On Sunday afternoon, as Butler lost to UW-Milwaukee for the second time this season, there was a lot of Twitter banter about how the Bulldogs' at-large hopes were dead. This came on the heels of Saturday night's 140-character declarations of Gonzaga's demise after the Zags dropped their second straight road game against modest opposition.
While both teams obviously hurt themselves, to make any determination at this stage without looking at the macro picture is foolhardy. As you can see in
Principally, both were helped by a lot of other teams losing around them and the fact that the 68-team field requires a total of 37 at-large teams. Even this early in the process, this is shaping up to be a very odd bubble year. What may not feel like an NCAA-caliber resume in a vacuum may very well end up as one because of the dearth of quality mid-major at-large candidates and how many of the BCS leagues are either down or have a fairly pronounced cutline at the moment.
This doesn't mean fans of teams like Butler and Gonzaga should feel too secure. Being this close to the cutline this early as a non-BCS team is a dangerous place to be. Both of those clubs will continue to be hurt by the relative lack of strength in their conference schedules and also will have eaten at least one more loss -- in their conference tournaments -- if an at-large is needed.
Bottom line: This past week didn't kill either of those two teams, but it did shave their margins for error to almost zero. That said, if either team does manage to win out for the rest of the regular season, here's one bubble watcher who thinks they'll be OK.
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
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What does it say about the middle of a league when one of the teams making the biggest at-large push has only eight scholarship players? Not sure, but I don't think it flatters the ACC at this point.
There's no need to worry about Texas' NCAA chances anymore after another impressive week that was capped with a startling win at Kansas. Texas' recent work also makes you feel like Texas A&M (and Connecticut) have legit quality, too. The Aggies also join the lock section based on current accomplishments plus the landscape and a schedule that makes it hard to see how they could miss.
Pittsburgh was expected to be at this level. But UConn? The Huskies' supporting cast is coming on strong and making them a much more dangerous proposition. Villanova showed some stones this week in two tough road spots. Was Syracuse exposed a bit? Or is the level of competition just that good?
Anyone interested in Purdue at Ohio State on Tuesday? Yeah, me too. This continues to look for all the world to be a six-bid league, and that's most likely all that will make it.
Washington handled its business at home and then Arizona got a very important road win at Washington State to start to create separation. Will there be room for more than two bids this season? UCLA is the best bet at this point, with the marquee beating of BYU and a favorable schedule.
Dear Gators, Please do more of what you did against Arkansas and far, far less of what you did against Auburn. Then we'll be OK. And Kentucky? More South Carolina, less 'Bama. Thanks.
All season, Temple has been a pretty clear bet to make the NCAAs. After this week's results? That's no longer such a strong presumption, although the Owls' bracket position held pretty well because a lot of teams lost around them. Getting Xavier and Dayton toward the top of the league standings could help the A-10 get more bids than originally expected.
The showdown in Provo is set: San Diego State at BYU, Wednesday night. Be there. Speaking of being there, no one else from this league may be in March if UNLV (or Colorado State?) doesn't get going.
This was a crushing week for a lot of the best teams in this category. We could be looking at an NCAA tournament that lacks a number of regulars and also a dearth of quality mid-majors.