Monday February 1st, 2010

One of the toughest annual quandaries in Bracketville is how to treat a highly competitive league that lacks a lot of top-end power. Last year, 9-9 in the Big Ten was good enough for a couple of teams. This year's test case is going to be the ACC.

ACC supporters tout the league's depth and competitive balance. With all 12 teams currently in Ken Pomeroy's top 75, there's no easy out. Detractors, though, question the value of wins in the league, since the ACC currently only has one protected NCAA seed. Basically, the rest of the league is borderline top 25 or worse, and hasn't proven much of anything against comparable high-major programs.

The ACC went just 3-11 vs. RPI top 25 teams in nonleague play, and two of those three wins were over non-BCS clubs -- Butler and Xavier. The league did go 9-4 against RPI 26-50, but seven of those victims, again, were good non-BCS teams: Gonzaga twice, Charlotte twice, Richmond, UAB and Siena. Only North Carolina, with wins over Michigan State and Ohio State, has beaten an elite big-conference team. It's quite possible none of the ACC's non-BCS victims will make the second weekend of the NCAAs.

Duke's destruction at Georgetown on Saturday, in which the Hoyas shot 72 percent in a not-nearly-that-close 12-point win, is more fuel for the detractors' fire. It's rarely a good idea to overreact to one game, but a performance that shocking -- to go with Duke's 1-4 road record and the data above -- creates reason to question not only Duke's quality, but that of all the ACC bubble teams clustered around .500 in the league. As these teams continue to beat each other, is it a sign of quality? Or is it mediocrity?

Come Selection Sunday, the ACC will be part of a bigger puzzle. For every league like the Mountain West (eyeing three bids) and the A-10 (hungry for four or more), there's a Pac-10 (two ... or worse?) and a Big Ten (steaming rapidly toward just four). There should be bids available, which means the evaluation of what 8-8 in the ACC is worth (vs. perhaps 9-9 in the Big East or second place in the Valley) will be a very big factor in how this year's bracket comes together. Right now, it's not clear what it means -- or that it means all that much.

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.

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. Readers who claim their team's record is wrong because they failed to read the previous paragraph will get a copy of "Defense: The Blue Devils' Way."

Summary key:

GW: Good wins over top-50ish foes (home league wins judged more strictly). BL: Bad losses to teams outside top 100 or to direct bubble competitors.

Locks: Duke

That was a bad showing by the Blue Devils at Georgetown, and it cost them a seed line. They're still the best team in the ACC on paper, but what that means at this point is unclear.

SHOULD BE IN

None

IN THE MIX

Wake Forest (14-5, 4-3, RPI: 23, SOS: 23) played once last week and got ripped at Georgia Tech, dropping back into the morass in the middle of the league. Wake's schedule the rest of the way is very favorable, though. The Deacons should be OK. What exactly that means, though, is unclear. GW: at Gonzaga, Xavier, Richmond, (for now) at UNC BL: (both weakening) W&M, at Miami

Conversely, the rout was huge Georgia Tech (15-5, 4-3, RPI: 24, SOS: 19), which has a really difficult slate left, starting at Duke on Thursday. The Jackets also still head to Wake, Maryland and Clemson. Getting swept by FSU could matter later. GW: Duke (and Siena?) BL: Nothing horrible, but too many

Florida State (16-5, 4-3, RPI: 29, SOS: 55) couldn't win at Duke, but at least did what Clemson couldn't do: win at BC. The 'Noles have a sweep of Georgia Tech, but they still lack a marquee win and might not have another chance at one. GW: Sweep of Georgia Tech BL: Routed at Florida (and Ohio State); home to N.C. State

Clemson (16-6, 4-4, RPI: 45, SOS: 58) beat Maryland on Sunday night, ending a three-game skid. Losing at BC midweek was disappointing, as the Tigers still lack a true marquee win. Pretty so-so profile at this point. GW: Butler BL: None, but fell to Texas A&M and Illinois

North Carolina (13-8, 2-4, RPI: 62, SOS: 26) is officially in danger territory after losing to Virginia on Sunday night -- the Heels' third ACC home loss. They have the two early high-quality nonleague wins, but are now 2-6 against the RPI top 50 and have two losses to teams of RPI 94 or worse. GW: Ohio St. (with Evan Turner), Michigan St. BL: at Coll. of Charleston, the growing batch of ACC home defeats

Maryland (13-6, 4-2, RPI: 50, SOS: 53) lost at Clemson on Sunday night and handed the auto bid back to Duke. The Terps are pretty decent -- and are 9-3 since Dino Gregory became eligible -- but the profile, for now, remains worse than the numbers make it appear. Getting a win in Tallahassee to sweep the 'Noles would be a good next step. GW: None BL: None, unless William & Mary continues to slide

Virginia (13-6, 4-2, RPI: 105, SOS: 121) gets grandfathered in because the RPI will clearly be below 100 after the upset win at UNC. It's hard to tell if that's a good win anymore for bubble purposes, but it definitely is for the Cavaliers in Tony Bennett's first season. GW: at UNC, UAB BL: A bunch to bad BCS-league clubs.

Virginia Tech (16-4, 3-3, RPI: 71, SOS: 230) took another step toward the NIT trap door with a bad loss at reeling Miami on Sunday. With not much good stuff in the profile, the Hokies can't afford suspect league losses, too. GW: None (Seton Hall? Georgia?) BL: at Miami (for bubble purposes).

Locks: Kansas, Texas, Kansas State

Saturday's great game in Manhattan validated both Kansas schools while questions about Texas' recent play continue to grow. The 'Horns are still very locked up, but their seed position is weakening. The most important thing for Texas is to try to maintain as high a seed as possible and hope Kansas gets put in the St. Louis region, which opens up Houston for the 'Horns.

Below this trio, teams basically are taking turns beating each other at home, so bubble clarity will come when someone breaks through and gets road wins against their chief at-large competitors.

SHOULD BE IN

None

IN THE MIX

While bubble rivals were losing to each other on the road, Baylor (15-4, 3-3, RPI: 26, SOS: 38) went to Austin and nabbed a huge road win. If the Bears had found an extra bucket home to K-State, it would have been an immense week. Still, not bad at all. Beating Iowa State at home before the clash at Texas A&M this weekend is a must. GW: at Texas, Xavier (N), at Arizona State BL: Nothing egregious.

Missouri (16-5, 4-2, RPI: 34, SOS: 75) was outclassed at Kansas (it happens) but then impressively rolled past Oklahoma State at home. This week's home date with Texas A&M is big for both teams. The K-State win continues to look strong, and recent results have helped the Tigers' up-and-down nonleague results. GW: K-State, at Texas Tech BL: at Oral Roberts (plus at-large rivals Richmond and Vandy, if that matters)

Texas A&M (14-6, 4-3, RPI: 32, SOS: 20) got the "most likely" split, losing in Stillwater and then beating Texas Tech. Now the soft home run is over and A&M has more possible seed volatility left than almost anyone. It starts this week with games against the two teams just above them. The Aggies also still get Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma State at home. GW: Clemson (N), Minnesota (N) BL: None

Oklahoma State (16-5, 4-3, RPI: 28, SOS: 60) also rode the bubble merry-go-round, beating A&M and then losing at Missouri. Now reeling Texas arrives in Stillwater tonight; this is a huge chance for the Pokes. GW: at K-State BL: at Tulsa, vs. URI (as both are possible bubble buddies)

There's no hiding the truth about Texas Tech (14-7, 2-5, RPI: 37, SOS: 18) anymore: The Red Raiders are a lousy road team. They've lost their last six away games, and the four in league play were by 29, 26, 12 and 15 points. Yes, they were at Oklahoma State, Kansas, Texas and Texas A&M, but still. The schedule remains brutal. Here for RPI purposes only right now, Tech's probably headed to the NIT. GW: None (Washington or Oklahoma?) BL: at Wichita State and New Mexico (fellow bubblers)

Locks: Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, West Virginia

Georgetown's rout of Duke was good news for a league where there's a burgeoning gap after the top five teams. If the Hoyas, currently tied for fourth place, can do that to the ACC's best team, then shouldn't the committee take a longer look at the mid-tier teams in this league? It's at least arguable.

SHOULD BE IN

Pittsburgh (16-5, 6-3, RPI: 17, SOS: 15) got a pass after losing at Seton Hall last week. The Panthers don't get another one after falling at South Florida, their third loss in their last four. Not with the schedule coming up and not with the wins at UConn and over Louisville looking worse by the day. The last three in league play are really soft, but Pitt could take some lumps before that. GW: at Syracuse, Wichita State (for bubble purposes) BL: vs. Indiana

IN THE MIX

Cincinnati (14-7, 5-4, RPI: 48, SOS: 38) slipped past Providence, avoiding a very damaging home loss. The next three (at Notre Dame, Syracuse, at UConn) probably will make or break their hopes. GW: Vandy (N), Maryland (N) BL: None, but at SHU and St. John's are disappointing and tough ones to Gonzaga (OT) and Xavier (2OT) could be costly misses

OK, so apparently George Blaney wasn't the answer, either, for Connecticut (13-8, 3-5, RPI: 43, SOS: 2), which got ripped at Providence and then did the impossible -- lost a one-possession game to Marquette (at home!). The Texas win now seems like months ago. UConn's now in some trouble. GW: Texas BL: at Michigan, at Providence, Marquette

Louisville (13-8, 4-4, RPI: 46, SOS: 6) blew a big-second half lead at West Virginia and lost with the help of some dicey final-minute officiating. It's not too early to say that defeat could be a nail in the Cards' NCAA coffin. Their profile remains completely empty and they're down to a home-and-home with Syracuse and a visit from Georgetown for chances at anything impressive. GW: None BL: Charlotte, Western Carolina (plus at SHU and UNLV, for bubble comparisons)

Just keep remembering who tweeted/called 11-7 for Marquette (13-8, 4-5, RPI: 56, SOS: 21), which finally found a way to win a close game, at UConn. The nation's unluckiest team (statistically) will only be a real underdog in one game in its final nine, and that's home to Pitt, which is winnable. We'll see ... GW: Xavier BL: at DePaul, although the sheer number is a huge issue now

It's tempting to say Notre Dame (15-7, 4-5, RPI: 73, SOS: 70) flushed its at-large hopes by losing at previously winless-in-the-league Rutgers after whiffing at Villanova, but given the Irish's really soft schedule, they could rack up some wins and look halfway respectable, at least record-wise. GW: WVU BL: Loyola Marymount, Northwestern (N) (for bubble purposes), at Rutgers

South Florida (14-7, 4-5, RPI: 68, SOS: 59) warrants at least a one-week mention after upsetting Pitt for its third straight win. Now the Bulls are on a three-game trip to Georgetown, Notre Dame and Marquette, so this could be over quickly. Hat tip to Dominique Jones, though. He's been a stud in league play. GW: Pitt, Virginia BL: vs. South Carolina (bubble purposes), Central Michigan

Losing at South Florida in overtime may be really bad news for Seton Hall (12-7, 3-5, RPI: 57, SOS: 16), which is now staring at 3-7 with trips to Villanova and Pitt on tap. GW: Pitt, at Cornell BL: None, but too many

Locks: Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State

The Spartans have a three-game lead on four teams and continue to position themselves nicely for a No. 2 seed in the NCAAs.

For the sake of some brevity, there's no real reason not to bump the other three teams up at this point. They're all making it, even as they'll probably take turns beating each other down the stretch. Purdue and Wisconsin have plenty in the nonleague bank and Ohio State is 13-3, 6-1 with Evan Turner in the lineup.

After those four? It could be no one else, although this week, Illinois slips in.

SHOULD BE IN

None

IN THE MIX

Illinois' (14-8, 6-3, RPI: 80, SOS: 71) six league wins are over Penn State twice, Indiana twice, Iowa and Northwestern. Next, the Illini get Iowa again, on the road. That's another way of saying "let's wait until the last eight games, when Illinois gets Ohio State and Wisconsin twice each and Purdue and Michigan State again, too." The Illini could be your classic Big Ten mirage at 10-8 if they only get one win out of those six. GW: at Clemson, Vandy BL: Utah, Bradley, Georgia

Minnesota (13-8, 4-5, RPI: 55, SOS: 33) got crunched at Ohio State on Sunday and, apropos of the lakes in its state, is starting to take on water. The Gophers still have but two good wins and a lot of meh. GW: Butler, Ohio State (with Evan Turner) BL: Portland (N), at Indiana, at Miami

Northwestern (14-7, 3-6, RPI: 63, SOS: 52) couldn't get one at Minnesota or Michigan State, despite two solid tries, and now the 'Cats need to do what Illinois has done: clean up on minnows. Seven of the 'Cats' final nine league games are against the Big Ten's four worst teams (IU, Iowa and Penn State twice each and Michigan at home), plus they get RPI albatross Chicago State (3-15 in D-I games plus a non-D-I loss) on Mar. 3 in a classic "how much damage will this do?" game. GW: Purdue, at NC State (?) BL: None

Locks: None

Now Arizona is tied for first with Cal, which is not a good thing. If the Golden Bears keep struggling and no one else gets really hot really quickly, it's possible the league won't have any viable at-large candidates heading into the Pac-10 tourney. I guess a winner-takes-all major-conference tourney could be dramatic, and could (weirdly) make avoiding the extra 8-9 game important.

SHOULD BE IN

None

IN THE MIX

California (14-7, 6-3, RPI: 21, SOS: 4) remains the league's only realistic hope for an at-large, but losing at Arizona is not helping matters. Now the Golden Bears head to L.A. for the weekend before the Washington schools come calling. Despite being a computer monster (and understanding the injuries), the Bears' nonleague profile is barren. GW: None BL: UCLA

Arizona State (15-7, 5-4, RPI: 86, SOS: 90) really needed to beat Cal at home and couldn't. Now the Sun Devils play five of their next seven on the road. The trip to the Washington schools this week should help sort things out a little bit ... or not. GW: None BL: at UCLA.

So Washington (14-7, 4-5, RPI: 64, SOS: 48) went and hung 123 points on Seattle, the team that won at Oregon State by 51 (odd side note: Seattle ended the game with four players on the court after the rest of the team fouled out). Then the Huskies shredded cross-state rival Wazzu by 28. Does it mean anything? We'll find out after the next three, with the Arizona schools at home and then at Cal. GW: Texas A&M BL: Oregon, at UCLA

Say hello to league co-leader Arizona (12-9, 6-3, RPI: 60, SOS: 13). After beating Cal, the Wildcats have won four in a row. The nonleague slate includes a two-point win over N.C. State and a series of losses to good teams. If the Wildcats survive the Washington trip this week, five of their final seven are at home. A league title, it seems, is possible, but what would that even mean unless the 'Cats come close to running the table? GW: Cal? BL: at Oregon St., too many in general

Locks: Kentucky

Well, the 'Cats found a road test at South Carolina and were done in by the best 9-for-29 shooting game in recent memory. Then they rebounded and handled Vandy and remain a fairly comfortable 1 seed. That said, a couple more losses before the NCAAs would not be shocking.

SHOULD BE IN

Vanderbilt (15-4, 5-1, RPI: 15, SOS: 17) got what it needed, splitting the road trip to Tennessee and Kentucky, even if the 'Dores didn't play well in Lexington. Good team with an excellent coach. GW: at Tennessee, Missouri, at Saint Mary's BL: None terrible, but all three are against borderline NCAA at-larges

Tennessee (16-4, 4-2, RPI: 25, SOS: 32) got a Scotty Hopson fadeaway to beat Florida and salvage what could have been a bad week after the Vols were handled at home by Vandy. They still play Kentucky twice and have four other difficult road games, so a fade is possible. GW: Kansas, Ole Miss BL: None

IN THE MIX

Mississippi (16-5, 4-3, RPI: 30, SOS: 68) took a bad home loss Sunday, falling to Arkansas. The SEC West, once again, is pretty suspect. Now the Rebels face a trip to Kentucky. GW: K-State (UTEP with Derrick Caracter is valid, too) BL: Arkansas

Florida (15-6, 4-3, RPI: 52, SOS: 83) really could have used that game at Tennessee. Honestly, the Gators could win or lose their next four (at 'Bama, Mississippi State, at South Carolina, Xavier), and neither way would be a surprise. GW: Michigan State BL: South Alabama, Richmond (for bubble purposes)

Mississippi State's (16-5, 4-2, RPI: 66, SOS: 144) win at Ole Miss is looking like a huge outlier after dropping consecutive road tilts at Alabama and Arkansas. Now, after beating LSU, the Bulldogs go to Vandy and Florida. Drop both and this starts to get very uncomfortable. GW: ODU, at Ole Miss BL: Rider, at Arkansas.

South Carolina (13-8, 4-3, RPI: 59, SOS: 27) joins the fray after upsetting Kentucky and edging Georgia, all thanks to Devan Downey. Good news: The Gamecocks have plenty of chances left to impress, starting Saturday night at Tennessee. GW: Kentucky BL: at Wofford

Locks: Temple

Charlotte's upset of Temple changes the mix behind the Owls. League ordering -- and who you beat in the top six -- is going to be paramount in the NCAA at-large race. Ordering the four teams behind the Owls is brutally tough. Can they all get in after they start seeing more of each other on the schedule? Could be difficult, but for now they all make the bracket. Dayton is the big loser, with a make-or-break week on tap.

SHOULD BE IN

None

IN THE MIX

Xavier (15-6, 7-1, RPI: 16, SOS: 5) did what it needed to do against the league's bottom two clubs at home. Now the road, literally, gets tougher. Winning at struggling UMass is a must before X heads to Dayton and then a really important nonleague showdown at Florida. GW: Cincy (bubble purposes), Dayton, URI BL: None

Charlotte (16-5, 6-1, RPI: 44, SOS: 102) continues to roll, taking out league leader Temple at home and then winning at UMass. The 49ers have become a very legitimate threat now, as there are a lot of wins to be had in the next seven games. If they can handle the lesser lights and get a split at Dayton and vs. Xavier, they'll be in really good shape heading into March. GW: at Louisville, at Richmond, Temple BL: None, but lost by 30+ at Duke and ODU

Rhode Island (17-3, 5-2, RPI: 11, SOS: 35) got a huge win at Dayton before easing past George Washington at home. The road win clearly moves the Rams ahead of the Flyers and arguably ahead of Richmond. Are the Rams still ahead of Charlotte? The schedule now sets up great, with Temple the only major road hurdle and Richmond and Charlotte coming to Kingston. The Rams have had trouble closing the deal the last couple of years; it's all in front of them now in this one. GW: at Dayton, Oklahoma State (N) BL: None

Richmond (16-6, 5-2, RPI: 38, SOS: 69) avenged its loss at Saint Louis. Now the Spiders need to win at St. Joe's before a visit from Temple and a trip to URI, which will provide chances for statements. The only contending A-10 team the Spiders have faced, Charlotte, they lost to at home by 12. GW: Missouri (N), Miss. St. (N), Old Dominion, Florida (N) BL: at St. Louis

After losing at home to URI by a point after the one-point drop at Saint Joe's, Dayton (15-6, 4-3, RPI: 41, SOS: 43) clearly is sixth in the pecking order in a less-than-six-bid league. This week could be the Flyers' best last stand, with Xavier and Charlotte coming to town. It really looks like they need to get both. GW: Georgia Tech (N), Old Dominion BL: at St. Joe's

Locks: None

If Old Dominion drops another game this week, the Colonial could be looking more at a one-bid season than this week's perfect-storm three. League leader George Mason isn't a legitimate at-large hopeful, and if neither Old Dominion nor William & Mary get a piece of the league title, things could slip away given how the bubble tends to tighten late.

SHOULD BE IN

None

IN THE MIX

Old Dominion (17-6, 9-2, RPI: 47, SOS: 92) lost at Northeastern, costing itself a share of the league lead and putting itself squarely in bubble drama with W&M coming in on Wednesday and then a trip to VCU on Saturday. Nonleague misses vs. Missouri and Miss. State (in South Padre) and at Richmond and Dayton are looming larger by the day. GW: at Georgetown BL: at George Mason by 16

William & Mary (15-6, 7-4, RPI: 51, SOS: 67) edged Drexel at home, but a terrible midweek loss to James Madison has the Tribe very bubbly. Hofstra tried finishing fourth in '06 (with a better RPI and lesser wins) and it didn't work out well for the Pride. GW: at Wake Forest, at Maryland, Richmond (for bubble purposes) BL: UNC-Wilmington, at James Madison

Locks: None

It's almost certain now that both BYU and New Mexico will be dancing, but it's more fun to add a few words about them for another week or two for those less familiar with the league. UNLV remains well positioned to make it a three-bid haul for the MWC.

SHOULD BE IN

New Mexico (20-3, 6-2, RPI: 12, SOS: 44) got it done at home against BYU and then took care of TCU away to jump up a level. Now the Lobos have a week to prep for San Diego State at home. They have the best nonleague resume in the league and very arguably could/should be ahead of BYU in seeding now. GW: Cal, Texas A&M, Dayton, BYU BL: at Oral Roberts

BYU (20-2, 6-1, RPI: 20, SOS: 106) bounced back from a tough loss at New Mexico and took out archrival Utah at home. Still up a game in the loss column on New Mexico, the Cougars remain in very good shape in what's going to be a multi-bid league. GW: Arizona State, SDSU, some other OK ones BL: at Utah State (rivalry game)

IN THE MIX

UNLV (17-4, 5-2, RPI: 40, SOS: 84) continues to handle the soft part of its schedule. The Rebels need to make sure they win at Wyoming before they worry about BYU and New Mexico coming to town to kick off the four-game stretch that could decide their at-large hopes. GW: Louisville, at New Mexico BL: Utah

Winning at Colorado State is what San Diego State (15-6, 4-3, RPI: 36, SOS: 62) should be doing. Now they have two more games at home wrapped around a crucial trip to New Mexico. Win all three, with the implied sweep of the Lobos, and then we'll talk. GW: New Mexico BL: at Pacific, at Wyoming

Locks: None

The top two got close wins they needed to keep two-bid possibilities alive.

SHOULD BE IN

Northern Iowa (19-2, 10-1, RPI: 18, SOS: 91) rallied late and grabbed a really important one-point win at Missouri State and still leads the league by two in the loss column. Gaudy record + league title + clear separation from second place should equal an at-large safety net should the Panthers falter in the MVC tourney, even with a pretty bare nonleague slate that has BC, Iowa and Iowa State being the "highlights." GW: None BL: DePaul (N)

IN THE MIX

Wichita State (18-4, 8-3, RPI: 49, SOS: 153) survived a final-second miss by Southern Illinois and won for the first time in 12 trips to Carbondale. Next up: Wednesday's return match with Northern Iowa, this time in Cedar Falls. That's a huge game for both teams. The Shockers did beat Texas Tech (and Iowa) out of conference, but the overall SOS is poor. GW: Texas Tech, Northern Iowa BL: at Illinois State

Locks: None

UAB continues to be the best hope for an at-large. Losing at home to UTEP was damaging to the Blazers' hopes, but helped push UTEP into the bracket. Still a lot of room for movement here, and two bids is not a lock by any means.

SHOULD BE IN

UAB (18-3, 5-1, RPI: 27, SOS: 94) took down Tulsa but lost to UTEP at home in double overtime, which is an RPI minus and throws the league race into a frenzy again. Now the Wednesday visit to desperate Memphis is really crucial for both teams. GW: Butler, Cincinnati BL: at Kent State

IN THE MIX

UTEP (15-5, 6-1, RPI: 74, SOS: 129) is going to be evaluated heavily on its work with Derrick Caracter, where they have looked more imposing (although they did go 6-0 against a poor schedule without him). The Miners have now won at both Memphis and UAB in league and also beat Oklahoma, for whatever that's worth. They don't play Memphis again and get both Tulsa and UAB at home, so they very well could win the regular-season crown. GW: Oklahoma? (in Oklahoma City) BL: None, but maybe too many missed chances

Tulsa (16-4, 6-1, RPI: 58, SOS: 164) couldn't get it done at UAB, a game the Golden Hurricane really needed for its at-large hopes. They did crush Oklahoma State and gets a late-season shot at suddenly vulnerable Duke at Cameron, but right now needs to do more. GW: Oklahoma State BL: at Missouri State

Everything was going right for Memphis (15-6, 5-2, RPI: 79, SOS: 124). They got a huge road win at Marshall, UAB lost ... and then they somehow lost by 10 at SMU. Memphis still gets both UAB and Tulsa twice, plus a game with Gonzaga on Feb. 6, so they really control their own fate, but that SMU loss could be extremely costly. GW: None BL: at UMass, at SMU

Locks: None

SHOULD BE IN

Gonzaga (16-4, 6-1, RPI: 31, SOS: 81) doesn't drop a level, but the Zags could end up really ruing their overtime road loss at San Francisco. Now Saint Mary's is back in a tie for first and gets another crack at Gonzaga, but more important, Gonzaga is eligible to play in the Spokane subregional if they are seeded high enough. GW: Wisconsin (N), Cincinnati (N), Oklahoma (N), at St. Mary's BL: at San Francisco, lost by 35 to Duke (N).

Butler (18-4, 11-0, RPI: 26, SOS: 38) swept its four-game road swing in the Horizon League and is four games up with seven to go. The race basically will be over (if it isn't already) this week when Detroit and Wright State come calling. Keep winning and the Bulldogs should be good to go for the NCAAs. GW: Xavier, Ohio State (without Evan Turner), Northwestern (for bubble purposes) BL: None.

IN THE MIX

Saint Mary's (18-3, 6-1, RPI: 35, SOS: 103) got a huge break when Gonzaga lost at San Francisco. It won't be easy with a three-game swing including visits to Gonzaga and Portland coming up, but winning their last seven hands the Gaels the outright league crown and an almost-certain NCAA bid. GW: at Utah State, San Diego State? (for bubble purposes) BL: None

Utah State (16-6, 6-2, RPI: 53, SOS: 114) now has a share of first in the WAC after Louisiana Tech's home loss to New Mexico State, and the Aggies have a better profile than the Bulldogs, one that includes a home win over BYU. Utah State very easily could run the table, as the other two co-leaders, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State, both have to come to Logan and USU's three remaining road games are all at league also-rans. GW: BYU BL: at Long Beach State, at Northeastern (for mild bubble purposes)

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

Siena (MAAC), Cornell (Ivy)

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