By Mike Bachini, CBS Connecticut
The upper tier teams are starting to separate themselves from the pack, although not from themselves, as the season has gone on. There are however, teams that were afterthoughts not too long ago, slowly finding themselves back in the picture. Below we’ll dive in to each conference to see how things are shaking up.
In = The team could lose all of the rest of their games between now and March 11th and they would still be in the tournament. Obviously their seeding would take a hit, but it would be a complete shock if they weren’t in the tournament.
Almost In = These are the teams who are not quite there yet, but only need a win or two more, or to avoid any devastating losses between now and the end of the season.
Bubble = Teams that might be in if the field was announced today, but are in direct competition with many other teams.
In (4) – Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson
Almost In (2) – Miami, Florida State
Bubble In (3) – Syracuse, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State
Bubble Out (1) – Louisiville
– Virginia Tech moves in to the field of 68 via their 2-1 record since our last update. One of those wins was a monumental resume builder against Virginia. A road loss to Duke is not harmful, and the Hokies avoided a bad loss on the road to Georgia Tech yesterday. The abundance of big wins (Virginia, Washington, UNC, NC State) make up for their dreadful out of conference strength of schedule which ranks 327th.
– Louisville falls out of the field this week. They lost to North Carolina and beat Pittsburgh, so not much should have changed. It’s simply the fact that when stacked up against other bubble teams, their resume doesn’t hold much weight. They don’t have any bad losses, but their best wins are at Florida State and at home to Virginia Tech. They’ve missed on all of their other big chances. They have plenty of opportunities ahead against Duke, Virginia, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech to end the season.
In (2) – Villanova, Xavier
Almost In (2) – Creighton, Butler
Bubble In (2) – Providence, Seton Hall
Bubble Out (1) – Marquette
– Seton Hall falls back to the “bubble in” category after losing 4 in a row before finally salvaging a win against lowly DePaul. They still have a few fantastic wins to fall back on, but they are piling up too many losses to be considered safe at this point.
– Providence was right on the edge last week, and then they lost to DePaul at home. That seemed to be an absolute killer for the Friars. Not too worry. They followed up that home stinker with a home victory for the ages against Villanova. Following that was a road loss to Butler that can be excused. The Friars resume is all over the place. Great wins over Xavier, Villanova, Butler and Creighton coupled with head scratching losses to Umass and DePaul. If the Friars had one solid win on the road, I’d feel more comfortable about their chances. Still, they should make their way in.
In (2) – Texas Tech, Kansas
Almost In (3) – West Virginia, Oklahoma, TCU
Bubble In (1) – Baylor, Texas
Bubble Out (1) – Kansas State
– What a couple of weeks for Baylor. Left for dead by many a few weeks ago, the Bears are now starting to build a resume that has to be taken seriously. They have won five games in a row which include Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas. That was on top of an already strong out of conference strength of schedule. The Bears could finish the season 4-0, or 0-4. Nothing would surprise me at this point. But as of right now, they have moved themselves in.
– Texas went 1-2 since our last update, with losses to TCU and Baylor to start. It wasn’t looking good for the Longhorns. But then they went into Norman and beat the Sooners, which completed a season sweep. That’s now on top of solid wins over Butler, Alabama and Texas Tech. They are in for now.
– Kansas State still needs to prove it to me. They won games over Iowa State and Oklahoma State with a loss to Texas Tech mixed in. Their out of conference strength of schedule is awful (318). I understand I gave Virginia Tech the benefit of the doubt for their poor out of conference schedule, but the difference is that they have elite wins that Kansas State doesn’t. A few solid ones? Sure. But nothing close to Virginia and North Carolina.
In (4) – Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan
Bubble Out (1) – Maryland, Penn State, Nebraska
– Michigan moves up to the “In” category after their impressive win over Ohio State. They finish the regular season with 2 tough road games against Penn State and Maryland. Even with 2 losses there, the Wolverines should be in.
– What could have been for Nebraska and Penn State. Nebraska was riding a six game winning streak, and looked like they could sneak in to the field. A loss to Illinois will halt any of that thinking however, and that’s exactly what happened. The Nittany Lions were starting to creep back into the back end of the picture and a road win at Purdue would have put them right back in the thick of things. They couldn’t pull it out and lost by 3. Now they need to do some damage in the Big 10 tournament.
In (1) – Arizona
Almost In (1) – Arizona State
Bubble In (2) – UCLA, Washington
Bubble Out (1) – Utah, USC
– UCLA won two home games against the Oregon’s to keep them in the field. They finish the season with three tough, albeit winnable road games.
– Washington stays in the field ever so slightly. There just aren’t many bubble teams that have the same amount of elite wins that the Huskies have. Beating Kansas and USC on the road and Arizona and Arizona State at home are serious stamps of approval that can’t be overlooked. They don’t have any more statement games on their regular season schedule, so they’ll just have to avoid disaster.
– USC was in my field of 68 last week and they’ve won two games since. But as I take a deeper dive into their overall resume, there just isn’t much to work with. Losing star Bennie Boatwright for the season won’t help things.
In (4) – Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas
Almost In (3) – Missouri, Texas A&M, Alabama
Bubble In (1) – Florida
– Florida is all over the place. They are piling up the losses, and a decent amount of those have been home losses, which is killing their RPI (63). But they also have so many strong wins (11 against quadrant 1 and 2 teams, more on that next time) that other teams don’t have. Gonzaga (N), Cincinnati (N) and Kentucky (A) all away from home on top of home wins over Texas A&M, Missouri and Arkansas. They’d be wise to stop losing, but right now they are just a double digit seed.
In (2) – Cincinnati, Wichita State
Almost In (1) – Houston
– Houston moves up to the “In” category after an extremely solid week that included wins over Cincinnati and Temple. Add those to wins against Wichita State and Arkansas and Houston is looking like a solid tournament team.
In (1) – Nevada
Bubble Out (1) – Boise State
– Nevada is in. At this point if they don’t win the Mountain West, all it will do is shrink the bubble because they are in.
– Boise State falls out of the field after a rough week including losses to Nevada and Utah State. There just isn’t much here to work with.
In (2) – St. Mary’s, Gonzaga
– St. Mary’s had a rough week with a loss to San Francisco, but they’ll need to completely collapse in order to not feel safe.
Almost In (1) – Middle Tennessee
– Middle Tennessee is avoiding landmine losses, and that keeps them in the field for now.
In (1) – Rhode Island
Bubble In (1) – St. Bonaventure
– St. Bonaventure finds themselves in the field after a big win against Rhode Island at home. They’d be wise to win the rest of the regular season games, but at this very moment in time, I’d consider them in.
9. Florida State
5. Rhode Island
6. Texas A&M
11. Virginia Tech/St. Bonaventure
7. Arizona State
2. North Carolina
16. Florida Gulf Coast
9. Seton Hall
12. New Mexico State
4. Ohio State
13. East Tennessee State
10. North Carolina State
2. Michigan State
9. Middle Tennessee State
5. West Virginia
4. Wichita State
3. Texas Tech
15. Wright State
16. Savannah State/Nicholls State
14. South Dakota State
7. St. Mary’s
15. UC Santa Barbara
LAST 4 IN – Virginia Tech, St. Bonaventure, Baylor, Washington
FIRST 4 OUT – Marquette, Kansas State, Louisville, USC
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