Sunday Bubble Update: USF And Ole Miss Move In; Rhode Island And UAB Drop Out

Here is the updated look at how the NCAA Tournament field stacks up heading into the weekend. Click here for my Saturday morning bracket. My next projection will be released Monday morning to reflect the weekend's conference championship games and other action.

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

One-Bid Leagues (16)

America East, Atlantic Sun (East Tennessee State), Big Sky, Big South (Winthrop), Big West, Ivy (Cornell), Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Northeast, Ohio Valley (Murray State), Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Summit, Sun Belt

Shot At Two (8)

West Coast: Gonzaga (lock)
Horizon: Butler (lock)
Missouri Valley: Northern Iowa (somewhat safe)
Conference USA: UTEP (somewhat safe)
Pacific-10: California
Western Athletic: Utah State
Colonial: Old Dominion
Metro Atlantic: Siena

Locks (30)

ACC: Duke*, MarylandClemsonFlorida State
A-10: Temple*, Xavier, Richmond
Big East: Syracuse*, Villanova, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, GeorgetownLouisville
Big TenPurdue*, Ohio StateMichigan StateWisconsin
Big 12Kansas*, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas A&MMissouriTexas
Horizon: Butler*
MWC: New Mexico*, BYU
SEC: Kentucky*, VanderbiltTennessee
WCC: Gonzaga*

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

Work To Do (11)

ACC: Wake Forest, Georgia TechVirginia Tech
Big East: Marquette, Notre Dame
Big Ten: Illinois
Big 12: Oklahoma State
C-USA: UTEP
Missouri Valley: Northern Iowa*
MWC: UNLV
SEC: Florida

Of this group, Florida, Georgia Tech, Illinois and Wake Forest hold the most precarious positions. These four teams could find themselves among either the Last Four In or First Four Out as the clock ticks down . 

That takes care of 61 of the 65 teams. (No, I didn't count wrong, locks Butler and Gonzaga and "work to do" clubs UNI and UTEP appear twice.) That leaves me to look at the last four teams in the field and the 12 who have varying chances at replacing them over the next week or so.

RPI data from Crashing The Dance and reflects games through Friday, March 4. All records reflect games played against Division I opponents through Saturday, March 5.

Last Four In

San Diego State (20-8; 11-5 MWCRPI: 33; Non-conf. RPI: 38):The Aztecs won their home finale Wednesday night over Colorado State, then followed that victory up with a win at Air Force Saturday. 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). The fourth-seeded Aztecs open the Mountain West Tournament with a game against fifth-seeded Colorado State Thursday. Top seeded New Mexico is their potential semifinal opponent.

St. Mary's (23-5: 11-3 West Coast; RPI: 46; Non-conf. RPI: 29): After dropping consecutive road games to Gonzaga and Portland, the Gaels really needed a BracketBuster game. However, they skipped the event this season since that would have resulted in a four-game road trip (as SMC was designated as an away team). An extra game would have helped a resume that already includes win over bubble teams Utah State (in Logan) San Diego State (at home) and a two-point loss against Vanderbilt before the Commodores went to Maui. A win over Gonzaga would have been helpful, and the Gaels may get a third shot at one in Las Vegas Monday. Portland stands in the way in tonight's WCC semifinals.

South Florida (19-11; Big East 9-9; RPI: 62; Non-conf. RPI: 68): The Bulls knocked off UConn Saturday to burst the Huskies' bubble and move a little closer to booking a place of their own. The Bulls seem to have an issue with playing to the level of their competition, as they’re 3-5 vs. the RPI Top 50, but only 2-5 against teams rated between 51 and 100.  They own wins over Pitt, Georgetown and Seton Hall, but a sweep at the hands of Notre Dame, and losses to St. John's, Central Michigan and South Carolina are blemishes. USF will probably need to win twice in the Big East Tournament. That won't be easy, as the Bulls only grabbed the nine seed. They open with DePaul Tuesday. If they win that, Georgetown awaits in round two on Wednesday. 

Mississippi (21-9; 9-7 SECRPI: 58; Non-conf. RPI: 35): While Miss. 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' Mississippi State's, 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’s 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 either Tennessee or LSU in Friday's quarterfinals.

First Four Out

Arizona State (22-9; 12-6 Pac-10; RPI: 54; Non-conf. RPI: 59): The Sun Devils swept past the L.A. schools to lock up the second seed in this week's Pac-10 Tournament. Thanks to what else has gone on around the country, they may only need to make the final to get in, which speaks volumes about the quality of this season's bubble. 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 in six tries. ASU begins Pac-10 Tournament play against seventh-seeded Stanford on Thursday.

UAB (23-7; 11-5 C-USARPI: 41; non-conf. RPI: 18): The Blazers looked like they were going to grab a valuable road win at Conference USA regular season champ UTEP Saturday, but they let the Miners off the hook.  They can no longer rely on their early season home wins over lock Butler and fellow bubble team Cincinnati. UAB owns a 11-4 road/neutral record, but that’s a bit deceptive, as the losses came against four of their best five road opponents — Kent State, Memphis, UTEP and Virginia. The Blazers slipped down to the three seed for the conference tournament in Tulsa. They'll meet either Southern Miss or Tulane in the quarterfinal Thursday. The bad news for UAB is that they're on Memphis' side of the bracket, and the Tigers won both regular season meetings.

Washington (20-9; 10-7 Pac-10; RPI: 55; Non-conf. RPI: 27): Much like the Sun Devils, the Huskies have some life, as they own 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. Washington swept the Oregon schools to finish the regular season strong and lock up the third seed in the Pac-10 Tournament. They'll face sixth-seeded Oregon State again in the quarterfinals on Thursday. If both ASU and UW make the semifinal, that game could be for a bid.

Seton Hall (18-11; 9-9 Big East; RPI: 57; Non-conf. RPI: 76): Remember that string of four games at the end of 2009/start of 2010, where the Pirates lost heartbreakers, including OT games against West Virginia and Virginia Tech? Hall fans are undoubtedly wishing they’d won a couple of those right about now, as those wins would be major boosts to an OK resume. But they didn’t, meaning the Pirates own a 2-9 mark against the RPI Top 50 and a 4-7 road/neutral mark. Those stats aren’t major selling points. One thing Seton Hall has done this season is prove that they can lose to good teams, and they'll need to change that perception at the Big East Tournament. The Pirates finished strong, sweeping Rutgers and winning at Providence, but those wins won't boost their computer numbers much. Seton Hall faces the Friars again in the opening round Tuesday. If they win, Notre Dame would be their Wednesday opponent.

Next Four Out

Wichita State (23-8; 10-2; RPI: 47; non-conf. RPI: 86): The Shockers can take themselves off the bubble and make the Missouri Valley a two-bid league by defeating Northern Iowa in Sunday's 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.

Mississippi State (21-10; 9-7 SECRPI: 61; Non-conf. RPI: 75): The wheels came off 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 the Florida-Auburn winner on Friday in Nashville.

Rhode Island (21-8; 9-7 A-10; RPI: 30; Non-conf. RPI: 4): After Saturday's loss to UMass, the Rams are headed to the NIT, barring a run through the A-10 Tournament. 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 look to be in the best shape. The fifth-seeded Rams open A-10 Tournament play against No. 12 Saint Joseph's at home on Tuesday. If they win that, a quarterfinal against fourth-seeded St. Louis would await Friday.Memphis (23-8; 13-3 C-USA; RPI: 51: Non-conf. RPI: 97): The Tigers do own a 7-5 mark against the RPI Top 100; however, only two of those wins came against a Top 50 opponent, the sweep over UAB. Memphis' two best non-league wins came against IUPUI and Oakland. A 7-5 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. The Tigers are the two seed in the C-USA Tournament, meaning they'll face either Houston or East Carolina in the quarterfinals Thursday. I still think they need to win the auto bid to dance.

On The Fringe

Charlotte and Cincinnati drop out of this group after their losses Saturday. St. Louis jumps back in, but they really need to make a statement in the Atlantic 10 Tournament to make the NCAAs.

Connecticut (17-14; 7-11 Big East; RPI: 49; non-conf. RPI: 15): The Huskies followed up a three-game win streak, that included wins over West Virginia and Villanova with a three-game losing streak, all against bubble teams. Back-to-back losses at Notre Dame and USF means UConn is now 3-10 in road/neutral games. The Huskies are also 3-8 in games against the RPI Top 50. The Huskies are the 12 seed in the Big East Tournament, so they'll open with No. 13 St. John's on Tuesday. If they win that, fifth-seeded Marquette would be Wednesday's opponent.

 

Dayton (19-11; 8-8 A-10; RPI: 42; Non-conf. RPI: 14):  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. They open against No. 10 George Washington at home Tuesday.

Minnesota (17-12; 8-9 Big Ten; RPI: 78; Non-conf. RPI: 57): After grabbing a win at Illinois last Saturday, the Golden Gophers made a huge jump. Tuesday night, they gave it all back with an abysmal performance at Michigan, where they lost by 28. The defeat was costly as it cost the Gophers a shot at a bye in the Big Ten Tournament. 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) the Michigan sweep sting. Minnesota closes with a home game against Iowa Sunday, but beating the Hawkeyes won't mean much to the Committee. The Gophers need to make a run in Indianapolis.

 

St. Louis (19-10; 11-5 A-10; RPI: 93; 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 the Rhode Island-St. Joseph's winner in Atlantic City on Friday.

Games To Watch

Sunday
Florida at Kentucky, 12 p.m. ET (CBS)
Wisconsin at Illinois, 12 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Northern Iowa vs. Wichita State (Missouri Valley Championship), 2 p.m. ET (CBS)
VCU vs. Old Dominion (Colonial Semifinal No. 1), 3 p.m. ET (CSN New England/Comcast Network/CSS/Full Court)
Metro Atlantic Semifinal No. 1, 4:30 p.m. ET (MSG/MASN/FCS Atlantic/Full Court)
Iowa at Minnesota, 6 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Portland vs. St. Mary's (West Coast Semifinal No. 2), 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

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