Boise State still sits on the bubble as Selection Sunday nears. (Icon SMI)
Does anyone want to dance? Doesn't seem that way around the cutline where team after team has gacked up opportunities to create some separation. With a larger bunch of teams now finished with play before Selection Sunday, we can start putting together a more definitive hierarchy, and then adjust as other teams continue tournament play.
Here are the current profiles of teams that have concluded play that were anywhere between an 11-seed and in my First Four out in Friday morning's bracket update. Six of these eight teams were in the field of 68 at the start of play today.
Oklahoma (20-11, 11-7; RPI: 39, SOS: 16)
3-7 top 50 but 9-9 vs the top 100. More of a compiler profile than anything excellent, although the home wins over KU and Oklahoma State definitely help. Really not a great profile, but maybe better than some other options.
GW: Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Sweep of Baylor?
BL: Stephen F. Austin, at TCU
California (20-11, 12-6; RPI: 49, SOS: 32)
5-5 vs. top 50 but just 6-10 vs. the top 100. Very much like a Mountain West resume in that all the good work came in the league, but the league isn't as good as the Mountain West this season. Both wins over Oregon came when Dominic Artis was out. The committee doesn't discount wins because of opponent player absence, but if it comes down to a subjective discussion between Cal and a couple other teams, that might pop up.
GW: At Arizona, UCLA, Sweep of Oregon, Colorado?
BL: Harvard, Washington?, Utah (N)
Boise State (19-10, 9-7; RPI: 44, SOS: 40)
Finished at 9-7 and tied for fourth in the No. 1 RPI conference, beat three of the four apparently NCAA teams at home. Had a very big road win at Creighton. Two bad losses. 4-7 vs. top-50 and 8-8 vs. top 100. Had a near miss at Michigan State in its other "marquee" nonconference game.
GW: at Creighton, San Diego State, UNLV, Colorado State, sweep of Wyoming??
BL: at Utah?, at Nevada
Tennessee (20-12, 11-7; RPI: 55, SOS: 57)
The Vols lost their first SEC tournament game to Alabama to fall back into this morass. 4-4 vs. top 50 and 8-10 vs. top 100, but almost all of their good work came at home. Tennessee was 2-9 vs. top-200 teams road/neutral. The top-end wins are good. That may be enough to keep them in.
GW: Florida, Missouri, Wichita State, UMass (N)?, Kentucky?
La Salle (21-9, 11-5; RPI: 41, SOS: 83)
Went 6-8 vs the top 100, including three top-50 wins, finished as the 4-seed in a league that looks set to get at least four bids. Only one bad loss (in mid-November). Not a bad overall profile for an off-Broadway team that doesn't get a ton of national exposure. Had two best wins in the same week Villanova had two top-five Ws, and also beat the Wildcats.
GW: Butler, at VCU, Villanova?
BL: Central Connecticut State
Saint Mary's (26-6, 14-2; RPI: 31, SOS: 95)
The Gaels finished a strong second in the WCC and only lost to Gonzaga in league games. They're 9-2 on the road. That said, they only have one truly good win and only three wins in the top 90 of the RPI. The only top-level nonconference game they played was handed to them in BracketBusters. Northern Iowa (a road loss), Harvard and at Utah State (both wins) before the Aggies were decimated by injury is the best of the out-of-conference batch.
GW: Creighton, sweep of BYU
BL: Pacific (N), Georgia Tech (N)
Virginia (21-11, 11-7; RPI: 68, SOS: 123)
The wild ride may have ended on the wrong side of the fence. The Cavaliers beat the top three teams in the ACC at home and won at Wisconsin, but lost so many other bad games and were ransacked by NC State in the ACC quarters. This is a worse version of the crazy USC resume that was widely debated as an inclusion a couple years ago. 8-4 vs the top 100 but seven sub-100 losses on the resume. Jontel Evans injury credit gets diminished due to their sloppy close.
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
Middle Tennessee State (28-5, 19-1; RPI: 32, SOS: 128)
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. They also went 19-1 in the Sun Belt (only loss in OT), have decent enough computer numbers for playing in a league without any other top-100 RPI teams, and were "punished" somewhat by the 20-game league schedule, which meant they could play two or even four fewer non-league games.
BL: at Arkansas State, Florida International (N)
Of those eight profiles, I like Oklahoma's and Boise State's the best. The Sooners put enough good wins together in bulk to combo with two wins over likely top-four seeds. With the bubble looking as weak as it is, that seems like it will be enough. Boise State has more good wins than most of the other teams on the list and gets a bit of injury credit for going 0-3 without Jeff Elorriaga. They should make it, based on how the picture is evolving.
Then what? Cal has some decent wins and enough schedule strength to probably hang on. The win at Arizona (and at Oregon) looks huge for them at the moment. At least they proved they could do something away from home (they also won at WAC co-champ Denver). Tennessee and La Salle becomes a "what's your preference?" type deal. Both teams did some decent things. Both have flaws. Both lost a tournament game they probably needed to win.
Are both of those teams ahead of Virginia, Saint Mary's and Middle Tennessee State? Depends how much you like a "we can beat good teams but lose to anyone" or "We didn't hardly beat anyone, but we're good teams" profiles. I have a hard time believing the committee will absolve Virginia for all of its sins. Road losses at Boston College and Georgia Tech in the stretch run may end up killing them. They didn't take any of their big road chances late, and then got smoked in the tournament quarterfinal in their first game by a team that played yesterday.
If you think Virginia's out, then the final spot for now would be between Saint Mary's and Middle Tennessee State, and your guess is as good as mine. The Gaels beat Creighton. MTSU beat Mississippi. Neither did anything else but win a bunch of games over teams not in the NCAAs. The Gaels were in a better league. MTSU didn't have three chances at Gonzaga to whiff on. I dunno. Pick one. I'd guess Saint Mary's, but either option is fine.
So the current cutline...
IN: Oklahoma, Boise State, Cal, Tennessee, La Salle, Saint Mary's
OUT: Virginia, Middle Tennessee State
Of course, teams like Kentucky, Iowa, Mississippi, etc. are still alive in their tournaments, and at least one bid thief lives in the Pac-12, so the picture will keep changing as we move toward Sunday.