Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.
16 days till Selection Sunday as more bubble teams hurt than helped their cause over the last week. Here’s the latest Bubble Watch update on where those teams stand heading into the stretch run:
Xavier 21-6, (12-1) 27 RPI, 69 SOS- The Musketeers have now won 11 of 12 to establish themselves in a familiar spot atop the Atlantic 10 standings. Xavier holds a one game lead over Temple and won their only head-to-head matchup back on January 22. With a home game against bottom feeder Charlotte still remaining and an RPI/SOS to back up their record, Chris Mack’s team is safely in the Dance. Xavier also has non-conference wins at Georgia and vs. Butler to go along with Temple and at Richmond in A-10 play.
Temple 21-6 (11-2), 33 RPI, 108 SOS- Despite a plethora of injuries throughout the campaign, Temple has compiled a resume worthy of inclusion into the field of 68. The Owls stand at 11-2 in the Atlantic 10 and it’s highly unlikely they lose any of their final three games at George Washington, at Massachusetts and home vs. La Salle. Temple also beat Georgetown at home and Georgia on a neutral floor and beat Richmond at home. With a decent RPI also boosting their chances, the Owls are a safe bet for a bid.
Texas A&M 22-5 (9-4), 25 RPI, 47 SOS- It hasn’t been the smoothest of waters, but the Aggies have accumulated enough wins to be considered a lock for the NCAA Tournament. Prior to a 14-point win over Oklahoma in which A&M trailed at halftime, the Aggies won their previous four games by a combined 12 points. With a 9-4 Big 12 mark and a home date with Texas Tech still on the slate, they appear safe. A&M also downed Temple and Washington out of conference and have wins over Missouri and Kansas State during Big 12 play.
George Mason 24-5 (15-2), 28 RPI, 102 SOS- The Patriots certified their NCAA bid with a two-game road sweep at VCU and Northern Iowa. They boast the longest winning streak in the nation and finish with two very winnable games in CAA competition, rendering a 25-5 (16-2) overall mark and top 25 RPI all but a certainty. That should be more than enough in the committee’s eyes for an at-large berth.
UNLV 21-7 (9-5), 30 RPI, 42 SOS- This was a closer call than the previous three, but in today’s bubble climate the Rebels likely clinched a bid with their OT win at New Mexico on Wednesday night. Their RPI/SOS are stellar, they beat both Wisconsin (home) and Kansas State (semi-neutral in KC) away from MWC play and also won at bubble team Colorado State. Even if they should split very winnable games remaining vs. Wyoming and at Utah, 10-6 in the MWC with that Wisconsin win warrants inclusion.
- Lavoy Allen, Ramone Moore and Temple are now a lock for the field of 68
Locks: Xavier, Temple.
Richmond 21-7 (10-3), 67 RPI, 170 SOS- The Spiders have faced Xavier and Temple in the last month and lost both games by a combined 43 points, a fact that surely will stand out to the committee when they convene in 16 days. Without much depth in the Atlantic 10, Richmond must first win out their remaining three games against sub RPI top-200 teams Charlotte and St. Joe’s then beat Duquesne at home to have any chance. They probably then have to beat either Xavier or Temple in the A-10 Tournament to earn a bid. Their lone win over an NCAA Tournament team was against Purdue on a neutral floor back in November.
Locks: Duke, North Carolina.
Florida State 19-8 (9-4), 45 RPI, 94 SOS- The Seminoles played their first legitimate game without Chris Singleton Wednesday at Maryland and the results weren’t promising. At 9-4 in the ACC, though, Florida State can lock up a bid by winning either vs. North Carolina or at NC State in the last week of the campaign. Luckily their one quality win was potential #1 seed Duke because FSU’s resume is bogged down by a #116 SOS, a horrendous loss at Auburn and only one other win against a possible NCAA Tournament team – Boston College at home.
Virginia Tech 18-8 (8-5), 51 RPI, 97 SOS- The RPI/SOS are poor, but hopefully the committee digs deeper and gives Seth Greenberg a bit of a pass for trying to schedule difficult non-conference games after last season’s debacle. Unfortunately for Virginia Tech, Kansas State, Mississippi State and UNLV all underachieved relative to expectations and a rash of injuries derailed hopes of a top-two ACC finish. Still, the Hokies have a remarkable opportunity staring them right in the face with Duke at home tomorrow. Win and they can clinch a bid by just splitting their final two games vs. Boston College and at Clemson.
Boston College 16-11 (6-7), 58 RPI, 17 SOS- The Eagles sustained their most devastating loss of the season at the worst possible time falling to Miami (FL) at home on Wednesday. BC badly needed to take care of business against the Hurricanes before heading out to Virginia and Virginia Tech in the next week. Steve Donahue’s team has now lost five games to teams with an RPI or 65 or less and their two wins over NCAA teams are Texas A&M on a neutral floor in November and home vs. Virginia Tech. Assuming a loss in Blacksburg, the Eagles at 8-8 in the ACC will need at least one conference tournament win to have a legitimate chance.
Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M.
Missouri 22-6 (8-5), 22 RPI, 55 SOS- The only reason Missouri isn’t a lock yet is because of their challenging slate still remaining – at Kansas State, at Nebraska and Kansas. It’s possible the Tigers could fall in all three games and drop to 21-9 (8-8) with only one road win in Big 12 play. Even then, Missouri would only need one or two wins in the Big 12 Tournament to solidify a bid, showing how close Mizzou is to locking up a spot in the field. Mike Anderson’s squad have three RPI top-50 wins out of conference over Vanderbilt (home), Illinois (neutral) and Old Dominion (home) and beat Kansas State (home).
Kansas State 19-9 (7-6), 28 RPI, 6 SOS- Frank Martin’s team took a major step towards an NCAA bid by downing fellow bubble team Nebraska on the road on Wednesday. The Wildcats’ RPI/SOS keeps climbing and that win over Kansas does stand out, plus it appears wins over Virginia Tech and Gonzaga could be worth something. Kansas State needs to reach 9-7 in the Big 12 to clinch a bid and they have home dates with Missouri and Iowa State to accomplish that feat. The sandwich game is at Texas, so it’s imperative the Wildcats protect their floor or they’ll have to win one game in the Big 12 Tournament.
Baylor 17-10 (6-7), 68 RPI, 39 SOS- Any team sitting bubble-out in late February needs RPI top-25 win opportunities. Luckily for Baylor, there are two golden opportunities still on the schedule with Texas A&M and Texas coming to Waco in the season’s final two weeks. The brutal RPI and losses to Iowa State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma are devastating, and the only factor keeping the Bears alive is their remaining schedule and that road victory at Texas A&M. Baylor probably needs to go 2-1 (at Oklahoma State is the third game left, not exactly an easy win) and make a deep Big 12 Tournament run. For a team with preseason top 15 expectations, 2010-11 has been a bitter pill to swallow for Scott Drew.
Nebraska 18-9 (6-7), 75 RPI, 75 SOS- The Cornhuskers desperately needed to follow up their monumental win over Texas with a victory over Kansas State to continue their uphill climb. The close loss dropped Nebraska to 6-7 in the Big 12 and, with zero quality wins out of conference, they need to win their final three games at Iowa State, home vs. Missouri and at Colorado to have a fighter’s chance. Nebraska is 2-6 vs. the RPI top-25 with a win over Texas A&M to go along with Texas. The lackluster RPI/SOS obviously doesn’t help.
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