Monday December 20th, 2010

Bubble Watch is back and your satisfaction is 100 percent guaranteed!

OK, maybe not, especially this early in the season, but it's never too soon to start parsing through growing profiles and see what the macro landscape looks like for this season's NCAA tournament field. At this stage, the early returns for the smaller guys are not good. Through weak scheduling and/or blown opportunities, there are very few legitimate mid-major at-large candidates at this point. Teams will have to be nearly perfect in league play to force their way into contention.

Please note at this point that a lot of the data available is still fairly limited and a solid dose of subjectivity needs to be added (both here and in the updated bracket projection) for wild situations like Marquette having an RPI of almost 200 or Cincinnati going unbeaten against a horrible schedule. We'll have enough credible data soon enough when the rest of the leagues start conference play, so hang tight.

RELATED: Andy Glockner: Duke, Kansas, Ohio St. and 'Cuse own No. 1 seeds in Bracket Watch

Remember, records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) and SOS (Strength of Schedule) data are from Sunday's RPI report.

GW = good wins BL = bad losses (N) = neutral-site game

Send your feedback to or to @aglock on Twitter. All submissions are read; polite, fact-based ones stand the best chance of a response.

Locks: Duke

Even without Kyrie Irving, the Blue Devils are the best team in the nation (although Ohio State is starting to creep up on Duke). Anything more than three losses heading into the NCAA tournament would be a shock, as would anything less than yet another No. 1 seed.

After that? It's impossible to figure out which is the league's second-best team, let alone how many teams will ultimately make it, given the parity and lack of top-end quality.


Boston College (9-2 overall, 1-0 conference; RPI: 10, SOS: 4) The Eagles have really responded since a surprise early loss to Yale, taking down four credible major-conference foes in a run of eight wins in their last nine. GW: Texas A&M (N), Cal (N), at Maryland BL: Yale


North Carolina (7-4, 0-0; RPI: 18, SOS: 2) The Tar Heels are rooting for Kentucky's freshmen to continue to improve because the two-point home win over the Wildcats is all they have to show for a nonleague campaign that includes losses to Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Illinois and Texas. GW: Kentucky BL: None

Maryland (7-4, 0-1; RPI: 103; SOS: 73) The Terps played well in neutral-site losses to Pitt, Illinois and Temple, but they don't have anything helping them at the moment beyond noble efforts. Losing the ACC opener at home to BC was a misstep. GW: None BL: Boston College

Florida State (9-2, 1-0; RPI: 118, SOS: 232) We'll know more about the 'Noles after this week's Diamond Head Classic. They open with host Hawaii and could face some combo of Butler, Mississippi State and/or Washington State. FSU had two home chances to impress and its offense failed in both of them. Will seven-footer Jon Kreft be the difference? GW: None BL: None

Virginia (7-3, 1-0; RPI: 55, SOS: 72) The Cavaliers made up for two early blowout losses with solid wins at Minnesota and Virginia Tech. The next ACC game, home to UNC on Jan. 8 could be big. It's the only matchup between the two teams and precedes a trip to Duke. GW: at Minnesota, at Virginia Tech BL: at Stanford (by 21)

Virginia Tech (6-4, 0-1, RPI: 49; SOS: 16) The Hokies' beefed-up schedule has provided mixed results, with a couple wins over possible at-large competitors and some notable misses, including the ACC opener at home to Virginia. GW: Miss. State (N), OK State (N) BL: Virginia

Miami (7-3, 0-0; RPI: 22, SOS: 20) The 'Canes have a mixed bag of results and they may regret the neutral site loss to Central Florida, even with the Knights still being undefeated. Miami has a tough start in ACC play, so by the end of January, we should be pretty certain whether the 'Canes can contend for an at-large. GW: West Virginia, Ole Miss BL: at Rutgers

N.C. State (6-4, 0-0; RPI: 33, SOS: 47) Sunday was troubling for the Wolfpack, with a home loss to Arizona followed by coach Sidney Lowe calling out injured senior Tracy Smith, saying he has to decide whether he wants to play with pain. The raw talent is here. The experience, chemistry and coaching may not be for a team that's whiffed on its four biggest opportunities of the season. GW: George Mason? BL: None

Locks: Kansas, Kansas State

A second-half offensive meltdown against Florida shouldn't alarm Wildcats fans as far as making the NCAAs, and while Kansas' addition of Josh Selby looks timely, let's not hand the league to the Jayhawks just yet. Not with the league's depth, especially in the north, where Kansas, K-State and Missouri will play a double round-robin.


Texas A&M (9-1, 0-0; RPI: 26; SOS: 116) The Aggies have quietly compiled a decent profile with wins over Temple and Washington, and the two-point loss to BC in Orlando doesn't look nearly as bad as it once did. GW: Temple (N), Washington BL: None

Missouri (10-1, 0-0; RPI: 42, SOS: 57) The Tigers blew the Georgetown game at home and held off Vandy in their other test against a comparable foe. Let's see what comes of the Braggin' Rights showdown with Illinois on Wednesday. GW: Vanderbilt BL: None

Texas (9-2, 0-0; RPI: 32; SOS: 74) Skip the weird hiccup at improving USC and the 'Horns had a nice nonleague run, with two quality neutral-site wins and a near miss against Pitt. They have a huge chance at Michigan State on Wednesday to improve their positioning. GW: Illinois (N), North Carolina (N) BL: at USC

Baylor (7-1, 0-0; RPI: 94; SOS: 239) The Bears failed in their first real test (losing to Gonzaga) and their point guard play remains a concern, but they are still a solid team with a lot of quality size. They should get a couple good games in Hawaii this week, assuming they dispatch San Diego in the opener of the Diamond Head Classic. GW: None BL: None


Oklahoma State (10-1, 0-0; RPI: 53; SOS: 184) The Cowboys have a nice record but flopped against Virginia Tech in their only big opportunity. They get another one at Gonzaga on New Year's Eve before a really tough opening stretch in Big 12 play. GW: None BL: None

Iowa State (10-2, 0-0; RPI: 124, SOS: 267) The Cyclones have been a nice story in Fred Hoiberg's first season , but have beaten no one and also lost to Northern Iowa and Cal. GW: None BL: None, really

Locks: Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Villanova, Syracuse, Connecticut

UConn very well may regress toward the mean as league play moves forward, but the Huskies have to be in the lock category right now. These other four look like the solid top quarter of the league and should safely make the NCAA tournament.


West Virginia (8-2, 0-0; RPI: 5, SOS: 6) It's been a so-so season so far in Morgantown, with a couple of solid wins and a couple of games that got away late. There's still a January nonleague game with Purdue plus many chances in Big East play. GW: Vandy, Cleveland State BL: at Miami?

Notre Dame (10-1, 0-0; RPI: 24, SOS: 97) The experienced Irish got a lot of solid work done at the Old Spice Classic, taking out Georgia, Cal and Wisconsin, plus they beat Gonzaga. The lone loss to Kentucky (in Louisville) is understandable. GW: Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Georgia BL: None

Louisville (9-1, 0-0; RPI: 38, SOS: 98) They haven't left home, but wins over Butler and UNLV are credible. The home loss to Drexel is disappointing, but the physical Dragons are sitting at 8-1. GW: Butler, UNLV BL: Drexel?


Cincinnati (10-0, 0-0; RPI: 90; SOS: 328) Unbeaten and mostly untested, the Bearcats should remain unbeaten heading into the new year. There's a long way to go, though, before NCAA talk becomes serious, as they are the Virginia Tech of this season. GW: Dayton BL: None

Marquette (8-3, 0-0; RPI: 183; SOS: 262) Team Bubble Watch is more or less 0-3 this season, despite looking very capable in the losses to Duke, Gonzaga and Wisconsin. A trip to Vandy later this month is an important game for resume purposes, because the Eagles' RPI and overall profile at this point are really weak. GW: None BL: None

Providence (10-2, 0-0; RPI: 54, SOS: 155) The Friars have a couple of OK wins. Losing to La Salle in Cancun isn't great. Either way, they'll need to do some significant work in league play to buttress this profile. GW: None BL: La Salle (N)?

Seton Hall (6-4, 0-0; RPI: 95, SOS: 67) The Pirates will be judged heavily on their work when injured leading scorer Jeremy Hazell returns. Three of their four losses have come in his absence. GW: None BL: at Arkansas

Locks: Ohio State

A lot more teams than the Buckeyes will make it in, but since all of those clubs have shown some flaws, they're worth a quick discussion at this point.


Illinois (10-2, 0-0; RPI: 35, SOS: 84) Before the really surprising loss to Illinois-Chicago on Saturday, the Illini were building a nice seed profile despite some inconsistencies. Wins over Maryland, North Carolina and Gonzaga lead the way. GW: Maryland (N), UNC, Gonzaga (N) BL: Illinois-Chicago (N)

Michigan State (7-3, 0-0, RPI: 64, SOS: 66) Before pulling the alarm on the inconsistent Spartans, realize their three losses have come to teams that currently are a combined 29-0. Like almost every year, they should be in the hunt come March. GW: Washington (N) BL: None

Minnesota (10-1, 0-0; RPI: 23, SOS: 80) The Golden Gophers looked terrific in Puerto Rico, so the near-whiff against Cornell and the home loss to Virginia were fairly surprising. Of note, three of their first four league games are on the road at Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. A 1-3 start is very possible. GW: North Carolina (N), West Virginia (N) BL: Virginia?

Purdue (10-1, 0-0; RPI: 48, SOS: 175) The Boilermakers slog on despite a suspect offense. The first four in league play are all against the bottom half of the league, so they could be fortunate to avoid defeats during John Hart's recovery. GW: at Virginia Tech BL: None

Wisconsin (9-2, 0-0; RPI: 44, SOS: 115) Neither loss is bad and the Badgers picked up wins at Marquette and over N.C. State. The front part of the Big Ten slate is pretty loaded, so we'll see how they compare to past versions pretty quickly. GW: at Marquette, N.C. State? BL: None


Northwestern (7-0, 0-0; RPI: 43, SOS: 231) The Wildcats very well may be 10-0 when they enter Big Ten play and an opening baptism of Purdue, Michigan State and Illinois (two on the road). Check back the second week in January. GW: None BL: None

Michigan (8-2, 0-0; RPI: 59, SOS: 105) Ironically, given the Big Ten's unfortunate new football division names, the Wolverines' two losses this season came in the Legends Classic. By mid-January, we'll know how seriously to take them. They host Purdue, Kansas and Ohio State and visit Wisconsin in a two-week span. GW: at Clemson BL: UTEP (N)?

Locks: None

It's very possible this is another two-bid season. No one has done much of anything of note in nonleague play, and entering the weekend, the conference sat ninth in the Conference RPI tables, just a smidge ahead of the Ivy League.


Washington (7-3, 0-0; RPI: 51, SOS: 38) The Huskies look like the class of the league, even with Arizona's rise. None of the losses -- by single-digits to Kentucky, Michigan State and Texas A&M -- are concerning. GW: None BL: None


Arizona (10-2, 0-0; RPI: 62, SOS: 135) The loss to Kansas in Vegas showed nice fightback. The loss to BYU in Salt Lake City was a bit concerning, but the 'Cats got a nice bounceback win Sunday at N.C. State. GW: at N.C. State BL: None

California (6-4, 0-0; RPI: 36, SOS: 5) The Bears have a couple of quality wins and a four-pack of losses to strong RPI opponents, so the computer numbers make the Bears appear stronger than they probably are at this point. GW: Temple (N), New Mexico BL: None

Washington State (8-1, 0-0; RPI: 110; SOS: 257) Hammering Gonzaga is the highlight of a so-far soft nonleague slate in which the Cougs also lost a tough game at Kansas State and needed overtime to win at Santa Clara. This week's Diamond Head Classic will provide more opportunities to impress. GW: Gonzaga BL: None

Locks: Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida


Vanderbilt (8-2, 0-0; RPI: 15, SOS: 24) The 'Dores beat North Carolina in Puerto Rico and neither of their two losses (by three both to West Virginia and at Missouri) is a problem. They host Marquette in an important profile-builder for both teams at the end of December and also host Saint Mary's in January. GW: North Carolina BL: None


Georgia (7-2, 0-0; RPI: 47; SOS: 87) Not a ton to like or dislike so far, especially with Trey Thompkins having missed some time. The first half of league play is stacked, so by the end of January, we'll know whether these Dawgs have any real bark. GW: None, really BL: None

South Carolina (7-2, 0-0; RPI: 81, SOS: 196) The youthful Gamecocks have lost only at Michigan State and Ohio State and also took down in-state rival Clemson. The front end of the league slate is manageable, so we'll see where this goes. GW: Clemson BL: None

Mississippi (7-2, 0-0, RPI: 39, SOS: 52) A home loss to Dayton more than offsets anything good the Rebels have done, so despite OK computer numbers, they will need to do some quality work in league play. GW: None BL: None

Mississippi State (7-3, 0-0, RPI: 229, SOS: 295) gets an incomplete for now, as Renardo Sidney just got eligible and Dee Bost is out for a handful more games. The Bulldogs' weak start will be discounted, but by how much? GW: None BL: Florida Atlantic and East Tennessee State

Locks: None

This has been a very disappointing nonleague run for the league. A year after five or six teams had reasonable at-large hopes deep into the season, we could be looking at something closer to two or three this season.


Temple (8-2, 0-0; RPI: 19, SOS: 28) The Owls easily have the best profile in the league at the moment. Their performance in the Old Spice Classic has been redeemed by wins over Maryland and Georgetown. They also have a late-season visit to Duke, as well as a Big 5 showdown at Villanova at the end of the month. GW: Maryland (N), Georgetown BL: Cal (N)?


Richmond (8-3, 0-0; RPI: 60, SOS: 113) The Spiders have been unexpectedly up and down for such an experienced team, mixing solid wins with curious losses, including a terrible second half against Georgia Tech in the Bahamas this weekend. Upcoming games at Seton Hall and home to Wake Forest feel almost like must-wins. GW: Purdue, at Arizona State?, VCU BL: at Iona, Georgia Tech (N)?

Xavier (7-2, 0-0; RPI: 24, SOS: 34) The X-men beat Seton Hall without Jeremy Hazell and took down Butler. The New Year's Eve game against Florida is really important. GW: Seton Hall, Butler BL: Miami (Ohio)

Dayton (8-3, 0-0; RPI: 114, SOS: 189) One of the nation's most frustrating teams, the Flyers have barely avoided several more crippling home losses even after falling to East Tennessee State and getting doubled up at Cincinnati. The upcoming run at Seton Hall and vs. George Mason and New Mexico is crucial to Dayton's at-large hopes. The win at Ole Miss won't be enough. GW: at Mississippi BL: East Tennessee State

Locks: San Diego State

The Aztecs look real legit and could stay undefeated for some time. They have no killer wins, but at Gonzaga and Cal are certainly respectable.


Brigham Young (10-1, 0-0; RPI: 9; SOS: 31) The Cougars suffered their first loss against UCLA in Anaheim. Their best effort is probably a pounding of Arizona in Salt Lake City. BYU gets San Diego State at home first at the end of January. GW: Arizona BL: None

UNLV (10-2, 0-0; RPI: 30, SOS: 88) Early wins had the Rebels buzzing, but consecutive losses at Louisville and at home to UC Santa Barbara make the shot against Kansas State fairly important for more at-large wiggle room. GW: Wisconsin, Virginia Tech (N) BL: UC Santa Barbara


New Mexico (8-1, 0-0; RPI: 79, SOS: 254) Now that Drew Gordon has made his debut, the Lobos are at full strength and will be judged significantly on their work going forward. That's good, because there isn't a ton in the profile yet to help. GW: None BL: None

Locks: None

There is a dearth of surefire at-large hopefuls from outside the eight largest conferences, so we'll take a first look at the remaining hopefuls here.

Gonzaga (5-5, 0-0; RPI: 76; SOS: 18) The Zags got a huge win over Baylor on Saturday to give them a quality chip to go along with a solid win over Marquette. Still, they've missed on five other chances, so opportunities against Xavier, Oklahoma State and Memphis loom huge for possible at-large insurance. GW: Baylor (N), Marquette (N) BL: None, but five of them already

Memphis (8-1, 0-0; RPI: 41, SOS: 123) The young Tigers took a hit when Jelan Kendrick was sent packing and they have predictably been up and down all season. They still have quality nonleague shots left at Tennessee and against Gonzaga. GW: Miami? BL: None

Butler (6-4, 1-0; RPI: 46, SOS: 11) The Bulldogs, through injury and inconsistency, have more or less missed out on quality nonconference wins and suffered a bad home loss when Ronald Nored was out. That makes this week's Diamond Head Classic crucial. Butler needs to get past Utah to get itself two more quality games for the resume. GW: None BL: Evansville

Cleveland State (10-1, 2-0; RPI: 17, SOS: 99) The Vikings start the next section of more fringe candidates. They stepped up in class at West Virginia and couldn't close the deal. The computer numbers look great, but those will fade as they and their opponents get into lower-level league play and lose some games. GW: Kent State (N)? BL: None

Wichita State (7-2, 0-0; RPI: 57, SOS: 111) The Shockers suffered one of the most harmful losses of the season when they couldn't hold off UConn in the first round of the Maui Invitational. The result of those missed opportunities against the likes of Michigan State and Washington and a loss at San Diego State is that Wichita State doesn't have any marquee wins and is out of chances. GW: Virginia BL: None

Old Dominion (8-2, 0-1; RPI: 12, SOS: 12) The Monarchs missed a home chance against Georgetown, but have beaten four other possible bubble candidates. Their shot at Missouri on Dec. 30 is a huge validation chance. GW: Clemson, Xavier, Richmond and Dayton BL: at Delaware

Drexel (8-1, 1-0; RPI: 25, SOS: 140) The Dragons handed Louisville its first loss in the KFC Yum! Center and now should have their eyes set on Tuesday's big trip to Syracuse. Pull a stunner there and they suddenly have the requisite heft in this part of the slate. GW: at Louisville BL: None

Central Florida (9-0, 0-0; RPI: 37; SOS: 225) The Golden Knights are working on a state championship, but may kick themselves for not having a deeper nonleague slate. They don't have any more chances for marquee wins, nor does fellow bubble dabbler Southern Miss. GW: Miami, Florida BL: None

Other teams like Southern Miss, Utah State and George Mason have good computer numbers but not a lot of substance behind them. At-large consideration will be difficult.

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