A slice of bracket history ...
William of Occam was a 14th-century English philosopher whose scientific thinking helped shape the transition from medieval to modern thought. His guiding principle -- today known as Occam's Razor -- states when you are faced with a problem, you should choose the simplest solution that makes sense.
Three-quarters of a millennium later, Occam's Razor is helping shape the transition to modern bubble thought, where the ordering of groups of similar objects may differ greatly from historic trends.
Today's bracket dilemma: What do you do with a conference with six very good teams, where the auto-bid is currently held by a team with one of the weaker at-large profiles in the group, in a year when other major conferences are top-heavy or just bad, and very few mid-majors have staked a real claim?
Channeling William (who would have been masterful on the selection committee): You put them all in.
Yes, there are six Atlantic 10 teams in today's bracket. Yes, that's more than the Big East or the Big Ten. Yes, that looks weird in print, but that's what can happen when there is growing separation at the top of most of the bigger conferences. The line of delineation this week was as clear as it's been all season. Basically, the good teams got in and the rest missed out.
It would take a very unusual sequence of events -- like a near-perfect series of remaining league results, a one-bid Pac-10, no one emerging from the Big East muck and very few small-conference tourney upsets -- for the A-10 to crack open a six-pack on March 14, but it's not impossible. And that's the point.
We have to get to 34 at-larges somehow. So, given today's data, what would William say about a bracket with six A-10 teams in it? The easiest answer is: They all belong.
Remember, records listed are Division I only, per NCAA Tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Sunday's collegerpi.com RPI report.
Send your very valuable feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or to @aglock on Twitter. All submissions are read; polite, fact-based ones stand the best chance of a response. Readers who claim their team's record is wrong because they failed to read the previous paragraph will be forced to live-blog North Carolina's CBI opener.
GW: Good wins over top-50ish foes (home league wins judged more strictly).BL: Bad losses to teams outside top 100 or to direct bubble competitors.
The Blue Devils bounced back against Georgia Tech before struggling again on the road, escaping Boston College by a trey. Duke's relative road woes are a bit alarming at this stage for a team with some veterans. Figuring out the order of the teams after Duke is really difficult now, with unbalanced schedules impacting things.
SHOULD BE IN
Wake Forest (16-5, 6-3, RPI: 15, SOS: 20) overcame a very dicey no-call at the end of regulation to win at Virginia in OT and start to solidify itself as an at-large. The Deacs have a good chance to get to 8-3 with home games against BC and Ga. Tech up next.GW: at Gonzaga, Xavier, Richmond, at UNC?BL: W&M is really weakening now, and at Miami isn't a great loss
IN THE MIX
Georgia Tech (16-6, 5-4, RPI: 25, SOS: 16) is one of many teams that needs to start doing more on the road. Getting crushed at Duke wasn't proof of developing maturity from this talented-but-young team. Neither was beating N.C. State at home by two. The Jackets still head to Wake, Maryland and Clemson. Getting swept by FSU could matter later.GW: Duke (and Siena?), at UNC?BL: Nothing horrible, but too many
Maryland (15-6, 6-2, RPI: 46, SOS: 35) had a big week, polishing off a sweep of FSU by winning in Tallahassee and then discarding UNC like it was Asheville or Greensboro. The Terps still get Duke twice (good for marquee win shots), and also get Virginia twice, home games against GT and Clemson and go to Va. Tech. Not easy, but will help Maryland cement its status if the Terps navigate that OK.GW: Sweep of FSUBL: None, although William & Mary is really weakening
Florida State (17-6, 5-4, RPI: 43, SOS: 58) may rue losing at home to Maryland. Now three of the next four are away and none are easy. Wednesday's game at Clemson is now really big for both teams. The 'Noles' sweep of Ga. Tech is their best work, and that may not end up being enough. The Jackets' overall profile is still better and FSU now has been swept by Maryland.GW: Sweep of Georgia TechBL: Home to N.C. State; swept by Maryland (for bubble purposes)
Clemson's (16-7, 4-5, RPI: 40, SOS: 32) annual fade is rivaling Groundhog Day for a February tradition. Getting rocked at Va. Tech makes it four of five in the L column. The next three -- FSU, Miami, UVa -- are all at home and might decide the Tigers' NCAA fate. They probably need to get all three with a trio of tough road games left after that.GW: Butler (N)BL: None, but total is mounting and handful to bubble competition: GT, VT, A&M and Illinois
Virginia Tech (18-4, 5-3, RPI: 61, SOS: 180) beat UNC and Clemson at home, which the Hokies absolutely needed to do. Why? The combined conference record of the nine high-major teams VT has beaten this season is 21-51. Translation: They haven't beaten anyone, which explains the RPI and SOS. Other sites will overreact and shove VT into their brackets. Right now, they're still a pretty good team with a pretty weak resume.GW: Clemson?BL: at Miami
Virginia (14-7, 5-3, RPI: 92, SOS: 102) needs a gaudy ACC finish, which makes the OT home loss to Wake a bummer. Five of the next seven are on the road and one of the two home games is Duke. UVa's won two of its three ACC road games so far, but this may be asking too much.GW: at UNC, UABBL: A bunch to bad BCS league clubs
What else can you say? North Carolina(13-10, 2-6, RPI: 79, SOS: 21) is in massive trouble after losing at VT and then getting destroyed at Maryland. Two early-season wins can't wash away all of this. Without even one of those (and without UNC on their jerseys) they might not even be in the Watch. If Duke crushes them in Chapel Hill Wednesday, they might not be next week. Shocking, really.GW: Ohio St. (with Evan Turner), Michigan St.BL: at Coll. of Charleston, the huge batch of ACC defeats
Locks: Kansas, Kansas State
Horns down, literally, this week. Texas' drop out of lockdom is worth a discussion. Are the Longhorns in any real danger of missing the NCAAs? Not with how weak the bubble is, barring an epic collapse, but there are some very real warning signs now on both sides of the ball.
Here's an honest question: Based on overall profile, how much should Texas even be seeded ahead of Texas A&M at this point? A&M's 0-4 mark against RPI top 25 (vs. Texas' 3-1) is the difference, but this is much closer than you'd think.
SHOULD BE IN
Texas' (19-4, 5-3, RPI: 21, SOS: 54) loss at Oklahoma was the fifth time in the last seven games that the Horns were held under a point per possession. That had only happened once this season (against defensive-minded USC) before this stretch. The Horns' defense has been weakening for awhile, but their potent offense had masked it for a few games. Now, with a combination of turnovers and missed shots, it's not. With KU in town tonight and trips to Mizzou, Texas Tech, A&M and Baylor left, the 'Horns could enter the Big 12 tourney having played .500 ball or worse for the second half of their season.GW: Pitt (N), Michigan State, UNC? (N)BL: None, although at Oklahoma and at UConn are disappointing
Texas A&M (16-6, 6-3, RPI: 22, SOS: 14) clearly won the week, getting huge wins at Mizzou and then home to Baylor. Now angling for a better seed more than inclusion, the Aggies still get KU and Texas at home. Mark Turgeon's doing a heck of a job with this team after losing Derrick Roland.GW: Clemson (N), Minnesota? (N), at MissouriBL: None
IN THE MIX
Baylor (16-5, 4-4, RPI: 26, SOS: 38) couldn't get it done at A&M, but still sits in pretty good shape. The Bears are around .500 in the nation's toughest conference and they have a couple of good wins and nothing bad to offset them.GW: at Texas, Xavier (N), at Arizona State (for modest bubble purposes) BL: Nothing egregious
Missouri (17-6, 5-3, RPI: 47, SOS: 76) was very wise to get it done at Colorado after losing at home to A&M. The Tigers don't have an easy closing schedule. Iowa State at home is a must-get before a trip to Waco and then a home game vs. the reeling 'Horns.GW: K-State, at Texas Tech, ODU (N)BL: at Oral Roberts (plus at-large rivals Richmond and Vandy)
Oklahoma State (16-5, 4-5, RPI: 41, SOS: 37) was the biggest loser in the Big 12 derby this week, falling to Texas and then losing a damaging game at Texas Tech. Now the Pokes' computer numbers are more in line with what they have actually done, which isn't enough at this point, despite the upset at K-State.GW: at K-StateBL: at Tulsa, vs. URI (as both are possible bubble buddies)
Texas Tech (15-7, 3-5, RPI: 32, SOS: 19) beat OK State to stay in the mix. Good news: The home-reliant Red Raiders still host A&M, Texas, K-State and Baylor and two of the three remaining road trips are Nebraska and Colorado. They have some work to do, but the schedule's there to do it.GW: None, really (Washington, OU and OK State, all at home?)BL: at Wichita State and New Mexico (fellow bubblers)
Locks: Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, West Virginia
The more interesting action is happening below this locks group. G'town had a midweek home stumble against surging USF, but then thrashed Villanova to feel better about itself. All four will be very high seeds in the NCAAs and two could get 1 seeds.
SHOULD BE IN
Pittsburgh (17-6, 7-4, RPI: 20, SOS: 12) got a much-needed pounding of Seton Hall after getting crushed in the hardwood Backyard Brawl midweek. After a nonleague tilt with city brethren Robert Morris, Pitt gets another shot at WVU, followed by at Marquette, 'Nova and at ND.GW: at Syracuse, Wichita State (for bubble purposes)BL: vs. Indiana.
IN THE MIX
Marquette (15-8, 6-5, RPI: 59, SOS: 46) has won four in a row, is now above .500 and in prime position to fulfill the ongoing Bubble Watch prediction of 11-7 that started when the Golden Eagles were 2-5. Next two are home to USF and Pitt, and the final seven are all winnable. Win over Xavier could be a nice tiebreaker if both are on the cut line.GW: Xavier, G'townBL: at DePaul, too many overall
Cincinnati (14-9, 5-6, RPI: 51, SOS: 23) is in a lot of trouble now. Having Syracuse blow past them at home leaves the Bearcats in both profile and schedule distress. Only DePaul at home is "gimme" in last seven, four of which are on the road.GW: Vandy (N), Maryland (N)BL: None really, but SHU, St. John's are disappointing; Gonzaga (OT) and Xavier (2OT) could be costly
South Florida (15-8, 5-6, RPI: 68, SOS: 59) was a missed shot or two at ND away from a stunning week. Upsetting G'town on the road is enough to keep me very interested, especially with Gus Gilchrist out for this whole run. USF at Marquette on Saturday is a realllllly big game for both teams.GW: at G'town, Pitt, Virginia?BL: vs. So. Carolina (bubble purposes), swept by Notre Dame, Central Michigan
Louisville (15-8, 6-4, RPI: 46, SOS: 6) is like Virginia Tech. Beating two mediocre (or in Rutgers' case, terrible) teams at home doesn't mean we ignore the first 21 games of nothing. That said, the Cards have enough winnable games to finish over .500 in Big East play and dare the committee to omit them (which they probably should/would at 10-8 unless several of those Ws are over someone good).GW: NoneBL: Charlotte, Western Carolina, at Seton Hall (plus UNLV, for bubble comparisons).
Notre Dame (17-7, 6-5, RPI: 66, SOS: 67) got two of the must-get/soft-touch home games left on the schedule, and has a chance to get to 8-5 if it plays well this week. After that, it's tougher. Irish could be another 10-8 Big East team that gets left out.GW: WVUBL: Loyola Marymount, Northwestern (N) (for bubble purposes), at Rutgers
Connecticut (14-9, 4-6, RPI: 57, SOS: 6) also is hurtling toward the NIT after getting ripped at Louisville. Now even the Huskies' Texas win is decaying rapidly. Not good times in Storrs.GW: TexasBL: at Michigan, and to a series of bubble battlers in the Big East
Locks: Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State
The Spartans have dropped back to the pack and the title is really up for grabs now. This league has a better top four than anyone other than the Big East. Can Wisconsin horn its way into the Milwaukee regional? That would be a huge plus for the very underrated Badgers, who have the statistical makings of an Elite Eight team (similar to Missouri at this time last year).
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Illinois (16-8, 8-3, RPI: 72, SOS: 79) did exactly what it needed to do: take advantage of a huge break (Kalin Lucas' injury) to take a game at home against an elite team. The committee will understand MSU was shorthanded, though, so the Illini can't rest on their laurels. Getting even one of the next three (at Wisc., vs. OSU, at Purdue) would leave Illinois in very good position to get to 11-7, which should mean NCAA Tournament.GW: at Clemson, Vandy, Michigan St. (w/o Lucas)BL: Utah, Bradley, Georgia.
Minnesota (14-8, 5-5, RPI: 60, SOS: 45) beat league-winless Penn State on the road by a deuce. That win could be a microcosm of the Gophers' pending stretch run: They really don't have to do all that much to land at 10-8. They did beat Ohio State (with Evan Turner, right after his return from injury), but the entirety of their profile in that scenario is not very compelling.GW: Butler, Ohio State (with Turner)BL: Portland (N), at IU, at Miami
For Northwestern (16-7, 5-6, RPI: 65, SOS: 63), beating Michigan at home was a huge key to the Cats' likely late-season surge. The subsequent home win over IU kicked off an incredible run where NW has home-and-homes against all three of the league's worst teams (5-27 combined in Big Ten) in its final eight league games. Anything less than 10-8 would be awfully disappointing. Would that be enough?GW: Purdue, at NC State (?)BL: None, but can't eat many more
Cal leads the league at 7-4 and five teams are a game back. As far as improving the Pac-10's chances for two NCAA spots, I have no idea if it would be better for Washington to win or lose at Cal on Thursday. Right now, if Cal gets the auto bid, no one else is getting in.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
California (15-8, 7-4, RPI: 26, SOS: 3) split another road weekend, losing at ineligible USC before handling UCLA. Now the schedule flips, though. The Washington schools come to Berkeley this week and the Bears' trio of remaining road games are against the three worst teams in the league. Despite being a computer monster (and understanding the injuries), the Bears' nonleague profile is barren, so a strong league finish would be worthwhile.GW: NoneBL: UCLA
Washington (16-7, 6-5, RPI: 56, SOS: 40) is now second in the "race" for at-larges in this league after sweeping the 'Zona schools at home. The Huskies are playing better, but five of last seven are on the road. Go win at Cal on Thursday and we can reevaluate.GW: Texas A&MBL: Oregon, at UCLA
Arizona State (16-8, 6-5, RPI: 77, SOS: 83) isn't a bad team, but its profile isn't very good.GW: Nominally, SDSUBL: at UCLA
Arizona (12-11, 6-5, RPI: 67, SOS: 9) has a better RPI than the Sun Devils, but that's about it.GW: CalBL: at Oregon St., way too many in general
Solid week for the 'Cats as they continue to head toward a 1 seed in the NCAAs. The schedule stiffens after Tuesday's visit from Alabama, so UK will need to play well to ensure that position.
SHOULD BE IN
Vanderbilt (16-5, 6-2, RPI: 17, SOS: 22) edged Miss. State and then was handled surprisingly easily by feisty Georgia (great job by Mark Fox there, btw). No real issues at this point, though. The 'Dores get a chance for the sweep of in-state rival Tennessee on Tuesday.GW: at Tennessee, Missouri, at Saint Mary'sBL: Georgia by 14 is questionable, three others against borderline NCAA at-larges.
Tennessee (18-4, 6-2, RPI: 19, SOS: 33) mashed South Carolina at home to feel good heading into a really rough stretch: four of next five on road at Vandy, UK, So. Carolina and Florida. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Vols fall a bit in seeding, but they also could pick up some huge Ws.GW: Kansas, MississippiBL: None
IN THE MIX
The best description of Mississippi's (17-6, 5-4, RPI: 36, SOS: 50) effort at Kentucky (credit to Pat Forde): They were like a party guest who didn't know when to go home. Beating 'Bama was an important rebound ahead of the rematch with Miss. State in Starkville. Then Vandy and Florida come to Oxford.GW: K-State (N), UTEP (with Derrick Caracter)BL: Arkansas
Florida (17-6, 6-3, RPI: 49, SOS: 69) is doing what it needs to do, edging two more wins. The Gators visit So. Carolina midweek before hosting Xavier in a very big bubble game. BracketBusters for Big Boys!GW: Michigan St.BL: South Alabama; Richmond (for bubble purposes).
Mississippi State (16-7, 4-4, RPI: 70, SOS: 124) missed last week's bracket and then lost tough road games at Vandy and Florida. The Bulldogs still have home shots at Ole Miss, Kentucky and Tennessee, so the chances are there, but right now, they're NIT-bound.GW: ODU, at Ole MissBL: Rider, at Arkansas
South Carolina (13-9, 4-4, RPI: 69, SOS: 25) had a week to prep for the trip to Tennessee and lost by 26. Not good. The Gamecocks still have five shots at teams ahead of them, but need to do some serious work.GW: KentuckyBL: at Wofford
Saturday was perfect for the A-10's ongoing march toward a bunch of NCAA bids. Richmond rocked Temple and Dayton smoked Xavier while URI and Charlotte won their games against lesser foes. Now, five teams are 7-2 or better in league play. If Dayton (5-3) can handle league-leading Charlotte on Wednesday, things will be really interesting. Six bids? It's not impossible, folks.
I'll be at Rhode Island Wednesday night when Richmond visits, and I'm irrationally excited about that.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Rhode Island (19-3, 7-2, RPI: 13, SOS: 65) fought for two more wins and now has a huge week ahead. Richmond comes to the Ryan Center on Wednesday and then URI heads to Temple on Saturday. By next week, we should know very much where URI stands.GW: at Dayton, OK State (N)BL: None
Charlotte (18-5, 8-1, RPI: 45, SOS: 121) almost made a dreadful mistake, but escaped at Fordham and is this week's auto-bid team from the A-10. The 49ers were good as an at-large, so supplanting Temple won't impact the bracket.GW: at Louisville (albeit vs shorthanded 'Ville), at Richmond, TempleBL: None, but lost by 30-plus at Duke and ODU
Xavier (16-7, 8-2, RPI: 27, SOS: 15) head coach Chris Mack said after the win at UMass that he and the staff portray the game at Florida simply as a nice challenge out of league, but his players will understand the importance of the game for NCAA purposes. Hope so, because that could be a huge game for the X-Men. They got routed at in-state rival Dayton on Saturday and this whole league is ready to rumble.GW: Cincy (bubble purposes), Dayton, URIBL: None, but a growing number, plus -21 net margin in split with Dayton
Richmond (18-6, 7-2, RPI: 31, SOS: 70) played just about a perfect first half against Temple, shredding the Owls with 77 percent shooting in taking an 18-point lead. The second half was, um, less good, but the Spiders still closed out a crucial win. They still have trips to URI (on Wednesday), Xavier and Charlotte, plus a visit from Dayton, so no team may have more volatility in this league than Richmond. They have the best collection of nonleague wins in the conference.GW: Missouri (N), Miss. St. (N), Old Dominion, Florida (N), TempleBL: at St. Louis
Dayton (16-6, 5-3, RPI: 33, SOS: 38) crushed Xavier and now needs to back it up against Charlotte on Wednesday. The Flyers definitely passed the proverbial eyeball test on Saturday, though. What a performance. Trips to Temple and Richmond lurk late.GW: Georgia Tech (N), Old Dominion, XavierBL: at Saint Joe's
Northeastern is now the auto-bid, but isn't a legitimate at-large, so the CAA probably is a one-bid league now with ODU's loss at VCU. The conference tourney should be awesome, though.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Old Dominion (18-7, 10-3, RPI: 38, SOS: 78) whiffed on chances at Northeastern and now at VCU, so despite sweeping fading W&M, the Monarchs may be in trouble if they need an at-large. They have one possible life vest: the BracketBusters trip to Northern Iowa. Nonleague misses vs. Missouri, Miss. State, Richmond and Dayton are looming really large now, though.GW: at G'townBL: None, really, but three in balanced conference
William & Mary (16-7, 8-5, RPI: 54, SOS: 86) has three excellent nonleague wins, but now five CAA losses and got no help from its BracketBusters pairing with Iona. The Tribe, in sixth place now, are in significant at-large trouble.GW: at Wake, at Maryland, RichmondBL: UNCW, at JMU
Locks: New Mexico, BYU
The MWC is rolling like the A-10: Separation at the top + home-court domination = multiple bids. For the sake of brevity, we'll lock up these two. I know BYU was crushed at UNLV, but that more helps the Rebels than really puts a chink in BYU's overall position. New Mexico likely will be the highest seed this week, though.
SHOULD BE IN
UNLV (19-4, 7-2, RPI: 30, SOS: 81) is a tri-leader atop the league after destroying BYU on Saturday. The Rebels led 47-18 in the first half. Next up: UNM comes to town in a battle for first place and then a trip to SDSU. Get even a split and the Rebels should be in very strong shape.GW: Louisville, at New Mexico, BYUBL: Utah
IN THE MIX
San Diego State (16-7, 5-4, RPI: 39, SOS: 53) may rue the tough OT loss at UNM. The schedule's there, though, to threaten for 11-5 and see what comes of it.GW: New MexicoBL: at Pacific, at Wyoming
Locks: Northern Iowa
The Panthers held off Wichita State at home, now lead the league by three games with six remaining, are going to be the regular-season league champs and are going to the NCAAs regardless of Arch Madness. The most interesting thing left is the BracketBusters home game against Old Dominion -- a game the Monarchs will need badly.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Wichita State (19-5, 9-4, RPI: 37, SOS: 114) lost by three at Northern Iowa and ceded the league title in the process. Now the BracketBusters game at Utah State looms huge, especially with two games against 0-13 Evansville remaining to weaken the computer numbers. They may be able to afford one more loss before a MVC title game defeat to UNI. Emphasis on "may."GW: Texas Tech, UNIBL: at Illinois St., at Drake
Interesting week, with UTEP taking over the league lead. UAB continues to be the best hope for an at-large, but dropping the final two games of the four-game gauntlet was disappointing.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
UAB (19-4, 7-2, RPI: 29, SOS: 98) split another week and now Marshall comes calling for a rematch. With season-closing games against Memphis (home) and UTEP (away), this will likely go down to the wire.GW: Butler, CincyBL: at Kent State
UTEP (17-5, 8-1, RPI: 58, SOS: 111) was right there as an at-large last week, so leading the league this week is more good news. The Miners have won at both Memphis and UAB and also crushed Tulsa this past week. They don't play Memphis again, get UAB at home and are at Tulsa. The path to the league title is right in front of them.GW: Oklahoma (N, in Oklahoma City)BL: None, but maybe too many missed chances
Tulsa (17-5, 7-2, RPI: 62, SOS: 149) edged Marshall but then fell at UTEP and remains fringe. The road shot at Duke could be the last/best chance to salvage legit at-large hopes without a sweep of the rest of C-USA and a regular-season title.GW: OK StateBL: at MO State
Memphis (16-7, 6-2, RPI: 74, SOS: 91) beat UAB but probably needed to beat Gonzaga at home to think at-large.GW: UABBL: at UMass, at SMU
Why wait for the Zags' probable home win over SMC when we can just lock them up now? They have one excellent win (Wisconsin) and a bunch of other solid ones. They're going to dance.
SHOULD BE IN
Butler (20-4, 13-0, RPI: 16, SOS: 48) almost certainly will be in, too, but doesn't have quite the nonleague chops the Zags have. Once they lock up the Horizon this week, they'll move to lock here, too. The BracketBusters game with Siena should be appointment viewing.GW: Xavier, Ohio State (w/o Turner), Northwestern (for bubble purposes)BL: None
IN THE MIX
Saint Mary's (20-3, 8-1, RPI: 35, SOS: 103) might have the biggest week of any team in the Bubble Watch. Win at K2 on Thursday and stake a claim. Get that one and then Saturday at Portland, and the Gaels most likely will win the WCC. Lose both and they probably don't have legit at-large hopes.GW: at Utah State, SDSUBL: None
Utah State (18-6, 8-2, RPI: 52, SOS: 108) quietly continues to rack up wins and leads the WAC. USU very easily could run the table, as the other two co-leaders, La. Tech and NMSU, both have to come to Logan. The BracketBusters game with Wichita State likely will act as a bubble-buster for the loser. That's a game the Aggies have to have at home for any at-large hope.GW: BYUBL: at Long Beach State, at Northeastern (for bubble purposes)
Siena (MAAC), Cornell (Ivy)