Here are the teams on the bubble and what they must do to stay on the right side of the bubble.
Southern Miss: It’s not time to panic for the Golden Eagles yet, but the loss to Houston hurts. Sure, Memphis lost too, and if they win Conference-USA, it doesn’t matter, but if they don’t, they could be in trouble. Right now, Southern Miss is on the right side of the bubble, but with only two RPI top 50 wins and losses to UAB and the aforementioned Cougars, they must return to their winning ways.
Creighton: Knock on wood, but the Blue Jays have probably played themselves off the bubble for good. The win over Long Beach St. is not only a resume builder, but also a momentum builder. If they can take care of Evansville and Indiana St. this week, they should be a lock, regardless of what happens in the Missouri Valley tournament.
Connecticut: My how the Huskies have fallen. The home rout by Marquette shows just how unstable this team is. It’s hard to watch a team with this much talent get manhandled like that. Because of their strong computer numbers and early season play, Connecticut is still very much in the tournament, but they are teetering. They play Villanova on the road tonight and Syracuse at home later on in the week. An 0-2 record or even a 1-1 record in those games will greatly cripple the Huskies.
Seton Hall: The Pirates have an enormous game against Georgetown this week that could erase their previous loss to Cincinnati. Seton Hall plays great at home, so an upset of the Hoyas could be in store. However, that would not lock the Pirates into the tournament. They must face in-state rival Rutgers on Saturday, never an easy matchup. After that, they end the season at DePaul. Win all three and they’re tournament bound. Drop one, and the Big East tournament is where they need to make noise.
Alabama: It’s a shame when you see a team as talented as Alabama not only struggle, but also lose their two best players to violations of conduct. The Tide has yet to beat an RPI top 50 team since the early weeks of the season. They won against Tennessee which was a must, but a make or break stretch is coming up. They face Arkansas on the road, where the Razorbacks are incredibly tough, and then they get struggling but dangerous Mississippi St. Time to put up or shut up.
Mississippi St.: Speaking of the Bulldogs, they are in a huge funk. With losses to Georgia, LSU, and Auburn in the past few weeks, the wheels are coming off. Mississippi St. still has a spot in the tournament, but a late season collapse could erase that. They still must play Kentucky, at Alabama, at South Carolina, and Arkansas. Go 0-4 in those games and they could be toast, but win one or two and the Bulldogs will at least limp into the big dance.
West Virginia: Speaking of slumps, the Mountaineers are currently mired in one. Losers of five of their past seven, it’s shocking to see a team with this much talent struggle this much. They have some solid wins so things still look good, but they need to improve their resume. This week is crucial. They travel to Notre Dame and then have a home date against Marquette. If they lose both, West Virginia could be in trouble.
Saint Louis: With six straight wins, the Billinkens have played themselves off of the bubble and now are focused on seeding. The most impressive thing about Saint Louis’ surge is that they’ve won all but two of their conference road games. The RPI is great for this team and with a fairly easy schedule to end the season; they will challenge Temple for the A-10 title.
Illinois: The Illini have dropped near the cellar of the Big Ten. Their current slump wasn’t entirely too bad until this Saturday…when they got walloped by Nebraska.Nebraska. This team looks lost and it doesn’t get better when they travel to Ohio St. tomorrow to face the angry Buckeyes. Aside from that, they play Iowa, which is a must win, and then get Michigan at home, which may also turn into a must win. Illinois needs to put it all on the line in these final weeks.
Texas: The Longhorns had won four in a row before dropping a tough one to Oklahoma St. Texas is squarely on the bubble. They have only two RPI top 50 wins (Temple and Iowa St.) and really could use this game against struggling Baylor tonight, which is at home. If they can pull that off, all they have to do is avoid any more bad losses and they should be tournament bound.
Northwestern: The Wildcats have been up and down all year, but they just picked up a must win against Minnesota. They now have two home games remaining (Michigan and Ohio St.) that they need to win one of, along with two road games (Penn St. and Iowa) that they need to win both of. Northwestern has their work cut out for them, so these last four games will prove if they are tournament worthy.
Iowa St.: Many have been high on Iowa St. this year, and they are a good team, but they really only have one very good win this year (Kansas). Royce White has led them to an impressive season, and they are still on the right side of the bubble. If they can finish the season at least 2-2 and not get knocked out too early in the Big 12 tournament, then they won’t have to sweat on the selection Sunday.
Kansas St.: The Wildcats are no longer sweating after they picked up a huge road win against Baylor. This game proved that they were tournament worthy. Kansas St. will certainly make a jump in my bracketology and although they have a bit of a difficult schedule to end the season, anything but a complete collapse will get them to the postseason.
New Mexico:What a week for the Lobos. After knocking off San Diego St. and UNLV convincingly, they are no longer a bubble team. In fact, they’re probably the best team in the Mountain West. If New Mexico can end the season without another loss, they could hit their ceiling, which may be a #4 seed.
Colorado St.: The Rams needed that win over Wyoming, but that doesn’t erase recent losses to Boise St. and TCU. Their computer numbers are strong, but their only RPI top 50 win is over San Diego St. They have a brutal upcoming stretch: vs. New Mexico, @ San Diego St., vs. UNLV. Colorado St. must win at least one of these games, maybe two, or their tournament hopes will vanish.
California: If the Golden Bears can win the Pac-12 title, they’ll be fine. However, even if they don’t win it, they will still probably make the tournament. Cal has been the best team in their conference this season. They end the year with road trips to Utah, Colorado, and Stanford, but wins in all of those my lock up a tournament spot.
BYU: The Cougars have a good team and have been having a good season, but since they probably won’t win the WCC, they need to get a few more big wins. If they can beat Gonzaga on the road this Thursday, it may not matter what they do in the WCC tourney.
Minnesota: You have to feel bad for Minnesota. After losing Trevor Mbakwe, they managed to stay competitive, but in recent weeks, it has not been enough. They are currently on the outside looking in, and desperate for a big win or too. They still have home games coming up against Michigan St. and Indiana, but if they can’t finish the season strong, they won’t be in the tournament. Tubby Smith’s squad may be NIT bound.
Arizona: The Wildcats surged back onto the bubble with five straight wins, but after a loss to rival Washington, they still have work to do. Unfortunately for Arizona, their remaining games are against USC, UCLA, and Arizona St. If the Wildcats want to dance, they’ll need to make a nice run in the Pac-12 tournament. Then again, they may just want to win the whole thing to play it safe.
Purdue: Purdue has been playing pretty well as of late but cannot afford any more slip-ups. Their reaming schedule includes Nebraska, Michigan, Penn St., and Indiana. 3-1 in those games will likely end in a tournament bid, but if not, there’s always the Big Ten tournament to do some damage.
Miami (FL): The Hurricanes are right on the bubble, and need a strong finish to relieve any pressure on Selection Sunday. They don’t have much on their resume besides the Duke win, so their last four games will be crucial. They play at Maryland, vs. Florida St., at N. C. St., and vs. Boston College. The game against the Wolfpack may be a play-in game. If Miami can win all four of those, they will be dancing.
Washington: The Huskies are another team that’s right on the bubble that doesn’t have any resume building games left (Washington St., USC, UCLA). For Washington, it’s pretty simple. Unless they win all three of those and make it to at least the Pac-12 tournament finals, they will not play in the NCAA tournament.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks’ home triumphs came to a screeching halt as Florida smacked them around this past Saturday. They are not where they want to be and are certainly in trouble. They face a couple of bubble teams in their last few games (Alabama, Mississippi St.) so they’ll need to win those, but they’re probably going to have to knock off a big dog in the SEC tournament. Anything short of beating Vanderbilt, Florida, or Kentucky will probably send Arkansas to the NIT.
Xavier: The Musketeers are trying to make a late push and the overtime win against Dayton was big for them. However, they are still one of the first few teams out. A week from tomorrow, they travel to Saint Louis. That game could be the clincher for them. Otherwise, they’ll need to win the A-10 tournament to go dancing.
N. C. St.: The Wolfpack is 0-2 in big games this past week. Losing to Duke was rough and the Florida St. game was throwing salt in the wounds. Now they face UNC in a must win. If they can’t beat the Tar Heels, their only way into the tournament is winning the ACC tournament. The Wolfpack just does not have enough big wins to be considered for an at-large berth.
UCF: UCF is entering a crucial stretch. They are on the bubble now, but unless they beat Memphis before the season is over, they would need to win the Conference-USA tournament. Their win against Connecticut is looking worse and worse so they would like to sweep the Tigers.
St. Joseph’s: The Hawks have won six of eight with their two losses coming to Temple and Saint Louis. They have been impressive as of late, but still have work to do. A home win against Temple this Saturday could put them over the edge because their computer numbers are certainly there.
Cincinnati: The win over Georgetown is nice, but the Bearcats’ resume does not make up for their weak computer numbers. Many people have them in the tournament but I can’t see how a team that lost to Presbyterian can be given the benefit of the doubt. If they can beat Louisville and Marquette before the season ends, then I’ll put them in, but other than that, Cincinnati is out.
Dayton: Dayton is another team that needs to win their conference tournament in order to dance in March. See the trend here? The Flyers have lost five of seven and have too many bad losses right now. Right now, the Flyers are in the same position as the next team on this list.
Massachusetts: That’s right, the Minute Men need to win the A-10 tournament as well. They are a solid team but don’t have much outside of a win over Saint Louis. Maybe if they finish the season undefeated, they can get an at-large berth, but that’s a big if.
South Florida: The Bulls are in an interesting situation. They have only one win in the RPI top 50 (Seton Hall), but are 10-4 in the Big East. Their remaining schedule is tough (Syracuse, Cincinnati, Louisville, West Virginia), but if they can win a couple of those games, they may get a double bye and be put in a nice position in the Big East tournament. Could the Bulls win the Big East? Anything is possible.
Pittsburgh: Pitt’s bubble has burst. They lost their fourth in a row and second to South Florida. Many people may consider the Panthers the biggest bust of the season. For Ashton Gibbs, he will move onto the NBA and probably get drafted. For Jamie Dixon, his fate may not be as nice.
George Mason: The Patriots picked up a big win over VCU. However, that was really their only good win of the season. George Mason is in a three-way race for the CAA title with VCU and Drexel. If they don’t come out on top, they’ll probably be heading to the NIT.
VCU: The Rams are in a little better of a spot than George Mason as that loss was their first since January 8th. They have wins over USF, Akron, and a season sweep over Old Dominion. That isn’t much, but if they can get a few more big wins, it’s possible for VCU to make it to March without winning the CAA tournament.
Oregon and Colorado: Things are not looking good for these two teams. Both Colorado and Oregon have weak computer numbers and not enough big wins. The Ducks and Buffaloes will have to win the Pac-12 tournament to make it to March Madness, meaning there is a slim chance one of them will get in and no chance both of them will get in.
Drexel: The Dragons are the hottest mid-major in the nation. After blowing out Cleveland St., they are now winners of 21 of their last 22, losing only once in 2012. They may have the best chance out of the three CAA teams vying for an at-large berth to actually get one, but I’m sure they would love to end their season with their winning streak still intact, making them a scary team in the tournament.