Chaos rules with Selection Sunday rapidly approaching
If things are like this a month from now, I do not envy the selection committee.
This was one of the more convoluted weeks for Bubble Watch in recent memory, as the major conferences have a staggeringly large number of "name" teams sitting at either 5-4 or .500. Here's the list (just for teams in the hunt; excludes teams like Oklahoma): Boston College, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Baylor, Texas A&M, Missouri, Cincinnati, Marquette, St. John's, Illinois, Georgia, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
When you try to compare groups of relatively indistinguishable teams at various levels of the bracket against teams from outside that pool (like mid-major conference champions), it's almost impossible to come up with a concrete order. Throw in more and more head-to-head matchups and there will be a lot of volatility in the next five weeks leading up to Selection Sunday.
Generally, by the time conference tournaments roll around, the picture is relatively clear. I don't think it's going to be that way this season. When a team like Michigan State, which is in complete free fall, remains a viable at-large consideration based on the merit of its entire profile, you know things are in flux. Stay tuned for what should be a wild next month as teams position themselves for a push.
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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There are going to be some big bubble games down the stretch, with teams jousting for league placement and to get to at least nine league wins to give off a better impression for their profiles. Duke's quest for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs continues to be hurt by the weakness of the league this season.
What looked like a four- or five-pack of contenders earlier in the season has quickly been whittled to two, both in the league and as far as Final Four hopefuls. It's hard to be more impressive than Texas has been over the last three weeks and now the 'Horns are done playing ranked teams. They very well could run the table and are aiming straight for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs. Can KU get one, too? Very possible.
Not too much has changed. The league looks a virtual certainty for eight NCAA bids and still is in the mix to get as many as 11, although I'd set the over/under at 9.5 right now. Georgetown gets bumped up to lockdom as the Hoyas probably only need one or two more wins down the stretch with all of their quality work. Syracuse likely will be back here next week, too.
There are currently three teams above .500 in the league, as the extreme tops and bottoms of the conference keep munching on the trending-toward-mediocrity middle. The league looked a virtual certainty for six bids all season and now could end up with something closer to four if this continues. It's one of the less-talked-about developments of the season, honestly.
My how things can change. Arizona and UCLA are the big winners and the Washington schools, especially the Huskies, are this week's losers. Most considered Washington to be the best team in the league. Is it now possible the profile-barren Huskies will actually miss the NCAAs?
E-mailers who were blasting me for keeping Florida in this category all season were focusing on the wrong team. Youthful Kentucky can't seem to win on the road (1-4 now) in league play and gets dropped a level heading into a testing week.
The drop-off in some of the BCS leagues could be good news for the A-10, as teams jostle for position behind presumptive tourney teams Temple and Xavier. The stretch run should be good fun. Anything between two and four bids looks in play.
Both lock teams escaped road upsets and remain tied for the league lead at 8-1. SDSU hosts the Cougars on Feb. 26 in the rematch of BYU's win in Provo. Chances are the league will get a third team in, but UNLV would be wise to keep winning if the Rebels want that team to be them. We'll take another look at New Mexico next week should the Lobos win two more.
It seems we're gathered here today to mourn the loss of two regular non-BCS contenders. Gonzaga appears to have done too much damage to its profile at this point to have legitimate at-large hopes after a home loss to Memphis. Butler very well may be there, too. I'm also going to knock Northern Iowa out after Lucas O'Rear's injury. The Panthers' profile isn't very good and they struggled without O'Rear this past week, including a terrible loss at Drake.