Bubble Watch – January 28, 2015

I release my bracketology often throughout the college basketball season, and more often as the season goes on. I like to think I’m comprehensive and give good information in my bracketology entries. However, I thought I could break it down even further to show where all teams stand in terms of the bubble by conference for a more in-depth look at resumes, what the difference between a team that’s in or out, where they stand and more. I’ll be going conference by conference and explaining where the teams in the conference fall in relation to the bubble.

There will be five categories in which teams are split up in to: locks, should be in, over the bubble, on the bubble and bubble bursting. Locks are teams that are in the tournament no matter what; they could lose out and they would still make the field of 68. Since it is only late January, don’t expect to see many teams in this category just yet. In fact, I am not going to classify any team as a lock for the tournament just yet. I want to be cautious when putting a team as a lock. There is a difference between whether I think a team will drop enough to fall out of the tournament or if they theoretically could. I will be treating this category as if they theoretically could.

Should be in teams are teams that aren’t quite locks, but they’re looking pretty solid. It would take a somewhat sizable fall from grace for them to miss the tournament at this point. It is still possible if something unforeseen happens, but it’s unlikely.

Teams over the bubble are currently exactly that. At the moment they’re not worried about being in the field; in the bracket came out tomorrow they’d be in. However, they still have a fair bit of work to do to lock up that bid and feel completely safe. They could definitely fall back down onto the bubble and be biting their nails come Selection Sunday or move up and look forward to seeing their name called.

Those on the bubble are either just barely in or just barely out. They’re teetering on the edge of the field and can’t be too certain of what will end up happening to them. Any teams in bubble bursting are close to falling out of bubble contention entirely. Their resume has plenty of holes and they need to do some work to even get onto the bubble. As it stands, they would not be in the tournament and shouldn’t expect much consideration. However, they have the ability to play their way onto the bubble, so they get a brief mention.

Without further ado, let’s get down to it (includes all games through Tuesday, January 27):

Should Be In

AAC

None

A-10

VCU: 17-3 (7-0), RPI: 4, SOS: 2

The Rams have extremely impressive numbers and an 8-3 record against the RPI top 100, including wins over Northern Iowa, at Cincinnati, Davidson, George Washington and versus Tennessee. Their non-conference SOS is ranked first in the country. Those numbers and those wins won’t be ignored by the committee. VCU should look forward to not only making the tournament, but making a possible run, too.

ACC

Duke: 17-2 (4-2), RPI: 7, SOS: 13

With solid numbers and, a 5-2 record against the RPI top 50 and no bad losses, this is very obviously a strong resume. I don’t imagine the Blue Devils will have any problem getting into the tournament. Duke should be focused on getting a one seed than making the tournament this year.

Virginia: 19-0 (7-0), RPI: 3, SOS:10

The Cavaliers are undefeated through three months of basketball. This team will almost definitely be in the tournament. Will they be able to navigate through the rest of their ACC schedule undefeated? A matchup with Duke is looming this Saturday, which could have major implications in the ACC title race as well as the battle for a one seed.

Louisville: 16-3 (4-2), RPI: 21, SOS: 51

The Cardinals have shown they have some severe weaknesses this year, such as shooting. Their resume isn’t as strong as some might assume, with nothing-special numbers and just a 2-3 record against the RPI top 50. However, they’ve steered clear of any bad losses and shouldn’t have to sweat much about being in the tournament.

North Carolina: 17-4 (7-1), RPI: 11, SOS: 6

The Tar Heels have performed very well this year, already amassing an impressive nine wins over the RPI top 100. With excellent numbers and a myriad of quality wins, this squad looks strong for March.

Notre Dame: 19-2 (7-1), RPI: 35, SOS: 139

That SOS is ugly. And their non-conference SOS is even uglier at 326. However, their only two losses are to Virginia and Providence, two teams ranked in the RPI top 25, and they’ve picked up four RPI top 50 wins so far, including an impressive one Jan. 5 at Chapel Hill. The Irish should be in despite their strength of schedule, or lack thereof.

Big 12

Kansas: 16-3 (5-1), RPI: 1, SOS: 1

The Jayhawks seem to have cracked the RPI and SOS code. Almost every year it feels they’re highly ranked, or in this case the highest ranked, in both categories, which does wonders for their resumes every March. Other teams should take note of how they’re able to accomplish this since it’s no secret that numbers are a big part of the selection committee’s decisions. Kansas shouldn’t have too much to worry about as far as making the tournament is concerned as long as they have those kinds of numbers. Oh, and being 7-2 against the RPI top 50 and 12-3 against the RPI top 100 doesn’t hurt, either.

Big East

Villanova: 18-2 (6-2), RPI: 6, SOS: 32

No real holes in Villanova’s resume to point out. Solid numbers, wins over VCU, Butler and Xavier, as well as other respectable teams, and no bad losses to speak of. The Wildcats will probably be heading back to the tournament and do so as a high seed to boot.

Big Ten

Wisconsin: 18-2 (6-1), RPI: 9, SOS: 20

The Badgers do have a bad loss in their resume with their loss at Rutgers on Jan. 11. However, they played that game without Frank Kaminsky and Treveon Jackson got hurt during the game, and the committee does take injuries into account. Regardless, that lone loss will not be enough to keep Wisconsin out of the tournament. It will be negated by their numbers, 10-1 record against the RPI top 100, 5-1 away record and wins over Georgetown and Oklahoma.

Maryland: 18-3 (6-2), RPI: 13, SOS: 60

After missing the tournament for four straight years, it looks like the Terps will be back in the Big Dance in 2015. They hold impressive wins against Iowa State on a neutral site, at Oklahoma State and a season sweep over Michigan State. Their non-conference SOS of 111 leaves a bit to be desired, but it shouldn’t matter much.

Mountain West

None

Pac-12

Utah: 16-3 (6-1), RPI: 10, SOS: 24

The Utes are only 2-3 against the RPI top 50, but with those three losses being their only three, they’ll be fine. Delon Wright & Co. should have no problem getting into the tournament. They missed their opportunity to make a major statement and let the world know that Utah basketball is back in their 51-69 loss at Arizona on Jan. 17. However, they get Arizona again on Feb. 28, this time in Salt Lake City, in what should be a huge determinate of the Pac-12 title. These Utes are no joke.

Arizona: 18-2 (6-1), RPI: 5, SOS: 23

Arizona seems posed to make it back to the tournament and as a high seed again this year after their Elite Eight run last season. They’ve already picked up wins against Gonzaga and Utah, as well as San Diego State and Stanford. However, their two losses have been a bit questionable: first against RPI 100 to UNLV on Dec. 23 and next to RPI 73 Oregon State on Jan. 11. These losses are probably not going to hold them out of the tournament, but they would be wise to avoid any more to maintain their standing as a top seed.

SEC

Kentucky: 19-0 (6-0), RPI: 2, SOS: 5

It’s looking increasingly likely that this team will be in the tournament no matter what happens the rest of the way. Perhaps I’m being too cautious, but I don’t want to jump to any conclusions but calling them an official lock just yet. However, I will go on the record as saying that this team will be in the tournament come March. I can’t see them losing out anyway, so it shouldn’t matter. They’ll likely win most, maybe even all of their remaining games and grab a one seed.

Other

Gonzaga: 20-1 (9-0), RPI: 8, SOS: 61

This Gonzaga team is scary. They could easily be undefeated at this point, with their only loss coming by three points on the road at Arizona in December. They’ve already taken care of their main competition in the West Coast Conference a couple of times with a 68-47 home victory over St. Mary’s on Jan. 22 and a win at BYU 87-80 on Dec. 27. It would take quite the collapse for the Bulldogs to miss out on the tournament this year. You should expect to see them still playing come March.

Wichita State: 18-2 (8-0), RPI: 12, SOS: 82

This Wichita State team has not looked as good as last year’s team that finished the regular season undefeated. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not good. They have wins over Tulsa, Seton Hall and Alabama and their only losses have come to Utah by three and George Washington. They seem to be taking good care of business yet against in the Missouri Valley with an undefeated conference record through eight games. Their real test will come in their next game on Jan. 31 when they travel to Cedar Falls to take on Northern Iowa. These two teams will finish atop the Missouri Valley this season and this game will go far in deciding which one finishes first.

Over The Bubble

AAC

Southern Methodist: 16-4 (7-1), RPI: 17, SOS: 45

The Mustangs have failed to record a single win over the RPI top 50 yet with a 0-4 record against said competition. However, that’s where all four of their losses have come from. They have pretty good numbers, with an overall SOS of 45 and a non-conference SOS of 16, which is way up for last year’s SOS numbers which held them out of the tournament. With a few quality wins they could easily find themselves moving up to “should be in.” But without any quality wins yet they have to wait their turn.

A-10

Dayton: 16-3 (6-1), RPI: 25, SOS: 98

The Flyers have a pretty solid resume halfway through the season. Their two best wins are against SEC surprises Texas A&M and Mississippi, but beyond those two wins they don’t have many to hang their hat on. Dayton missed an excellent opportunity to increase their quality win total on Jan. 20 against Davidson, but failed to bring home the victory. Their next chance to pick up a quality win will be Feb. 6 when they travel to our capital to take on George Washington. After that, their only other chance outside of the conference tournament will be late in the season in a rematch with VCU. Beating the Colonials would be big for the Flyers to possibly take off some urgency when they take on VCU again.

ACC

None

Big 12

West Virginia: 16-3 (4-2), RPI: 14, SOS: 62

The Big 12 is an absolute gauntlet this year. Seven of West Virginia’s remaining 11 games are against currently ranked teams in addition to a trip to Stillwater. The Mountaineers already have some quality wins having already won against Oklahoma, Wofford and North Carolina State, but they’ll have plenty of opportunities coming up to solidify their resume for the tournament. However, they’ll also have plenty of quality chances to blow it. Let’s sit back and watch the Big 12 eat itself alive.

Texas: 14-6, RPI: 27, SOS: 11

Texas’ biggest problem is their 1-6 record against the RPI top 50. Fortunately for them, they have zero bad losses and have some very good numbers. They also will have many chances to improve that record before the end of season with the Big 12 being as strong as it is this season. Should Longhorns fans be worried they might miss the tournament? Currently, no, not really. Do they have the chance to play themselves down to the bubble, and quickly, too? You bet.

Iowa State: 15-4 (5-2), RPI: 16, SOS: 36

Some people may be surprised to see the Cyclones only in the “over the bubble” category. This team is extremely talented and I don’t think they’re going to have much trouble getting into the tournament. In fact, I think at the moment they’re a four seed, which is far from the bubble. Their weakness, though, is those pesky bad losses. They’ve already got two against RPI 120 South Carolina and RPI 168 Texas Tech. Their 5-2 record against the RPI top 50 more than makes up for it and they aren’t in danger of falling onto the bubble right now, but with the Big 12 being as difficult as it is and the Cyclones already having two bad losses on their resume, there is a possibility they hit a slump.

Oklahoma: 12-7 (3-4), RPI: 31, SOS: 8

Oklahoma is the perfect example of why the tournament selection can sometimes be confusing to people. They look at their record and see they’re already lost seven times in 19 games and have a losing record in conference. There is no way they couldn’t be on the bubble, if even in the tournament right now, right? Wrong. When looking at tournament resumes, ignore the number of wins and numbers of losses, and especially ignore the conference record. The committee doesn’t care about them and therefore neither should you. What you should care about is who those wins and losses came against and a team’s numbers. In the case of the Sooners, five of those wins came against the RPI top 50, which is plenty to make their resume look solid. Couple that with their numbers and they’re looking good. Their only blemish would be their loss to RPI 146 Creighton, but that game occurred all the way back in November. It shouldn’t hold Oklahoma back too much.

Oklahoma State: 14-6 (4-4), RPI: 30, SOS: 37

Oklahoma State’s resume is decent. Not awe-inspiring but not terrible either. Their RPI and SOS are good and their 3-4 record against the RPI top 50 isn’t too shabby either. However, their non-conference SOS of 117 and their road record of 2-5 are both red flags that the committee will not overlook. The Cowboys are probably much closer to the bubble than some of the other teams in this category, but as of right now I think their wins, RPI and SOS hold them right over the bubble.

Baylor: 15-5 (4-4), RPI: 23, SOS: 28

Baylor has already beaten Iowa State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M this season and have a good RPI and SOS as usual. In addition, they’ve managed to avoid those pesky bad losses than have seemed to hold them back the last few years. They’re 9-0 against RPI 100 or worse and have managed to beat who they’re supposed to. It’s important to take care of business against competition deemed weaker than you, and Baylor is trying to get over that hurdle. They seem to be doing a good job of it thus far.

Big East

Butler: 15-6 (5-3), RPI: 15, SOS: 7

This team has some great numbers, some great wins and no bad losses. What’s not to love? The Bulldogs have beaten North Carolina, Georgetown, Xavier, St. John’s as well as Seton Hall twice. They’ve bounced back well after disappointing seasons as of late. Their date with Villanova on Valentine’s Day will be must-see basketball and could go a long way in potentially boosting Butler up higher.

Providence: 15-5 (5-2), RPI: 22, SOS: 15

You look at Providence’s numbers and their 5-1 record against the RPI top 50 and you think, “wow, how could this team not be a lock at this point?” I’ll give you three reasons: Marquette, Boston College and Brown. What do those three teams all have in common? If you guessed that they all beat Providence this year, you’d be right. To make matters worse, the loss to Brown, 9-10 and RPI ranked 235 Brown, came at home. And they lost by 10. Those losses, especially the one to Brown, are what’s holding Providence back. They’ve done an excellent job of coming back from those losses with wins against at Butler, Georgetown, Xavier, Notre Dame and Miami (FL), but those are a pretty ugly stain. Even still, they look like they’re in good shape for now.

Georgetown: 14-6 (6-3), RPI: 20, SOS: 4

The Hoyas have been on a tear lately, having won their last four before losing to Xavier on Tuesday. They’ve earned three wins against the RPI top 50 (Villanova, Butler and Indiana) and with a non-conference SOS of seven, they have great computer numbers. In addition, they have been able to avoid any bad losses. There aren’t many holes in their resume at the moment. The Hoyas have been playing some great basketball and continue to move themselves closer and closer to safe territory.

Big Ten

Indiana: 15-5 (5-2), RPI: 36, SOS: 42

The Hoosiers have played extremely well since conference play began and recently picked up their biggest win of the season against Maryland. Their once-mediocre numbers have greatly improved despite a non-conference RPI of 102. Their home loss to Eastern Washington in the non-conference, while not exactly a resume booster, has turned out to not be as bad of a blemish as some may have predicted with the Eagles currently holding an RPI ranking of 61. Indiana is making a good case to get back into the tournament after having a disappointing season last year.

Mountain West

None

Pac-12

None

SEC

Arkansas: 16-4 (5-2), RPI: 18, SOS: 52

You know what the biggest difference between this Arkansas team is from previous ones the last few years? This year’s team can actually win on the road. The Razorbacks have a 3-3 road record, with two of those three wins being their two best of the season so far at Georgia and at Southern Methodist. Arkansas’ inability to win on the road has been a major contributing factor to why they haven’t been able to make the tournament for several years, but it seems they’ve shaken whatever road curse they had. Their numbers are acceptable and their three wins against the RPI top 25 look great on that resume. If they keep up the good work they should be dancing in March.

Other

Northern Iowa: 18-2 (7-1), RPI: 19, SOS: 128

Northern Iowa is back into the national picture this season after having been out of it for a few years. The Panthers beat in-state rival Iowa already this year 56-44 back in December, one of their three wins against the RPI top 100. Northern Iowa is yet to record a victory against the RPI top 50 with VCU being the only team they’ve played ranked that highly. While the SOS numbers for the Panthers aren’t impressive, their RPI of 19 and non-conference RPI of 12 are. Their upcoming game against Wichita State is the premier game of the Missouri Valley season and will be huge for both teams. It will be one of the Panthers’ few remaining chances to get that treasured RPI top 50 win.

On The Bubble

AAC

Cincinnati: 14-5 (5-2), RPI: 28, SOS: 34

Cincinnati has a pretty solid resume so far. They have a few somewhat questionable losses on the road to Nebraska, Memphis and Connecticut, but they’re potentially forgivable. They do hold a 3-2 record against the RPI top 50 as well as a win at North Carolina State, which could be very helpful come selection time. The numbers are solid as well, including non-conference RPI of 23 and non-conference SOS of 17. Nothing exactly jumps out at you about their resume so they still find themselves in the bubble category for right now, but they’re in better shape than a lot of other teams in this category.

Temple: 13-7 (4-3), RPI: 56, SOS: 43

The Owls find themselves right on the fence for a tournament bid right now. Their numbers aren’t awful but they’re not exactly strong, they have a bad loss at St. Joe’s from Dec. 3 and are just 1-5 against the RPI top 50. However, that one win couldn’t have been much better. It came in a 77-52 thrashing of the RPI first ranked Kansas Jayhawks. That win will help them a lot, but they need to do something about adding at least a few more wins to go along with it or else it’ll look really nice on their NIT resume. Unfortunately for Temple, the AAC is not very strong this season. Their next chance to impress the committee will be Feb. 10 when Cincinnati comes to town. The Owls would be wise to add that win to their resume.

Connecticut: 11-7 (4-2), RPI: 78, SOS: 63

The reigning national champs are having some troubles this year. They have just a 3-7 record against the RPI top 100 and their numbers leave plenty to be desired. They don’t really have any bad losses with Yale’s RPI nearing the top 50, but still, losing to Yale at home is never going to sound good. They still find themselves in the bubble category as of right now, but it isn’t looking too bright. But if they can win their next game at Cincinnati on Thursday to sweep the season series with the Bearcats, that could get them right back into the mix.

 Tulsa: 15-5 (8-0), RPI: 41, SOS: 112

Tulsa has certainly been a pleasant surprise this year. They find themselves undefeated in conference and atop the AAC standings halfway through the season and have positioned themselves squarely on the bubble. Their non-conference SOS of 120 and overall SOS of 112 are pretty terrible, as was their loss to RPI 195 Oral Roberts. However, that game occurred in November and this is a different team now. The Golden Hurricane haven’t lost since Dec. 13 and could overcome their shortcomings if they continue their winning ways. They travel to SMU on Feb. 7 in a game that could show whether or not this Tulsa team is a serious candidate for the tournament or just a flash in the pan.

A-10

George Washington: 16-5 (6-2), RPI: 50, SOS: 169

George Washington’s biggest issue is that their schedule is embarrassing. Their SOS is 152 and their non-conference SOS is 171. The A-10 being down isn’t their fault, but a poor non-conference schedule is, and that’s something the committee won’t forget.  The Colonials are 1-3 against the RPI top 50 with that one win coming against Wichita State on Dec. 25 at a neutral site. That win alone is not going to be enough come March. They’re going to have to capitalize on their opportunities to pick up quality wins in conference, something they have failed to do so far. However, their conference schedule is back loaded, with games against Dayton and VCU and two versus Davidson still to come. They’re going to need to win some of those to add to their one impressive win to improve their resume enough for an at-large bid.

Davidson: 14-4 (5-2), RPI: 39, SOS: 99

The Wildcats find themselves right in the thick of things with their up-and-down resume. Sure, their four losses have all been to teams ranked within the RPI top 100, although the loss to RPI 88 Richmond on Jan. 17 is a bit of an eyebrow raiser. Yes, their RPI is decent. However, they have only one win to write home about, a 77-60 beating of Dayton at home last week, a bad SOS and an even worse non-conference SOS (218). They needed to get a marquee win and they did in beating Dayton. Now they’re going to need to do it again with the few chances they have left. They won’t have a chance to couple that Dayton win until Feb. 18 when they travel to George Washington. Between then and now, they should make sure they avoid any bad losses. Even just one could do some severe harm to their already fragile resume.

ACC

North Carolina State: 13-8 (4-4), RPI: 47, SOS: 3

NC State’s numbers are pretty solid; having the third ranked SOS in the country is something that will catch the committee’s eye. What will also catch the committee’s eye will be questionable losses at Purdue and to Clemson at home, as well as a just a 1-7 record against the RPI top 50. Granted, that one win was a big one against in-state rival Duke. However, the Wolfpack are going to need to add to that. Playing in a top-heavy ACC they will have their opportunities; they still play Virginia, at Louisville and at North Carolina before the season ends. They’ll need more quality wins to feel more confident about their resume.

Syracuse: 14-7 (5-3), RPI: 67, SOS: 76

It’s getting dire for Syracuse. The numbers are bad, they’re 0-3 against the RPI top 50 and to make matters worse they lost to RPI 140 California early in the season. What Syracuse has going to them is their upcoming schedule. Between Feb. 14 and Mar. 7, the Orange will play Duke twice, Louisville, Virginia, at Notre Dame and at NC State. They need these games to give their resume the boost it needs to get them back into serious bubble contention. As of right now, they are hanging onto the bubble by a thread. But their upcoming schedule and competitiveness in many of their big games are what’s keeping them here for now.

Miami (FL): 14-5 (4-2), RPI: 37, SOS: 44

By beating Duke, North Carolina State and Syracuse in three of their last four games, the Hurricanes have done plenty to enhance their bubble position. The numbers are passable (despite a 198 ranked non-conference SOS), they have a few decent wins over NC State, Illinois, Syracuse and Florida and their monster win against Duke at Cameroon Indoor are enough to earn them this recognition. Their loss to Eastern Kentucky in December isn’t good, but they can make the committee forget about it by putting on a show in ACC play. The fact that they not only beat Duke but beat them in Durham will be huge for them come Selection Sunday.

Big 12

Kansas State: 12-9 (5-3), RPI: 85, SOS: 46

Kansas State has burst onto the scene in recent weeks as a possible bubble candidate. They started the season slow, entering Big 12 play with a 7-6 record, including losses to Long Beach State, Pittsburgh and Texas Southern. But since entering conference play, the Wildcats have found their footing. They’ve earned wins at Oklahoma, against Baylor and Oklahoma State and beat Texas A&M in the non-conference, a win that is looking better by the week. Their numbers have some catching up to do, but their 4-5 record against the RPI top 50 is pretty impressive at this stage of the season. If they can stay hot, the Big 12 could be looking at 80 percent of their conference in the tournament this year.

Big East

Xavier: 14-7 (5-4), RPI: 26, SOS: 17

The Musketeers have done a lot of good and a lot of bad to their resume. They’ve beaten Georgetown twice, Seton Hall and Alabama and their numbers are solid. However, besides their one win on the road against Georgetown, they haven’t shown they can win away from their own arena. Xavier is just 2-5 on the road so far, which isn’t something the committee will be excited to see. In addition, Xavier has racked up losses to UTEP, DePaul and Auburn: all teams ranked over 100 in the RPI. Xavier is far from dead in the water and there are positives here, as I highlighted, but they should be wary of adding any more negatives to their resume as too much bad could end up canceling out their good.

St. John’s: 13-6 (2-4), RPI: 51, SOS: 16

The Red Storm started out the season hot, going 11-1 in non-conference play. There they entered Big East play and, well, it hasn’t gone as well. They’ve only managed a 2-5 record against the RPI top 50, and with just okay numbers and a bad losses against DePaul in their arsenal, they might ruin what they managed to start in the non-conference. They’ll soon take on Providence, and taking a season sweep over the Friars would be huge for St. John’s. The Big East is loaded this year, so opportunities for quality wins will be there. The Johnnies are just going to have to take advantage of them.

Seton Hall: 13-6 (3-4), RPI: 44, SOS: 52

What happened to Seton Hall? The once highly-ranked Pirates have seen themselves fall all the way from a projected three seed in my bracketology to now a position on the bubble. How did they get here? Losing four of their last five helped. Now Seton Hall finds themselves with not-so-impressive computer numbers, a 2-5 record against the RPI top 50 and a bad loss, at home no less, to DePaul. After defeating Villanova in overtime on Jan. 3, the Pirates haven’t been able to find the same magic. However, they’re going to need to find a way to rediscover it in order to save their season. Xavier comes to town on Jan. 31. That would be an excellent time for that magic to reappear.

Big Ten

Ohio State: 16-5 (5-3), RPI: 40, SOS: 75

For the most part, the Buckeyes have beaten everyone they’re supposed and lost to every they were supposed to. For now, that’s enough to earn them a spot on the bubble. Come March it might not be. Ohio State is 1-3 against the RPI top 50, with their lone top 50 win coming in their last game against Indiana at home. They finally got that top 50 win they needed, but now they need more. #16 Maryland comes to Columbus on Thursday and will be a great opportunity for the Buckeyes to make it 2-3 against the top 50.

Michigan State: 13-7 (4-3), RPI: 42, SOS: 14

It’s been a weird year in East Lansing for the Spartans. They haven’t been nearly as strong as many expected them to be and have found themselves on the bubble at the halfway mark of the season. Their RPI is fine and their SOS is great. What isn’t great is 1-5 against the RPI top 50 and 3-6 against the top 100. What also isn’t great is losing to Texas Southern at home. They’ve been competitive in a few of their big games, such as their home matchup with Maryland and their game with Notre Dame, but if you don’t win, it doesn’t matter. Michigan State needs to actually win some of those games to add to their lone top 50 win or they will be dancing in the NIT.

Illinois: 13-8 (4-3), RPI: 52, SOS: 30

The Fightning Illini are in a more dire position than most of the other teams in this category. Their numbers are not especially good and they have a 3-8 record against the RPI top 100. However, they’ve avoided any bad losses, which is something not many other teams in this category can say. In addition, they were able to defeat Maryland without star Rayvonte Rice, who was out with a season-ending injury, which is something the committee will take into account. Right now, they are not in. However, they have a decent framework to turn into a solid bubble resume, especially with games against Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa remaining.

Iowa: 13-7 (4-3), RPI: 52, SOS: 30

Iowa is a tough nut to crack. They looked absolutely brilliant in their two wins over Ohio State, but they looked abysmal in their 82-50 beating by Wisconsin. They have three wins to hang their hat on thus far (twice against Ohio State and at North Carolina) and beyond a questionable loss to Purdue, they don’t have any bad losses to speak of. They’re certainly in a much better spot than many others in this category. But they have to be careful of not slipping like they did last year, where they saw themselves fall from contenders for a Big Ten title to barely scraping into the tournament. On Jan. 31 they can get revenge against rival Wisconsin when the Badgers travel to Iowa City for the rematch. If the Hawkeyes can pull that off, they likely wouldn’t be on the bubble any longer.

Mountain West

San Diego State: 16-5 (6-2), RPI: 29, SOS: 48

The Aztecs have some decent numbers and have plenty of wins over the RPI top 100, seven to be exact, to show off. They’ve also got that shiny win against Utah to wave in the committee’s face. Nevertheless, they also have a loss to RPI 226 Fresno State to taint their accomplishments. They’re not in bad shape right now, but there isn’t enough in the resume to make me take them off the bubble just yet. But if they stay the course and remain solid in Mountain West play as they have, they shouldn’t be too worried about dancing.

Colorado State: 18-3 (5-3), RPI: 33, SOS: 129

Colorado State managed a perfect record through 14 games until reality hit on Jan. 3 in their trip to The Pit. The abundance of wins is there. However, over whom? San Diego State and Boise State are their only quality two wins they have tout. Their SOS and non-conference SOS are terrible, which explains why 14 of their 18 wins have been over teams ranked 101 or worse in the RPI. The only chance they have for a true, quality win on the rest of their schedule is Feb. 14 at San Diego State. A season sweep of the Aztecs would go a long way in securing the Rams a berth to the field of 68.

Boise State: 15-6 (5-3), RPI: 55, SOS: 113

After starting Mountain West play with three straight losses, the Broncos have won five in a row to work themselves into this category. Their most recent win over Colorado State was their biggest of the year and earned them some bubble looks. There is plenty of work left for Boise State to do. They need to make up for a terrible schedule a loss to RPI 166 Utah State on Jan. 3, but it’s doable. They still have San Diego State left on their schedule twice before the season ends. If they’re able to avoid any bad losses and beat the Aztecs just once, they might get some momentum for an at-large bid.

Pac-12

Stanford: 14-5 (5-2), RPI: 34, SOS: 56

The Cardinal are actually in pretty decent shape at this point in the season. Sure, they have a bad loss to DePaul back in late November, but otherwise there aren’t many weaknesses to point to in their resume. Their numbers are good enough, they’re 5-4 against the RPI top 100 and they have a winning record on the road. As long as Stanford can maintain what they’ve been doing and maybe pick up one or two more top 50 wins, they should be good to go.

Washington: 14-5 (3-4), RPI: 49, SOS: 86

The Huskies are in trouble. After starting 11-0 and getting themselves ranked, Washington has lost six of their last nine, including losses to Stony Brook, California and Washington State. Their 7-3 record against the RPI top 100 is what’s saving them for now, but unless they get back on the winning track, that RPI is only going to drop and those quality wins are going to mean less and less. As of right now, their best win in conference is against RPI 73 Oregon. That’s simply not good enough. They have to win some Pac-12 games and prove to the committee they didn’t peak completely in December.

SEC

LSU: 15-4 (4-2), RPI: 38, SOS: 89

LSU has some great aspects to their resume. They have a 5-1 road record, a decent RPI and 3-2 and 5-2 records against the RPI top 50 and top 100 respectively. However, they lost to Missouri on Jan. 8 and their non-conference SOS is 156. All together this is enough to put them on the right side of the bubble for now, but it could easily turn sour for the Tigers quickly. They need to avoid bad losses to Mississippi State and Auburn in their next two games and hopefully get by Alabama before their biggest game of the season on Feb. 10 against Kentucky. If LSU can knock off the Wildcats in Lexington, it would do wonders for their resume.

Tennessee: 12-7 (4-3), RPI: 53, SOS: 38

Tennessee has been able to play themselves into bubble contention with wins over Butler and Arkansas and with their win against Kansas State looking better and better. They do have a bad loss from the beginning of the season to Marquette, but if they play well to finish the season the committee will likely forgive their early-season hiccup. What the Volunteers need to focus on is avoiding any bad losses in SEC play and maybe picking up a few decent wins against other SEC bubble teams to sure up their resume.

Georgia: 14-5 (5-2), RPI: 24, SOS: 22

Georgia is looking solidly in line for a tournament berth halfway through the season. Their numbers are fantastic, they’ve avoided any bad losses in conference play and they’ve picked up wins over Seton Hall and Mississippi. With Seton Hall slipping, Georgia is yet to really have a marquee, top-notch win, and in a down SEC they won’t get many chances to get one. However, they do still have Kentucky on the schedule twice. Steal one of those games and their stock will shoot through the roof. Otherwise, as long as they keep up the solid work of beating the teams they should and picking up decent wins here and there, they should expect to dance barring something unforeseen.

Texas A&M: 14-5 (5-2), RPI: 32, SOS: 40

The Aggies have burst onto the scene and made themselves a legitimate bubble team with their five-game winning streak following their heartbreaking overtime loss to Kentucky. They’ve beaten LSU and Tennessee in the last two weeks which are currently serving as their marquee wins. They’re going to need more than just those two wins in order to get into the tournament, but they’re on the right track. They have been able to avoid any bad losses, which is huge, and their numbers are acceptable. If A&M can get some more notable wins they could sneak into the tournament.

Mississippi: 12-7 (3-3), RPI: 46, SOS: 19

With wins over Cincinnati and at Arkansas and decent numbers, Mississippi might be the bubble team getting the least attention. They do have their blemishes though, such as their losses to Charleston Southern and TCU, both occurring at home. The Rebels have the potential to turn their resume into one the committee can’t ignore with remaining games against Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, at LSU and at Alabama. If they finish the second half of their season strong, Ole Miss could be on the right side of the bubble come March.

Other

Old Dominion: 15-4 (4-3), RPI: 43, SOS: 124

Old Dominion was 13-1, and then Western Kentucky happened. Since their loss to the Hilltoppers on Jan. 10, the Monarchs have gone 2-2, including two bad losses to Middle Tennessee and UAB. Their once solid resume has become full of holes, with bad losses and ugly numbers galore. In a very down C-USA, Old Dominion can’t afford too many bad losses since they can’t make them up with quality wins. What they do have going for them is non-conference wins against VCU and LSU, which won’t be ignored by the committee. But margin for error is slim for the Monarchs and they can’t continue the slump they’re in.

Bubble Bursting

AAC

Memphis: 12-7 (5-3), RPI: 76, SOS: 50

Memphis is down this year, and their resume shows it. However, it is salvageable. The RPI can get better with continued wins, their SOS and non-conference SOS are okay and they have a win against Cincinnati. They lost to Stephen F. Austin, a  team that shouldn’t be slept on, and to Tulane, an awful team everyone should sleep on. Their 1-5 record against the RPI top 50 isn’t very good, but this resume can definitely be improved to get some bubble attention. Memphis takes on Gonzaga on Jan. 31 in what could be a massive win to escalate the Tigers onto the bubble.

A-10

None

Big 12

None

Big East

None

Big Ten

Michigan: 13-8 (6-3), RPI: 66, SOS: 27

Michigan has been very disappointing this season and they’re going to try to turn it around without one of the best players in the Big Ten, Caris LeVert, who is out for the rest of the season with an injury. They’re 0-5 against the RPI top 50 and have terrible losses to Eastern Michigan and NJIT, both at home. Even still, the RPI is savable, the SOS numbers are alright and they have plenty of opportunities left to get some quality wins. First up is their next game in East Lansing against rival Michigan State. That win alone would not be enough to get them onto the bubble, but with games against Iowa, at Indiana, at Illinois, Ohio State, at Maryland and Michigan State again left on the schedule, the Wolverines will have their chances and could play their way onto the bubble if they finish the season strong.

Nebraska: 12-8 (4-4), RPI: 93, SOS: 80

Are Nebraska’s numbers bad? Yes, they’re terrible. Their RPI and SOS are bad and their non-conference SOS of 233 is plain embarrassing. They have three bad losses to Incarnate Word, Creighton and at Hawaii. However, they have wins over Cincinnati and Michigan State, which is a start. They need quality wins and they need them fast, and they also need to improve their 1-5 away record soon. It’s not looking likely for the Cornhuskers to get to their second straight tournament, but they have opportunities against Maryland twice, Wisconsin, Iowa and at Ohio State to try to right the ship. It’s going to take a lot, but it is possible.

Mountain West

Wyoming: 17-4 (6-2), RPI: 80, SOS: 218

Wyoming basketball might be starting a comeback with Larry Nance Jr. as its Lord and savior. The Cowboys are having a magical season in which they are currently atop the Mountain West, got ranked for the first time since 1988 and have beaten some respectable teams. With all that being said, their resume still isn’t very strong. Their SOS is just putrid and they played one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country, coming in ranked 334 in the category, and on top of that they’ve managed to lose to California and Utah State. In a weak Mountain West, Wyoming’s only remaining chances to get quality wins are Feb. 4 against Colorado State and Feb. 11 at San Diego State. Otherwise, every other game left can only hurt them. For the Cowboys to get onto the bubble, they would need to get at least one more quality win to try to counteract those awful numbers and avoid losing to teams they shouldn’t.

Pac-12

Oregon: 14-6 (4-3), RPI: 75, SOS: 69

Oregon is 0-4 against the RPI top 50, lost to Washington State and are 0-3 on the road. Despite this, though, the Ducks have a fighting chance to work their way onto the bubble. They still have Washington, Utah and a game at Stanford remaining. If they can manage some quality wins in there and maybe a deep Pac-12 run, they could work themselves onto the bubble. But it’s going to be extremely tough. They have to get some road wins, even if they’re against teams like USC and California. It’s a very long shot, and Oregon is holding onto being in even just this category by just a feather, but it’s enough for them to be mentioned for now.

SEC

Alabama: 13-7 (3-4), RPI: 65, SOS: 41

With only one win over the RPI top 50 and a loss to South Carolina on their resume, Alabama has some work to do. They don’t to look much further than their next game when they travel to Lexington to take on #1 Kentucky on Saturday. If the Crimson Tide could pull off the upset, their stock would rise exponentially. Their resume really isn’t all that terrible besides their 1-4 road record and 124th ranked non-conference SOS. They need a marquee win to overcome those shortcomings, and beating the Wildcats would certainly do it. Other than their game against Kentucky, Alabama will have some opportunities to pick up a few other notable wins with games at LSU, at Texas A&M and against Georgia and Mississippi left, but without one huge win to point to, it’ll be an uphill battle for Alabama.

Florida: 11-9 (4-3), RPI: 71, SOS: 21

It doesn’t need to be said how much of a disappointment this season have been for Florida. They started the season ranked in the preseason top 10 and now find themselves barely in my bubble bursting category in late January. They’re 0-7 against the RPI top 50, which is in a way impressive but probably not in the way the Gators would like. At the moment, Florida’s best win is against RPI 58 Yale. You don’t need me to tell you that’s not even close to good enough. But what Florida has going for them is that they can turn it around. Their next game is against Arkansas on Saturday. Two games later they welcome Kentucky to Gainesville. They still have a trip to Lexington, two games against Texas A&M, Tennessee and a game at LSU left. Their schedule strength numbers will be plenty good enough for a tournament berth and their RPI can definitely be improved if they start winning. It’s a long shot at this point, but Florida isn’t completely out of it just yet.

Other

Green Bay: 17-4 (6-1), RPI: 57, SOS: 177

Green Bay finds itself again in an interesting spot. Their conference is not strong enough to provide them with enough chances to get quality wins, which means they probably won’t be able to make their resume good enough to get an at-large bid. In order to make the tournament, the Phoenix will likely need to win the Horizon League Tournament. Their non-conference simply won’t be good enough to carry them through their weak conference schedule. Their resume is on par with the other teams in this category, but Green Bay is less likely to earn an at-large bid.

Western Kentucky: 14-5 (7-0), RPI: 68, SOS: 102

The Hilltoppers have won eight in a row to turn their resume into something that deserves a mention in this category. They have losses to three teams with RPIs in the 90s (Stony Brook, Belmont and Minnesota), but they do hold wins over Old Dominion and Mississippi. It’s going to take a lot more in order to get them any serious bubble consideration, but if they can maintain their winning ways and beat Old Dominion again in their last game of the season, it could be possible.

Evansville: 16-5 (6-3), RPI: 69, SOS: 107

The Aces have their marquee win in their victory over Northern Iowa on Jan. 1. However, adding to that would be nice considering their lackluster schedule strength and losses to Loyola-Chicago and Indiana State. But with games at Wichita State and at Northern Iowa toward the end of the season, it is possible for Evansville to sneak in the bubble conversation. They’ll need to avoid bad losses and add at least one more quality win to their resume to even get onto the bubble, but it can be done.

Wofford: 16-5 (7-1), RPI: 45, SOS: 127

Wofford has a decent RPI and wins over North Carolina State and Iona. Their non-conference RPI and non-conference SOS are both ranked 19. They went out and schedule tough opponents in the non-conference, which is something the committee greatly admires. But the committee doesn’t admire losses to teams with RPIs in the 300s, such as RPI 326 The Citadel, who beat Wofford on Jan. 15. Wofford is going to need help from NC State and Iona because they don’t have any more games remaining to get quality wins. They’re probably going to have to win their conference tournament at this point, but for now they get to be in this category.

Stephen F. Austin: 17-3 (7-0), RPI: 84, SOS: 272

Stephen F. Austin made a name for themselves in last year’s tournament and are looking to make the trip back to the Big Dance. However, their 0-3 record against the RPI top 50 isn’t going to do it. I have them in this category for now because I think they’re a quality team who could pull off an upset or two in the tournament if they make it again, but their chances at an at-large bid are pretty slim.

St. Mary’s: 16-4 (8-1), RPI: 48, SOS: 110

St. Mary’s is a quality team that might be held back by the weakness of their conference. They’ve beaten every team in their conference except Gonzaga, who is head and shoulders better than everyone else in the WCC. They do have a very bad loss to RPI 220 Northern Arizona at home on Dec. 16, but they’ve managed to avoid a bad loss since despite having plenty of opportunities. Currently, the only RPI top 50 team the Gaels have played this year is Gonzaga. They had their chances to get some out-of-conference quality wins against Boise State and St. John’s but failed both times. Right now, all St. Mary’s has to their name is a top 50 RPI and a win at home against BYU. It’s going to take a lot more than that for an at-large bid. Their home game against Gonzaga on Feb. 21 will likely turn into a must-win for St. Mary’s for them to have any bubble chances.

BYU: 15-7 (5-4), RPI: 59, SOS: 66

The Cougars did pick up an all-important quality non-conference win by defeating Stanford on Dec. 20. However, losses to Pepperdine and San Diego in conference could do them in. Without many chances for quality wins in the WCC, BYU will have to find wins against Gonzaga and St. Mary’s in their remaining games against them. Their 5-2 road record is solid and they would be wise to keep their road prowess up. It might take a WCC Tournament championship to get them into the tournament.

Expect to see more Bubble Watch entries as we get closer to tournament time. To check out my most recent bracketology installment, click here.

Justin Meyer
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Justin Meyer

Editor-In-Chief at The Left Bench
Justin co-founded The Left Bench in 2013, and ever since nothing was the same. He is a native of Columbus, Ohio, who has transplanted to the University of Maryland for college. He watches more college basketball than any one person should and is admittedly a 20-year-old curmudgeon.
Justin Meyer
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About Justin Meyer 209 Articles
Justin co-founded The Left Bench in 2013, and ever since nothing was the same. He is a native of Columbus, Ohio, who has transplanted to the University of Maryland for college. He watches more college basketball than any one person should and is admittedly a 20-year-old curmudgeon.