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Bubble Watch: Villanova-Louisville, Colorado-Arizona Among Critical Matchups

Oregon-Ducks

The waiting list of teams that are done and now must sit and watch as others chase a bid to the NCAA tournament grew one team larger late Wednesday night when Boise State was ousted in the Mountain West quarterfinals. The Broncos remain on the right side of the cutline for now, but with so many bubble teams still in play, it will be a long four days to see what the committee thinks of their resume and the Mountain West's story overall. The Broncos join nervous Middle Tennessee State and Saint Mary's as teams that don't want to see the bubble get any smaller and then hope they're at the top of that group in the seed order.

Thursday is when everything starts, well, bubbling over. Every major-conference event is in swing and a lot of games will have significant impact on the shaping bracket picture.

Here's a quick rundown of the key bubble games on tap:

Biggest bubble games to watch (all times ET)

Noon: Cincinnati-Georgetown: Bearcats look pretty solid, but a win here would ice a bid.

Noon: Minnesota-Illinois: Neither team appears to be in trouble, but 8-9 games loom.

12:30 pm: Iowa State-Oklahoma: Both teams seem OK; winner is obviously OK.

3 pm: Arizona State-UCLA: Sun Devils probably need the auto bid; this is the next step.

3:30 pm: Mississippi State-Tennessee: Must-win for the Vols as others root for the upset.

5:30 pm: Colorado-Arizona: Buffaloes should be fine, but why not beat the Cats again anyway?

7 pm: Villanova-Louisville: If they're not in already, the Wildcats obviously would be with a W.

9 pm: Northwestern-Iowa: Hawkeyes have to have this one and more.

11:30 pm: Washington-Oregon: The Ducks would be well served not to honk this one.

** RPI information is from RealTimeRPI.com's Tuesday's report. Questions/comments go to @AndyGlockner on Twitter or bubblewatch@gmail.com.**

ACC

Locks: Duke, Miami

Miami won the outright title by a game, but Duke is better positioned for a 1-seed in the NCAAs thanks to the Hurricanes' late swoon and Duke's unbeaten and impressive track record when Ryan Kelly is available. A step down in the pecking order, North Carolina likely has passed NC State in terms of seed.

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SHOULD BE IN

North Carolina (21-9, 12-6; RPI: 18, SOS: 6)

The smallball Heels couldn't handle Duke at home in the regular-season finale, but a nice road win at Maryland capped off a solid stretch run that has them comfortably in the field of 68.

GW: UNLV, NC State, at Florida State?, at Maryland?

BL: at Texas

North Carolina State (22-9, 11-7; RPI: 30, SOS: 36)

The Wolfpack are going to make the NCAAs, but this really was about as tepid a regular season as they could have put together. Finishing tied for fourth in the league with seven losses isn't flattering their talent level. Now they have to play in the 5-12 game before facing Virginia in a quarterfinal.

GW: UConn (N), Duke, North Carolina, UMass?

BL: at Wake Forest

IN THE MIX

Virginia (21-11, 11-7; RPI: 68, SOS: 124)

The Cavaliers bailed themselves out of a huge hole and edged Maryland. Now they probably will need to win their quarterfinal ACC tournament game to get in.

GW: Duke, at Wisconsin, NC State, North Carolina, at Maryland?

BL: Delaware, Old Dominion (N), at Wake Forest, at Clemson, at Georgia Tech, at George Mason, at Boston College

Maryland (20-11, 8-10; RPI: 83, SOS: 104)

The Terps now have to win the auto bid, and they are lined up against Duke in the quarters. Good luck. Wake Forest is up first.

GW: Duke, NC State

BL: At Boston College

Big East

Locks: Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Syracuse, Pittsburgh

Cincinnati looks likely to be in the dance after the Bearcats dispatched Providence in the second round of the Big East tournament. Villanova looks ready to join them after also advancing. This league looks pretty likely to get eight bids. Not a bad farewell to the conference.

**Reminder: Connecticut is ineligible for postseason play this season.**

SHOULD BE IN

Notre Dame (24-8, 11-7; RPI: 41, SOS: 70)

The Irish dispatched Rutgers to advance to the quarterfinals. They'll face Marquette in the quarters.

GW: Louisville, at Pitt, Sweep of Cincinnati, BYU (N)?, Kentucky (with Noel)?

BL: at Providence

IN THE MIX

Villanova (19-12, 10-8; RPI: 51, SOS: 26)

The Wildcats had to avoid a misstep against St. John's and did that comfortably. They get a crack at Louisville in the quarterfinals. If they win that, they're clearly in, but it appears they've done enough.

GW: Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown, at Connecticut

BL: Columbia, Swept by Providence, at Seton Hall

Cincinnati (22-10, 9-9; RPI: 48, SOS: 29)

The Bearcats handled Seton Hall, moving a step closer to the field of 68. They face Georgetown in the quarters, with a win clearly pushing them into the field. Without it, they're probably going to get in, but you never know.

GW: Oregon (N), Marquette, at Pitt, Iowa State (N)?, Xavier (N)?, UConn?

BL: at Providence, St. John's?

Big Ten

Locks: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State

Indiana's stirring win at Michigan on Sunday gave the Hoosiers the solo crown and the inside path to the 1-seed in the Midwest regional. Michigan still has a chance at a 1-seed if it wins the Big Ten tournament. The league should get seven teams in, with an eighth not impossible depending on this week's results.

SHOULD BE IN

Minnesota (20-11, 8-10; RPI: 24, SOS: 2)

Woof. The Gophers lost at Nebraska and then got destroyed at Purdue to finish under .500 in the league. With their quality wins and computer numbers, I can't see how they get left out, but they dropped 10 of their final 15 games with really no excuse for that kind of slide. I don't think they need a win in the Big Ten tourney, but it certainly wouldn't hurt, especially since they play the team listed next.

GW: Indiana, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Memphis (N), at Illinois, at Florida State?

BL: at Northwestern, at Iowa (by 21)?, at Purdue?, at Nebraska

Illinois (20-11, 8-10, RPI: 43, SOS: 9)

They have beaten two teams that look like they will be 1-seeds and have three other solid quality wins, with only two questionable losses, both in league play. Like Minnesota, they probably have done enough. Like Minnesota, not losing their opening-round game later this week would be a good idea. And hey! They play Minnesota! This should be fun.

GW: Butler (N), at Gonzaga, Indiana, Ohio State, at Minnesota

BL: at Purdue?, Northwestern?

IN THE MIX

Iowa (20-11, 9-9; RPI: 76, SOS: 99)

OK, the Hawkeyes beat Illinois and Nebraska to get to 9-9. Now let's see what they can do in the first couple round of the Big Ten tournament and then we can reevaluate. They really need a huge win (or two) to make this close. The draw isn't bad. If they handle Northwestern, they get a crack at Michigan State, with Ohio State/Purdue/Nebraska as a potential semifinal.

GW: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa State?

BL: At Virginia Tech, at Purdue?, at Nebraska

Big 12

Locks: Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State

Kansas and Kansas State ended up tied for the league's regular-season title when both lost on the final Saturday. Kansas is the 1-seed in the conference tournament and still in the discussion for a 1-seed in the NCAAs with three more wins. Did Baylor's win over the Jayhawks propel them back into the discussion?

SHOULD BE IN

None

IN THE MIX

Oklahoma (20-10, 11-7; RPI: 33, SOS: 15)

When you're relying on strong computer numbers to make your case, losing at TCU is a really bad idea. Now the Sooners face a sticky Big 12 quarterfinal on Thursday against fellow bubbler Iowa State. Is the loser in any bracket trouble? The Sooners just smashed the Cyclones in Norman two Saturdays ago.

GW: Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Sweep of Baylor?

BL: Stephen F. Austin, at TCU

Iowa State (21-10, 11-7; RPI: 46; SOS: 61)

This resume looks very, very similar to Oklahoma's after the Cyclones topped Oklahoma State this past week, and the two teams face off in the Big 12 quarters. Winner will dance. Loser still looks decent to get in but no guarantees.

GW: Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Sweep of Baylor?, BYU?

BL: at Texas Tech, at Texas

Baylor (17-13, 9-9; RPI: 64, SOS: 25)

There's still much work to be done, but the upset of Kansas helps. The Bears get Oklahoma State in the Big 12 quarters, with Kansas State also on that side of the bracket. Would winning both of those games to get to the final be enough?

GW: Kansas, Oklahoma State, at Kentucky (with Noel), BYU?

BL: Northwestern, College of Charleston, at Texas

Pac-12

Locks: Arizona, UCLA

One Pac-12 team bit the at-large dust on Wednesday, but there should be some interesting games in Thursday's quarterfinals. Mystery team Utah, tabbed in the One And One preview, advanced to the quarters against Cal.

SHOULD BE IN

Colorado (21-10, 10-8; RPI: 36, SOS: 24)

Andre Roberson returned from his illness and the Buffaloes slipped past Oregon State after having lost at home to the Beavers on the weekend. They get a quarterfinal against Arizona, but it doesn't seem like they need to win that to make the NCAAs. Certainly wouldn't hurt, though.

GW: Arizona, Baylor (N), Sweep of Oregon, Colorado State, Cal?, Murray State (N)?

BL: at Utah, Oregon State

California (20-10, 12-6; RPI: 49, SOS: 32)

The Golden Bears got thumped at home by Stanford in the finale, costing themselves a share of the league title. Now they get the USC/Utah winner in a quarterfinal in Vegas. They probably should think about winning that one, just to make sure.

GW: At Arizona, UCLA, Sweep of Oregon, Colorado?

BL: Harvard, Washington?

Oregon (23-8, 12-6; RPI: 54, SOS: 109)

The Ducks looked horrid at Colorado last Thursday (I was there) and weren't much better at Utah, where they also lost. Now what? Dominic Artis finally played almost a full load on Saturday, but he hasn't made much of an impact since his return and the Ducks are 1-2 in that span. The way they look in Vegas will go a long way toward determining whether they're actually in some trouble. If the committee doesn't think they're back to pre-Artis injury form, then judgment will be harsher. They get Washington in the Pac-12 quarterfinals.

GW: at UNLV, Arizona, at UCLA

BL: At Utah

IN THE MIX

Arizona State (21-11, 9-9; RPI: 85, SOS: 110)

The Sun Devils probably need the auto bid, and they're one step closer after beating Stanford in overtime. Next up: UCLA in the quarters.

GW: Sweep of Colorado, UCLA

BL: DePaul, Stanford?, Washington?

Washington (18-14, 9-9; RPI: 87, SOS: 49)

Like Arizona State, the Huskies likely need three more wins and the auto-bid. Up next: Oregon, which has looked very beatable recently.

GW: Saint Louis, Colorado

BL: Albany, Nevada, Utah, at Oregon State

Stanford (18-14, 9-9; RPI: 72, SOS: 37)

The Cardinal lost to Arizona State in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament and surely are out of the running now.

GW: Oregon, at Arizona State?

BL: Swept by USC

SEC

Locks: Florida

I don't know what to think about Florida anymore. The Gators lose every close game in a different fashion. This time, they actually attacked the rim and nothing fell. They didn't allow field goals down the stretch and Kentucky beat them from the line. The quant guy in me is at war with my eyeballs. Huge win for Kentucky that pushes them closer to getting in. A couple others moved a touch closer, too.

SHOULD BE IN

Missouri (22-9, 11-7; RPI: 35, SOS: 53)

The Tigers pounded Arkansas and then lost by a deuce at Tennessee. The Tigers actually finished as the league's 6-seed and require an extra game now before possibly advancing to play 3-seed Ole Miss. It's not a great resume, but it should be more than enough this year.

GW: Florida, VCU (N), Illinois (N), Mississippi?

BL: at LSU

IN THE MIX

Tennessee (19-11, 11-7; RPI: 55, SOS: 39)

Wins at Auburn and over Missouri got the Vols to 11-7 and earned them a 5-seed in the SEC tournament. Assuming they handle the 12/13 game winner, Tennessee and Alabama will meet up in an at-large elimination bout in the quarterfinals.

GW: Florida, Missouri, Wichita State, UMass (N)?, Kentucky?

BL: Georgia

Kentucky (21-10, 12-6; RPI: 50, SOS: 60)

After clanking the game at Georgia, the Cats came back and got the marquee win they needed over Florida. Now they get Vanderbilt or Arkansas in a quarterfinal game you'd think they need to win.

GW: Florida, Missouri, Maryland (N)?, at Ole Miss

BL: at Georgia; (also lost at Tennessee by 30 w/o Noel, in case of bubble tiebreaker)

Mississippi (23-8, 12-6; RPI: 56, SOS: 130)

The Rebels won a crucial home game against Alabama and finished things out with a win at LSU to get to 12-6. They're still probably behind Tennessee and Kentucky in the pecking order, and those two are barely in at the moment. Their record earned them a 3-seed in the SEC tournament, and they stand to face Missouri if the Tigers win their first game. Will doubling up on the Tigers be enough? Kentucky or Arkansas would be the most likely semifinal game, which could provide a leapfrog opportunity for the Rebels.

GW: Missouri

BL: at South Carolina, at Mississippi State

Alabama (18-10, 11-5; RPI: 62, SOS: 84)

After losing a big bubble game at Ole Miss, the Tide were saved for now by a halfcourt shot against Georgia. They absolutely have to beat Tennessee in the quarters and then would have a potential shot at Florida in the semis. Would getting to the final be enough? Probably not, but we'll see.

GW: Kentucky?

BL: Mercer, Tulane, at Auburn, at LSU

Mountain West

Locks: New Mexico, UNLV, Colorado State

The Rebels and Rams won their quarterfinal games and move into the lock category. At least one other MWC team looks set to follow them into the bracket, but can Boise State get in as well after losing the late quarterfinal?

SHOULD BE IN

San Diego State (20-9, 9-7; RPI: 27, SOS: 19)

The Aztecs got the quarterfinal win they needed, taking down Boise State in what looked like a "win-and-in" game, with the loser having some nervous time before Sunday. San Diego State can cement things with a win over top-seeded New Mexico in what should be a raucous semifinal on Friday. Both teams are well-represented in Las Vegas this week.

GW: UCLA (N), Indiana State (N), Colorado State, New Mexico

BL: None

IN THE MIX

Boise State (19-10, 9-7; RPI: 44, SOS 45)

The Broncos have to wait and see after losing to San Diego State. It feels like 9-7 in this league with four top-50 and eight top-100 wins should be enough, but there are no guarantees.

GW: at Creighton, San Diego State, UNLV, Colorado State, sweep of Wyoming?

BL: at Utah?, at Nevada

Atlantic 10

Locks: Saint Louis

Saint Louis is the outright champ after putting away La Salle in the regular-season finale. VCU and Butler look set to dance. La Salle very well may have to beat Butler in a quarterfinal to hold on to their bubble spot. Can anyone else -- UMass, Xavier? -- push their way into the mix and give the A-10 a record six bids?

SHOULD BE IN

VCU (24-7, 12-4; RPI: 26, SOS: 57)

Not bad. The Rams came through the season-ending gauntlet 3-2, losing at Saint Louis and at Temple. With 10 top-100 wins and no bad losses, they should be fine, even without any marquee wins. The Rams draw the Xavier/Saint Joseph's winner in the quarterfinals.

GW: Memphis (N), Butler, Belmont?, Alabama?

BL: None, really

Butler (23-7, 11-5; RPI: 22, SOS: 42)

Butler bounced back with two wins to close the season and now are focused on seed appreciation. They actually ended up as the 5-seed in the league, so they have to play 12-seed Dayton in a first-round game, with La Salle waiting in the quarterfinals.

GW: Indiana (N), Marquette (N), North Carolina (N), Gonzaga

BL: None

Temple (23-8, 11-5; RPI: 37, SOS: 62)

An up-and-down season on North Broad Street ended on an upswing, with the Owls winning their last seven to seemingly push their way into the field of 68. The victory over VCU last Saturday was a plus. The Owls get UMass or George Washington in the quarterfinals.

GW: Syracuse (N), Saint Louis, VCU, La Salle?, at UMass?, at Charlotte?

BL: Canisius, St. Bonaventure

IN THE MIX

La Salle (21-8, 11-5; RPI: 42, SOS: 81)

The Explorers got manhandled in the second half at Saint Louis, missing out on what would have been a huge boost for their profile. Now it appears likely they need to beat Butler (or Dayton) in the quarters.

GW: Butler, at VCU

BL: Central Connecticut State

Massachusetts (19-10, 9-7; RPI: 58, SOS: 75)

The Minutemen needed to beat Butler at home and couldn't. Now they have to get past GW and Temple, at bare minimum, and then see what the landscape looks like in the semis. The quality wins just aren't here right now.

GW: at La Salle?

BL: George Washington, at St. Bonaventure

Xavier (17-13, 9-7; RPI: 78, SOS: 54)

The Musketeers have some good home wins. Can they pick up more in the A-10 tourney to make this worth looking at closer? It starts with Saint Joseph's, with VCU waiting in the quarters.

GW: Butler, Memphis, Temple, La Salle, Saint Louis

BL: Wofford, Vanderbilt, Pacific (N), At Wake Forest, At Dayton

Missouri Valley

Auto bid: Creighton

Other locks: None

Creighton finished off a double in the Valley by holding off Wichita State in the conference tournament final. They're in and the Shockers look like they'll make it, too. That should be that in this league.

SHOULD BE IN

Wichita State (26-8, 12-6; RPI: 39, SOS: 92)

The Shockers fell for the second time in a week to Creighton, but should have enough in the resume to make the field as an at-large. Several quality road wins are a big plus.

GW: at VCU, Creighton, at Air Force?, Southern Miss, at Indiana State?

BL: at Evansville, at Southern Illinois

IN THE MIX

None

West Coast

Auto bid: Gonzaga

The Zags won the West Coast Conference tournament decisively over Saint Mary's Monday night. Now the waits begin. Will the Zags be a 1-seed? Probably. Is Saint Mary's safe? We'll see.

SHOULD BE IN

Saint Mary's (26-6, 14-2; RPI: 32, SOS: 95)

The Gaels were outclassed in the WCC final and now have to wait to find out their at-large fate. They're rooting very hard for teams from the middle of the Big 12 and SEC to clank their conference tournaments. A few teams making runs could make this really uncomfortable.

GW: Creighton, sweep of BYU

BL: Pacific (N), Georgia Tech (N)

IN THE MIX

None

Best of the Rest

Auto bids: Belmont, Harvard, Florida Gulf Coast, Liberty, Iona, Davidson, Western Kentucky, James Madison, LIU Brooklyn, South Dakota State, Valparaiso, Bucknell

Other locks: Memphis

Bucknell won the Patriot League's auto bid on Wednesday and moves into the bracket, removing itself from the at-large pool. Memphis is a lock regardless of whether the Tigers win the auto-bid or not. Bubble teams are rooting hard for the Tigers to keep Conference USA a one-bid league. Middle Tennessee State's fate depends on situations like that down the stretch.

IN THE MIX

Middle Tennessee State (28-5, 19-1; RPI: 29, SOS: 128)

Disaster struck the Blue Raiders, who were upset in the Sun Belt semifinals after rampaging through the conference. Now what? They have (barely) two top-100 wins. Their one "decent" win is over Ole Miss, who may not make the NCAAs. They were handled by Florida and lost at Belmont and Akron. On paper, they don't deserve an at-large, but the resume feels close enough to a couple recent surprise inclusions, so we'll see.

GW: Mississippi

BL: at Arkansas State, Florida International (N)

Louisiana Tech (25-5, 16-2; RPI: 47, SOS: 176)

This isn't happening. The Bulldogs were handled at New Mexico State and crushed at Denver as the schedule finally put them on the road against the two other good teams. Go win the auto bid.

GW: Southern Miss?

BL: at Northwestern State?, At McNeese State

Akron (23-6, 14-2; RPI: 53, SOS: 140)

It's never a good time to have your starting point guard arrested for felony drug trafficking, but right before the conference tournament is a really bad time. I don't see how Akron will have much of a chance to "impress" without its lead guard while still losing in the conference tournament.

GW: Middle Tennessee State?

BL: at Coastal Carolina, at Buffalo, Kent State

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