Bubble Watch Update: How The Field Stacks Up With Three Days Left

Here is the updated look at how the NCAA Tournament field stacks up heading into Friday's conference tournament action. Click here for my Friday bracket. For more on Friday's games of importance, check my preview/recap post.

Click any team name that appears as a link to visit that school's SB Nation blog.

One-Bid Leagues (20)

America East, Atlantic Sun (East Tennessee State), Big Sky (Montana), Big South (Winthrop), Big West, Colonial (Old Dominion), Horizon (Butler),  Ivy (Cornell), Metro Atlantic (Siena), Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley (Northern Iowa) Northeast (Robert Morris), Ohio Valley (Murray State), Patriot, Southern (Wofford), Southland, Southwestern, Summit (Oakland), Sun Belt (North Texas)

Shot At Two (3)

Conference USA: UTEP (Work To Do)
Pacific-10: California (Work To Do)
Western Athletic: Utah State (Work To Do)

Locks (36)

ACC: Duke*, MarylandFlorida StateClemsonVirginia TechWake Forest
A-10: Temple*, Richmond, Xavier
Big East: SyracuseWest Virginia*, Villanova, Pittsburgh, GeorgetownMarquetteNotre DameLouisville
Big TenPurdue*, Ohio StateMichigan StateWisconsin
Big 12Kansas*, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas A&MTexas, Missouri, Oklahoma State
MWC: New Mexico*, BYU, UNLV
SEC: Kentucky*, VanderbiltTennessee
WCC: Gonzaga, St. Mary's*

Teams with an asterisk hold their respective conference's automatic bid at the moment.

Work To Do (5)

ACC:  Georgia Tech
Pac-10: California
SEC: Florida
WAC: Utah State

That takes care of 61 of the 65 teams. (No, I didn't miscount. "Work To Do" clubs Cal, UTEP and Utah State appear twice.) That leaves me to look at the last four teams in the field and the 11 who have varying chances at replacing them over the next three days.

RPI data from Crashing The Dance and reflects games through Wednesday, March 10. All records reflect games played against Division I opponents through Thursday, March 11.

Last Four In

Illinois (17-13; 10-8 Big Ten; RPI: 70; Non-conf. RPI: 119): The The Fighting Illini's resume has some good points (win at Wisconsin, comeback over Clemson, home wins over Michigan State and Vanderbilt) and some bad (home loss to Minnesota, neutral site losses to Bradley, Utah, semi-away loss to Georgia). They'd likely be in, but they've dropped three in a row, which isn't the way to head into the Big Ten Tournament. Making matters worse, they play Wisconsin, who they lost to at home on Sunday, in the quarterfinals Friday. The Illini did beat the Badgers in Madison, but Wisconsin was without Jon Leuer for that one.

Mississippi (21-9; 9-7 SECRPI: 57; Non-conf. RPI: 34): While Mississippi State is fading, Ole Miss is winning late, as they closed the regular season with four straight wins, capped by a close victory over Arkansas in Fayetteville on Saturday. The Rebels’ marquee win is better than archrivals', as they defeated Kansas State by 12 in Puerto Rico before Thanksgiving. Still, not managing to beat the Bulldogs once is an issue, considering that was the difference in the race for the weaker division of the SEC. For now, the Rebels hold a place, but the SEC Tournament will ultimately determine their fate. As the two seed out of the West, Ole Miss will face Tennessee in Friday's quarterfinals.

Washington (20-9; 10-7 Pac-10; RPI: 50; Non-conf. RPI: 27): It wasn't easy but the Huskies were able to advance to the Pac-10 semis, as they needed to mount a comeback to beat Oregon State Thursday, Unfortunately, since Arizona State was eliminated in the game before, Washington will have to hope they can meet Cal in the final for one last shot at a quality win. Washington owns home wins over Texas A&M and Cal. However, December losses at Texas Tech and against Georgetown in Anaheim are missed opportunities in a weak bubble year. 

San Diego State (21-8; 11-5 MWCRPI: 35; Non-conf. RPI: 35):The Aztecs are barely holding on, as they slipped past Colorado State in the Mountain West quarterfinals. That sets up a game with New Mexico in Friday's semifinals, which is a somewhat favorable matchup. At one point, SDSU was four points away from owning a 10-game win streak, as they lost to BYU by 2 at home and dropped a 2-point OT game at New Mexico. The Aztecs will wish they had those two games back, as they currently sit at 2-5 against the RPI Top 50 (both wins, over New Mexico and UNLV, came at home). Beating the Lobos Friday would be very helpful.

First Four Out

Rhode Island (22-8; 9-7 A-10; RPI: 41; Non-conf. RPI: 6): After Saturday's loss to UMass, the Rams are probably headed to the NIT, but they can change that with a run through the A-10 Tournament, which they started with a win over St. Joseph's on Tuesday night. That set up a quarterfinal with St. Louis (who beat the Rams at Chaifetz Arena) for Friday. Rhody's marquee non-conference win came against Oklahoma State, and they own respectable victories over Northeastern, Providence and Boston College. However, none of those three are likely to dance. Making matters worse is the fact the Rams' best league win is over Dayton, as they're 0-4 against Temple, Richmond and Xavier, the three A-10 teams who are in the best shape. 

Dayton (20-11; 8-8 A-10; RPI: 48; Non-conf. RPI: 14):  Like the Rams, the Flyers will need to make a run in Atlantic City to go dancing after Saturday's home loss to St. Louis. Their road/neutral record stands at 5-9 after Thursday night's setback at Richmond, a game the Flyers were in control of until the last 10 minutes. The Flyers' the best win came against Georgia Tech in Puerto Rico way back on November 19 and the best true road victory came against George Mason on December 8. The Flyers are the seventh-seeded team in the A-10 Tournament, and they'll face second-seeded Xavier in Atlantic City Friday, as they knocked off George Washington in the opening round on Tuesday.

Mississippi State (21-10; 9-7 SEC; RPI: 67; Non-conf. RPI: 72): The wheels came off for the Bulldogs at the wrong time, as they finished the regular season with back-to-back losses to Auburn (inexcusable) and Tennessee (forgivable, but not in the manner in which MSU fell). The Bulldogs' resume is a bit thin outside of their sweep of archrival (and fellow bubble team) Ole Miss, as a win over Old Dominion in South Padre is the non-conference highlight and losses at Western Kentucky and against Rider in Starkville are major blemishes. As the top seed in the West, the Bulldogs have a bye to the quarterfinals at the SEC Tournament. They'll meet Florida on Friday in Nashville.

William & Mary (21-10; 12-6 CAA: RPI: 58; Non-conf. RPI: 12): Remember back in 2006, when the Committee stunned pretty much everyone by taking Air Force out of nowhere? Four years later, could the Tribe fill a similar role if enough teams fall by the wayside over the weekend? With road wins over Maryland and Wake Forest and a home win over Richmond, W&M has more quality wins than many teams on this list. However, three bad losses (at James Madison, Towson and UNC Wilmington) hurt their case, as does a late BracketBuster loss at Iona. From the eye test perspective, the fact the Tribe can be a little too reliant on perimeter shooting (see the closing moments of the CAA final) is another issue.

Next Four Out

Arizona State (22-10; 12-6 Pac-10; RPI: 55; Non-conf. RPI: 55): The Sun Devils fell to seventh-seeded Stanford in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 Tournament Thursday, all but ending their chances. ASU really needed to make the final to have a realistic shot. Currently, the only win the Sun Devils can hang their hat on is a home victory over San Diego State on December 19, their lone top 50 win on the season. 

Seton Hall (19-12; 9-9 Big East; RPI: 59; Non-conf. RPI: 77): The Pirates' strong finish may be for naught after Wednesday's loss against Notre Dame. On Selection Sunday, Pirates fans will likely be rueing the string of four games at the end of 2009/start of 2010, where their team lost heartbreakers, including OT games against West Virginia and Virginia Tech. Those wins would have been major boosts to an OK resume, especially as the Pirates own a somewhat unlucky  3-8 mark against the RPI Top 50. The Pirates did finish strong, but two wins over Rutgers and another pair over Providence won't do much to convince the Committee. Unfortunately, a win over Notre Dame would have.

South Florida (20-12; Big East 9-9; RPI: 64; Non-conf. RPI: 69): The Bulls' hopes were dashed Wednesday when they couldn't grab a second win over Georgetown. However, USF's offensive performance (or lack thereof) in two games at Madison Square Garden was more damaging than the loss to the Hoyas was by itself. The Bulls didn't hit a single jump shot in their win over DePaul Tuesday and only hit one three (near the end) against Georgetown. The Bulls are now 3-5 vs. the RPI Top 50, and only 3-6 against teams rated between 51 and 100.  While they own wins over Pitt, Georgetown and Seton Hall, a sweep at the hands of Notre Dame, and losses to St. John's, Central Michigan and South Carolina are serious blemishes. 

UAB (23-8; 11-5 C-USARPI: 40; non-conf. RPI: 17): The Blazers were embarrassed by Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA quarterfinals Thursday, meaning they're finished. They had a good chance to make the final with Memphis' defeat at the hands of Houston earlier. Early season home wins over lock Butler and fellow bubble team Cincinnati won't help much now. UAB does own a 11-5 road/neutral record, but that’s a bit deceptive, as four of the losses came against four of their best five road opponents — Kent State, Memphis, UTEP and Virginia — and the fifth was Thursday's setback.

On The Fringe

Cincinnati (18-15; 7-11 Big East; RPI: 60; Non-conf. RPI: 38): The Bearcats had some life after they knocked out Louisville Wednesday to advance to the Big East quarterfinals on Thursday, but the NIT looks like their destination after they fell to West Virginia on a Da'Sean Butler buzzer beater. The victory over the Cardinals was the first Mick Cronin's team won a game against an opponent who's a lock or near lock since a pair of wins Vanderbilt and Maryland in Maui. A win over the Mountaineers would have been a major boost to their resume.

Memphis (23-9; 13-3 C-USA; RPI: 46: Non-conf. RPI: 91): The Tigers lost a close one to Houston in the Conference USA quarterfinals, ending their chances at an at-large. Memphis owns a 7-5 mark against the RPI Top 100; however, only two of those wins came against a Top 50 opponent, and that was sweep of now out of the picture UAB. Memphis' two best non-league wins came against IUPUI and Oakland. A 7-6 road/neutral mark is OK, but the best of those wins (after the win at UAB) came against Marshall and Tulsa. Josh Pastner's club fattened up on Division I's worst teams, going 15-2 against teams ranked 151+ in the RPI, losing at UMass and SMU. 

Minnesota (19-12; 9-9 Big Ten; RPI: 76; Non-conf. RPI: 60): A late defeat at Michigan cost the Gophers a shot at a bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Not that they needed it, as Minnesota smashed Penn State in the first round Thursday to set up a quarterfinal with Michigan State, a team they lost two close games to during the regular season. The Golden Gophers are 5-9 this season against the RPI Top 100. Three of those wins came at The Barn, where they defeated Ohio State, Wisconsin and now-out of the picture Northwestern. Minnesota's nine-point triumph over Butler in Anaheim is useful, but the losses to Portland and Texas A&M that followed aren't. Neither was the road loss at Miami days after the California trip. Losses to Indiana (in Bloomington) and the Michigan sweep sting as well. They need to keep winning in Indianapolis to have a shot.

St. Louis (19-10; 11-5 A-10; RPI: 84; Non-conf. RPI: 201): There are two reasons why the Billikens aren't closer to the field: their 5-7 road/neutral record, and the fact their best non-conference win came against Big 12 bottom feeder Nebraska. Still, SLU grabbed the four seed, and a bye, for the A-10 Tournament after Saturday's win at Dayton. They'll face fellow bubble team Rhode Island in Atlantic City on Friday.

Wichita State (23-9; 10-2 MWC; RPI: 45; Non-conf. RPI: 87): The Shockers couldn't take themselves off the bubble aas they fell to Northern Iowa in Sunday's MVC championship game. The Shockers best two wins, over the Panthers and Texas Tech, came at home. Like UNI, Wichita State also lost to Evansville and Bradley in the league, but the Shockers also fell to Drake and Creighton once. All four of those losses came on the road, meaning WSU has a mediocre 7-8 road/neutral mark.

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