NCAA Bubble Watch: Georgetown, North Carolina Among Familiar Names In Crowded Group

SB Nation's resident bracketologist switches focus to the crowded bubble, which features some well-known programs like North Carolina, Michigan State, Washington and the suddenly struggling Georgetown Hoyas.

Welcome to the first edition of SB Nation Bubble Watch for 2011. Over the next few Fridays, I'll take a look at the teams fighting for the final few NCAA Tournament bids. Specifically, I'll look at what they've done and need to do to book one of the 37 at-large bids available in the recently expanded 68-team field. After Bracketology's appearance on Tuesdays, you can consider this status check on the field before the weekend's games.

There will be no simple numerical cut-off for this series. The tool most often used in pieces like this and bracketology, the Ratings Percentage Index (or RPI), is a nice formula, but at this stage of the season it's in way too much flux. There are numerous teams who own decent RPIs here in mid-January who have no hope of earning an at-large bid, mostly because their computer numbers will sink as they continue conference play.

For more information about the RPI and its flaws I suggest you read this post from Jon Scott of the Kentucky Wildcat Basketball Page. I'll reference the RPI, and how teams and wins fit in categories like the Top 50 and 100, frequently in this series, but I'll also let you know if I think the numbers are bunk or if a win or loss is better or worse than the RPI indicates.

The format of this piece will also change as the season goes on. Not only can teams be promoted and relegated between the different categories, I'll likely introduce "Bubble In" and "Bubble Out" categories as the weeks roll on. You will see teams disappear from the list, as they move up to "Lock" status or down into bracket oblivion. (They'd better, as this inaugural version is quite lengthy, since it is fairly early in the season.) As we get closer to Selection Sunday, you'll see more of a focus on the "Last ___ In" and "Last Four Out."

And yes, a team can drop from "Lock" status. Remember Texas last season?

As much as I hate to say it, membership in a Big Six conference or a non-BCS league with a decent television contract or amount of respect has its advantages. If you're outside of the majors and don't make a massive statement before January, you're behind the eight ball in terms of at-large selection. So I've broken the teams out between the seven major conferences, since the bulk of at-large teams will come from this group, while bunching the leagues below the Red Line together. Teams are listed in order of the likelihood that they are selected, starting with the Locks, those with Work To Do, and the clubs who can only hope for an auto bid right now.

At the moment, I consider 21 teams locks. Six of them account for their conference's automatic bid, which means 15 at-larges are accounted for, and 22 are open. Among the 62 bubble teams, nine currently are in as conference leaders.  Let's take a look at this large and often unremarkable group.

Teams with an asterisk (*) own their respective conference's auto bid at the moment. RPI and SOS data is from BBState.com (subscription), and was accessed on Friday, Jan. 14, 2011. Records and information reflect only games played against Division I competition, as per Selection Committee rules, through Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011.

ACC

Lock: Duke

Work To Do:

North Carolina Tar Heels (12-4; 2-0 ACC; RPI: 22: SOS: 15)
The Tar Heels' biggest issue is a lack of Top 50 wins (1-4 at the moment, with the victory coming over Kentucky). As you'll see below, the ACC doesn't offer many opportunities for those this year. On the other hand, UNC has taken care of business against the teams they should beat, going 7-0 against those outside the RPI Top 100. This week: at Georgia Tech (Sun.), Clemson (Tue.)

Boston College Eagles* (13-4, 3-0 ACC; RPI: 31; SOS: 33)
Even with losses to Yale, Harvard and Rhode Island, the Eagles are in decent shape, thanks to a 2-1 mark against the top 50. However, with all of those games taking place in Orlando over Thanksgiving, the Eagles need to keep winning to ensure those wins mean something. This week: at Miami (Sat.), Virginia (Wed.)

Florida St. Seminoles (12-5; 2-1 ACC; RPI: 68; SOS: 85)
The Seminoles knocked off Duke at home on Wednesday, grabbing their first Top 50 win in five tries this season. Can you believe this team lost at Auburn, who's clearly the worst Big Six-level team this season, not that long ago? FSU needs to keep winning to make that seem like the anomaly and not the Duke win. They'll have plenty of opportunities to right the ship between now and Selection Sunday, as they play Wake twice, but Georgia Tech just once. That's 10 games against teams with some NCAA hope. This week: NC State (Sat.), at Miami (Wed.)

Virginia Tech Hokies (10-5; 1-2 ACC; RPI: 66; SOS: 67) UNC Thu.
The Hokies just got in my last projection, all while dealing with a rash of injuries; however, last night's come from ahead loss to North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, is a major missed opportunity. The Hokies' strength of schedule is infinitely better than it was last season, even though they only own one top 50 win (over Oklahoma State in Anaheim), but facing the two worst teams in the conference, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, twice won't help. Virginia Tech will be rooting for Penn State, their second best non-league victim, to keep racking up Big Ten wins. A home loss to Virginia hurts, but not as much as you'd expect, as the Cavaliers have a pulse. This week: Wake Forest (Sat.), at Maryland (Thu.)

Clemson Tigers (13-4; 2-1 ACC: RPI: 104; SOS: 215)
The Tigers are riding an eight-game win streak, which has put them in the thick of the conversation. Schedule strength is a major concern as they own nine wins over teams who fall in the bottom half of Division I and just one top 50 win, against Miami. Five straight games against teams on this list, with three on the road will help determine if Clemson has real staying power.  This week: at North Carolina (Tue.)

Miami Hurricanes (11-5; 1-1 ACC; RPI: 37; SOS: 38)
The Hurricanes' issue is a poor record in true road games. They've gone 1-4 so far, with the lone victory coming against woeful Florida Gulf Coast. Wins over West Virginia and Mississippi are helpful, but they took place in Coral Gables. Miami will need to win at least twice out of trips to Boston College, Florida State, N.C. State and Virginia Tech to have serious hope. This week: Boston College (Sat.), Florida State (Wed.)

Maryland Terrapins (11-5; 1-2 ACC; RPI: 98; SOS: 106) Wake Wed.
Like Virginia Tech, the Terrapins are cheering hard for Penn State. That's because Maryland sits at 0-5 against the Top 50, and 2-0 against teams ranked between 51-100, including the Nittany Lions. In fact, the Terps are 10-0 against teams outside the Top 50, with six wins outside the top 200. Saturday's game at Villanova is an opportunity Gary Williams' team really needs to take advantage of. This week: at Villanova (Sat.), Virginia Tech (Thu.)

N.C. State Wolfpack (11-5; 1-1 ACC; RPI: 107; SOS: 165)
The Wolfpack struggled through their non-conference campaign without the injured Tracy Smith, so they're looking to make up for lost time in the ACC. That effort has gotten off to a so-so start, thanks to an expected win over Wake and a troubling loss at BC, in a building that was practically empty. State will need to make some noise in their next six, all against teams on this list, especially winnable road games at Florida State and Clemson, since the Pack currently owns no true road wins. This week: at Florida State (Sat.), Duke (Wed.)

Virginia Cavaliers (10-6; 1-1 ACC; RPI: 147; SOS: 154)
There may not be a Big Six team in the country who will play as many other power conference teams as the Cavaliers. The problem: Tony Bennett scheduled several mediocre to bad Big Six-level teams--ranging from those existing on the fringe of the bubble (Stanford, Iowa State) to the completely punchless (Oregon, Oklahoma, LSU). Recently, UVa's home court advantage has been non-existent, as they lost to the Cyclones, North Carolina (understandable) and Seattle. That loss to the Redhawks (RPI 299) is a definite anchor on the profile. The road ahead for this week could push the Cavaliers completely out of the picture. This week: at Duke (Sat.), at Boston College (Wed.)

Auto Bid Only: Georgia Tech, Wake Forest

Big East

Locks: Syracuse*, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Connecticut, Notre Dame

Work To Do

Georgetown Hoyas (12-5; 1-4 Big East; RPI: 7: SOS: 1)
Georgetown is in real trouble now after they dropped their third straight Big East game, at home against Pitt on Wednesday, and looked terrible doing it. The Hoyas' three-point shooting, a hallmark in the early season, has all but dried up, which is creating issues against teams who can shoot the three-ball effectively. From a resume standpoint, the early Big East schedule has kept Georgetown's strength of schedule high, but the wins aren't there. (For example, they've gone from 2-1 against the top 50 to 2-5. John Thompson III's scheduling philosophy also means there aren't the RPI killers on the slate this team used to be known for. The Hoyas' record should improve with a pair of games against the New Jersey schools this week, but the gauntlet starts again right after that. This week: at Rutgers (Sat.), at Seton Hall (Tue.)

West Virginia Mountaineers (11-4; 3-2 Big East; RPI: 14: SOS: 8)
The Mountaineers have faced a schedule that's a bit more challenging than it appears on the surface, playing only six games outside of the RPI Top 100 to date. Curiously, they step out of conference for a pair over the next week, with a home game against Purdue providing a statement opportunity for both sides, and the game against Marshall in Charleston being a little trickier than normal, since the Herd is playing well for Tom Herrion. This week: Purdue (Sun.), Marshall (N) (Wed.)

Louisville Cardinals (13-3; 2-1 Big East; RPI: 40: SOS: 47)
The Cardinals' biggest issue has been the overwhelming number of home games on their schedule. Louisville played 14 contests in their new arena, dropping a pair (Drexel and Kentucky). Most of their road games will be more like Wednesday's loss at Villanova instead of their first two (USF and Western Kentucky), and that could really create issues (or a nice boost) for Louisville's seeding as the calendar rolls on. This week: Marquette (Sat.), St. John's (Wed.)

St. John's Red Storm (10-5; 3-2 Big East; RPI: 16: SOS: 2)
The Red Storm sit on the good side of the bubble, but really need to grab a couple more wins in this January gauntlet to get closer to safety. Back-to-back losses to Atlantic 10 strugglers Fordham and St. Bonaventure, even if they were by a total of four points, don't look good, but Big East success can make those look like December anomalies. The problem is they've looked absolutely outclassed in a loss at Notre Dame and a home setback against Syracuse. They get another crack at the Irish over the weekend. This week: Notre Dame (Sun.), at Louisville (Wed.)

Cincinnati Bearcats (16-1; 3-1 Big East; RPI: 60: SOS: 275)
Mick Cronin's non-conference scheduling may not keep the Bearcats out of the tournament by itself, but it could create real issues for Cincinnati as their record will undoubtedly drop during the Big East campaign. Amazingly, Cincy sits at 3-1 vs. the top 100 so far, but Xavier, Dayton and Miami (OH) aren't a trio teams you want to bet on at the moment in terms of staying there. The Bearcats also own nine wins against teams who are ranked 200-plus in the RPI. Three straight rough road trips could see Cincinnati take some serious hits. This week: at Syracuse (Sat.), at Notre Dame (Wed.)

Marquette Golden Eagles (12-5; 3-1 Big East; RPI: 75: SOS: 74)
Of the three Big East teams currently on the bubble, you could argue that the Golden Eagles have the best prospects at the moment. However, they'll (and you're likely tired of me typing this) have to prove themselves on the road. Indeed, over the next week or so they'll have two opportunities to grab road wins that are better than the pair they currently own (Milwaukee and Rutgers). First up, a visit to Louisville on Saturday. Then, a week later, after a winnable home game against DePaul, Marquette has the opportunity to complete the double over Notre Dame. This week: at Louisville (Sat.), DePaul (Tue.)

Auto Bid Only: Rutgers, Providence Seton Hall, USF, DePaul

Big Ten

Locks: Ohio State*, Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin

Work To Do

Michigan St. Spartans (10-5; 3-1 Big Ten; RPI: 26: SOS: 9)
The Spartans really needed Tuesday's home win over Wisconsin to right a ship that was tilting after a close win at Northwestern and loss at Penn State. Sparty should be able to handle the Wildcats a little more easily at home, but we'll have a better idea on whether this team is in trouble after its next two contests, road games at Illinois and Purdue. This week: Northwestern (Sat.), at Illinois (Tue.)

Minnesota Golden Gophers (13-4; 2-3 Big Ten; RPI: 30: SOS: 44)
Up until Thursday's win over Purdue, it looked like the Golden Gophers peaked pre-Thanksgiving. The victory over the Boilermakers was just the Gophers' second one since Christmas (the other: Indiana); Devoe Joseph is on his way to Oregon; and Trevor Mbakwe is in legal trouble (but playing) again. Wins over North Carolina and West Virginia in Puerto Rico are nice items for the resume, but if this team doesn't start winning consistently again, those triumphs will ultimately be hollow. (A 2-0 record against the top 50 has, expectedly, become a 3-3 mark with the start of league play.) But the Purdue win was a major confidence boost, especially with plenty of winnable conference contests on the slate over the next few weeks. This week: Iowa (Sun.)

Penn St. Nittany Lions (10-6; 3-2 Big Ten; RPI: 52: SOS: 10)
To be considered a more serious contender, the Nittany Lions will need to win some Big Ten road games. Currently, their road/neutral record sits at 1-3, with the lone victory coming at Indiana. A lack of noteworthy non-league wins, coupled with a home loss to Maine, makes matters worse. If Penn State can pull off the impossible and grab a road split this week, they could be in business. This week: at Ohio State (Sat.), at Purdue (Wed.)

Michigan Wolverines (10-6; 1-3 Big Ten; RPI: 78: SOS: 19)
The Wolverines must be ruing Sunday's home loss to Kansas, as it was an opportunity to build some real momentum heading into the thick of the Big Ten campaign. The defeat, along with Wednesday's to Ohio State, means Michigan is now 0-5 against the RPI top 50. However, the Wolverines are the only team that's played three potential top seeds so far this season, playing the trio close. None of the Wolverines' actual victims are even remotely assured of a place in the tournament yet, though non-league wins over Harvard and Oakland are a lot better than you think, and the Clemson win has some potential. Two winnable road games are up next, but the schedule picks up steam when those are in the books. This week: at Indiana (Sat.), at Northwestern (Tue.)

Northwestern Wildcats (11-4; 2-3 Big Ten; RPI: 57: SOS: 95)
The Wildcats' horrid non-league schedule and a failure to sit John Shurna for a couple of games early in the Big Ten season look likely to keep the long-suffering program out of the Tournament yet again. Northwestern owns a 1-4 record against the top 100, with the lone win being the team's only game against a program rated between 51-100, American. The Cats' next best win, Creighton, rated 102nd. The next week and a half provides a decent mix of winnable games and resume builders to help get Bill Carmody's team back on track. This week: at Michigan State (Sat.), Michigan (Tue.), SIU Edwardsville (Thu.)

Auto Bid Only: Indiana, Iowa

Big 12

Locks: Kansas, Texas, Missouri, Texas A&M*

Work To Do

Oklahoma St. Cowboys (13-3; 1-1 Big 12; RPI: 34: SOS: 81)
The Cowboys have taken care of business against the teams they need to defeat, going 11-0 against teams outside the RPI top 75, while going 2-3 against the top 75, with the three setbacks taking place outside of Stillwater. A fourth is possible, since they must visit Boulder, never an easy place to play, especially with the Buffaloes getting things into gear. This week: at Colorado (Sat.), Iowa State (Wed.)

Baylor Bears (12-3; 2-0 Big 12; RPI: 100: SOS: 219)
This is the case of a team that's not lived up to lofty, slightly unjustified, preseason expectations. Baylor owns an 0-3 record against the top 100, meaning their best non-league win came against Arizona State. Scott Drew's team will need to make a lot of noise in conference to be safe, and at the moment, a high seed like last year is out of the question. Baylor has four big contests coming up, starting with Kansas on Monday, hosting three of them. This week: at Iowa State (Sat.), Kansas (Mon.)

Kansas St. Wildcats (11-5; 0-2 Big 12; RPI: 44: SOS: 20)
Like Baylor, the Wildcats simply haven't lived up to the preseason hype. For starters, Frank Martin's team hasn't beaten a team with legit at-large hopes since topping Washington State in Pullman on December 3rd. Since then, they've had to deal with the suspensions of Curtis Kelly and Jacob Pullen, while going 5-4, with the losses coming against Florida, UNLV, Oklahoma State, and Colorado. Four huge games in the league, with three on the road, over the next two weeks will go a long way to determining if this team is going to sit on the bubble long term. This week: Texas Tech (Sat.), at Missouri (Mon.)

Colorado Buffaloes (12-4; 2-0 Big 12; RPI: 84: SOS: 212)
The Buffaloes put themselves in the picture with a resounding home win over Missouri on Saturday, and moved closer with a gutsy road win at Kansas State Wednesday. That was huge, as to be serious players, they'll need to grab some wins away from Boulder. Unlike Nebraska, the Buffs have actually played games somewhere other than a neutral court, with little success. Their lone road win until the triumph in Manhattan came against Cal State Bakersfield (RPI 240), with setbacks at San Francisco, Harvard, and Georgia. At least those last two are in the neighborhood of the Top 50. A victory at home over Colorado State is CU's best non-conference win. This week: Oklahoma State (Sat.), at Nebraska (Tue.)

Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-3; 1-1 Big 12; RPI: 101: SOS: 242)
The Cornhuskers have picked up 13 wins so far this season, with just one of them coming outside of Lincoln, and that was against CAA leader Hofstra in Puerto Rico. Nebraska played their first road game at Missouri on Wednesday, and that went slightly better than expected, even though the Huskers still lost. Up next, a trip to Lawrence. Nebraska fans better look toward the Jan. 22 game at Texas Tech as their first real road win opportunity. Otherwise, Huskers' strength of schedule is hurt by seven wins against the bottom third of Division I. This week: at Kansas (Sat.), Colorado (Tue.)

Iowa St. Cyclones (13-4; 0-2 Big 12; RPI: 106: SOS: 208)
Like Nebraska, the Cyclones racked up a lot of wins in the non-conference slate, then fell to the Huskers and Kansas in their first two Big 12 games. Iowa State's strength of schedule hurts them, as they went 0-2 vs. the top 100 (and Cal and Northern Iowa are fading fast), while grabbing eight wins against teams rated 200-plus. This could be a cameo appearance for Fred Hoiberg's team, unless they pull several upsets over the next couple of weeks. This week: Baylor (Sat.), at Oklahoma State (Wed.)

Auto Bid Only: Texas Tech, Oklahoma

Mountain West

Locks: San Diego State*, BYU, UNLV

Work To Do

New Mexico Lobos (12-4; 1-1 MWC; RPI: 63: SOS: 147)
Like so many teams on this list, the Lobos are lacking quality wins. (Their profile, like so many others here, somewhat curiously includes games against Cal, Dayton and Northern Iowa; all losses.) New Mexico couldn't even get the Mountain West campaign off to a good start, losing on a buzzer beater at Wyoming on Saturday. With the Cowboys' RPI rank sitting at 278 right now, the setback is doubly devastating. (They finally won a league game against Colorado State Wednesday.) All hope is not lost, as over the next three Saturdays the Lobos face the Mountain West's three favorites, with two of those games taking place in the Pitt. This week: San Diego State (Sat.), at Utah (Wed.)

Colorado St. Rams (10-5; 1-1 MWC; RPI: 65: SOS: 65)
The Rams' picked up an early season tournament win in Cancun over Christmas week, but the weakness of the field means those three wins don't really help the team's case much. (Ole Miss and Southern Miss are bubble teams at best right now.) Making matters worse, Colorado State dropped a game against Hampton at another event in San Francisco over New Year's. So, like New Mexico, the Rams' best hope is to pull some upsets against the MWC's lead pack. A trip to UNLV Wednesday is Tim Miles' team's first shot. A sweep of the Lobos would have also been helpful, but that's an impossibility now that the Rams lost in Albuquerque. This week: TCU (Sat.), at UNLV (Wed.)

Auto Bid Only: Air Force, TCU, Utah, Wyoming

Pac-10

Locks: None

Work To Do

Washington Huskies* (12-4; 4-1; RPI: 21; SOS: 37)
The Huskies fell out of lock status with Thursday's road loss to Stanford, their first defeat to a team ranked outside of the RPI Top 100. (Stanford sits at 105.) They own only one top 50 win, against Portland, against three defeats (Kentucky and Michigan State in Maui and at Texas A&M). If Washington keeps its Pac-10 losses to a minimum, it should be OK. However, the long term impacts of not having Abdul Gaddy available (ACL injury) are yet to be seen. An underwhelming road/neutral mark of 3-4 is also an issue. This week: at California (Sun.), Arizona (Thu.)

Arizona Wildcats (14-3; 3-1 Pac-10; RPI: 29: SOS: 72)
The Wildcats took advantage of a weak non-conference slate to build an impressive record. Their two non-league losses were a close call against Kansas in Vegas and a not so close one against BYU in Salt Lake City. Arizona was stunned by Oregon State in their second Pac-10 game, a blemish on the resume for sure, but they responded by sweeping the Bay Area schools at home, resulting in a pair of top 100 wins. A sure to be emotional home game with Arizona State and road trip to Washington will give a better read on the Cats' hopes for the rest of the year. This week: Arizona State (Sun.), at Washington (Thu.)

Washington St. Cougars (12-5; 2-3 Pac-10; RPI: 62: SOS: 103)
The Cougars jumped back into the national consciousness for a moment in early December, thanks to a resounding win over Gonzaga, then returned with a 2-1 trip to Hawai'i over Christmas. The problem for Wazzu is that their two wins at the Diamond Head Classic don't look as good as they should, as Mississippi State (RPI 232) has been in disarray and Baylor (RPI 119) hasn't been playing to its potential. Two losses in Los Angeles to kick off the Pac-10 slate didn't help either. Washington State did rebound by sweeping the terrible Oregon schools last week, but a trip to the Bay Area and home series with the Arizona schools will be a better measuring stick of where this team really stands. The first game, an OT loss to Cal Thursday, shows they still have a ways to go. This week: at Stanford (Sat.), Arizona State (Thu.)

USC Trojans (10-7; 2-2 Pac-10; RPI: 54: SOS: 14)
The Trojans have been on a tear since Jio Fontan became eligible, winning a home game against Texas, topping Tennessee in Knoxville, and giving Kansas a scare in Lawrence. In the Pac-10, things had started decently, with USC playing their first three league games at home. Bad early losses to Nebraska, Rider, TCU, and Bradley should fade from memory with more league wins, especially since they happened before Fontan started playing, but that's unlikely to happen if the team drops bad games in conference, like Thursday's arena-opening setback at bottom-feeder Oregon. This week: at Oregon State (Sat.), Stanford (Thu.)

California Golden Bears (9-7; 2-2 Pac-10; RPI: 49: SOS: 5)
The Golden Bears own great computer numbers because of the strength of their non-conference schedule (only five games outside of the top 100), but they need actual wins, like Thursday's upset victory over Washington State, to be a serious bracket contender. Sure, a win against Temple in Orlando will have some shelf life, but Cal needs some help from Iowa State (doubtful) and New Mexico (possible), their other two top 100 wins. The Golden Bears also lost a home game to Southern Miss, who's further down the bubble pecking order. Victories against the Washington and L.A. teams, a quartet of contenders, would also increase the Bears' chances. This week: Washington (Sun.), at UCLA (Thu.)

Stanford Cardinal (10-5; 3-1 Pac-10; RPI: 105: SOS: 136)
The Cardinal will have to make a run through the Pac-10 to have a legitimate shot at an at-large, thanks to an underwhelming non-conference resume. Stanford went 0-3 against the top 50 (winning their first game against California to open league play), dropping games against sub-100 Murray State and Tulsa in Anaheim before beating DePaul (RPI 244) to avoid an 0-3 trip. Much like Cal, home games against the Washington schools and the trip to L.A. provide opportunities for quality wins. The first hurdle was a success, as Stanford earned its first top 50 win on the road over the Huskies on Thursday. This week: Washington State (Sat.), at USC (Thu.)

UCLA Bruins (10-6; 2-2 Pac-10; RPI: 81: SOS: 23)
The Bruins have been a team of streaks this season--win three, lose four, win six, and now lose two. On the surface, a pair of road games in Oregon should provide a two-game winning streak, and the Bruins first two true road wins of the season (and they indeed did top Oregon State Thursday), but with this team the rule is "expect the unexpected." A 1-4 mark against the RPI top 50 isn't great, but the one win was an impressive one over an excellent BYU team. Plus, the Pac-10 provides a few more quality win opportunities this time around, starting next week against the Bay Area schools. This week: at Oregon (Sat.), California (Thu.)

Auto Bid Only: Arizona State, Oregon State, Oregon

SEC

Locks: Kentucky, Florida*, Vanderbilt

Work To Do

Georgia Bulldogs (12-3; 1-1 SEC; RPI: 48: SOS: 111)
The Bulldogs didn't always look impressive during their non-conference schedule, but they took care of business for the most part, only losing to Notre Dame and Temple in Orlando. No shame there. Georgia currently has a 2-3 mark against the Top 50, which is workable, and a 9-0 mark against teams rated 150-plus, which illustrates an ability to not get stunned, an issue for recent Georgia teams. Neither Saturday's home win over Kentucky or Wednesday's loss at Vanderbilt should be a surprise, just a symptom of life in the tough SEC East. However, the Bulldogs' future road games will be more like the contest at Memorial Gym than any of the three places they've won on their travels (down Georgia Tech, poor Saint Louis, and Mercer) This week: at Mississippi (Sat.), Tennessee (Tue.)

Tennessee Volunteers (10-6; 0-2 SEC; RPI: 36: SOS: 3)
I think I've used enough characters to describe the Volunteers' ridiculous season already. Six losses in the last nine games is not a good trend, even if College of Charleston, Oakland, and USC are decent teams. Starting the SEC slate, albeit without head coach Bruce Pearl, at 0-2, including a loss to Florida, who hadn't won in Knoxville since the last Ice Age (OK, 2005), is sign that all is not right in the Smokies. And things don't get easier, with a pair of difficult SEC contests up next, then a trip to UConn. This week: Vanderbilt (Sat.), at Georgia (Tue.)

Mississippi Rebels (12-5; 0-2 SEC; RPI: 59: SOS: 88)
Like Maryland and Virginia Tech, the Rebels celebrated Penn State's home wins over Michigan State and Illinois over the past week, as the Nittany Lions are, again, this team's best non-conference win. Ole Miss had other opportunities, and when mid-March rolls around and they're (possibly) playing in the NIT, losses to Dayton, Miami, and Colorado State could be viewed with regret. Playing in the West, quality win opportunities are again limited (especially with Auburn, LSU, and Mississippi State looking bad--and they lost to the Bulldogs Thursday night, and Arkansas losing to the Bayou Bengals Wednesday), so Saturday's setback at Florida may be another. The Rebels can make up for lost time, and two early league losses, with a good run over the next couple of weeks, when they face four East contenders. This week: Georgia (Sat.), at Vanderbilt (Wed.)

Arkansas Razorbacks (11-4; 1-1 SEC; RPI: 122: SOS: 231)
The Razorbacks are yet another team who racked up a lot of victories against some really unimpressive opposition, going 9-0 against teams ranked 150-plus in the RPI, while falling on their faces against the top 50, dropping all three non-conference games, including a semi-home game against UAB in North Little Rock. Making matters worse, playing in the weaker West Division will limit the Hogs' ceiling. Following a win over Tennessee with a loss at an LSU team with no at-large hopes is a serious blemish. This week: Alabama (Sat.), at South Carolina (Wed.)

South Carolina Gamecocks (10-5; 1-1 SEC; RPI: 119: SOS: 182)
The Gamecocks jump in here after their stirring overtime win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, which is the biggest win on their resume by far (S.C. is 1-3 against the top 50), but they're on very thin ice after following that up with a loss at Alabama (RPI 169). Their December 5th win over Clemson has some promise, but a loss to Furman 17 days later isn't helpful. Being in the SEC East, they'll have plenty of opportunities to grab some quality wins, but the odds are long for the Gamecocks. This week: at Florida (Sat.), Arkansas (Wed.)

Auto Bid Only: Alabama, Mississippi State, LSU, Auburn

Below The Red Line

Locks: Temple*

Work To Do

Gonzaga Bulldogs (11-5; 2-0 WCC; RPI: 35: SOS: 12)
A month ago, it looked like Mark Few's scheduling philosophy caught up to him and the Bulldogs would have to rely on the WCC auto bid to get in, but since a December 11 loss at Notre Dame, the Zags have rattled off six straight wins against Division I opponents. Plus, their best early season win, over Marquette in Kansas City has looked better and better. A 4-5 mark against the top 100 helps, and the Bulldogs will have a few more opportunities with games against Portland, St. Mary's (twice), and Memphis left. If Gonzaga splits with the Gaels and runs the table otherwise, both should get in with room to spare. This week: Loyola Marymount (Sat.), at Santa Clara (Thu.)

Central Florida Knights (13-1; 1-1 C-USA; RPI: 18: SOS: 93)
On the surface, the Knights should be a lock, considering they own a perfect record against both Top 50 (3-0) and Top 100 (5-0) opposition, though Princeton and UMass' longevity at those heights is questionable. A 4-1 mark in road/neutral games in nothing to sneeze at either. However, how UCF reacts to grind in Conference USA, a league renowned for eating tournament hopefuls alive, is a serious question mark. Exhibit A: Saturday's loss at a bad Houston team. This week: at Southern Miss (Sat.), East Carolina (Wed.)

St. Mary's Gaels* (13-2; 3-0 WCC; RPI: 41: SOS: 142)
St. Mary's needs to do well in the West Coast Conference slate (see Gonzaga) to stay in the at-large discussion. The Gaels are just 2-2 against the top 100, though they did lose to BYU in South Padre by a single point. They'll get some more opportunities in the coming weeks as not only do they play the Zags twice, but they get a road game at Vanderbilt as well. The Gaels own nine wins over teams ranked 200-plus in the RPI (including Mississippi State and Texas Tech), which hurts their strength of schedule numbers. But a 4-2 road/neutral mark is a boost. This week: Santa Clara (Sat.), San Diego (Wed.)

Butler Bulldogs* (11-5; 4-1 Horizon; RPI: 24: SOS: 13)
The Bulldogs biggest challenge may be an ultra-competitive Horizon League that currently features four teams tied at the top of the standings at 4-1, and that quartet doesn't even include Cleveland State. Butler has already lost (blown out, really) at Milwaukee, a team who's not quite of that quality. The loss to the Panthers (RPI 137) and an earlier one to Evansville (155) aren't great, but wins over Florida State and Washington State, along with a close call against Duke in New Jersey, show what this team is capable of. Another league loss (or two) could torpedo their at-large chances, however.  This week: at Detroit (Fri.), at Wright State (Sun.)

Drexel Dragons (11-4; 3-2 CAA; RPI: 61: SOS: 108)
If Richmond's win over Purdue in the Chicago suburbs is the best win a mid-major bubble team has, Drexel's victory at Louisville--the first the Cardinals suffered in their new arena--is a very close second. The victory roused memories of the Dragons' ill-fated 2007 campaign for selection, where they fell short after winning at Syracuse and Villanova. That season, they finished 13-5 in the CAA with a loss to VCU in the conference semifinals. The Dragons win over Old Dominion Thursday is their second top 100 win (2-4, and one of the losses got a perception boost when Rhode Island upset Richmond. Additionally, the Dragons will get to avenge two of those losses , as they face VCU and Hofstra for a second time in the next few weeks. Given the Dragons' history, Bruiser Flint's squad knows his club's only hope is to keep winning. This week: at William & Mary (Sat.), at George Mason (Wed.)

Old Dominion Monarchs (12-4; 3-2 CAA; RPI: 27: SOS: 62)
The Monarchs dropped their second CAA game of the season Thursday night at Drexel, which is a far more respectable defeat than the one they suffered at Delaware in their conference opener. (The Monarchs' two other losses: Georgetown and at Missouri.) However, ODU is staring a .500 conference mark right in the face, as they visit unbeaten league leader Hofstra Saturday. In terms of the non-conference slate, Old Dominion needs the final two teams they played at the Paradise Jam, Clemson and Xavier, to keep winning, as well as Richmond and Dayton, since those look to be the four best wins on the resume. A win over the Pride, and preferably no more CAA setbacks period, would help too, as the Monarchs' margin has become razor thin. This week: at Hofstra (Sat.), James Madison (Wed.)

Richmond Spiders (13-5; 2-1 A-10; RPI: 71: SOS: 169)
The Spiders own perhaps the best win of this entire group, knocking off Purdue in Hoffman Estates, Ill. over Thanksgiving weekend. That victory should have a lot of mileage, but Richmond has coupled it with some questionable losses (at Iona, Bucknell at home, Georgia Tech in the Bahamas, Rhode Island at home on Thursday) that aren't befitting of a true contender, though the Gaels and Bison are better than you think. Victories at Seton Hall and Arizona State don't pack the punch Chris Mooney anticipated when he scheduled those contests. Basically, any further surprise losses in a down A-10 could be a fatal blow to a talented, but flawed (turnovers, free throws) club. This week: George Washington (Wed.)

Utah St. Aggies* (15-2; 4-0 WAC; RPI: 55: SOS: 243)
The Aggies have lost twice, at BYU and at Georgetown, meaning they're 0-2 against the RPI top 50. The rest of the schedule is unimpressive, with the only top 100 win coming against Long Beach State (who had a losing record overall coming into this week). This team may need to go undefeated through the WAC to have a shot at an at-large, but remember the Aggies played a similar slate last year and got in as one of the final at-larges, with three fewer spots on offer. Winning at previous league co-leader Boise State Thursday night helps. This week: at Fresno State (Sat.), Louisiana Tech (Thu.)

Missouri St. Bears* (14-3; 6-0 MVC; RPI: 38: SOS: 120)
The Bears are another team that are regretting a close call against Tennessee, who topped them in the NIT Season Tip-Off. (Then again, if all the teams that almost lost to the Vols did, the win would have lost all of its value.) That means Missouri State is 2-2 against the top 100, but the two wins came in Valley play on the road--at Wichita State and Northern Iowa. Ten of the Bears 14 wins came courtesy of teams ranked 150-plus in the RPI, while their only bad loss was at Tulsa (RPI 133) fairly early. Missouri State and Wichita State really need to run the table, split in the regular season, and meet in the Valley final to have a legit shot. Even if that happens, the loser will have to light some candles. This week: at Bradley (Sun.), at Indiana State (Wed.)

Cleveland St. Vikings (13-3; 4-2 Horizon; RPI: 33: SOS: 115)
The Vikings were sitting pretty until their 0-2 trip to Indiana last week. Now, the holes in their resume have been magnified. With the loss to Butler Friday, Cleveland State's record against the top 50 stands at 0-2, as they also lost at West Virginia. They're 4-3 against the top 100, but victories over Akron, Kent State, Robert Morris, and Sam Houston State may not qualify for much longer (particularly the last two as the NEC and Southland aren't known for hosting high RPI performers). A bright spot is that the Vikings have only played five teams who currently sit in the bottom half of Division I, winning all of those games. They can't afford to lose anymore, but with the improved Horizon, that's a tough ask. This week: at Youngstown State (Sat.), Detroit (Thu.)

Memphis Tigers (12-4; 1-1 C-USA; RPI: 93: SOS: 156)
The only reason the Tigers are in this conversation is the lofty preseason ranking this team has failed to live up to. Memphis is currently 1-3 against the top 50, with the lone win coming at home against Miami, a team that's not assured of anything right now. They've also gone 9-1 against teams ranked 150-plus, the loss coming at SMU on Wednesday, their second loss on the Mustangs' home floor in as many years, with many of those games being too close for comfort. This week: Marshall (Sat.), at Southern Miss. (Wed.)

Wichita St. Shockers (13-3; 5-1 MVC; RPI: 45: SOS: 87)
The Shockers four-point loss to UConn in Maui can truly be seen as a turning point in the season. Seriously, do you think Kemba Walker would have gotten so much pub had he lit up Chaminade and Virginia in consolation games? But for the Shockers, that single loss meant those two schools became their final two opponents on the islands, and their task became that much more difficult. A game at San Diego State was another opportunity missed. Currently, the Shockers are 1-3 against the top 100, with the lone win coming against Nicholls State. (And what have I said about Southland teams with high RPIs?) Wichita also owns a 5-2 road/neutral record, which they'll have plenty of opportunities to boost in Valley play. This week: at Drake (Sat.), Northern Iowa (Wed.)

Dayton Flyers (14-4; 2-1 A-10; RPI: 56: SOS: 118)
It somehow doesn't feel like the Flyers are a 14-win team, probably because they've played more close games than probably anyone in the country at this point. For the most part, they've beaten who they've needed to beat, with the notable exception of East Tennessee State (RPI 128) at home and UMass away. (A 34-point loss at Cincy and three-point setback at Old Dominion are other setbacks to consider.) Dayton's best two wins look to be Mississippi (in Oxford) and New Mexico (at home), so Flyer fans will hope those teams grab some decent wins over the next few weeks. The A-10 schedule doesn't provide many chances though, as UD faces Richmond and Temple once apiece (both at home) besides the traditional home-and-home with fellow bubble boys Xavier. This week: at Xavier (Sat.)

Xavier Musketeers (10-5; 2-0 A-10; RPI: 42: SOS: 18)
The Musketeers have been among college basketball's M*A*S*H units this season, so the fact they're as competitive as they are has been a surprise. The offense has had plenty of balance, however, as five players are averaging more than 8.5 points a contest. As for the resume, the Musketeers best win came at home against Butler, their only top 50 win in four tries. Of the losses, setbacks at the hands of Florida, Old Dominion (at St. Thomas), and at Cincinnati (even if it was by 20) and Gonzaga are understandable; a loss at Miami (OH), not so much. But Xavier still has a few opportunities, thanks to the home-and-home with Dayton, a trip to Richmond, a home game with Temple, and a rare February non-league contest at Georgia. The games against the Flyers, Spiders, and Bulldogs could be crucial for a team with a 3-4 road/neutral mark. This week: Dayton (Sat.), at St. Bonaventure (Wed.)

Bubble Longshots

Harvard Crimson* (9-3; 1-0 Ivy; RPI: 50: SOS: 151)
The Crimson own a home win over Colorado, a road win over Boston College, and no really bad losses (at George Mason, Michigan, and UConn), but the Ivy schedule will really hamper their computer numbers. This week: at George Washington (Sat.)

UAB Blazers* (11-3; 1-0 C-USA; RPI: 46: SOS: 127)
Mike Davis' Blazers' best win came against Arkansas in North Little Rock. Home triumphs over VCU and UTEP are next in line. A loss to Arizona State is poor, but there's no shame in losing to Georgia or Duke on the road. The fact they play UCF, Southern Miss, and Memphis twice gives them some hope. This week: at Tulsa (Sat.), East Carolina (Mon.), SMU (Wed.)

College of charleston Cougars* (11-5; 4-0 SoCon; RPI: 70: SOS: 135)
The Cougars had several opportunities to grab marquee wins before they finally topped Tennessee on New Year's Eve, falling to Maryland by 1, Clemson by 7 (at home), and North Carolina by 5. This week: The Citadel (Sat.), at Chattanooga (Mon.), Western Carolina (Thu.)

UTEP Miners (13-4; 2-1 C-USA; RPI: 72: SOS: 137)
The Miners' best win came against Michigan in Atlantic City, but a loss to Georgia Tech the day before, along with one against Pacific in their opener, serve as anchors on their profile. Making matters worse, they don't face a C-USA contender twice. This week: at Rice (Sat.)

Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (11-3; 2-1 C-USA; RPI: 74: SOS: 216)
The Golden Eagles are another team that has one decent win (at California) and little else. A five-point loss at Mississippi and a loss to Colorado in the Cancun Governor's Cup final looked to be the biggest whiffs of the season for Larry Eustachy's team. That was until they lost at Marshall by 30 and Eustachy was tossed in spectacular fashion. However, they can get back on track at home over the next week. This week: UCF (Sat.), Memphis (Wed.)

Va. Commonwealth Rams (12-5; 4-1 CAA; RPI: 76: SOS: 166)
With Wake Forest (a 21-point loser to the Rams) being out of the bracket picture, VCU needs UCLA (who fell to the Rams by 4 in New York) to keep winning to give them a boost. Otherwise, this is a resume littered with lost opportunities (Tennessee in New York, at USF, at Richmond, at UAB, an early league loss at Georgia State). This week: Northeastern (Sat.), Georgia State (Sat.)

Marshall Thundering Herd (10-4; 1-1 C-USA; RPI: 53: SOS: 78)
Tom Herrion's team split a home-and-home with James Madison and hammered Southern Miss to earn their best two wins on the year, but this team has opportunities left to move up. Curiously, that series with the Dukes is one of a pair Marshall played out of conference--they swept Savannah State in the other. The Thundering Herd face one last non-league test this week, West Virginia in Huntington, and they'll soon get a second crack at UCF and Southern Miss. They also benefit from playing Memphis and UAB twice. This week: at Memphis (Sat.), West Virginia (N) (Wed.)

Portland Pilots (13-4; 1-1 WCC; RPI: 43; SOS: 61)
The Pilots played a challenging early schedule, losing to Washington, Kentucky, and Washington State outside of the WCC. They already lost their first game against league co-favorite Gonzaga, so their best hope is to beat the Bulldogs at home and upend St. Mary's at some point. This week: Pepperdine (Sat.), at San Francisco (Thu.)

Auto Bid Only: Everyone else

My next Bubble Watch update will come next Friday, Jan. 21, and I promise it won't be quite as lengthy as this one. In the meantime. be sure to check out my daily TV recommendations at Blogging the Bracket and follow my ramblings on Twitter.

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