Here is the updated look at how the NCAA Tournament field stacks up heading into a busy Thursday of conference tournament action. Click here for my Thursday bracket. For more on Thursday's games of importance, check my preview 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)
ACC: Duke*, Maryland, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Wake Forest
A-10: Temple*, Xavier, Richmond
Big East: Syracuse*, West Virginia, Villanova, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Louisville
Big Ten: Purdue*, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin
Big 12: Kansas*, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Texas
MWC: New Mexico*, BYU, UNLV
SEC: Kentucky*, Vanderbilt, Tennessee
WCC: Gonzaga, St. Mary's*
Teams with an asterisk hold their respective conference's automatic bid at the moment.
Work To Do (7)
Of this group, Florida, Georgia Tech and Utah State hold the most precarious positions. These three 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, "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 four days.
RPI data from Crashing The Dance and reflects games through Tuesday, March 9. All records reflect games played against Division I opponents through Wednesday, March 10.
Last Four In
Illinois (17-13; 10-8 Big Ten; RPI: 71; Non-conf. RPI: 117): 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.
Mississippi (21-9; 9-7 SEC; RPI: 56; 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.
Arizona State (22-9; 12-6 Pac-10; RPI: 55; Non-conf. RPI: 57): 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.
San Diego State (20-8; 11-5 MWC; RPI: 36; Non-conf. RPI: 36):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 may await in the semifinals on Friday.
First Four Out
Rhode Island (22-8; 9-7 A-10; RPI: 42; Non-conf. RPI: 5): 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.
Washington (20-9; 10-7 Pac-10; RPI: 53; 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.
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.
UAB (23-7; 11-5 C-USA; RPI: 40; non-conf. RPI: 17): 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 Southern Miss 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.
Next Four Out
Memphis (23-8; 13-3 C-USA; RPI: 46: Non-conf. RPI: 90): 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 Houston in the quarterfinals Thursday. I still think they need to win the auto bid to dance, but at this point, a trip to the final may be enough.
Mississippi State (21-10; 9-7 SEC; RPI: 58; Non-conf. RPI: 74): 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 the Florida-Auburn winner on Friday in Nashville.
South Florida (20-12; Big East 9-9; RPI: 63; Non-conf. RPI: 68): 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 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 the Hoyas. 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.
Seton Hall (19-12; 9-9 Big East; RPI: 54; Non-conf. RPI: 78): 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.
On The Fringe
Cincinnati (18-14; 7-11 Big East; RPI: 64; Non-conf. RPI: 38): The Bearcats have some life after they knocked out Louisville Wednesday to advance to the Big East quarterfinals on Thursday against West Virginia. 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 may just catapult them into the field.
Minnesota (18-12; 9-9 Big Ten; RPI: 78; Non-conf. RPI: 60): 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 beat Iowa on Sunday to close the regular season, but they'll need to make a run in Indianapolis. The Gophers open with Penn State on Thursday, with Michigan State awaiting in the quarterfinals if they win.
St. Louis (19-10; 11-5 A-10; RPI: 84; Non-conf. RPI: 198): 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 Rhode Island in Atlantic City on Friday.
Wichita State (23-9; 10-2; 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.