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February 27, 2015

The Pac-12's NCAA tournament bubble is beginning to pulsate.

No. 7 Arizona and No. 13 Utah are virtual locks to make the bracket, at this point fighting for higher seeds.

After that, the Pac-12 has three teams that could have a good shot with a strong finish and two others that will really need to make some noise at the end of the season.

Once on the outside looking in, Oregon (21-8) put itself squarely inside the bubble with its massive home win over Utah last Sunday. The Ducks beat California on the road Wednesday and could enhance their bracket chances by knocking off fellow bubble team Stanford in Northern California on Sunday.

The Cardinal (18-9) did not make it easy on themselves with four losses in five games, but followed that up with wins over Cal and Oregon State. Sunday's game against Oregon will be huge for Stanford, which closes the regular season with a road trip against the two Arizona schools.

UCLA (17-12) still has some work to do after a troubling trip to Arizona that resulted in a pair of losses. The Bruins bounced back to beat Washington, but can't afford slipups against Washington State and rival USC to close out the regular season. UCLA is 14-1 at home with its only loss to No. 3 Gonzaga, which could help.

The surprise of the early conference season, Oregon State (17-11) has taken a tumble with four losses in five games. The Beavers have some ugly losses - Quinnipiac was a big one - and an RPI of 89, so winning the Pac-12 tournament may be their only shot.

Arizona State (15-13) is in the same lifeboat as Oregon State, likely needing to win the conference tournament to get into the bracket for the second straight season. The Sun Devils knocked off rival Arizona, but have too many losses and an RPI too low (82) to expect an invite at this point.

A few more teams rising and falling on the NCAA tournament bubble.

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ON THE RISE

Georgia. The Bulldogs (18-9) needed a quality road win to pad their resume and got it Wednesday night by knocking off fellow bubbler Mississippi 76-72. A decent RPI (30) and strength of schedule (35) should keep Georgia in good shape if it doesn't trip up down the stretch.

Davidson. The Wildcats (20-6) have won six straight and recently got point guard Jack Gibbs back after he suffered a knee injury. Davidson's RPI of 48 is average and its strength of schedule is weak at 122nd, so a few more wins could strengthen its case.

LSU. The Tigers (20-8) aren't exactly on the rise, more holding steady. A loss to Texas A&M last week didn't look good, but LSU completed a season sweep of Florida and knocked off Auburn on the road since then. Some tough games coming up, including Ole Miss on Saturday.

St. John's. The Red Storm (19-9) picked up a huge win on Monday by knocking off fellow bubble team Xavier by one, their fourth win in five games. There's still some tough games left, though, including No. 6 Villanova in the regular-season finale.

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FADING HOPES

Illinois. The Illini (17-11) had a good opportunity to beef up their resume on the road against Iowa on Wednesday night. Instead of picking up a quality road win, Illinois lost 68-60, its third straight loss since knocking off Michigan State and Michigan. The Illini play Northwestern and Nebraska at home next, games that won't do much for their NCAA chances even if they win.

Texas. The Longhorns (17-11) have been bouncing along the bubble for a few weeks and seem to have landed on the outside after a three-game losing streak. Texas is 6-9 in Big 12 play and has just one win against RPI top-50 teams, which doesn't look good. The Longhorns have a couple of big chances to make an impression coming up, though: at No. 8 Kansas on Saturday and against No. 19 Baylor next week.

Temple. The Owls (20-9) stumbled last week with two big chances to boost their resume, losing road games to No. 21 SMU and Tulsa. Temple has a rout over Kansas on its resume, but may need a strong finish to get into the field of 68.

Indiana. The Hoosiers (19-10) did not do themselves any favors by losing to Northwestern this week. Indiana closes out the season against Iowa and Michigan State before the Big Ten tournament, so there are still chances to impress the selection committee.

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