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Bubble Watch: Yale fighting to end 54-year NCAA tournament drought
2:30 | College Basketball
Bubble Watch: Yale fighting to end 54-year NCAA tournament drought
Michael Beller
Friday March 4th, 2016

The Ivy League is still the lone conference without a tournament, so its regular season champion will earn an automatic bid to the NCAAs. Right now, that team is Yale, which is seeking its first berth in the Big Dance since 1962.

The Bulldogs, which enter the weekend a half-game ahead of Princeton, visit last-place Cornell on Friday. If they win that game, in which they are huge favorites, they’ll be in position to earn at least a share of first place with win at Columbia Saturday. That could be a much tougher order, given that the Lions are third in the conference at 9–3. Yale will be trying to secure the league title without the services of team captain Jack Montague, who was expelled in February (no official explanation has been given, but Montague's father told the New Haven Register that the reason was "ridiculous.")

The Tigers, meanwhile, have three games remaining, the last a weather-induced makeup game against Pennon Tuesday. Princeton spends the weekend on the road against bottom-feeders Harvard and Dartmouth before coming home to face the Quwakers, who are also under .500 in conference play, meaning the Tigers have an excellent chance to win out.

If Yale and Princeton both finish the season at 13-1, there will be a one-game playoff at The Palestra in Philadelphia on Saturday, March 12. The Tigers have been to the NCAA tournament 24 times, 20 of which came since the last time the Bulldogs made the trip.

A one-game playoff would also mean that the first bid to the NCAA tournament will be handed out not to the Ivy League, but to the champion of the Ohio Valley Conference. The title game takes place on Sunday in Nashville, and the top three seeds (Belmont, Morehead State and Tennessee-Martin) are joined by an upstart, No. 8 seed Austin Peay, in the semifinals

The power conferences will again take center stage on Saturday, but don’t forget about the Ivy League, which could send the first team to the 2016 tournament this weekend if Yale wins out and Princeton loses either of its games.

Field of 68 update

Now on to the complete list of bubble teams, which are listed in alphabetical order.

Justin Sears, Yale's leading scorer, will try to help the Bulldogs reach their first NCAA tournament since 1962.
Justin Sears, Yale's leading scorer, will try to help the Bulldogs reach their first NCAA tournament since 1962.
Gerry Broome/AP

Alabama Crimson Tide

17-12, 8-9 SEC
RPI: 69, SOS: 37, kenpom.com: 88
Current Bracket Watch status: 12-seed in West Regional (Last Four In)

There’s no way to be optimistic about Alabama’s 62-61 home loss to Arkansas on Wednesday. The Razorbacks (16-14, 9-8) rank 125th in RPI, and the Crimson Tide couldn’t afford to lose that game. Having said that, the only way to justify putting, say, VCU or Tulsa in the field over Alabama at this point is based on sheer won-loss record. The Tide still have four top-50 wins, more than the Rams and Golden Hurricane combined, and those teams also have their own share of sub-100 losses. Alabama is hanging on by a thread, but they are hanging on.

Remaining regular season schedule: at Georgia on Saturday

Path to safety: The Tide must win in Athens against the 15-12 Bulldogs. After that Alabama will need to advance to the SEC championship game and pick up at least two resume-building wins (think South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M and Kentucky) to feel safe. Anything short of that will leave them sweating on Selection Sunday.

Butler Bulldogs

20-9, 9-8 Big East
RPI: 46, SOS: 67, kenpom.com: 35
Current Bracket Watch status: 10-seed in East Regional

The Bulldogs made a statement on Wednesday by upending Seton Hall, 85-78, to finish off a season sweep of the Pirates. Butler has mostly built its resume by avoiding bad losses, with just two defeats coming to teams outside the RPI top 50. Now that they have two wins over a tourney lock like Seton Hall to go along with a non-conference victory against Purdue, the Bulldogs can start breathing a bit easier.

Remaining regular season schedule: vs. Marquette on Saturday

Path to safety: Beat Marquette and advance to the Big East tournament championship game. That would likely give Butler another win against Seton Hall and one over a league heavyweight (Villanova or Xavier), without adding a bad loss to its resume. The Bulldogs can definitely get in without finishing that strongly, but that’s the only way they’ll wake up on Selection Sunday feeling certain about their at-large chances.

Cincinnati Bearcats

21-9, 11-6 AAC
RPI: 51, SOS: 87, kenpom.com: 33
Current Bracket Watch status: First Four Out

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Cincinnati swept Connecticut, won at VCU and beat Tulsa at home this season. Those are the Bearcats’ four best wins. They’re 0-3 against the RPI top 25 and just 2-4 against the top 50. In fact, Cincinnati is under .500 against every RPI subset the committee will examine on Selection Sunday, falling to 6-8 against the top 100 after losing to Houston on Thursday. There’s just not much wiggle room for this team. The Bearcats entered the final week of the regular season as the last team in the field to avoid the First Four, but the loss to the Cougars has Cincinnati ticketed, for now, for the NIT.

Remaining regular season schedule: vs. SMU on Sunday

Path to safety: Beat the Mustangs and get to the AAC tournament championship game. If they don't take care of the first part of that equation, it will take winning the league's automatic bid for Mick Cronin's bunch to get in the field of 68.

Clemson Tigers

16–13, 9–8 ACC
RPI: 124, SOS: 88, kenpom.com: 52
Current Bracket Watch status: Out

On Tuesday the Tigers had an opportunity they desperately needed to capitalize on, a home game against fourth-ranked Virginia, but they just couldn’t close the deal. Clemson had a one-point lead with a bit more than six minutes left, but the Cavaliers used a 6-0 run to grab a lead they would never relinquish. The Tigers have three great wins—against Louisville, Duke and Miami, which came in succession in mid-January—that are keeping them alive, but their path to an at-large bid remains full of holes.

Remaining regular season schedule: vs. Boston College on Saturday

Path to the dance: At the absolute worst, Clemson is going to have to advance to the ACC tournament championship game. That would likely leave the Tigers with at least five top-25 wins on Selection Sunday. That could be enough, but they still might need some help from their fellow bubble teams.

Mitchell Layton/Getty

Connecticut Huskies

20-10, 10-7 AAC
RPI: 53, SOS: 50, kenpom.com: 32
Current Bracket Watch status: 10-seed in West Regional

Despite their pedestrian RPI and strength of schedule, the Huskies are 2-2 against the top 25, 3-3 against the top 50, and 6-10 against the top 100, without a sub-100 loss on their resume. More often than not, that adds up to an at-large bid. Still, a home loss to Houston last weekend was not what UConn needed, and getting pounded by SMU, 80-54 on Thursday in Dallas, was not a good look. The Huskies are still in the field, but one more loss could knock them out.

Remaining regular season schedule: vs. Central Florida on Sunday

Path to safety: Connecticut is going to have to win at least one good game—over Cincinnati, Temple, Tulsa or maybe Houston—in the AAC tournament to have any hope of feeling safe on Selection Sunday. Getting that win would likely place the Huskies in the AAC championship, and that should be enough to secure an at-large bid.

Florida Gators

17–13, 8–9 SEC
RPI: 56, SOS: 10, kenpom.com: 45
Current Bracket Watch status: First Four Out

It wasn’t that long ago when Florida appeared to be heading to a stress-free Selection Sunday. Since then, the Gators have lost four of five games, with their last meaningful win coming on Jan. 30 against West Virginia. Perhaps most damning is their 2-10 record against the RPI top 50 after losing rather convincingly to Kentucky, 89-79, on Tuesday. In essence, the one thing they’ve showed the Selection Committee is that they cannot regularly beat tournament-quality competition. You could certainly make an RPI- and SOS-based argument for putting Florida in the field ahead of conference rival Alabama, but the Gators will have no one to blame but themselves if they don’t get one of the final spots in the Big Dance.

Remaining regular season schedule: at Missouri on Saturday

Path to the dance: Beating 10-20 Missouri won’t do anything for Florida’s tournament hopes. The Gators are going to have to do some serious damage in the SEC tournament, likely needing to appear in the championship game at an absolute minimum.

George Washington Colonials

22–8, 11–6 Atlantic 10
RPI: 60, SOS: 108, kenpom.com: 68
Current Bracket Watch status: Out

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The Colonials cruised past George Mason on Tuesday, a result that won't have much impact on its tourney hopes. What should is their one great win (over Virginia) and one very good win (against Seton Hall). The win against the Cavaliers may have been a long time ago—Nov. 16, in just the team's second game of the season—but it's one no one can scrub from their resume. Two weeks after that upset, GW beat the Pirates, a team that should be locked into an at-large bid. On the flip side, George Washington has lost to DePaul and Saint Louis, a pair of teams that could end the season outside the top 200 in the RPI. Still, those wins over Virginia and Seton Hall, as well as a Feb. 6 road win at VCU, give the Colonials a puncher’s chance to get one of the last at-large spots in the field of 68. It is, however, going to require a deep run in the A-10 tournament for them to feel secure.

Remaining regular season schedule: at Davidson on Saturday

Path to the dance: Beating Davidson is a must. At 17-10 and 9-7 in the Atlantic 10, the Wildcats aren’t a bad team, but they will not be going dancing unless they can find some more eligibility for Steph Curry, and GW simply can’t afford to lose to a non-tournament team right now. From there the Colonials will need to, at the very least, move on to the conference tournament championship game, with two wins in Brooklyn over the likes of tourney hopefuls Saint Joseph’s, Dayton, VCU and St. Bonaventure. The issue for GW’s at-large candidacy is that beating either of the latter two teams, one of which would likely happen in the A-10 quarterfinals, may not move the needle all that much.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

23–7, 15–3 West Coast
RPI: 62, SOS: 121, kenpom.com: 30
Current Bracket Watch status: First Four Out

With the regular season over, there's not much the Bulldogs can do to secure an at-large berth. That’s what happens when you don’t win a top-50 game all season and go just 3–7 against the top 100. All the bad-loss avoidance in the world doesn’t mean a thing when your three best wins come against Connecticut, Washington and BYU. Of course, they can still get in the field by securing the West Coast Conference's automatic bid. Anything short of that, however, and Gonazaga's streak of NCAA tournament bids will likely end at 17.

Next game: WCC quarterfinals vs. Portland

Path to the dance: Win the WCC tournament.

Houston Cougars

22-8, 12-6 AAC
RPI: 71, SOS: 124, kenpom.com: 50
Current Bracket Watch status: Out

The Cougars surged in the second half of the AAC season, winning nine of their last 11 games, with triumphs over Tulsa, SMU, Connecticut and, on Thursday, Cincinnati. They finished the regular season 1-1 against the RPI top 25, 2-2 against the top 50 and 6-6 against the top 100. That’s a solid enough resume, but their RPI and, especially, their strength of schedule are going to be hard to overcome. Houston also has two sub-100 losses, which isn’t the end of the world, but doesn’t look good when their strength of schedule is worse than that of James Madison and Indiana State.

Remaining schedule: AAC tournament

Path to the dance: The Cougars are barely on the bubble, and probably can’t feel safe short of winning the AAC tournament. However, they can win two games against at-large quality teams in the conference tourney without winning the championship. If they do that by beating, for example, the Huskies and the Owls but then losing in the championship, they could sneak into one of the last four spots.

LSU Tigers

18–12, 11–6 SEC
RPI: 88, SOS: 75, kenpom.com: 78
Current Bracket Watch status: Out

When the Tigers beat then-No. 15 Texas A&M just two weeks ago in Baton Rouge, it appeared we’d all be treated to seeing freshman superstar Ben Simmons in the NCAA tournament in what will almost certainly be his lone collegiate season. However, LSU followed that impressive win with three straight losses, to Alabama (at home), Tennessee and Arkansas. The latter two teams have no hope of securing an at-large bid, while the Crimson Tide are one of the last teams in our current field of 68. Those are all damaging defeats. The Tigers are 2-2 against the RPI top 25 and 5-5 against the top 50, but they have six losses to teams ranked between 101 and 150. Perhaps the only thing LSU has going for itself is a trip to Kentucky on Saturday, which gives the Tigers a chance for the marquee win they desperately need.

Remaining regular season schedule: at Kentucky on Saturday

Path to the dance: LSU barely avoided what would have been a bubble-bursting loss on Tuesday. A dreadful Missouri team cut a 22-point halftime deficit to three before Simmons and company held on for an 80-71 victory in their home finale. Now Johnny Jones' team must beat the Wildcats in Lexington and probably get at least one more meaningful win in the SEC tournament to at least force the committee to keep the Tigers in mind. A second meaningful win in the conference tournament would likely put them over the hump.

Michigan Wolverines

20–10, 10–7 Big Ten
RPI: 59, SOS: 62, kenpom.com: 49
Current Bracket Watch status: 11-seed in East Regional (Last Four In)

The Wolverines have lost three of their last four games, all of which were on the road, and two of which came against teams we have locked into at-large berths (Maryland and Wisconsin). There’s not really a bad loss on their résumé, with their only sub-50 defeats coming to Connecticut on a neutral floor and Ohio State in Columbus. If they follow that script over the next two weeks, they will be in the field. If they don’t, however, they could be doomed by their 3–10 record against the RPI top 100. Senior guard Caris LeVert missing the rest of the season with a lower leg injury will not help Michigan.

Remaining regular season schedule: vs. Iowa on Saturday

Path to safety: Beat the Hawkeyes, or win one game in the conference tournament. That would give the Wolverines either a fourth top-25 win, or preclude them from suffering a bad loss. Either outcome should earn Michigan a trip to the dance. Remember, it already has wins over Texas, Maryland and Purdue. Few bubble teams can boast a trio of victories that impressive.

Ohio State Buckeyes

19–11, 11–6 Big Ten
RPI: 77, SOS: 57, kenpom.com: 64
Current Bracket Watch status: Out

Thanks to the unbalanced schedule in the Big Ten, Ohio State got to 10 wins in the league without picking up a single one against the conference’s six sure-fire NCAA tournament teams. It finally took down one of those teams with a home win over Iowa last weekend. That was the Buckeyes' second top-25 win of the season, joining an earlier, unlikely triumph over Kentucky in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, they still only have as many top-50 wins (three) as they do sub-100 losses. What Ohio State does have going for it, however, is its conference. Indeed, the Buckeyes have one more chance to score a big win in the regular season when they visit Michigan State this weekend, and they will get at least one opportunity in the Big Ten tournament to add to their résumé, so long as they can beat one of the conference’s bottom-four teams in their first-round game.

Remaining regular season schedule: at Michigan State

Path to the dance: Beat the Spartans this weekend, and then win two games in the conference tournament. That second game will almost certainly be against one of Maryland, Iowa or Wisconsin, meaning Ohio State would have as many as four top-25 wins in this scenario. It might not be enough, but it would give the Buckeyes a chance at one of the last four spots in the field.

Oregon State Beavers

17-11, 8-9 Pac-12
RPI: 34, SOS: 4, kenpom.com: 62
Current Bracket Watch status: 9-seed in Midwest Regional

Despite getting drubbed by USC in Los Angeles on Thursday—the Beavers fell behind by 23 at the half and ultimately lost 81-70—Oregon State is in good position to make the field of 68. The traditional indicators of RPI and strength of schedule will be their friend, as will the improving profiles of Oregon, Utah and California, all of which the Beavers have beaten this season. Oregon State is 3-4 against the RPI top 25, 6-8 against the top 50 and 9-11 against the top 100, without a bad loss to its name. It’s not an overwhelmingly strong resume, but it’s one that definitely suggests the school will be playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1990.

Remaining regular season schedule: at UCLA on Saturday

Path to safety: Advance to the Pac-12 tournament semifinals, which would almost certainly include a win over one of the conference’s sure-fire at-large teams.

Pittsburgh Panthers

20-9, 9-8 ACC
RPI: 45, SOS 34, kenpom.com: 41
Current Bracket Watch status: 10-seed in South Regional

Pitt has been in the field of 68 in every Bracket Watch of the season, but it hasn’t really felt safe since losing two of three to North Carolina State and Clemson at the end of January. Wednesday’s 65-61 loss at Virginia Tech, a possible NIT team, hurt, but it wasn’t enough to knock the Panthers out of the tournament. It did, however, push them down a seed line. They are just 1-6 against the RPI top 25 and 2-6 against the top 50, but they don’t have any losses outside the top 150. Pitt still looks like a good bet for inclusion in the field, especially when you consider how soft the bubble is elsewhere.

Remaining regular season schedule: at Georgia Tech on Saturday

Path to safety: Two more wins should do the trick, one of which could come in their regular season finale in Atlanta. The Panthers won’t get a chance to truly enhance their resume until their second game of the ACC tournament, but they’ve done enough to this point that they likely won’t need to add any big wins to get an at-large invite.

Providence Friars

21-9, 9-8 Big East
RPI: 43, SOS: 53, kenpom.com: 56
Current Bracket Watch status: 9-seed in South Regional

Providence got a much-needed win, or, perhaps more accurately, avoided what would have been a very damaging loss by holding off Creighton, 70-66, Wednesday night. They definitely still retain an inside track among the bubble teams, but they’re just 1-4 against the RPI top 25 and 2-6 against the top 50, which is borderline shocking for a team with two talents like Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil. The fact that Providence was swept by Marquette, which doesn’t have a single other league win against a team above it in the conference standings, will forever be one of the biggest mysteries of the of the 2015-16 college basketball season.

Remaining regular season schedule: at St. John’s on Saturday

Path to safety: Take care of business against St. John’s (8-22 overall, 1-16 in the Big East) this weekend, and then advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament. Doing so would almost certainly mean adding a win over Butler, Seton Hall or Creighton, and a loss to Villanova or Xavier to the resume. That should be good enough.

Saint Mary’s Gaels

24–4, 15–3 West Coast
RPI: 37, SOS: 157, kenpom.com: 34
Current Bracket Watch status: 11-seed in Midwest Regional (automatic qualifier from WCC)

There’s really no way to keep Saint Mary’s out of the bracket picture right now. The Gaels shared the regular season WCC title with Gonzaga, but swept the Bulldogs, which gives them pole position heading into the conference tournament. Still, neither team has a top-50 win on their résumé. St. Mary's did go 5–2 against the top 100, but none of those wins was against a team with a realistic shot at an at-large bid. Translation: Just one team from the WCC will go dancing this year.

Remaining regular season schedule: vs. Grand Canyon (non-conference)

Path to safety: Win the WCC tournament.

Marcus Posley has St. Bonaventure in line for a rare NCAA tournament bid.
Marcus Posley has St. Bonaventure in line for a rare NCAA tournament bid.
John Minchillo/AP

St. Bonaventure Bonnies

21-7, 13-4 Atlantic 10
RPI: 29, SOS: 76, kenpom.com: 74
Current Bracket Watch status: 11-seed in East Regional (Last Four In)

The Bonnies have done great work to get into the at-large discussion, something that seemed highly unlikely at the beginning of the season considering they’ve made just one NCAA tournament in the past 15 years. They finally put themselves over the top in our bracket by beating Saint Joseph’s 98-90 on Wednesday thanks to 47 points, the most by a Division I player this season, from senior guard Marcus Posley. That made St. Bonaventure 3-2 against the top 50, with two of those wins coming on the road (at Dayton, at Saint Joseph’s). While we still have Alabama in the field, the Bonnies are now ahead of them in the pecking order.

Remaining regular season schedule: at Saint Louis on Saturday

Path to the safety: St. Bonaventure can’t afford a loss against the 10-19 Billikens, so it absolutely must cap the regular season with a win. That puts the Bonnies in an identical position to VCU, although they’re a nose ahead of the Rams in our view, and there may not be room in the field of 68 for both of them. Those teams may yet meet in the A-10 semifinals, which would likely end up being a de facto play-in game.

Syracuse Orange

19–11, 9–8 ACC
RPI: 57, SOS: 36, kenpom.com: 40
Current Bracket Watch status: 9-seed in East Regional

The Orange have nine wins in one of the best conferences in the country, which will guarantee them no worse than a .500 league record, but it won't guarantee them an at-large bid. Just two of their wins (at Duke, vs. Notre Dame) came against tourney locks. At this point, Syracuse can’t afford an ugly loss, but it also probably needs one more strong win to impress the committee. The Orange missed a chance to get one on Monday night in Chapel Hill, falling to North Carolina 75-70, and they are now 4–8 against the RPI top 50.

Remaining regular season schedule: at Florida State

Path to safety: Syracuse probably needs to go on a run in the ACC tournament to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday. It absolutely needs to beat Florida State in Saturday's regular season finale. The last thing the Orange want to do is go into Selection Sunday off a conference tourney loss to a team like Virginia Tech or North Carolina State, their likely opening round opponents in Washington, D.C.

Temple Owls

18-10, 12-4 AAC
RPI: 54, SOS: 51, kenpom.com: 89
Current Bracket Watch status: 11-seed in South Regional

The AAC tournament will provide more bubble clarity than any other league. This conference should get no fewer than two, but no more than three, teams in the NCAAs, unless the tournament champion is a major surprise. Conference games aren’t all that matter, but given the way the league's tourney hopefuls have beaten up on each other this season, it could play out that way. That would be great for the Owls, which are 6-1 against SMU, Cincinnati, Connecticut and Tulsa this season, with sweeps of the Huskies and Bearcats.

Remaining regular season schedule: at Tulane on Sunday

Path to safety: Avoid bad losses. The Owls did that against Memphis on Thursday, and now they have to do so against at Tulane. That would guarantee them a share of the regular season conference title, and make them the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which would mean a date with one of the four conference doormats in their opening game. In other words, if Temple wins its next two games, it could vault in front of one of the teams holding onto one of the final at-large spots.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

19–10, 11–6 AAC
RPI: 42, SOS: 45, kenpom.com: 42
Current Bracket Watch status: First Four Out

Tulsa looked ready to make a move last week, but lost at Memphis after scoring a big win over Temple. The Golden Hurricane are 1–1 against the top 25, which simply reflects their season split with SMU. It’s hard to imagine all four potential at-large teams in this conference making the dance, even if they’re the four teams that reach the conference tournament semifinals. That makes advancing to the AAC championship paramount for all four.

Remaining regular season schedule: vs. South Florida on Saturday

Path to safety: The only way Tulsa will be absolutely safe is if it wins the AAC’s automatic bid. Still, if the Golden Hurricane they take care of South Florida this weekend and then advance to the conference tournament championship, they’ll at least have the inside track at one of the two at-large bids this conference is likely to get.

Vanderbilt Commodores

19–11, 11–6 SEC
RPI: 47, SOS: 38, kenpom.com: 24
Current Bracket Watch status: 9-seed in West Regional

Vanderbilt had been one of the nation’s most disappointing teams all season, but it has finally started to resemble the club many people thought it would be in the preseason, when the Commodores opened the year ranked No. 18 in the AP poll. Sitting at 15-11 just two weeks ago, Vanderbilt has since won four straight games, including Tuesday night's 86-69 smackdown of Tennessee, which comes on the heels of a week in which the Commodores trounced Florida in Gainesville and then beat Kentucky by 12 in Nashville. They’re still just 2-6 against the RPI top 25 and 5-7 against the top 50, with one more big opportunity remaining in the regular season against Texas A&M, but they've done enough to move from up from one of the last four teams in our projected field to a slightly more secure No. 10 seed. When Vanderbilt is at its best, it is no worse than the third-best team in this conference, behind only the Wildcats and Aggies. If the Commodores get in the Big Dance, they will be dangerous.

Remaining regular season schedule: at Texas A&M

Path to safety: Beat the Aggies or avoid bad losses. Vandy has too many strikes against it—losses to Mississippi, Arkansas and Mississippi State stand out—to climb much higher up the bracket, but as long as it doesn't lose to a bottom-half team in the SEC tournament,it will be headed back to the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2012.

VCU Rams

22-8, 14-3 Atlantic 10
RPI: 44, SOS: 82, kenpom.com: 38
Current Bracket Watch status: 12-seed in West Regional (Last Four In)

The Rams got a win they needed against Davidson on Wednesday, which made them one of our last four at-large teams. Look beyond their unquestionably gaudy record, however, and you’ll see that they have just two wins over tournament teams (Saint Joseph’s and St. Bonaventure), which matches the number of losses they have to teams outside the top 170 in RPI. That is not a good look. VCU has been hurt by the fact that it hasn’t a chance to play Dayton yet, but it will finally get that opportunity this weekend.

Remaining regular season schedule: at Dayton on Saturday

Path to safety: Beat the Flyers. If the Rams do that, they’ll guarantee themselves at least a share of the A-10 regular season title. They’d also move in front of Alabama, even if the Crimson Tide wins at Georgia this weekend. From there VCU can secure an NCAA bid by reaching the A-10 conference tournament championship game.

Washington Huskies

17-13, 9-9 Pac-12
RPI: 78, SOS: 27, kenpom.com: 67
Current Bracket Watch status: Out

Washington wrapped up its regular season with a 99-91 home win over Washington State, but that doesn’t change the fact that the wheels fell off in the second half of the Pac-12 regular season. Ten games into their conference season, the Huskies were 7-3 with a sweep of UCLA and individual wins over USC and Colorado. They then lost six of their last eight games, falling to all of the conference’s certain or likely tourney teams, other than the Trojans, during the stretch. They remain on the at-large radar, but they’ll need a ton of help from the teams ahead of them if they’re going to get into the dance without winning the Pac-12 tournament.

Path to safety: Short of winning the league tournament in Las Vegas, the Huskies will need to beat two of Oregon, Utah, California and Arizona en route to losing in the conference championship game. Even in that scenario, they’d need a handful of bubble teams to falter down the stretch.

Wichita State Shockers

23–7, 16–2 Missouri Valley
RPI: 39, SOS: 104, kenpom.com: 8
Current Bracket Watch status: 10-seed in Midwest Regional (automatic qualifier from MVC)

The Shockers won their final five games of the regular season, cruising to their second straight MVC regular season championship. Having said that, they don’t have a realistic path to an at-large spot. They may have dominated the MVC and they certainly have a name brand, but that won’t obscure the fact that they had one top-50 win this year, albeit a very strong one over Utah. Their first game in the MVC tournament will be against the winner of Loyola-Chicago and Bradley. If they win that game, they’ll take on the winner of Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois in the semifinals. A loss in any of those games would almost certainly send them to the NIT. Even if they advance to the conference championship game only to lose to a solid Evansville or Illinois State team, there simply won’t be much meat on their at-large résumé.

Next game: MVC quarterfinals vs. Loyola-Chicago/Bradley winner.

Path to safety: Win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament title.

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