Via Midwest Sports Fans:
Tuesday night’s slate looked to be an uneventful one, but two potential No. 1 seeds lost on the road, as Minnesota knocked off top-ranked Indiana while surging Tennessee took care of a short- handed Florida squad.
Those two results, along with Memphis’ road loss at Xavier, produced a small shakeup in this week’s bracket.
There is still the potential for a lot of movement at the top of the bracket, and with bubble teams floundering left and right, a few mid-majors such as Akron, Belmont, Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee may be able to work their way into the at-large picture if they fail to win their respective conference tournaments.
The projections below take into account all games played through Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Last Four In
The Broncos were one of the only bubble teams not to lose last week. Even though wins over Air Force and Fresno State don’t knock your socks off, it was enough to keep them in my field.
Boise State is now 6-6 in the Mountain West with six wins against the RPI top 100 and a 7-7 mark in road and neutral games. After Wednesday’s home date with Nevada, the Broncos enter a critical three-game stretch to end the season with home games against Colorado State and San Diego State sandwiched around a road trip to UNLV.
Jay Wright’s club continued its Jekyll and Hyde act last week with a huge win over Marquette followed up with a late-game meltdown and loss at Seton Hall.
The Wildcats now boast four top 30 wins, but they also have an ugly loss to Columbia and were swept by Providence. Still, I think their quality wins will be enough to get them in, but splitting their final two regular-season games (at Pittsburgh, vs. Georgetown)certainly wouldn’t hurt.
After getting steamrolled by Tennessee, the Noel-less Wildcats bounced back and finished the week with arguably their best game of the season against Missouri. At a minimum, it proved Kentucky can still beat tournament-caliber teams.
The other thing working in UK’s favor is the fact that the Wildcats have no sub-100 losses against a solid schedule.
After a very winnable game against Mississippi State at home, Kentucky travels to face Arkansas and Georgia before the season finale vs. Florida. Anything less than 3-1 over that stretch would probably push the Wildcats out of the field.
It came down to Tennessee and Virginia for the final spot in the field after the Volunteers’ critical win over Florida on Tuesday night.
While the Cavaliers do boast a head-to-head win against Tennessee, I have a hard time believing the committee will overlook Virginia’s six sub-100 losses. The Volunteers have one such loss to go with eight top-100 wins.
Cuonzo Martin’s Vols need to take care of business in their next two road games against Georgia and Auburn, and they host Missouri to close out the regular season. A 3-0 finish would give the Vols nine straight wins while bolstering their at-large profile.
First Four Out
As mentioned above, I gave Tennessee the slight nod over the Cavs for the final spot. To my knowledge, there is simply no precedent for a team with so many bad losses getting into the field.
The horrific nonconference strength of schedule (and consequently their RPI) would look much better had the Wahoos knocked off Delaware to get to the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals. But the harsh reality is that they lost that game and deprived themselves of that chance.
Virginia is also just 3-7 away from home, but the Cavaliers have a huge opportunity when Duke comes to Charlottesville on Thursday. They would then need to take care of business at Boston College and Florida State before a season-ending bubble battle vs. Maryland.
After a 17-2 start, the Rebels have now dropped five of eight, including last week’s road loss against a terrible South Carolina squad. Ole Miss has just one top-50 win, which came in mid-January over Missouri, and 10 of its 20 wins have come against sub-200 teams thanks to a poor nonconference schedule.
For bubble purposes, a sweep of Tennessee certainly helps the Rebels’ case. But while the Volunteers have stepped up their game in recent weeks, Ole Miss will finish February without a top-100 win if it can’t beat Texas A&M this week.
At this point, the Rebels would be well-served to win out with games at Mississippi State, vs. Alabama and at LSU after Wednesday’s matchup with the Aggies.
The Sun Devils can’t seem to get out of their own way, and Saturday’s home loss to Washington pushed them out of the field. As it stands, ASU is 88th in the RPI with a really poor nonconference strength of schedule.
The good news is the Sun Devils have four top-50 wins and actually boast a winning record away from home. That mark will be tested, though, as Arizona State closes out the year with three road games — at UCLA, USC and Arizona. Going 2-1 during that stretch is an absolute must at this point.
The fact that the Terrapins are still in the discussion tells you all you need to know about the bubble.
Maryland has a pair of key wins over North Carolina State and Duke, but it has just three top-100 wins. The Terps didn’t really challenge themselves outside the ACC, and they have yet to prove they can win on the road.
That certainly doesn’t bode well for Maryland’s hopes because three of their final four regular-season games are at Georgia Tech, at Wake Forest, and at Virginia. The lone remaining home date with North Carolina won’t be an easy one either. Winning at least three out of those four and making a deep run in the ACC tournament are musts at this stage of the game.
Here is how the bids broke out by conference:
Big East (8): Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova
Big Ten (7): Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Atlantic 10 (5): Butler, La Salle, Saint Louis, Temple, VCU
Big 12 (5): Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Mountain West (5): Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
ACC (4): Duke, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State
SEC (4): Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee
Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State
West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
America East: Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun: Mercer
Big Sky: Montana
Big South: Charleston Southern
Big West: Long Beach State
Conference USA: Memphis
MEAC: Norfolk State
Northeast: Robert Morris
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Southland: Northwestern State
Summit: South Dakota State
Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee
WAC: Louisiana Tech
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