’t ask me, the RPI is a daft measuring tool. But without a quality win on the docket — its best appears to be against #104 RPI Cleveland State — there’s not much heft on Toledo’s resume to support the bid.

Projected seed for now: #12 (as the automatic bid)

Saint Mary’s (16-7). Matthew Dellavedova isn’t walking through that door, so this might be the last we hear of the Gaels this season in terms of NCAA Tournament hopes. Saint Mary’s dropped road games at San Diego and BYU last week, causing its RPI to fall from #44 to #58 as a result. The Gaels already have four losses in a WCC in the midst of a down year. This isn’t going to cut it. I don’t think a season-ending win over Gonzaga would be enough at this point. This week just did too much damage to Randy Bennett’s team.

Projected seed for now: Out

Boise State (15-7). Boise State might be in the running for the nation’s most disappointing team this season. The Broncos returned just about every key piece from last year’s team that lost to La Salle in the NCAA Tournament’s First Four. But instead of taking the next step in their progress, the squad has regressed. It’s befuddling. There have been respectable losses to Kentucky, Iowa State, San Diego State and New Mexico. Then there’s been puzzling losses to Wyoming and a Saint Mary’s team that frankly isn’t very good this year. Then came a damaging loss to UNLV on Saturday. While not a horrible defeat, what’s disappointing is the fact that Boise State led by 11 with less than four minutes to play. Now Boise State’s RPI sits at #60, and the Broncos don’t own any marquee wins — the best appears to be #118 Utah — but home games with San Diego State and New Mexico loom within the next week. It’s make-or-break time for this team.

Projected seed for now: Out

Adam Stillman (47 Posts)


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One Response to “O26 Resume Review: VCU & St. Joe’s Rising, Toledo & St. Mary’s Falling…”

  1. DF says:

    Get a pic, scrub, so we can see your rugged good looks

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