Wednesday March 10th, 2010

Andy Glockner will offer a full edition of the Bubble Watch each morning, then provide updates as the action plays out. Check back throughout the day for ongoing bubble analysis. All times are ET.

11:44 P.M. UPDATE: LOUISVILLE HAS A LONG WAIT TIL SUNDAY

Louisville lost its Big East tourney opener to Cincinnati and has opened itself up to what could be a very unfriendly examination of its at-large profile. This will be explored in more detail in tomorrow's Bubble Watch, but it's not inconceivable to think Louisville could miss the NCAAs. With the upset, Cincinnati moves a step closer to forcing someone's hand, but certainly needs to get past West Virginia tomorrow to be in any position to be considered for an at-large bid.

9:03 P.M. UPDATE: ND LOOKS GOOD, OKLAHOMA ST. LOOKS BETTER

In the big bubble game of the night, Notre Dame easily handled Seton Hall 68-54 and took a massive step toward the NCAAs while crucially wounding the Pirates' hopes. ND gets a quarterfinal shot against Pitt now, but might not even need to win that one to get in. The Pirates now have to hope that the bubble teams around them also lose relatively soon and that the selection committee values its competitive losses against a brutal schedule. It doesn't look all that good for them at the moment with several "win-and-in" games between teams around them on tap for later this week.

In the Big 12, Oklahoma State looks assured of dancing now that it got past Bedlam rival Oklahoma in the first round. That should lock up seven bids for the Big 12 and close the book on that conference unless Nebraska pulls off a miracle and wins three more to steal the auto bid.

7:43 P.M. UPDATE: MISSOURI HURTS SEEDING WITH ONE-AND-DONE

If you're wondering whether Missouri's 15-point loss to Nebraska in the first round of the Big 12 tournament puts the Tigers in bubble danger, the answer is no. There were too many teams between the Tigers and the cutline with inferior credentials. Missouri has four top-50 wins over teams that could be top-eight seeds (including Kansas State) and five of their losses are to teams in the top 11 of the RPI. That said, for a squad already looking at the 8/9 seed area, this loss could very well mean Missouri will be wearing dark jerseys on the first day of the NCAAs.

4:36 P.M. UPDATE: MARQUETTE (LIKELY) PUNCHES TICKET

It wasn't easy -- is it ever for Marquette (a.k.a. Team Bubble Watch)? -- but the Golden Eagles held off St. John's by a deuce. That puts them into the Big East quarterfinals and, presumably, the NCAA tournament.

It's hard to imagine an 11-win Big East team missing. Marquette has wins over Georgetown, Louisville and Xavier, along with six road/neutral wins in the RPI top 75. Despite some so-so overall computer numbers, not giving the committee an excuse to omit them with a loss here likely is enough.

2:24 P.M. UPDATE: SOUTH FLORIDA'S NIT-BOUND

South Florida made a nice late-season push to get into NCAA tournament contention, but Wednesday's second-round loss to Georgetown will condemn the Bulls to the NIT.

While the Bulls were 9-9 in the Big East, they're only 3-5 vs. the RPI top 50 and 6-11 vs. the top 100, with a bad home loss to No. 191 Central Michigan thrown in. That's not good enough, even with the softness of the bubble.

USF started the day outside the bracket and may have needed to beat Syracuse, too, to have a serious claim. Seton Hall and Notre Dame now take the court tonight knowing that a league rival has fallen by the wayside, opening just a bit more room for the winner of their game.

The good news keeps coming for bubble teams, as favorites keep winning the smaller conference auto bids. That means two things:

1. If big-conference teams don't show some separation later this week, we could be looking at one of the softest and most convoluted bubbles in memory.

2. The bottom of the NCAA tournament bracket is going to be very deep with quality. The best small-conference teams are getting in and there aren't bid thieves from better leagues like the Horizon or Colonial that will push others up a seed line.

Tuesday night, Butler romped past Wright State to take that Horizon auto bid and leave an at-large for someone else. Elsewhere, fringe at-large hopefuls UConn and Charlotte removed themselves from the picture with first-round tourney losses.

Today starts the real business of sifting at the cutline. Here's are the bubble games you need to track:

South Florida-Georgetown (Noon ET): Bulls need this one, and maybe one more, to have a real claim. St. John's-Marquette (2 p.m.): This win should be enough for the Golden Eagles. A loss? Hmm... Seton Hall-Notre Dame (7 p.m.): Elimination game. Loser is probably out. Winner has a good chance. Oklahoma-Oklahoma St. (7 p.m.): Cowboys should be OK either way, but win just in case.

In auto-bid land, Quinnipiac hosts Robert Morris in the NEC title game while Weber State hosts upstart Montana for the Big Sky crown.

Congrats to North Texas (Sun Belt) and Oakland (Summit) for nailing down auto bids Tuesday night.

Remember, records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Tuesday'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 to watch a copy of Monday's WCC final with Mark Few.

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 is 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: 27, SOS: 23) 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 tournament 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: 35, SOS: 46) 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: 33, SOS: 30) 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: 51, SOS: 130) 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: 28, SOS: 28) 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: 57, SOS: 52) 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 St. John's Wednesday in 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: 31, 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: 58, SOS: 53) 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. Beat SHU Wednesday and things look pretty good. 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 (19-11, 9-9, RPI: 54, SOS: 32) almost coughed up a 29-point second-half lead to Providence, with the Friars missing a last-second 3 for the tie. The Pirates got the win they needed, though, to set up a huge bubble clash with Notre Dame, a team that have beaten already. A loss probably KO's SHU. A win isn't a clincher, but if a quarterfinal win is needed, too, they split with Pitt this season. GW: Pitt, at Cornell, plus L'ville, ND for bubble purposes BL: None bad (all in top 75), just a lot of them

South Florida (20-11, 9-9, RPI: 65, SOS: 65) slogged past DePaul to get its shot at Georgetown, a team the Bulls already beat on the road this season. Get past the Hoyas and USF gets Syracuse and a real chance to get into the dance. FYI, USF's overall SOS (for 31 games) dropped 11 spots thanks to playing DePaul on Tuesday. Yay, all-inclusive conference tournaments! GW: at G'town, Pitt BL: Cent. Michigan, vs. So. Carolina?, plus BE foes Louisville, Marquette, and swept by ND

Cincinnati (17-14, 7-11, RPI: 68, SOS: 10) beat Rutgers, barely, and advances to face Louisville in the second round of the Big East tournament. The Bearcats may need the auto-bid to dance, but you have to start somewhere. GW: Vandy (N), Maryland (N) BL: At SHU 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: 75, SOS: 41) 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, Michigan State (w/o Kalin Lucas), at Wisconsin. BL: Utah, Bradley, Georgia, plus home to Minnesota (bubble battle).

Minnesota (18-10, 9-9, RPI: 77, SOS: 56) 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: 20, SOS: 11) 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 tournament 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: 55, SOS: 70) 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).

It may be too late for Washington (21-9, 11-7, RPI: 50, SOS: 59), 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: 53, 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), Tennessee, Florida State, plus Mississippi State and at Mississippi (bubble purposes). BL: South Alabama, at Georgia.

Mississippi (21-9, 9-7, RPI: 56, SOS: 72) 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 Mississippi 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: 68, SOS: 106) 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 with Richmond a game back. The Owls get the No. 1 seed by virtue of their five-point home win over the X-men. If there aren't any semifinal upsets, the A-10 could end up with just three bids. Disappointing.

SHOULD BE IN

None.

IN THE MIX

Rhode Island (22-8, 9-7, RPI: 42, SOS: 88) took out Saint John's to earn a date with Saint Louis in Atlantic City. Beating the Billikens is a must, but the Rams probably will have to take down 1-seed Temple (assuming the Owls handle St. Bona) to have any claim for an at-large. GW: at Dayton, OK State (N) BL: at Saint Louis, at St. Bona, at UMass

Dayton (20-11, 8-8, RPI: 49, SOS: 35) ) pushed past GW and heads to Atlantic City with its fate in its hands. The Flyers may have to beat all three A-10 locks, but they're certainly capable. First up is rival Xavier in Friday's quarterfinals. 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: 85, SOS: 110) got a huge road win at Dayton for a sweep of the Flyers, but despite playing better since freshman Cody Ellis got eligible, likely needs to make the A-10 finals, minimum, to think about an NCAA bid. That would entail 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

Auto bid: Old Dominion

Old Dominion held off William & Mary for the CAA crown, and likely will be the only team in the NCAAs from this conference.

SHOULD BE IN

None.

IN THE MIX

William & Mary (21-10, 12-6, RPI: 60, SOS: 105) lost to Old Dominion for the third time this season and most likely will have to settle for an NIT bid. The Tribe have three outstanding nonleague wins, but only a third-place finish in the CAA and too many 200+ losses in conference, including two at home, to have real at-large hopes. GW: at Wake, at Maryland, Richmond (also beat CAA No. 2 Northeastern twice). BL: UNC Wilmington, at James Madison, Towson, routed at Iona.

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: 48, SOS: 104) 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: 36, SOS: 69) also ended up 11-5 but went 2-4 against the three teams ahead of it in the conference. 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: 45, 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: 40, SOS: 116) 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: 46, SOS: 78) 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: 41, SOS: 95) 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: Swept by Memphis (for bubble purposes).

Auto bids: Saint Mary's, Butler Locks: Gonzaga

Butler pounded Wright State to complete a 20-0 romp through the Horizon. The Bulldogs will be joined by Saint Mary's and Gonzaga from the WCC after the Gaels routed the Zags to claim the auto bid.

Elsewhere, Utah State is in very legitimate shape for an at-large should they need one.

SHOULD BE IN

Utah State (24-6, 14-2, RPI: 32, SOS: 103) 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 Utah State could survive a road loss. GW: BYU, Wichita St (for bubble purposes). BL: at Long Beach State.

IN THE MIX

None.

- Cornell (Ivy) - East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun) - Murray State (Ohio Valley) - North Texas (Sun Belt) - Oakland (Summit) - Siena (MAAC) - Winthrop (Big South) - Wofford (SoCon)

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