Bracket Ladder for February 26, 2011

So yeah, this is really late because I’m actually starting to get tired of the whole enterprise. But I will press on for you all! Next two ladders will be out Tuesday and Friday.

Three developments on this ladder compared with Monday. First, St. John’s rockets up the board again and turns the Big East’s Big Eight into a Big Nine. There just isn’t enough of a case to be made against them, and frankly, the Big East has an unfair advantage in the seeding since they have so many teams on the top few seed lines. Second, Connecticut’s loss to Marquette finally gives me an excuse to dislodge them from the top seed line. Third, we’re finally starting to see those ugly profiles I mentioned the last two ladders. On Monday, you’ll see the rest of the auto bids, an actual bracket, and the start of talk about tourney sites.

This edition of the Bracket Ladder is complete through the games of February 25, 2011. This means it does not include any of Saturday’s games, including the BYU-San Diego State game.

How to read the chart: Teams are listed in order of my assessment of their strength based on the criteria established by the selection committee. The large gray number to the left is the team’s seed in the NCAA Tournament if the teams were seeded strictly according to the list order. Teams may receive a higher or lower seed because of bracketing principles. If a seed has an “f” superscript, that team would play in one of the “First Four” games in Dayton on the Tuesday or Wednesday after Selection Sunday before playing games against teams in the main bracket. The code at the right side of each team name represents the team’s conference and a running count of the number of teams that conference has in all tournaments. The row beneath the team name packs in a whole bunch of information. In order: The team’s record is on the far left in bold. RPI: Rating Percentage Index rank. SOS: Strength of Schedule rank. R/N: Record in road and neutral-site games. OOC: Record in games outside the conference. RPI TXX: Record against teams in the RPI Top 50 or 100. Wv≥: Number of wins against teams listed seven spots behind them or higher on the ladder. Lv≤: Number of losses against teams listed seven spots ahead of them or worse on the laddera. The colored bar at the far right side of the team name is the most important element, containing most of the information you need to know. It is color-coded to reflect where each team is in the pecking order and what they have to play for, as follows:

Ovr. #1-4 Gold: Cannot fall below the #1 seed. Listed with the overall seeds (#1-4) the team could get.

Silver: Cannot fall below the #2 seed.

Bronze: Cannot fall below the #3 seed.

Purple: Cannot fall below the #4 seed.

Blue: Could earn a top-4 seed, or might not. Top-4 seeds receive protection in the bracket process to make sure they aren’t sent too far away from home, since they’ll be the top seed in their pod.

Green: A lock to make the tournament, but cannot receive a top-4 seed. Numbers inside the boxes for silver through green indicate the seed range a team could receive. The first number is the seed ceiling, the best seed that could result from a reasonable best-case scenario for the rest of the season and the committee’s assessment of the team, the middle number is the current seed based on the current position in the bracket ladder, and the last number is the seed floor, the worst seed that could result from a reasonable worst-case scenario for the rest of the season and the committee’s assessment of the team. The seed ceiling could increase or seed floor decrease in extraordinary circumstances.

Yellow: “Probably in”. This color marks the start of the bubble.

Orange: On the tip of the bubble, could go either way. Listed as “Barely in” or “Barely out” based on what side of the cutline they fall in the order.

Red: “Probably out”, teams with a longshot chance to make the NCAA Tournament but are more likely going to the NIT (or worse). Teams in this range that are the highest-rated from their conference are listed as “Needs Auto”, to indicate they need the auto bid to get in but are currently listed in the field.

1 – 2 – 2
2 – 3 – 3
3 – 4 – 4
4 – 4 – 5
5 – 6 – 7
Probably In
Barely In
Probably Out

1 Pittsburgh BST #1 1 – 1 – 4
25-3 RPI: 6 SOS: 24 R/N: 9-2 OOC: 12-1 RPI T50: 8-3 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 3
Pitt puts some breathing room between themselves and Ohio State by beating West Virginia while the Buckeyes only beat Illinois. They now lead arguably the best conference in the nation by two games with three to play, and will have a double-bye in the Big East Tournament. It’s very difficult to see a situation where they don’t get a top-four seed, requiring a complete collapse and most of the other teams in the country going on a winning tear. At this point, Pitt is just playing for improving its standing vis-a-vis the other 1 seeds, and their real competition may be with other Big East teams for favorable tourney sites. Not to mention that most of the damage Pitt could do would come in the conference tournament; a loss to Louisville (Sunday 2pm ET, CBS) or Villanova (Saturday 3/5 4pm ET, CBS) won’t hurt them too much.
1 Ohio State B10 #1 1 – 1 – 4
26-2 RPI: 2 SOS: 26 R/N: 8-2 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 7-2 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 2
Illinois isn’t West Virginia, so Ohio State is further away from overall #1 than they were before, but it would probably take a lot of doing to knock them off their perch. That road win over Florida is better than a lot of teams, and the home win over Purdue can’t be discounted either. But they still have just those two wins over the RPI Top 35. People keep praising the Big Ten for being equal at the top with the Big East, but even controlling for conference size, there are three times as many teams in the Big East, making up over half the conference instead of over a quarter, and the result is that all of them suffer in the comparison. The Jared Sullingers have only Penn State (Tuesday 9pm ET, BTN) as a road game the rest of the way and Wisconsin (Sunday 3/6 4pm ET, CBS) as a game that would give them any sort of trouble.
1 Kansas B12 #1 1 – 1 – 6
26-2 RPI: 1 SOS: 13 R/N: 10-1 OOC: 15-0 RPI T50: 6-2 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 2
It says a lot that a team with a grand total of three RPI Top 30 wins, plus a loss to a very bubbly team, has the third-best profile in the country. The Morris Twins’ last chances for quality wins (or any quality road wins) are Texas A&M (Wednesday 9pm ET, ESPN2) and the road rematch with Missouri (Saturday 3/5 Noon ET, CBS); they may still need to win out to stay on the top seed line.
1 Notre Dame BST #2 1 – 1 – 6
22-5 RPI: 10 SOS: 31 R/N: 7-5 OOC: 11-1 RPI T50: 8-4 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 5
Notre Dame’s loss to West Virginia perfectly encapsulates what’s wrong with their resume: they don’t lose to the teams they’re supposed to, but they have trouble with their own top half of the Big East. Their road win over Pitt looks very fluky; lowly South Florida and DePaul are their only other road wins, and Wisconsin is the only other win they have against an elite tourney team that’s even on a neutral site. But you cannot take away wins over Pitt, UConn, Georgetown, and Wisconsin. Notre Dame moves up to the top line mostly because Connecticut lost to Marquette, matching the Irish’s questionable loss, and because I might have the Mountain West teams a little high still, but mostly because they just have the feel of an elite tourney team. If they win out, especially if they win at UConn in the regular season finale (Saturday 3/5 2pm ET, ESPN), they’ll be second in the Big East and it’ll be very difficult to argue against them. There is probably only one more chance for them to lose their unbeaten home record, when Villanova comes to town (Monday 7pm ET, ESPN).
2 Connecticut BST #3 1 – 2 – 6
20-7 RPI: 19 SOS: 12 R/N: 7-4 OOC: 12-0 RPI T50: 8-6 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 7
I mentioned on Monday that “if they lose against Marquette, suddenly their resume does have a bad loss and the Huskies start to tumble.” Well, lose to Marquette they did, at home to boot, and the Huskies’ 1-seed luck just ran out. Georgetown lost to Cincinnati and still might be considered better than the Huskies if you squint hard enough (and if the Kemba Walkers hadn’t beat the Hoyas). I do think they should still make it to the second round of the Big East Tournament – they can’t fall below 12th and are still very much alive for a bye – but I wouldn’t count out the possibility of that being the only game they win the rest of the way. They still don’t have any success against teams 5-8 in the Big East, having only a measly home win over Villanova to show for their troubles, and all their remaining games will be tougher than the one they just played: @Cincinnati (Sunday Noon ET, ESPNU), @West Virginia (Wednesday 7pm ET, ESPN2), and hosting Notre Dame (Saturday 3/5 2pm ET, ESPN).
2 BYU MWC #1 1 – 2 – 6
25-2 RPI: 3 SOS: 23 R/N: 12-2 OOC: 13-1 RPI T50: 7-1 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 2
BYU has two very concerning losses on their resume to bubble teams, but they also have multiple RPI Top 25 wins, which is fairly impressive for a mid-major. That said, the Jimmer Fredettes probably need to win out to remain remotely this high, including reasserting their primacy over the Aztecs in San Diego this weekend (Saturday 2pm ET, CBS, already played). The winner of that huge game could still run down Notre Dame for the last 1-seed. Will the NCAA give them a 1-seed in that case? Of course not! They’ll disrespect the Mountain West too much.
2 San Diego State MWC #2 1 – 2 – 4
25-1 RPI: 4 SOS: 38 R/N: 14-1 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 4-1 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 1
The Aztecs have the week off until the rematch with BYU in San Diego (Saturday 2pm ET, CBS, already played), which could determine Mountain West supremacy. San Diego State’s lack of decent wins – the sweep of UNLV constitutes their only wins against teams in the field, and BYU has that plus wins over Arizona and, oh yeah, San Diego State – has prevented them from rising ahead of BYU. BYU could firmly establish themselves as the top team in the Mountain West with a win. But beat BYU, and the determining factor is likely to become BYU’s iffy losses to UCLA and especially a New Mexico team whose bubble hopes may be slipping away. The season finale against Colorado State (Saturday 3/5 10pm ET, mtn.) is the other big trap game.
2 Georgetown BST #4 1 – 2 – 8
21-7 RPI: 7 SOS: 2 R/N: 11-4 OOC: 11-1 RPI T50: 8-7 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 7
Oh, Georgetown. You had to lose to Cincinnati? At home, to boot? I had enough of a gap between the 2 and 3 seed lines that Georgetown doesn’t slip, but things could get hairy fast for the Hoyas. Now the game against Syracuse (Saturday Noon ET, CBS, already played) may be a must-win, because they get a road rematch with the Bearcats (Saturday 3/5 2pm ET, Big East Network) and ending the regular season on a three-game losing streak (four games against tourney contenders) could trash their seed in and of itself AND demoralize them for the Big East Tournament. As with Connecticut, Georgetown has already guaranteed themselves a cupcake first game, but can you imagine if they had to play Cincinnati for the third time in two and a half weeks in the second round?
3 Texas B12 #2 1 – 3 – 5
24-4 RPI: 9 SOS: 20 R/N: 8-3 OOC: 12-3 RPI T50: 7-2 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 3
Uh-oh. Losing to Nebraska was not at all what the doctor ordered for the Longhorns. Texas has a pretty good road profile, all things considered, so the loss doesn’t hurt them much there, but it still gives them a second bad loss, and they still don’t have a deep enough resume to overcome it and not much hope to improve it, as A&M and Missouri remain the next two best teams in the conference. Everyone loves them because they beat Kansas in Lawrence, but most of the teams they’ve beaten, while currently in the tournament, are decidedly lesser-tier. The best they can hope for is to keep plugging away and hope the committee gives them credit for their record, and maybe prove the first Kansas game wasn’t a fluke in the Big 12 final. Fortunately the North Carolina win keeps improving as the Tar Heels tear up the non-Duke ACC, but Kansas State (Monday 9pm ET, ESPN2) suddenly looks like a potential repeat of the Wildcats’ upset of Kansas – and Colorado (Saturday 4pm ET, Big 12 Network) has to like their chances as well. Remember, Longhorns, you haven’t won the Big 12 regular season title yet.
3 Syracuse BST #5 1 – 3 – 7
23-6 RPI: 17 SOS: 22 R/N: 8-3 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 7-4 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤: 5
Syracuse seems to be separating themselves from the rest as one of the top 5 teams in the Big East with their big road win over Villanova. It’s still a long shot that they can come all the way back from their January losing streak – and February losses to Georgetown at home and Louisville on the road didn’t help – but if they can win their second chance at Georgetown in DC (Saturday Noon ET, CBS, already played) they have a good chance at making the 2-seed line again BEFORE the Big East Tournament. A win there also keeps hope alive for a double bye in said tournament, meaning fewer games and a faster shot at a rematch with Pitt.
3 Duke ACC #1 1 – 3 – 7
25-2 RPI: 5 SOS: 33 R/N: 10-2 OOC: 13-1 RPI T50: 7-1 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 2
The Dukies did what they needed to do, beat Temple at home. But it’s not enough; their only chance to prove they can beat a tourney lock on the road may be the rematch with the Tar Heels in the regular season finale. And people talk about the Kyle Singlers as one of five contenders for the top line! It’s looking like Duke has too questionable a schedule, and a conference, to justify their preseason #1 ranking. Duke’s best hope for a #1 seed is probably to completely win out, beating North Carolina another two times along the way, and hope for teams currently on the top two lines to lose. At the very least, don’t lose at Virginia Tech (Saturday 9pm ET, ESPN).
3 Louisville BST #6 1 – 3 – 10
21-7 RPI: 23 SOS: 25 R/N: 4-5 OOC: 11-2 RPI T50: 7-5 Wv≥: 5 Lv≤: 6
If there’s one lingering point of uncertainty in the Big East pecking order, it might be sorting out Louisville and Villanova. The Cardinals really bolstered their resume by knocking off UConn, and they have another big home opportunity against Pitt (Sunday 2pm ET, CBS). But it’s still hard to tell whether the Cardinals simply have the Huskies’ number, as their next-best road win is now over lowly Rutgers, with a worse RPI than all but one of their road losses. On the plus side, if the season ended today, the Cardinals would have a double bye in the Big East Tournament.
4 Villanova BST #7 1 – 4 – 9
21-7 RPI: 27 SOS: 35 R/N: 7-4 OOC: 12-1 RPI T50: 6-5 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 5
Villanova couldn’t make the road win over Syracuse any less fluky (Seton Hall is their next-best road win). The good news is that Nova now gets some chances to improve their road resume; the bad news is that it’ll be against Notre Dame (Monday 7pm ET, ESPN) and Pitt (Saturday 3/5 4pm ET, CBS), and it’s hard to see them picking up either one short of a miracle. Before all that, the Wildcats need to fend off a St. John’s team looking to prove they deserve to stay up here (Saturday 2pm ET, ESPN, already played). Nova’s best chance to really prove their bona fides might be at MSG; like Connecticut and Georgetown, they’ve clinched at least a cupcake first-round game and, if they somehow win out, could conceivably be as high as the 2 seed, but it’s far more likely they’ll have an uphill climb ahead of them.
4 St. John’s BST #8 1 – 4 – 9
18-9 RPI: 15 SOS: 4 R/N: 7-6 OOC: 8-4 RPI T50: 7-6 Wv≥: 7 Lv≤: 8
The more I look at this resume, the better it looks (and this position is certainly more in keeping with the Johnnies’ seed range). Really, it isn’t really the super-bad losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham holding the Johnnies back as the more iffy losses to bubble teams St. Mary’s and UCLA, coupled with the weakness of the road wins. The Johnnies may have to be considered the favorites in the Big East Tournament; right now they’d actually get a double bye. MSG has now become a black hole for Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Duke, five of the teams on the top three seed lines and two of the popular picks for the very top seed line, and Steve Lavin’s team has road wins over Cincinnati, Marquette, and West Virginia to show they don’t need MSG to be good, with one more road test to come against Villanova (Saturday 2pm ET, ESPN, already played) to show they deserve this lofty perch.
4 Wisconsin B10 #2 1 – 4 – 7
21-6 RPI: 13 SOS: 29 R/N: 6-6 OOC: 10-2 RPI T50: 6-5 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 6
Wisconsin narrowly escaped a tough battle with bubbly Michigan and should have a fairly easy time with Indiana (Thursday 9pm ET, ESPN2). That’ll just be a warmup, though, for the huge clash in Columbus (Sunday 3/6 4pm ET, CBS) that could speak volumes about the Big Ten pecking order.
4 West Virginia BST #9 1 – 4 – 10
17-10 RPI: 20 SOS: 3 R/N: 6-8 OOC: 9-3 RPI T50: 6-7 Wv≥: 5 Lv≤: 8
West Virginia had a huge three-game stretch – at Syracuse, at home to Notre Dame and at Pitt – and had mixed results. They won the home game and lost the road games, which didn’t help to make the Georgetown win any less of a fluke, and now seem pretty firmly behind the rest of the Big East “top half”, which now includes St. John’s. Their final two home games against UConn (Wednesday 7pm ET, ESPN2) and Louisville (Saturday 3/5 Noon ET, ESPN) will be imperative to set how easy or hard their Big East tournament road is, or whether they even have a shot at a top four seed.
5 Florida SEC #1 1 – 5 – 9
22-5 RPI: 11 SOS: 9 R/N: 9-2 OOC: 11-3 RPI T50: 8-1 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤: 4
Upon further review, I can’t get past Florida’s bad losses. They don’t have another questionable opponent the rest of the way, though, so they can’t feel too bad about the situation, and they just might move back up if they keep winning. (Alabama (Tuesday 7pm ET, ESPNU) might be questionable, but the way they’ve been playing in conference play, maybe not.) Perhaps the most important down-the-stretch game is the road rematch with Kentucky (Saturday 4pm ET, CBS).
5 Purdue B10 #3 1 – 5 – 8
23-5 RPI: 8 SOS: 18 R/N: 8-5 OOC: 11-2 RPI T50: 5-4 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 4
The tiebreaker keeping the Boilermakers behind the Badgers is primarily the questionable loss to Richmond and increasingly-questionable loss to Minnesota. The loss to West Virginia still hangs over them as well, but the Boilermakers can feel confident that further chaos in the Big East’s top half, especially in MSG, should give them a top-four seed if they keep winning. Until the Big Ten Tournament, the main thing that the Boilermakers have to worry about is a pair of bubble teams looking to make a name for themselves, especially a road trip to Michigan State (Sunday 1pm ET, ESPN), followed by hosting Illinois (Tuesday 7pm ET, ESPN).
5 Kentucky SEC #2 1 – 5 – 9
19-8 RPI: 16 SOS: 17 R/N: 6-8 OOC: 12-2 RPI T50: 5-5 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 7
Remember on Monday when I said I might have underrated Kentucky? Yeah, in the aftermath of the loss to Arkansas, the only lip service I paid to that statement was to have Kentucky’s only drop be due to St. John’s hard charge. Fortunately, Coach Calipari’s One-and-Done All-Stars just got done playing the last questionable opponent until the conference tournament. They close the regular season hosting Florida (Saturday 4pm ET, CBS) and Vanderbilt (Tuesday 9pm ET, ESPN) and going on the road to Tennessee (Sunday 3/6 Noon ET, CBS). Those games will not only determine Kentucky’s seed in the SEC Tournament (where they could be anywhere from a 2 to a 5 in the 6-team West), but their seed in the NCAAs as well, so Kentucky would do well to take them seriously, especially Vanderbilt as the Commodores currently sit in 2nd in the East and if Kentucky can slip past them, that’s one fewer game in Atlanta.
5 Cincinnati BST #10 1 – 5 – 8
22-6 RPI: 35 SOS: 88 R/N: 8-4 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 4-6 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 3
What’s this? Another Big East team making a hard charge into the field? Cincinnati’s problem was never bad losses, and now they seem to be putting that together into good wins. (And yes, they can climb higher – the seed floor is really an educated guess, as it’s hard for me to argue, even in a worst-case scenario, against Cincinnati against teams very close to them. A win over Louisville at home helped build steam off a rare road win over St. John’s, and now the Bearcats can add Georgetown to their belt. As it stands right now, the Bearcats would actually have a bye in the Big East Tournament. Can they convert that momentum into another big home win over UConn (Sunday Noon ET, ESPNU) and win the home rematch with Georgetown (Saturday 3/5 2pm ET, Big East Network)?
6 Tennessee SEC #3 Probably in
17-11 RPI: 31 SOS: 1 R/N: 5-5 OOC: 10-5 RPI T50: 9-5 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤: 8
A home loss to Georgia followed by a road win over Vanderbilt? Just another wild and crazy week with the Volunteers. Tennessee has now swept the season series with the ‘Dores, which is, oddly enough, the only season series they’ve swept, and for the moment, at least, that’s enough to put them ahead in the pecking order. It’s hard to imagine that a team with wins over Pitt (neutral site, Vanderbilt, and Villanova, as well as a road win over the same Bulldogs and the sweep of the ‘Dores, would miss the tourney, but the resume isn’t as deep as you might think, especially with the questionable losses. They have a whopping five losses against teams outside the RPI Top 60, against teams like College of Charleston and Oakland. Incidentially, only two of those bad losses have the Bruce Pearl suspension excuse, and only the two worst ones (Arkansas and Charlotte) were road games; the home Vandy and Georgia wins came during the suspension. It would take a complete disaster for Tennessee to miss the tourney, but with this team you don’t discount complete disasters like, say, losing to Mississippi State (Saturday 6pm ET, ESPN) or – especially – South Carolina (Thursday 7pm ET, ESPN).
6 Missouri B12 #3 Probably in
21-6 RPI: 30 SOS: 68 R/N: 5-6 OOC: 13-1 RPI T50: 4-4 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 3
This is really just me deciding I liked Missouri’s lack of losses to anyone worse than Colorado and multiple mid-pack wins than A&M’s home win over the Tigers. Although they’re probably a win away from punching their ticket to the Dance, Missouri still needs to add depth to their resume, and their best chance to do that might be at the end of the season, with the home rematch with Kansas (Saturday 3/5 Noon ET, CBS) and the Big 12 Tournament. Their schedule gets progressively worse from here on out: a road trip to K-State (Saturday Noon ET, ESPN, already played) will be harder (and more important) than a road trip to Nebraska (Tuesday 8pm ET, Big 12 Network), but the season ends with the visit from the Jayhawks.
6 Vanderbilt SEC #4 2 – 6 – 10
20-7 RPI: 22 SOS: 19 R/N: 6-5 OOC: 12-2 RPI T50: 5-5 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 6
Vanderbilt’s loss to Tennessee is the occasion for a belated slip. It’s hard to tease out just how good the inconsistent Volunteers are, but if they manage to beat you twice in the season, you probably deserve to fall behind them even if you might be a better team. Vanderbilt has a tough last couple of games (@Kentucky Tuesday 9pm ET, ESPN, Florida Saturday 3/5 6pm ET, ESPN), which means they won’t be hurt much by them, but it also means there’s a pretty good chance they’ll at least be hurt, especially in the SEC Tournament where they could fall anywhere from second to fifth in the East.
6 Texas A&M B12 #4 2 – 6 – 10
21-5 RPI: 29 SOS: 55 R/N: 7-3 OOC: 12-1 RPI T50: 4-3 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 3
A&M didn’t really do anything to warrant this slip; I just didn’t like their resume as much upon further review. The Aggies don’t have an RPI Top 25 win and don’t get another shot at Texas until the conference tournament. At this point, any loss to a team that isn’t Kansas, Texas, or Missouri is poison to the Aggies’ relative standing on Selection Sunday, worth at least a seed line to their standing. Even if they somehow beat Kansas on the road (Wednesday 9pm ET, ESPN2), and then beat both Kansas and Texas in the conference tournament, it’d be very difficult to argue for a 1 seed regardless of what anyone else does.
7 UNLV MWC #3 Probably in
21-7 RPI: 25 SOS: 28 R/N: 11-3 OOC: 12-2 RPI T50: 3-6 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 2
One thing UNLV has going for them: they play well on the road. The Rebels don’t have many good wins, but combine their good road record with UC Santa Barbara being their only truly bad loss and they’re in pretty good shape. Being in the Mountain West, though, a single slip-up could kill them. UNLV took care of business against New Mexico, but at the least, all their remaining games would cause at least a seed’s worth of damage with a loss (though they’re probably a single win away from punching their Dance ticket), Utah (Saturday 3/5 4pm ET, VS.) is the best of the bunch, and after losing to San Diego State, they will need to be on their guard all the way to the conference tournament.
7 Georgia SEC #5 Probably in
18-9 RPI: 40 SOS: 29 R/N: 8-5 OOC: 11-3 RPI T50: 3-9 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 6
Georgia shoots up the board despite losing to Florida for similar reasons as Cincinnati: they don’t have any bad losses and the recent win over Tennessee helps show they have more than consistency. You’d still like to see more depth; their only other RPI Top 60 win is against UAB, and Ole Miss is not only their best road win, it’s their only other RPI Top 90 win. If Georgia can pick up a few more pelts they’ll be in better shape, but that won’t come until the conference tournament with Alabama (Saturday 3/5 1:30pm ET, SEC Network) the best remaining opponent.
7 Marquette BST #11 Probably in
17-11 RPI: 51 SOS: 27 R/N: 4-8 OOC: 9-4 RPI T50: 4-10 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤: 2
Another Big East team shooting up the board! 11 bids, seemingly unthinkable, now seems like an increasing certainty. Marquette has had a good collection of losses and a few decent upset wins, but a road win over UConn has really helped firm up their resume. Their RPI has been improving as they keep winning, now on the cusp of the top 50, though they still have only four wins against the RPI Top 80. It helps that all their losses are against the Big East’s top half (plus Duke, Vanderbilt, and St. John’s) with the exception of a head-scratching loss to Gonzaga on a neutral floor. One more resume-building game remains, at home to Cincinnati (Wednesday 8pm ET).
7 Illinois B10 #4 Probably in
17-11 RPI: 39 SOS: 11 R/N: 5-9 OOC: 10-3 RPI T50: 4-7 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤: 6
Illinois suffers more because of Georgia’s and Marquette’s hard charges than losing to Ohio State. But losses to Michigan State, Indiana, UIC, Northwestern, and Penn State continue to be concerning for the committee. Illinois has proven now that they can be the real deal when push comes to shove, but they need to get more consistent at it. Their only challenge before the conference tournament will be a road trip to Purdue (Tuesday 7pm ET, ESPN).
8 North Carolina ACC #2 Probably in
21-6 RPI: 12 SOS: 16 R/N: 8-5 OOC: 10-4 RPI T50: 4-5 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 4
What’s wrong with North Carolina’s resume now? Simply a dearth of wins over quality teams; the second-best team they’ve beaten is Florida State. Still, they showed enough in the game against Duke that they have to feel good about their chances in the season-ending home rematch (Saturday 3/5 8pm ET, CBS), which they will want to snag because no other ACC team is that great in the RPI, and none of them is better than tenth in the seeding. Maryland will be hungry to crawl back to the bubble when they come to Chapel Hill (Sunday 7:45pm ET, FSN), and Florida State wants revenge on their home floor (Wednesday 7pm ET, ESPN).
8 Minnesota B10 #5 Probably in
17-10 RPI: 49 SOS: 32 R/N: 6-6 OOC: 11-1 RPI T50: 3-7 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 6
Minnesota could be in very big trouble. The Gophers have lost a number of key personnel and are showing every sign of it unravelling their season, and their chances of going dancing. Losing to Penn State on the road was one thing; losing to Michigan State at home quite another. Minnesota’s disturbing losses even when healthy – Virginia at home, Indiana on the road – don’t help. Minnesota’s best true road win is still against Michigan, and the dropoff comes fast. I’m not ready to drop them to “barely in” just yet, but I will if they lose to Michigan (Saturday 4pm ET, BTN), which would also all but guarantee they’d have to play the first round of the conference tournament. The worst team they play the rest of the way is Northwestern (Wednesday 8:30pm ET, BTN), so it’s not like they have a chance to lose to an Indiana or an Iowa – though a loss to the Wildcats would be disastrous.
8 Old Dominion CAA #1 Probably in
23-6 RPI: 26 SOS: 56 R/N: 10-4 OOC: 10-2 RPI T50: 3-3 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 5
Old Dominion looked impressive beating James Madison, and would probably have to lose their first conference tournament game (or their last regular season game to William & Mary (Saturday 4pm ET, CSN on East Coast)) for the committee to even consider leaving them out of the Dance. The CAA, though one of only four non-BCS conferences even sniffing multiple bids, isn’t so strong that you can afford to lose to Delaware, the highest-seeded team Old Dominion could play if the season ended today (though pretty much all the teams ahead of the Hens are strong enough you can survive a loss to them). Survive that game, and barring a fittingly George Mason-esque run by another lower-tier CAA team, I can’t see any way for you to miss the Dance.
8 Arizona PAC #1 Probably in
23-5 RPI: 14 SOS: 48 R/N: 8-5 OOC: 11-2 RPI T50: 2-3 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 3
Danger, Will Robinson! I was willing to write off the loss to Oregon State and give Arizona quite respectable position, but the Wildcats lost what I had considered the only questionable game they could lose to USC, and now I just have to scratch my head. This definitely doesn’t look remotely like a top-ten team – there’s still only two RPI Top 70 wins and nothing in the top 30. Given the amount of time left in the season and the Wildcats’ lack of losses, it would take a lot of doing to miss the tourney, but if they become Sir Lose-a-lot down the stretch – especially with conference supremacy on the line in Westwood (Saturday 4pm ET, FSN) – they may start getting some second looks. And it goes without saying that they need to avoid disaster at home against the Oregon schools (Oregon State Thursday 9pm ET, FSN, Oregon Saturday 3/5 2pm ET, CBS).
9 Michigan State B10 #6 Barely in
15-11 RPI: 37 SOS: 5 R/N: 4-9 OOC: 7-4 RPI T100: 9-10 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤: 4
The Spartans are back. They’ve followed home wins over Penn State and Illinois with a crucial road win over Minnesota that gave them a companion to Northwestern in road wins, and aren’t that far off from leapfrogging the Gophers in the pecking order. The Spartans now look in pretty good condition to go dancing, though there is still some work to do, namely survive a visit from Purdue (Sunday 1pm ET, ESPN), pick up another road win over rival Michigan (Saturday 3/5 2pm ET, CBS), and hope to finish in the top 5 so you get a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament.
9 Xavier A10 #1 Barely in
21-6 RPI: 24 SOS: 47 R/N: 8-5 OOC: 9-5 RPI T100: 8-4 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 4
Temple losing to Duke and handing over pole position in the A-10 in UCLA-Arizona fashion doesn’t mean I’m suddenly a believer in the Musketeers. Xavier has a good strength of schedule, more wins against good teams (including both Temple and a road win over Georgia), but also some pretty bad losses, Charlotte being most obvious, but losing to Miami (OH) and fringe bubbler Gonzaga are no-nos, especially outside an already weak conference. A road trip to Dayton (Sunday 1pm ET, ESPN2) is the toughest Xavier will see before the conference tournament.
9 Memphis USA #1 Barely in
21-7 RPI: 33 SOS: 40 R/N: 5-5 OOC: 12-3 RPI T100: 9-5 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 4
The perils of an iffy conference: any loss will hurt you, and Memphis couldn’t afford to lose to lowly Rice. Other bubble carnage keeps the Tigers from falling far, but this could bite them on Selection Sunday. There just isn’t anyone that can provide the schedule boost the Tigers need; they don’t have any RPI Top 30 wins and have no hope of getting any. Their schedule wasn’t up to what it was in the Calipari years, but the teams they did play may have been a little too good for them; still, you’d like to beat Georgetown if you get them at home, and Tennessee should have been vulnerable coming off much more questionable losses and heading into the Bruce Pearl suspension. It may be imperative for the Tigers to win out; may-y-y-ybe they can lose to UAB, Southern Miss, or Marshall in the conference tournament.
9 Temple A10 #2 Probably in
21-6 RPI: 32 SOS: 76 R/N: 8-6 OOC: 10-4 RPI T100: 7-6 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 3
All the above numbers except the overall record doesn’t reflect the St. Joe’s game, which for some reason doesn’t have the result of posted, but it matters little. Temple’s loss to Duke provides an opportunity for the loss to Xavier to be decisive in the comparison with the Musketeers; Temple has a win over Georgetown, but their only other top-notch win is matched by Xavier. I’m keeping Temple at “Probably in” and Xavier at “Barely in” for now because while neither has any super-tough opposition left on their schedule, Xavier does have Dayton coming up. They won’t meet again until the conference tournament.
10 Penn State B10 #7 Barely in
15-12 RPI: 53 SOS: 6 R/N: 2-8 OOC: 7-4 RPI T100: 8-11 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤: 7
Penn State absolutely needed to beat Northwestern and show they could beat a team better than Indiana on the road. But it’s the home win over Minnesota, joining wins over Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan State, that make the Nittany Lions serious contenders for the Dance. Winning some road games would be nice, but the Lions do show flashes of brilliance in their home games – and really, only two of their losses are that horrible, and in Maryland’s case even that’s debatable. They may need a deep run in the conference tournament, but after surviving Ohio State (Tuesday 9pm ET, BTN), the Nittany Lions could have a massive opportunity to prove their road bona fides against struggling Minnesota (Sunday 3/6 1pm ET, BTN).
10 UCLA PAC #2 Barely in
20-8 RPI: 38 SOS: 50 R/N: 5-6 OOC: 9-4 RPI T100: 5-7 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 5
Ouch. The Bay Area schools are weak enough that splitting a road trip there isn’t the best of ideas, and losing in Berkeley may spell trouble for UCLA’s resume, as it, plus the new method, shows just how shallow this resume is. A team with eight losses, a losing road/neutral record, and a losing record against good teams are no longer enough to lead the conference. Getting the home rematch with Arizona (Saturday 4pm ET, FSN) may be critical.

10 Florida State ACC #3 Barely in
19-8 RPI: 51 SOS: 100 R/N: 8-6 OOC: 10-4 RPI T100: 5-7 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 5
Florida State represents the ACC’s best chance to get three bids, but losing to Maryland isn’t the way to go about doing it. The Seminoles, obviously, are being largely propelled by the win over Duke, but they’ve backed it up with only Auburn as a super-puzzling loss and wins over conference foes Boston College and Miami (FL), the latter on the road. That could be enough for the committee to overlook an iffy RPI and strength of schedule. Miami’s resume is strong enough (see below) that it could help ensure the ACC gets three bids, but Florida State’s best hope may lie in upsetting North Carolina at home (Wednesday 7pm ET, ESPN). A home showdown with Miami (FL) (Saturday 2pm ET, ACC Network) could help make or break the Seminoles’ chances.
10 Oklahoma State B12 #5 Barely in
16-11 RPI: 61 SOS: 36 R/N: 4-9 OOC: 12-2 RPI T100: 5-10 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 6
There’s the elite (Kansas and Texas), the strong (A&M and Missouri), and then there’s the Big 12’s third tier: the vulnerable. Oklahoma State actually has some impressive home wins, Missouri most notably, but they’ve also lost to too many weak teams, admittedly all on the road or neutral sites. With a few more wins over good opponents, the Cowboys could have a quite strong case for giving the Big 12 five bids. The team in Lawrence on Monday didn’t exactly look like a tournament-ready team, but margin-of-victory doesn’t matter to the committee.
11 Colorado State MWC #4 Barely in
17-9 RPI: 44 SOS: 37 R/N: 9-5 OOC: 9-4 RPI T100: 4-7 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 4
Questionable losses to Hampton and Sam Houston, as well as fellow bubblers New Mexico and Colorado, mean that a road victory over UNLV probably, by itself, won’t be enough. Wins over two Mississippi schools (Southern Miss and Ole Miss) help, but this resume needs more depth. Losing the home rematch with UNLV and the road trip to BYU costs the Rams two big chances to shore up their case, and they’ll have one last chance before the conference tournament against San Diego State (Saturday 3/5 10pm ET, mtn.).
11 Miami (FL) ACC #4 Barely in
17-11 RPI: 67 SOS: 46 R/N: 7-7 OOC: 12-3 RPI T100: 4-9 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤:7
If you want to talk about Boston College as even a fringe at-large contender, you have to talk about the Hurricanes after they swept the Eagles. The Hurricanes’ only home losses are to the three ACC teams ahead of them, and did I mention they’ve beaten West Virginia as well? Not that this isn’t desperately in need of improvement, and that the road losses, especially to conference rivals, aren’t a problem, but this is a resume that seems more impressive than one might give it credit for. The loss to Clemson helps the Tigers more than it hurts the Hurricanes, but the ‘Canes still need to survive another road test against Florida State (Saturday 2pm ET, ACC Network, already played).
11 Washington PAC #3 Barely in
19-8 RPI: 36 SOS: 63 R/N: 6-8 OOC: 9-3 RPI T100: 7-5 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 4
I have no intention of having a bias towards a local team, nor do I have any intention of having a bias towards a perceived rival. I do want to point out that there is a lot to like about the Huskies considering the Pac-10’s woes, foremost among them being wins against both conference teams above them (and UCLA was even on the road!), but there’s also a disturbing collection of road losses against rival Washington State, Stanford, and the Oregon schools. Those are the kind of losses you can’t have if you want to go dancing. The Huskies haven’t lost a game at home, and they really need to keep that up if they want any hope of getting to March, while also hoping a deep run in the conference tournament can make up for the collection of worrying road losses. Beating UCLA again at home (Thursday 9pm ET, ESPN) would be a big help.
11f Mississippi SEC #6 Barely in
17-11 RPI: 73 SOS: 59 R/N: 6-7 OOC: 12-3 RPI T100: 5-8 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 7
I’m losing patience with the Rebels. Losses to Mississippi State and South Carolina are not the way to convince anyone that Ole Miss might be better than Alabama. The Tide has received attention for a blistering start to conference play, but it’s still hard to get past their iffy nonconference. Ole Miss, on the other hand, has a losing record in conference, but still have a better RPI than the Tide. They have also upset some impressive teams at home, Kentucky foremost among them, but the Rebels are once again lucky not to fall out of the tournament field entirely, and beating Alabama at home (Saturday 4pm ET, SEC Network) is a must. It will probably take a deep run in the conference tournament to get in and stay in.
11f Kansas State B12 #6 Barely in
18-9 RPI: 28 SOS: 7 R/N: 5-7 OOC: 11-3 RPI T100: 8-9 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤:3
A few short weeks ago, when K-State was being blown out of the water by Kansas in Lawrence, many people thought the Wildcats didn’t look anything close to an NCAA tournament team. Certainly their tourney hopes were hanging by a thread. Did one win over the Jayhawks in Manhattan singlehandedly revitalize K-State’s season? Following it up with a road win over Nebraska certainly helps, with the Huskers now appearing just barely outside the field, and they do have wins over Virginia Tech and Baylor, and Colorado has accounted for their only real questionable losses, which may be why the Buffaloes are right behind the cutline. The Wildcats just need to survive tests against Missouri (Saturday Noon ET, ESPN, already played) and Texas on the road (Monday 9pm ET, ESPN).
12f Marshall USA #2 Barely in
17-9 RPI: 56 SOS: 73 R/N: 7-6 OOC: 10-3 RPI T100: 5-7 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤:7
What is a team ranked 7th in the conference standings doing ahead of who knows how many other Conference USA teams? Well, for one, Marshall isn’t just a neutral site win over West Virginia. They’ve also done something neither UAB nor Southern Miss have been able to do: beat Memphis when the Tigers come to town. We do have to wag our finger at the Herd for the questionable losses, especially on the road (though the two most questionable were at home), and it would be nice if you could have beaten UAB (or Southern Miss on the road), but this could be a scary team if they can get their act together, which they may be doing. They just beat Tulsa, a team ahead of them in the conference standings, and they can climb higher with wins over more teams ahead of them, SMU (Saturday 7pm ET) and UTEP (Wednesday 9pm ET). Win those games and Marshall could enter the conference tournament 4th, which is probably closer to their true strength, and would have a first-round bye.
12f George Mason CAA #2 Barely in
24-5 RPI: 21 SOS: 72 R/N: 10-5 OOC: 9-3 RPI T100: 8-3 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤:4
George Mason’s legendary Final Four run a few years back seems to have paid dividends for the team… but this profile still has some problems. There’s a lot to like: great RPI, five total losses, only two outside the RPI Top 100 (with NC State leaving that status), and none at home. But there’s a reason Mason is right on the cutline: while Virginia Commonwealth is a good road win, it’s not the best choice for your best road win. And while most of Mason’s losses are vaguely respectable, losses to the Hofstras and Woffords of the world do not a winning resume make. Obviously the Patriots are hurt by playing their games in the CAA, where quality wins are hard to come by, but playing Harvard, Dayton, and Duquesne as your best nonconference opponents doesn’t help (and Northern Iowa in BracketBusters did not help at all). Mason probably needs a deep run, maybe to the final, of the conference tournament to even start to exhale about their chances.
Michigan B10 #8 Barely out
16-12 RPI: 66 SOS: 21 R/N: 4-7 OOC: 9-3 RPI T100: 7-11 Wv≥: 5 Lv≤:3
Michigan lacks very much in the way of bad losses, the sweep of Penn State is an impressive pelt, and Michigan State just climbed into the top 40 of the RPI. They’ll certainly have opportunities to improve their resume down the stretch. Their last two games before the conference tournament? @Minnesota (Saturday 4:30pm ET, BTN) and the home rematch with Michigan State (Saturday 3/5 2pm ET, CBS). Either one of them would give the Wolverines a very strong case to make the Dance, and who knows, maybe even earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
Nebraska B12 #7 Barely out
18-9 RPI: 76 SOS: 74 R/N: 2-7 OOC: 12-2 RPI T100: 6-7 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤:5
Who says the problem with Nebraska joining the Big Ten is their basketball program not being up to snuff? (Granted, they’d still be bottom-half in that conference…) Beating Texas revitalized the Cornhuskers’ at-large chances, but you can’t afford to lose the home rematch with Kansas State like that. The Texas win joins home wins over A&M, Oklahoma State, and (critically) Colorado, but Hofstra is the best team beaten outside Lincoln and Oklahoma is the best team beaten in a true road game… and they’re Nebraska’s only wins outside Lincoln. See what I mean when I say the teams outside the tournament have ghastly resumes? The Huskers can add to their home resume against Missouri (Tuesday 8pm ET, Big 12 Network) but winning the road rematch against Colorado (Saturday 3/5 9pm ET) and going on a deep run in the conference tournament (if they win out the Huskers could sneak into a first-round bye) could be crucial to prove to the committee that they aren’t just a creation of home-court advantage.
Colorado B12 #8 Barely out
16-11 RPI: 84 SOS: 81 R/N: 4-9 OOC: 10-4 RPI T100: 5-9 Wv≥: 5 Lv≤:6
That is a ghastly RPI, but Colorado has made up for it with an impressive collection of wins, including Missouri at home and a sweep of Kansas State. Of course, it’s not that impressive, consisting mainly of bubble teams, and they’re racking up quite a collection of bad losses. Still, the bad losses aren’t that horrible, with only two outside the top 100 of the RPI. In the end, this is a resume that invites ambivalence. Can they upend Texas when the Longhorns come to town (Saturday 4pm ET, Big 12 Network)? It’s… unlikely.
12 Utah State WAC #1 Barely out
24-3 RPI: 18 SOS: 111 R/N: 9-3 OOC: 12-2 RPI T100: 2-2 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤:1
Utah State, the great enigma, and the reason BracketBusters was invented. Two of their three losses to BYU and Georgetown, and until BracketBusters nothing in the RPI Top 90. The loss to Idaho may turn out to be disastrous to their at-large hopes – in fact any loss, including in the conference tournament, could be fatal – but beating St. Mary’s on the road was absolutely critical to show they’re on the good side of that enormous gap in their resume. Of course, it may have also killed the Gaels’ own at-large chances, which in turn makes it look less great for the Aggies.
Clemson ACC #5 Barely out
18-9 RPI: 65 SOS: 84 R/N: 5-7 OOC: 11-3 RPI T100: 7-6 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤:5
Of the teams most people have competing for the fourth ACC spot (if there is one), Clemson stands out with wins over ACC #4 competitor Boston College, a sweep over my personal favorite for the spot Miami (FL), and Florida State. On the other hand, the Canes are the only one of those wins that came on the road, their next best road win is over College of Charleston, and they have nasty losses to the likes of South Carolina and Virginia, plus a home loss to Michigan and road losses to Florida State and Maryland. The Tigers will just try to survive a trip to Durham (Wednesday 9pm ET, ESPN), then try to further shore up their resume by adding another home win over an ACC bubble rival in Virginia Tech (Saturday 3/5 Noon ET, ESPN2). Do that, and assuming V-Tech loses to Duke tonight (hardly a sure thing), Clemson could find themselves getting the last first-round bye in the conference tournament, which has to make a psychological impression, at least, on the committee.
Northwestern B10 #9 Barely out
16-11 RPI: 98 SOS: 92 R/N: 5-7 OOC: 10-1 RPI T100: 3-11 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤:1
Don’t get too excited, Mike Wilbon – that I like the Wildcats’ lack of bad losses doesn’t mean the committee will, unless by “committee” you mean “NIT committee”. The fact is that Northwestern still hasn’t beaten teams better than the Big Ten’s bottom-feeders on the road, they don’t have more than Illinois or Michigan as good wins, and while Penn State and Michigan aren’t “bad” in the sense of outside the RPI Top 100, you still would rather not lose to them. Still, Northwestern will have opportunities down the stretch, with their last two regular season games coming at Wisconsin (Sunday 6pm ET, BTN) and a huge opportunity hosting faltering Minnesota (Wednesday 8:30pm ET, BTN). Combine that with a deep run in the conference tournament and the Wildcats could sneak into the bubble discussion yet… or at least shore up as many NIT home games as possible.
Southern Miss USA #3 Barely out
18-6 RPI: 41 SOS: 99 R/N: 7-5 OOC: 9-2 RPI T100: 6-5 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤:1
The difference between Southern Miss and UAB really is a case of splitting hairs. Both teams got swept by Memphis, beat Marshall at home, have one loss outside the RPI Top 100, and only have one win against a team with a better RPI than Marshall. The Eagles’ road head-to-head win over UAB is the tiebreaker right now, with props to SMU being the Eagles’ only loss to a team not in the field, but it goes without saying that the rematch at Southern Miss (Wednesday 7pm ET, CSS) will determine who gets the edge in this comparison.
UAB USA #4 Barely out
19-7 RPI: 34 SOS: 51 R/N: 7-5 OOC: 10-3 RPI T100: 8-6 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤:3
If UAB can win the road rematch with Southern Miss (Wednesday 7pm ET, CSS), the edge will go to UAB’s win over Virginia Commonwealth and sweep of Marshall, which the Eagles can’t compare to, and a significantly better strength of schedule. On the other hand, the Blazers also need to worry about not just the Arizona State loss, but also a concerning loss to Tulsa. But win out and go on a deep conference tournament run, and I might even end up putting you ahead of Marshall.

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