Bracket Ladder for March 2, 2011

Take a look at the list of colors below. You’ll see a veritable kaleidoscope of colors mentioned: gold, silver, bronze, purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red. Many of these colors were intended to keep to a theme; the Olympic medals were obvious, but the bubble colors were also intended to resemble a “traffic light” through green (go to the tournament), yellow (caution), the in-between orange, and red (stop, you’re not getting in).

Instead, it’s been more like blue, yellow, orange. I just tend to leave my options so wide-open that seed ranges are really broad fairly late into the season. I fully expected that teams wouldn’t lock up medal positions until close to championship week, but we only got our first tourney lock with a seed ceiling that wasn’t 1 a week or so ago! I intended the blue area to represent a “4-seed bubble”, or at least representing something worth fighting for other than just getting in to the tournament, and envisioned most of the tourney locks falling in the green range, but it seems blue is becoming the true color representing “lock”. (Maybe I should have made green “probably in”, yellow “barely in”, and orange “barely out”.) It doesn’t help that on Saturday, teams with seeds as high as 6 were being listed as “probably in”, and bubble colors trump colors that require a seed range because making the tournament is still more important than seed inside the tournament (and what’s the seed floor for a team that could miss the dance entirely?). With a better handle on what the committee is looking for, I could probably tighten the seed ranges and maybe get some teams in the green, and much of the uncertainty in seed ranges has to do with the inherent uncertainty of conference tournaments. Expect seed ranges to close fast over the next few ladders; you’ll see this already in the capsules for Old Dominion, George Mason, and Gonzaga, whose regular seasons are already basically over. I fully intend to put up ladders daily during Championship Week starting Monday, when I’ll do my conference championship seed range recalibration (CCSRR for short).

In the name of keeping the time spent on composition brief (I started working on this after 2 PM PT!), this is not going to be as robust a comparison as what you’ll see on Friday. I intend to take advantage of having relatively less work to do on Friday, so don’t be surprised by seemingly unjustified, “upon further review” moves on Friday.

This edition of the Bracket Ladder is complete through the games of March 1, 2011. This means it does not include any of Wednesday’s games, including the Connecticut-West Virginia 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
25-4 RPI: 7 SOS: 25 R/N: 9-3 OOC: 12-1 RPI T50: 8-4 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 4
Here are the road games Pitt won in the month of February: West Virginia and Villanova. Pitt had beaten Georgetown on the road and Texas on a neutral site, but that seems a far cry from the team that lost to St. John’s a week and a half ago and Louisville last weekend. Pitt returns to only leading Ohio State as a result of splitting hairs, but their best case for a 1 seed is arguably gone: their dominance of the best conference in the country. If they lose to Villanova (Saturday 4pm ET, CBS) Notre Dame could well catch them for the top seed in MSG. Not that seed would necessarily matter in the Big East Tournament – Villanova would be seeded lower than Cincinnati and Marquette if the tourney started today – but considering the Golden Domers account for one of Pitt’s four losses, that would create a psychological effect the committee would be hard-pressed to ignore, and for all Notre Dame’s virtues it’s still too hard to put them on the lofty perch I’ve put Pitt all season. Suddenly a bad loss in the Big East tournament dropping them to the 2 or 3 seed lines, if not quite out of the top four, isn’t out of the question. Marquette is a very possible quarterfinal opponent.
1 Ohio State B10 #1 1 – 1 – 4
28-2 RPI: 3 SOS: 26 R/N: 9-2 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 6-2 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 2
Ohio State is in primo position to take overall #1 with another Pitt stumble. 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 just dispatched Penn State in their last road game, and the home finale against Wisconsin (Sunday 4pm ET, CBS) is the last game that would give them any sort of trouble.
1 Kansas B12 #1 1 – 1 – 6
27-2 RPI: 2 SOS: 13 R/N: 11-1 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 Noon ET, CBS); they may still need to win out to stay on the top seed line.
1 Notre Dame BST #2 1 – 1 – 5
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, or an unbeaten home record. Notre Dame is on the top line partly 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. They have a Big East Tournament double-bye locked up, and if they win at UConn in the regular season finale (Saturday 2pm ET, ESPN), they’ll be second in the Big East, with a shot for first, in the purple, and it’ll be very difficult to argue against them.
2 Connecticut BST #3 1 – 2 – 6
21-7 RPI: 19 SOS: 11 R/N: 8-4 OOC: 12-0 RPI T50: 9-6 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 7
UConn bounced back from the Marquette loss with a win at Cincinnati. 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 – 5
26-2 RPI: 1 SOS: 12 R/N: 13-2 OOC: 13-1 RPI T50: 7-1 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 2
Even before Saturday, people were starting to talk about BYU, or at least the winner of the BYU-San Diego State game, as a potential 1 seed. Which is a marked improvement from narrowing the 1-seed field to five teams, two of them undeserving. So, are the Jimmer Fredettes a 1? Maybe, though my problems with both teams possibly being overrated remains. 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, so it is imperative they get their revenge against faltering New Mexico (Wednesday 10pm ET, mtn., already played). In short: Could the Cougars be 1-seed material? Maybe. Will the NCAA give them a 1-seed in that case? Of course not! They’ll disrespect the Mountain West too much.
2 Syracuse BST #4 1 – 2 – 5
24-6 RPI: 17 SOS: 23 R/N: 9-3 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 8-4 Wv≥: 5 Lv≤: 6
Syracuse was once part of what I considered the Big East’s “middle four”, but that pack has started to separate and early-conference-season swoon aside, the Orange have separated themselves as far and away ahead of the pack, and the win over Georgetown even moves them ahead of the Hoyas and onto the 2-seed line. 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 they just need losses from Louisville or St. John’s (or both) and not screwing up against DePaul (Saturday 4pm ET, Big East Network) to get a double bye in the Big East Tournament (though I haven’t looked up the full tiebreakers), meaning fewer games and a faster shot at a rematch with Pitt. (Not getting a double bye means having to play a potentially dangerous second-round game, and Cincinnati and Marquette are both potential opponents there.) And if they can get their revenge against Pitt en route to winning the best conference’s tournament, shouldn’t they at least be in the 1-seed discussion?
2 San Diego State MWC #2 1 – 2 – 4
26-2 RPI: 4 SOS: 33 R/N: 15-1 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 5-2 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 2
San Diego State can still conceivably contend for a 1 seed with a win in the rubber match in the conference tournament, but their 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 them on the precipice of leaving the top two seed lines. Losing the season finale against Colorado State at home (Saturday 10pm ET, mtn.) would push them over the edge.
3 Georgetown BST #5 1 – 3 – 8
21-8 RPI: 8 SOS: 1 R/N: 11-4 OOC: 11-1 RPI T50: 8-8 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤: 7
Things could get hairy fast for the Hoyas. I called the Syracuse game a must-win and they dropped it. Now they get a road rematch with the team that beat them in DC just last weekend (@Cincinnati Saturday 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. And can you imagine if they had to play Cincinnati for the third time in two and a half weeks in the second round?
3 Louisville BST #6 1 – 3 – 10
22-7 RPI: 20 SOS: 16 R/N: 4-5 OOC: 11-2 RPI T50: 8-5 Wv≥: 6 Lv≤: 7
Louisville’s win over Pitt, combined with the Wildcats losing to St. John’s, probably definitively placed them ahead of Villanova in the Big East pecking order. Louisville’s impressive collection of road pelts (Pitt, UConn, Syracuse, St. John’s) is going to be difficult to ignore, but the tournament will notice that Louisville’s only road win over a remotely good team came over UConn, as well as the nasty losses to Drexel and Providence (the former at home, the latter with better RPI than all but two of the Cardinals’ road wins). The road loss to Georgetown, in particular, costs Rick Pitino’s team in the comparison with the Hoyas and may cost them a 2 seed. On the plus side, if the season ended today, the Cardinals would have a double bye in the Big East Tournament, and with the revenge win over Providence tonight may have cinched it, but it never hurts to pick up more insurance – and bolster your road resume – in the season finale against West Virginia (Saturday Noon ET, ESPN).
3 Duke ACC #1 1 – 3 – 7
26-3 RPI: 5 SOS: 36 R/N: 10-3 OOC: 14-1 RPI T50: 7-2 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 3
The defending national champions losing to V-Tech on the road? Remind me again why people keep talking about this team as a 1 seed, when they STILL can’t beat a team better than Miami (FL) in a true road game? The tide may be turning against that, and more in favor of a 2-seed for the Blue Devils, maybe flirting with 3 if they’re not careful. 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 (Saturday 8pm ET, CBS). It’s looking like Duke has too questionable a schedule, and a conference, to justify their preseason #1 ranking. Duke’s 1-seed window is closing fast, and is probably dependent on completely winning out, beating North Carolina another two times along the way, and hope for teams currently on the top two lines to lose.
3 Texas B12 #2 1 – 3 – 6
24-6 RPI: 13 SOS: 22 R/N: 8-4 OOC: 12-3 RPI T50: 7-3 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 5
Texas is in very big trouble. After losing to Nebraska a week and a half ago, Texas followed that up with a road loss to Colorado and a repeat of Kansas State’s miracle over Kansas – bubble teams all. K-State’s suddenly #21 RPI doesn’t hurt them much, but that now gives them three losses outside the RPI Top 70, 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. The losing skid may be finally turning people across the country away from the Longhorns; Jerry Palm gives them the exact same seed number I do. Their good road wins over Kansas, North Carolina, and Texas A&M all came in December and January, and now seem a long time ago; Kansas is now in pole position for the Big 12 regular season title. The Longhorns categorically cannot continue this skid against Baylor (Saturday 9pm ET, ESPN), a team I consider a fringe bubbler that could really use the marquee win. Otherwise the Longhorns may be risking their spot on the top four seed lines.
4 St. John’s BST #7 1 – 4 – 8
19-9 RPI: 15 SOS: 3 R/N: 8-6 OOC: 8-4 RPI T50: 8-7 Wv≥: 8 Lv≤: 8
It isn’t even 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; they look set to get a double bye, so they only have to play three games and their chances of meeting a vulnerable team like Marquette appear minimal. 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 Steve Lavin’s team has road wins over Cincinnati, Marquette, West Virginia, and now Villanova to show they don’t need MSG to be good. This team is for real, and they will be dangerous in the Big Dance.
4 Villanova BST #8 2 – 4 – 9
21-9 RPI: 31 SOS: 27 R/N: 7-5 OOC: 12-1 RPI T50: 6-7 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤: 5
On the flip side, Villanova is starting to get squeezed out. Losing to St. John’s at home was not the way to head into the Wildcats’ last chances at showing the road win over Syracuse wasn’t a fluke, and Notre Dame blew them out of the water. It’s hard to see them beating Pitt (Saturday 4pm ET, CBS) short of a miracle. Nova’s best chance to really prove their bona fides might be at MSG, where there’s enough of a clusterbleep right around the single-bye cut line for the Wildcats to conceivably rise as high as the 7 seed… but a first-round date with Providence or USF (the former of which Villanova lost to on the road earlier in the year) seems nearly inevitable.
4 Wisconsin B10 #2 1 – 4 – 7
22-6 RPI: 14/td>

SOS: 30 R/N: 6-6 OOC: 10-2 RPI T50: 5-5 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 5
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 4pm ET, CBS) that could speak volumes about the Big Ten pecking order.
4 West Virginia BST #9 1 – 4 – 10
18-10 RPI: 22 SOS: 4 R/N: 7-8 OOC: 9-3 RPI T50: 6-6 Wv≥: 5 Lv≤: 7
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 might have a shot at getting back into the top half as Villanova struggles. Their final two home games against UConn (Wednesday 7pm ET, ESPN2, already played) and Louisville (Saturday 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 Purdue B10 #3 1 – 5 – 8
25-5 RPI: 6 SOS: 18 R/N: 9-5 OOC: 11-2 RPI T50: 6-3 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. Florida losing to Kentucky just puts them one step closer, but the Boilermakers took care of things on their end by parrying the challenges of Michigan State and Illinois.
5 Kentucky SEC #1 1 – 5 – 9
21-8 RPI: 12 SOS: 10 R/N: 6-8 OOC: 12-2 RPI T50: 7-5 Wv≥: 5 Lv≤: 7
So, now that the Kentucky-Florida series turned out to be a home-and-home split, who really is the class of the SEC? Well, even after losing to Arkansas, Kentucky still has only the one loss outside the RPI Top 100, as opposed to three. Then there’s the neutral-site win over Notre Dame and road win over Louisville. Coach Calipari’s One-and-Done All-Stars also avenged the loss to Vanderbilt to finish the regular season undefeated at home and, for the moment, grab the SEC East’s 2 seed that represents a first-round bye in Atlanta, which they can pretty much lock down with a win in the regular season finale in Knoxville (Sunday Noon ET, CBS). A loss could, though it’s a longshot, drop the Wildcats to 5th in a 6-team division. A win could mark a return to the top four seed lines.
5 Cincinnati BST #10 1 – 5 – 8
22-7 RPI: 37 SOS: 80 R/N: 8-4 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 4-7 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 3
A home loss to Connecticut sums up Cincinnati’s resume in a nutshell. 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.) The Bearcats have wins over Louisville, Georgetown, and a rare road win over St. John’s, but little else to show for their effort. As it stands right now, the Bearcats would actually have a bye in the Big East Tournament. Can they win the home rematch with Georgetown (Saturday 2pm ET, Big East Network) and further shore up their position?
5 Florida SEC #2 2 – 5 – 9
23-6 RPI: 10 SOS: 8 R/N: 9-3 OOC: 11-3 RPI T50: 9-2 Wv≥: 6 Lv≤: 5
UCF is starting to make a late-season rally to make that bad loss almost an RPI Top 50 loss, and the Gators took care of the most questionable opponent (Alabama) on the remaining schedule… but on the other hand, “Kentucky 76, Florida 68”. Florida can climb back towards the top four seeds with a win in the regular season finale against Vanderbilt (Saturday 6pm ET, ESPN) to deepen their resume.
6 Tennessee SEC #3 Probably in
17-12 RPI: 36 SOS: 2 R/N: 5-5 OOC: 10-5 RPI T50: 7-5 Wv≥: 5 Lv≤: 8
Tennessee has shown flashes of brilliance against Pitt, Vanderbilt, and Villanova… and then they lose games to teams like Mississippi State, Bruce Pearl or no. Had the Vols played all season like they do in their wins, they might be leading the SEC and on par with the Big East Nine. Instead, they’re listed as “Probably in” despite being on the 6 seed line. Admittedly, I may have the Vols a little overrated (I can’t get past the sterling #2 strength of schedule), as the resume isn’t as deep as you might think, especially with the questionable losses. Only the two worst ones (Arkansas and Charlotte) were road games; the home Vandy and Georgia wins came during the suspension. Don’t let the losing skid continue against South Carolina (Thursday 7pm ET, ESPN).
6 Vanderbilt SEC #4 2 – 6 – 10
21-8 RPI: 25 SOS: 20 R/N: 7-6 OOC: 12-2 RPI T50: 5-6 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤: 8
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 couldn’t beat Kentucky on the road, but they still have a huge opportunity in the regular season finale when Florida comes to town (Saturday 6pm ET, ESPN), but the flip side is they could be closer to fifth than second in the East in the SEC Tournament, meaning an extra game against a weak SEC West team.
6 Missouri B12 #3 Probably in
21-8 RPI: 30 SOS: 53 R/N: 5-8 OOC: 13-1 RPI T50: 4-5 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 5
From an RPI perspective, Texas A&M’s loss to Baylor, who I consider a fringe bubbler, is worse than Missouri’s road losses to tip-of-the-bubblers K-State and Colorado. This creates a sense of foreboding around the regular season finale against Kansas (Saturday Noon ET, CBS). Although they’re probably a win away from punching their ticket to the Dance, Missouri still needs to add depth to their resume, but between the game with the Jayhawks and the Big 12 Tournament, they’ll have plenty of chances to do so. But the former will make a huge impact on their standing in the latter.
6 UNLV MWC #3 Probably in
22-7 RPI: 26 SOS: 34 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, Utah (Saturday 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 Texas A&M B12 #4 2 – 7 – 10
21-6 RPI: 29 SOS: 59 R/N: 7-4 OOC: 12-1 RPI T50: 4-3 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 4
Well, now A&M has done something to warrant the slip; seriously, you got swept by Baylor? 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, already played), 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. In fact, it’s getting difficult to argue for the top four seed lines.
7 Georgia SEC #5 Probably in
19-9 RPI: 35 SOS: 28 R/N: 8-5 OOC: 11-3 RPI T50: 3-9 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 7
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 besides Kentucky 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 1:30pm ET, SEC Network) the best remaining opponent.
7 Marquette BST #11 Probably in
18-11 RPI: 53 SOS: 30 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, already played).
7 Kansas State B12 #5 Probably in
20-9 RPI: 21 SOS: 6 R/N: 6-7 OOC: 11-3 RPI T50: 3-6 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤:6
What a difference a few weeks makes. A month 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, and as recently as two and a half weeks ago their tourney hopes were hanging by a thread. Did one win over the Jayhawks in Manhattan singlehandedly revitalize K-State’s season? It now looks as though they have no real questionable losses – the worst being Oklahoma State and Colorado, bubble teams both – and they’ve gone on a five-game winning streak including upending Missouri at home and the admittedly-struggling Longhorns on the road. Suddenly the Wildcats have passed Missouri for the last Big 12 Tournament bye, and look far more likely to make the field than not. I wouldn’t go as far as ESPN’s Eamon Brennan and call them a lock yet, but it is something for future bubble teams to look at and take heart in.
8 Illinois B10 #4 Probably in
18-12 RPI: 39 SOS: 13 R/N: 5-10 OOC: 10-3 RPI T50: 3-8 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. They blew their only challenge before the conference tournament and now need to wait until then to firm up their standing.
8 North Carolina ACC #2 Probably in
22-6 RPI: 11 SOS: 17 R/N: 8-5 OOC: 10-4 RPI T50: 4-4 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 3
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 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. Beware revenge-minded Florida State (Wednesday 7pm ET, ESPN, already played).
8 Old Dominion CAA #1 Probably in
24-6 RPI: 27 SOS: 74 R/N: 10-4 OOC: 10-2 RPI T50: 3-3 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 4
Old Dominion looked impressive beating James Madison, and would probably have to lose their first conference tournament game against Delaware or Northeastern (Saturday 6pm ET, CSS) 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 (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
23-6 RPI: 16 SOS: 42 R/N: 8-6 OOC: 11-2 RPI T50: 2-4 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 4
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 – and they just added a loss to UCLA – 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 2pm ET, CBS).
9 Michigan State B10 #5 Barely in
15-12 RPI: 45 SOS: 5 R/N: 4-9 OOC: 7-4 RPI T100: 9-11 Wv≥: 5 Lv≤: 3
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. The Spartans now look in pretty good condition to go dancing, though there is still some work to do, namely pick up another road win over rival Michigan (Saturday 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 Probably in
22-6 RPI: 23 SOS: 43 R/N: 9-5 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 semi-fringe bubbler Gonzaga are no-nos, especially outside an already weak conference. Xavier did survive a road trip to Dayton that’s probably the toughest they’ll see before the conference tournament.
9 UCLA PAC #2 Barely in
21-8 RPI: 33 SOS: 45 R/N: 5-6 OOC: 9-4 RPI T100: 5-7 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 6
UCLA bounced back from a bad loss to Cal by sweeping the Arizona schools and evening the season series with the Wildcats. A team with eight losses, a losing road/neutral record, and a losing record against good teams still suffers in the comparison on the ladder, but the Bruins and Wildcats now stand tied atop the standings. Another dangerous test awaits from a road trip to Washington (Thursday 9pm ET, ESPN)

9 Minnesota B10 #6 Barely in
17-11 RPI: 60 SOS: 32 R/N: 6-6 OOC: 11-1 RPI T100: 5-9 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 7
Remember when Minnesota was beating Purdue at home and North Carolina and West Virginia on neutral sites? 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. The team that went 1-6 in February doesn’t look like a team that should even be sniffing the Dance, with their only win coming against Iowa and losing on the road to lowly Indiana. Minnesota is firmly in “barely in” territory at the moment, and they will drop even harder after losing to Northwestern (Wednesday 8:30pm ET, BTN, already played), possibly all the way to “probably out”. The home loss to Virginia in November doesn’t help either. Minnesota just needs wins to show they can still play at their early-season pace, but Penn State (Sunday 1pm ET, BTN) seems like a significant risk for low reward, and as for the Big Ten Tournament, the Gophers are locked into the 8/9 game for a rematch with Northwestern and a quarterfinal date with Ohio State.
10 Temple A10 #2 Probably in
22-6 RPI: 28 SOS: 91 R/N: 9-6 OOC: 10-4 RPI T100: 7-5 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 2
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. They won’t meet again until the conference tournament.
10 Memphis USA #1 Barely in
21-8 RPI: 34 SOS: 40 R/N: 5-6 OOC: 12-3 RPI T100: 9-6 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 5
Is Memphis frittering away their at-large hopes? The question has to be asked after the Tigers followed a loss to Rice with a loss to UTEP. 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, so losing to the teams they do play may be disastrous. 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.
10 Florida State ACC #3 Barely in
20-8 RPI: 48 SOS: 89 R/N: 8-6 OOC: 10-4 RPI T100: 6-7 Wv≥: 1 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, already played).
10 Penn State B10 #7 Barely in
15-13 RPI: 59 SOS: 7 R/N: 2-8 OOC: 7-4 RPI T100: 7-12 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤: 6
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 the Nittany Lions could have a not-as-massive-as-it-once-was opportunity to prove their road bona fides against desperate Minnesota (Sunday 1pm ET, BTN).
11 Oklahoma State B12 #6 Barely in
18-11 RPI: 58 SOS: 44 R/N: 4-9 OOC: 12-2 RPI T100: 6-10 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 6
There’s the elite (Kansas and Texas), the strong (A&M, Missouri, and now K-State), and then there’s the Big 12’s third tier: the vulnerable. Oklahoma State actually has some impressive home wins, Missouri most notably (K-State seems like a long time ago), 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. They will have a very uphill climb in the Big 12 Tournament; a second-round date with Kansas or Texas looks inevitable (that or Colorado or Nebraska in the first).
11 Colorado State MWC #4 Barely in
17-10 RPI: 47 SOS: 37 R/N: 9-6 OOC: 9-4 RPI T100: 5-8 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 5
Uh-oh. Colorado State’s at-large hopes may be hanging on thin ice after losing to Air Force on the road, on the heels of losing the home rematch with UNLV and the road trip to BYU. Barring a run to the conference tournament final, they absolutely have to somehow upset San Diego State in the regular season finale (Saturday 10pm ET, mtn.).
11 Miami (FL) ACC #4 Barely in
17-12 RPI: 69 SOS: 45 R/N: 7-8 OOC: 12-3 RPI T100: 4-10 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤:9
Despite losing at Florida State, the Hurricanes’ only home losses besides Clemson 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. If form holds, you may have to recognize after the ‘Canes beat Virginia in the first conference tournament game… too bad Duke would await after that.
11f Mississippi SEC #6 Barely in
18-11 RPI: 74 SOS: 57 R/N: 6-7 OOC: 12-3 RPI T100: 5-8 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 7
Losses to Mississippi State and South Carolina are not the way to convince anyone that Ole Miss might be better than Alabama; beating Alabama on your home floor is, but it doesn’t help as much as you might think. 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 it will probably take a deep run in the conference tournament to get in and stay in.
11f Washington PAC #3 Barely in
19-9 RPI: 42 SOS: 61 R/N: 6-8 OOC: 9-3 RPI T100: 7-6 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 5
After starting the season 13-0 at home, the Huskies lost that perfect mark at the worst possible time, at the end of the season against weaker rival Washington State. That won’t go well with an earlier loss to the Cougars in Pullman, or with the many other concerning road losses. There is still 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 it’s starting to become rather tainted. Those are the kind of losses you can’t have if you want to go dancing. The Huskies have to hope 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.
12f Marshall USA #2 Barely in
18-9 RPI: 51 SOS: 73 R/N: 7-6 OOC: 10-3 RPI T100: 5-7 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤:7
What is a team ranked 6th 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 SMU, leapfrogging them in the process. They can climb higher with wins over one more team ahead of them, UTEP (Wednesday 9pm ET). Win that game 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
25-5 RPI: 24 SOS: 87 R/N: 11-5 OOC: 9-3 RPI T100: 7-3 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. ESPN’s Eamon Brennan has been touting them as Old Dominion’s equal and just moved them up into lock territory, giving me pause and making me consider a reassessment by Friday. Until then, 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. Certainly you can’t lose in the quarters to UNC Wilmington or Georgia State (Saturday Noon ET, Comcast/
Michigan B10 #8 Barely out
17-12 RPI: 57 SOS: 24 R/N: 5-7 OOC: 9-3 RPI T100: 8-11 Wv≥: 6 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 just added another road pelt in Minnesota, and now the regular season ends with the home rematch with Michigan State (Saturday 2pm ET, CBS). The Wolverines have a very strong case to make the Dance, and who knows, maybe they can even earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
Nebraska B12 #7 Barely out
19-10 RPI: 73 SOS: 65 R/N: 2-8 OOC: 12-2 RPI T100: 7-7 Wv≥: 5 Lv≤:4
Weird week for Nebraska: lose to Iowa State on the road, beat Missouri at home. Emblematic of their entire profile: The Missouri win joins home wins over Texas, 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? Winning the road rematch against Colorado (Saturday 3/5 9pm ET) and going on a deep run in the conference tournament could be crucial to prove to the committee that they aren’t just a creation of home-court advantage.
Colorado B12 #8 Barely out
17-11 RPI: 77 SOS: 75 R/N: 4-9 OOC: 10-4 RPI T100: 6-9 Wv≥: 6 Lv≤:6
The Buffaloes just picked up a huge win over the Longhorns, providing a tremendous boost to their overall resume. Of course, the win came at home, and the larger profile still invites ambivalence, backed mainly by wins over bubble teams with quite a collection of bad losses. Still, the bad losses aren’t that horrible, with only two outside the top 100 of the RPI.
12 Utah State WAC #1 Barely out
25-3 RPI: 18 SOS: 104 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
19-9 RPI: 67 SOS: 94 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, already played), then try to further shore up their resume by adding another home win over an ACC bubble rival in Virginia Tech (Saturday Noon ET, ESPN2). Do that, and 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
16-12 RPI: 97 SOS: 81 R/N: 5-8 OOC: 10-1 RPI T100: 3-12 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, Michigan, and Minnesota 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 a huge opportunity hosting faltering Minnesota (Wednesday 8:30pm ET, BTN, already played). 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.
UAB USA #3 Barely out
20-7 RPI: 32 SOS: 69 R/N: 8-5 OOC: 10-3 RPI T100: 7-6 Wv≥: 5 Lv≤:3
If UAB can win the road rematch with Southern Miss (Wednesday 7pm ET, CSS, already played), 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.
Southern Miss USA #4 Barely out
18-7 RPI: 40 SOS: 85 R/N: 7-6 OOC: 9-2 RPI T100: 6-6 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤:2
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’ loss to UCF both makes the Knights suddenly look like a fringe-y at large contender and loses the tiebreaker with the Blazers, despite Southern Miss’ road head-to-head win, 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, already played) will determine who gets the edge in this comparison.
Boston College ACC #6 Barely out
18-11 RPI: 37 SOS: 15 R/N: 7-7 OOC: 10-4 RPI T100: 7-10 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 3
Here’s an interesting dirty little secret: Only three non-BCS conferences would produce an at-large team if the ladder held. What’s more, all three are looking like multi-bid conferences, so even an upset in the conference tournament wouldn’t move the cutline. Barring a surprise in the CAA, then, there’s a bit more room for BCS-conference bubblers to work with without worrying about conference tournament upsets beyond their control screwing their Dance plans. That’s good news for a team like Boston College, who doesn’t have too terrible losses outside a weird home loss to Yale (though losses to Harvard and Rhode Island also raise eyebrows), but whose entire positive resume rests on a neutral-site win over A&M in November. The sweep of V-Tech gives them the edge there, but it’s literally the second-best foe BC has beaten, if only because they couldn’t get Duke at home.
Virginia Tech ACC #7 Barely out
19-9 RPI: 62 SOS: 86 R/N: 8-6 OOC: 10-3 RPI T100: 7-6 Wv≥: 5 Lv≤: 5
V-Tech has the wins BC doesn’t have, the big home win over Duke most recently (though Florida State had been the best win before that), but they’ve been swept by lowly Virginia and have a loss to Georgia Tech to boot. Those, combined with being swept by Boston College, aren’t the kind of games you want to enter March with. The Hokies can get a better true road win than Maryland or NC State this weekend in the regular season finale against Clemson (Saturday Noon ET, ESPN2) with the last ACC Tournament first-round bye on the line.
12 Gonzaga WCC #1 Barely out
21-9 RPI: 68 SOS: 99 R/N: 8-5 OOC: 10-6 RPI T100: 7-7 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤: 4
With St. Mary’s recent struggles, Gonzaga seems to be back in the same place it always was as the class of the West Coast Conference. I wouldn’t count out their chances of making the Tournament either; they have only two or three truly horrible losses and quite the collection of good wins, and the WCC “bye-to-the-semifinal” format should protect them from potential harm. The main problem is the atrocious schedule strength from playing in such a bad conference.
Central Florida USA #5 Barely out
17-9 RPI: 56 SOS: 47 R/N: 6-5 OOC: 12-0 RPI T100: 7-5 Wv≥: 4 Lv≤: 5
“Are you crazy, Morgan? To put Marshall ahead of UAB and Southern Miss was one thing, but a team that’s ninth in the conference? How crazy do you take Conference USA to be?” Well, until recently (namely, the end of a lengthy losing streak), I would have been down on UCF myself. But their RPI is now in the 50s and their place in Florida’s collection of bad losses is starting to attract my attention in their direction instead of the Gators’. They’ve backed it up with a neutral-site win over Miami (FL) and a home win over Marshall, to which they just added one over Southern Miss, which could be a warning shot to the rest of the conference. The nasty losses to East Carolina (who swept them), Rice, and Houston are unforgivable, but all the other losses are to teams ahead of them. Certainly you just know the NIT would be very happy to take the Marcus Jordans. UCF probably can’t get out of the 8/9 game of the conference tournament, but at last check UAB was set to be the top seed in the conference tournament, which gives UCF a much better chance of an upset than if it was, say, Memphis (not that Memphis is in the best of shape either).

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