La Salle was among the bubble squads that benefitted most from the losing around them. (Al Behrman/AP)
Here is a quick breakdown of the cutline as we enter play on Saturday. I feel OK with three of the four First Four picks. While not 100 percent safe by any means, the vacuum that exists for the final spot in the bracket suggests there's a significant gap between At-Large 36 and At-Large 37 right now. Tennessee, La Salle and Saint Mary's benefited tremendously from all of the losing around them.
The final spot could be taken by one of several teams, with no real clear option or favorite at the moment. If more than one team wins another tournament game, we can again take a look at the teams that are in the First Four ahead of them and see how they stack up.
Straight Into Main Bracket
Oklahoma (20-11, 11-7; RPI: 38, SOS: 17)
The Sooners are just 3-7 vs. the top 50 but are 9-9 vs. the top 100. This is more of a compiler profile than anything excellent, but the home wins over KU and Oklahoma State definitely help. It's not great overall, but it appears to be better than some of the remaining options.
GW: Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Sweep of Baylor?
BL: Stephen F. Austin, at TCU
Boise State (19-10, 9-7; RPI: 42, SOS: 46)
The Broncos finished at 9-7 and tied for fourth in the No. 1 RPI conference, and beat three of the four apparently NCAA teams at home. They also had a very big road win at Creighton. They have two bad losses and are only 4-7 vs. top-50 and 8-8 vs. top 100. They also had a near miss at Michigan State in their other “marquee” nonconference game. On Wednesday night, this looked maybe 60-40 to hold up, but almost everything has broken their way since then.
GW: at Creighton, San Diego State, UNLV, Colorado State, sweep of Wyoming??
BL: at Utah?, at Nevada
California (20-11, 12-6; RPI: 53, SOS: 36)
The Golden Bears went 5-5 vs. the top 50 but just 6-10 vs. the top 100. Very much like a Mountain West resume, all of their good work came within the league, but the league isn’t as good as the Mountain West. 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)
First Four In Dayton
Tennessee (20-12, 11-7; RPI: 59, SOS: 53)
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: 44, SOS: 73)
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: 32, SOS: 96)
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)
Mississippi (24-8, 12-6; RPI: 51, SOS: 127) -- still playing
Their profile has gone from "We beat Missouri" to "We beat Missouri twice." And with Vanderbilt's upset of Kentucky in the quarters, a semifinal against the Commodores doesn't help the Rebels any. So the question really is "Have they somehow done enough right now?" because that's what they'd be asking if they lose in the final.
GW: Missouri 2x (home and neutral)
BL: at South Carolina, at Mississippi State
Miss The NCAA Tournament
Virginia (21-11, 11-7; RPI: 75, SOS: 113)
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. They're 8-4 vs. the top 100 but have seven sub-100 losses on the resume. Jontel Evans injury credit gets diminished due to their sloppy closing stretch, as well.
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
Kentucky (21-11, 12-6; RPI: 56, SOS: 67)
The Wildcats have an eight-game sample in which to evaluate them post-Nerlens Noel, and after crashing out of the SEC quarterfinals against Vanderbilt, it doesn't appear Kentucky has done enough to convince the selection committee they should make it. They do have an overtime win over Missouri and a big win over Florida in that span, but all four games away from Rupp went terribly, and all four were against teams that may not or will not make the NCAA tournament. When you can't come within single digits of Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia or Vanderbilt, well, that says what you need to know.
GW: Florida, Missouri, Maryland (N)?, at Ole Miss
BL: at Georgia; Vanderbilt (N), at Tennessee by 30 w/o Noel* (in case of bubble tiebreaker)
Massachusetts (21-10, 9-7; RPI: 55, SOS: 76) -- still playing
Could the Minutemen be the surprise beneficiary of everyone else's largesse? They have a pretty dull profile that would be spiced up significantly with a win over VCU in the A-10 semis.
GW: Temple (N), at La Salle?
BL: George Washington, at St. Bonaventure
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)
Alabama (20-11, 11-5; RPI: 60, SOS: 84) -- still playing
The Tide beat Tennessee and now get a crack at Florida. Much like Maryland below, it's not clear they can get into the field without the auto bid, but we'll see what a trip to the final looks like. They'd have a marquee win that they're lacking, but the four sub-150 losses may be too much to overcome.
GW: Villanova (N), Kentucky?, Tennessee (N)?
BL: Mercer, Tulane, at Auburn, at LSU
Maryland (22-11, 8-10; RPI: 64, SOS: 97) -- still playing
Well, now the Terrapins have two wins over Duke (including one with Ryan Kelly playing) and a third quality win over NC State. There is only one questionable loss, but the Terps missed a ton of chances during the season. They are still only 4-9 vs. the top 100 and they have one top-150 nonconference win. If they beat NC State a second time as well, can they somehow get in without winning the final?
GW: Duke 2x (home and neutral), NC State
BL: At Boston College
Iowa (21-12, 9-9; RPI: 77, SOS: 97)
The bottom line is Iowa didn't schedule great in nonconference play and then whiffed on all six chances they had for a top-25 win. Seven of their 10 league wins, including the Big Ten tournament, were over Northwestern, Purdue, Nebraska and Penn State. The Hawkeyes may have made it with a win over Michigan State in the quarterfinals, but it looks like a tough case now. They would be the worst RPI ever included as an at-large.
GW: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa State?BL:
At Virginia Tech, at Purdue?, at Nebraska