Five years ago, Doug Elgin and Tom Yeager were the talk of college basketball.
Elgin, the Missouri Valley Conference commissioner, saw his league grab an astonishing four NCAA berths in a season where six MVC teams had a legitimate claim to dance. Yeager, his counterpart at the Colonial Athletic Association, only got two teams to the NCAAs after Hofstra's near miss, but one of those teams -- George Mason -- became the first mid-major Final Four participant in the 64/65-team era.
Since then, both leagues have settled back down into more standard mid-major lifestyles, scrapping hard to get even one at-large berth in any given year. As such, those two men may have been chief among those who enjoyed the weekend of carnage that went on in conferences all across the nation.
Both men's leagues are engaged in brutal multi-team tussles for the regular-season crown. As the bottoms of other leagues (Hi, Big East! Hello, SEC West! What's up, Big 12?) rise up and take bites out of their NCAA contenders, the openings for regular-season champs elsewhere become more pronounced. This week, Wichita State and Old Dominion both received at-larges in the bracket, and as long as the teams on top of their leagues keep beating everyone else besides each other, the survivors very well could have resumes worth at-larges should they not survive their conference tournaments.
An extra team for these leagues is not just window dressing. There are real media and cash benefits. Plus, the softness of the current bracket after the 4- or 5-seeds means this year's tournament could be ripe for double-digit seeds to make runs. So if you see the Colonial or Valley champ still standing on the tournament's second weekend, recall this past one. The smiling commissioner will be a good reminder.
RELATED:Andy Glockner: Texas, Georgetown get No. 2 seeds 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
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The sandblasting the Blue Devils took from St. John's on Sunday elevated some discussion points. In the bigger picture, with what Duke has done in the ACC, even without Kyrie Irving, does this result make the rest of the league look even softer? That's probably an overreaction, but for those relying on Duke as their marquee win (like Florida State), they probably feel a bit less comfortable now.
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North Carolina (15-5, 5-1; RPI: 15, SOS: 18)The Heels were the league's big movers this week, edging past Miami on Harrison Barnes' late three and then hammering N.C. State to move into second place, tied in the loss column with Duke. Three of the next four are on the road, including a trip to Cameron coming on Feb. 9.GW: Kentucky, at Miami?BL: at GT (by 20)
Florida State (15-6, 5-2; RPI: 50, SOS: 71)With a full week to prep for a trip to Clemson, the 'Noles delivered a complete clunker, getting shoved around and shut down in a 62-44 loss. The schedule remains favorable, though, so even with some modest computer numbers, FSU remains in solid shape.GW: Duke, at Miami?, Baylor (N)?BL: at Auburn
IN THE MIX
Boston College (14-7, 4-3; RPI: 34, SOS: 23)BC got routed at Duke in its only game of the week. That happens to a lot of teams, but the Eagles' overall positioning is worsening. This is a huge week, with home games vs. UNC and VT to right things. Road trips still remain to Clemson, UNC and VT, and they don't get Duke at home.GW: Texas A&M (N), at Maryland?, at South Carolina?BL: Yale, Harvard?
Virginia Tech (14-6, 4-3; RPI: 68, SOS: 80)The Hokies held on for an important home win over Miami after a disappointing L at Ga. Tech. Road games at N.C. State and BC await this week as the Hokies try to hold on to position and record.GW: OK State (N)?BL: Virginia, at Georgia Tech
Maryland (14-7, 4-3; RPI: 70, SOS: 61)The Terps grabbed two double-digit road wins to get back above .500. Now they host Duke in a game they really need to win. Home dates with Wake Forest and Longwood after that are profile killers.GW: NoneBL: VT (at home by 17)
Clemson (15-6, 4-3; RPI: 68, SOS: 100)The Tigers won solidly twice at home to bounce into the mix, and the schedule remains very favorable. Very winnable trips to Virginia and GT this week will be key with BC and UNC visiting after that.GW: at College of Charleston?BL: Michigan (at home)?, at South Carolina?
Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M
The Aggies remain fine even after a disappointing loss at scrappy Nebraska. Texas remains really good. Kansas took out some frustrations on K-State and put another dent into their in-state rival's hopes. Could the league get tapped out at four bids, though? The muddle in the middle will need to clear in positive fashion for one or two teams to bump that total up.
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Missouri (16-4, 3-3; RPI: 27, SOS: 66)The Tigers worked hard but weren't very close in Austin on Saturday. Texas' abysmal free-throw shooting kept the score tighter than the game really was. Have we found the ceiling on the Tigers? Fair or not, the loss didn't help Mizzou's rep as a bully team that can't handle superior athleticism/talent.GW: Vanderbilt, vs. Illinois, Old Dominion?BL: None, really
IN THE MIX
There are different gradients of this category across the board. In this conference, there's a huge drop-off at this point from Missouri to this group.
Baylor (14-6, 4-3; RPI: 86, SOS: 95)The Bears edged Colorado after losing at K-State, but still haven't accomplished much of anything to help their profile. Right now, the best thing they have going for them is league standing and perception, so if they can string some more wins together, they could get benefit of the doubt on a soft bubble.GW: NoneBL: at Iowa State (by 15)?
Oklahoma State (14-7, 2-5; RPI: 56, SOS: 62)The one-point OT loss at league minnow Texas Tech may be a killer. The Pokes basically have to beat Missouri and Oklahoma at home this week ahead of a rough four-game run after that.GW: Shorthanded K-State?, Missouri State?BL: None
Colorado (13-8, 3-4; RPI: 95, SOS: 112)The Buffs gave their all, but four-point Ls at home to Kansas and at Baylor may be cripplers. Beating Iowa State at home next is a must ahead of a really difficult four-game stretch.GW: Missouri, at Kansas State (sans Kelly)?BL: at San Francisco, at Oklahoma
Kansas State (13-8, 2-5; RPI: 42, SOS: 14)Beating Baylor but getting blistered at Kansas leaves the Wildcats still needing wins quickly. The Ws over the Washington schools in nonleague play are decaying as quickly as K-State's resume. Better beat Nebraska at home before heading to Iowa State and Colorado.GW: Gonzaga (N), at Washington State?BL: None
Nebraska (15-5, 3-3; RPI: 80, SOS: 145)That one-point loss at Texas Tech looms even more now that the Huskers took out A&M on Saturday. I had Doc Sadler as my coach on the hot seat in our season preview and he's done a nice job. If they can win at K-State, they get a very meaningful home game with Kansas next weekend.GW: Texas A&MBL: Davidson (N), at Texas Tech
Locks: Pittsburgh, Villanova, Connecticut, Notre Dame
The league's top four have switched, with Notre Dame taking Syracuse's place after the Orange's four-game slide and the Irish's continued impressive form. If Villanova is a lock, ND has to be at this point with seven Top-50 wins. And the Irish can consolidate a really good seed profile over the next couple of weeks with a run of winnable games. Somewhat surprising losses for the others listed may dent their seeding a bit, but not overall safety by any means.
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Georgetown (16-5, 5-4; RPI: 6, SOS: 2)Very impressive week for the Hoyas, who routed St. John's and then slipped past Villanova on the road. The Hoyas' remaining schedule is somewhat favorable now. Home games against Louisville and Providence are up next.GW: at Villanova, at Missouri, Utah State, at Memphis?BL: None
Syracuse (18-4, 5-4; RPI: 22, SOS: 33)Relax, this doesn't mean the Orange are expected to miss the NCAAs now. It just means a 3-6 finish against their remaining schedule is not impossible, which means they're not a lock to make it. Up next: a trip to irritated UConn and then a trap game in Tampa.GW: Notre Dame, Michigan State (N)?, at St. John's?BL: Seton Hall (by 22)
West Virginia (14-6, 5-3; RPI: 13, SOS: 4)Peyton Siva's H-O-R-S-E-style layup beat the Mountaineers at the death in Louisville, but they bounced back with a convincing win at Cincy. They don't have many soft spots left on the schedule, so this team could move a lot one way or the other before Selection Sunday.GW: Vandy (N), at Georgetown, Purdue, Cleveland State?BL: None, really
Louisville (17-4, 6-2; RPI: 24, SOS: 32)It's amazing what a couple of possessions can do. The 'Ville easily could be on a stretch of five losses in six games. Instead, they have impressively grabbed wins against Marquette, St. John's, WVU and UConn and are in very strong position to make the NCAAs. There aren't very many "should win" games left on the slate, though, so with this team's small margin for error, volatility could be big.GW: at UConn, West Virginia?, UNLV, ButlerBL: Drexel?
IN THE MIX
St. John's (12-8, 4-5; RPI: 28, SOS: 3)Sure, lose five out of six and then crush Duke on national TV. Makes sense. The Johnnies have four very good wins on their resume, but not enough of them overall at this point. That said, they have Rutgers, DePaul and South Florida left at home, there are wins to be had to pad the overall number.GW: Duke, at West Virginia, Notre Dame, GeorgetownBL: St. Bonaventure, at Fordham
Cincinnati (18-4, 5-4; RPI: 44, SOS: 123)Because of the Bearcats' nonleague schedule, the home loss to West Virginia complicates things more than you'd think. Cincy still visits Pitt, G'town, Marquette (and revived Providence), and also hosts UConn, G'town, St. John's and Louisville. That's a fancy way of saying 9-9 is no lock, and 8-10 very well isn't enough with their profile at the moment.GW: Xavier, at St. John's?, Dayton (by 34)?BL: None
Marquette (14-8, 5-4; RPI: 58, SOS: 31)What else is new? Marquette had a lead on UConn and couldn't hold it. Then TBW had a lead on Syracuse, blew it and then Jimmy Butler hit a couple of Js to ice it. I love this team. What fun can we expect on the three-game trip to Villanova, USF and G'town? Regardless, 11-7 could happen again. If it's 10-8, they might need it to be the "right" 10-8, so these road shots are important.GW: Syracuse?BL: None
Locks: Ohio State
Ohio State played almost perfectly to thrash Purdue and far from it in escaping at Northwestern. That's the nature of this season across the nation. The bigger question: Will Michigan State's continued struggles put the Spartans in bubble trouble?
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Purdue (18-4, 7-2; RPI: 10, SOS: 19)After running into Ohio State's "perfect game," the Boilers beat Minnesota at home and sit second in the league. The only game this week is at Wisconsin. A win there and we might as well lock them up, even without any truly good wins yet.GW: None, reallyBL: None
Wisconsin (15-5, 5-3; RPI: 27, SOS: 41)Wisconsin was the latest top-half team to fall into the Penn State trap, but the schedule now slants heavily for the home-happy Badgers. Purdue and Michigan State are on tap for a chance to get right.GW: at Marquette, Boston College (N), N.C. State?BL: None, really
Illinois (14-7, 4-4; RPI: 40, SOS: 24)Indiana's playing better, but there's no excuse for the Illini to lose to the short-handed Hoosiers, even in Bloomington. This is now a crucial week, with Penn State at home and at Northwestern. With road games left at Minnesota, MSU, Ohio State and Purdue, a split this week could create unexpected trouble. Illinois doesn't have a ton of quality wins.GW: Maryland (N), UNC, Gonzaga (N)? (plus MSU and Wisconsin at home)BL: Illinois-Chicago (N), at Indiana
Minnesota (16-5, 5-4; RPI: 21, SOS: 29)The Gophers couldn't handle their first road test without Al Nolen and we'll have to wait and see if they do any better than last season without real point guard play. Can feisty Indiana catch them looking ahead to the weekend showdown with unbeaten Ohio State?GW: North Carolina (N), West Virginia (N)BL: Virginia
IN THE MIX
Michigan State (12-8, 5-4; RPI: 35, SOS: 5)Whewwww. After losing at home to Michigan, the Spartans escaped Indiana by a point in OT to avoid DEFCON 3-style panic, but things are not going well in East Lansing. A trip to Iowa is up next and looks like a virtual must-win with a six-pack of stern tests to follow. I know the bubble is weak, but MSU is starting to test its limits.GW: Washington (N)BL: Michigan
Penn State (12-8, 5-4; RPI: 46, SOS: 6)That controversial out-of-bounds call at Purdue is looming larger now that the Nittany Lions picked off yet another quality foe at home, beating Wisconsin. The next game, at Illinois, is really big. A win there gives PSU some road chops and also paves the way for 10-plus league wins.GW: MSU, Illinois and Wisconsin -- all at home in league playBL: Maine
Wazzu's mild upset of Washington is good for the league, which has four NCAA candidates and a good race on its hands now.
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Washington (15-5, 7-2; RPI: 23, SOS: 36)The Huskies couldn't win at Wazzu in their only game of the week and dropped into a tie with Arizona for first place. They also still have to travel to Arizona, so this could get interesting.GW: None, really (at UCLA and USC?)BL: None
IN THE MIX
Arizona (18-4, 7-2; RPI: 22, SOS: 44)The 'Cats handled the L.A. schools at home to make it six wins in their last seven. Now five of the next seven are on the road, where they're 2-2 so far in league play. Without big-time wins, quantity and league placement remain important.GW: at N.C. State?BL: at Oregon State
Washington State (15-6, 5-4; RPI: 74, SOS: 107)Wazzu got the big home win it needed, taking out rival Washington Sunday night. The Cougs still face road trips to Washington and Arizona in a stretch of five road games in seven on tap, but this was a big step toward the NCAAs.GW: Gonzaga, Baylor (N), WashingtonBL: None, really
UCLA (14-7, 6-3; RPI: 47, SOS: 30)Besides BYU, the Bruins may have been the most upset by the Cougars' second-half fade at New Mexico. They need that BYU win to flash in neon. After losing at Arizona, they escaped by a point in OT at ASU and now host four in a row, including a fan-pressure game against St. John's.GW: BYU (N)BL: Montana
Locks: Kentucky, Florida
The SEC West is rising like a zombie in The Living Dead, taking big bites out of East teams and making everything a lot messier. Kentucky and Florida remain fine for now. The Gators lost at Mississippi State, but have some quality Ws and continue to lead the East by half a game over the 'Cats. South Carolina falls off the Watch after losing at home to Auburn. Alabama (at 5-1, the league's auto bid winner this week) and Arkansas need more legit wins before being considered for at-larges.
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Tennessee (14-7, 4-2; RPI: 17, SOS: 1)In a wacky week, was it bizarre that normally wacky Tennessee handled its business with minimal fuss? The Vols can't get caught looking past this week's trip to Auburn and home date with Alabama ahead of a two-game proving-ground trip to Kentucky and Florida.GW: Villanova (N), at Pitt, VCU (N)?, at Georgia?BL: at Charlotte, Oakland (at home), College of Charleston (at home)
Vanderbilt (15-5, 3-3; RPI: 26, SOS: 26)The Commodores' 11-point home loss to Arkansas was only the second-most surprising result of Saturday, but it more than cancels out the impact of a road win at Miss. State. A trip to Gainesville is up next before a three-game homestand that concludes with Kentucky.GW: North Carolina (N), Saint Mary'sBL: Arkansas
IN THE MIX
Georgia (14-6, 3-4; RPI: 43, SOS: 40)They thought they had lost to Florida, then they thought they had beaten Florida and then they lost to Florida (and then at Kentucky). Now the Bulldogs must take care of a couple of SEC West games before an intriguing (and maybe decisive?) nonleague date with Xavier.GW: KentuckyBL: None
The two best teams in the league had solid weeks, but those chasing Temple and Xavier (and Duquesne!) continue to find potholes. If the Owls or Musketeers win the auto-bid, will this end up as a two-bid year for the A-10?
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Temple (15-5, 5-2; RPI: 36, SOS: 53)Not too much to say. The Owls took care of two bad teams to stay within two games of the league lead, although having lost to both Xavier and Duquesne in the teams' only meetings of the year, it's basically three games as far as seeding for the A-10 tourney. Temple only leaves Philly once in its next six.GW: Maryland (N)?, Georgetown, Georgia (N)?BL: Cal (N)?
Xavier (15-5, 7-0; RPI: 18, SOS: 22)The Musketeers dropped the hammer on Richmond on the road in a really impressive win. If they can get past Charlotte (away) and Saint Louis this week, they are at Georgia and Duquesne after that.GW: Butler, Temple, at RichmondBL: at Miami (Ohio)?
IN THE MIX
Richmond (16-6, 5-2; RPI: 61, SOS: 89)The Spiders' maddening inconsistency continues, with a win at Dayton followed by getting smoked at home by Xavier. With six really weak opponents remaining in the final nine games, the Spiders could end up with a big record, but will the quality be enough?GW: Purdue, VCUBL: at Iona?, Georgia Tech (N), Bucknell
Duquesne (14-5, 7-0; RPI: 77, SOS: 144)KenPom continues to look good, as do the Dukes as they pounded Dayton at home to stay perfect. If they can get past GW and a trip to Olean this week, a showdown with Xavier looms.GW: TempleBL: at Robert Morris
Dayton (15-7, 3-4; RPI: 71, SOS: 84)The Flyers are in a lot of trouble after losing at home to Richmond and at Duquesne. There's very little room for error the rest of the way, and home dates with Temple and Xavier coming in February loom as must-gets now.GW: A collection of OK ones in Ole Miss, George Mason and New MexicoBL: East Tennessee State, margin at Cincinnati (by 34), at UMass?
Locks: San Diego State, BYU
The Jimmers pulled away from San Diego State but then got bitten in The Pit. That drops them back into a tie atop the league with SDSU, which hosts the Cougars on Feb. 26.
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IN THE MIX
UNLV (16-5, 4-3; RPI: 32, SOS: 42)Winning at Wyoming was mandatory. So is handling Utah ahead of a rematch with BYU, this time in Provo. Three very tough road games remain (plus a visit from SDSU).GW: Wisconsin, Virginia Tech (N), at K-State (without Pullen/Kelly)?BL: UC Santa Barbara
Colorado State (14-6, 5-2; RPI: 48, SOS: 54)Two close wins kept the Rams rolling. Now they host the Aztecs in what could be a profile-firming encounter. Trips to BYU and SDSU loom in the last four of the season, so go-time is now.GW: at UNLVBL: Sam Houston State, vs. Hampton
Crazy upsets were not limited to the major conference. Five of the first six teams in this category last week lost.
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IN THE MIX
Old Dominion (17-5, 8-3; RPI: 31, SOS: 51)A 3-0 week helps keep the Monarchs in position, even if none individually mean all that much. After a visit from Delaware (which already beat ODU), a big trip to George Mason looms.GW: Clemson (N), Xavier (N), Richmond, Dayton?BL: at Delaware
Saint Mary's (16-4, 6-1; RPI: 34, SOS: 104)The Gaels got their first-ever win at K2 in Spokane and then went to Portland and got drilled in the second half of a 15-point loss. The schedule is now favorable and a league crown still looks fairly likely, but they'll want to keep winning as the profile lacks true quality.GW: St. John'sBL: None
Missouri State (17-5, 9-2; RPI: 45, SOS: 112)Northern Iowa got revenge, handing the Bears a mirror-image one-point home loss to really tighten things up in the Valley. With the bubble picture elsewhere, the league's regular season champ has a pretty solid chance for an at-large, but record will be important.GW: at Wichita StateBL: at Tulsa?
VCU (18-5, 10-1; RPI: 51, SOS: 155)The Rams remain atop the CAA. Now they face a three-game road trip before home dates with Old Dominion and George Mason that very well will decide the league and possible at-large hopes.GW: UCLA (N)?, at Old DominionBL: at Georgia State, at South Florida
Wichita State (17-4, 9-2; RPI: 49, SOS: 113)The Shockers got a nice break Sunday night when UNI won at Missouri State, moving WSU back into a share of the league lead. They need to keep winning, especially these softish next three ahead of a grandstand finish that will include a BracketBusters game.GW: NoneBL: None
Butler (14-8, 6-4; RPI: 42, SOS: 27)The Bulldogs lost at Valpo in OT in their only game of the week and more or less need to win out the rest of the regular-season, including this week's showdown at league leader Cleveland State.GW: Florida State (N), Washington State (N), Cleveland State?BL: Evansville (without Nored), UW Milwaukee (twice)
Utah State (20-2, 9-0; RPI: 30, SOS: 166)Most people aren't happy to get out of Hawaii, but the Aggies are after escaping with a double-OT win that keeps them perfect in the WAC. They're going to win the league, but at-large hopes will depend on how close to perfect they can stay (and what continues to happen elsewhere).GW: NoneBL: None
Gonzaga (13-8, 4-3; RPI: 88, SOS: 53)The home loss to Saint Mary's is another hit to the Zags' rapidly dwindling at-large hopes. Considering they'd have to lose again in the WCC tourney just to need one, there really isn't much room for error the rest of the way. This week, with a trip to Portland and then a date with Memphis, is obviously crucial.GW: Baylor (N)?, Marquette (N), Xavier, OK State?BL: at Santa Clara, at San Francisco
George Mason (17-5, 9-2; RPI: 33, SOS: 79)The Patriots also had a 3-0 week against non-contenders. Now they host Hofstra and VCU this week in really big games at the top of the league. Mason needs as many wins (and quality wins) as it can get.GW: None, reallyBL: vs. Wofford
Memphis (16-5, 5-2; RPI: 36, SOS: 47)The Tigers are the auto bid winner this week (by one RPI spot over UAB), but it remains unclear whether they would survive in the at-large pool after a 15-point loss at Marshall. A league title probably will be paramount for consideration. They also visit Gonzaga this week. Loser is really in pain.GW: Miami (Fla.)?BL: None
Cleveland State (18-3, 9-2; RPI: 29, SOS: 140)The Vikings don't have any quality wins, but they lead the Horizon and now get Valpo and Butler at home this week in a huge chance to create big separation.GW: NoneBL: None
Harvard (13-3, 4-0; RPI: 50, SOS: 200)The Crimson pushed past Columbia and Cornell and now head on a road trip to Princeton and Penn, the other two unbeatens in the league. Should be some good Ivy fun Friday and Saturday.GW: at BC, ColoradoBL: None
Northern Iowa (16-6, 8-3; RPI: 54, SOS: 110)The Panthers are a game behind Missouri State and Wichita State in the Valley but already have won at both (although they also have lost at home to the Bears). The overall profile right now is weaker than the two first-place teams, but if they can get a share of the league crown and make the Valley final? Pretty much have to be perfect from here, though.GW: at Missouri State, at Wichita StateBL: at UW-Milwaukee, at Iowa, at SIU