With Selection Sunday just a day away, this will be my last bubble watch, although I will still be posting daily bracket projections.
Even at this late stage, there is a ton of uncertainty in terms of the last few at-large spots. In some cases, mid-majors that lost early have been able to sit back and allow the ineptitude of others to give them a better shot.
Miami (19-12, RPI: 61)
The Canes blew out Georgia Tech in the first round but couldn’t get the job done against Florida State in the ACC Tournament, which leaves them with an ugly 3-11 record against the Top 100. Sure, the early-season absences of Reggie Johnson and DeQuan Jones are worthy of consideration, but Miami was swept by North Carolina State and lost five of their final nine games when the pressure was on.
North Carolina State (22-11, RPI: 49)
NC State knocked off Virginia to move into the ACC Semifinals against North Carolina,and they now have six Top 100 wins. If they can knock off the Heels, they should feel pretty comfortable, but otherwise they’ll be left to sweat out the final hours of the season. They do have a sweep over fellow bubbler Miami, which will help in any direct comparisons.
Virginia (22-9, RPI: 52)
The reality is that the Cavaliers will wind up in the field, but as I have stated many times in recent weeks, they haven’t beaten a tournament lock since November. With so many other bubble teams faltering though, I can’t see a team that is 7-6 against the Top 100 getting left out. Sadly, that’s where we are at this point.
Dayton (20-12, RPI: 79)
The Flyers squandered a double-digit halftime lead and lost a heartbreaker against Xavier in the A-10 quarterfinals. I mentioned earlier in the week that game would serve as an elimination game, and I still believe that in spite of Dayton’s eight Top 100 wins. Four sub-100 losses (including two against sub-200 clubs) will prove to be too much to overcome.
Massachusetts (22-10, RPI: 72)
UMass picked up a huge win over Temple in the A-10 Quarterfinals, but I’m not convinced a win over Saint Bonaventure in the Semis would help their case all that much. The Minutemen do have three Top 50 wins and six victories versus the Top 100, but strength of schedule and a few ugly losses will work against them.
Saint Joseph’s (20-13, RPI: 70)
The Hawks lost to Saint Bonaventure for the second time in just over a week, and that probably spells the end of their tournament hopes. Even with six Top 100 victories, I have a hard time believing Saint Joe’s has done enough to get a bid given their 10-12 record against the Top 150.
Xavier (20-11, RPI: 44)
Mark Lyons saved Xavier’s season with a layup in the final minute against Dayton. The Musketeers now have eight Top 50 wins and only one truly bad loss, which at this point looks like enough. If they can beat Saint Louis in the A-10 semifinals, it’s a done deal.
Texas (20-13, RPI: 48)
The Longhorns picked up a huge win over Iowa State on Thursday night but were beaten handily by Missouri in the semifinals. Still, Texas now has four Top 50 wins, which is more than many bubble teams can claim.
Connecticut (20-13, RPI: 32)
After Big East Tournament wins against DePaul and West Virginia, the Huskies fell to Syracuse in the Quarterfinals. They are just outside of the RPI Top 30 and have nine Top 100 wins, which in my eyes make them safe.
Seton Hall (20-12, RPI: 67)
The Pirates took care of business against Providence in the first round of the Big East Tournament, but after coming up short against Louisville on Wednesday night, Seton Hall could be in trouble. They finished under .500 in the conference and are just 5-10 in their last 15 games, including ugly losses to Rutgers and DePaul. Their RPI has plummeted in recent weeks, and I wouldn’t be surrised to see them get passed up by other bubble teams as the weekend goes along.
South Florida (20-13, RPI: 53)
Wednesday’s win over Villanova won’t move the needle on USF’s profile, but it was a game the Bulls could not afford to lose. And after basically giving away a Quarterfinal game against Notre Dame, I struggle to see how the Bulls survive. With a 2-9 mark against the Top 50, they are essentially Northwestern, but with worse losses.
West Virginia (19-13 RPI: 56)
The Mountaineers blew a double-digit lead and lost in overtime to Connecticut in their first Big East Tournament game. That loss hurts them a little bit, but since they have nine wins against the Top 100, the Mountaineers are still in decent shape. They will be left to sweat out the remainder of the week though, which is never a good feeling.
Northwestern (18-13, RPI: 60)
It would certainly be a great story if Northwestern made its first trip to the Big Dance, but after losing to Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, I just don’t see how it happens. They are 1-10 against the Top 50, and the win over Michigan State now looks like a complete anomaly. They have no sub-100 losses, but they finished under .500 in the league and are 10-13 versus the Top 150. They’ve had more chances to pick up quality wins than most teams, and they simply haven’t been good enough to capitalize on those opportunities.
Marshall (21-12, RPI: 42)
The Herd have played their way into the discussion by knocking off Tulsa in overtime and beating Southern Miss for the second time in the last week or so. They now have six Top 100 wins heading into Saturday’s Championship Game against Memphis, but a few sub-100 losses aren’t helping their case. It’s also worth noting that nine of their 21 wins have come against sub-200 teams.
Southern Mississippi (25-8, RPI: 19)
The Golden Eagles finished just 5-5 in their last 10 games and carried over their poor play in the C-USA Tournament. Southern Miss needed overtime to beat East Carolina and then lost to a Marshall team that had just played a triple-OT game the day before. It’s tough to see them getting left out with nine Top 100 wins, but they certainly aren’t peaking at the right time.
Arizona (23-10, RPI: 73)
The Wildcats have beaten UCLA and Oregon State to make the Pac-12 Final on Saturday, but neither of those wins really helped their profile, which means Arizona will need to knock off Colorado to claim the automatic bid. They still have just one Top 40 win, and the bulk of their Top 100 wins came against teams ranked 85th or worse.
California (24-9, RPI: 36)
Cal finished the regular season by losing three of their last four, and Friday night’s loss to Colorado in the Pac-12 semifinals might push them out of the field. They have zero Top 50 wins, and while they do have nine victories over teams between 51 and 100, none of them are over tournament locks. The Bears also have two sub-100 losses, and eight of their wins came against sub-200 teams. Like the rest of the league, they are hurt by the fact they did virtually nothing in the non-conference.
Colorado (22-11, RPI: 71)
The Buffs still probably need to win the Pac-12 Championship to get in, but with two wins over Cal, two wins over Oregon, and a win over Washington, their profile is among the best the league has to offer. However, they did nothing in the non-conference except kill their strength of schedule.
Oregon (22-9, RPI: 64)
With Washington losing in the Quarterfinals, the Ducks had a golden opportunity to steal a bid by winning the tournament or at least getting to the finals, but they lost to Colorado in the final seconds and have now dropped out of the RPI Top 60. They have no wins against the Top 50, and nearly half of their victories came against sub-100 squads. They have played better since Devoe Joseph became eligible and have suffered a number of close losses, but I just can’t see the Ducks getting a bid.
Washington (21-10, RPI: 69)
The Huskies suffered a crushing defeat to Oregon State in the Pac-12 Tournament, and they are left to sweat it out over the next couple days. It’s tough to believe the outright champion of a major conference getting snubbed, but Washington has zero Top 50 wins, ranks 69th in the RPI, has a losing record against the Top 150, and has nearly half of its wins against sub-200 teams. Other than that, they’re in good shape.
Mississippi (19-12, RPI: 54)
I said before the SEC Tournament that the Rebels needed to make it all the way to the finals, and they are almost there after wins against Auburn and Tennessee. They now have six Top 100 wins and just one sub-100 loss, and a semifinal win over Vanderbilt may push them over the top.
Mississippi State (21-11, RPI: 74)
The Bulldogs won their final two regular season games to get back to .500 in the SEC and stay alive, but a first round loss to Georgia might spell their ultimate doom. They have dropped outside of the Top 70 and went 2-6 in their last eight games. MSU does have seven Top 100 wins, but they haven’t beaten anyone of note since January. The team hasn’t looked like they were interested in playing basketball of late, and they may well get their wish.
Tennessee (18-14, RPI: 84)
The movement to get the Vols in the tournament was really starting to pick up steam, but they lost their first SEC Tournament game to Ole Miss in overtime. Now they need to hope the committee places a lot of weight on how the team has played with Jarnell Stokes on the roster and the fact that they tied for second place in the SEC. It will certainly be one of the more interesting decisions on Sunday, but seven Top 100 wins definitely make their case more compelling.
BYU (25-8, RPI: 43)
A 19-point loss to Gonzaga in the WCC Semifinals has BYU’s status in doubt. They are 2-6 against the Top 50 with just one win against the Top 45. One of their other “quality” wins came against Oregon before they had Devoe Joseph, and five of their six Top 50 losses came by double digits. Throw in the fact that 10 of their 23 D-I wins came against sub-200 teams, and there are certainly reasons to leave the Cougars out. However, countless losses by other bubble teams have definitely helped idle BYU.
Colorado State (20-11, RPI: 27)
The Rams took care of business against TCU in their first Mountain West Tournament game, and even though they came up short against San Diego State in the semis, I think CSU is safe. They have solid computer numbers as well as home wins over UNLV, SDSU, and New Mexico.
Drexel (27-6, RPI: 66)
After falling to VCU in the CAA Final, the Dragons will be sweating it out and rooting against bid thieves for the remainder of the week. They went 25-2 over their final 27 games and won the outright regular season title, which in my eyes should be enough. However, the fact that 15 of their wins have come against sub-200 teams certainly brings doubt into play. Still, I think they belong in the field.
Iona (25-7, RPI: 41)
Sunday’s loss to Fairfield appeared to spell the end for the Gaels, but ugly losses by major-conference bubble teams have many people (myself included) clamoring for more quality mid-majors in the field as opposed to floundering squads from BCS leagues. Even so, the Gaels need to hope the committee places an emphasis on teams who piled up wins and won their regular season championship.
Long Beach State (24-8, RPI: 37)
The 49ers have already earned a spot in the Big West Title Game, and my contention is that they should be in win or lose based on a tough non-conference strength of schedule and the fact that they ran away with the regular season crown. However, the fact that they are just 2-7 versus the Top 100 is a potential red flag if they don’t claim the auto-bid.
Middle Tennessee State (25-6, RPI: 57)
A Quarterfinal loss to Arkansas State dropped the Blue Raiders out of the RPI Top 50 and likely out of at-large consideration.
Nevada (26-6, RPI: 63)
The Wolfpack’s semifinal loss to Louisiana Tech crushed their RPI, and now they are waiting it out with other mid-majors with 25-plus wins. They are 4-3 against the Top 100, but 15 of their victories came over sub-200 clubs.
Oral Roberts (27-6, RPI: 50)
The Golden Eagles lost in the Summit League Semifinals to Western Illinois, and despite a gaudy win total, I have a hard time thinking ORU gets in. Their best win came against Xavier when virtually half of its team was suspended.