Will multiple Pac-12 teams make the NCAAs? More Bubble Watch
Last night on Twitter, I posted the Pac-12's updated nonconference records: 1-23 against the RPI top 50 (the one is Stanford over Colorado State) and 8-41 against the top 100.
By any interpretation, those numbers are horrific. The Pac-12 does not have one marquee win all season and the Sun Belt, as a conference, has been more imposing in both of those subcategories. Even California, with an RPI of 35 as of Monday, has zilch in the way of at-large legitimacy, and the league leaders keep dropping games, further weakening their causes.
So how is it that two Pac-12 teams are in this week's bracket and two others very easily could have squeezed in? Because you have to have 37 at-large bids to complete the bracket and we're assuming, for now, that there are no upsets in smaller conference tournaments. That means that the cutline is as weak as it possibly can be, since there are no unanticipated bid thieves in the process.
Whether the Pac-12 becomes the first "power conference" to garner just one bid in the 64-plus team era depends on a few things (with a huge piece being Cal winning both the league
If things continue as they have been, the NCAA selection committee's mantra of "teams, not conferences" could be put to a very stringent test. It's worth noting that the committee will have members from the WCC (Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich), Big West (UC Riverside AD Stan Morrison), WAC (Utah State AD Scott Barnes) and Big Sky (Commissioner Doug Fullerton). That means 40 percent of the committee should be familiar with the Pac-12 ... and represent leagues that may benefit from its current condition.
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Remember last week when I mentioned the top of the ACC is down? Yup, Duke then got Snaered at Cameron for the first time in about 300 seasons. Also, you know it's a crazy year when the preseason No. 1 team (North Carolina) isn't part of a three-way tie for first that includes N.C. State and Florida State. That said, this kind of mayhem may lead to more bids for the muddled middle of the league.
Without researching it, I'll go out on a limb and say that the Seminoles are the first team ever to beat Duke and North Carolina and lose to Princeton and Harvard in the same season. The team many thought would appear in November seems to have arrived in January, with Michael Snaer's Duke-beating three at the buzzer providing the marquee win of all marquee wins in this league.
Off the Duke near-miss last week, a home loss to Virginia Tech (as desperate as the Hokies were) is disappointing. We may continue to see some inconsistency as the home schedule remains soft for awhile but the road slate gets testing. Computer numbers are slipping as Michigan and LSU add losses.
It's a soft 4-1, but it's 4-1, which is the kind of start the Wolfpack needed heading into the meat of the ACC schedule. Now things get real with a trip to Chapel Hill and then a visit from Virginia.
The Canes get one more week of injury-related benefit of the doubt, but a home loss to N.C. State is a killer for a team that needs wins badly. If the Canes can't sweep at Georgia Tech and Boston College this week, it doesn't look very good.
Baylor's profile is still a clear lock, but the outlook for the Bears is much cloudier after they were manhandled at Kansas and then outworked at home by Missouri. The Tigers, up to No. 2 in the nation, are the biggest surprise in the land. If you're still waiting for them to fold, don't bother.
The Wildcats slipped past Texas and then won at Oklahoma State to even up their league mark. The next five include a home-and-home with Texas Tech and home dates with Oklahoma and Texas A&M. In other words, they should be 7-4 (or better) heading into a mid-February gauntlet.
The Cyclones did TCOB, getting two wins over the bottom of the league. That's going to be part of the magic formula this season. Now they need to pick up a quality win or two and they'll be in strong shape.
Seton Hall's profile remains a lock for now, but things are slowly unwinding. In truth, this league has six teams that look extremely likely to dance and two others who could.
There ain't gonna be no three-peat. After a back-to-back reign as Team Bubble Watch, the Golden Eagles are going to pass on the crown. Post your new #TBW suggestions at that Twitter hashtag.
Two losses last week -- home to Cincinnati and at Tennessee -- makes it four defeats in six games and drops the Huskies a level. They better handle Notre Dame at home on Sunday because the four after that are rough, with trips to Georgetown, Louisville and Syracuse around a visit from Seton Hall.
Will the Bearcats end up ruing these last few days, where they let a huge road win at West Virginia slip away and then couldn't take out Melo-less Syracuse at home? Four of the five remaining road games are against the soft portion of the league, so 10-8 or better is very possible, but will that be enough?
The Cardinals did what everyone's done: beat Pitt, but at least this was on the road. The Cardinals still have four very difficult road tests and home dates with Syracuse and Connecticut, so this could be close.
Only seven games into the league slate and everyone has at least two losses. The quality of depth in the league this season is outstanding. Will some of the teams eat their own, though? Teams like Iowa and Minnesota may not make the dance, but each win they nab weakens someone else's case, too.
The Hoosiers dumped a bad game at Nebraska before handling Penn State at home. Forget the rest of the league slate this week, though. Why on Earth is Indiana hosting North Carolina Central on Feb. 22? Totally useless RPI killing game when your kids could get an additional week's rest ahead of March? Not sure I like it...
Missouri as my preseason "flop team" was a megawhiff, but did I properly sniff out the Illini as my midseason fade? They're starting to play with some fire after losing at Penn State and home to Wisconsin last week. The league road schedule still has trips to Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin, plus this week's trip to feisty Minnesota. Several home games are testers, too.
From last week's BW: "Every time I really want to buy on Michigan, they have a so-so performance that worries me." So yeah, fresh off a stirring one-point home win over Michigan State, the Wolverines went to Arkansas and trailed 198-2. Or something like that. Hard team to figure out.
The Badgers continue their roll, beating Northwestern handily and then picking up a solid road win at Illinois, with Jordan Taylor looking the part. Now the Badgers need to make Kohl back into the fortress it normally is, with Indiana and Ohio State visits around a trip to Penn State.
The Boilermakers were only a four-point dog at Michigan State, which led me to search the web for 10 minutes to see if I somehow missed multiple Spartan injuries. The line made no sense and neither did Purdue's performance, which was straight ugly. There are no easy road games left, so the Boilers will have to ride some Mackey magic if they want to dance.
Give the short-handed Gophers credit. They have battled all season and now they're getting wins to reward the effort. They pummeled Northwestern on Sunday and now have a big week ahead with a trip to East Lansing before a visit from Illinois. The 2OT loss in Champaign looms pretty large for both teams right now.
For some preposterous reason,
So league leaders Cal and Stanford travel to the Washington schools and the one team that goes 2-0 for the weekend is Wazzu. That makes perfect sense in this year's Pac-12, which continues its startling march toward one NCAA bid if Cal wins the auto bid (and maybe even if it doesn't).
Cal got a huge road win at Washington to create some separation ... and then promptly lost at Washington State. Sigh. Other than the fact that we think the team's decent and could win a BCS league, why exactly does Cal have a legit at-large profile? Huge home game with Stanford up next.
Bad weekend for the Cardinal as they were swept in Washington and now have to bounce over to Berkeley for a huge showdown with the Bears. Stanford has the best nonconference wins in the league, but that's not saying much.
The Ducks won another pair of games by single digits and move into a share of the league lead. Now they host Oregon State and then play at Utah and Colorado. Should be 8-3, minimum. Mix in that two of the nonleague losses came without Devoe Joseph, and maybe there's an argument the Ducks are ahead of Stanford, even without any real quality wins.
Lost at home to Cal, which puts a huge dent in Washington's at-large hopes. Beating Stanford was mandatory after that, but Cal was the top-50 win Washington doesn't have. Now the Huskies head to the Arizona schools, with Saturday's matchup in Tucson being crucial.
The Wildcats missed a final shot to get an important road win at Colorado and remain stuck in neutral. This Saturday's home game with Washington is a virtual elimination match as far as at-larges go.
The Buffs bounce back with a sweep of the Arizona schools, holding off the Wildcats by a point to nab a crucial victory. The bad news: seven of their final 11 league games are away.
Alabama gave it a good run in Lexington but fell short and the Cats claim the No. 1 ranking their fans assume is a birthright. Behind them, the order continues to shake out. Vanderbilt looked resurgent and then lost at home to enigmatic Mississippi State.
The Tide gave it a real good go at Rupp but couldn't get it done and dropped their third straight SEC game. Because of the uneven schedule, though, Alabama has a much easier run-in the rest of the way. They're done with Kentucky and Vanderbilt and also played the Mississippi State road game already.
Mississippi State is a mercurial bunch, but not one you'd assume would march into Memorial Gym and win. That's a small step backward for the surging Commodores, who have a tricky week ahead with home games against defensive-minded Tennessee and very good in-state foe Middle Tennessee State.
Lose at Ole Miss and then win at Vanderbilt? Sounds like a typically unpredictable Bulldogs week. Now, with the exception of a trip to Florida on Saturday, the schedule is very soft for the next seven games.
The Gators cruised past LSU at home, so nothing really changed for them overall. They need to navigate a trip to Oxford before three straight winnable home games follow.
Xavier ran into a buzz saw once again in Dayton, which leaves the Flyers leading the league and everyone scrambling for league wins and position. Can there be enough separation at the top by season's end for the league to nab three or even four bids?
Big home win for the Flyers over Xavier and Archie Miller's men keep on keepin' on. They're the only team in the league with fewer than two losses and have a solid collection of wins. The home schedule left is pretty soft. If Dayton can navigate one or two tough road tests, it could win the league.
Solid two-win week for the Owls, who handled La Salle and then Maryland in a nonleague tilt. Four of the next five are against teams outside the top 100, so there's a chance for a run here.
The Musketeers handled their home business but couldn't get it done in Dayton. Now they host Saint Louis in a big game before a run on the road, including a really important matchup at Memphis on Feb. 4.
The Billikens manhandled Duquesne in their only action of the week. This week features road tests at Xavier and UMass, which kick off a testing schedule down the stretch. For a team lacking signature wins, this is a crucial away opportunity.
Winning at Richmond keeps the Minutemen in the mix for now. This Saturday is a huge home game against Saint Louis. Get past that and UMass might have a pretty gaudy league mark heading into a final late-February run that includes Xavier and road tests at Dayton and Temple.
Losing at Xavier happens. Losing to city rival Penn is a big blow for the Hawks' at-large hopes. Now Dayton's in town before the Hawks head to Temple. This could be the last week in the Watch.
It looks all but certain the MWC will get two teams in, with the Rebels and Aztecs continuing to impress. Whether they can sneak a third in will depend on whether New Mexico can recover from a tough week or whether someone else moves in as a strong third or surprise auto bid winner.
The computer profile monster keeps breathing despite a harmful loss at Wyoming. We'll know all we need to know after the next three games: at New Mexico, San Diego State, at UNLV.
The Lobos are in significant trouble in the MWC race already after being put down at home by San Diego State and then being run ragged at UNLV. They need to stabilize and take care of the next five games, with Colorado State in town to kick that stretch off, before a huge four-day haul at San Diego State and home to UNLV starting Feb. 15. Without much nonconference heft, the Lobos will need at least a split of those two, and probably a tournament win over one or the other, to feel OK.
The two-bid scenario is unfolding great, with Creighton and Wichita State pulling away atop the league. If there's a surprise winner of Arch Madness, it looks like a three-bid league.
The Shockers got a big road win at Northern Iowa to help create a three-game gap between the top two and the rest. The 19-point thrashing of UNLV continues to look great. They need to navigate this week home to Evansville and at Drake before a four-game stretch that will determine how comfortable their Selection Sunday will be.
Is this the league that will benefit from slippage in other significant conferences? The top four schools continue to beat each other and take care of everyone else, which is a good recipe for multiple bids.
The Tigers ate their first league loss thanks to a very dicey and-one call in the dying seconds at Central Florida. After a should-win at home with Rice, there's a massive three-game run with home games against Marshall and Xavier wrapped around a trip to Southern Miss.
A big home win over Marshall keeps the Golden Eagles right in the hunt. They can't let their guard down at East Carolina ahead of a trip to Central Florida and then a home date with Memphis. After that, the schedule is very soft until the season-finale at Marshall, but more quality wins are needed.
Tough week for the Herd, which lost to West Virginia and then at Southern Miss. This week, it's home to UAB before a game at Memphis, which Marshall really needs. The only good win is losing steam.
The Gaels still have to play at BYU and Gonzaga, so this could change, but they're in great position at the moment. So are the Zags, but the second-place team isn't always a lock, so we'll keep them down for now.
Five of the next seven, including a trip to BYU, are on the road, but one of the home games is the return match with Saint Mary's on Feb. 9. If the Zags get either of those, they should be in solid shape for a bid.
A mystifying 14-point home loss to Loyola Marymount complicates things for the Cougars. Now they have to navigate a trip to Virginia Tech before Saint Mary's and Gonzaga arrive back-to-back. They're in bad need of quality wins, but if they somehow get all three of these, things will look much rosier.
Other than Murray State, it's hard to see anyone from this group being a truly legit at-large threat, thanks to the Ivy League's lack of a tournament making a Harvard bid less likely. That's even with the Ivy being fairly close right now to having four top-100 teams. That said, there are several "perfect season" scenarios brewing that we'll keep an eye on.
The Racers got a big scare at Morehead State, but stayed perfect with two more league wins. Their CUSA and A-10 wins continue to look very solid, so there should be no issues with an at-large if the Racers somehow stumble in the league tournament. It's hard to see the Racers losing at home, so they should remain undefeated until their final four games, three of which are on the road plus a solid BracketBusters matchup TBD.
The home-and-home with Dartmouth is done and now playtime is over. The next four are on the road, including matchups at Yale (on Friday), Princeton and Penn, the league's three other best teams. If Harvard takes care of all of its business, the second half of the season should be a coronation. If they drop one, or better yet two of those, this league could become awfully interesting.
The 49ers curbstomped UCSB on the road to stay perfect, which is what they're going to have to do to remain at-large worthy. Pitt is absolutely killing one of their two good nonleague wins.
If the Wildcats run the table until the SoCon final, could they squeeze in thanks to the upset of Kansas? Stranger things have happened ... although not many.
Replace "Kansas" with "short-handed Xavier" and "SoCon" with "Summit," and you have the same question for Oral Roberts. Good team, maybe with not enough juice for an at-large. That galling loss to UTSA in the first-round of the preseason NIT, when vulnerable Oklahoma State was on tap for a trip to NYC, is a killer.
The Gaels blew another huge lead, this time at Siena, and really are pressing their luck for at-large consideration. They don't have any real quality wins.
The Blue Raiders are a very good team that probably won't have the schedule strength to garner an at-large safety net, but in a year where so many major conferences are down, would a three-loss MTSU get a long look? That would include a road win at Vanderbilt, which is on the docket Saturday. Hmmm...