Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.
Mid-February means only one thing: the unveiling of Bubble Watch 2011! Here’s a snapshot of which teams have work to do to punch their NCAA Tournament ticket as we approach one month till Selection Sunday:
Xavier (17-6 (8-1), 22 RPI, 27 SOS)- The Musketeers picked up a vital non-conference win over fellow bubble team Georgia in Athens and remain atop the Atlantic 10 with an 8-1 mark. The regular season winner of the conference is a lock to make the tournament. Xavier already has key wins in A-10 play over Temple and at Richmond and this weekend’s meeting at Duquesne is truly the only challenging date remaining on the slate unless you count a February 27 trip to Dayton.
Temple (18-5 (8-2), 37 RPI, 131 SOS)- The Owls have two vital A-10 games in the next week with a visit to Dayton and a home date with Richmond ahead. A mid-February road game at Duke should boost the RPI/SOS and the Owls have an increasingly important home win over Georgetown (#4 RPI) from back in December. Temple has won five in a row and, coupled with their recent A-10 tournament success, it’s difficult to envision the Owls disappointed on Selection Sunday.
Richmond (19-6 (8-2), 70 RPI, 168 SOS)- With Kevin Anderson, Justin Harper and Dan Geriot, the Spiders smell like an NCAA team, but lackluster computer numbers and four sub-70 RPI losses to Bucknell, Rhode Island, Iona and Georgia Tech give us pause. Like Temple’s win over Georgetown, Richmond holds a key victory over Purdue (#12 RPI) and also beat fellow bubble team VCU. An all-important trip to Philly to face the Owls looms on February 17.
Duquesne (16-6 (8-1), RPI 76, 154 SOS)- At 8-1 in the Atlantic 10, the Dukes may seem like a team worthy of tournament inclusion, but their best non-conference win is IUPUI. A win over Temple certainly helped, but Duquesne must go 3-1 in their tough games remaining – Xavier, at Dayton, Rhode Island, at Richmond — to warrant serious consideration.
Malcolm Delaney's Hokies sit right on the bubble again
Locks: Duke, North Carolina.
Boston College (15-9 (5-5), 44 RPI, 17 SOS)- The Eagles have dropped five of seven during their most challenging stretch of ACC play, but did manage to pick up a key bubble win over Virginia Tech in the process. BC could still go either way with tough games at North Carolina and Virginia Tech remaining, but also a handful against the dregs of the ACC. Along with the VT win and a December triumph at Maryland, BC boasts a win over Texas A&M from the Old Spice Classic.
Florida State (17-7 (7-3), 48 RPI, 87 SOS)- There would have been some nervous ‘Noles fans out there had there been a letdown at Georgia Tech last night, but Chris Singleton and Co. avoided a loss after two road thrashings from Clemson and North Carolina. Wins over Virginia, Miami and at Wake Forest coming up gives Leonard Hamilton’s team 10 ACC wins and basically locks up a bid. The schedule is favorable and that win over Duke (#8 RPI) stands out.
Clemson (17-7 (6-4), 63 RPI, 116 SOS)- Clemson faced a must-win situation against BC at home and downed the Eagles on Tuesday. The Tigers also destroyed Florida State, but their lack of quality non-conference wins (at Charleston the best) means there’s still work to be done. A golden opportunity presents itself tomorrow with North Carolina coming to town followed by two tricky road games at NC State and Miami that can hurt a lot more than help.
Virginia Tech (15-7 (5-4), 65 RPI, 102 SOS)- Bubble watch just wouldn’t be the same without Virginia Tech. The Hokies face a potential 4-0 stretch upcoming with visits from Georgia Tech and Maryland followed by a Virginia-Wake road swing, but the real key to their NCAA hopes will be a February 26 home date with Duke. Seth Greenberg’s team has wins over Florida State and at Maryland, but their best out-of-conference victory was over Oklahoma State in Anaheim.
Maryland (16-8 (5-4), 80 RPI, 81 SOS)- The Terps have gone a remarkable 0-7 against the RPI top-50 and their best win remains an ACC-Big Ten Challenge triumph at Penn State. Not exactly the resume of an NCAA Tournament team. Maryland has plenty of work to do with a crucial two game swing at BC and Virginia Tech starting Saturday. Lose both and it’s going to be very hard to avoid NIT relegation.
Locks: Kansas, Texas.
Texas A&M (18-5 (5-4), 27 RPI, 44 SOS)- The Aggies dodged a huge bullet when B.J. Holmes’ three found the bottom of the net and A&M eventually beat Colorado in overtime to avoid a four-game slide. A&M picked up two solid non-conference wins over Washington and Temple and were a missed layup away from also beating Boston College. The Aggies also boast a Big 12 win over Missouri and have three chances to add a quality road win to the portfolio with trips to Oklahoma State, Baylor and Kansas ahead.
Missouri (18-6 (4-5), 28 RPI, 68 SOS)- Like A&M, Missouri has done close to nothing away from home – their best win away from Columbia was a December downing of Oregon. Missouri should be able to make the Dance behind non-conference wins over Vanderbilt, Illinois and Old Dominion and a respectable RPI, but it’d certainly help if they win either at home vs. Baylor or at Kansas State to make absolutely positive.
Kansas State (16-8 (4-5), 33 RPI, 12 SOS)- Amazingly, Kansas State still has a chance to Dance despite an 0-7 mark vs. the RPI top-50 and top wins over Virginia Tech and at Washington State. The RPI/SOS is boosted by a challenging non-conference slate (Duke, UNLV, Florida) and Big 12 road games (Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Kansas, Missouri = all losses) with a visit to Austin still remaining. A Valentine’s Day visit from Kansas is approaching. Win that and we can consider the Wildcats a legitimate bid threat again.
Oklahoma State (16-7 (4-5), 43 RPI, 63 SOS)- The next four games for the Cowboys could knock them clear out of the bubble picture, especially at 4-5 in the Big 12: at Nebraska, at Texas, Texas A&M, at Kansas. A 2-2 record out of that stretch would be welcomed. A non-conference win over Missouri State is decent, as are home victories over Missouri and Kansas State. This team is currently right on the bubble.
Baylor (16-7 (6-4), 62 RPI, 76 SOS)- Baylor saved their season with a win at Texas A&M on Saturday, but their earlier losses to Iowa State and Oklahoma stand out as black marks. Not to mention Baylor’s best win out of conference is, gulp, Lipscomb and their non-conference SOS is #235. Baylor will either sprint into the tournament or completely flame out during their last four games- home vs. Texas A&M and Texas and visits to Missouri and Oklahoma State. Opportunity knocks for Scott Drew’s team.
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