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How bad is the Pac-10? Bad enough to not earn one at-large bid

Bubble Watch is back! And just in time to break down the start of what could be an epic run to ignominy out West.

Check out the current nonleague performance (as of Jan. 10) of postseason-eligible teams in a certain conference that rhymes with "MAC men" (and could get the same number of NCAA bids as them):

Record against RPI Top 50: 2-24

Record against RPI Top 100: 9-31

Record against all other BCS teams: 8-21

Nonleague Top 100 wins: Texas A&M (Derrick Roland shattered-leg game), San Diego State, Oakland, Western Michigan, Louisiana Tech, Portland, Murray State, Pacific, Colorado State (twice).

Now what happens if Cal settles in and rolls to the regular-season title, Washington continues its downward spiral, the second-place team (or, gasp, ineligible USC) finishes 11-7 or so with a nondescript overall profile, and Cal wins the Pac-10 tourney and gets the league's auto bid?

(Crickets ... tumbleweeds rolling by ... uncomfortable coughing ... )

Well, you could get what you nearly had in today's bracket. Yup, the Pac-10 could become the first BCS conference in the 65-team era not to get an at-large bid to the NCAAs. As is, the league stands a strong chance of matching its 1988 version, which is the last BCS league to get only two teams into the field. And yes, that would mark the latest return of 2Pac.

Now put all eyez on me as we discuss the rest of the bubble 'bidness' ...

As Sheryl Crow knows, the first Bubble Watch cut is the deepest. Early versions of the Watch will err on the side of inclusion (to the Watch) and exclusion (from the locks category), in order to full the yummy middle with info on as many teams as possible. For the time being, the standard cutoffs (RPI Top 100 for BCS leagues; Top 60 for everyone else, based on at-large history/trends) will be reevaluated to account for a handful of interesting additional cases.

Remember, records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Sunday's collegerpi.com RPI report.

Also remember that Bubble Watch is like a public trust, and your collective knowledge helps shape every version. Send your very valuable feedback to bubblewatch@gmail.com or to @aglock on Twitter. All submissions are read; polite, fact-based ones stand the best chance of a response. Submissions that claim your team's record is wrong because you failed to read the bold sentence in the previous paragraph will be forwarded to failblog.org.

Looking forward to the journey! Thanks for coming along for the ride ...

Locks: Duke

The Blue Devils found out on Saturday that they won't exactly stroll through the conference, but they still look like the best team in the league at this point and are in the mix for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs.

SHOULD BE IN

It seems a bit silly to have North Carolina (12-4, 1-0, RPI: 44, SOS: 42) in here since the Heels are a 3 seed in my bracket, but UNC's work so far has only been OK. Before losing at College of Charleston in a sizeable upset, the Heels' three losses had been to Syracuse (at MSG), at Kentucky and vs. Texas in Dallas. They also beat Ohio State (with Evan Turner) and Michigan State.

IN THE MIX

The Heels have more to like than anyone else in the league, including Clemson (13-3, 1-1, RPI: 36, SOS: 70), which beat Butler but lost to Texas A&M and Illinois out of conference. The Tigers were outclassed at Duke in their ACC opener, but that happens to a lot of teams. The home win over BC on Saturday was crucial ahead of upcoming home games against UNC and Duke sandwiched around a two-game road trip.

It's hard to know what to make of Wake Forest (11-3, 1-1, RPI: 30, SOS: 55). The home loss to William & Mary doesn't look bad now after the Tribe won 10 in a row and also beat Richmond, VCU and Maryland (in College Park). The win at Gonzaga looks slightly less impressive with the Zags' up-and-down form. Saturday's one-point loss at Miami puts pressure on for upcoming home games against Maryland and Virginia, as the three road games in the next five are at Duke, UNC and Georgia Tech.

The Deacons are in a similar boat to Georgia Tech (12-3, 1-1, RPI: 47, SOS: 83). Losing the Puerto Rico Shootout opener to Dayton was disappointing, as it cost shots at quality opponents in the next two games. The Jackets do get Duke, UNC, Wake and Clemson twice each, so no one will say that they didn't have chances to impress. They took advantage of the first of those on Saturday, making up for a league-opening home OT loss to Florida State. Six of the next nine are on the road, including trips to UNC, Wake, FSU and Duke.

Florida State (13-3, 1-1, RPI: 60, SOS: 202) had a disappointing loss at Maryland on Sunday. With five of their next seven at home (none of those against UNC, Duke, Wake or Clemson), the Noles have a huge chance to rack up early league wins. They also only play Duke, UNC and Wake once each, although the Duke and UNC games are both away. FSU edged Marquette for the Old Spice Classic title and does have an OT win at Georgia Tech. The Noles also got handled at Florida and at Ohio State in their only other nonleague games of note.

Miami (14-1, 1-1, RPI: 68, SOS: 297) beat Minnesota and South Carolina in nonleague play and has split a pair of one-point decisions to open ACC play. As you can tell from the SOS, the nonleague slate isn't going to carry the Canes' at-large profile, but they'll get plenty of chances in league play. Six of their next nine are on the road, so we'll find out a lot about them fairly soon.

Virginia Tech (12-2, 0-1, RPI: 71, SOS: 249) faded down the stretch in Chapel Hill and couldn't back up a much-needed nonleague win over Seton Hall (that came without star Malcolm Delaney). The rest of the resume is undistinguished, with a neutral-site (albeit in Philly) loss to Temple and wins over mediocre (or worse) "name" programs in Georgia, Penn State and Iowa.

Locks: Kansas, Texas, Kansas State

This league has the top two overall seeds in my bracket and a third team that's still in the RPI top 10 after a loss on Saturday at Missouri. The quality at the top is clearly the best of any league, but the depth seems to be a bit underrated, as well. This is the country's best conference.

SHOULD BE IN

None

IN THE MIX

Texas A&M (11-3, 1-0, RPI: 34, SOS: 51) has neutral-site wins over Clemson and Minnesota that will remain solid, and close losses to West Virginia and New Mexico (both neutral, although the UNM game was in Houston) and at Washington (in the game in which Derrick Roland shattered his leg) aren't bad by any means. We'll see what the long-term impact of Roland's injury will be. The league opener, a home win over Nebraska, was very important, as the next two are at K-State and at Texas.

Baylor (12-1, 1-0, RPI: 40, SOS: 186) became the latest team to thrash disappointment-of-the-year Oklahoma, but the impressive performance adds qualitative chops to a resume that doesn't have a ton of marquee meat in it yet. A neutral-site defeat of Xavier and road wins at Arizona State, Arkansas and South Carolina are definitely worth something, though. Baylor has a chance to get off to a good Big 12 start, which will be crucial. After a trip to improved Colorado and a home game against OK State, the next three in league are at KU, vs. K-State and at Texas. Ouch.

Texas Tech (12-3, 0-1, RPI: 37, SOS: 100) is being exposed on the road, with Saturday's thrashing in Stillwater the latest subpar effort after losses at Wichita State and New Mexico. Red Raiders fans should also be concerned that the OT win over Washington looks less and less impressive. If Tech can't handle Mizzou at home on Wednesday, it's staring at an 0-3 league start with a trip to Kansas up after that.

Missouri (13-3, 1-0, RPI: 56, SOS: 145) is quietly surging, with eight wins in a row after a home upset of Kansas State, and the Tigers have a pretty manageable first half of the league schedule. They also get home dates with Texas and Kansas in the final six games to provide late-season chances for a statement win. Nonleague play was a very mixed bag. The Tigers lost to Richmond in South Padre Island and at Vanderbilt and Oral Roberts. On the plus side, they looked impressive in beating Illinois for the first time in a decade, and their trouncing of Oregon looks better with the Ducks' recent recovery.

Texas Tech's loss was Oklahoma State's (13-2, 1-0, RPI: 21, SOS: 74) gain. The Cowboys will need a solid Big 12 campaign after a foul-plagued loss to Rhode Island at Mohegan Sun capped off an undistinguished nonleague slate that makes them a computer tiger at this point. Getting momentum might be hard, though, given their bizarrely balanced league schedule in which they don't have a homestand. They now play two away, and then alternate home and road games the rest of the way.

Locks: Syracuse, West Virginia, Villanova, Georgetown

This league looks certain for six bids and a couple of other teams should notch enough wins to be strongly in the mix, if not clearly in, by Selection Sunday. With one No. 1 seed in the NCAAs really up for grabs at this point, the winner of this league could very well grab it.

SHOULD BE IN

Connecticut (11-4, 2-2, RPI: 7, SOS: 1) is a computer beast, thanks to its top-rated SOS. There's no shame in any of the Huskies' four single-digit losses, by a combined 17 points, to Duke, Kentucky, Cincinnati and G'town, all away from home. A couple of their close nonleague wins (over William & Mary and Harvard) look better as those clubs continue to win. The Huskies also still have nonleague games at Michigan and, more importantly, home vs. Texas in which to impress outside of Big East play.

Pitt (13-2, 3-0, RPI: 11, SOS: 18) has been the big surprise of early conference play after taking out Syracuse and then Cincinnati, both on the road. Next up? A trip to UConn. Thanks, schedule-makers. There's not a ton to lean on in nonleague play, although the neutral-site loss to Indiana is the only possible blemish. The other loss is in Kansas City against Texas.

IN THE MIX

Maybe the rough-and-tumble loss to Kentucky was the kickstart that Louisville (12-4, 3-0, RPI: 38, SOS: 21) needed? The Cards showed resilience at Rupp and followed it up with league wins at Providence and over St. John's. There's basically nothing in the Cards' nonconference profile that will help them, and a couple of weak home losses that will hurt, so they'll need to beat some of the league's upper crust.

Cincinnati (11-5, 2-2, RPI: 61, SOS: 58) may look back on this week, with losses to Pitt and at Seton Hall, as a costly one. The Bearcats were off to a 2-0 league start and their schedule really stiffens in the backstretch. They need to grab wins now when they're more readily available. Out of league they beat Vandy and Maryland on neutral floors and had tough losses to Gonzaga (OT) and Xavier (2OT).

The same applies to Notre Dame (14-3, 3-1, RPI: 55, SOS: 102), which lost at home to Northwestern and Loyola Marymount and didn't have a quality win to counter them until the Irish held off West Virginia on Saturday when DeSean Butler's banked three spun out just before the buzzer.

Marquette (10-6, 1-3, RPI: 77, SOS: 32) is a solid team with a profile that's headlined by excruciating losses (to Florida State, N.C. State, West Virginia and Villanova twice by a total of 10 points, as well as one to Wisconsin). That only leaves a neutral-site win over Xavier as real help. The Golden Eagles still have to travel to Syracuse and UConn this month, but remember this section when all the "Look out for Marquette!" features start appearing a month from now. Kenpom.com has them 22nd right now, in part because they've been the third-most "unlucky" team in Division I.

Seton Hall (10-5, 1-3, RPI: 85, SOS: 45) really needed that win over Cincy. The Pirates are a solid team that hasn't made the most of its opportunities, dropping close home decisions to Temple, West Virginia (OT) and Syracuse before falling in OT to Virginia Tech in Cancun and playing UConn tough on the road. The Pirates' best nonleague win, by a large margin, is at Cornell.

You hate to use the term "must-win" in mid-January, but St. John's (10-5, 0-3, RPI: 60, SOS: 34) might be looking at two of them in upcoming home games against Cincinnati and DePaul. The schedule after that gets brutal, and wins over Temple, Georgia and Siena won't be enough to carry a mediocre league mark.

Providence (10-6, 2-2, RPI: 72, SOS: 39) is a very fringe candidate at this point. The Friars' profile is completely barren.

Locks: Purdue

SHOULD BE IN

It was kind of a mediocre nonconference run for Michigan State (13-3, 3-0, RPI: 23, SOS: 67), which beat Gonzaga but lost to Florida (in Atlantic City) and at North Carolina and Texas. The Spartans are starting to find their stride in the league, though. They outslugged Wisconsin at home and easily handled Northwestern and Iowa away. Now they get three straight at Breslin and very well could be 6-0 heading into a stretch of seven road games in their next 10, including visits to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Purdue.

Wisconsin (13-3, 3-1, RPI: 16, SOS: 23) should be pleased with the split last week, battling at Michigan State before taking down Purdue at home. The Badgers have a better nonleague profile than the Spartans, with wins over Duke and Marquette, among others, and the local rivalry helps explain the OT road loss at UW-Green Bay. The back half of their league slate is soft, so accruing a few more wins ahead of back-to-back rematches with the Spartans and Boilermakers could lead to a very strong NCAA seed (and the first two rounds in Milwaukee).

Minnesota (12-4, 3-1, RPI: 43, SOS: 50) got handled at Purdue and then took out Evan Turner-enhanced Ohio State, which was nice. The win over Butler has lost a bit of luster, so league play will be the better read on the Gophers; so far it looks pretty good. Up next: home-and-home with Michigan State stacked around a trip to Indiana.

IN THE MIX

Forget Ohio State's (11-5, 1-3, RPI: 88, SOS: 146) overall profile numbers. The Buckeyes are 8-2, 1-1 with star Evan Turner in the lineup. They'll have several chances in the next two weeks to enhance their Turner profile (win over Cal, close loss to UNC) with trips to Purdue and West Virginia and a home date with Wisconsin.

Despite losing center Kevin Coble early in the season, Northwestern (12-3, 1-2, RPI: 75, SOS: 140) had positioned itself as an NCAA contender by winning at N.C. State and beating Iowa State and Notre Dame. Then the Wildcats blew a huge lead at Illinois and were pounded at home by Michigan State to start league play. They got a big win at Michigan on Sunday ahead of home dates with Wisconsin and Purdue and then a trip to Ohio State. In three games, we'll probably have a clearer answer.

Hey, you have to beat who's on the schedule, and Illinois (11-5, 3-0, RPI: 69, RPI: 59) has done that in league play. Wins over Northwestern, Iowa and Indiana won't get the Illini into the dance, but victories over Clemson and Vandy will at least help offset nonleague losses to Utah, Bradley and Georgia.

This league, when all is said and done, likely will be worse than last year's SEC, which is really hard to imagine. There's going to be a huge influx of teams from the East playing in the Spokane and San Jose subregionals.

Locks: None

SHOULD BE IN

None

IN THE MIX

California (10-5, 2-1, RPI: 28, SOS: 2) is the best-positioned team in the league right now, even after a bad OT home loss to UCLA last week. Injury issues or not, there's no shame in any of the Bears' other four losses (neutral to Syracuse and Ohio State and at New Mexico and Kansas). Unfortunately, there's not a lot of good in the mix, either. Best nonleague win ... Iowa State?

What is going on at Washington (10-5, 1-3, RPI: 51, SOS: 25)? The Huskies' only good nonleague win, over Texas A&M, was marred by a leg fracture to the Aggies' second-leading scorer. The Huskies lost at Texas Tech and to Georgetown. In league play, struggling Oregon came to Seattle and won by 11. Then the Huskies were swept in Arizona, losing both games by 17 points. Their only league win is by six over Oregon State, which then lost at home by 51 to transitional D-I Seattle ... and then won at Oregon.

Who else deserves a look? Here are your options:

Oregon (10-5, 2-1, RPI: 94, SOS: 147)Nonleague wins of note: None.Nonleague losses of note: at Portland, Montana, at Missouri, St. Mary's.Trend: Down. Lost at home to a team that lost by 51 at home to Seattle U. last week.

Arizona State (12-5, 2-2, RPI: 99, SOS: 131)Nonleague wins of note: San Diego State.Nonleague losses of note: at Duke, Baylor, at BYU.Trend: Up! Swept home weekend against Washington schools by a combined 42 points.

Washington State (12-4, 2-2, RPI: 80, SOS: 193)Nonleague wins of note: None.Nonleague losses of note: at Gonzaga, at Kansas State.Trend: Somewhat down. Got drilled at Arizona State by 25 after edging past Arizona.

Not sure there's much more to say at this point ...

Locks: Kentucky

The Wildcats continue to look like a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament. Beyond the Wildcats is a mystery, although Tennessee, despite its players' New Year's celebration of ATF elements that got Tyler Smith booted and three others suspended, showed its merit on Sunday against Kansas.

SHOULD BE IN

Everything is different now for Tennessee (12-2, 0-0, RPI: 35, SOS: 125), which will be evaluated on its performance without the dismissed Tyler Smith (and currently with only six scholarship players). Maybe that's a good thing? You can't get much better than beating top-ranked Kansas, as the Vols did on Sunday.

IN THE MIX

Mississippi (12-3, 0-1, RPI: 62, SOS: 119) was the only team to have beaten Kansas State (in Puerto Rico) before this weekend, and the OT win over UTEP after the Miners added Derrick Caracter is solid. The Rebels' two nonconference losses, to Villanova in the final in San Juan and at West Virginia, are very understandable. Losing at home to archrival Mississippi State, though, drops the Rebels a bit.

Vanderbilt (11-3, 1-0, RPI: 25, SOS: 30) lost to Western Kentucky (and Illinois) but got solid nonleague wins over Missouri and at Saint Mary's. Taking out Florida at home to open SEC play was crucial, with four of their next five league games on the road, where the 'Dores historically are far less formidable.

Mississippi State (13-3, 1-0, RPI: 50, SOS: 128) also lost to Western Kentucky (and Richmond and Rider), and its best win out of conference was probably Old Dominion in the South Padre Island consolation game. Then the Bulldogs won at Mississippi for some SEC West traction.

OK, who thought that Alabama's (11-4, 1-0, RPI: 65, SOS: 53) season-opening game with Cornell was a matchup of two possible at-large teams? The Tide lost that one at home, but have beaten Baylor, Providence and Michigan and rolled at LSU in their league opener. Four of their next five are at home.

Florida (11-4, 0-1, RPI: 82, SOS: 125) is a really odd team to figure out. The Gators' profile is nowhere near the general perception that existed after they beat Michigan State in Atlantic City. They proceeded to lose three straight games in Florida -- to Syracuse, Richmond (both technically neutral-site) and South Alabama -- then needed a 70-foot heave to avoid a loss at N.C. State before falling at Vanderbilt.

South Carolina (10-5, 1-0, RPI: 70, SOS: 72) actually beat Western Kentucky and Richmond, making the Gamecocks a strong transitive favorite over Mississippi State. Then again, they lost at Wofford and BC, which has home losses to Maine and Harvard.

Locks: Temple

How many bids this league ultimately gets will depend on the kind of separation that occurs at the top. Pencil in a solid chance for three for now and we'll see what happens ...

SHOULD BE IN

None

IN THE MIX

Richmond (12-5, 1-1, RPI: 24, SOS: 35) has a nice cache of quality pelts, beating Missouri, Mississippi State (both in South Padre) and Florida all on neutral floors, and Old Dominion at home. If they could have held on to leads at Wake Forest (OT loss), VCU or William & Mary, the Spiders would have a lot to lean on. They still need to take care of business in the A-10, and Saturday's road loss at Saint Louis was disappointing. They need to take advantage of a manageable three-game homestand up next.

Rhode Island (12-2, 0-1, RPI: 3, SOS: 28) is a computer monster that is a bucket at VCU and a free throw or two against Temple away from being unbeaten, but that's not how life works. The Sunday OT home loss to the Owls was definitely a missed opportunity. The Rams beat Oklahoma State at Mohegan Sun Arena, handled Providence at home and won at BC and a decent Akron team.

Dayton (12-3, 1-0, RPI: 26, SOS: 44) started off well, beating Creighton and Georgia Tech, then disappeared after losing to Villanova and Kansas State (the last three all in San Juan). They resurfaced on New Year's Day, but dropped a tough two-point decision at New Mexico, which could end up being a huge missed opportunity. The Flyers' second-best win right now is over Old Dominion.

Incredibly, Xavier (10-5, 2-0, RPI: 31, SOS: 7) played Marquette in a battle of "teams that have lost a truckload of close games," and one of the teams actually won! Unfortunately for the Musketeers, it wasn't them. They also lost in the "clock game" at Butler and at Wake Forest in 2OT in the first installment of the Skip Prosser Classic, leaving their nonleague profile leaning on wins over Cincinnati (also in 2OT) and mediocre LSU. Two tough road wins to start league play help. They now get five of six at home, including a juicy Dayton/at Temple/URI week starting on Jan. 16.

Charlotte (11-4, 1-0, RPI: 90, SOS: 213) has one of the surprise results of the season, crushing shorthanded Louisville by 22 at Freedom Hall, but that's more or less the extent of the 49ers' candidacy at this point.

Locks: None

Who's got the vibe? It's the Tribe, y'all.

SHOULD BE IN

After nonleague wins at Wake Forest and Maryland, William & Mary (12-3, 4-1, RPI: 20, SOS: 47) is a Tribe on a quest for their first-ever NCAA bid. They went 2-1 in a series of three one-point league games, so there's not a ton of room for error most nights for a club that lives and dies by the three. Great story, though.

IN THE MIX

The last time Old Dominion (12-5, 4-1, RPI: 39, SOS: 41) beat Georgetown at McDonough Hall (in the 2006-07 campaign), the Monarchs made the NCAA tournament. Will there be a redux? Maybe not, as they missed on all their other nonleague chances (vs. Missouri and Mississippi State and at Richmond and Dayton).

VCU (10-4, 2-3, RPI: 52, SOS: 63) is off to a surprisingly poor start in league play, although perhaps the convincing home win over Oklahoma suggested things at the time that aren't true, given the Sooners' problems.

Locks: None

This has all the makings of a multi-bid league again, and three bids is very possible. BYU looks like the class of the league, but let's see how the Cougars handle the road in conference play.

SHOULD BE IN

It was an excellent alphabet-soup week for BYU (16-1, 1-0, RPI: 22, SOS: 152), holding off UNLV and then winning at UTEP while star Jimmer Fredette struggled through illness. The Cougars' only loss is at in-state rival Utah State, which is deadly at home. There's no great nonleague win, but beyond UTEP, BYU also has victories over Arizona State, Nevada, Nebraska and Arizona.

IN THE MIX

UNLV (12-3, 1-1, RPI: 29, SOS: 61) has as good a 1-1 mark as you can find in this league, giving it a real go at BYU before winning convincingly at New Mexico. Time to relax? Nope. San Diego State visits Sin City on Wednesday. After that, the Rebels will have 13 league games left and only three against the other top contenders. If they're 2-1 at that point, look out. Out of league, UNLV beat Louisville, Arizona and Nevada.

Conversely, New Mexico (14-3, 0-2, RPI: 17, SOS: 26) didn't show well in the first week of league play, losing by double digits at SDSU and at home to UNLV. Nonleague wins over Cal, Texas A&M and Dayton give the Lobos the best nonleague resume in the MWC, but if they don't finish in the top three, that's playing with fire.

The Lobos' week looks even worse after San Diego State (12-4, 1-1, RPI: 41, SOS: 92) lost at Wyoming. The Aztecs' nonleague profile is very thin after beating Arizona, so they can't afford many more slipups like that.

Locks: None

A tough league at the top, but with a lack of nonleague heft, the chance for multiple bids will depend on quality of league finish.

SHOULD BE IN

USA! USA! The seeds for this season's outstanding start may have been planted more than two years ago, when a very young Northern Iowa (15-1, 5-0, RPI: 15, SOS: 86) team filled in as the United States' representative at the World University Games in Thailand. Now loaded with seniors, they're the best team in a deep Valley. The Panthers' only loss is a surprising one to DePaul in the opening round of the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They've beaten BC, Iowa State, Iowa and Siena out of league.

IN THE MIX

This isn't a one-team show, though. Wichita State (15-2, 4-1, RPI: 63, SOS: 221) is a game back, while Missouri State (13-3, 3-2, RPI: 45, SOS: 106), which beat Auburn, Saint Louis and Tulsa in nonleague play, also is formidable. Neither team, nor Illinois State (12-4, 3-2, RPI: 92, SOS: 202), has a marquee win, though, so league positioning will be paramount for at-large consideration.

Locks: None

SHOULD BE IN

UAB (14-2, 2-0, RPI: 27, SOS: 139) looks like the best team in this league, with wins over Butler and Cincinnati in its back pocket. Late January, when the Blazers have a run of at Marshall, Tulsa, UTEP and at Memphis, will help clarify exactly how good they are.

IN THE MIX

Had Tulsa (11-3, 2-0, RPI: 75, SOS: 157) stayed out of Vegas, its profile would look a lot better. The Golden Hurricane did crush Oklahoma State, and they have a late-season shot at Duke at Cameron.

Memphis (11-4, 1-0, RPI: 95, SOS: 179) is better than its profile suggests, but the Tigers don't have any great wins -- just a couple of tough losses -- to support that statement.

Locks: None

SHOULD BE IN

Gonzaga (11-3, 1-0, RPI: 19, SOS: 18) got out of Portland with a WCC-opening win. The Zags have played their typically killer schedule and done OK. Wins over Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Wazzu, Oklahoma and Illinois help take the sting from close losses to Michigan State and Wake Forest and the blowout by Duke at MSG.

Saint Mary's (14-2, 2-0, RPI: 36, SOS: 117) should make it a two-team WCC again. The Gaels won at Utah State (BYU couldn't) and Oregon and also beat San Diego State. They lost by a deuce to Vandy and in the Diamond Head Classic final to now-banned USC. Gonzaga comes calling on Thursday night.

Butler (12-4, 5-0, RPI: 17, SOS: 12) has a profile that's a bit more "who they played" than "what they did," but this is a solid team that will be a tough out in March. None of the four losses (Minnesota, Clemson, G'town and UAB) are a demerit.

ON THE PERIPHERY (if an at-large is needed)

Siena (MAAC), Harvard (Ivy), Western Carolina (SoCon), Louisiana Tech (WAC) and Northern Colorado (Big Sky).