The Pac-10 and SEC were expected to be somewhat down this year, but at least the pecking orders and possibilities in those two leagues are moderately clear. This year's ACC? Not so much.
Thankfully, we still have almost nine weeks until Selection Sunday, because sorting out the current mess in the middle of the ACC is utterly impossible. After you get past Duke, Boston College and North Carolina, you have a collection of undistinguished (and fairly undistinguishable) profiles.
Judging subjectively, Maryland and N.C. State (when healthy) appear to be the two best teams in the pack (and could ultimately end up better than BC and UNC, too). Of course, neither team has done a thing that will help an at-large profile and both currently sit outside the RPI top 100.
Should they be ahead of Florida State, which has no top-100 wins (thanks, Baylor) and a sub-300 loss to Auburn? What about Miami, which has a couple of solid wins but also has two sub-100 defeats and started 0-2 in the league? Virginia Tech, with its crippled roster and win over FSU? Sub-100 Clemson??
Ultimately, I kept Maryland in the bracket this week, although you certainly could argue that Miami or several others should be there in the Terps' place. Looking good in top-20 losses only goes so far.
In the bigger picture, the ACC actually has more teams outside the top 100 right now than the SEC. So don't be surprised if you see a 10-6 ACC team sitting on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday. The record very well won't mean nearly as much as it normally does.
RELATED:Glockner: Pac-10 stock rising with four bids in Bracket Watch
Remember, records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) and SOS (Strength of Schedule) data are from Sunday's collegerpi.com RPI report.
GW = good wins BL = bad losses (N) = neutral-site game
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Duke survived a test from Maryland Sunday night. It's still unlikely that the Blue Devils will make it to the NCAA tournament unbeaten, but this league below them is a mess. You'd imagine a couple of teams will emerge from the middle of the pack, but very few are showing great signs at this point.
SHOULD BE IN
Boston College (12-4 overall, 2-0 conference; RPI: 38, SOS: 34)If the Eagles were in the Ivy League, they'd be in some trouble after an 0-2 start. Luckily, they're in the ACC, so their 2-0 mark in that league is what matters. After losing at home to Harvard for the third straight season, BC bounced back to handle Georgia Tech and has more winnable games on tap.GW: Texas A&M (N), Cal (N)?, at MarylandBL: Yale, Harvard?
IN THE MIX
North Carolina (11-4, 1-0; RPI: 21, SOS: 19)The Tar Heels are in prime position to jump out to a strong league start. The next seven games leading up to the trip at Cameron are all winnable. It will be interesting to watch the Heels' profile evolve. There's nothing bad in it but not a ton of good at this point, either.GW: KentuckyBL: None
Maryland (10-5, 0-2; RPI: 128, SOS: 179)The Terps played well at Cameron, but lost. That more or less sums up their efforts against the good teams they've played this season. The result is that Maryland's profile is really vacant at the moment. Now they're at Wake and Villanova in what could be a fairly defining week. Wins are needed.GW: NoneBL: Boston College (at home)?
Florida State (11-5, 1-1; RPI: 87, SOS: 136)This week was a disaster for the Seminoles as they lost at SEC flyweight Auburn (which then posted a six-point half against fellow also-ran LSU on Saturday) and then got handled at Virginia Tech. Up next? Their only shot at Duke this season, although they tend to have success at home in that matchup.GW: Baylor (N)BL: at Auburn
Miami (11-5, 0-2; RPI: 31, SOS: 32)The 'Canes couldn't get it done at Clemson and now have another whole week to prepare for a very big home date with BC. Their computer numbers are way better than the actual profile at this point, and they could find themselves in a big hole quickly with the way the schedule breaks.GW: West Virginia, Ole MissBL: at Rutgers
N.C. State (11-4, 1-0; RPI: 103, SOS: 189)Pack fans, I read your complaints. Of course you'll get consideration for Tracy Smith's prolonged absence. The problem is you haven't done anything yet with him in the lineup, either. That could change soon, with trips to BC and FSU ahead of a home date with Duke.GW: George Mason (N)?BL: None
Virginia Tech (10-4, 1-1; RPI: 60, SOS: 59)Nice job by Seth Greenberg's crew to take out Florida State and even its ACC record. Worth noting: of the five teams the Hokies drew for home-and-homes, three are Virginia (already lost the home leg), Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Tech may win some games, but they may not be the right ones.GW: Oklahoma State (N)?BL: Virginia
Virginia (10-6, 1-1; RPI: 136, SOS: 137)Losing to North Carolina pushes the Cavaliers pretty close to dropping off the Watch, despite a couple of credible road wins in nonleague play. It obviously doesn't get easier with trips to Duke and then BC next.GW: at Minnesota, at Virginia TechBL: at Stanford (by 21), Seattle, Iowa State (at home by 13)
Clemson (12-4, 1-1; RPI: 110, SOS: 226)The Tigers beat Miami at home and should be able to handle Georgia Tech in their only game this week. If they're 2-1 in the league heading to UNC and Maryland, we'll see what happens.GW: at College of Charleston?BL: Michigan (at home)?, at South Carolina?
Kansas escaped Michigan in overtime to remain perfect. The Jayhawks have the potential to reach the level of Duke and Ohio State, but they're not there yet. They'll also be much more heavily tested in league play than the Blue Devils, if you're thinking about relative NCAA seeding.
SHOULD BE IN
Texas (12-3, 0-0; RPI: 35, SOS: 41)After beating Arkansas, the Longhorns didn't put the hammer down on UConn in the first half and paid the price with a tough overtime loss. This is still a team with a ton of upside. Now the 'Horns need to handle business in the league, starting this week against two strugglers: at Texas Tech and home to Oklahoma.GW: Illinois (N), North Carolina (N), at Michigan StateBL: at USC?
Texas A&M (13-1, 1-0; RPI: 26, SOS: 132)The Aggies kept the roll going, getting off to a good league start in Norman. Handle Oklahoma State on Wednesday and they'll have a lot of buzz on the weekend when they host Missouri. (Look for more analysis of the Aggies later this week.)GW: Temple (N), WashingtonBL: None
Missouri (13-2, 0-1; RPI: 45, SOS: 169)The Tigers ran into "Good Colorado" and came away with a decisive setback in Boulder, which is a somewhat disappointing step back from how they were trending. Now they'll need to handle Nebraska on Wednesday ahead of a high-profile trip to College Station.GW: Vanderbilt, vs. Illinois, Old DominionBL: at Colorado?
IN THE MIX
Kansas State (11-4, 0-1; RPI: 30, SOS: 24)Even without Curtis Kelly, that wasn't a good second-half effort in Stillwater, where K-State went without a basket for more than eight minutes. They wasted a good day at the free throw line, too. Home games vs. Colorado and Texas Tech are now paramount with a rough stretch looming after that.GW: Gonzaga (N), at Washington State?BL: None
Baylor (11-3, 1-0; RPI: 119, SOS: 259)Wins are better than losses, but even if the Bears beat Oklahoma and then win in Ames this week, they'll need to add some meat later in the Big 12 slate. Solid team with potential, vacant profile.GW: NoneBL: None
Oklahoma State (13-2, 1-0; RPI: 32, SOS: 105)A good home win over K-State was important ahead of trips to A&M and Iowa State. Interesting team that may be a bit better than most people think. We'll see what the road tells us.GW: K-State?BL: None
Iowa State (13-3, 0-1; RPI: 95, SOS: 258)Losing by a point at Nebraska on a free throw with 0.4 seconds left after turning it over with a chance to win is a bummer for a team hoping to make a run. Now the Cyclones host Kansas and Baylor, which provide big opportunities for validating wins but also a solid chance to be 0-3.GW: NoneBL: at Nebraska?
Nebraska (13-2, 0-0; RPI: 118, SOS: 305)Stealing the league opener from Iowa State at the buzzer was huge for the Huskers, who now head to Missouri and Kansas. They have 11 straight wins but not very much that resonates.GW: USC (N)?BL: Davidson (N)?
Locks: Pittsburgh, Villanova, Syracuse, Connecticut
UConn got another high-quality nonleague win, this time a true road game at Texas. The rest of the top of the league continues to rumble on and could provide another sticky seeding situation come March.
SHOULD BE IN
Notre Dame (14-2, 3-1; RPI: 9, SOS: 23)The only gripe you can have at this point is that ND hasn't been able to close the deal on the road, although the efforts at Syracuse and in Louisville against Kentucky were much better than the Irish's road performances of past seasons. They have two chances this week, at Marquette and St. John's, to do it. Without showing the ability to win away from home, can't be a lock at this point. Good team, though.GW: Wisconsin (N), Gonzaga, Georgetown, UConnBL: None
Georgetown (12-4, 1-3; RPI: 3, SOS: 1)With their 1-3 league start and more rough waters ahead (home against Pitt on Wednesday), the Hoyas drop down a level this week. Their overall profile would be good enough for a very strong seed today, but there's enough quality in the league that we should see where this goes for a week or two.GW: at Missouri, Utah State, at MemphisBL: None
Louisville (13-2, 0-0; RPI: 46, SOS: 66)The Cards are winning the games they should win to go with the two solid home nonleague wins they pocketed. After a trip to Villanova, Louisville has a pair of home games followed by a contest at Providence -- so there are wins to be had.GW: Butler, UNLVBL: Drexel?
IN THE MIX
West Virginia (10-4, 2-2; RPI: 13, SOS: 7)Good bounceback week for WVU, with a road win at DePaul and then a big one at Georgetown. Now the next four are in Morgantown, including a nonleague shot at Purdue. The 'Eers could make a push here.GW: Vandy (N), at Georgetown, Cleveland State?BL: St. John's (at home), at Miami?
St. John's (10-4, 3-1; RPI: 11, SOS: 4)Despite a loss at Notre Dame, Red Storm fans are saying "I'm Lavin it!" about the team right now. A nice upset of Georgetown got them to 3-0 before losing in South Bend. The schedule continues to confound, but at-large hopes are starting to get more serious, an unexpected twist after the bad Ls in December.GW: at West Virginia, GeorgetownBL: St. Bonaventure, at Fordham
Cincinnati (15-1, 0-1; RPI: 62, SOS: 316)The Bearcats impressively dismissed Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout and then handled a punch pretty well at Villanova before losing their first of the season. I'm trying to keep an open mind. They're rugged. Just not sure what the upside is here, even after this week.GW: Dayton, XavierBL: None
Marquette (11-5, 2-1; RPI: 85, SOS: 99)The Golden Eagles split their road games, winning at Rutgers and losing at Pitt in the first of a string of games against ranked teams. Four of the next six are at home, though. The computer numbers are improving, but they need to get some legit wins on the ledger.GW: NoneBL: None
Locks: Ohio State
The Buckeyes are having a bit of an issue with taking their feet off the gas early, but they're still one of the two best teams in the nation and are barreling toward a No. 1 seed, even without a ton of nonleague schedule heft. Illinois and Purdue are looking to separate and move to lock, although it seems extremely likely that the top six in this league all will be dancing in March.
SHOULD BE IN
Illinois (13-3, 3-0; RPI: 19, SOS: 29)The Illini crushed Northwestern and now stand a pretty strong chance, if they can avoid pulling a Michigan State, of being 4-0 in the league heading to the Kohl Center on Saturday. Michigan State and Ohio State come to Champaign after that, so this is a big stretch.GW: Maryland (N), UNC, Gonzaga (N)BL: Illinois-Chicago (N)
Purdue (15-1, 4-0; RPI: 12, SOS: 44)Too many people gave up on Purdue after Robbie Hummel's injury, but even the optimists (including me) didn't imagine a 15-1 start. This is a good testing week for the improving offense: games at rugged Minnesota and West Virginia.GW: at Virginia TechBL: None
Wisconsin (12-3, 2-1; RPI: 27, SOS: 51)The Badgers cruised past Michigan ahead of a big week. They're at Michigan State on Tuesday and then host Illinois. We'll know more about all the teams in this cluster in the next week or two when the head-to-heads sort out.GW: at Marquette, Boston College (N), N.C. State?BL: None
Minnesota (12-3, 1-3; RPI: 40, SOS: 69)So the Gophers ended up 1-3 in the stretch that included trips to Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. They lost those games by eight, nine and three, so it's probably more encouraging than a downer. It doesn't get easier, though, with Purdue up next at the Barn.GW: North Carolina (N), West Virginia (N)BL: Virginia?
Michigan State (9-5, 2-1, RPI: 37, SOS: 8)Just when it looked like MSU was starting to figure things out, the Spartans suffered a clunker at Penn State. They can get healthy at home this week against Wisconsin and Northwestern, but there's still plenty of work to be done here to get anywhere close to preseason expectations.GW: Washington (N)BL: at Penn State
IN THE MIX
Northwestern (10-4, 1-3; RPI: 66, SOS: 82)The Wildcats righted the ship with a win over Indiana, but with such a weak nonconference slate, they need to do a lot more winning in the league to have a legit chance for an at-large.GW: NoneBL: None
Michigan (11-5, 1-2; RPI: 72, SOS: 61)The Wolverines missed their chance against Kansas on Sunday, falling in overtime, after losing at Wisconsin. Now Ohio State comes to Ann Arbor. UM's stay on the Watch could be over fairly soon.GW: at ClemsonBL: UTEP (N)?
Washington's the best team in the league. After that, I still think it's Arizona, but who knows.
SHOULD BE IN
Washington (12-3, 4-0; RPI: 23, SOS: 39)The Huskies did what good teams do: roll past lesser teams at home. Now they head to the Bay Area before Arizona comes calling for the first of two meetings. Nonleague play mostly includes just-missed efforts against top-level competition, so storming through the league is important.GW: None really, but at UCLA?, at USC?BL: None
IN THE MIX
Arizona (14-3, 3-1; RPI: 39, SOS: 77)The Wildcats bounced back from the Corvallis flop with a home sweep of the Bay Area schools. Next week, the 'Cats only host Arizona State, so they should be 4-1 heading to Seattle on the 20th for a showdown with the Huskies.GW: at N.C. StateBL: at Oregon State
Washington State (12-4, 2-2; RPI: 63, SOS: 101)The Cougars swept the Oregon schools at home and their RPI stayed the same, so that tells you what those wins are really worth. They get Arizona and Washington at home first, though, so they could close the gap over the next couple of weeks. First up, a trip to the Bay Area.GW: Gonzaga, Baylor (N)BL: None
USC (10-6, 2-1, RPI: 64, SOS: 25)The Trojans won their fourth straight meeting with archrival UCLA and slipped back into the bracket this week on the strength of wins that collectively outstrip the bad losses. Up next, a trip to the Oregon schools followed by a home weekend with the Bay Area teams. That means wins are available.GW: Texas, at TennesseeBL: A handful to mediocre teams
UCLA (9-6, 1-2; RPI: 75, SOS: 28)The Bruins' six-game winning streak was halted at USC and the Trojans clearly have the better profile now. They have the same schedule as USC, so the Bruins also could make some hay the next two weeks.GW: BYU (N)BL: Montana
Locks: Kentucky, Florida
Kentucky will be fine despite struggling for a half against Penn and then losing at Georgia. Florida is still second in the pecking order and Vanderbilt also remains strong, despite a league-opening loss. These upsets may also help others propel themselves into contention.
SHOULD BE IN
Vanderbilt (11-3, 0-1; RPI: 18, SOS: 33)An overtime loss at South Carolina to open league play is a small misstep which makes the home date with Georgia very important ahead of a trip to Tennessee on Saturday. Vandy didn't do a ton in nonleague play, so strong league performance will dictate their potential NCAA seeding.GW: North Carolina (N)BL: None
Tennessee (10-5, 0-1; RPI: 28, SOS: 3)The Vols thrashed Memphis but couldn't back it up at Arkansas in Bruce Pearl's first game away from the team. This is a huge week with Florida and Vandy coming to Knoxville. After that, they travel to Georgia and then to UConn for a nonleague affair in which Pearl will make a mid-suspension cameo.GW: Villanova (N), VCU (N), at PittBL: at Charlotte, Oakland (at home), College of Charleston (at home)
IN THE MIX
Georgia (12-2, 1-0; RPI: 48, SOS: 143)The Dogs' SEC slate opens very tough, so the home upset of Kentucky is a big get. They're at Vandy and Ole Miss this week before a tough three-game homestand and then a trip to Rupp. If they navigate that stretch in decent shape, they'll be well positioned for an at-large push.GW: KentuckyBL: None
Mississippi (12-4, 0-1, RPI: 58, SOS: 85)As detailed the last two weeks, the Rebels have very few chances in league play for wins that will mean anything and they missed on the first of them, losing by six at Florida. With Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee all coming to Oxford, the last chance for a meaningful road win is at Vandy on Jan. 19.GW: NoneBL: None
Sunday was an aesthetics nightmare as the top of the league continues to shuffle around.
SHOULD BE IN
Temple (11-3, 2-0; RPI: 17, SOS: 30)An easy win over Fordham at the Izod Center and a close one against Saint Louis gets the Owls off to a good league start. There are a lot of games in the A-10 this year that you just need to win, regardless of the beauty. 3-0 should come at home vs. St. Bonaventure before an intriguing trip to undervalued Duquesne.GW: Maryland (N), GeorgetownBL: Cal (N)?
IN THE MIX
Richmond (13-4, 2-0; RPI: 71, SOS: 178)Two confident wins jumpstarted the Spiders' league campaign and dropped their RPI 16 spots. Welcome to playing the bottom part of the league. Still, they and the Owls are a level above in the league at this point, and they should be able to handle URI at home in their only game of the week. You'd think.GW: Purdue, VCUBL: at Iona, Georgia Tech (N)?, Bucknell
Dayton (11-4, 1-1; RPI: 47, SOS: 98)The Flyers dropped one of the uglier games of the weekend at UMass, a disappointing back end of a league-opening road trip. With a lack of real quality in their resume, they can't afford losses like this. Three of the next four are at home, but the road game is at Xavier.GW: A collection of OK ones in Ole Miss, George Mason and New MexicoBL: East Tennessee State, margin at Cincinnati (by 34), at UMass?
Xavier (8-4, 0-0; RPI: 57, SOS: 41)After getting smashed by city rival Cincinnati, the X-Men came strong at Rhode Island and blew out the Rams. There's still a lot of work to do, but with four of the next five at Cintas with the lone road game at St. Bonaventure, they have a chance to roll off some wins.GW: Butler, at Rhode Island?BL: Miami (Ohio)
Rhode Island (9-6, 0-1; RPI: 57, SOS: 67)The Rams had almost a week to prep for Xavier at home and got clobbered. Not good. Now they travel to Richmond on Wednesday needing to make up for the home loss to a competitor.GW: Boston CollegeBL: Illinois-Chicago, at Quinnipiac
Locks: San Diego State, BYU
After a slow start, BYU hit a gear at UNLV that the Rebels couldn't match and earned a very impressive road win. Now the Aztecs get their first shot at the Rebels, this one in San Diego. The two meet for the first time on Jan. 26 in Provo.
SHOULD BE IN
UNLV (13-3, 1-1; RPI: 25, SOS: 40)The blowout of TCU was fine, but doesn't make up for having BYU come in and ransack the Thomas & Mack. If the Rebels can't get it done at San Diego State Wednesday night, they will be at a distinct deficit already in what looks like a three-team chase.GW: Wisconsin, Virginia Tech (N)BL: UC Santa Barbara
IN THE MIX
New Mexico (11-4, 0-1; RPI: 69, SOS: 181)Forget the double-OT loss at Dayton. The Lobos definitely will regret the one-point defeat at Wyoming. They don't have the resume to eat losses against the bottom of the MWC.GW: NoneBL: at Wyoming
This is about as weak a pool of non-BCS "others" as I can remember at this stage of the year. Practically every team on this list needs to really dominate its league to have a reasonable chance. Cleveland State and Drexel dropped off the list after varying levels of suffering in league play.
Old Dominion (12-3, 3-1; RPI: 29, SOS: 52)A 2-0 week with a home win over George Mason keeps the Monarchs in OK position. This is a big week, with trips to physical Drexel and surprise league leader Hofstra.GW: Clemson (N), Xavier (N), Richmond, DaytonBL: at Delaware
Butler (10-5, 3-1; RPI: 20, SOS: 11)A blowout loss at UW-Milwaukee pretty much offsets the home romp over at-large competitor Cleveland State. In fact, the net results lessen the league's chances to get two teams in.GW: Florida State (N), Washington State (N)BL: Evansville (without Nored)
Gonzaga (10-5, 1-0; RPI: 34, SOS: 10)A good home win over feisty Portland keeps the Zags heading in the right direction. Two more home games are on tap, so expect another perfect week. Saint Mary's comes in on Jan. 27.GW: Baylor (N), Marquette (N), Xavier, OK StateBL: None
Central Florida (13-1, 1-1; RPI: 16, SOS: 81)The Knights finally got clipped, losing by five at Houston. This week's trip to Southern Miss is now crucial. Two losses (or more) before meeting Memphis could start to be troubleGW: Miami (Fla.), FloridaBL: None
Memphis (12-3, 1-0; RPI: 78, SOS: 150)Good news: The Tigers edged their C-USA opener. Bad news: This team is still really struggling, as witnessed by their blowout loss at mercurial Tennessee. This is a bad profile at this point, so wiggle room in the league is not very plentiful.GW: Miami?BL: None
Saint Mary's (12-2, 2-0; RPI: 41, SOS: 148)The Gaels swept the L.A.-area trip and now get three home games against teams that aren't Portland or Gonzaga. Their at-large hopes likely rest on the three-game trip that begins Jan. 22 at Vanderbilt, with the Zags and Pilots after that.GW: None, reallyBL: None
Missouri State (13-3, 5-0; RPI: 49, SOS: 154)The Bears got a big road win Sunday night at Wichita State in the showdown of Valley unbeatens and supplant the Shockers as the league's most viable at-large candidate. That doesn't mean all that much at this stage with no other quality wins, but if they surge through the Valley?GW: at Wichita StateBL: at Tulsa
Wichita State (12-3, 4-1; RPI: 33, SOS: 95)The Shockers were shocked on their home court by Missouri State and now really have very little room for error if they miss the auto bid. Neutral-site wins over Virginia and LSU aren't nearly enough.GW: Virginia (N)?BL: None