Bubble Watch: Vanderbilt, Florida heading in different directions
There are just 11 days remaining until Selection Sunday, and the NCAA tournament picture is starting to become clearer. The way we see it in at Bubble Watch, there are 14 spots remaining for 23 teams, with two of those spots belonging to the automatic qualifiers from the Missouri Valley and West Coast conferences. That means we’re more likely looking at 12 bids for 21 bubble teams, depending on what you think of the at-large candidacies of Wichita State, Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga.
What follows is a quick a look at the biggest bubble games for Wednesday, March 2, as well as the updated profiles of the five bubble teams that played on Tuesday. Below that is the full bubble picture.
Saint Joseph’s at St. Bonaventure, 7 p.m. ET
Right now, the Bonnies are one of the first four teams out of our field of 68. A win on Wednesday could change that, but wouldn’t absolutely do so. They’ve got a strong RPI (35), a weak schedule strength (85), and just two top-50 RPI wins. They also have two losses to teams outside the RPI top 150, so it’s not like beating Saint Joseph’s is all they need. What it would do, however, is give St. Bonaventure a very realistic shot at an at-large bid, and put it in position to secure a bid during next week’s Atlantic 10 tournament.
As for the Hawks, they will be going dancing. A win over the Bonnies might held their seeding, but they won’t have anything to worry about on Selection Sunday.
Seton Hall at Butler, 8:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1
The Pirates almost certainly locked up their spot in the field by beating then-No. 5 Xavier last weekend. They are now 4-3 against the RPI top 50 and 7-6 against the top 100 without a sub-100 loss to their name. That’s going to result in their first NCAA tournament bid since 2006.
Butler, on the other hand, needs to do some work. The Bulldogs are one of the last four teams in our field, but at just 2-7 against the RPI top 50 and 5-8 against the top 100, they still have some work to do before they can feel safe. They upended Seton Hall on the road in early February, and a sweep of the Pirates would be their best achievement to date this season. Still, Butler won’t feel safe unless it beats one of the league’s heavyweights, Villanova and Xavier, in the Big East tournament. If the Bulldogs lose Tuesday and don’t add a meaningful win in the conference tourney, expect to find them in the NIT.
Oregon State at USC, 11 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
Both of these teams appear safely in the field, with the Trojans checking in as a No. 8 seed, and Beavers as a No. 9 seed in our up-to-date tournament projections. This game could be a bit more about the psyches for both of these teams. USC is sliding after losing five of its last six games. The Trojans don’t have a win this season against an RPI top 25 team, and they are just 3-6 against the top 50. They haven’t really been in any serious trouble of falling out of the field of 68 at any point this year, but they’ve got a couple of tough games against Oregon State and Oregon this week. If they lose both and then drop their first game in the Pac-12 tournament, they’re going to be sweating on Selection Sunday.
The Beavers, meanwhile, have won five of their last seven games, and they have a computer-friendly resume that should translate to their first tournament berth since 1990. They enter this game 3-4 against the RPI top 25, 6-7 against the top 50 and 9-10 against the top 100. A win on Wednesday will secure a bid for the Beavers, and they should be able to afford a loss and still get in, as well.
Now, here's a look at how Tuesday's results impacted the bubble.
16–13, 9–8 ACC
RPI: 115, SOS: 90, kenpom.com: 51
The Tigers had an opportunity they desperately needed to capitalize on, a home game against fourth-ranked Virginia, but they just couldn’t close the deal. Clemson had a one-point lead with a bit more than six minutes left, but the Cavaliers used a 6-0 run to grab a lead they would never relinquish. The Tigers have three great wins—against Louisville, Duke and Miami, which came in succession in mid-January—that are keeping them alive, but their path to an at-large bid got a whole lot longer on Tuesday.
Remaining regular season schedule: vs. Boston College on Saturday
Path to the dance: At the absolute worst, Clemson is going to have to advance to the ACC tournament championship game. That would likely leave the Tigers with at least five top-25 wins on Selection Sunday. That could be enough, but they still might need some help from their fellow bubble teams.
17–13, 8–9 SEC
RPI: 45, SOS: 14, kenpom.com: 45
Current Bracket Watch status: First four out
It wasn’t that long ago when Florida appeared to be heading to a stress-free Selection Sunday. Since then, the Gators have lost four of five games, with their last meaningful win coming on Jan. 30 against West Virginia. Perhaps most damning is their 2-10 record against the RPI top 50 after losing rather convincingly to Kentucky, 89-79, on Tuesday. In essence, the one thing they’ve showed the Selection Committee is that they cannot regularly beat tournament-quality competition. You could certainly make an RPI- and SOS-based argument for putting Florida in the field ahead of conference rival Alabama, but the Gators will have no one to blame but themselves if they don’t get one of the final spots in the Big Dance.
Remaining regular season schedule: at Missouri
Path to the dance: Beating 10-20 Missouri won’t do anything for Florida’s tournament hopes. The Gators are going to have to do some serious damage in the SEC tournament, likely needing to appear in the championship game at an absolute minimum.
George Washington Colonials
22–8, 11–6 Atlantic 10
RPI: 61, SOS: 96, kenpom.com: 67
The Colonials cruised past George Mason on Tuesday, a result that won't have much impact on its tourney hopes. What should is their one great win (over Virginia) and one very good win (against Seton Hall). The win against the Cavaliers may have been a long time ago—Nov. 16, in just the team's second game of the season—but it's one no one can scrub from their resume. Two weeks after that upset, GW beat the Pirates, a team that should be locked into an at-large bid. On the flip side, George Washington has lost to DePaul and Saint Louis, a pair of teams that could end the season outside the top 200 in RPI. Still, those wins over Virginia and Seton Hall, as well as a Feb. 6 road win at VCU, give the Colonials a puncher’s chance to get one of the last at-large spots in the field of 68. It is, however, going to require a deep run in the A-10 tournament for them to feel secure.
Remaining regular season schedule: at Davidson on Saturday
Path to the dance: Beating Davidson is a must. At 17-10 and 9-7 in the Atlantic 10, the Wildcats aren’t a bad team, but they will not be going dancing unless they can find some more eligibility for Steph Curry, and GW simply can’t afford to lose to a non-tournament team right now. From there the Colonials will need to, at the very least, move on to the conference tournament championship game, with two wins in Brooklyn over the likes of tourney hopefuls Saint Joseph’s, Dayton, VCU and St. Bonaventure. The issue for GW’s at-large candidacy is that beating either of the latter two teams, one of which would likely happen in the A-10 quarterfinals, may not move the needle all that much.
18–12, 11–6 SEC
RPI: 86, SOS: 63, kenpom.com: 75
When the Tigers beat then-No. 15 Texas A&M just two weeks ago in Baton Rouge, it appeared we’d all be treated to seeing freshman superstar Ben Simmons in the NCAA tournament in what will almost certainly be his lone college season. However, LSU followed that impressive win with three straight losses, to Alabama (at home), Tennessee and Arkansas. The latter two teams have no hope of securing an at-large bid, while the Crimson Tide are one of the last teams in our current field of 68. Those are all damaging defeats. The Tigers are 2-2 against the RPI top 25 and 5-5 against the top 50, but they have six losses to teams ranked between 101 and 150. Perhaps the only thing LSU has going for itself is a trip to Kentucky on Saturday, which gives the Tigers a chance for the marquee win they desperately need.
Remaining regular season schedule: at Kentucky on Saturday
Path to the dance: LSU barely avoided what would have been a bubble-bursting loss on Tuesday. A dreadful Missouri team cut a 22-point halftime deficit to three before Simmons and company held on for an 80-71 victory in their home finale. Now Johnny Jones' team must beat the Wildcats in Lexington and probably get at least one more meaningful win in the SEC tournament to at least force the committee to keep the Tigers in mind. A second meaningful win in the conference tournament would likely put them over the hump.
19–11, 11–6 SEC
RPI: 49, SOS: 38, kenpom.com: 24
Current Bracket Watch seed: 10
Vanderbilt had been one of the nation’s most disappointing teams all season, but it has finally started to resemble the club many people thought it would be in the preseason, when the Commodores opened the year ranked No. 18 in the AP poll. Sitting at 15-11 just two weeks ago, Vanderbilt has since won four straight games, including Tuesday night's 86-69 smackdown of Tennessee, which comes on the heels of a week in which the Commodores trounced Florida in Gainesville and then beat Kentucky by 12 in Nashville. They’re still just 2-6 against the RPI top 25 and 5-7 against the top 50, with one more big opportunity remaining in the regular season against Texas A&M, but they've done enough to move from up from one of the last four teams in our projected field to a slightly more secure No. 10 seed. When Vanderbilt is at its best, it is no worse than the third-best team in this conference, behind only the Wildcats and Aggies. If the Commodores get in the Big Dance, they will be dangerous.
Remaining regular season schedule: at Texas A&M
Path to safety: Beat the Aggies or avoid bad losses. Vandy has too many strikes against it—losses to Mississippi, Arkansas and Mississippi State stand out—to climb much higher up the bracket, but as long as it doesn't lose to a bottom-half team in the SEC tournament,it will be headed back to the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2012.
Field of 68 update
Now for the rest of the bubble contenders:
20–8, 9–7 ACC
RPI: 41, SOS 39, Kenpom.com: 40
Current Bracket Watch: 9-seed in East Region
The Panthers have been in the field of 68 in every Bracket Watch of the season, but they haven’t really felt safe since losing to North Carolina State and Clemson at the end of January. On Sunday, they finally notched the signature win they lacked all year, upending Duke by 14 points at home. Pitt is still just 1–6 against the RPI top 25 and 2–6 against the top 50, but it doesn't have any losses outside the top 150. The Panthers are starting to look like a good bet for inclusion in the field, especially when you consider how soft the bubble is behind them.
Remaining regular season schedule: at Virginia Tech, at Georgia Tech
Path to safety: Two more wins should do the trick, whether they both come this week, or one comes in the ACC tournament. Pitt won’t get a chance to build its résumé in the ACC tourney until its second game, but it has done enough to this point that it likely won’t need to add any big wins to get an at-large invite.
20-9, 8-8 Big East
RPI: 45, SOS: 55, kenpom.com: 59
Current Bracket Watch: 9-seed in Midwest Region
It has only been five weeks since Providence beat Villanova in Philadelphia to move to 5–2 in the Big East, but it might as well have been five years ago. The Friars are 3–6 since then, with their wins coming against Georgetown and DePaul. They definitely still retain an inside track among the bubble teams, but they’re just 1–4 against the top 25 and 2–6 against the top 50, which is borderline shocking for a team with two talents like Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil. The fact that Providence was swept by a Marquette team that doesn't have a single other league win against a team above it in the conference standings will forever be one of the mysteries of the 2015–16 college basketball season. If the Friars suffer through a disastrous nexrt two weeks, it could also be what ultimately keeps them out of the Big Dance.
Remaining regular season schedule: vs. Creighton, at St. John’s
Path to safety: Win both of those games against teams they are already 3-0 against this season and then advance to the semifinals of the Big East tournament. Doing so would almost certainly mean adding a win over Butler, Seton Hall or Creighton, and a loss to Villanova or Xavier to the résumé. That should be good enough.
Oregon State Beavers
17–10, 8–8 Pac-12
RPI: 32, SOS: 9, kenpom.com: 60
Current Bracket Watch: 9-seed in South Region
The Beavers swept the state of Washington at home last week, beating the Huskies and Cougars to get back to .500 in the Pac-12. The traditional indicators of RPI and strength of schedule will be their friend, as will the improving profiles of Oregon, Utah and California, all of which they have beaten this season. Oregon State is 3–4 against the top 25, 6–7 against the top 50 and 9–10 against the top 100, without a bad loss on its ledger. It’s not an overwhelmingly strong résumé, but it’s one that definitely suggests an at-large bid will be coming their way on Selection Sunday. Whether or not they actually win a game in the tournament remains to be seen. They’re just 83rd in adjusted offensive efficiency on kenpom.com.
Remaining regular season schedule: at USC, at UCLA
Path to safety: Beat USC. That would give the Beavers their first top-50 road win of the year. Short of that, the only way they can feel safe on Selection Sunday is by advancing to the Pac-12 tournament semifinals, which would almost certainly include a win over one of the conference’s sure-fire at-large teams.
20–9, 10–6 AAC
RPI: 53, SOS: 62, kenpom.com: 28
Current Bracket Watch: 9-seed in West Region
The traditional indicators that are working for Oregon State are working against Connecticut. Despite the Huskies' pedestrian RPI rank and strength of schedule, however, they are 2–1 against the top 25, 3–2 against the top 50 and 6–9 against the top 100, without a sub-100 loss on their résumé. More often than not, that adds up to an at-large bid. Still, a home loss on Sunday to a Houston team with an RPI barely inside the top 80 was not what UConn needed. That defeat didn’t knock the Huskies out of the field of 68, but it set them up to potentially fall out with one more misstep.
Remaining regular season schedule: at SMU, vs. UCF
Path to safety: Win out in the regular season. If UConn beats SMU in Dallas and then takes care of business against UCF, it shouldn’t much matter what the Huskies do in the AAC tournament, especially since their first game would likely be against a tournament-worthy foe. If they also win that game, they won't have anything to worry about on Selection Sunday. But a loss to SMU on Thursday would make a deep AAC tournament run much more important.
20–10, 10–7 Big Ten
RPI: 59, SOS: 60, kenpom.com: 48
Current Bracket Watch: 10-seed in East Region
The Wolverines have lost three of their last four games, all of which were on the road, and two of which came against teams we have locked into at-large berths (Maryland and Wisconsin). There’s not really a bad loss on their résumé, with their only sub-50 defeats coming to Connecticut on a neutral floor and Ohio State in Columbus. If they follow that script over the next two weeks, they will be in the field. If they don’t, however, they could be doomed by their 3–10 record against the RPI top 100, which would likely get worse if they were ultimately on the outside of the tournament picture. Senior guard Caris LeVert missing the rest of the season with a lower leg injury will not help Michigan.
Path to safety: Beat the Hawkeyes, or win one game in the conference tournament. That would give the Wolverines either a fourth top-25 win, or preclude them from suffering a bad loss. Either outcome should earn Michigan a trip to the dance. Remember, it already has wins over Texas, Maryland and Purdue. Few bubble teams can boast so strong a trio of victories.
18–10, 12–4 AAC
RPI: 58, SOS: 52, kenpom.com: 93
Current Bracket Watch: 10-seed in Midwest Region
The AAC is going to be one of the most interesting conferences over the next two weeks, with four teams battling for at-large bids. Temple is one of those four. It’s hard to ignore the fact that the Owls went 6–1 against SMU, Cincinnati, Connecticut and Tulsa this season, with sweeps of the Huskies and Bearcats. At the same time, they have just one top-40 win, and two losses outside the top 150.
Remaining regular season schedule: vs. Memphis, at Tulane
Path to safety: Avoid any more bad losses. Temple only has low-caliber teams left in the regular season, but it must win both of those games. That would guarantee the Owls a share of the regular season conference title, and make them the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which would mean a date with one of the four conference doormats in their opening game. In other words, if Temple wins its next three games, it will be happy on Selection Sunday.
19–11, 9–8 ACC
RPI: 54, SOS: 37, kenpom.com: 41
Current Bracket Watch: 10-seed in South Region
The Orange have nine wins in one of the best conferences in the country, which will guarantee them no worse than a .500 league record, but it won't guarantee them an at-large bid. Just two of their wins (at Duke, vs. Notre Dame) came against tourney locks. At this point, Syracuse can’t afford an ugly loss, but it also probably needs one more strong win to impress the committee. The Orange missed a chance to get one on Monday night in Chapel Hill, falling to North Carolina 75-70, and they are now 4–8 against the RPI top 50.
Remaining regular season schedule: at Florida State
Path to safety: Syracuse probably needs to go on a run in the ACC tournament to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday. It absolutely needs to beat Florida State in Saturday's regular season finale. The last thing the Orange want to do is go into Selection Sunday off a conference tourney loss to a team like Virginia Tech or North Carolina State, their likely opening round opponents in the ACC tourney.
21–8, 11–5 AAC
RPI: 50, SOS: 92, kenpom.com: 29
Current Bracket Watch: 11-seed in East Region (Last Four In)
Cincinnati swept Connecticut, won at VCU and beat Tulsa at home this season. Those are the Bearcats’ four best wins of the season. They’re 0–3 against the top 25 and just 2–4 against the top 50. In fact, Cincinnati is under .500 against every RPI subset the committee will examine on Selection Sunday. There’s not much wiggle room for this team. The Bearcats enter the final week of the regular season as the last team in the field to avoid the First Four, and one more loss could send them not to Dayton in the opening week of the tournament, but to the NIT. Thursday’s trip to Houston is a sneakily tough game that could be their death knell.
Remaining regular season schedule: at Houston, vs. SMU
Path to safety: Win at least one game this week and get to the AAC tournament championship game. There’s probably a path with fewer roadblocks, but not another one that will keep Cincinnati's collective heart rate in check on Selection Sunday. If the Bearcats lose to Houston and SMU this week, it could very well take and AAC tournament championship for Mick Cronin’s bunch to get in the field.
Saint Mary’s Gaels
24–4, 15–3 West Coast
RPI: 47, SOS: 174, kenpom.com: 36
Current Bracket Watch: 11-seed in Midwest Region (automatic qualifier from WCC)
There’s really no way to keep Saint Mary’s out of the bracket picture right now. The Gaels shared the regular season WCC title with Gonzaga, but swept the Bulldogs, which gives them pole position heading into the conference tournament. Still, neither team has a top-50 win on their résumé. St. Mary's did go 5–2 against the top 100, but none of those wins was against a team with a realistic shot at an at-large bid. Translation: Just one team from the WCC will go dancing this year.
Remaining regular season schedule: vs. Grand Canyon (non-conference)
Path to safety: Win the WCC tournament.
19–9, 8–8 Big East
RPI: 57, SOS: 73, kenpom.com: 38
Current Bracket Watch: 11-seed in East Region (Last Four In)
The Bulldogs got a win they absolutely had to have against Georgetown last week, though they tried their best to give it away before winning by three in overtime. They’re yet another team that is mostly making its way toward a bid by avoiding bad losses, with just two defeats coming against teams outside the RPI top 50. That equals their number of top-50 wins, however, meaning they’ll be given very little leeway from the committee. Butler won’t feel safe unless it does some real damage over the next two weeks.
Remaining regular season schedule: vs. Seton Hall, vs. Marquette
Path to safety: Win out and advance to the Big East tournament championship game. That would give the Bulldogs wins over Seton Hall and likely one of Villanova or Xavier, without adding a bad loss to their résumé. They can definitely get in without that strong a finish, but that’s the only way they’ll feel safe.
Wichita State Shockers
23–7, 16–2 Missouri Valley
RPI: 38, SOS: 102, kenpom.com: 7
Current Bracket Watch: 11-seed in South Region (automatic qualifier from MVC)
The Shockers won their final five games of the regular season, cruising to their second straight MVC regular season championship. Having said that, they don’t have a realistic path to an at-large spot. They may have dominated the MVC, and they certainly have a name brand, but that won’t obscure the fact that they had one top-50 win this year, albeit a very strong one over Utah. Their first game in the MVC tournament will be against the winner of Loyola-Chicago and Bradley. If they win that game, they’ll take on the winner of Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois in the semifinals. A loss in any of those games would almost certainly send them to the NIT. Even if they advance to the conference championship game only to lose to a solid Evansville or Illinois State team, there simply won’t be much meat on their at-large résumé.
Next game: MVC quarterfinals vs. Loyola-Chicago/Bradley winner.
Path to safety: Win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament title.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
19–10, 11–6 AAC
RPI: 39, SOS: 43, kenpom.com: 42
Current Bracket Watch: 12-seed in West Region (Last Four In)
The Bubble Watch Committee here at SI.com really can’t wait for the AAC tournament to get going. That's the only thing that will provide clarity in this conference. Their contenders’ résumés are so similar that it’s hard for one team to stand out. Tulsa looked ready to make a move last week, but lost at Memphis after scoring a big win over Temple. The Golden Hurricane are 1–1 against the top 25, which simply reflects their season split with SMU. It’s hard to imagine all four potential at-large teams in this conference making the dance, even if they’re the four teams that reach the conference tournament semifinals. That makes advancing to the AAC championship paramount for all four.
Remaining regular season schedule: vs. South Florida
Path to safety: The only way Tulsa will be absolutely safe is if it wins the AAC’s automatic bid. Still, if the Golden Hurricane they take care of South Florida this week and then advance to the conference tournament championship, they’ll at least have the inside track at one of the two at-large bids this conference is likely to get.
Alabama Crimson Tide
17–11, 8–8 SEC
RPI: 55, SOS: 30, kenpom.com: 81
Current Bracket Watch: 12-seed in West Region (Last Four In)
We’re not going to have a great read on the Crimson Tide’s tourney hopes until we’re a few days into the SEC tournament. If they’re still alive at that point, they’ll be trending in the right direction. If they aren’t, it’s probably going to be hard for them to get in. They had a great run in the middle of February when they knocked off Texas A&M, Florida and LSU in succession, but all that did was put them in range of getting an at-large bid. It didn’t do anything to lock them into the dance. Then, of course, they lost at home to Mississippi State. That’s the sort of loss teams just can’t afford when they’re on the bubble. Alabama and Tulsa should be viewed as the last two teams in our field for the time being.
Remaining regular season schedule: vs. Arkansas, at Georgia
Path to safety: Win both of their games this week and advance to the SEC championship with at least two résumé-building wins (think South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M and Kentucky) along the way. Anything short of that, and the Tide will be sweating on Selection Sunday.
21-8, 13-3 Atlantic 10
RPI: 44, SOS: 80, kenpom.com: 39
Current Bracket Watch: First Four Out
The Rams had a seriously up-and-down week, losing to a terrible George Mason team before bouncing back with a desperation win at George Washington. That washed most, but not all, of the bad taste from their mouth after losing to the Patriots, who rank 191st in RPI. That defeat was VCU's second of the year to a team with an RPI rank of 170 or worse, and that’s going to be awfully tough for the Selection Committee to forgive, especially when the Rams also have zero top-25 wins and just two victories over top-50 teams. VCU simply cannot lose again to a team that isn’t tourney-bound.
Remaining regular season schedule: vs. Davidson, at Dayton
Path to the dance: The Rams must win both of these games this week, though Dayton’s profile has cratered over the last few weeks. If they do that, they’ll guarantee themselves at least a share of the A-10 regular season title. And if they follow that by advancing to the conference tourney championship, they’ll likely crowd out one of the teams in front of them in this week’s Bracket Watch.
St. Bonaventure Bonnies
20–7, 12–4 Atlantic 10
RPI: 35, SOS: 85, kenpom.com: 82
Current Bracket Watch: First Four Out
The Bonnies have done great work to get themselves into the at-large discussion this year, something that seemed unthinkable at the beginning of the season. Still, they’re just 2–2 against the top 50, with a pair of losses outside the top 150 (Duquesne, La Salle). The committee will definitely give them points for both of those top-50 wins coming on the road (at Dayton and at Saint Joseph’s), but it won’t be enough to get them over the hump. St. Bonaventure is in range of on at-large bid, but it likely needs a couple more wins to really make a strong case.
Remaining regular season schedule: vs. Saint Joseph’s, at Saint Louis
Path to the dance: Both of the Bonnies’ remaining regular season games are crucial. A win over St. Joe’s would give them another in the top 50 (potentially in the top 25), while they cannot add a loss to a dreadful Saint Louis team to the résumé. They’re in the same boat as VCU, and there may not be room in the field of 68 for both of them. They could very well be on a crash course to meet in the A-10 semifinals, which could end up being a de facto play-in game.
23–7, 15–3 West Coast
RPI: 64, SOS: 121, kenpom.com: 32
Current Bracket Watch: First Four Out
If Selection Sunday were last weekend, and we here at SI.com determined the field, the Bulldogs would have been one of the first four teams out of the dance. Having said that, they do not have a realistic path to an at-large berth. That’s what happens when you don’t win a top-50 game all season and go just 3–7 against the top 100. All the bad-loss avoidance in the world doesn’t mean a thing when your three best wins come against Connecticut, Washington and BYU.
Next game: WCC quarterfinals vs. Portland
Path to the dance: Win the WCC tournament.
16–13, 8–9 Pac-12
RPI: 76, SOS: 20, kenpom.com: 65
Current Bracket Watch: Out
The wheels fell off for the Huskies in the second half of the Pac-12 regular season. Ten games into their conference season, they were 7–3 with a sweep of UCLA and single wins over USC and Colorado. They’ve lost six of their last seven games since, falling to all of the conference’s certain or likely tourney teams, other than USC, during the stretch. They remain on the at-large radar, but they’ll need a ton of help from the teams ahead of them if they’re going to get into the dance without winning the Pac-12 tournament.
Remaining regular season schedule: vs. Washington State
Path to the dance: Short of winning the Pac-12 tournament, Washington will need to beat Washington State this week and two of Oregon, Utah, California and Arizona en route to the conference championship game. Do that, and the Huskies could probably withstand a loss in the Pac-12 final.
Ohio State Buckeyes
19–11, 11–6 Big Ten
RPI: 74, SOS: 58, kenpom.com: 64
Current Bracket Watch: Out
Thanks to the unbalanced schedule in the Big Ten, Ohio State got to 10 wins in the league without picking up a single one against the conference’s six sure-fire tournament teams. It finally took down one of those teams with a home win over Iowa last weekend. That was the Buckeyes' second top-25 win of the season, joining an earlier, unlikely triumph over Kentucky in Brooklyn, N.Y. Unfortunately, they still only have as many top-50 wins (three) as they do sub-100 losses. What Ohio State does have going for it, however, is its conference. Indeed, the Buckeyes have one more chance to score a big win in the regular season when they visit Michigan State this weekend, and they will get at least one opportunity in the Big Ten tournament to add to their résumé, so long as they can beat one of the conference’s bottom-four teams in their first-round game.
Remaining regular season schedule: at Michigan State
Path to the dance: Beat the Spartans this weekend, and then win two games in the conference tournament. That second game will almost certainly be against one of Maryland, Iowa or Wisconsin, meaning Ohio State would have as many as four top-25 wins in this scenario. It might not be enough, but it would give the Buckeyes a chance at one of the last four spots in the field.