This week's bracketing process brought to mind The Wire character Marlo Stanfield, who when he received word that people on the street were talking about him, bellowed "My name is MY NAME!"
Much like in life on the streets of Baltimore, your name is currency when it comes to the bubble. That's the harsh reality for outsiders trying to break into the bid cartel. Basically, if you have power (conference), you rule the block and it takes a lot to wrest away control.
A perfect example comes from these two bubble teams:
Team A: 3-2 RPI against the top 50, 7-5 RPI against the top 100, 8-5 road, two very bad losses (one at home).
Notes: Road wins at second- and fourth-place teams in No. 3 conference, beat leader of No. 6 conference.
Team B: 2-6 against the RPI top 50, 5-8 against the RPI top 100, 2-6 road, one bad home loss.
Notes: Road win at now second-place team in No. 2 conference. Other top-50 win is 49th in RPI. Lost by 22 at home to team tied for second in No. 6 conference.
Team A is William & Mary. Team B is Louisville. And the Cardinals made this week's bracket ahead of the Tribe simply because I don't think there's any way the committee would leave out a 7-5 Big East team for the fourth-place team in the Colonial, regardless of what the overall profiles suggest. Years of bracket history suggest that Williams & Mary, which has two league losses to sub-200 teams, has shown just enough weakness to be cast aside while Louisville, with its big-boy conference, big upset of Syracuse and series of competitive losses to good teams, has provided just enough reason to support its rep.
It's not fair, but that's the way the bubble world works. If there's a close decision, the committee's probably not taking the mid-major over the high-major. Gleaning once again from The Wire: "It ain't like that. The king stays the king."
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.
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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.
The Blue Devils got the rivalry week two-fer, getting past UNC before stomping Maryland. Now back atop the ACC, the Devils have pushed back toward the 2-seed line.
After Duke? It just changes every week.
SHOULD BE IN
Wake Forest (18-5, 8-3, RPI: 11, SOS: 22) picked up home wins over BC and Georgia Tech and remains second in the ACC pecking order. The Deacons should win at least two more league games, and 10 wins will be plenty to send them dancing. Frankly, nine probably would be, but why push it?GW: at Gonzaga, Xavier, Richmond, at UNC?BL: William & Mary?, at Miami (not great)
IN THE MIX
Maryland (15-7, 6-3, RPI: 40, SOS: 29) had a home game against Virginia postponed until tonight, so its only action was getting pasted at Duke. Of course, with the bottom falling out of the bracket, the Terps moved up a seed line. They'd be wise to take advantage of three home games in their next four. The final three (at Virginia Tech, Duke, at Virginia) aren't easy.GW: Sweep of FSUBL: None, really. William & Mary?
Clemson (18-7, 6-5, RPI: 31, SOS: 32) cashed in the first two of three straight home games and would be wise to take out Virginia next. The Tigers' final quartet of games includes trips to Maryland, FSU and Wake. They're another team with numbers/profile that look a bit better than what they've accomplished.GW: Butler (N)BL: None, but handful to bubble competition: league foes Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, plus Texas A&M and Illinois
Virginia Tech (20-4, 7-3, RPI: 49, SOS: 163) keeps winning, but isn't happy the ACC is relatively down after a laughable nonconference slate that ranked 340th in SOS. Seven of Tech's 20 wins are over 250+ RPI teams. Heat check comes this week when Wake visits Tuesday before Sunday's trip to Duke.GW: Clemson (at home)BL: at Miami
Florida State (18-7, 6-5, RPI: 45, SOS: 62) lost at Clemson and beat BC. Fairly expected on both ends. No real huge damage and no gain. The Noles' sweep of Georgia Tech is their best work, and that's rapidly looking less impressive. FSU has been swept by Maryland, which could be a factor, too.
GW: Sweep of Georgia TechBL: Home to NC State; swept by Maryland (for bubble purposes)
Georgia Tech (16-8, 5-6, RPI: 29, SOS: 16) suddenly is in a lot more trouble than most figured it'd be in after losing twice more, first at Miami and then at Wake. The Jackets still have trips to Maryland and Clemson, so anything better than .500 doesn't look great right now; 7-9 starts to get real dicey.GW: Duke, Siena?, at UNC?BL: Nothing horrible, but swept by FSU and under .500 in ACC
For posterity's sake, we'll note that North Carolina (14-11, 3-7, RPI: 82, SOS: 15) needs to win at both Georgia Tech and BC this week to have any real hope. Even 7-9 in the conference looks really unlikely at this point.GW: Ohio St. (with Evan Turner), Michigan St.BL: at Coll. of Charleston, the huge batch of ACC defeats
Locks: Kansas, Kansas State
There's some separation starting to show between the top and bottom six in this league. A&M continues to shine while Baylor consolidated its position.
SHOULD BE IN
Usually, a win over Nebraska doesn't move the meter, but for sliding Texas (20-5, 6-4, RPI: 28, SOS: 48), any win was welcome, especially one by 40 points. The Horns needed to rebuild some confidence after losing at home to Kansas and with trips to Mizzou, Texas Tech, A&M and Baylor still remaining. The good news: Eight (Big 12 wins) is enough. Bad news: The Horns may not get any more than that.GW: Pitt (N), Michigan State, UNC? (N)BL: None, although at Oklahoma and at UConn are disappointing
Texas A&M (17-6, 7-3, RPI: 13, SOS: 10) got it done by a bucket at Texas Tech for its sixth win in seven games. Now the Aggies get a "hey, look at us!" shot at Kansas tonight in College Station. Eleven league wins looks very possible, and that would get A&M a very good NCAA seed.GW: Clemson (N), Minnesota? (N), at Missouri, at Texas TechBL: None
IN THE MIX
Baylor (18-5, 6-4, RPI: 18, SOS: 26) picked up a pair of vital two-point wins, at Nebraska and then home to Mizzou. The Bears are creeping closer to the category above, and look good for at least 9-7, which will be plenty to see them into the NCAAs.GW: at Texas, Xavier (N), (for modest bubble purposes) at Arizona StateBL: Nothing egregious
Missouri (18-7, 6-4, RPI: 44, SOS: 58) could end up anywhere from 7-9 to 11-5 with its remaining schedule. There are home shots against Texas and Kansas and a trip to K-State sprinkled in between some winnable games, albeit with two of those away from Columbia.GW: K-State, at Texas Tech, Old Dominion (N)BL: at Oral Roberts (plus at-large rivals Richmond, Vandy, A&M and Baylor)
Oklahoma State (17-5, 5-5, RPI: 37, SOS: 44) beat Oklahoma and could win enough games to get to 8-8, but with the lack of quality W's aside from the upset at K-State, where would that leave the Pokes? Their computer profile continues to mask the lack of true profile quality at this point.GW: at K-StateBL: at Tulsa, vs. URI (both possible bubblers)
Texas Tech (16-8, 4-6, RPI: 36, SOS: 19) really needed to beat A&M at home. Now the Red Raiders are at Baylor before hosting Texas and K-State. They'll either be roasted or right in the mix in another 10 days.GW: None, really (Washington and Oklahoma State at home?)BL: at Wichita State and New Mexico (fellow bubblers)
Locks: Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, West Virginia
West Virginia really should have closed out Pitt in regulation last Friday, but instead let the Panthers force overtime and eventually lost in three extra sessions. With a pair of drops this week, the Mountaineers will fall in seeding, but nowhere close to out of lockdom yet. Georgetown lost a bad game at Rutgers, too.
SHOULD BE IN
Pittsburgh (18-6, 8-4, RPI: 14, SOS: 9) showed a ton of resolve in getting revenge against West Virginia. The next three are tough (at Marquette, Villanova, at Notre Dame), but the last three are soft. One or two more wins will see them move up into the lock category, especially if they come soon.GW: at Syracuse, Wichita State (for bubble purposes), West VirginiaBL: vs. Indiana
IN THE MIX
Marquette (16-8, 7-5, RPI: 56, SOS: 53), the official team of Bubble Watch, now has won five straight after trouncing South Florida. If they can handle Pitt at home on Thursday, the longstanding 11-7 Big East prediction may actually end up being low. Every game left is winnable and the win over Xavier is gaining strength. This team is going to make the NCAAs.GW: Xavier, GeorgetownBL: at DePaul, a ton of close ones overall
Cincinnati (15-9, 6-6, RPI: 46, SOS: 18) got a crucial win at UConn and now has two more huge games this week, at USF and home to Marquette. The last three (at West Virginia, Villanova, at Georgetown) are brutal, so this stretch and the game vs. DePaul are virtual requirements, despite two good nonleague wins.GW: Vanderbilt (N), Maryland (N)BL: At Seton Hall and St. John's are disappointing; Gonzaga (OT) and Xavier (2 OT) could be costly
Louisville (16-9, 7-5, RPI: 48, SOS: 8) finally got a big win -- and it was a really big win, at Syracuse on Sunday. If the Cards were going to split this week, this was the right way to do it. A 10-8 finish suddenly is stronger than it looked a week ago. There's still work to do, though. That starts this week with "gotta get 'em" games home to Notre Dame and then at DePaul.GW: at Syracuse, (also beat bubblers USF and Cincy)BL: Charlotte (injury asterisk, but by 22), W. Carolina, at Seton Hall? (plus bubblers UNLV)
South Florida (15-9, 5-7, RPI: 55, SOS: 36) got Gus Gilchrist back, but didn't get it done at Marquette. With home dates with Cincy, St. John's, Providence and UConn plus a trip to DePaul, 10-8 is still possible.GW: at Georgetown, Pitt, Virginia?BL: Central Michigan, vs. So. Carolina?, Louisville, Marquette, and swept by Notre Dame
Notre Dame (17-9, 6-7, RPI: 78, SOS: 59) more or less tore up its at-large chances by losing at Seton Hall and then home to St. John's. Way too many bad losses, far too few good wins.GW: West VirginiaBL: Loyola Marymount, Northwestern (N) (for bubble purposes), at Rutgers, at Seton Hall, St. John's
Connecticut (14-11, 4-8, RPI: 59, SOS: 3) is more or less done, likely needing a 5-1 close -- with four of those on the road -- to have any hope.GW: TexasBL: at Michigan and to a series of bubble battlers in the Big East
Locks: Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State
Wisconsin's surprising home loss to Illinois cost the Badgers first place in the league and dented their hopes of ending up in Milwaukee for the subregional. Any of these four teams could end up there should they win the league, behind Kentucky as the likely first team in that regional site (much closer to Lexington than any other subregional).
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Illinois (17-9, 9-4, RPI: 63, SOS: 76) had a very bipolar week, experiencing the huge high of stunning Wisconsin at the Kohl Center and then getting crushed at home by Ohio State. Not a bad split at all, but disappointing the way it unfolded. Illinois remains in very good position to get to 11-7 in the Big Ten, which should get the Illini an at-large. They have another huge shot, at Purdue, up next.GW: at Clemson, Vandy, Mich State (without Kalin Lucas), at WisconsinBL: Utah, Bradley, Georgia
Northwestern (17-8, 6-7, RPI: 77, SOS: 89) saved its at-large hopes, for now, with a late-game surge to beat Minnesota in overtime. Getting crunched at Iowa hurts, though. The Cats need these wins over lower-level league foes. Wiggle room is running low.GW: Purdue, at NC State (?)BL: at Iowa
Minnesota (14-8, 5-7, RPI: 83, SOS: 49) is just about done after losing at home to Michigan and at Northwestern. The Gophers did beat Butler and Ohio State with Evan Turner, right after his return from injury, but the entirety of their profile is not at all compelling.GW: Butler, Ohio State (with Turner)BL: Portland (N), at Indiana, at Miami, Michigan, at Northwestern (bubbler)
Cal took care of home business against the Washington schools and leads at 9-4. Everything looks pretty snazzy until you really look at Cal's resume and how thin it is (injury issues early noted). It's hard to imagine the Pac-10 champ not getting an at-large if needed, but given that the Pac-10 essentially is a mid-major league this year ... could it happen?
IN THE MIX
California (17-8, 9-4, RPI: 23, SOS: 4) got an important home sweep of the Washington schools for its at-large hopes. On the surface, the Bears' profile looks sound: Probable Pac-10 title, strong RPI, killer SOS, and with some injury credit for some early-season misses. Unfortunately, Cal still hasn't beaten a top 50 team and is just 4-7 against the top 100. The RPI and SOS are being fueled by a 12-1 mark in the 101-200 category, with just one game against a 200+ team. Does that add up to a credible at-large profile, if needed? Cal hopes it doesn't have to find out.GW: None (home vs. Washington now the best win)BL: UCLA
Washington (17-8, 7-6, RPI: 51, SOS: 39) really needed to beat Cal for the sweep and more or less got handled in Berkeley. The math isn't adding up very well for the Huskies at this point. Their best selling point is the rapidly improving win over Texas A&M that came in the game that Derrick Roland shattered his leg, clearly impacting the outcome in some way.GW: Texas A&M (plus Cal at home)BL: Oregon, at UCLA
Arizona State (18-8, 8-5, RPI: 67, SOS: 78) is back in second place in the league after sweeping the weak Oregon schools at home. The Sun Devils still play at Cal, so they control their own fate to get at least a share of the league title. They also have a better win (San Diego State) than Cal, but are just 2-7 against the RPI Top 100. GW: San Diego State BL: at UCLA
Locks: Kentucky, Vanderbilt
Kentucky plays four of the next five on the road. At worst, this will be a nice test run for the youthful Cats heading into SEC and NCAA tournament play. Vandy moves to lock status after finishing a sweep of Tennessee. The Commodores are the clear second-best SEC team now, have four top 50 wins and a 9-4 top 100 mark. They're dancing.
SHOULD BE IN
Tennessee (18-6, 6-4, RPI: 21, SOS: 20) didn't pass muster on the road at Vandy and Kentucky. No shame there, but it drops the Vols clearly behind the Dores. The Vols would be smart to beat frisky Georgia ahead of another trip to South Carolina and bubblicious Florida.GW: Kansas, Ole Miss?, Charlotte (bubble purposes)BL: None
IN THE MIX
Mississippi (17-7, 5-5, RPI: 45, SOS: 56) now has been swept by Mississippi State and is playing with at-large fire. The Rebels' profile is hanging on a Nov. 20 neutral-site win over K-State. There's precious little else that will help other than maybe a win of UTEP should it come to a comparison there. Home games this week against Vandy and Florida are now very, very crucial.GW: K-State (N), UTEP (with Derrick Caracter)BL: Arkansas (plus swept by Miss. State)
Mississippi State (18-7, 6-4, RPI: 57, SOS: 116) now has a sweep of rival Mississippi, plus a win over bubbler Old Dominion. The Bulldogs also lost at Florida, if that ends up being a tiebreaker. They still get Kentucky and Tennessee at home. It would be smart to get at least one of those.GW: Old Dominion, sweep of Ole MissBL: Rider, at Arkansas
For Florida (17-8, 6-4, RPI: 61, SOS: 57), losing at South Carolina wasn't good, but falling by double digits at home to Xavier could ultimately be a very costly mistake. The Gators now have a 2-6 mark against the RPI top 50, with four of those losses coming in the state of Florida (Syracuse and Richmond technically were neutral). They also have a really bad home loss to South Alabama.GW: Michigan St. (N), Florida St.?BL: South Alabama; plus Richmond and Xavier (for bubble purposes)
South Carolina (14-10, 5-5, RPI: 72, SOS: 34) really couldn't afford to lose at Georgia. The Gamecocks still have some shots left to take at the SEC big boys, but time's rapidly dwindling to make a move.GW: Kentucky, RichmondBL: at Wofford
Things are starting to sift out in the A-10, as the heavyweights continue to feast on each other and a scrappy outsider is making its impact felt. This week's big winner: Richmond. This week's big loser: Rhode Island.
SHOULD BE IN
Richmond (20-6, 9-2, RPI: 27, SOS: 55) has the league's best nonleague résumé and now is leading the A-10, too, after winning at Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure. The next two should be home wins. If they get even one of the final three after that (at Xavier, Dayton, at Charlotte), dancing is a certainty and a league crown is very possible. GW: Missouri (N), Miss. St. (N), Old Dominion, Florida (N), Temple, at URIBL: at St. Louis
IN THE MIX
This category is now a giant mess. Xavier is 3-1 so far against the others and has the most compelling overall combination. Dayton went 2-2 against the other three and doesn't face any again in the regular season. Charlotte is 0-2 but still hosts Xavier and is at URI. Rhode Island is 1-1 and still hosts Charlotte. Right now, league standings put Charlotte fourth, by a whisker, and URI won at Dayton and is ahead in the standings, too.
Xavier (17-7, 8-2, RPI: 20, SOS: 14) had a week to prepare for the trip to Florida and took full advantage, getting a very important extra nonleague win against a bubble competitor. Six of X's seven defeats are to top 30 RPI teams, including five in the top 18.GW: Cincy (bubble purposes), Dayton, URI, at Florida (bubble purposes)BL: None, but a decent number
Charlotte (18-6, 8-2, RPI: 41, SOS: 111) lost its only game of the week by 28 at Dayton. The three-game homestand, including a visit from Xavier, is huge ahead of a tough final pair (at URI, home to Richmond). Charlotte's nonleague work isn't very good.GW: at Louisville (albeit with 'Ville shorthanded), at Richmond, TempleBL: None, but lost by 30+ at Duke and Old Dominion
Rhode Island (19-5, 7-4, RPI: 20, SOS: 14) lost at home to Richmond by a deuce and then was crushed at Temple and now has to be very careful, starting with a crucial visit to dangerous Saint Louis. Despite its computer numbers, URI's résumé is quite thin. It's basically like Cal, with slightly better wins at the top and a slew of 101-200 Ws. The Rams are only 3-5 vs the top 100.GW: at Dayton, Oklahoma State (N)BL: None
Dayton (17-7, 6-4, RPI: 30, SOS: 31) missed a huge opportunity to leap up in the mix, allowing a banked three to lead to a harmful overtime loss at Saint Louis. Drilling Charlotte at home to back up the Xavier win gives the Flyers four top 50 W's, but they don't have any more in the top 100, plus a bad loss at Saint Joe's lingers. Richmond still plays at Temple and Richmond and now probably needs to get one of those to be seriously in the mix heading into the A-10 tourney.GW: Georgia Tech (N), Old Dominion, Xavier, Charlotte?BL: at Saint Joe's, at Saint Louis
Old Dominion will be the auto-bid this week after Northeastern's loss at William & Mary. The bigger question is whether the Monarchs can remain an at-large should they lose at least once more in the league.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Old Dominion (20-7, 12-3, RPI: 32, SOS: 79) thumped George Mason to move into a share of first when Northeastern was nipped at W&M. ODU's BracketBusters trip to Northern Iowa may be the most important for any team that day. Winning their last four would get the Monarchs at least a share of the league title and two very big nonleague road wins. That could be enough for an at-large, barring an early-round shocker in the CAA tourney. Will they rue misses vs. Missouri, Mississippi State, Richmond and Dayton? All three league losses are away to quality teams.GW: at Georgetown, swept William & MaryBL: None, but three in a very balanced conference
William & Mary (18-7, 10-5, RPI: 50, SOS: 93) notched a last-second win over Northeastern, reviving the Tribe's hopes, for now. They're at George Mason next, which is a must-win. If they can win out, they'll finish no worse than tied for third in the conference. Would that and a CAA final with a semifinal win over ODU be enough with their three excellent nonleague wins? It's not impossible. The Tribe must be kicking themselves over the 200+ RPI league defeats to UNC-Wilmington and James Madison (by a total of three points).GW: at Wake, at Maryland, RichmondBL: UNC Wilmington, at James Madison (also swept by ODU, the league's other at-large hopeful)
Locks: New Mexico, BYU
These two are in. The excitement now is over whether a third will join them in the bracket.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
UNLV (18-6, 7-4, RPI: 34, SOS: 51) picked a bad time for a bad week, losing at home to New Mexico and then at San Diego State. If they can win at Utah, the Rebels very well could win out. They have four top 50 wins (three in MWC play) and also are 9-3 away from home, but after staking itself to a big schedule advantage early in league play, the Rebels ended up splitting with all three other top teams. A bit disappointing.GW: Louisville, at New Mexico, BYUBL: Utah
San Diego State (16-7, 7-4, RPI: 39, SOS: 67) got the win it needed over UNLV, but probably needs to win at BYU on Feb. 24 to be a serious candidate. Not enough good wins and a couple of bad losses.GW: New Mexico, UNLV (both at home in league)BL: at Pacific, at Wyoming
Locks: Northern Iowa
The Panthers lost at Bradley and now should celebrate the solo league crown at home. Might ding the seeding a bit, though.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Wichita State (20-5, 10-5, RPI: 47, SOS: 120) critically hurt its at-large hopes by losing at Evansville. With a profile banking on a tough second-place finish, that was an inexcusable slip-up.GW: Texas Tech, Northern IowaBL: at Illinois State at Drake, at Evansville
UTEP may have replaced UAB as the most likely at-large hopeful, but this very well may once again be a one-bid league.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
UTEP (19-5, 10-1, RPI: 58, SOS: 131) has won nine straight and continues to lead the league, but the final stretch has three testing road games and a home date with UAB. We'll see how it pans out for at-large purposes, but winning the league will be paramount.GW: at UAB, Oklahoma (N)?BL: None, but maybe too many missed chances
Locks: Gonzaga, Butler
Gonzaga did get that win over Saint Mary's, so the Zags are good to go. Butler moves up with the Horizon crown a lock.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Utah State (19-6, 10-2, RPI: 42, SOS: 113) keeps winning and still leads the WAC. The Aggies get Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State and Wichita State (BracketBusters) all at home, so they really could juice their computer numbers by winning out. We'll see how this unfolds.GW: BYUBL: at Long Beach State, at Northeastern
Saint Mary's (20-5, 8-3, RPI: 43, SOS: 112) faded in the second half at Gonzaga, but an overtime loss at Portland may be the one that crushes the Gaels' at-large hopes. They don't have a BracketBusters game to help bolster a soft profile, either. At this point, they probably know the drill: Beat Gonzaga in Vegas for the WCC auto bid or land in the NIT.GW: at Utah State, San Diego StateBL: at Portland (for bubble damage)
ON THE PERIPHERY (if an at-large is needed)
Siena (MAAC) and Cornell (Ivy) both took damaging blows to at-large hopes. That's less important for the Big Red, which, without an Ivy tournament, would have to lose at least once more to even need an at-large -- and if they do, they're not getting one. Siena gets to host the MAAC tourney (again), so they remain a strong favorite to dance despite getting blitzed at Niagara.