Bracketology Bubble Watch: Sunday morning's last four in, first four out

Kevin C. Cox

Saturday's action didn't change the situation on either side of the NCAA Tournament cut line all that much. And that shouldn't change much on Sunday, since the afternoon's power conference championship games all feature teams that are in the field of 68 win or lose.

For more, check out today's full edition of Bracketology.

Note: All RPI/SOS data is courtesy of Basketball State ($) and reflects only games played against Division I opponents through Saturday, March 15, 2014.

Just Avoiding Dayton: Arizona State Sun Devils, Iowa Hawkeyes, Dayton Flyers, Xavier Musketeers

Last Four IN

Tennessee Volunteers

Vitals: 20-12, 11-7 SEC; RPI rank: 42; SOS rank: 18; Non-conf. SOS rank: 40

Next game: None

Pluses: Once again, the Volunteers find themselves on the bubble thanks to a 7-8 record against the RPI Top 100 that is bolstered by a pair of Top-50 wins. The standout of the pair is a 35-point demolition of Virginia on December 30th, while the other is last Saturday's rout of fellow bubble team Missouri. Tennessee split with Xavier, dominating the pair's second meeting in the Bahamas. Additionally, the Vols have potentially tiebreaking wins over fellow bubble teams Arkansas and LSU.

Minuses: Obviously, a win over Florida yesterday would have secured the Volunteers a place. However, they missed some chances earlier in the season as well. Texas A&M swept Tennessee, though the games were decided by a total of four points. An opening-day loss in the Battle 4 Atlantis to UTEP dropped the Volunteers into the losers' bracket, where they were unable to challenge themselves against the likes of Kansas, Iowa and Villanova. Plus, Tennessee lost at home to N.C. State, a team that's pretty far down the bubble pecking order right now. A 7-9 record in games away from Knoxville also damages the case for Cuonzo Martin's squad.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Vitals: 19-12, 11-7 Big Ten; RPI rank: 46; SOS rank: 25; Non-conf. SOS rank: 108

Next game: None

Pluses: The Cornhuskers finished strong, picking up two of their four Top-50 wins and five of their eight Top-100 wins in their final 12 games. Home wins over Wisconsin, Ohio State and Minnesota are impressive, as is a nine-point victory at Michigan State. An 8-9 record against the Top 100 compares favorably to other bubble teams, particularly since three of those victories came against teams in the Top 25.

Minuses: Nebraska did very little outside of Big Ten play, with its best win coming over Georgia in the seventh-place game of the Charleston Classic. Additionally, the Huskers have three losses to teams from outside of the Top 100, though only a defeat at the hands of UAB (also in South Carolina) came against a team ranked 150th or worse. A 4-11 record outside of Lincoln also won't impress the Committee much.

SMU Mustangs

Vitals: 23-9, 12-6 AAC; RPI rank: 52; SOS rank: 115; Non-conf. SOS rank: 294

Next game: None

Pluses: The Mustangs own a 4-6 record against the Top 100, with all four victories coming against Top-50 opposition in American Athletic play. SMU looked impressive in sweeping a pair of games with UConn as well as in defeating Cincinnati and Memphis in Dallas.

Minuses: Larry Brown's team's schedule doesn't help it much, as SMU played a whopping 22 games against teams from outside of the Top 100. They lost three of those, capped by Thursday's AAC quarterfinal loss to Houston. Making matters worse, the Mustangs didn't win any of their early-season marquee games, meaning its best non-conference wins came against Wyoming, Texas A&M and Sam Houston State. An 8-8 record away from home also won't tip the scales in the Ponies' favor.

BYU Cougars

Vitals: 23-11, 13-5 WCC; RPI rank: 32; SOS rank: 34; Non-conf. SOS rank: 8

Next game: None

Pluses: Based on their computer numbers alone, the Cougars should be in. A trio of Top-50 wins, with two coming away from Provo out of conference (Texas in Kansas City and Stanford in Palo Alto) certainly help. An 8-7 record against the Top 100 also stacks up nicely against the bubble competition.

Minuses: For starters, guard Kyle Collinsworth is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL suffered in the Cougars' WCC Final loss to Gonzaga. Since the Selection Committee is evaluating teams based on the rosters that will appear in the tournament, that doesn't bode well for BYU's hopes (particularly since the squad didn't look so great with Collinsworth absent). Also, the Cougars lost four conference road games to teams ranked 140th or worse in the RPI. That would be an unusually high number of bad losses for an at-large team.

First Four OUT

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Vitals: 19-13, 8-10 Big Ten; RPI rank: 46; SOS rank: 7; Non-conf. SOS rank: 53

Next game: None

Pluses: Minnesota's impressive strength of schedule ranking bolsters the team's RPI position significantly, so much so that it hides an unimpressive record against the Top 50 (2-8) and Top 100 (6-11). The Top 50 wins both came at home (Wisconsin and Ohio State), as did three of the wins over teams ranked between 51 and 100 (Iowa, Florida State, Indiana), with a victory over Richmond coming at the Robins Center. The victory over the Seminoles might end up serving as a tiebreaker.

Minuses: The Golden Gophers lost to both Northwestern and Purdue, with the loss to the Wildcats coming at Minnesota's Williams Arena. However, Andre Hollins missed both of those games (and a loss at Nebraska) with an ankle injury, so perhaps the Committee will consider that. From a potential tiebreaking perspective, Minnesota lost to Arkansas in Maui. Additionally, a 5-10 record away from Minneapolis is not all that helpful, especially since the victory over Richmond (a team well outside of the bubble picture) is the best of that group.

Florida State Seminoles

Vitals: 19-13, 9-9 ACC; RPI rank: 51; SOS rank: 27; Non-conf. SOS rank: 87

Next game: None

Pluses: The Seminoles' three Top 50 wins are impressive as a group, since each one came away from Tallahassee. FSU defeated VCU in Puerto Rico, UMass in South Florida in front of a slightly pro-Florida crowd (as the game was part of a doubleheader involving the two archrivals), and Pitt at the Petersen Events Center. Plus, Leonard Hamilton's squad lost just one game to a team from outside the Top 100, a four-point decision at rival Miami. Florida State's road/neutral record of 10-8 is quite respectable, particularly among this group.

Minuses: Florida State missed plenty of chances to improve its lot, as indicated by their 3-9 record against the Top 50 and 6-12 mark against the Top 100. Most damaging was a loss in FSU's only meeting with fellow bubble team N.C. State and a split with Clemson. Again, a loss at Minnesota could serve as a tiebreaker with the Golden Gophers.

California Golden Bears

Vitals: 19-13, 10-8 Pac-12; RPI rank: 60; SOS rank: 37; Non-conf. SOS rank: 99

Next game: None

Pluses: Not many teams can boast a victory over the No. 1 team in the RPI table, but Cal can, having defeated Arizona in Berkeley on February 1st, the night the Wildcats happened to lose Brandon Ashley to injury. Cal also defeated Oregon and Stanford on the road and Colorado at home. From the tiebreaker perspective, the Bears managed to knock off Arkansas back in November on Maui.

Minuses: Unfortunately, the Golden Bears couldn't sweep Arizona, a result that helps contribute to an underwhelming 4-10 record against the Top 50. Cal could not take advantage of the many opportunities it was offered, including missed sweep opportunities against Stanford and Colorado. Additionally, Mike Montgomery's team dropped games at UC Santa Barbara (now out of the Big West Tournament) and USC (which was one of the Trojans' two Pac-12 wins on the season). Plus, California won just six times in 15 games away from Haas Pavilion. Among those nine losses are defeats at the hands of Syracuse and Dayton in Maui.

Arkansas Razorbacks

Vitals: 21-11, 10-8 SEC: RPI rank: 73; SOS rank: 92; Non-conf. SOS rank: 206

Next game: None

Pluses: The Razorbacks swept Kentucky during SEC play and defeated Minnesota in Maui (a nice potential tiebreaker win) to secure a 3-5 record against the Top 50. Arkansas' Top 100 mark expands to 8-8, though the games against teams ranked between 51st and 100th are a mixed bag. Yes, the Hogs defeated fellow bubble teams SMU and Clemson, but they also split with LSU and Georgia and fell to Cal in Hawaii.

Minuses: Try as it might, Arkansas could not shake its reputation as a poor team away from Fayetteville, racking up a 4-9 record in road and neutral games. Most damaging for the Razorbacks' case are back-to-back losses to end the season, the first at Alabama, the second in Atlanta to a poor South Carolina team. Those are two of Arkansas three losses against teams from outside of the Top 100.

Next Four Out: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, St. John's Red Storm, Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles, Green Bay Phoenix

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