Every year at this time, there's moaning about how soft the bubble is. This year, though, those gripes may have merit.
Beyond this being the first season with three extra spots in the at-large pool, making the bubble seem more forgiving, there are two other major themes worth watching:
1) There are clear drop-offs between the last at-large holders and the next group of teams in many of the top conferences.
2) There are very few mid-major conferences in which the regular-season winner will be assured a spot if it doesn't claim the auto bid.
The result of these trends is that there are very few potential bid thieves at the moment. Ordinarily, the bubble constricts down the stretch because major-conference teams make late runs and/or sure things in the smaller leagues lose in their conference tournaments and snag bonus bids. As things currently stand, there are far fewer possibilities for that kind of shrinkage this season. Basically, everyone who looks deserving to be in is already getting in and there are many spots beyond that still open.
So, when you look at today's bracket, you'll notice some of the final at-larges have truly terrible profiles. While they may not look like NCAA teams, we have to find 37 of them somehow. There aren't very many other legitimate options at this point -- and, more important for a month from now, there's a chance that predicament may not change.
RELATED:Andy Glockner: Pitt takes over as No. 1 overall 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
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Locks: Duke, North Carolina
Duke's strong rally past North Carolina midweek and then a win at Miami keeps the Blue Devils very much in the mix for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs, but no one ahead of them is losing much, either. Right now, it looks like five teams for four spots on the top line, so one region will have a very compelling 1-2 punch. The Tar Heels join Duke in this category after nabbing a tight road win at Clemson to get to 8-2 in the league. It would be almost impossible for them to miss and they're peaking at a good time.
SHOULD BE IN
Florida State (18-7, 8-3; RPI: 49, SOS: 86)Getting two wins over non-contenders was heavily tempered by the news that star Chris Singleton broke his foot and could be lost for the rest of the season. If he's not back before Selection Sunday, this will make FSU a very interesting selection discussion (akin to Saint Mary's in 2009 when Patty Mills was hurt and the Gaels were bypassed). This team, with Singleton, already really struggled to score. Now, FSU really will be hurting for offense. The 'Noles need to buckle down and take care of a few winnable games down the stretch or they could expose themselves to an injury-related snub. They have five regular-season games and the ACC tournament to make a case for this version.GW: Duke, Baylor (N)?BL: at Auburn
IN THE MIX
Boston College (16-9, 6-5; RPI: 41, SOS: 21)BC held on for a crucial home win over Maryland to split the week after a hard-fought loss at Clemson. The Eagles still have tough trips to North Carolina (on Saturday) and Virginia Tech, so they may need to get the other three (Miami, at UVa, Wake Forest) to finish above .500 in the league. That could be very important as they may only have one nonleague win over an NCAA team.GW: Texas A&M (N), plus a so-so collection of Cal (N) and at Maryland and South CarolinaBL: Yale, Harvard?
Virginia Tech (16-7, 6-4; RPI: 66, SOS: 97)The Hokies only played once, but crushed GT on Sunday. Now home to Maryland before a trip to Virginia and Wake, they could get to 9-4 before hosting Duke and BC. The profile is not great, so wins remain at an immediate premium. Then they can worry about getting a marquee one.GW: OK State (N)?, Penn State?BL: Virginia, at Georgia Tech
Clemson (17-8, 6-5; RPI: 73, SOS: 87)After taking down BC, Clemson lost a tough two-point decision to North Carolina in what could loom as a huge missed opportunity. Brad Brownell is doing an excellent job in his debut season, but the Tigers are lacking the quality wins that would make them desirable as an at-large candidate. Home Ws over BC and FSU aren't significant enough at this point.GW: at College of Charleston?BL: at Virginia
Maryland (16-9, 5-5; RPI: 86, SOS: 80)The Terps are in a lot of trouble after losing by four at Boston College. They're now 0-8 vs. the RPI top 50 and just 3-9 vs. the top 100. That's not going to do it. A 5-1 stretch run probably is the least they'll need, as only two of those games are against top-50 teams and one, against FSU, is now marginalized by Chris Singleton's injury. First things first, they need to win in Blacksburg Tuesday night.GW: at Penn State (by 23)?BL: None in a vacuum, but way too many of them -- VT and BC at home are hurting badly
Locks: Kansas, Texas
KU and Texas are still tracking toward No. 1 seeds in the NCAAs. Can we get a rematch in the Big 12 title game (and then maybe one more in Houston)? I'm down for that. Once again, the league is sitting at four very likely bids and then it's a question whether anyone will make it after that. Someone(s) probably will, but who?
SHOULD BE IN
Texas A&M (18-5, 6-4; RPI: 30, SOS: 53)Important stabilizing week for the Aggies, who stole a game at Colorado in OT and then escaped Texas Tech in Lubbock. With home games remaining against Iowa State, Oklahoma and the Red Raiders, an over-.500 league mark looks likely, even with trips to Kansas, Baylor and OK State left. They're in good shape. Just need to win the games they should win.GW: Temple (N), Washington, Missouri, Kansas State?BL: None, really
Missouri (18-6, 5-5; RPI: 27, SOS: 54)The Tigers got shredded at Kansas and are 0-5 on the road in league play, though none of the stops (Colorado, A&M, Texas, OK State, Kansas) are very hospitable. Fortunately, they're 5-0 at home and now the schedule flips, with some winnable road games and a shot at Kansas in Columbia. They'd be wise to maximize the next three (Texas Tech, at Iowa State, Baylor).GW: Vanderbilt, Old Dominion, vs. Illinois?, K-State?BL: None, really
IN THE MIX
Baylor (16-8, 6-5; RPI: 64, SOS: 64)Winning only the games they're supposed to down the stretch may not be enough, so getting down big at Texas before a late rally fell short was disappointing. Now they have a curious non-D-I game against Wayland Baptist before a must-win game at home with Texas Tech. The last four (at Mizzou, A&M, at OK State, Texas) will make or break any NCAA hopes.GW: at Texas A&MBL: at Iowa State (by 15), at Oklahoma
Colorado (15-10, 5-6; RPI: 93, SOS: 81)Crazy week for the Buffs, who were burned by not fouling Texas A&M when up three late and then were nearly burned by K-State after they did foul when up three late. Saved by a tenth of a second from a heartbreaking loss Saturday, they now have a sweep of the Wildcats and stay alive in the discussion. They travel to Lawrence on Saturday, but have three winnable games and Texas at home after that. Would 8-8 be enough?GW: Missouri, Colorado State (for bubble)?, sweep of Kansas StateBL: at San Francisco, at Oklahoma
Kansas State (15-9, 4-6; RPI: 40, SOS: 19)If you've followed K-State's season, Saturday night's buzzer-beater-that-wasn't at Colorado makes perfect sense. That said, the Wildcats are like that Monty Python scene: they're not dead yet. They get Kansas at home tonight and also host Missouri and go to Texas, so they'll have chances.GW: Gonzaga (N)?, at Washington State?BL: None, really. Swept by Colorado for bubble comparison purposes.
Oklahoma State (16-8, 4-6; RPI: 55, SOS: 67)OSU had a week to ready for a trip to Nebraska and flopped. The Pokes are looking more and more like an NIT team, which could be confirmed in their next three games: at Texas, vs. A&M, at Kansas.GW: Missouri, Shorthanded K-State?, Missouri State?BL: at Texas Tech
Locks: Pittsburgh, Villanova, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Georgetown
The Big East is going to create a bracketing quandary for the committee if this keeps up and all five of these teams hang in the first two or three seed lines. It might be better for the bracket as a whole if UConn (and/or someone else) slips a bit to lessen the logjam and allow the committee to place teams geographically more easily.
SHOULD BE IN
Louisville (19-6, 8-4; RPI: 24, SOS: 33)Credit to the Cards, who keep finding ways to win close games at home and who played Notre Dame very tough in South Bend before fading in OT. There's not much easy left on the schedule, but the Cards are playing for seeding at this point, barring a truly unexpected collapse. One of the bigger surprises of the season, at least for me.GW: at UConn, West Virginia, Syracuse, UNLV?, Butler?BL: Drexel?
West Virginia (16-8, 7-5; RPI: 19, SOS: 4)The 'Eers are the computer-profile monsters this season. Regardless of how many weeks in a row they go 1-1, their RPI/SOS remain rock solid. It's good to be in the Big East. They have a very difficult home stretch, with their next three seeing trips to Syracuse (tonight) and Pitt wrapped around a visit from ND.GW: Vandy (N), at Georgetown, Purdue, Cleveland State?BL: None, really
St. John's (15-9, 7-5; RPI: 18, SOS: 1)Huge week for the Red Storm, who crushed UConn and then held off Cincinnati on the road in a game with big bubble considerations. With home games against DePaul and South Florida remaining, the Johnnies should at least get to .500 in the league, which should be plenty with their quality wins.GW: Duke, at West Virginia, Notre Dame, Georgetown, UConnBL: St. Bonaventure, at Fordham
Syracuse (20-6, 7-6, RPI: 20, SOS: 24)If the season had ended on Saturday, the Orange would have been in the 11-14 first-round game against Providence in the Big East tourney. That's not exactly what anyone was thinking when they were 18-0. They have home games left vs. Rutgers and DePaul, so at least .500 looks likely, but West Virginia visits tonight and they still travel to Villanova and Georgetown, too. Is there a disaster scenario where the Orange completely cave in?GW: at UConn, Notre Dame, at St. John's, Michigan State (N)?BL: Seton Hall (by 22)
IN THE MIX
Marquette (15-10, 6-6; RPI: 59, SOS: 36)OK, now the fun begins. After escaping at USF in one of the ugliest final minutes of basketball in the game's history, Team Bubble Watch got shut down after the half at G'town. The final six games: SJU, Seton Hall, Providence and Cincy at home and UConn and SHU away. I'm still saying 4-2 minimum and I'm still saying they will dance.GW: A trio of good home league wins (WV, ND, Syracuse)BL: None, but now they have a quorum
Cincinnati (19-6, 6-6; RPI: 44, SOS: 116)The Bearcats lost a crucial home game Sunday, falling to St. John's by three and missing a chance to sweep the Red Storm. With their six remaining games (home to Louisville/UConn/G'town; at Provy/G'town/Marquette), Cincy is on the at-large ropes. The chances to impress will be there, but their terrible nonleague schedule could end up as a deciding factor.GW: Xavier, at St. John's, Dayton (by 34)?BL: None
Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
The Buckeyes' perfect run ended at the hands of Jordan Taylor and the Badgers, who now get a crack at Purdue in West Lafayette. Then the Buckeyes visit Purdue in a fun Lockdom Round-Robin. Given the national landscape, these three teams are now clearly heading to the NCAAs. How many more will this league get? That's a very interesting question.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Illinois (16-9, 6-6; RPI: 38, SOS: 22)Just another week for the enigmatic Illini. They won at point guard-less Minnesota and then lost at home to Purdue sandwiched around head coach Bruce Weber killing point guard Demetri McCamey (and his assorted hangers-on) in an interview for his poor work ethic of late. (Good thing McCamey made the Cousy and Naismith lists ahead of Jordan Taylor ...) With three very winnable home games and three very difficult road games left, the Illini are staring at 9-9. That likely would be enough, but we'll see.GW: UNC, plus MSU and Wisconsin at home, Maryland (N)?, Gonzaga (N)?BL: Illinois-Chicago (N), at Indiana
Minnesota (17-8, 6-7; RPI: 35, SOS: 28)The Gophers grabbed a crucial win at Iowa on Sunday after falling at home to Illinois. The schedule is super-soft the rest of the way, with a home-and-home against Penn State, home dates with Michigan State and Michigan and a trip to Northwestern. Al Nolen injury issues or not, if the Gophers can't make the NCAAs with this stretch run, that's their own doing. They need to get some more wins.GW: North Carolina (N), West Virginia (N), PurdueBL: Virginia
Michigan State (13-10, 6-6; RPI: 47, SOS: 8)The Spartans beat Penn State in their only game of the week and now enter a four-game gauntlet (at Ohio State, Illinois, at Minnesota, Purdue) that very well will decide their NCAA hopes. The last two (Iowa and at Michigan) are both winnable (even though both have already beaten MSU), but even 9-9 might not be good enough without some better wins down the stretch.GW: Washington (N) -- plus Wisconsin and Minnesota at homeBL: Michigan, at Iowa
Penn State (13-11, 6-7; RPI: 65, SOS: 7)PSU can't afford to be splitting weeks, especially when the loss is at bubble foe Michigan State. The Nittany Lions probably need to go 4-1 now down the stretch, and their schedule is really hard.GW: MSU, Illinois and Wisconsin, all at home in league playBL: Maine
Arizona took care of in-state business and now readies for a huge homestand against the Washington schools. UCLA continues to look like an at-large, giving the league three viable NCAA teams. Beyond that? Not much to look at at this point.
SHOULD BE IN
Arizona (21-4, 10-2; RPI: 16, SOS: 54)One game and one easy win sets the table for a league-defining stretch that sees the Washington schools visit before a trip to the L.A. schools. With four homes games out of the six remaining, the 'Cats remain favored to win the league title.GW: None, reallyBL: at Oregon State
IN THE MIX
UCLA (17-7, 9-3; RPI: 41, SOS: 37)The Bruins swept the Oregon schools at home to stay on Arizona's tail. Also, they remain a game in the loss column ahead of Washington. With four of the last six away, including a season-ending trip to the Washington schools, this isn't in the bag yet, but the trend is good. Next up: a trip to the Bay Area.GW: BYU (N), St. John's?BL: Montana
Washington (17-7, 9-4; RPI: 35, SOS: 55)The Huskies took care of the Bay Area duo at home and now head to Arizona State and then Arizona on Saturday for a huge showdown for both teams. UW needs to win that game in Tucson; otherwise, the Huskies could finish 3-plus games behind the Wildcats and in third place in a league that's not a lock to get three bids. Quality wins are sadly lacking.GW: Arizona (at home), at UCLA?BL: at Oregon, at Oregon State
Washington State (17-6, 7-6; RPI: 76, SOS: 98)Losing at home to Stanford on Thursday was a crushing blow to Wazzu's fading at-large hopes. They still have to play at Arizona and at Washington, and even 11-7 probably isn't enough with their overall profile.GW: Gonzaga?, Baylor (N)?, WashingtonBL: None, really
Alabama's tough loss at Vandy makes the Gators this week's auto bid recipient and drops the Tide into the at-large pool, where they are not yet in position for a bid. Kentucky continues to come up short down the stretch on the road. The league may end up with only four NCAA bids if things continue this way.
SHOULD BE IN
Kentucky (17-7, 5-5; RPI: 14, SOS: 10)Beating Tennessee at home was solid, but youth and execution issues cost them again on the road as they fell late at Vandy. The 'Cats now have three straight (two at home) against league also-rans, so they could get healthy in time for a closing stretch of Florida, Vandy and at Tennessee.GW: Tennessee, at Louisville, Notre Dame (N), Washington (N)?BL: None, really (at Alabama?)
Tennessee (15-10, 5-5; RPI: 25, SOS: 3)The Vols couldn't get either game on the Kentucky/Florida trip, although they had a huge chance to take out the Gators before losing by a point. By SEC East standards, the remaining schedule is reasonable, with four at home and one of the two away at South Carolina.GW: Villanova (N), at Pitt, VCU (N)?, at Georgia?BL: at Charlotte, Oakland (at home), College of Charleston (at home)?
Vanderbilt (18-6, 6-4; RPI: 17, SOS: 13)The 'Dores got a hard-earned home sweep of Alabama and Kentucky by identical 81-77 scores to slip into second place in the East. If they can hold onto that spot, they'll get a first-round bye in the SEC tournament, which would be a nice bonus. It won't be easy, though. Four of the last six are away from Memorial Gym and the two home games are Tennessee and Florida.GW: North Carolina (N), Saint Mary's, KentuckyBL: Arkansas
IN THE MIX
Georgia (17-7, 6-4; RPI: 42, SOS: 39)The Dawgs got their SEC game, slipping past South Carolina in Columbia, but the home loss to A-10 leader Xavier could be a damaging one. Now they host Vandy before a trip to Tennessee and Florida. If they can survive those three, the last three are pretty manageable and they could push their way in.GW: Kentucky, UAB?, Colorado? (for bubble purposes)BL: None
Alabama (16-8, 8-2; RPI: 86, SOS: 119)'Bama looks like an NCAA team. Its résumé doesn't. Thus the issue as the Tide tries to roll its way into the mix via a gaudy SEC mark. After a tough loss at Vandy, they beat Ole Miss in the first of five straight against the terrible SEC West. The next three (at LSU, Arkansas, Auburn) are must-wins. Get to 11-2 and a 13-3 mark isn't crazy (at Ole Miss, at Florida, Georgia). Hard to see that not being enough in a BCS league. 12-4 seems to be the flux point that would require more work.GW: Kentucky, at TennesseeBL: Iowa (N), St. Peter's (N), at Arkansas?
A huge week for Xavier and more wins for Temple makes both of those teams look extremely likely to dance. Richmond continues to win, too, and is pushing for a third slot. That doesn't mean one of those teams will be the auto bid, as there are several other clubs who could catch lightning in a bottle, including Duquesne.
SHOULD BE IN
Xavier (18-6, 9-1; RPI: 19, SOS: 29)This may have been the week when Xavier sewed up its NCAA tournament status, as road wins at Georgia and then at Duquesne really strengthen both at-large position and their spot in the A-10 race. With the possible exception of a rivalry game at fading Dayton, the rest of Xavier's schedule is really soft. Expect the Musketeers to win the league and head comfortably to the big dance.GW: Butler, Temple, at Georgia, at Richmond?, at Duquesne?BL: at Miami (Ohio)?, at Charlotte
Temple (19-5, 9-2; RPI: 33, SOS: 98)The Owls took care of Fordham and then won at Dayton to stay one back in the loss column behind Xavier (although the X-Men won the teams' only meeting, so it's really two as far as A-10 seeding go). Temple hosts Richmond this Thursday and still gets a shot at Duke, with their four other games beyond that being against lesser A-10 opponents.GW: Georgetown, Maryland (N)?, Georgia (N)?BL: None, really.
IN THE MIX
Richmond (20-6, 9-2; RPI: 71, SOS: 153)The Spiders' records look nice. Their computer numbers do not. They would be advised to win at Temple on Thursday. The season-ending home date with Duquesne could be important for league seeding, but they really need another marquee win to help the cause. The remaining schedule beyond that is soft but has a couple of road games, so take nothing for granted.GW: Purdue, VCUBL: at Iona?, Georgia Tech (N), Bucknell
Duquesne (15-7, 8-2; RPI: 84, SOS: 128)The Dukes were banking on an A-10 title push as their main claim to at-large hopes, and now that looks less likely after losing at home (in the Consol Energy Center) to Xavier. The stretch run remains difficult, with four road games (including Dayton and Richmond) and a visit from frisky Rhode Island.GW: TempleBL: at Robert Morris
Dayton (17-9, 5-6; RPI: 62, SOS: 62)After getting swept at URI and home to Temple, the Flyers are pretty much kaput as an at-large candidate. Disappointing. Not much more to say other than they'll likely have a chance to match South Carolina's back-to-back NIT titles.GW: George Mason, at Ole Miss, New Mexico?BL: East Tennessee State, at Cincinnati (by 34), at UMass
Rhode Island (16-9, 7-4; RPI: 69, SOS: 87)Beating Dayton and squeaking past Charlotte at home at the buzzer pushed the Rams into fifth place in the A-10. It seems unlikely that they'll have enough for true at-large consideration, but if they can run the table (including a win at Duquesne)? Might be worth half a look going into championship week.GW: Boston CollegeBL: at Quinnipiac, La Salle
Locks: San Diego State, BYU
The beat goes on for the two best teams in the league, with San Diego State keeping the inside track on the league title by winning at UNLV and keeping pace with BYU with the home rematch still in its pocket. Below them, though, there's a shake-up under way. UNLV fans, start to get nervous.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Colorado State (16-7, 7-3; RPI: 39, SOS: 38)The "Aggies," decked out in bright orange unis honoring the school's past identity as Colorado A&M, held off New Mexico to take a step toward finishing third in the league. There is one issue, though -- the Rams still play at BYU and at San Diego State. First things first, they must take care of business in front of dozens of people at TCU and then there's a huge home bubble game vs. UNLV on Saturday.GW: at UNLVBL: Sam Houston State, vs. Hampton
UNLV (18-7, 6-5; RPI: 30, SOS: 30)The Rebels couldn't handle SDSU at home and now have themselves in a bit of a spot. If they can't get it done at Colorado State on Saturday, they'll be 0-6 against the three teams ahead of them, with a trip to New Mexico still remaining next Wednesday. That kind of separation is a recipe for a shock trip to the NIT, so keep an eye on the Rebels over the next 10 days. GW: Wisconsin, Virginia Tech (N), at K-State (without Pullen/Kelly)?BL: UC Santa Barbara
Some intriguing situations are developing in the other conferences, with convoluted league races and teams with solid nonleague work trailing the packs. The circumstances, locally and in a big-picture sense, are ripe for some multibid action if things continue to break the right way. Stay tuned ...
SHOULD BE IN
Saint Mary's (20-4, 10-1; RPI: 31, SOS: 117)Who knew the Gaels' opener vs. St. John's would be SMC's best win of the season? No matter, as the Gaels took care of business in the Bay Area and are roaring toward a conference title that almost certainly will be enough protection in case of auto-bid loss. Assuming they get past dreadful San Diego on the road, they close with a three-pack of home fun: Utah State (BracketBusters), Gonzaga and Portland.GW: St. John'sBL: None
IN THE MIX
George Mason (21-5, 13-2; RPI: 23, SOS: 72)Make it 11 straight for Mason, which holds a one-game lead in the CAA heading to second-place VCU on Tuesday. If Mason can win the league by multiple games, it will be difficult to bypass them as an at-large, if needed. After the VCU game, GMU travels to reeling Northern Iowa for BracketBusters. Big week.GW: Old Dominion (plus Duquesne and Harvard)BL: Wofford (N)
Old Dominion (20-6, 11-4; RPI: 29, SOS: 61)The Monarchs did what they needed to do, going in to VCU and emerging with an 11-point win that closes the gap at the top of the league. ODU remains in third, two back of George Mason, but with Mason and VCU playing this week, ODU will be able to close the gap on someone. The Monarchs continue to have the best work out of league, so this is budding as an ideal scenario for a multibid CAA.GW: Clemson (N), Xavier (N), Richmond, at VCU?BL: at Delaware
Missouri State (20-6, 12-3; RPI: 46, SOS: 131)The Bears got a huge break with Wichita State's home loss to Southern Illinois. Now they're back in a tie for first and get the Shockers at home in the finale, looking to win the league and sweep WSU. The BracketBusters trip to Valpo is all risk for the Bears. It will only stand out if they lose, which they could.GW: at Wichita StateBL: at Tulsa?, at Evansville
Wichita State (20-5, 12-3; RPI: 51, SOS: 113)A team with no real quality wins can't afford to do what the Shockers did last Tuesday: lose at home to No. 196 Southern Illinois. Now Missouri State regains the upper hand in the league race as the Bears are tied with WSU and host the rematch in the season finale. WSU also hosts VCU in BracketBusters on Saturday in what looks like an at-large elimination match.GW: NoneBL: Southern Illinois
VCU (20-7, 12-3; RPI: 60, SOS: 143)VCU has the weakest overall at-large profile of the three CAA teams, so letting ODU come to town and walk out with an 11-point win was not good news. Now the Rams host George Mason in a huge game, as a win would move them back into a tie for first and give them tiebreaker advantage. Then VCU heads to Wichita State for BracketBusters, which is another enormous game. This is fun, right?GW: UCLA (N), at Old DominionBL: at Georgia State, at South Florida
Memphis (19-6, 7-3; RPI: 32, SOS: 46)Another buzzer-beating win on the road, this time at UCF, was followed by a sweep of USM and the Tigers have emerged as C-USA's most likely at-large candidate. If they can sweep UAB, which just was ambushed by a crucial injury, the rest of the game besides the trip to league-leader UTEP on Feb. 26 should be Ws. UTEP isn't a real at-large hopeful at this point due to the much weaker league slate and no quality wins out of conference.GW: Miami (Fla.)?, at Gonzaga?, sweep of Southern Miss, at UABBL: None
Utah State (23-3, 12-1; RPI: 26, SOS: 144)Uh oh. Losing at Idaho has opened the door for a disaster scenario where USU loses its BracketBusters game at Saint Mary's (which has beaten them the last two seasons) and then loses again in the WAC tournament and ends up in the NIT. With the softness of the Aggies' schedule -- Long Beach State, their best win, reached No. 100 on Sunday, so they're currently 1-2 vs. the top 100 -- I don't think they can eat two more losses. Worth noting, in case the Aggies don't win the auto bid: USU AD Scott Barnes is on the NCAA tournament selection committee. That never hurts.GW: NoneBL: at Idaho
Butler (18-9, 10-5; RPI: 43, SOS: 29)Butler swept three home games this week to stay in third place, a game and a half behind surprising Valparaiso. How the Bulldogs would love that game at Youngstown State back now. As is, they should win their final three games of the regular season and then the Horizon tourney will be crazy. Any of six teams could win the thing. Could Butler lose in the Horizon final and make it? The relative dearth of bubble teams in the major conferences means you won't see as many late surges into the tourney.GW: Florida State (N), Washington State (N), Cleveland State twice?BL: Evansville (without Nored), UW Milwaukee (twice), at Youngstown State
Gonzaga (16-9, 7-3; RPI: 72, SOS: 65)The Zags might not get a piece of the league crown, but can they win out until the WCC final and get in with a tough loss to Saint Mary's? Their four nonleague wins are picking up strength and they'd have a road win at SMC to go with them. Plus assuredly a sweet home win over No. 301 Cal State Bakersfield after the WCC season ends. (Whyyyyyyy?)GW: Baylor (N)?, Marquette (N), Xavier, OK State?BL: at Santa Clara, at San Francisco
Harvard (16-4, 7-1; RPI: 44, SOS: 169)The Crimson pulled off what Harvard's Kurt Svoboda says is the fourth-largest second-half comeback in NCAA history, rallying from 22 down at the break to beat Brown and stay on Princeton's heels. The dream for an Ivy at-large remains a remote possibility, as Princeton (7-0) comes to Harvard on March 5, in the Crimson's final game. A playoff between 13-1 teams won by Princeton would be interesting.GW: at BC, ColoradoBL: None
Cleveland State (20-5, 11-4; RPI: 37, SOS: 124)I don't see the Vikings having all that much hope as an at-large with four league losses and no quality wins anywhere on the nonconference ledger. That said, with their backs against the wall and needing a win, Norris Cole delivered the line of the season with a 41-20-9 masterclass. As suggested in SI.com's Midseason Crystal Ball, remember the name if this team does make it to the NCAAs.GW: NoneBL: at Detroit