There are some teams that are going to play themselves in or out of bubble discussion in the next few weeks, as all schedules are not created equal as far as quality win opportunities. Here is a look at some teams to watch over the next 3 to 4 weeks:
Illinois (13-5, 2-3, RPI 50) – The Illini finally fell out of the Field today in my projections, but the next stretch provides them a way back in – Michigan State (RPI 8), @Ohio State (13), @Indiana (58), Iowa (21) and Wisconsin (2) are the next 5 for Illinois. The turnaround has to come now.
Texas (13-4, 2-2, RPI 52) – The most bubblicious of the Big 12 teams, I have Texas in by a thread right now. 6 of their next 7 are against the current RPI top 34, including 4 at home – Iowa State (9), Kansas State (34), @Baylor (19), Kansas (1), @Kansas State (34), Oklahoma State (11). With a win at North Carolina in the books, The Longhorns are just looking to add Top 50 wins to their 4 current Top 100 wins. Even a 3-3 split in these 3 games should give them a resume boost.
Stanford (11-5, 2-2, RPI 57) – I have the Cardinal in as of today with two nice road wins to date. The bad loss to Oregon State needs to be covered by some more quality wins. The next 7 are all against current RPI top 100 teams, Washington (79), @UCLA (37), @USC (94), Arizona (4), Arizona State (64), @California (31) and @Washington (79). Unlike some teams, they are not desperate for a road win, they just need quality wins, so a nice 5-2 or 4-3 stretch would put them right in the discussion.
Arizona State (13-4, 2-2, RPI 64) – The Sun Devils best wins are Marquette, DePaul and USC, so nothing impressive yet. Starting tonight at Arizona (RPI 4), they also play Colorado (12), @ California (31) and @ Stanford (57) in their next stretch of 5 games. After hosting Oregon State, they host Oregon (24) and Arizona before playing at Colorado. That’s 7 of 9 against current RPI top 57 teams. We should know soon about Arizona State.
LaSalle (10-6, 3-0, RPI 73) – Much more was expected of the Explorers this season, but after a slow start they are off to a 3-0 conference start, including a win over George Washington (RPI 28). After facing Temple in a Big 5 game on Saturday, LaSalle plays @St. Bonaventure (RPI 75), VCU (42), @George Washington (28), @Massachusetts (5) and St. Louis (32) between then and February 8. If the Explorers can come out 4-1 from that stretch, plus take out Temple and Duquesne, we will have to start looking closer at a 16-7, 7-1 team from the A-10.
Clemson (12-4, 3-1, RPI 85) – Clemson owns a good record and a victory over Duke, but they have a bad loss at Auburn and South Carolina was their best non-conference win. They need to keep doing damage in the ACC and adding quality wins, plus a quality road win to their resume. 5 of their next 6 are against teams in the RPI top 60, with 4 of those on the road – Wake Forest (60), @Pittsburgh (17), @North Carolina (54), @Florida State (22) and @Syracuse (7). While this looks like a daunting stretch, it at least provides opportunity for the Tigers.
Marquette (10-7, 2-2, RPI 92) – Another team with high expectations, the Golden Eagles are at the crucial point of their season. 8 of their next 9 games are against RPI top 100 teams, including 3 top 25 teams at home - @Butler (91), @Georgetown (47), Villanova (3), Providence (69), @St. John’s (71) and Butler (91). After playing Seton Hall, Xavier (18) and Creighton (14) both visit Milwaukee. They need a 7-2 stretch here to really get back in the thick of the at-large discussion.
Others to Watch
Tennessee (10-5, 2-1, RPI 56) – The Volunteers are in for now, but the next 4 is @Kentucky, Arkansas, @Florida and Ole Miss. A 1-3 stretch will have them on the outside, while a 3-1 stretch will have them very safe.
Arkansas (12-4, 1-2, RPI 67) – 5 out of their next 8 are on the road for a team needing road wins to impress the committee, including at Tennessee, LSU and Missouri.
Providence (11-5, 1-2, RPI 69) – 14 of their last 15 are against teams in the current RPI top 100.
Richmond (11-6, 1-1, RPI 74) – The Spiders are on nobody’s radar, but with 6 straight against the RPI top 75, including 4 at home, let’s check back in 3 weeks.