Selection Sunday is 25 days away. Between now and then, a few things are going to happen. First, a random team is going to struggle mightily down the stretch. Second, a random team is going to get hot and streak their way into the tournament. Third, conference tournaments are going to help some resumes and hurt others. Finally, there is the possibility of bid stealers who shrink the bubble even further.
In this edition of the Bubble Breakdown, I am going to assume teams will play at relatively the same level they have recently. It seems futile to pick the teams that are going to fulfill the top 2 scenarios above, or even which conference might hit on the last note above. With that, here are the teams that are a lock to make the tournament, teams almost in lock mode and then a little breakdown of the "bubble", including which teams I think are in real trouble.
LOCKS(26): North Carolina(ACC), Duke(ACC), Florida State(ACC), Syracuse(Big East), Georgetown(Big East), Marquette(Big East), Louisville(Big East), Missouri(Big12), Baylor(Big12), Kansas(Big12), Ohio State(Big10), Michigan State(Big10), Michigan(Big10), Wisconsin(Big10), Indiana(Big10), Kentucky(SEC), Florida(SEC), Wichita State(MVC), Creighton(MVC), UNLV(MWC), San Diego State(MWC), St. Mary's(WCC), Gonzaga(WCC), Temple(A-10), Southern Miss(C-USA), Murray State(OVC)
SHOULD BE DANCING(13): Virginia(ACC), West Virginia(Big East), Connecticut(Big East), Notre Dame(Big East), Seton Hall(BigEast), Vanderbilt(SEC), Mississippi State(SEC), Alabama(SEC), New Mexico(MWC), BYU(WCC), Memphis(C-USA), St. Louis(A-10), Harvard(Ivy)
LIKELY ONE-BID LEAGUES(18): Valparaiso(Horizon), Iona(Metro Atlantic), Middle Tennessee(Sun Belt), Long Beach State(Big West), Oral Roberts(Summit), Drexel(Colonial), Nevada(WAC), Akron(Mid-American), Belmont(Atlantic Sun), Bucknell(Patriot), Davidson(Southern), Weber State(BigSky), Long Island(Northeast), UNC-Asheville(Big South), TX-Arlington(Southland), Norfolk State(MEAC), Stony Brook(A-East), Mississippi Valley State(SWAC)
BUBBLE(11 available spots, 1 will be absorbed by the PAC-12 Tourney Champion):
Illinois(Big10), 16-9, 5-7
3 (RPI Top25 W), 4 (RPI Top50 W), 7 (RPI Top100 W), 2 (+/- vs RPI Top200)
Best Win vs Michigan State (RPI 4)
Remaining Games: Purdue(55), @Nebraska(126), @Ohio State(9), Iowa(131), Michigan(14), @Wisconsin(25)
Summary: The Illini hit a crucial 2-game stretch starting tonight. A sweep of these games does two things. First, it ends a stretch of 6 losses in 7 games with back-to-back wins. Second, it gives them a little more room for error down the stretch. The 3 Top 25 wins are something no other bubble team has right now, but a 7-11 conference record would be an eyesore.
Kansas State(Big12) 17-8 (overall), 6-7 (conf)
Best Win vs Missouri (RPI 7)
Remaining Games: @Baylor(6), @Missouri(7), Iowa State(37), @Texas A&M(148), Oklahoma State(108)
Summary: The Wildcats appeared to be safe, but 4 losses in 6 games have moved them into bubble territory. That could easily turn into 6 losses in 8 games within the week, making the Iowa State game a huge tussle between bubblicious squads. The RPI is getting dangerously low, and the 4 Top 100 wins are nothing special.
Iowa State(Big12), 18-8, 8-5
Best Win vs Kansas (RPI 5)
Remaining Games: Oklahoma(109), Texas Tech(236), @Kansas State(63), @Missouri(7), Baylor(6)
Summary: A home sweep this week will ensure 10 wins and a likely 4th place finish in the Big 12 for the Cyclones. The RPI is solid, but the 2 Top 50 and 3 Top 100 wins are not. All of their quality wins are in conference and at home, with Iowa(131) being the best non-conference win and Oklahoma(109) being the best road win.
Xavier(A-10), 16-9, 7-4
Best Win at Vanderbilt (RPI 29)
Remaining Games: Dayton(74), @Massachusetts(71), Richmond(140), @St. Louis(23), Charlotte(135)
Summary: A home sweep is almost a necessity for the Musketeers at this stage, which would add an 8th top 100 win. A win over St. Louis would be even better. I think 20-21 wins is the mark for Xavier, as long as the RPI remains in the Top 60.
Minnesota(Big10), 17-9, 5-8
Best Win at Indiana (RPI 15)
Remaining Games: @Northwestern(43), Michigan State(4), Indiana(15), @Wisconsin(25), Nebraska(126)
Summary: Minnesota is now losers of 4 of their past 6 and the next four are all against top 50 RPI teams. The Gophers would appear to control their own destiny, needing 3 wins in the final 5 games to get to 8-10 in the Big 10. That would also give them 5 top 50 and 7 top 100 wins, both very solid. They could also play themselves right out of the discussion as well.
California(PAC12), 20-6, 10-3
Best Win at Washington (RPI 59)
Remaining Games: Oregon(68), Oregon State(145), @Utah(274), @Colorado(75), @Stanford(104)
Summary: The Golden Bears are an odd case, but not dis-similar to Clemson/UAB a year ago. Cal is probably safe if they avoid a stumbling finish, but their lack of quality wins has to hurt their seed at this point. The only other quirk might be if they end up 2nd in the regular season and therefore would not be regular season or post-season champs in the PAC 12.
Purdue(Big10), 16-9, 6-6
Best Win vs Temple (RPI 18)
Remaining Games: @Illinois(49), Michigan State(4), Nebraska(126), @Michigan(14), Penn State(133), @Indiana(15)
Summary: How big is tonight's game in Champaign? For Purdue, it would mean a home sweep of Nebraska and Penn State would get them to 9-9 and they would be assured of a positive 200 +/-. A loss brings that negative +/- into play, unless of course they beat Michigan State at home, which would give them another really good win and make them almost a lock. So I guess I am saying they need to split their next two, or split the Michigan/Indiana road games.
Miami, FL(ACC), 15-8, 6-4
Best Win at Duke (RPI 2)
Remaining Games: North Carolina(8), Wake Forest(146), @Maryland(92), Florida State(27), @NC State(50), Boston College(220)
Summary: This is a resume almost exactly like Iowa State, except that Miami will have the Reggie Johnson injury as a potential help in the committee's eyes. The Hurricanes have two great home opportunities for resume-enhancing wins, as well as a big road game vs fellow bubble team NC State. They need to keep taking care of business and a 4-2 finish would be a big step in the right direction.
Northwestern(Big10), 15-9, 5-7
Best Win vs Michigan State (RPI 4)
Remaining Games: @Indiana(15), Minnesota(64), Michigan(14), @Penn State(133), Ohio State(9), @Iowa(131)
Summary: The fourth Big 10 team on the bubble, Northwestern has a very similar resume to Minnesota, meaning Saturday's game in Evanston has added importance. The Wildcats will determine their own fate, but a 2-4 finish with wins against only Penn State and Iowa are not going to improve this resume.
Washington(PAC12), 17-8, 10-3
Best win at Arizona (RPI 67)
Remaining Games: Arizona State(228), Arizona(67), @Washington State(153), @USC(232), @UCLA(122)
Summary: After splitting the Oregon road swing last week, the Huskies RPI actually went from 71 to 59. That is the good news. The bad news was they relinquished their sole possession of first in the PAC-12 and the rest of the resume lacks wins of significance. Saturday's game with Arizona looms large, but probably more for Arizona. This is just not an at-large profile, conference champion or not.
Arizona(PAC12), 18-8, 9-4
Best Win at California (RPI 47)
Remaining Games: @Washington State(153), @Washington(59), USC(232), UCLA(122), @Arizona State(228)
Summary: Winners of 5 of their last 6, the Wildcats currently occupy the last spot in my field. They have no margin for error though, and a loss at Washington on Saturday would squander their last resume building opportunity before the PAC-12 tournament.
Colorado(PAC12), 15-8, 9-4, Oregon(PAC12), 18-7, 9-4
RPI 75, 68
Summary: The at-large chances of these two are slim, but I include them as the last 2 of the 5 teams likely to win the PAC-12 tournament.
Arkansas(SEC), 17-8, 5-5
Best Win vs Michigan (RPI 14)
Remaining Games: @Tennessee(111), Florida(20), Alabama(35), @Auburn(134), Mississippi(52), @Mississippi State(48)
Summary: I am guessing Razorback fans wish Tennessee wouldn't be playing their best basketball, because the Hogs need a road win. Probably two, or at least one plus a neutral win in the SEC Tourney. They also need to add more good wins, which are available at home.
Texas(Big12), 17-9, 7-6
Best Win vs Temple (RPI 18)
Remaining Games: @Oklahoma State(108), Baylor(6), @Texas Tech(236), Oklahoma(109), @Kansas(5)
Summary: A 4-game winning streak has Texas on the right side of the bubble, but they have the Iowas State/Miami profile that is a little short on Top 100 wins. Monday's home tilt with Baylor is HUGE, as is the match-ups in the Big 12 tourney, as Texas could use Iowa State or Kansas State as a victim before a chance at the heavyweights.
Cincinnati(Big East), 17-8, 7-5
Best Win at Georgetown (RPI 13)
Remaining Games: Providence(157), Seton Hall(31), Louisville(24), @South Florida(60), Marquette(11), @Villanova(96)
Summary: What do you do with an RPI of 93 and a loss to Presbyterian? Wins over Georgetown, Connecticut and Notre Dame and a 6-4 road record all look very good. But that RPI!! The schedule is ahead of them to improve it, with 5 out of 6 remaining games vs the Top 100. The mystery is how low the final RPI can be. Colorado would be my example last year with 5 top 25 wins, but the Buffs RPI was just too low in the end.
North Carolina State(ACC), 18-7, 7-3
Best Win at Miami, FL (RPI 33)
Remaining Games: @Duke(2), Florida State(27), North Carolina(8), @Clemson(155), Miami, FL(33), @Virginia Tech(103)
Summary: Three home games against top 33 teams, 3 chances to prove they should be in the field. With similar resumes and a head-to-head win on a neutral court, NC State should probably be ahead of Texas right now. It is exercises like this that remind us of those things. That said, a three-game losing streak is very possible and would make all remaining games almost must-wins for the Wolfpack.
St. Joseph's(A10), 16-10, 6-5
Best win vs Creighton (RPI 30)
Remaining Games: @Rhode Island(254), @George Washington(169), Richmond(140), Temple(18), @St. Bonaventure(91)
Summary: A decent RPI and a now-only-decent win vs Creighton have St. Joe's squarely on the bubble. A 3-7 road record gives little faith that they can run the road table against some of the weaker Atlantic 10 teams, but the next three games are critical. A home win vs Temple would be even bigger going into the A-10 Tourney where more top 100 wins may be available. As stated and true a year ago, I think the committee wants some mid-majors in the play-in games, and the Atlantic 10 is going to have a candidate or two perfect for that scenario.
Dayton(A10), 15-9, 5-5
Best Win at Temple (RPI 18)
Remaining Games: Charlotte(135), @Xavier(56), @Duquesne(85), Massachusetts(71), @Richmond(140), George Washington(169)
Summary: The Flyers ran out of gas finally after losing John Benson, but still have 7 Top 100 wins, including Temple, Alabama, St. Louis and Xavier. The re-match with Xavier is big, but Dayton needs a big finish to improve their RPI and road record for the committee.
LSU(SEC), 15-10, 5-6
Best Win vs Marquette (RPI 11)
Remaining Games: @South Carolina(177), Georgia(100), @Mississippi(52), Tennessee(111), @Auburn(134)
Summary: LSU is still breathing for a few reasons. They have a top 25 win, they have won 3 of their last 4, with all wins coming against the Top 70 and the remaining schedule makes 19-11, 9-7 look like a realistic possibility. The downside is that the remaining schedule is going to make a big leap in RPI almost impossible.
Mississippi(SEC), 15-9, 5-5
Best Win vs Miami, FL (RPI 33)
Remaining Games: Vanderbilt(29), @Kentucky(3), @Tennessee(111), LSU(66), @Arkansas(69), Alabama(35)
Summary: For disclosure purposes, two of the Top 100 victories are against number 99 and 100, which could go away if TCU and/or Georgia goes backward the rest of the way. The good news is that 5 of the final 6 are against the RPI Top 70, so Mississippi, unlike LSU, has a chance to improve their RPI with a couple big wins, or at least gain separation from fellow bubble teams Arkansas and LSU with head-to-head victories.
Central Florida(C-USA), 16-7, 7-4
Best Win vs Memphis (RPI 19)
Remaining Games: East Carolina(179), @Rice(165), UTEP(173), @Memphis(19), UAB(119)
Summary: Honestly, anything less than a 5-0 finish may not get it done. With wins over Memphis and Connecticut, UCF has part of the resume, but the 3 top 100 wins are usually not at-large worthy and another win over Memphis is the only way to change that before the C-USA tourney.
Pittsburgh (15-11, 4-9, 77, 1,2,5,-1) - A 4-1 finish plus 2 more in the Big East Tourney might get them in depending on everyone else.
Northern Iowa (16-10, 7-8, 53, 0,3,4,4) - Probably have to win out to the MVC final to be considered. A mid-major with 11 or 12 losses is a tough sell without a few more quality wins.
Wyoming (16-6, 4-4, 65, 1,2,3,0) - The home win vs UNLV is nice, but they could use some more quality wins. They have the chances, albeit all on the road.
Colorado State (14-8, 4-4, 28, 1,1,5,2) - San Diego State is the good win here, and four more opportunites exist for good wins, 3 of which are at home (keep in mind 3 of the Top 100 wins are against current 94, 97 and 99)
South Florida (14-10, 8-4, 60, 0,1,4,2)- The final 6 games for the Bulls are against the RPI Top 100, 3 vs the Top 50. The conference record is not a problem, they just need to add top 50 and 100 wins.
Marshall (14-10, 6-5, 62, 0,0,4,-1) - Both Memphis and Southern Miss still come to Marshall, so a sweep of those two would put Marshall back on the at-large map.
Massachusetts (18-7, 7-4, 71, 1,2,4,4) - UMass has 4 of the final 5 against RPI top 100 teams, so they could still be a player, especially head-to-head with Xavier and Dayton.
Team Currently Listed from a one-bid league - I just don't see an overall resume that would seem safe.