Bubble Banter

Welcome to Bubble Banter.

Bubble Banter highlights the teams we believe are on the NCAA Bubble, teams that have locked up spot in the Field of 68, and teams that Should Be In but are not “locks” at the time of the update. RPI and SOS data is credited to InsideRPI at ESPN.

RPI data is for games played through Sunday, February 15.

UPDATED: February 16, 2015

Total Spots (68): Number of teams in the Field.

Automatic Bids (32): None at this point.

  • Projected Locks (13): Teams projected to earn an at-large bid, if necessary.
  • Should Be In (16): Teams that should be in based on current at-large resume landscape.
  • Bubble: (34): Teams remaining who are projected to be under consideration for at-large selection.
  • Spots Available (19): Estimated number of openings after Automatic Bids, Locks, and Should Be Ins are considered.
  • RPI and SOS: RPI and SOS data are updated through games completed February 15, 2015.
Atlantic 10
Locks: None | Should Be In: VCU | Bubble: Davidson, Dayton, George Washington, Massachusetts, Rhode Island
  • Davidson (16-6 | 8-4) | RPI: 58 | SOS: 162 | – A non-conference SOS hovering around 250 and losses to St. Joseph’s and St. Bonaventure are dings on the Wildcats’ resume. Other issues? A win over Dayton is the only one against a projected tournament team (at this point). Davidson passed its road test at La Salle on Saturday. Three of the team’s final five games are also away from home.
  • Dayton (19-5 | 9-3) | RPI: 31 | SOS: 124 | – Among A10 hopefuls other than VCU, the Flyers are best positioned for an at-large bid. Non-conference victories over Texas AM and Ole Miss will help but how much we don’t fully know yet. The schedule is soft until the end of February; so the Flyers need to keep taking care of business – which they did Saturday against St. Bonaventure.
  • Geo Washington (17-8 | 7-5) | RPI: 72 | SOS: 182 | – Losing at Duquesne was the type of resume clunker the Colonials needed to avoid. A non-conference victory over Wichita State is about all GW has to offer the Selection Committee. With a sub-par NC schedule and just three Top 100 wins, the Colonials need a winning streak – and it needed to start ASAP – which means Saturday’s home loss to reorganizing VCU was a missed opportunity.
  • Massachusetts (16-9 | 9-3) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 32 | – The Minutemen’s RPI numbers are a bit deceiving, but good enough to investigate. Victories over Dayton and Rhode Island (both at home) are the best wins of note; so given three sub-100 stumbles – including Florida Gulf Coast – the Minutemen have have a limited margin of error. If they do keep winning, all 68 spots have to be filled, and the Minutemen could be in a position to grab a spot, even if somewhat by default.
  • Rhode Island (16-6 | 9-3) | RPI: 69 | SOS: 187 | – A strong A10 start has the Rams in the conversation. But much like Davidson, they have a very blah NC SOS number and only a victory over Nebraska from outside the league. At least they avoided a second stumble on Saturday by holding off Saint Louis; URI dropped an untimely decision to St. Joseph’s last week. The final stretch remains lined with pitfalls and bridges.
ACC
Locks: Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame, Louisville, North Carolina | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Clemson, Miami-FL, NC State, Pittsburgh
  • Clemson (15-10 | 7-6) | RPI: 77 | SOS: 62 | – The Tigers beat Virginia Tech on Saturday, so it’s status quo. Given a questionable RPI, a hefty climb remains for the Tigers, but with non-league victories over Arkansas and LSU, we can’t dismiss Clemson’s chances. They have 11 Top 150 wins and own an okay 5-5 mark against the Top 100. They also have a couple of ugly losses. Which adds up to this: another must win – Georgia Tech – is up next.
  • Miami-FL (15-9 | 5-6) | RPI: 62 | SOS: 55 | – Miami’s resume is all over the place – including a hard-to-ignore win at Duke. The Hurricanes have also managed losses to Eastern Kentucky, Florida State, and Wake Forest. It’s a classic bubble-team set-up, and without a winning streak, the ‘Canes are likely to hover around the cutline until Selection Sunday.
  • NC State (15-11 | 6-7) | RPI: 45 | SOS: 2 | – Nothing like a high-level road win to recapture a team’s hopes. It’s been a tough stretch for the Wolfpack, but a close one finally went State’s way Saturday at Louisville. Recent close losses to Virginia and Notre Dame were missed opportunities. As it is, NCS remains 6-7 in league play with work to do. Of the Wolfpack’s final five games, three are still away from home – including a trip to North Carolina. That noted, there aren’t a lot of bubble teams that possess wins over Duke and Louisville.
  • Pittsburgh (16-9 | 6-6) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 41 | – With a 4-7 mark against Top 100 teams and two rather ugly losses (Hawaii and Virginia Tech), it’s still a stretch. But, hey, this year’s bubble is filled with teams that otherwise might not earn a second look. So why not add the Panthers after their win over North Carolina? The irony is that Pitt is just 1-6 in true road games and four of the team’s final six games are away from home. The first two? – at Virginia and Syracuse. We’ll see how Pitt handles its late-season opportunities.
AMERICAN
Locks: None | Should Be In: SMU | Bubble: Cincinnati, Temple, Tulsa
  • Cincinnati (17-8 | 8-5) | RPI: 39 | SOS: 46 | – A few eyebrows were raised when the Bearcats dropped an unsightly contest at East Carolina – with an RPI over 200. Then on Saturday, following a lopsided loss at Temple, UC lost at home to Tulane, adding another chink to a profile that otherwise looks pretty good. It also knocked Cincinnati further behind the league leaders. Are the Bearcats in immediate danger? Maybe not, but they’re certainly back on the bubble and moving in the wrong direction. The good work done by a win at Southern Methodist is slightly tarnished.
  • Temple (19-7 | 10-3) | RPI: 33 | SOS: 58 | – The Owls’ victory over Kansas highlights a solid, but not yet a “Should Be In” resume that also includes a victory over Cincinnati. Two other things of note: the Owls are riding a seven-game winning streak and have played much of the year without a completely healthy roster. Upcoming road trips to Tulsa and SMU will go a long way toward determining where Temple lands in the AAC hierarchy – and thus its NCAA standing entering the AAC tournament.
  • Tulsa (17-6 | 10-2) | RPI: 46 | SOS: 117 | – Tulsa was in the projected bracket for a while as the AAC’s leader (and AQ qualifier). With SMU not atop the standings, the question becomes: are the Golden Hurricane a legitimate at-large candidate? Well … it’s not a clear-cut answer. Tulsa owns a road win at Temple and home wins over UConn and Memphis. Outside the league? Their best notches are Auburn and Creighton – neither of which helps. Tulsa has remaining dates with Cincinnati, Temple, and SMU. Assuming they avoid an ugly loss, it would be a good idea to win two of those.
BIG EAST
Locks: Villanova | Should Be In: Butler, Georgetown, Providence | Bubble: Seton Hall, St. John’s, Xavier
  • Seton Hall (15-10 | 5-8) | RPI: 70 | SOS: 77 | – The Pirates began a potentially defining three-game road trip with a loss Saturday at Providence. The next two stops are Villanova and St. John’s. Given SHU’s four-game losing skid, and growing sub.500 Big East record, time is of the essence. There’s definitely some good things on the profile – including a home win over Villanova. But there are troubling signs too, including two losses to DePaul and one to Marquette. It’s becoming more difficult to see how the Pirates recover.
  • St. John’s (16-8| 6-6) | RPI: 34 | SOS: 33 | – If you like analytics, St. John’s appears to be in better shape than perhaps its overall resume suggests. And Saturday’s road win at Xavier tends to verify those numbers. Next up is a trip to Georgetown. Overall, the Johnnie’s profile is still bubbly – given loses to DePaul and Creighton, but there are positives – like six Top 100 wins. Outside the league, SJU owns victories over Minnesota, Syracuse, and Saint Mary’s. There’s nothing easy down the stretch, but at least St. John’s can control its post-season destination.
  • Xavier (16-10 | 7-7 | RPI: 41 | SOS: 31 | – The Musketeers’ profile is all over the place, and Saturday’s home loss to St. John’s only solidifies XU as a bubble team. They own a sweep of Georgetown and have victories over Providence, Seton Hall, S.F. Austin, Murray State, and Alabama. There’s also a curious group of losses: Auburn, DePaul, Creighton, UTEP, and Long Beach State. Other than a season-ending trip to Creighton, there are enough quality win opportunities to seal the deal. The question is … can the Muskies take advantage?
BIG 10
Locks: Wisconsin | Should Be In: Indiana, Maryland, Ohio State | Bubble: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue
  • Illinois (17-9 | 7-6) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 64 | – Illinois was riding a four-game winning streak before Sunday’s loss at Wisconsin. Then again, most teams leave the Kohl Center empty-handed. In a lot of ways, Sunday’s result didn’t really impact the team’s chances. Overall, the Illini’s resume might be a little better than people think … six Top 100 wins and no ugly losses (which is something a lot of bubble teams can’t say). If the Illini can take care of business at home, and steal a road game at either Iowa or Purdue, it would push them to 11 conference wins – which could be enough given the current bubble picture. Time will tell.
  • Iowa (15-10 | 6-6) | RPI: 55 | SOS: 13 | – It has to be a nervous time in Iowa City after the Hawkeyes dropped a home game to Minnesota last week and then lost Sunday in OT at Northwestern. Overall, that’s five losses in seven games for the Hawkeyes, which pushes them back into a large pack of bubble teams. This is a team with a road win at North Carolina and a sweep of Ohio State; so there are quality wins on the board – and the NW loss is the first so-called “bad” loss of the bunch. But the losses are mounting and a schedule with three remaining road games suddenly looks a bit tougher. Rutgers visits Iowa City this week, maybe that will help stem the tide.
  • Michigan State (17-8 | 8-4) | RPI: 36 | SOS: 35 | – There’s a lot to like about the Spartans, and Saturday’s victory over Ohio State certainly eases some uneasiness. But it doesn’t yet remove MSU from the bubble. MSU is still a rather pedestrian 5-6 against the Top 100. There’s also that home loss to Texas-Southern. Is MSU good enough to make the NCAA tourney? Yes. It’s likely where they’ll end up. But four of MSU’s final six games are away from East Lansing and none of them are easy.
  • Minnesota (15-10 | 5-8) | RPI: 78 | SOS: 84 | – It’s not surprising the Gophers lost at Indiana Sunday night; IU rarely loses at home and the Hoosiers rained three-pointers like snow in the northeast. At the same time, a tough start to league play left the Gophers with a serious uphill climb, and it’ll take a few tough wins (on the road) to reach the summit. UM has avoided a really “bad” loss, and they have a win over Georgia (which may or may not end up helping) outside the league. What they need is a road win at either Wisconsin or Michigan State to have a realistic chance entering the B10 tournament – assuming they take care of business in must-win games. The Gophers also get the Badgers at home – which is both a blessing and a curse – potentially.
  • Purdue (17-9 | 9-4) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 80 | – The Boilermakers are another team with an all-over-the-place profile, but they kept their surge intact by thumping Nebraska Sunday in West Lafayette. There’s enough to like – home wins over Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio State to believe Purdue has positioned itself for a potential tournament berth. Outside the league, Purdue has nice (not great) victories against BYU and NC State. But there’s also a bad two-week stretch in December that’s haunting the Black and Gold – home losses to North Florida and Gardner-Webb. Take those away and the Boilermakers’ overall profile looks much different. How Purdue closes the season will largely determine whether the Selection Committee looks past those two weeks or focuses on a somewhat suspect non-conference performance.
BIG 12
Locks: Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma | Should Be In: Baylor, Oklahoma State, West Virginia | Bubble: Texas
  • Texas (17-8 | 6-6) | RPI: 32 | SOS: 21 | – For a team with Texas’ power numbers, there’s often little to worry about on Selection Sunday. UT has played a strong schedule but is 1-7 against Top 50 teams – beating West Virginia. A quick side note here – Iowa’s free-fall isn’t helping the Horns. All things considered, though, if today were Selection Sunday, the Committee would likely reward Texas for its schedule. It also helps that Kansas State and California are hanging around the Top 100. Good thing the Longhorns took care of business against TCU and Texas Tech because the next stretch – Oklahoma, Iowa State, West Virginia, and Kansas isn’t easy. And three of the four are away from Austin.
CONFERENCE USA
Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Old Dominion
  • Old Dominion (18-6 | 17-5) | RPI: 54 | SOS: 142 | – With Saturday’s loss at UTEP, a promising start continues to crumble around the Monarchs. It’s especially tough on the heels of last week’s loss at sub-200 UT-San Antonio. At this point, ODU has non-conference victories over LSU and VCU. That’s about it. They also own additional unsightly losses to Middle Tennessee and UAB. If there’s a silver lining, the Committee Likes to rewards teams who challenge themselves outside their conference. Unfortunately, the conference losses are mounting, and Conference USA doesn’t hold the same weight as the ACC or Big 12. Other than Louisiana Tech, there’s nothing to help ODU down the stretch. And another bad loss might be one too many.
MISSOURI VALLEY
Locks: None | Should Be In: Wichita State, Northern Iowa | Bubble: None
  • It’s too bad that a third team from the Valley hasn’t stepped forward. Given this year’s bubble, opportunities are plenty. Perhaps a team will emerge during Arch Madness; otherwise it looks to be WSU, UNI, and no one else.
MOUNTAIN WEST
Locks: None | Should Be In: San Diego State | Bubble: Boise State, Colorado State, Wyoming
  • Boise State (16-7 | 8-4) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 99 | – Given this season’s volatile nature, it seems appropriate that the Broncos eight-game winning streak would end at – gulp – Fresno State. That’s all kinds of yuck for a team trying to earn its way into the Field of 68. The larger question remains: How will the Committee perceive the Mountain West? BSU’s best wins are within the league (SDSU, Colorado State). Other than Saint Mary’s, BSU’s non-conference victories include a bunch of teams in the lower-half of the RPI. San Diego State aside, the rest of the closing stretch is mostly dangerous. Another slip-up could really be troublesome.
  • Colorado State (20-5 | 8-5) | RPI: 27 | SOS: 85 | – A little bit like St. John’s, the RPI computers love Colorado State. And let’s be honest – the Rams are a good team and were included our preseason bracket. That said, the Rams’ best wins are against Boise State and San Diego State at home – they dropped the return game at SDSU on Saturday. Are those two wins enough? We’ll find out – assuming CSU avoids a bad loss down the stretch.
  • Wyoming (18-6 | 9-4) | RPI: 81 | SOS: 228 | – We’ll keep the Cowboys on the list given that Larry Nance, Jr. missed Wyoming’s back-to-back ugly losses, including a 23-point whacking at Air Force. Regardless, an at-large berth is fading fast given a NC SOS (330-plus) number that ranks among the worst in the nation. We’ve seen the Committee leave out teams with that kind of number before – and many of those teams had stronger profiles than the Cowboys.
PAC 12
Locks: Arizona | Should Be In: Utah | Bubble: Oregon, Stanford, UCLA
  • Oregon (17-8 | 8-5) | RPI: 61 | SOS: 87 | – A four-game win streak brought the Ducks back to the bubble and while Saturday’s loss at surging UCLA doesn’t help, there’s still time, obviously. And a weak bubble scenario helps. Oregon’s resume includes seven Top 100 wins – although only one (Illinois) is a projected tournament team at the moment. It’s also worth noting that the Ducks have largely avoided carnage, their worst loss is at Washington State. Next up … two home dates as Colorado and Utah come to Eugene. Beating the Utes would be especially helpful.
  • Stanford (16-9 | 7-6) | RPI: 51 | SOS: 76 | – Nervous Cardinal fans are only more anxious after Sunday’s loss at Colorado. It’s not a horrible loss in and of itself, but it adds a third suspect defeat to a resume that boasts just one victory over a projected at-large team (Texas). The good news includes a total resume with eight Top 100 wins – even if most of those are against a middling group of Pac-12 teams. More good news: the next three are at home (Cal and the Oregon schools), so it’s time to boost the win column Otherwise, a closing trip through Arizona will be that much more stressful. Stanford has lost 4 of 5 games; the type of slide needs to end quickly.
  • UCLA (16-10 | 8-5) | RPI: 40 | SOS: 17 | – Despite a non-conference season void of anything substantial, UCLA has surged in Pac 12 play and taken advantage of a college basketball landscape in which average is okay. Saturday’s victory over Oregon pushed them to 8-5 in the league and added another notable win to the Bruins’ sweep of Stanford and home victory over Utah. The closing schedule sets up nicely for the Bruins. Other than a trip to Arizona, UCLA will be favored in every contest.
SEC
Locks: Kentucky | Should Be In: Arkansas | Bubble: Georgia, LSU, Mississippi, Texas AM
  • Georgia (16-8 | 7-5) | RPI: 30 | SOS: 24 | – The best thing about Georgia’s profile is probably it’s computer numbers, but those are slipping after Saturday’s home loss to Auburn. The Dawg’s lack a marquee win – their best Ws are Ole Miss and Texas AM, along with stumbling Seton Hall. Will those be enough? It’s starting to look a bit questionable, despite six Top 100 wins overall. The good news: the closing stretch should generate victories. The optimal word is should – especially after Saturday. Can UGA win enough to stay afloat?
  • LSU (18-7 | 7-5) | RPI: 50 | SOS: 102 | – LSU avoided a post-Kentucky letdown and pounded Tennessee in Knoxville. That’s a good thing because the Tigers are one of those teams with from-here-to-there resume. There’s plenty of good – especially a non-conference win at West Virginia. There’s also the trio of head-scratchers to Missouri, Mississippi State, and Auburn. The closing stretch should be manageable, but who knows; it’s been that kind of year. A trip to fellow bubbler Texas AM is next, followed by a home date with Florida.
  • Mississippi (17-8 | 8-4) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 39 | – There’s no shame in losing to Arkansas after a six-game winning streak – except that it was a missed opportunity to sweep the Razorbacks and add a fourth Top 50 win. Cincinnati’s slide isn’t helping the Rebels’ cause, but it’s nothing alarming – yet. Avoiding a bad loss down the stretch should still put Ole Miss in a favorable position entering Championship Week – assuming they fare well at home – which isn’t a given, obviously.
  • Texas AM (17-7 | 8-4) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 93 | – The problem for Texas AM is an winless mark (0-5) against Top 50 teams (just 3-6 vs. the Top 100). That’s a bit light; even with some of the other bubble profiles out there. And beating Florida (barely) didn’t change the above numbers. Perhaps as concerning, there are limited NCAA-level games left on the Aggies’ docket. Compiling wins always helps, and that’s precisely what AM needs to do – LSU visits next before a swing through South Carolina and Arkansas.
WEST COAST
Locks: Gonzaga | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Saint Mary’s, BYU
  • BYU (18-8 | 10-5) | RPI: 60 | SOS: 96 | – It’s hard to say whether the Cougars can make an NCAA run without beating Gonzaga; then again, the bubble isn’t blessed with a bunch of above-average profiles. One thing BYU has to do is overcome a pair of defeats to Pepperdine and one to San Diego – which means rooting for Stanford and Massachusetts, the Cougars best two victories. BYU started its final stretch with a win over Pacific. But it’s the closing game with Gonzaga that matters most; it could very well be a must-get.
  • Saint Mary’s (18-6 | 11-3) | RPI: 57 | SOS: 116 | – Saint Mary’s absorbed a thumping at BYU, which was a missed chance, but nothing more, despite the score. At least SMC avoided a more critical problem by surviving San Diego in 2 OTs this weekend. That would have really hurt the Gaels’ last stand. Much like BYU, it’s hard to see SMC staying in the conversation without beating Gonzaga at some point. That’s probably just the way it is.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: None at this point.
  • Unfortunately, there aren’t many realistic at-large options. Teams we will be watching, though: Eastern Washington, Murray State, Green Bay, and Stephen F. Austin. If any or all advance unscathed to their league tournament final, we’ll re-consider.
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