After today's bracket and rundown, I'll have a look at how the bid -- and top seed -- picture stacks up with three weeks to go before the First Four tips off in Dayton. While Indiana looks to be a lock for the top line, no fewer than 11 other squads have a legitimate shot at the three other places with 19 days to go before the field of 68 is revealed. (I discussed the remaining schedules for most of the dozen back on Friday.)
|(1) MIDWEST |
|Dayton (Fri/Sun)||Philadelphia (Fri/Sun)|
|1||Indiana (Big Ten)||1||Duke|
|16||Norfolk State or Robert Morris||16||Northeastern (CAA)|
|↓ 8||N.C. State||↓ 8||Notre Dame|
|↑ 9||Creighton||↑ 9||Wichita State (MVC)|
|San Jose (Thu/Sat)||San Jose (Thu/Sat)|
|↓ 12||Temple||12||Kentucky or Villanova|
|13||Akron (MAC)||13||South Dakota State (Summit)|
|Philadelphia (Fri/Sun)||Salt Lake City (Thu/Sat)|
|↑ 6||UNLV||↑ 6||Memphis (C-USA)|
|↑ 11||St. Mary's||↓ 11||La Salle|
|↑ 3||Georgetown (Big East)||3||Arizona|
|14||Harvard (Ivy)||14||Davidson (Southern)|
|Kansas City (Fri/Sun)||Auburn Hills (Thu/Sat)|
|7||Illinois||↑ 7||San Diego State|
|↑ 2||Kansas (Big 12)||2||Michigan State|
|15||Long Beach State (Big West)||15||Montana (Big Sky)|
|(4) SOUTH |
Los Angeles (Thu/Sat)
|Lexington (Thu/Sat)||Salt Lake City (Thu/Sat)|
|↑ 1||Florida (SEC)||1||Gonzaga (WCC)|
|16||Charleston Southern or Southern||16||Niagara (MAAC)|
|↑ 8||Oklahoma||↑ 8||VCU|
|↑ 9||Colorado||↓ 9||Cincinnati|
|Kansas City (Fri/Sun)||Austin (Fri/Sun)|
|5||Ohio State||5||Oklahoma State|
|12||Belmont (OVC)||12||Middle Tennessee (Sun Belt)|
|13||Louisiana Tech (WAC)||13||Bucknell (Patriot)|
|Austin (Fri/Sun)||Dayton (Fri/Sun)|
|11||California||11||Iowa State or Mississippi|
|3||New Mexico (MWC)||3||Louisville|
|14||Northwestern State (Southland)||14||Valparaiso (Horizon)|
|Lexington (Thu/Sat)||Auburn Hills (Thu/Sat)|
|↑ 7||Saint Louis (A-10)||↓ 7||Missouri|
|↓ 10||Minnesota||↓ 10||North Carolina|
|↓ 2||Miami (ACC)||2||Michigan|
|15||Mercer (A-Sun)||15||Stony Brook (AmEast)|
|FIRST FOUR (Dayton)|
|Tuesday: To Lexington||Tuesday: To San Jose|
|16||Charleston Southern (Big South)||*12||Kentucky|
|Wednesday: To Dayton||Wednesday: To Dayton
|16||Norfolk State (MEAC)||11||Iowa State|
|16||Robert Morris (NEC)||*11||Mississippi|
|BIDS BY CONFERENCE||LAST FOUR BYES||ARRIVALS||DEPARTURES|
|Big East: 8||La Salle||Kentucky||Arizona State|
|Big Ten: 7||Virginia||Mississippi||Baylor|
|A-10: 5||St. Mary's|
|Big 12: 5
||LAST FOUR IN|
|WCC: 2||LAST FOUR OUT||Notre Dame||7 down to 8|
|1-Bid Conferences: 21||Baylor||Illinois||8 up to 7|
|Arizona State||Minnesota, UNC||9 down to 10|
|St. John's||Wichita State, Creighton||10 up to 9|
|Indiana State||California||10 down to 11|
|NEXT FOUR OUT||Virginia||11 up to 10|
|Boise State||Temple||11 down to 12|
|Maryland||Iowa State, Mississippi||12 up to 11|
Also considered (in order): Xavier, Iowa, Southern Miss., BYU, Arkansas, Charlotte, UMass, Stanford
Bids Today: 5/On Friday: 5
Other Locks (1): Butler
Friday's home loss to Saint Louis, combined with the weekend's other A-10 results, dropped the Bulldogs into a third-place tie with La Salle. While wins over Indiana and Gonzaga help, the Bulldogs' recent struggles, particularly at home where they've lost two of three, may limit the team's ceiling. Picking up a surprise victory at second-place VCU on Saturday would be a significant boost to Butler's diminishing chances for a protected NCAA seed.
Safe for Now (1): VCU, Saint Louis
The Billikens' won the showdown between these two at Chaifetz Arena on Tuesday night, then stunned Butler at Hinkle to seize control of the conference race. Saint Louis is 3-0 against the Rams and Bulldogs this season, though it won't get to better that mark until the A-10 Tournament. Barring a collapse of unbelievable proportions in their last four, the Billikens should be dancing.
As for the Rams, all they did after falling in Missouri was go to Xavier on Saturday and win, keeping them a game behind Saint Louis in the loss column. Butler comes calling on Saturday, then VCU hosts archrival Richmond and visiting Temple to close the regular season. The contest against the Bulldogs is more of a must-win for Rams than you'd think. VCU currently only has a 2-5 mark against the Top 50, with the wins coming against Memphis and Belmont.
Bubble In (2): La Salle, Temple
The Owls took out the Explorers on Thursday, then smashed Charlotte on Sunday to put some distance between themselves and the cut line, while ending an incredible run of five consecutive one-point games. Temple now has a 3-3 record against the Top 50, with the win over Syracuse at Madison Square Garden the most noteworthy, and is 8-5 against the Top 100, which helps balance out the three bad losses on the profile. Complicating matters for the Owls, however, is a rescheduled Gotham Classic game against Horizon League contender Detroit on Thursday, which won't be an easy one. After that, it's three sets of Rams in a row, two of which present opportunities for the dreaded bad late loss: Rhode Island, at Fordham, VCU.
Thursday's defeat cost the Explorers not only the outright Big Five title, but bid security. Still, La Salle should be fine if it takes care of business in its finishing stretch, a task which began with a win at Rhode Island on Sunday. Next up, Duquesne at home on Saturday, followed by a visit from George Washington and a trip to Saint Louis, which may not be as big as it could have been. Note that the Explorers' Top 50 (2-2) and Top 100 (5-6) records are now inferior to Temple's.
Bubble Out: Xavier
The Musketeers' big four-game homestand began with a thud on Saturday, when VCU wreaked havoc at the Cintas Center. That defeat makes Tuesday's visit from Conference USA leader Memphis even more important. Xavier, now 3-6 against the Top 100, with all three wins coming against Top 50 foes, will likely need to sweep the visit from the Tigers, forthcoming ones from UMass and Saint Louis, and a trip to Butler to offset five sub-100 losses. However, the Musketeers are best advised to win all four and a couple more in Brooklyn for good measure.
Five A-10 Games To Watch
Memphis at Xavier, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
St. Joseph's at Saint Louis, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
Gotham Classic: Detroit at Temple, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Butler at VCU, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
UMass at Xavier, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
Bids Today: 5/On Friday: 5
Protected Seeds (2): East No. 1 Duke, South No. 2 Miami
Thanks to the Hurricanes' befuddling loss at Wake Forest last Saturday, the winner of this Saturday's early evening showdown between these two may very well be the only ACC squad to earn a top seed on Selection Sunday. Now, Duke might have a chance to return to the top line if Miami sweeps them, but that's only possible if Ryan Kelly returns and is effective and the Blue Devils win the ACC Tournament.
As for Miami, a loss at Cameron Indoor might be fatal because of what transpired on Saturday afternoon in Winston-Salem. The Hurricanes are now trying to earn a No. 1 seed with not one, but two sub-100 losses on their profile. For some historical perspective, of the 52 teams to earn a top seed since 2000, only 11 of them did so with a loss against a team ranked 101st or worse in the RPI. The last was 2008 UCLA, which lost at No. 110 Washington. The last time a team claimed a No. 1 seed with two sub-100 losses was 2002, when Duke, Kansas and Cincinnati all managed to do so.
The Canes would be well advised to not be caught looking ahead to Saturday when Virginia Tech visits on Wednesday night. A third loss against an ACC weakling would all but eliminate their top seed chances.
Safe for Now (1): N.C. State
The preseason ACC favorite of many increasingly looks destined for an 8 vs. 9 game in the Second Round after Saturday's loss at North Carolina. Home wins over the Tar Heels and Duke and a victory over Connecticut, which would be a tournament team if it was eligible, are keeping the Wolfpack's (6-7 against the Top 100) profile afloat. N.C. State's four remaining games -- Boston College, at Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, at Florida State -- are all winnable, but knowing the Wolfpack, you suspect that they aren't going to go 4-0 down the stretch.
Bubble In (2): North Carolina, Virginia
The Tar Heels are edging closer to safety, thanks to a three-game winning streak. North Carolina should extend that run further this week, as they visit Clemson and host Florida State. (Of course, the game against the Tigers would be more of an automatic win if it was at Chapel Hill.) After that, it's two tough ones to wrap up the regular season, a visit to College Park and a home encounter with Duke.
On Sunday afternoon, the Cavaliers handed Georgia Tech to avenge an earlier loss in Atlanta and snap a two-game skid. Virginia owns a 3-2 record against the Top 50, a 6-2 mark against the Top 100, which would generally assure safety, but those six sub-100 losses keeps the Cavaliers relatively close to the cut line. A visit from Duke Thursday gives the Cavaliers another chance to boost their profile, but tricky trips to Boston College and FSU, and what could be a final bubble showdown with Maryland, follow.
Bubble Out: Maryland
Saturday's win over Clemson kept the Terrapins from falling into the abyss, but the NIT still seems like the most likely destination for a team with a 3-7 mark against the Top 100 and 11 wins outside of the Top 150. Losing at either Georgia Tech or Wake Forest this week might seal the Terps' fate just before their final UNC/at Virginia swing.
Five ACC Games To Watch
Boston College at N.C. State, Wednesday 8 p.m. ET (ACC Network Regional/ESPN3)
Maryland at Georgia Tech, Wednesday 8 p.m. ET (ACC Network Regional/ESPN3)
Duke at Virginia, Thursday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Maryland at Wake Forest, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ACC Network/ESPN3)
Miami at Duke, Saturday 6 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Bids Today: 5/On Friday: 6
Protected Seeds (2): Midwest No. 2 Kansas, East No. 4 Kansas State
Other Locks (1): Oklahoma State
Earlier, I mentioned how Miami might have a problem earning a No. 1 seed with a pair of sub-100 losses. Well, what about Kansas, who famously lost to TCU, currently 226th in the RPI back on February 6th? (By the way, the Jayhawks avenged that loss handily in Lawrence on Saturday.)
Bill Self's team still has a decent shot at rising back up to the top line, particularly if it can win both the Big 12 regular season and tournament crowns. Yes, it's been five seasons since a team with a sub-100 loss earned a No. 1, but the fact it has happened recently means the feat is a possibility. Also, two teams have earned top seeds with losses to teams with RPI positions almost identical to TCU's -- Duke lost to No. 225 Davidson in 2002, while Michigan State fell to Wright State, also 225th, in 2000, the year the Spartans happened to win a national title. Of course, both of those losses happened around New Year's, not in the thick of the conference season.
The Jayhawks have only one more chance at picking up a truly bad loss between now and the Big 12 Tournament, Monday's trip to No. 223 Texas Tech.
As for Kansas State and Oklahoma State, both seem likely to be seeded somewhere between fourth and sixth on Selection Sunday. The Wildcats have won four straight since losing in Lawrence, while the Cowboys would be in slightly better position now had they completed a season sweep of the Jayhawks on Wednesday. These two are in line to meet in the 2 vs. 3 semifinal in the Big 12 Tournament. Yet another shot at KU would likely be the prize for claiming that hypothetical matchup.
Safe for Now (1): Oklahoma
The Sooners swept the season series with Baylor on Saturday to send the Bears out of this projection and move themselves closer to safety. Still, Oklahoma can't breathe comfortably yet, as its high RPI ranking (19th) still doesn't quite match up with its mediocre mark against the Top 100 (8-8) that happens to include a poor mark against the Top 50 (2-6). However, if the Sooners keep winning, which is likely considering their final four games -- at Texas, Iowa State, West Virginia, at TCU -- they'll be in with room to spare.
Bubble In (1): Iowa State
The Cyclones picked up three consecutive wins before Monday night's home overtime loss to Kansas. Of that trio of victories, the road triumph at faltering Baylor is the most important, as it helped keep the Cyclones on the right side of the cut line. In its final three contests, Iowa State has two more chances to boost its 2-5 record against the Top 50, a trip to Oklahoma and visit from Oklahoma State. The Cyclones then close with a difficult trip to West Virginia.
Bubble Out: Baylor
The Bears have dropped three in a row against bid contenders and have racked up six losses in their last eight contests overall. Two wins in 11 opportunities against the Top 50 probably won't be enough, even if both came away from Waco. Plus, the Bears have a pair of sub-100 home losses on their profile. Baylor will get two more chances to better that 2-9 mark -- both at home -- as Kansas and Kansas State visit on consecutive Saturdays. However, a trip to Texas falls between those two showdowns and Wednesday's visit to Morgantown also looms large.
Five Big 12 Games To Watch
Baylor at West Virginia, Wednesday 8 p.m. ET (Big 12 Network/ESPN3)
Iowa State at Oklahoma, Saturday 1:30 p.m. ET (Big 12 Network/ESPN3)
Texas at Oklahoma State, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Kansas State at Baylor, Saturday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Baylor at Texas, Monday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Bids Today: 8/On Friday: 8
Protected Seeds (4): Midwest No. 3 Georgetown, West No. 3 Louisville, South No. 4 Syracuse, Midwest No. 4 Marquette
Other Locks (1): Pittsburgh
After Saturday's win at the Carrier Dome, the Hoyas are now the Big East team in best position to grab a No. 1 seed, even if they currently head up the three line. However, they may need to claim the conference championship double to do so. Yes, Georgetown lost to USF, but as I've pointed out a couple of times already, a sub-100 loss won't necessarily eliminate a team from top seed consideration.
Currently, Georgetown owns a 5-3 record against the Top 50, which is one fewer win than Louisville (6-3) possesses. Marquette is 6-5 against the top tier, while Syracuse is just 3-5. If you expand those records to the Top 100, the Hoyas are in even better shape at 10-3. Syracuse is next at 10-5, while Louisville follows at 9-4, and 8-6 Marquette brings up the rear.
In the final two weeks, Georgetown will get three more chances to increase their quality win total (at UConn, at Villanova, Syracuse), as will Louisville (at Syracuse, Cincinnati, Notre Dame), while Syracuse and Marquette will each have one fewer after their meeting Monday night. The Orange still get the Cardinals and the Hoyas, while the Golden Eagles face Notre Dame and St. John's.
In other words, while Georgetown appears to be in the driver's seat, there is still plenty of basketball to be played, and I haven't even discussed the craziness that will be the Big East Tournament.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has dropped two in a row, meaning they're pretty much out of the protected seed conversation for the moment, unless they make a run in New York.
Safe for Now (2): Notre Dame, Cincinnati
The Irish handily completed a season sweep of the Bearcats on Sunday afternoon in South Bend, sending Cincy to its fifth loss in seven games. Much like N.C. State and Minnesota, the Bearcats are quickly slipping toward a precarious position. They'll be desperate for a win when UConn visits on Saturday, the second meeting between the two in a 10-day span. A difficult trip to Louisville and home game with struggling USF follows.
As for the Fighting Irish, the finishing schedule isn't easy at all, as they visit Marquette and Louisville, with a home game against bid-hungry St. John's in between.
Bubble In (1): Villanova
After Saturday's home win over Marquette, the Wildcats looked to be in strong shape, thanks to a healthy 4-5 mark against the Top 50. Then they coughed up a very late lead at Seton Hall on Monday night. That loss and a bad home defeat at the hands of a woeful Columbia squad will give the Committee pause. Villanova now must sweep its trip to Pitt and home finale against Georgetown, and probably win a couple of games in the Big East Tournament, to have a chance to stay in the final bracket. Right now, they're the last team in ... barely.
Bubble Out: St. John's
The Red Storm, who fell at home to Pitt on Sunday afternoon, are simply treading water at this point. A 2-5 Top 50 record and 4-8 Top 100 mark certainly don't scream for inclusion, especially when you add in three sub-100 losses. St. John's cannot afford to fall to Providence on Saturday with a crucial road trip to South Bend and visit from Marquette looming for the final week.
Five Big East Games To Watch
Georgetown at Connecticut, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Louisville at Syracuse, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (CBS)
Notre Dame at Marquette, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Villanova at Pittsburgh, Sunday 12 p.m. ET (Big East Network/ESPN3)
Cincinnati at Louisville, Monday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Bids Today: 7/On Friday: 7
Protected Seeds (4): Midwest No. 1 Indiana, West No. 2 Michigan, East No. 2 Michigan State, West No. 4 Wisconsin
Other Locks (1): Ohio State
The Hoosiers continue to look like a solid bet for the No. 1 overall seed, which should continue through this week at least, as they visit Minnesota and host Iowa. The final week of the regular season could result in the conventional wisdom being upset though, thanks to Ohio State's trip to Bloomington and a dangerous visit to Michigan.
The Wolverines, who will need some help to claim the Big Ten crown, by virtue of Indiana's two-game advantage, have two huge weekend tests remaining -- home games with Michigan State and Indiana -- along with two winnable Wednesday road games against Penn State and Purdue.
Even with a midweek loss to Indiana, the Spartans were under consideration for the final No. 1 seed for this week, at least until they lost at Ohio State on Sunday afternoon. Now, Michigan State is just another member of the top seed chase pack and the group that will need lots of help to earn a share of the Big Ten title. After Saturday's trip to Ann Arbor, the Spartans host Wisconsin and Northwestern.
The Badgers are the forgotten four-loss team, but thanks to three winnable games in their final four (Nebraska and Purdue at home, Michigan State and Penn State on the road), don't be surprised if they end up with the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago.
Sunday's big win over Michigan State boosted the Buckeyes' record against the Top 50 to, uh, 4-7. Ohio State will have to win at Indiana and take out Illinois at home, and win at least one game against a high-quality opponent to get to .500 against the top of Division I and move back into the protected seed conversation.
Safe for Now (2): Illinois, Minnesota
The Illini's five-game winning streak ended with a thud at Crisler Arena on Sunday, but they were at least able to put some distance between themselves and the bubble during those three weeks. Not many teams can boast a 4-4 mark against the RPI Top 25 right now, even with two sub-100 losses. Illinois closes with a home game against Nebraska and trips to Iowa and Ohio State. Not the most difficult finishing stretch in the country, but a bit tricky nonetheless.
As for the Golden Gophers, they've lost two in a row, four of five, and eight of 11, marks that likely won't get better after a visit from Indiana tonight. Minnesota should be OK, thanks to their early quality wins over Michigan State, Memphis, Wisconsin and Illinois, but a loss against Penn State, Nebraska or Purdue in the final three might cause Gopher fans to purchase mass quantities of their antacid of choice for Selection Weekend.
Bubble Out: Iowa
The Hawkeyes all but put themselves out of the bid picture with Saturday's home loss to Nebraska. Even wins over Indiana and Illinois, should they happen in the final two weeks, might not be enough to compensate for a non-conference schedule that featured 13 wins against teams ranked 170th or worse in the RPI and a loss to Virginia Tech.
Five Big Ten Games To Watch
Indiana at Minnesota, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Purdue at Iowa, Wednesday 8:30 p.m. ET (BTN)
Ohio State at Northwestern, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Iowa at Indiana, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET (BTN)
Michigan at Michigan State, 4 p.m. ET (CBS)
Bids Today: 2/On Friday: 2
Safe for Now (1): Wichita State, Creighton
The Missouri Valley regular season wraps up this weekend, and the showdown between the top two in Omaha is the highlight of the remaining conference slate. Both teams should be OK for selection, but the Valley grind has negatively impacted the seeding for both. Creighton had one last shot to grab a marquee non-conference win, but they couldn't stop St. Mary's in Moraga on Saturday. Contrastingly, Wichita State handled Detroit rather easily in its assigned BracketBuster matchup. Each squad will need to avoid slipping up at midweek, the Shockers host Evansville, while the Bluejays visit Bradley. A Creighton loss in Peoria would hand the top seed in Arch Madness to Wichita State, provided the Shockers take care of business against the Aces.
Bubble Out: Indiana State
In their BracketBuster on Saturday, the Sycamores did what they needed to do, defeating Iona by the minimum margin. That win didn't move them into the bracket, but it kept them in the conversation. A loss to either Drake (at home) or Evansville (away) would certainly mean Indiana State would have to cut down the nets in St. Louis to dance, which it will likely need to do anyway. Making things more difficult is the fact Northern Iowa has surged into third place, meaning the Trees might need to knock out the regular season champion in the semifinals to keep their slim NCAA hopes alive.
Five Valley Games To Watch
Drake at Indiana State, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (No TV)
Evansville at Wichita State, Wednesday 8 p.m. ET (Cox-Kansas)
Creighton at Bradley, Wednesday 8 p.m. ET (WAOE/KMTV 3.2)
Wichita State at Creighton, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Indiana State at Evansville, Saturday 5 p.m. ET (FS Midwest/CSN Chicago/ESPN3)
Bids Today: 4/On Friday: 4
Protected Seeds (1): South No. 3 New Mexico
Other Locks (3): Colorado State, San Diego State, UNLV
On Saturday, the Lobos got a record day from Kendall Williams to win in Fort Collins and seize control of the Mountain West race, while grabbing their seventh Top 50 win and 14th Top 100 win in the process. If New Mexico defeats San Diego State in Albuquerque on Wednesday night, the Mountain West regular season crown is as good as won, particularly with only non-contenders Wyoming, Nevada and Air Force left on the schedule.
As for the Rams, a week that featured a two-point loss at UNLV and home defeat at the hands of the Lobos has to be viewed as a pair of lost opportunities, particularly when it comes to the seeding race. Colorado State's only remaining game against a contender in its last four is a Saturday trip to Boise State. That puts them in the driver's seat for earning an easier Mountain West quarterfinal (avoiding one of the top six), alongside New Mexico.
The Aztecs and Runnin' Rebels combined for four wins last week, good enough to keep them tied for third in the Mountain West title chase. If the two continue to stay even, the seeding edge in Las Vegas next month goes to UNLV, thanks to their season sweep of the Aztecs. That would allow the Rebels to avoid New Mexico until the championship game. Looking at the remaining schedules -- at New Mexico, Air Force, at Boise State for the Aztecs and at Nevada, Boise State and Fresno State for the Rebels -- the advantage goes to the tourney hosts.
Bubble Out: Boise State
The Broncos continue to hang on, and they'll get a chance to make a move in their final four regular season games. First, Boise State will need to take care of Nevada on Wednesday night. If they can handle the Wolf Pack, Colorado State visits on Saturday. Then, it's a trip to the Thomas & Mack Center and home finale with San Diego State. That's three chances to better a 2-5 mark against the Top 50 before the Mountain West Tournament.
Air Force and Wyoming, each of whom has dropped its last two, are off the board for now.
Five Mountain West Games To Watch
Nevada at Boise State, Wednesday 8 p.m. ET (No TV)
San Diego State at New Mexico, Wednesday 10 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
UNLV at Nevada, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network)
Wyoming at New Mexico, Saturday 5 p.m. ET (ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain/KABY)
Colorado State at Boise State, Saturday 8 p.m. ET (No TV)
Bids Today: 5/On Friday: 6
Protected Seeds (1): East No. 3 Arizona
Other Locks (1): Oregon
The Ducks' Thursday loss to California, combined with the Wildcats' convincing sweep of the Washington schools means the Pac-12 race is all knotted up. Arizona looks to have the advantage for the tournament top seed at the moment, even with Oregon's head-to-head win, thanks to the continued absence of Dominic Artis from the Ducks' lineup. Strangely enough, both co-leaders play just one of their remaining three, their respective rivalry games, at home. Oregon hosts Oregon State on Thursday, then closes with a road trip to Colorado and Utah. Meanwhile, Arizona welcomes Arizona State to Tucson after visiting Los Angeles this week.
Arizona's 5-4 mark against the Top 50 and 10-4 record against the Top 100 may need some improvement before the Wildcats are again considered for a spot on the top line. That means they'll probably need to grab a Pac-12 co-championship and tournament crown to sneak up.
Safe for Now (2): UCLA, Colorado
On Sunday, the Bruins easily avoided disastrous sweep at the hands of their archrival by crushing USC to earn a season split. Up next for UCLA, a pair of quality win chances, as Arizona State and Arizona visit. At 4-4 against the Top 50 and 8-5 against the Top 100, the Bruins should be OK even if they drop both of those games. However, struggling on the final road trip of the season -- to Washington and Washington State -- might create some issues for UCLA in the Committee room.
As for the Buffaloes, they struggled early in their own rivalry game before disposing of Utah by 10. They next head to the Bay Area, where they'll have the opportunity to sweep bubble team California on Saturday. Oregon's visit on the final Thursday of the regular season is the highlight of the final homestand for a team that's currently 4-3 against the Top 50 and 8-7 against the Top 100.
Bubble In (1): California
It wasn't the easiest trip to Oregon for the Golden Bears, but they managed to pick up two wins by a total of three points. Thursday night's win over Oregon pushed Cal's record against the Top 50 to 4-5, so defeating Colorado on Saturday would get it to .500 for the season. However, the Bears cannot overlook their other two remaining home games: Thursday's visit from Utah and next Wednesday's contest against archrival Stanford, who will want to play spoiler.
Bubble Out: Arizona State
Washington completed a season sweep of the Sun Devils on Saturday night, which sent Arizona State out of the bracket for today. Making matters worse for ASU, they must play their final three on the road. Defeating UCLA and Arizona away from Tempe would provide a nice boost for a profile that features four Top 50 wins (against three losses), a 1-3 mark against teams ranked between 51 and 100, two losses against teams ranked worst than 175th and 14 wins against teams in that same underwhelming section of Division I. In short, a weak non-conference schedule may doom Arizona State to the NIT.
Stanford, 2-9 against the Top 50 and loser of four of its last six, is off the board after splitting its trip to Oregon this week.
Five Pac-12 Games To Watch
Colorado at Stanford, Wednesday 10 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Arizona State at UCLA, Wednesday 11:30 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Arizona State at USC, Saturday 3 p.m. ET (FSN)
Colorado at California, Saturday 5 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Arizona at UCLA, Saturday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Bids Today: 4/On Friday: 2
Protected Seeds (1): South No. 1 Florida
Thanks to Miami and Michigan State picking up losses over the weekend, the Gators return to the top line despite falling by three at Missouri on Tuesday night. Injuries continue to plague Florida, as freshman three-point specialist Michael Frazier II left Saturday's revenge win over Arkansas with a concussion. That means the Gators will have to rely on six healthy regulars and some green freshmen when they visit Tennessee on Tuesday night. Will Yeguete should be returning from his knee surgery ahead of schedule though, which should help Florida provide a major boost on the court and in the Committee room. Note that the Gators have had their full rotation available for just seven games this season.
Safe for Now (1): Missouri
The Tigers took a big step toward locking a bid up by stunning Florida, but they took a small step back when they lost an overtime contest at Kentucky on Saturday night. At 8-6 in the league, Missouri will be hard pressed to earn a top four seed -- and quarterfinal bye -- for the conference tournament in Nashville. However, the Tigers' final four games -- at South Carolina, Arkansas and LSU in Columbia, at Tennessee -- are all winnable, so they could still sneak into the top four with a quartet of wins and perhaps a little help. Nationally, the Tigers look like another team that will go from a high January seed to a seven or eight on Selection Sunday.
Bubble In (2): Mississippi, Kentucky
Both the Rebels and Wildcats are here mostly because of the failings of others at this point. Mississippi lost by one at South Carolina on Wednesday and fell out of Friday's projection as a result. A few days later, the Rebels are back after beating Auburn on Saturday, thanks to Baylor and Arizona State slipping up and St. John's failing to step up. Kentucky, meanwhile, struggled to beat Vanderbilt and Missouri at Rupp Arena without Nerlens Noel.
Neither team is safe, and in fact if this were Selection Week, they'd be in serious trouble because of the inevitable surprises delivered by conference tournaments. Ole Miss is in probably the worst shape of the pair, as it only has one Top 50 win (over Missouri at home) with no further opportunities remaining. On the other hand, at least Kentucky gets a chance to double its total of one with Florida's visit on March 9th.
Bubble Out: Alabama, Tennessee
The Crimson Tide did themselves no favors by losing a triple overtime game to LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday. Winning in Gainesville on Saturday and at Ole Miss on the following Tuesday might keep Alabama, which currently has a 1-3 record against the Top 50 -- comparable to the ones owned by the Rebels and Kentucky -- in the conversation, but four sub-100 losses won't help, especially if LSU drops out of the Top 100 to increase that total.
As for the Volunteers, they actually own more Top 50 wins than Alabama, Kentucky and Mississippi -- they sit at 2-4 -- and they'll get two more chances to improve it, both at Thompson-Boling Arena. Florida visits tonight and Missouri heads to Knoxville for the season finale. Plus, Tennessee has just one sub-100 loss, at home to Georgia, which they'll get to avenge on Saturday. If the Vols can take care of both home quality win opportunities, they'll head to the SEC Tournament in Nashville with a real chance to break into the field. Of course, a 4-7 record away from Knoxville may force Tennessee to make some noise at Bridgestone Arena to have a real chance.
Arkansas, who is 1-9 away from Bud Walton Arena, is off the board for now after its loss at Florida on Saturday.
Five SEC Games To Watch
Auburn at Alabama, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Florida at Tennessee, Tuesday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Texas A&M at Mississippi, Wednesday 9 p.m. ET (CSS/CST/ESPN3)
Alabama at Florida, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Kentucky at Arkansas, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (CBS)
At-Large Bids Today: 1/At-Large Bids On Friday: 1
Protected Seeds (1): West No. 2 Gonzaga
Last week, the Bulldogs defeated Santa Clara and San Diego by a total of 72 points to sew up the top seed in the upcoming West Coast Conference Tournament. All that stands in the way of Gonzaga and a perfect WCC campaign is Thursday's trip to BYU and a Saturday home game with Portland. As I wrote on Friday, I wouldn't think the Bulldogs are guaranteed to earn a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday, but given the confusion reigning elsewhere in the country, they'll have a great shot if they win both WCC titles.
Safe for Now (1 auto bid): Memphis (C-USA leader)
The Tigers completed a season sweep of Southern Miss. to lock up the top seed for the Conference USA Tournament in Tulsa. Even though the two wins over the Golden Eagles are the only Top 50 victories Memphis has on its profile, they're still a solid bet for selection, since they haven't lost to anyone ranked worse than 50th in the RPI. That may very well change this week, as the Tigers head to Xavier on Tuesday and UCF, who will be looking to avenge an earlier 22-point loss, on Saturday.
Bubble In: St. Mary's
The Gaels finally picked up a Top 50 win when they hammered Creighton in BracketBusters on Saturday. Earlier in the week, St. Mary's completed a sweep of BYU to lock up the No. 2 seed -- and bye to the semifinals -- for the WCC Tournament. With a 6-3 mark against the Top 100 and a pair of sub-100 losses, the Gaels aren't a lock for selection, but it's difficult to imagine them being left out with the quality of this season's bubble.
Southern Mississippi and BYU are no longer under consideration for an at-large, even if the Golden Eagles are 33rd in the RPI table at the moment. Neither has a win against the RPI Top 75 at this late stage, so it's auto bid or bust.
Other Games To Watch
Memphis at Xavier, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Akron at Ohio, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (STO/ESPN3)
Utah State at Louisiana Tech, Thursday 8 p.m. ET (Altitude 2/MASN/CST/ESPN3)
Gonzaga at BYU, Thursday 11 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Harvard at Princeton, Friday 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
My next update, on Friday, will be the first of March. Yes, the end is rapidly approaching, but there is still quite a long way to go.