Thursday February 24th, 2011

With Selection Sunday looming just two weeks from Sunday, each win or loss can significantly shuffle the bubble deck. Here's a midweek primer on the upward and downward movers so far this week.

(Records don't include games against non-Division I opponents.)

Alabama (19-8, 11-2 SEC) Since the Tide's résumé is being built on a sparkling (albeit somewhat meatless) SEC record, avoiding a horrid home loss to Auburn on JaMychal Green's last-second tip-in was extremely important. They have a decent chance (at Ole Miss, at Florida, vs. Georgia) to get to 13-3, and it's hard to see that not being enough.

Butler (19-9, 12-5 Horizon)/Cleveland State (21-6, 12-4 Horizon) It's not as much what they did but what Valparaiso did in losing at Wisconsin-Green Bay Tuesday night. That opens up the possibility for the league's two best teams to get the double-byes in the conference tournament and meet in the final, which is the only chance the league has to get two bids.

Cincinnati (22-6, 9-6 Big East) The Bearcats needed quality wins and they have picked up two during this three-game winning streak, including a huge marquee victory at Georgetown on Wednesday. They only need one more win in their final three (UConn, at Marquette, G'town -- now without Chris Wright) to get to 10-8 and feel good.

Kansas State (18-9, 7-6 Big 12) In soccer, they call the Wildcats' win at Nebraska a "six-pointer" because not only did the Wildcats win (worth three points in soccer), but they hung a loss on a direct bubble competitor (denying them three). K-State can't hang its hat solely on the win over Kansas. The 'Cats have chances against Mizzou and at Texas up next and likely need to get one of those.

Michigan State (15-11, 8-7 Big Ten) The Spartans got a huge win at Minnesota on Tuesday, hurting a bubble competitor in the process. Despite a lack of huge wins, the Spartans' schedule strength and general state of the league and the bubble probably means MSU needs two more wins to feel comfortable about its chances.

Tennessee (17-11, 7-6 SEC) The Vols alleviated the pain of a stretch of four losses in five games with an almost carbon-copy dumping of Vandy for a season sweep. Despite some squirrely losses, they have far too many good wins to be concerned now.

UNLV (21-7, 9-5 MWC) On Saturday, the Rebels were in Fort Collins, Colo., with real questions looming about their NCAA hopes. After winning there and then escaping Albuquerque in OT on Wednesday, UNLV will almost certainly finish third in the league and looks very, very strong for an at-large, if needed.

Florida State (19-8, 9-4 ACC) The Surviving Singleton Project took a hit Wednesday when the 'Noles were carved up by Maryland. Home games up next against Miami and North Carolina will be important proving grounds. The 'Noles have to show they are a capable team without their best player in order to get full credit for what they did with him.

Illinois (17-11, 7-8 Big Ten) It seems unlikely, with home games left against Iowa and Indiana, that the Illini can crater and miss the NCAAs, but they are heading in a very bad direction, having lost eight of their last 12. Even at 8-10, they'd probably sneak in on the strength of their quality wins, but that would be unwise to find out.

Baylor (16-10, 6-7 Big 12) The Bears badly need quality wins. They did not need to get beaten badly by a quality team, but that's what happened Wednesday at Missouri. Now under .500 in the league and with an empty nonleague profile, Baylor better take advantage of home shots at Texas and Texas A&M around a trip to OK State. One quality win over the Aggies isn't going to do it if they're 7-9.

Boston College (16-11, 6-7 ACC) The Eagles got pounded at home by Miami on Wednesday and now have lost six of their last eight. With just one top-50 win, an 8-8 league mark is no ticket to dance. Nor is it a given they will get those two wins, with trips to Virginia and Virginia Tech on tap before what should be a home win over Wake.

Colorado State (18-9, 8-5 Mountain West) The Rams whiffed on their shot to sweep UNLV on Saturday and then couldn't get it done at BYU on Wednesday. The quality wins aren't there to lean on a fourth-place finish in the league. They have a shot left at SDSU and then could get one of the two league heavyweights in the MWC semis, but this is starting to look like an NIT team.

Michigan (16-12, 7-9 Big Ten) Ugh. The hard-luck Wolverines reached the bottom of the barrel Wednesday when Wisconsin banked in a three at the buzzer to steal a game in which Michigan missed its last six free throws. Michigan badly needed that quality win and now has to win its last two just to get to .500 and have any claim.

Minnesota (17-10, 6-9 Big Ten) Not only do the Gophers have an unseemly league mark, but they're clearly even worse since Al Nolen's injury and have lost six of their last seven overall. Now they face a virtual elimination game against Michigan on Saturday and probably need to win their last three in league play to have a solid chance, despite three quality wins.

Nebraska (18-9, 6-7 Big 12) The Huskers dropped a crucial home game Wednesday to K-State and now may need to win all three of their remaining games, none of which (at Iowa State, Missouri, at Colorado) are gimmes.

VCU (21-9, 12-5 Colonial) A third straight loss in CAA play, this one to Drexel, really makes it difficult to see the Rams as a legit at-large. Now they're probably finishing fourth, behind Hofstra (as well as Old Dominion and George Mason) and likely don't have the collection of quality nonleague wins to overcome that.

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