In our Tuesday bracket projection, we mentioned that the evening was full of bubble games of NCAA Tournament impact. And after losses by Alabama, Baylor, Penn State, and Virginia Tech, there are indeed changes to the Last Four In and First Four Out in this week's Bubble Watch. The Bears fall out of the bracket after they lost at Oklahoma State. Their replacement is Boston College, who moves in after winning in Blacksburg, completing a season sweep of the Hokies, who remain in. Making matters worse for Baylor, the Cowboys replace them in the First Four Out.
Alabama's case took a serious hit when they were outclassed by Florida in Gainesville, but they remain in the First Four Out group. Penn State isn't so lucky, as they're all but off the board now, thanks to their home loss to Ohio State.
Over the past few weeks, I've counted through the teams in the field here at SB Nation while delivering more in depth bubble profiles over at Blogging the Bracket. Now, as the season draws to a close, I'll be providing more frequent bubble and bracket updates.
This post will open with a look at the teams who would likely be headed to Dayton, barring any procedural seed changes by the committee, if the season ended today, then move to the four who are in best position to replace them
Last Four In
Richmond Spiders (22-7, 11-3 A-10, RPI; 62, SOS: 140)
Richmond owns perhaps the best win of any bubble team, a thorough 11-point victory over Purdue, who sits on the two line in my current projection, at the Chicago Invitational Classic over Thanksgiving. However, the Spiders also own some confounding losses, with ones against Georgia Tech in the Bahamas and Patriot League regular season champion Bucknell at home the two that stand out the most. Still, since that loss to the Bison, Chris Mooney's team has taken care of the weaker teams on its slate. Another positive mark on the Spiders' profile is an impressive 11-4 record away from home. On the minus side, they weren't competitive in their losses to the top two teams in the league, Xavier and Temple.
Tonight, the Spiders have one last chance to win on the road, as they visit struggling St. Joseph's (no TV). On Saturday, Richmond welcomes Duquesne to the Robins Center where they'll hope to knock the Dukes into a campus-site opening round game.
Colorado Buffaloes (17-11, 7-7 Big 12, RPI: 77, SOS: 73)
Colorado entered Tuesday's projection after their come from behind home win over Texas on Saturday, their fifth over a team ranked in the RPI Top 50 right now, and fourth over a team that's in good shape for a bid, However, Tad Boyle's team is far from safe, as they also have damaging losses to Oklahoma and San Francisco on their profile. Plus, only one of their key wins (Kansas State) came on the road, symptomatic of their 4-9 record away from Boulder.
The Buffaloes need to be careful at Iowa State tonight (Iowa State Sports/ESPN3/Full Court, 8 p.m. ET). The Cyclones all hurt Nebraska's hopes by upsetting the Cornhuskers at Hilton Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. Fittingly, the Buffs host those same Huskers in the final regular season Big 12 game for both teams on Saturday. Nebraska won the first meeting between the two in Lincoln on January 18th, a loss that was the first of four straight (and seven in nine) for Colorado.
Michigan Wolverines (17-12, 8-9 Big Ten, RPI: 58, SOS: 21)
No team exemplifies how quickly bubble fortunes can change this season than Michigan. The Wolverines looked destined for the NIT when Josh Gasser banked in a three that allowed Wisconsin to escape Crisler Arena with a win on February 23rd, but three days later Michigan won at Minnesota by seven, effectively switching bubble spots with the fading Golden Gophers.
Like so many teams in this group, Michigan has a profile that isn't great overall. but compares well against the teams in this group. Take their conference and bubble rivals Penn State, a team the Wolverines happened to sweep, for example. Michigan owns three more road wins than the Nittany Lions, and victories in East Lansing, Minneapolis, and State College are a bit more noteworthy either of the Nittany Lions' two road wins, at Indiana and Northwestern. On the other hand, Michigan did lose in both of those places, and they haven't been quite as dominant at home as Penn State. Outside of the Big Ten, Michigan was swept by Syracuse and UTEP in Atlantic City over Thanksgiving weekend, but did beat Clemson at Littlejohn, along with Harvard and Oakland at home. Plus, the Wolverines' profile doesn't include any embarrassing non-league losses, like Penn State's against Maine.
MIchigan has just one game left before the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. They'll look to sweep Michigan St. Saprtans in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
Boston College Eagles (18-11, 8-7 ACC, RPI: 47, SOS: 18)
The Eagles very much look like a team that peaked before Christmas, as they went 10-2 before the holiday (with a loss to Yale their worst of all) and 8-9 since. Plus, the shine of the Eagles' win over Texas A&M in Orlando, their only victory over a team in the RPI Top 50, has worn off slightly, thanks to the Aggies' up-and-down performance in the Big 12. In the ACC, the Eagles have been less "up-and-down" and more flat out mediocre. Sweeps of Maryland and Virginia Tech, are helpful, but losses at Clemson and Florida State, along with a sweep at the hands of Miami are problematic.
The Eagles final conference game, Sunday's home date with Wake Forest Demon Deacons, will do little to improve their fortunes, which means Boston College has a lot of work to do at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro.
First Four Out
Clemson Tigers (19-9, 8-6 ACC, RPI: 68, SOS: 97)
The Tigers' lack of quality wins could push them into the NIT (which honestly wouldn't be the worst fate, considering where this team was at the first of the year). Clemson has just two top 50 victories on the year, which came over Boston College and Florida State, both at Littlejohn. Otherwise, the Tigers' wins are rather middling. As for the losses, the worst came at Virginia (thanks to a woeful offensive performance), but defeats at the hands of South Carolina and Michigan aren't helpful either, particularly as the Wolverines are now on the bubble too. Brad Brownell's team's best road win came at Miami, though Clemson also won at the College of Charleston and topped Seton Hall at the Paradise Jam.
Virginia Tech earned a marquee win over Duke on Saturday, but that was at Cassell Coliseum. Clemson's hopes to grab a potentially ticket-punching win over the Blue Devils are more limited, as they'll have to win at Cameron Indoor on Senior Night (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET). If that fails, which it likely will, the Tigers host the Hokies on Saturday to close the regular season.
Alabama Crimson Tide (19-10, 11-4 SEC, RPI: 88, SOS: 139)
The Crimson Tide have a win against Kentucky another at Tennessee and little else, particularly outside of the SEC. Alabama's non-conference results, which include seven wins against the bottom half of Division I and losses to Seton Hall, Iowa, and St. Peter's in the Virgin Islands and at Providence, are the main factor keeping them out. On the surface, 11 or 12 SEC wins should be more than enough, but you must consider that the Tide have already clinched the West crown solely because they've racked up an 8-2 mark against the weaker division. Tuesday night's emphatic loss at leaves them lacking in the perception department as well.
Alabama has one last chance to grab a helpful win before the SEC Tournament, as they host Georgia on Saturday.
Colorado State Rams (17-10, 8-6 MWC, RPI: 46, SOS: 37)
The Rams biggest issues, besides their current three-game losing streak, are a 1-4 mark against the Mountain West's other NCAA contenders and a pair of bad losses, one at home to Sam Houston State Thanksgiving weekend, and another against Hampton in San Francisco over New Year's. A Cancun Governor's Cup crown provides a little bit of a boost, but not much, thanks to the relative weakness of that particular field, but Southern Mississippi's place on the bubble makes that achievement look a bit better.
After losing to BYU and UNLV in the past week, Colorado State may have have to make a run through the Mountain West Tournament to earn a bid, unless they can stun San Diego State at the Viejas Arena in their regular season finale on Saturday. However, the Rams hopes would all but end if they fell at home to Utah tonight (CBS College Sports, 9 p.m. ET).
Oklahoma State Cowboys (18-11, 6-9 Big 12, RPI: 59, SOS: 44)
The Cowboys are yet another team that's all but unstoppable at home, but the complete opposite on the road, as their last two wins away from Stillwater were a pair of December in-state neutral site contests against Tulsa and Alabama. Home victories over fellow bubble residents Kansas State, Baylor, and Missouri State, along with a safe Missouri squad help significantly, but the road struggles and fact this team is destined to finish below .500 in the Big 12 don't. Oklahoma State's only real chance is top Oklahoma Saturday to end on a three-game winning streak and pick up a couple of wins in Kansas City next week.
In other bubble action tonight, Michigan State and Georgia can solidify their positions this evening. The Spartans host Iowa, a team that thoroughly embarassed them in Iowa City one month ago (Big Ten Network, 6:30 p.m. ET), while the Bulldogs must avoid a terrible late loss when they host LSU (SEC Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 8 p.m. ET).
Minnesota has an opportunity to climb back into the frame, if they can win at Northwestern (Big Ten Network, 8:30 p.m. ET). The Wildcats are another team who are closing out what appears to be another disappointing season, one that will end outside the NCAA Tournament, like all of the others before it.