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Bubbles could burst in early stretches of championship week

Welcome to the bubble-bursting segment of our show, the early part of championship week where every bubble team holds its breath and prays the favorites take care of business.

Monday night features three games that very well could impact the size of the at-large pool:

• Gonzaga is in either way, and Saint Mary's might be able to hang on to an at-large with a loss, but bubblers are rooting for a big Zags blowout to weaken the Gaels' case.

• The CAA sees Old Dominion, which probably is in either way, take on William & Mary for the third time this season. W&M is a very fringe at-large candidate, so bubblers want the Monarchs to win.

• In the MAAC, bubblers need Siena to hold serve against Fairfield. The Saints would be considered for an at-large, although losing on its home court after missing on every big nonleague chance would make one unlikely.

Then Tuesday night, it will be Butler's turn, as the Bulldogs try to tame Wright State and finish a perfect 20-0 in the Horizon.

What else you need to know:

• The SEC and A-10 should have taken gun control classes, because neither conference can stop shooting itself in the foot. It's not impossible that both leagues could end up with only three bids.

• Whichever you prefer as the second Pac-10 team today (Arizona State or Washington) is basically irrelevant since they're bracketed to meet in a tourney semifinal and decide their fates on the court.

• Utah State is now positioned as a sneaky at-large thief out of the WAC. If the Aggies make the WAC final, especially if they draw event host Nevada, they should get in.

Housekeeping notes: As of today, Bubble Watch and the bracket will go daily through Selection Sunday. We'll also have midday updates, as events dictate, throughout the week. Also, look for a championship week primer tomorrow that will help you follow all the action as it unfolds in each conference tournament.

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 be asked to leave (like Binghamton).

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, Maryland

Duke remains strongly in the mix for a No. 1 seed. Maryland's playing for a protected one. Beyond those two, Clemson and Florida State look set to dance, while Georgia Tech may be playing its way right into the NIT.

SHOULD BE IN

Clemson (21-9, 9-7, RPI: 24, SOS: 24) got the split it needed and should be fine for the NCAAs. We'll keep them and the teams below in territory for now, pending one ACC tourney win, but all three are pretty much assured of a spot. The Tigers are a notch ahead of the 'Noles based on FSU solely cleaning up on the middle/bottom of the league. Clemson has better wins.GW: Butler (N), Maryland, sweep of FSU.BL: None, but handful to bubble competition: league foes Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, plus Illinois.

Florida State (22-8, 10-6, RPI: 32, SOS: 43) escaped Miami with a one-point win that should ensure an NCAA tournament berth. The 'Noles beat Wake Forest earlier in the week, making their league position pretty clear. They went 0-5 against Maryland, Duke and Clemson and 10-1 against everyone else.GW: Marquette, swept Georgia Tech and beat Virginia Tech and Wake (bubble purposes).BL: Home to N.C. State, swept by Clemson and lost to Florida (bubble purposes).

Wake Forest (19-9, 9-7, RPI: 35, SOS: 32) finally stopped messing around and beat Clemson on Sunday night, more or less ensuring an NCAA spot. The Deacons still cost themselves some seeding in the last couple of weeks, though.GW: at Gonzaga, Xavier, Richmond, Maryland.BL: None awful, but W&M and UNC at home, plus at Miami and N.C. State.

IN THE MIX

Virginia Tech (23-7, 10-6, RPI: 49, SOS: 128) did itself a world of good by winning at Georgia Tech on Saturday to get to 10 ACC wins. It's arguably VT's best win of the season, and now it's a lot harder to see the Hokies missing. Losing their ACC tournament opener isn't advised, but given the dearth of quality at the bubble, the Georgia Tech win may be the Hokies' golden ticket.GW: at Georgia Tech, plus Clemson and Wake at home and vs. Seton Hall (all bubblers).BL: Nothing awful, but at Miami and at Boston College are hurting.

Georgia Tech (18-11, 7-9, RPI: 44, SOS: 19) now is in very legitimate danger of missing the NCAAs after losing at Clemson and at home to Virginia Tech to finish under .500 in the league. Beyond the upset of Duke, there's not a ton here helping the Jackets. Now they draw North Carolina in the 7-10 game (in Greensboro), with Maryland waiting in the quarters. Tech very well may need to win both.GW: Duke, Siena?, splits with Wake and Clemson?BL: Swept by FSU in addition to Wake/Clemson splits (bubble purposes), lost at Miami.

Locks: Kansas, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Texas, Baylor, Missouri

Kansas remains locked in as a No. 1 seed, but K-State's hopes of pushing onto that line ended abruptly with two losses this week, including a home shocker to Iowa State. Missouri joins the lock party after getting to 10-6 in the league. The only question, outside of a shock tourney champ, is whether Oklahoma State makes it, and the Cowboys are in solid shape.

SHOULD BE IN

Oklahoma State(21-9, 9-7, RPI: 29, SOS: 29) got the win over Nebraska it needed to get to 9-7 in the league. As long as the Cowboys don't lose their Big 12 tournament opener to Oklahoma, they should be fine. Even then, they're probably fine, but why risk it?GW: at K-State, Kansas (plus Baylor and A&M at home).BL: at Tulsa, vs. URI (for bubble purposes).

IN THE MIX

None.

Locks: Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, West Virginia, Pitt

Syracuse remains entrenched as a No. 1 seed despite the loss at Louisville. That win very well may send the Cards to the NCAAs.

SHOULD BE IN

Marquette (20-10, 11-7, RPI: 58, SOS: 53) was a second away from dancing, but gave up a buzzer-beating three to Notre Dame that sent the game into overtime, where the Eagles lost. Now Marquette draws the UConn-St. John's winner Wednesday at the Big East tournament. Win there and it's done. Lose and, well, they probably should make it, but it's not a mortal lock.GW: Xavier, Georgetown, plus Louisville for bubble purposes.BL: at DePaul, a ton of close ones overall.

Louisville (20-11, 11-7, RPI: 30, SOS: 4) picked the right team to beat twice if the Cardinals were only going to have two high-quality wins all season. Sweeping Syracuse should see them safely make the bracket. At least they showed the capability to beat someone, which puts them ahead of other contestants in this bubble race. Avoid a first-game loss in the Big East tournament to be certain, but it's hard to see them missing at this point.GW: Sweep of Syracuse, also beat nominal Big East bubblers UConn and USF.BL: Charlotte (injury asterisk, but by 22), W. Carolina, at Seton Hall?

IN THE MIX

Notre Dame (21-10, 10-8, RPI: 57, SOS: 52) continued its remarkable resurgence without Luke Harangody, who returned on Saturday but only played a handful of minutes and will come off the bench the rest of the season. Good move by the Irish to confirm to the committee that what it has seen recently is what it will get in the NCAAs. Things look pretty good, unless the Irish drop their Big East tournament opener.GW: WVU, Pitt, at Georgetown, at Marquette, UConn (for bubble purposes).BL: Loyola Marymount, Northwestern (N), plus at Rutgers, at Seton Hall and St. John's.

Is this where it ends for the Big East? Could be.

Seton Hall (18-11, 9-9, RPI: 54, SOS: 30) is the main benefactor of UConn's and Cincinnati's demises, edging back into the picture simply by winning at Rutgers and Providence. Now the Pirates get Providence again before a potential shot at Notre Dame, which would be a second win over the Irish. If they get both, the Pirates very well could make it. If a quarterfinal win is needed, they already have beaten Pitt this season, too. It's a good draw.GW: Pitt, at Cornell, plus Louisville, ND for bubble purposes.BL: None bad (all in top 75), just a lot of them.

South Florida (19-11, 9-9, RPI: 65, SOS: 54) got the two it needed to close the regular season. Now the Bulls, as the No. 9 seed, get a useless game against DePaul before drawing Georgetown, which is a game they must win to have legit hopes. Get that one and show well against Syracuse? Would be interesting.GW: at Georgetown, Pitt.BL: Cent. Michigan, vs. South Carolina?, plus big Big East issues: Louisville, Marquette, and swept by ND.

Connecticut (17-14, 7-11, RPI: 55, SOS: 3) could have made half a case at 8-10 in the conference that its schedule should be rewarded. Not at 7-11, after a dismal loss at South Florida followed a defeat at Notre Dame. The Huskies don't have the worst Big East tournament draw, although they play at St. John's to open. It probably would take a run to the tourney final at this point, though. Maybe more.GW: Texas, at Villanova, West Virginia.BL: at Michigan, a ton in Big East play.

Cincinnati (16-14, 7-11, RPI: 68, SOS: 9) also lost twice and basically is in UConn's boat, despite a sweep of the Huskies.GW: Vandy (N), Maryland (N), swept UConn (for bubble purposes).BL: At Seton Hall and St. John's are disappointing; Gonzaga (OT) and Xavier (2OT) could be costly.

Locks: Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State

Purdue has won twice now since losing Robbie Hummel, but will need to show the committee it can handle a comparable quality team in order to really hold onto its seeding position. Ohio State is actually in the mix for a No. 1 NCAA seed if it can win the Big Ten tournament and get favorable treatment from the committee for Evan Turner's injury games. On the bubble side, Illinois now likely needs to win the second half of its Wisconsin double-dip in the Big Ten quarters after losing at home by 15 on Sunday.

SHOULD BE IN

None.

IN THE MIX

Illinois (18-12, 10-8, RPI: 74, SOS: 42) actually was one RPI spot behind Illinois State before it lost to Wisconsin, so the Illini now face what seems to be a must-win quarterfinal against the Badgers in Indy. They have four very credible wins (helped by Kalin Lucas' absence in the Michigan State game), but some bad losses and they are not closing things out very well, either.GW: at Clemson, Vandy, Mich. St. (w/o Lucas), at Wisconsin.BL: Utah, Bradley, Georgia, plus home to Minnesota (bubble battle).

Minnesota (18-10, 9-9, RPI: 78, SOS: 55) may have flushed its serious at-large hopes with a disastrous 28-point loss at Michigan. Pounding Iowa on Sunday isn't going to help very much. Wins over Butler and Ohio State (with Evan Turner) also continue to help, but with so many bad losses, the Gophers now need a deep Big Ten run.GW: Butler, Ohio State (with Turner), Wisconsin, at Illinois (bubble purposes).BL: Portland (N), at Miami, swept by Michigan, plus at Indian and Northwestern.

Locks: None.

As almost everyone else on the bubble slides back, the Pac-10 candidates at least kept winning their games, so Arizona State and Washington are fair game to discuss. They're slated to meet in a Pac-10 semifinal if they both get there, which could double as an NCAA play-in game.

SHOULD BE IN

California (21-9, 13-5, RPI: 19, SOS: 12) beat Stanford to win the regular season title. That's a good feather to have in case at-large consideration is needed. Given the last week's events nationwide, Cal should feel better about its at-large chances should it need a safety net, but an early exit in the Pac-10 tourney isn't advised. And hey, Washington's No. 50 in the RPI, so Cal has a win in that category! (Today, anyway...)GW: None (home vs. Washington is the best win).BL: UCLA, at Oregon State.

IN THE MIX

Arizona State (22-9, 12-6, RPI: 52, SOS: 72) also did what it had to do, winning out to finish alone in second. The overall profile still lacks a lot of pop, but the win over San Diego State could be important. If the Sun Devils get to the Pac-10 final, possibly beating Washington along the way, they'd be right in the discussion.GW: San Diego State, split with Washington (bubble purposes).BL: at UCLA, swept by Cal (bubble purposes).

Washington (21-9, 11-7, RPI: 50, SOS: 61) may have left things too late, but the Huskies are playing some of their best ball of the season. They swept the Oregon road trip and now draw Oregon State again in the quarters of the Pac-10 tournament. The season may hang in the balance in a potential semifinal against Arizona State. It's still not clear if a Pac-10 final will be enough, but it's a lot more possible than a week or two ago.GW: Texas A&M, split with Cal and ASU (bubble purposes).BL: Oregon, at UCLA and USC in league play.

Locks: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee

The teams behind the big three are not making this very easy. It's very possible this league only gets four teams in if the three locks all make the semis. Kentucky will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs.

SHOULD BE IN

None.

IN THE MIX

Florida (20-11, 9-7, RPI: 52, SOS: 31) likely is playing for its NCAA life in Nashville, with a win over fellow bubbler Mississippi State in the quarterfinals looking mandatory. The Gators battled at Kentucky on Sunday, but capitulated after a frustrating home loss to Vandy.GW: Michigan State. (N), Florida State, plus Miss State and at Mississippi (bubble purposes).BL: South Alabama, at Georgia.

Mississippi (21-9, 9-7, RPI: 56, SOS: 71) also got to 9-7 in the conference, but was swept by Mississippi State, so the Rebels will likely draw Tennessee in the quarterfinal, which they must win. They have two wins better than anything MSU has to offer, so despite the head-to-head sweep, the Rebels are in slightly better shape.GW: K-State (N), UTEP (with Derrick Caracter).BL: Arkansas (plus swept by Miss. State for bubble purposes).

Mississippi State (21-10, 9-7, RPI: 69, SOS: 104) may have had the worst week of any NCAA contender, losing at Auburn and then getting blown out at home to Tennessee in a game the Bulldogs really needed. They might not have a win over a team that makes the NCAAs and now are staring at a potential loser-is-done SEC quarterfinal against Florida. Even a win there doesn't make things certain, but that one's a must-get.GW: Old Dominion, sweep of Ole Miss (bubble purposes).BL: Rider, at Arkansas, at Auburn, Florida (for bubble purposes).

Locks: Temple, Richmond, Xavier

The great league race ended with Temple and Xavier tied at 14-2 and Richmond a game back. The Owls get the 1-seed by virtue of their five-point home win over the X-men. With the other bubblers crippling themselves this week, it very well could end up with just three for a league that looked poised for four or five bids. Disappointing.

SHOULD BE IN

None.

IN THE MIX

Rhode Island (21-8, 9-7, RPI: 39, SOS: 76) had it all going right, trouncing Charlotte and seeing others lose around them, but then they went and lost at UMass. The Rams still have the weakest top-end credentials in this group, despite the RPI numbers, so drawing Saint Joe's and then Saint Louis in the A-10 tournament isn't great news. URI could make the semis and still need another win.GW: at Dayton, Oklahoma State (N).BL: at Saint Louis, at St. Bona, at UMass.

Charlotte (19-11, 9-7, RPI: 66, SOS: 67) got trucked after halftime at Rhode Island and then lost at home to Richmond in overtime, a crushing blow to the 49ers' at-large hopes. Now they need to get past frisky UMass to get another shot at Richmond in the quarters. Like Dayton, being in the 6/7 side of the draw is a plus, because getting to the A-10 final could include two very big wins.GW: at Louisville (albeit with The 'Ville shorthanded), at Richmond, Temple.BL: at GW, Duquesne, lots of big-margin losses elsewhere.

Dayton (19-11, 8-8, RPI: 51, SOS: 34) can't complain about all of its close losses after losing its finale at home to Saint Louis to get swept by the Billikens. Going 8-8 just isn't good enough in this league. The slight silver lining? The Flyers should get past GW at home, and then draw Xavier in the quarters and possibly Richmond in the semis. Dayton needs these big wins to have any chance, so the fact the Flyers have a tough path is a good thing and they played both teams well this season, going 1-2 despite a +17 scoring margin.GW: Georgia Tech (N), Old Dominion, Xavier, Charlotte (bubble purposes).BL: at Saint Joe's, swept by Saint Louis, at Duquesne.

Saint Louis (19-10, 11-5, RPI: 83, SOS: 107) got a huge road win at Dayton for a sweep of the Flyers, but the Billikens need to make the A-10 finals, minimum, to think about an NCAA bid. That would entail likely beating Rhode Island (again) and then Temple.GW: Richmond and URI at home, swept Dayton.BL: Missouri State, at Bowling Green, Iowa State, at GW.

The league's two at-large candidates (with W&M loosely in that category) will meet in the CAA final tonight, with bubblers rooting hard for Old Dominion so the CAA probably doesn't get two bids.

Locks: None.

SHOULD BE IN

Old Dominion (25-8, 15-3, RPI: 32, SOS: 94) escaped VCU in overtime to make the CAA final, helping bubble teams breathe easier for at least 24 hours. The Monarchs look well positioned to dance now, so the auto bid would save a fellow bubbler.GW: at Georgetown.BL: None.

IN THE MIX

William & Mary (22-9, 12-6, RPI: 61, SOS: 117) took out Northeastern on Sunday to make the CAA finals. Sadly, a couple of unnecessary losses down the stretch probably makes the game auto-bid-or-bust for the Tribe, despite three very impressive nonleague wins.GW: at Wake, at Maryland, Richmond (also beat CAA No. 2 Northeastern twice).BL: UNC Wilmington, at James Madison, routed at Iona, (also swept by ODU).

Locks: New Mexico, BYU

New Mexico will be seeded ahead of BYU. Salt Lake City is 300 miles closer to Albuquerque than Houston, so presumably the Lobos would stay in the West and push BYU to the East. We'll see.

SHOULD BE IN

UNLV (22-7, 11-5, RPI: 47, SOS: 103) won out to finish at 11-5 in the conference and get the 3-seed ahead of San Diego State in the Mountain West tournament. Was that a good thing? Now the Rebels draw Utah, which swept the season series. Losing to the Utes a third time would create some significant questions, even though the Rebels appear mostly safe right now. BYU likely awaits in the semis, where UNLV probably would be OK with a loss, barring a mauling and extreme situations elsewhere.

IN THE MIX

San Diego State (20-8, 11-5, RPI: 33, SOS: 73) also ended up 11-5 but went 2-4 against the three teams ahead of it in the MWC. The Aztecs likely will have to make the MWC final -- which likely will mean beating New Mexico again -- to have a real legit chance. UNLV has a couple of better wins, so the Rebels are in better shape.GW: New Mexico, UNLV (both at home in league).BL: at Pacific, at Wyoming.

Auto bid: Northern Iowa

UNI pulled away from Wichita State in the second half of the MVC final to nail down the title and remove any at-large doubt. Now Wichita State waits and hopes, but likely is headed to the NIT.

SHOULD BE IN

None.

IN THE MIX

None.

WAIT AND HOPE

Wichita State (24-9, 12-6, RPI: 44, SOS: 101) doesn't appear to have the quality wins to entertain serious at-large hopes.GW: Texas Tech?, Northern Iowa.BL: at Illinois State, at Drake, at Evansville.

Locks: None.

UTEP rallied past UAB Saturday for an enormous win and a league crown by two games over Memphis. The Miners are in pretty decent shape now as a possible at-large, should they need one.

SHOULD BE IN

UTEP (24-5, 15-1, RPI: 41, SOS: 117) finished 15-1, won the league decisively and has some fairly credible top-100 road wins. It's a decent profile to fall back on, but how far will the Miners need to get in the C-USA tournament? They could draw host Tulsa in the semis, which is a tough break.GW: Sweep of UAB.BL: None, but missed some chances out of conference.

IN THE MIX

Memphis (23-8, 13-3, RPI: 64, SOS: 105) probably is ahead of UAB at this point after sweeping the Blazers with a road win in Birmingham. The Tigers finished a game ahead in the standings and UAB's win over Butler isn't enough quality to overcome that head-to-head deficit, for now. The two teams could square off in a semifinal game that would eliminate one and put the other in possible position for an at-large.GW: Swept UAB.BL: at UMass, at SMU, at Houston.

UAB (23-7, 11-5, RPI: 37, SOS: 110) is in very bad shape after losing at home to Memphis and then letting one get away at UTEP. Finishing third in this league is not a good place to be. The good news is that the Blazers could draw Memphis in a semifinal elimination match, but it's unclear whether that would be enough for UAB. Being on the outside of the bubble at this stage makes it very hard for a team in a non-power conference to eat yet another loss at make it as an at-large.GW: Butler, Cincinnati.BL: at Kent State?, swept by Memphis (for bubble purposes).

Locks: Gonzaga, Butler

Both teams are a win away from auto bids, which would be good news for the bubblers. Elsewhere, Bubble Watch was bullish early on Utah State, and the Aggies have taken care of business. They're now in very legitimate shape for an at-large should they need one.

SHOULD BE IN

Utah State (24-6, 14-2, RPI: 31, SOS: 102) did exactly what it had to do, taking out New Mexico State to win the WAC by three games and end on a 15-game winning streak. That and the wins over BYU and Wichita State make USU's profile fairly strong in this season's bubble battle. They could be just two wins away from the NCAAs now. More good news: Tourney host Nevada is on the other side of the bracket and wouldn't be a possible opponent until the WAC final, which makes it a lot more likely USU could survive a road loss.GW: BYU, Wichita St (for bubble purposes).BL: at Long Beach State.

IN THE MIX

Saint Mary's (24-5, 11-3, RPI: 43, SOS: 131) rolled past Portland to set up another title game meeting with Gonzaga. The Gaels need this one to go better if they hope to absorb a loss and still get into the NCAAs. They have two solid nonleague wins against bubble competitors, but both came when they had Wayne Hunter (who was injured at Utah State).GW: at Utah State, San Diego State.BL: at Portland (for bubble damage).

- Cornell (Ivy)- East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun)- Murray State (Ohio Valley)- Winthrop (Big South)

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