UNSUPPORTED BROWSER
More Sports

Don't give up on tourney mainstays Butler and Gonzaga just yet

On Sunday afternoon, as Butler lost to UW-Milwaukee for the second time this season, there was a lot of Twitter banter about how the Bulldogs' at-large hopes were dead. This came on the heels of Saturday night's 140-character declarations of Gonzaga's demise after the Zags dropped their second straight road game against modest opposition.

While both teams obviously hurt themselves, to make any determination at this stage without looking at the macro picture is foolhardy. As you can see in the updated bracket, both sets of Bulldogs are still in the field as at-larges.

Principally, both were helped by a lot of other teams losing around them and the fact that the 68-team field requires a total of 37 at-large teams. Even this early in the process, this is shaping up to be a very odd bubble year. What may not feel like an NCAA-caliber resume in a vacuum may very well end up as one because of the dearth of quality mid-major at-large candidates and how many of the BCS leagues are either down or have a fairly pronounced cutline at the moment.

This doesn't mean fans of teams like Butler and Gonzaga should feel too secure. Being this close to the cutline this early as a non-BCS team is a dangerous place to be. Both of those clubs will continue to be hurt by the relative lack of strength in their conference schedules and also will have eaten at least one more loss -- in their conference tournaments -- if an at-large is needed.

Bottom line: This past week didn't kill either of those two teams, but it did shave their margins for error to almost zero. That said, if either team does manage to win out for the rest of the regular season, here's one bubble watcher who thinks they'll be OK.

RELATED:Andy Glockner: UConn snags a No. 1 seed in Bracket Watch

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 collegerpi.com RPI report.

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

Send your 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.

Locks: Duke

What does it say about the middle of a league when one of the teams making the biggest at-large push has only eight scholarship players? Not sure, but I don't think it flatters the ACC at this point.

SHOULD BE IN

Florida State (15-5 overall, 5-1 ACC; RPI: 46, SOS: 61)The 'Noles have become the second choice in the league after another 2-0 week that included a win at Miami and a rout of Boston College. They also have a much easier schedule left than BC or UNC, so the 'Noles are a pretty solid bet to end up where they currently are.GW: Duke, at Miami?, Baylor (N)?BL: at Auburn

Boston College (14-6, 4-2; RPI: 34, SOS: 25)After edging past Virginia, BC was handled at Florida State and cedes its spot in the league's pecking order. The Eagles have some decent wins to fall back on, which is good because the next six in league play are brutal, starting with a visit to Cameron.GW: Texas A&M (N), at Maryland?, at South Carolina?, Cal (N)?BL: Yale, Harvard?

IN THE MIX

North Carolina (13-5, 3-1; RPI: 20, SOS: 13)Pushing past Clemson in its only game of the week makes the Heels look better than some of their competition, but given how unimpressive they have been on the road in league, they could be in for some bumps ahead. The schedule is not kind at all.GW: KentuckyBL: at Georgia Tech (by 20)

Virginia Tech (13-5, 3-2; RPI: 62, SOS: 82)The Hokies crushed Maryland in College Park, continuing to impress despite being short-handed. There are a lot of winnable games ahead, too. Can a strong league finish compensate for nonleague misses?GW: Oklahoma State (N)?BL: Virginia

Maryland (12-7, 2-3; RPI: 77, SOS: 44)The Terps slipped past Clemson by a bucket to salvage a week that started terribly with a 17-point home loss to Virginia Tech. Two road games against bottom clubs this week are pretty much must-gets for a team that has talent but no quality wins to back up mediocre computer numbers.GW: NoneBL: Virginia Tech (at home by 17)

Miami (12-7, 1-4; RPI: 51, SOS: 39)A pair of two-point losses has the 'Canes in a good amount of bubble trouble. Games this week against UNC and at Virginia Tech may decide matters if they can't get something done there.GW: West Virginia, Ole Miss?BL: at Rutgers

Clemson (13-6, 2-3; RPI: 93, SOS: 135)The Tigers couldn't get it done at either UNC or Maryland and still are on the outside looking in. The next six are four at home sandwiched around trips to Virginia and Georgia Tech, but will a bunch of so-so ACC wins be enough for anyone this season?GW: at College of Charleston?BL: Michigan (at home)?, at South Carolina?

N.C. State (12-7, 2-3; RPI: 83, SOS: 68)The Wolfpack couldn't handle Duke, so while they edged Miami on Sunday, they still have a pretty barren profile. Now four of the next five are on the road, including trips to Clemson and UNC this week. They'll have some chances to move up if they can get something done.GW: George Mason (N)?BL: None

Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M

There's no need to worry about Texas' NCAA chances anymore after another impressive week that was capped with a startling win at Kansas. Texas' recent work also makes you feel like Texas A&M (and Connecticut) have legit quality, too. The Aggies also join the lock section based on current accomplishments plus the landscape and a schedule that makes it hard to see how they could miss.

SHOULD BE IN

Missouri (16-3, 3-2; RPI: 29, SOS: 77)The Tigers also are going to make the NCAAs, but their schedule has enough hurdles left to at least wait another week and see what happens. This week at Texas and Oklahoma State should be fun.GW: Vanderbilt, vs. Illinois, Old DominionBL: at Colorado?

IN THE MIX

Oklahoma State (14-5, 2-3; RPI: 37, SOS: 64)The Pokes have some home dates coming up with which to get a couple of notable wins, but they've been so poor on the road that they could scratch those out with a couple of bad Ls, too.GW: None, reallyBL: None

Kansas State (12-7, 1-4; RPI: 47, SOS: 18)K-State's in some trouble after falling at Texas A&M. Now a home date with Baylor is almost a must-win ahead of a trip to angry Kansas. A drop to 1-6 would (obviously) be very difficult to overcome.GW: Gonzaga (N), at Washington State?BL: None

Baylor (13-5, 3-2; RPI: 87, SOS: 110)The Bears did what they needed to do by beating Oklahoma State. There are still five road opportunities left against credible or better teams, starting with tonight at equally desperate Kansas State.GW: NoneBL: at Iowa State (by 15)?

Colorado (13-6, 3-2; RPI: 86, SOS: 163)Losing at Oklahoma and Nebraska: very understandable in football, not good for basketball at-large hopes. Now the Buffs host Kansas and travel to Baylor, so things will move again this week.GW: Missouri, at Kansas State (sans Kelly)BL: at San Francisco, at Oklahoma

Locks: Pittsburgh, Villanova, Syracuse, Connecticut

Pittsburgh was expected to be at this level. But UConn? The Huskies' supporting cast is coming on strong and making them a much more dangerous proposition. Villanova showed some stones this week in two tough road spots. Was Syracuse exposed a bit? Or is the level of competition just that good?

SHOULD BE IN

Notre Dame (16-4, 5-3; RPI: 11, SOS: 12)OK, Irish. We get it. You're nearly impossible to beat at home. Now show us something at Pitt tonight.GW: Wisconsin (N), Gonzaga, Georgetown, UConnBL: None

West Virginia (13-5, 4-2; RPI: 14, SOS: 6)This isn't the first time in-state rival Marshall handed the 'Eers a surprising loss. Always great that game is played on a neutral floor. This week's date at Louisville will be a nice sound check on both clubs.GW: Vandy (N), at Georgetown, Purdue, Cleveland State?BL: St. John's (at home)?

Georgetown (14-5, 3-4; RPI: 8, SOS: 4)The Hoyas can get back to .500 in league play by getting revenge on St. John's and then head to Villanova for another stern test. Georgetown looks like a classic "matchups team" for March. Get the right ones and make a run. Get the wrong one and go out early again.GW: at Missouri, Utah State, at MemphisBL: None

Louisville (15-4, 4-2; RPI: 39, SOS: 48)The Cards' push toward to the NCAAs hit an unexpected bump with a loss at Providence, but they remain in decent shape, even as their two best nonleague wins continue to decay. If they can't handle West Virginia at home, though, they could quickly be under .500 after trips to UConn and G'town.GW: Butler, UNLVBL: Drexel?

IN THE MIX

Cincinnati (17-3, 4-3; RPI: 38, SOS: 140)That could be a crucial win the Bearcats got at St. John's. Assuming they can handle Rutgers at home this week, they have a ton of time to rest and prep for a trip to Pitt.GW: Dayton, Xavier, at St. John's?BL: None

St. John's (11-7, 4-4; RPI: 24, SOS: 2)Uh oh. Getting smoked at Louisville happens, but the Storm may lament the home loss to Cincy. Now they're at Georgetown (looking for the sweep) and then host Duke. Big opportunities, but maybe two more L's, too, as the schedule remains brutal.GW: at West Virginia, plus a couple of strong home wins in leagueBL: St. Bonaventure, at Fordham

Marquette (13-7, 4-3; RPI: 61, SOS: 45)Crush DePaul and then blow a double-digit lead at Notre Dame? Just another week in the life of Team Bubble Watch. The Golden Eagles have a huge week on tap, with home chances against UConn and Syracuse to jump-start their NCAA push.GW: None, reallyBL: None

Locks: Ohio State

Anyone interested in Purdue at Ohio State on Tuesday? Yeah, me too. This continues to look for all the world to be a six-bid league, and that's most likely all that will make it.

SHOULD BE IN

Purdue (17-3, 6-1; RPI: 12, SOS: 31)If the Boilers' schedule wasn't so stiff down the stretch, they'd be in lock status. Let's see what happens this week in Columbus. That said, it's pretty much a technicality. Hard to imagine a way they miss at this point, even though they lack truly marquee wins.GW: at Virginia Tech?BL: None

Wisconsin (15-4, 5-2; RPI: 26, SOS: 46)The Badgers mauled Northwestern on the road on Sunday in a very impressive performance. All the toughest tests in the next couple of weeks come at Kohl, so it should be fun to see what happens.GW: at Marquette, Boston College (N), N.C. State?BL: None

Illinois (14-6, 4-3; RPI: 28, SOS: 10)The Illini got a credible home split, taking down Michigan State and falling just short against unbeaten No. 1 Ohio State. The next three are relatively soft, but two are on the road, so the Illini need to make sure they take care of business.GW: Maryland (N), UNC, Gonzaga (N)BL: Illinois-Chicago (N), at Penn State?

Minnesota (15-4, 4-3; RPI: 22, SOS: 37)The Gophers host Northwestern before getting a tough road test at Purdue on Saturday. After that, their remaining road games are at Indiana, Iowa, Penn State and Northwestern, so the schedule is as favorable as it can be in this conference. That's the upside to a brutal opening part.GW: North Carolina (N), West Virginia (N)BL: Virginia

Michigan State (11-7, 4-3; RPI: 21, SOS: 3)The Spartans couldn't win at either Illinois or Purdue, so the questions will persist. They host Michigan and Indiana this week, so even two wins won't give us a better idea of what Tom Izzo has this season.GW: Washington (N)BL: at Penn State?

IN THE MIX

Penn State (10-8, 3-4; RPI: 49, SOS: 5)The Nittany Lions may have had the most gallant 0-2 stretch in the country this season, losing in the final seconds at Ohio State and then at Purdue, where a questionable out-of-bounds call may have helped cost them the upset. PSU still has a ton of chances left to impress, so don't count it out yet.GW: A couple strong home league winsBL: Maine

Northwestern (13-6, 3-5; RPI: 75, SOS: 109)It's looking more and more likely that Northwestern's NCAA-less streak will continue. They were crushed at home on Sunday by Wisconsin and basically could be out of the mix next week with a trip to Minnesota ahead of home dates with Ohio State and Illinois.GW: NoneBL: None

Locks: None

Washington handled its business at home and then Arizona got a very important road win at Washington State to start to create separation. Will there be room for more than two bids this season? UCLA is the best bet at this point, with the marquee beating of BYU and a favorable schedule.

SHOULD BE IN

Washington (15-4, 7-1; RPI: 23, SOS: 38)The Huskies reclaimed control of the league by sweeping the Arizona schools at home. If they can survive the trip to Pullman, they will be in very good shape, having already swept the L.A. road trip.GW: None, really (at UCLA and USC?)BL: None

IN THE MIX

Arizona (16-4, 5-2; RPI: 25, SOS: 47)The Wildcats led briefly in the second half in Seattle before fading, but got a huge win at Washington State to stay in second place in the league. They still lack real quality wins, so league placement is important.GW: at N.C. State?BL: at Oregon State

UCLA (13-6, 5-2; RPI: 48, SOS: 31)The Bruins have won four in a row and now have a huge game at Arizona. After the two-game swing through the desert, they get four straight at home, including the Steve Lavin Bowl vs. St. John's.GW: BYU (N)BL: Montana

Washington State (14-6, 4-4; RPI: 70, SOS: 92)Losing at home to Arizona puts huge pressure on the visit from Washington on Sunday. The Cougs still face road trips to Washington and Arizona in a stretch of five road games in seven coming up.GW: Gonzaga, Baylor (N)BL: None, really

Locks: Kentucky, Florida

Dear Gators, Please do more of what you did against Arkansas and far, far less of what you did against Auburn. Then we'll be OK. And Kentucky? More South Carolina, less 'Bama. Thanks.

SHOULD BE IN

Vanderbilt (14-4, 2-2; RPI: 18, SOS: 24)The 'Dores picked up a sneaky quality nonleague win, rolling past Saint Mary's after beating Ole Miss earlier in the week. That the Gaels may be Vandy's best win of the season leaves some reason for pause. They need to handle things at Mississippi State and home to Arkansas this week before a trip to Gainesville.GW: North Carolina (N), Saint Mary'sBL: None

IN THE MIX

Tennessee (12-7, 2-2; RPI: 17, SOS: 1)The Vols poached a solid road win at Georgia on Brian Williams' buzzer-beating putback before getting handled after halftime by surging UConn in Bruce Pearl's one-game return. It's a maddening, confounding team, but one that has a good number of quality wins and the talent to beat just about anyone.GW: Villanova (N), at Pitt, VCU (N)?, at Georgia?BL: at Charlotte, Oakland (at home), College of Charleston (at home)

Georgia (14-4, 3-2; RPI: 42, SOS: 65)The Bulldogs got beat at the buzzer by the Vols, but pounded Mississippi State in the second of three straight at home. The third is a crucial meeting with Florida before a trip to Lexington to try to sweep Kentucky.GW: KentuckyBL: None

South Carolina (12-6, 3-2; RPI: 81, SOS: 91)The Gamecocks got Arkansas but couldn't get the big win it wanted over Kentucky. They still have road games at the other four SEC East teams besides Florida left, so chances are there to improve this position.GW: at FloridaBL: at Furman, at Alabama

Locks: None

All season, Temple has been a pretty clear bet to make the NCAAs. After this week's results? That's no longer such a strong presumption, although the Owls' bracket position held pretty well because a lot of teams lost around them. Getting Xavier and Dayton toward the top of the league standings could help the A-10 get more bids than originally expected.

SHOULD BE IN

Temple (13-5, 3-2; RPI: 36, SOS: 53)After beating city rival Penn, the Owls were handled at Xavier and dropped two games behind the Musketeers and surging Duquesne. With a cadre of teams also in the 3-2 and 4-1 range, Temple needs to be very mindful of its league placement. The Owls' best wins are dropping in quality.GW: Maryland (N)?, Georgetown, Georgia (N)?BL: Cal (N)?

IN THE MIX

Xavier (13-5, 5-0; RPI: 27, SOS: 22)The X-men won their only meeting with Temple, giving them a two-game lead plus tiebreaker on their chief league rival. After a date with GW, five of the next six are away from Cintas, so don't pencil the Musketeers into your brackets just yet.GW: Butler, Temple, at Rhode Island?BL: at Miami (Ohio)?

Richmond (15-5, 4-1; RPI: 63, SOS: 118)The Spiders got the two Ws they needed before this week's trip to Dayton and home showdown with Xavier. League pecking order could be reshuffled by this time next week.GW: Purdue, VCUBL: at Iona?, Georgia Tech (N), Bucknell

Dayton (15-5, 3-2; RPI: 58, SOS: 121)A home dates with Richmond and then a trip to Duquesne make this a very big week for the Flyers, whose profile has some decent wins but nothing great to hang their hats on. The back end of the league schedule is pretty stiff, so these are very meaningful games on tap.GW: A collection of OK ones in Ole Miss, George Mason and New MexicoBL: East Tennessee State, margin at Cincinnati (by 34), at UMass?

Rhode Island (12-7, 3-2; RPI: 78, SOS: 90)A home loss to La Salle really dampens any momentum from the previous week's exploits. Once again, the Rams are a borderline candidate. Feels like almost every season in Kingston.GW: Boston College, at RichmondBL: Illinois-Chicago, at Quinnipiac

Duquesne (12-5, 5-0; RPI: 90, SOS: 155)Ken Pomeroy tweeted last week that the Dukes were, far and away, the favorites to win the league. Now 5-0 in the A-10 with more winnable games on tap, it's not impossible to see that. The Dukes' profile features a quartet of top-50 losses and no nonleague wins of note, so serious A-10 work is mandatory for consideration.GW: TempleBL: at Robert Morris

Locks: San Diego State, BYU

The showdown in Provo is set: San Diego State at BYU, Wednesday night. Be there. Speaking of being there, no one else from this league may be in March if UNLV (or Colorado State?) doesn't get going.

SHOULD BE IN

None.

IN THE MIX

UNLV (15-5, 3-3; RPI: 30, SOS: 29)The Rebels lost a costly game at home to Colorado State. Beating New Mexico only got them back to .500 and they've already played four league games at home, with trips to BYU, Colorado State and New Mexico still remaining. The Rebels need to keep contact with the top two to feel secure.GW: Wisconsin, Virginia Tech (N), at K-State (without Pullen/Kelly)?BL: UC Santa Barbara

Colorado State (12-6, 3-2; RPI: 52, SOS: 50)The Rams stunned the Rebels in Vegas, but couldn't take out BYU at home and still have a profile that's more numbers than substance. They need to be able to handle Air Force and then Utah ahead of next week's visit from San Diego State, their last big chance for a home league win.GW: at UNLVBL: Sam Houston State, vs. Hampton

Locks: None

This was a crushing week for a lot of the best teams in this category. We could be looking at an NCAA tournament that lacks a number of regulars and also a dearth of quality mid-majors.

SHOULD BE IN

None.

IN THE MIX

Old Dominion (14-5, 5-3; RPI: 33, SOS: 35)A home loss to VCU after handling James Madison continues the whittling of ODU's margin of error. The Monarchs have some wins over the top of the A-10, but still sit tied for fourth in the CAA, two games behind.GW: Clemson (N), Xavier (N), Richmond, DaytonBL: at Delaware

Gonzaga (12-7, 3-2; RPI: 66, SOS: 43)It's possible no team in the nation damaged its at-large hopes more than the Zags, who lost twice on the road in league play, neither time to St. Mary's or Portland. Now the Gaels come in to kick off a crucial four-game stretch that includes a trip to Portland and a visit from equally needy Memphis.GW: Baylor (N)?, Marquette (N), Xavier, Oklahoma StateBL: at Santa Clara, at San Francisco

Butler (14-7, 6-3; RPI: 41, SOS: 27)The Bulldogs lost at home to UW-Milwaukee, completing a Panthers sweep of the season series. At-large hopes are now on the line on this three-game trip that includes attempts to sweep league leaders Cleveland State and Valpo. The wins in Hawaii are nice, but a league title may be paramount.GW: Florida State (N), Washington State (N), Cleveland State?BL: Evansville (without Nored), UW Milwaukee (twice)

Saint Mary's (15-3, 5-0; RPI: 40, SOS: 129)The good news: SMC is unbeaten in the league and two games up on Gonzaga after the Zags' shocking week. The bad news: Getting spanked at Vandy doesn't help perceptions that this team's profile is lacking substance. Now they continue a crucial trip with visits to Gonzaga and Portland.GW: St. John's?BL: None

Missouri State (16-4, 8-1; RPI: 35, SOS: 108)The Bears suffered their first loss of the league season on a last-second and-one at Indiana State, but remain in first place after escaping Creighton. They only have two top-100 games until the season finale vs. Wichita State (plus a BracketBusters game pending).GW: at Wichita StateBL: at Tulsa?

VCU (15-5, 7-1; RPI: 54, SOS: 136) The CAA leaders at 7-1 have a solid chance at the regular-season crown. Back-to-back in mid-February, the Rams host George Mason in the teams' only meeting and the second game with the Monarchs, whom VCU already beat on the road. If they win the league, they could have a decent case. GW: at ODU, UCLA (N)? BL: at Georgia State, at South Florida?

Memphis (15-4, 4-1; RPI: 45, SOS: 73)The Tigers dug deep to win at Southern Miss and UAB. They still have a trip to Gonzaga ahead, too, so this profile can improve some. UAB and UTEP also remain in the mix atop the conference, but the lack of quality wins across the board could condemn the conference to just one bid. Memphis is the best chance for an at-large right now.GW: Miami (Fla.)?BL: None

Wichita State (15-4, 7-2; RPI: 44, SOS: 68)The Shockers kept dreams alive with a triple-OT win over Indiana State after a home loss to Northern Iowa gave them a second league loss. The win over the Sycamores (No. 85) is their only top-100 win.GW: NoneBL: None

George Mason (14-5, 6-2; RPI: 31, SOS: 42)Does the Colonial have another viable at-large? The Patriots' numbers look solid and they're ahead of ODU in the league standings, but the best win on paper is Harvard. That's not going to be enough.GW: None, reallyBL: vs. Wofford

Harvard (11-3, 2-0; RPI: 50, SOS: 131)The Crimson almost made a huge mistake, but rallied past lowly Dartmouth to stay unblemished in league play. If they can handle Columbia and Cornell at home, they'll head to Princeton at 4-0.GW: at BC, ColoradoBL: None

Utah State (18-2, 7-0; RPI: 43, SOS: 204)The Aggies are two games clear of the field in the WAC, but there are no quality wins to be had anywhere. If they stumble in the conference tournament, how close to perfect they are in the regular season could determine their NCAA fate.GW: NoneBL: None

Belmont (18-3, 10-0; RPI: 70, SOS: 284)Still rolling, still not accumulating quality wins. The Bruins just need to keep winning and post a garish number of Ws and then see where things stand should they need an at-large. After winning at East Tennessee State, it's hard to see anyone catching them for the league crown.GW: NoneBL: None

SI.com

Drag this icon to your bookmark bar.
Then delete your old SI.com bookmark.

SI.com

Click the share icon to bookmark us.