Hits to Big East powers Louisville, Syracuse shake up Bubble Watch
When a butterfly flapped its wings this past week and Louisville and Syracuse combined to lose three of their five total games, the impact was felt not only at the top of the Big East, but also in its bubbly middle and a number of states over, in Bloomington, Ind. It was bracket chaos theory at its finest.
The weakening at the top of the BEast created a developing situation, where neither of the league's two expected contenders ended up on the 1-seed line of the new bracket. In turn, their generosity pushed Villanova right into the field of 68. The Wildcats' emergence, along with slow-and-steady St. John's, gave the conference a season-high nine teams in the bracket, even as seeding slip at the top has left the path a bit tougher for the heavyweights to look longingly at Atlanta.
The collection of high-profile losses also considerably impacted the situation in the Big Ten, where Michigan rose to the No. 2 overall seed, making it impossible for Indiana (currently) to stay in the Midwest regional and claim a spot in Indianapolis for potential Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games. The relative weakening of the Big East teams (and Duke) through losses, injury and suspension as prospective 1-seed contenders has eliminated a safety net for the Hoosiers vis a vis landing in Indy.
At present, Michigan looks strongly positioned to land a preferred Midwest slot, and there is much less chance of the Wolverines finishing as a 1-seed and being shipped out of the region. That basically means that Indiana cannot end up as a 2- (or 3-seed) and land in Indy. More than likely now, the Hoosiers are going to have to take that spot away from the Wolverines if they want Lucas Oil Stadium as their path.
As if Saturday night's showdown in Bloomington didn't need more heat, the foibles of teams from other conferences has altered the landscape to add that much more meaning to Michigan-Indiana. And with the way the Hoosiers' league schedule breaks after this game, the pressure is squarely on the home team to get it done if they want this season's ultimate NCAA tournament home court advantage.
** RPI information is from RealTimeRPI.com's Monday report. Questions/comments go to @AndyGlockner on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org.**
The Blue Devils' overall profile keeps them as a surefire NCAA team, but the Ryan Kelly situation is starting to erode their overall place in the S-curve and may eventually bump them off the 1-seed line as teams around them continue to add good wins. Miami jumps into this category this week, as the losses can be asterisked due to personnel absence and the Hurricanes gave the nation a taste of what they are capable of with the massacre of the Blue Devils in Coral Gables. NC State will be the third ACC team into the field come March, but after that? Is there an 'after that'?
After a really disappointing loss at Wake Forest, the Pack bounced back to manhandle arch rival North Carolina for much of primetime on Saturday. The win broke a 13-game losing streak to the Heels. Will that good vibe extend into this three-game tester on tap? Tuesday night, the Wolfpack is at marquee win-needy Virginia, then Miami comes calling on the weekend. After that? A trip to Cameron.
The Tar Heels' good overall schedule strength is helping keep them afloat for now. They
Beating Clemson at home by three and then getting crushed at Miami is not a "getting it done" week for a team with a very suspect profile. Maryland comes into Tallahassee on Wednesday and then Duke arrives on the weekend. Anything short of a sweep and the Noles are going to start running dry on chances. They have a few OK wins, but nothing they can plant a flag on with the committee.
Similar to Florida State in that beating a minnow narrowly and getting pounded in a marquee road test leaves this profile very flat. Wednesday night's game at the Seminoles is enormous for both teams. Maryland's remaining schedule after this one is really soft, but they only have one good win all season. Where will the next ones come from? Duke at home? The ACC tournament?
The two best (in perception, at least) teams in the league remain locks for the Field of 68, but their 2-3 week combined has created ripple effects both at the top of the projected bracket and at the bubble cutline. The bubble teams had a big week, though, so seed deflation at the top may end up being countered by more teams getting in.
**Reminder: Connecticut is ineligible for postseason play this season.**
Co-leaders of the Big East! Everyone saw that coming after seven games, right? Now they get a chance to kick Louisville while they're semi-down this weekend at the Yum! Five of the next seven are away from the Bradley Center, so we'll see if they can maintain their position.
In a weird scheduling quirk, the Bearcats have not played since the last update. They host Rutgers Wednesday followed by trips to Seton Hall and Providence. Time to rack up some wins ahead of a rough finishing schedule.
The Hoyas have picked up some very nice wins since Greg Whittington was benched due to academic ineligibility issues, and Saturday's home win over Louisville certainly is a strong one. Two more home games -- Seton Hall and St. John's -- are on tap before a trip to Rutgers, so we'll see if the Hoyas can keep the roll going.
The run-in for the Irish is brutal, so suddenly the home tilt with giant-slayer Villanova on Wednesday looks very significant. After a game at DePaul on the weekend, the Irish have trips left to Syracuse, Pitt, Marquette and Louisville, with the Cardinals, Cincinnati and St. John's visiting South Bend.
Well, well, well. From out of nowhere, the Wildcats punched their way into the picture in most emphatic fashion, becoming the first team since Ball State in 2001 to beat two top-five teams in the same week. Of course, that Ball State team didn't make the NCAAs. The BEast isn't the MAC, but the Cats can't rest on these laurels. That said, the remaining schedule has some promise if Nova has found its vibe.
A three at the buzzer made Pittsburgh bettors very happy, but the three-point loss didn't help the Panthers' profile hopes. Shorthanded Syracuse comes to the Pete next. That's a big one. The back half of the slate is manageable.
NYC-area kings! By getting past Rutgers and Seton Hall, the Red Storm have put themselves in position to make a run at it. There are a lot of tough away games down the stretch, but if they can handle DePaul at home, they can take their swing from a 6-3 platform.
The Scarlet Knights are quickly running out of runway. They're at Cincinnati this week and then host Louisville next week. If they can't get either of those, well, you know the answer...
As explained earlier, things are getting real between the Wolverines and Hoosiers when it comes to placement in the Indy regional. This Saturday's game is huge, but especially for Indiana. Michigan State enters the fray as Minnesota retreats. The cutline teams continue to sort themselves out.
The Spartans got a very credible split of a tough road week, edging Wisconsin at Kohl before falling by five at Indiana in a terrific Sunday matinee. Now, six of the last 10 are at home, with most of the other contenders coming to East Lansing. The next two road games are at Purdue and Nebraska. Translation: The Spartans are now a serious threat to win the league.
Three seven-point losses and a one-point setback later, and the Gophers are working on an L4. Tubby's Minnesota teams have had a consistent fade pattern (aided by injuries and departures) once they enter league play, but I'm not buying this will happen with this team. Having already played at Indiana and Wisconsin, the schedule is manageable by Big Ten standards from here on out. They need to be able to handle Nebraska and Iowa at home this week.
The Buckeyes handled a Take Care Of Business week and have a chance to do more business this week with Wisconsin at home and then a trip to Lincoln. Road games at Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana still await down the stretch.
Neither team broke 50 in either game the Badgers played this week, but they were both tense, taut and meaningful (how's that spin?). The Badgers were beaten by Michigan State but then edged Minnesota in a weird ending that included Trevor Mbakwe not being able to shoot potentially tying free throws. Whatever. The Badgers are 5-2. Now they have trips to Columbus and Champaign to handle.
Unlike last season, the Illini handled a pseudo-must win trip to Nebraska but then they got whomped at home by Michigan and the malaise (and blue) continues. Now the Illini are at Michigan State, home to Wisconsin and Indiana, and then at Minnesota. They still have trips to Michigan and Ohio State left at the end of the season, so if they can't get a split of the next four, this could get hairy.
Kansas keeps racking up wins in slightly less than impressive fashion. Even Bill Self told SI colleague Seth Davis that his team was playing better in December than January. Still, wins are wins and the Jayhawks continue to look primed to be the 1-seed in the South regional come March.
The Wildcats couldn't handle Kansas or a trip to Iowa State last week. No shame in either result this season, but at least a split would have been nice. There aren't a ton of great wins in this profile after the Florida anchor. This week is intriguing, with Texas in town before a chance in Norman to sweep the Sooners.
The Sooners played once and lost at Kansas. This profile is still lacking top-end quality. The best win right now is Oklahoma State. Winning at Baylor Wednesday night would be a nice addition.
A win at TCU in the only action of the week doesn't move the needle. Handling Oklahoma and then a trip to Iowa State would improve the overall look of the Bears' profile. Baylor doesn't play K-State or Kansas (again) until Feb. 16.
Will the Cyclones regret losing at Texas Tech, one of the league's two clear minnows? They bounced back with a home win over Kansas State, but a loss in Lubbock this season is like bogeying a Par-5. You're going to be a stroke or two behind most of the pack. This is a big consolidation week, with a trip to Gallagher-Iba followed by Baylor at home.
Beating West Virginia is better than losing, but it doesn't do much for the Cowboys. Beating Iowa State at home would help, as would going to Lawrence at dumping the Jayhawks.
Arizona got beaten at home by UCLA and now sits two games in the loss column behind league unbeaten Oregon and they don't play the Ducks again. The landscape has opened up on the 1-seed line for the Cats to take a run at it, but it's hard to believe a team that can't win the Pac-12 would get that reward. We'll see.
I want to put the Ducks on lock, but let's wait to see on Dominic Artis' foot issue. Otherwise, everything's going ducky. A trip to the Bay Area is on tap this week.
A great win at Arizona was tempered (Tempe'd?) a bit by a lopsided loss at Arizona State, but still a statement that the Bruins are getting more and more dangerous (or Arizona's overrated. Or both). Now they get three in a row at home against USC and the Washington schools before closing with five of seven on the road. They don't get another shot at Oregon, either.
The Buffs are back at .500 after handling the Bay Area teams at home. They could end up being a significant factor in the league race (if not for themselves) as they still face Oregon twice. The visit to Eugene comes next week after a trip to travel partner Utah this weekend.
That need for quality wins was assuaged a bit with a rout of UCLA. This profile will still be built more on bulk wins than quality, and seven of the last 11 are away, so the Sun Devils have some work to do. It starts in the state of Washington this weekend.
The bad loss at home to Utah begat another sloppy loss, this one at Oregon State. Then the Huskies couldn't take advantage of Artis-less Oregon and fell in Eugene. Right now, this is an NIT profile, but the Huskies still play Arizona and UCLA home-and-home and Oregon at home, so things could change.
The Gators continue to treat the rest of the league like they are the Washington Generals. The margins of victory are insane. A 1-seed is looking more and more possible. The rest of the league? Not so good outside of surprising Ole Miss, which comes to Gainesville on Saturday.
The Rebels are living right at the moment. They beat Auburn on two free throws in the final seconds, a total that matched the number they had made in 15 attempts prior to that. Then Marshall Henderson helped create the .gif of the year with his jersey pop that generated a hailstorm of middle fingers, goofy grins and other hilarity. This week is Show Me Week. Kentucky at home, Florida on the road.
The Tigers' profile is adding up like a kid saving up nickels for something worth a dollar, but they should get Laurence Bowers back soon, which is an upgrade. Their schedule looks like a Star Wars desert -- lots of "at-at"s on the slate. A good team will handle a trip to Baton Rouge and then Auburn at home.
After losing at Alabama, the Cats' computer profile continues to slip. They still don't have a win over a team that's likely to land an at-large (or any team in the RPI top 50). Now four of their next six are away, and the trips are to Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Florida and Tennessee. We'll know a lot more about UK's at-large chances in three weeks.
The Tide may rue the one-point loss at Tennessee. The schedule, though, is really soft until the final week of the season, when road games at Florida and Mississippi pop up. Bama needs to stuff as many wins into the left column as possible before then, and then roll the dice in March.
The league continues to eat its own and even the bottom of the league is stepping up to bite. It could end up damaging seeding for the better teams, which won't help the league shake its suspect March rep.
The Lobos fought off Colorado State and then were totally shut down by a desperate San Diego State squad. It happens. Move on. They get a test on Wednesday at Wyoming in what should be another low-scoring battle before Nevada and Air Force come to Albuquerque. There are no gimmes in this league, but that's about as favorable as a three-game stretch can get. It's business time.
The Aztecs got their swagger back with routs at Nevada and over New Mexico. The bad news: They have now played all of their home games against the likely NCAA teams, and have all the road trips left. They get a bit of a schedule break with a week to prepare for a trip to Air Force on Saturday.
The Rebels have the biggest schedule advantage in the league now, especially with the road win at San Diego State in their pocket. Everyone now has to come to the Mack, where UNLV is almost unbeatable. I like the way this team is developing, but there's still much room for improvement. In-state rival Nevada comes calling this week before a weekend trip to Boise. So much fun in late January!
A rally at New Mexico fell short, but the Rams handled business in Fresno and now the schedule starts to favor them. The next four are Boise State and Wyoming at home, at Nevada, and then San Diego State at home. The chances to get the quality wins they could use are coming.
The Broncos ate a damaging loss at Nevada and injuries continue to hamper their lineup. If they ever can get their full complement of players back, they're a good club. Four of their next five include trips to Colorado State, San Diego State and New Mexico, with a home game against UNLV to boot. Good luck!
If Luke Martinez isn't allowed back, it's hard to see the Cowboys hanging on for a bid. They can't score and teams are now basically quintuple-teaming Leonard Washington. Plus, they'll be evaluated on their work without Martinez, which may not look very strong in a few weeks. That's part of the impact that dropped Wyoming from this week's bracket. Wednesday night vs. New Mexico is huge.
The Falcons still have a lot of work to do, but in this league, the chances are there. They start with Fresno State and San Diego State at Clune this week. A 5-2 Falcons squad would start to get more interesting. All six of their losses are to good-to-very-good teams.
This league is going to be a mess to figure out. Your guess is as good as mine right now. Pray for separation. Butler looks extremely likely to dance, but after that? Who knows.
The Bulldogs were edged at La Salle but came home and handled Temple. They're alone in first place now in the league and should have eyes squarely on finding a way into the Indy regional. No rest for the weary, though. They're at Saint Louis later this week.
Best week of any bubble team? The Explorers beat Butler and then went down to VCU and won there, too. Plus, their previous best win, Villanova, just beat Louisville and Syracuse. Rev up that profile! The Explorers went from fairly far from the cutline to in the bracket in the space of a week. The work doesn't end here. Hungry UMass comes calling before a tricky game at George Washington.
The Rams' Circle of Basketball Life was disrupted this week as Richmond (in an OT game) and La Salle combined to commit only 25 total turnovers. No turnovers = no stops for a limited defense = no transition opportunities = fewer good looks from the three and easy twos = fewer chances to slap on the press. In related news, the Rams went 0-2. This needs to be a 2-0 week at Rhode Island and then vs. Fordham.
Another meh week for the Owls, who rallied past struggling city rival Penn and then got beat at Butler. Richmond at home and at fellow Philly school Saint Joe's on the weekend make up a pretty crucial week for the Owls. The next three weeks are pretty loaded.
Road wins at Duquesne and St. Bonaventure were the first steps toward recovering from the home loss to Rhode Island, but they're not truly quality wins. Beating Butler (and Dayton) at home would be bigger.
Just when you wanted to believe after the 49ers-0">49ers topped Xavier at home ... they were crushed at George Washington. The profile remains pretty empty. They get UMass this weekend to kick off a brutal six-game stretch that will answer any questions we have. Five after that? At Temple, VCU, at Butler, at Saint Louis, Temple.
Road test one. Fail. Road test two. Fail. And we're back where we thought we were with the X men: They need to start winning games in a hurry and then cash in on the final five toughies. Bigger immediate question: Is THIS the year Dayton finally wins in Cincinnati?
They beat Richmond. Now they get a trip to La Salle and Charlotte to see if they can add more heft to a thin resume. When Richmond is your best RPI win, you have a lot of work to do.
The Spiders bounce back into the Watch after upsetting VCU at home, but they couldn't get it done at UMass to cap a big week. Next up: at Temple, Xavier, Saint Louis, at Saint Joseph's, so we'll see where this goes.
The Hawk Will Never Die, but their NCAA chances might after a home loss to St. Bonaventure, the latest in a series of disappointing setbacks. They have a lot of sticky road games left, too.
Wichita State staved off Creighton to create a tie atop the league standings. Both teams are going to the NCAAs, but the race to Saint Louis should be fun.
The league is good, but the Sycamores are going to be testing the committee's tolerance with many more losses. They're at Wichita State this week and still get both league heavies at home.
The Zags haven't pulled away from the pack quite yet, but they're the class of the league. The bigger question is whether a second team can get in without the auto bid.
The so-called Dellavedagger at BYU could end up deciding both teams' fates this season. The Gaels have emerged as the top challenger to the Zags, as their only league loss is at Gonzaga and now they get both BYU and Gonzaga at home. Those are a couple weeks away, though. Until then: Keep winning.
At some point, the vacant nature of the Cougars' profile will become too much to overcome. That point is drawing very close after they were peppered at Gonzaga last week. That drops BYU to 0-6 vs. the RPI top 75. I don't really see how this is a viable at-large profile, even with credible computer numbers. If they don't beat Gonzaga and win at Saint Mary's in the regular season, it's probably auto bid or bust.
Best of the rest
No. 14 in the RPI?? Would the committee reward a mid-major team with a collection of credible wins but nothing great? Belmont could be a really interesting test case should it not win the competitive OVC's auto bid. A BracketBusters matchup looms and the Bruins badly need to draw Creighton at home.
The Bison couldn't do
Scrapping past Marshall at home earns zero style points, but wins (and lots of them) are all that matter right now. The Tigers have to grind out three more Ws, two on the road, before heading to Hattiesburg to face Southern Miss for the first of two meetings.
This is a good team with a middling profile and a league that has zero top-100 games in it. Mississippi's surge is helping their one quality win. The loss to Belmont may loom large if both are in the at-large pool.
The Bulldogs did get it done at Utah State and now there's not that much standing between them and the last week of the season, when trips to New Mexico State and Denver could decide the league and whether the Bulldogs have a safety net.
They have two road games this week and then host Memphis. Then we'll see where we stand.