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IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa State may have solidified its NCAA tournament credentials with a win Wednesday night and Iowa's climb toward the tournament is still steep, but neither are considered definitely in or out with 10 days until Selection Sunday.
ESPN basketball blogger Eammon Brennan has a terrific breakdown of which teams are locks, probable entries and bubble teams entering the final 10 days before the NCAA selection bracket is released. Below is a breakdown of Brennan's selections along with my own adaptations.
Among the big six conferences (Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, ACC, SEC and Big 12), there are 21 locks and eight probables. The locks are obvious and the probables are, well, probable (Villanova, Illinois, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Colorado, California, Oregon, Missouri).
Regarding the primary mid-major conferences (Atlantic-10, Mountain West, Missouri Valley, West Coast, Conference USA), there are 11 locks (New Mexico, UNLV, Colorado State, San Diego State, Butler, VCU, St. Louis, Creighton, Wichita State, Gonzaga, Memphis).
There are 17 one-bid leagues that shouldn't give any bubble teams concerns over league tournaments. But there are three leagues with teams that could cause problems Ohio Valley, Sun Belt and WAC. If the top seed holds in those leagues, all is well. However the top team in each of those leagues would become very competitive for an at-large bid.
DANGEROUS MID-MAJOR TOURNAMENTS
Sun Belt regular-season champion Middle Tennessee State (27-4, 19-1) is the top team receiving votes outside the coaches' poll top 25. The Blue Raiders have won 12 straight games and has an RPI of 23. But they are 0-3 against top 50 teams and just 1-3 against the top 100.
WAC regular-season champion Louisiana Tech (26-3, 16-0) has won 18 straight games but has an RPI of 49 and a strength-of-schedule at 255. Ohio Valley's Belmont (22-6, 14-2) is 1-2 against top 25 teams and 5-0 against teams 51-100. Belmont is receiving votes in both polls and will face stiff tests in the OVC tournament from either Murray State or Eastern Kentucky.
If any of those three lose in their conference tournaments, they immediately enter the at-large bubble pool against high-major squads for NCAA bids. They'd be very competitive, too.
Three other conference tournaments are filled with potholes. Creighton and Wichita State are virtual locks from the Missouri Valley Conference but if third seed Northern Iowa upsets those two (very possible) and wins the MVC tournament, that takes away an at-large spot. Same situation in the West Coast Conference if No. 1 Gonzaga is upset by any team other (and possibly including) than St. Mary's. Akron could compete for an at-large spot if it doesn't win the Mid-American Conference tournament.
Brennan identifies 19 teams with "work left to do." That projects to eight open NCAA spots. Thirteen of the bubble teams hail from high-major leagues, while six come from mid-major conferences.
The 13 high-major teams include: Virginia, Maryland, Cincinnati, Providence, Iowa, Iowa State, Baylor, Arizona State, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas. The six mid-major bubble squads are Boise State, La Salle, Temple, Xavier, St. Mary's and Southern Miss.
Let's take a look at each of those teams and their NCAA resume entering the final 10 days of the regular season.
VIRGINIA 20-9, 10-6 ACC
RPI: 63; Strength-of-schedule: 132
Record vs. top-100: 7-2 (2-2 vs. top-25)
Good wins: Duke, North Carolina State, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Maryland, North Carolina
Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Clemson, Old Dominion, Wake Forest, Boston College, Delaware, George Mason
Looking ahead: at Florida State; vs. Maryland
Prognosis: Virginia has terrific wins and inexplicable losses. Beating Maryland on Sunday coupled with one more win (either Florida State or in the ACC tournament) should get the Cavaliers into the NCAA tournament.
MARYLAND 20-9, 8-9 ACC
RPI: 84; Strength-of-schedule: 121
Record vs. top-100: 3-8 (1-4 vs. top 25)
Good wins: Duke, North Carolina State
Bad losses: Kentucky, Florida State (twice), Boston College, Georgia Tech
Looking ahead: at Virginia
Prognosis: A loss at Virginia all but eliminates the Terrapins barring an ACC tournament title appearance. The Terrapins seem outside the tournament right now.
CINCINNATI 20-10, 8-9 BIG EAST
RPI: 45; Strength-of-schedule: 16
Record vs. top-100: 8-10 (1-4 vs. top 25)
Good wins: Marquette, Pittsburgh, Xavier, Oregon, Alabama, Iowa State, Villanova, UConn
Bad losses: Providence, St. John's
Looking ahead: vs. South Florida
Prognosis: Bearcats don't have a loss to a team with a losing record and have played a competitive schedule. By virtue of beating three bubble teams, Cincinnati should get in with little discussion.
PROVIDENCE 17-12, 9-8 BIG EAST
RPI: 79; Strength-of-schedule: 68
Record vs. top-100: 5-8 (0-5 vs. top 25)
Good wins: Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Villanova (twice)
Bad losses: DePaul, Brown, Penn State, UMass
Looking ahead: at UConn
Prognosis: The early losses were horrific and although there are some decent wins as of late, the overall record and resume will keep Providence out of the NCAA tournament.
IOWA 19-11, 8-9 BIG TEN
RPI: 77; Strength-of-schedule: 114
Record vs. top-100: 5-9 (1-6 vs. top 25)
Good wins: Iowa State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois
Bad losses: Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Purdue
Looking ahead: vs. Nebraska
Prognosis: The lack of a big road win coupled with a subpar non-conference schedule means Iowa must do some work in the Big Ten tournament. A defining second-round league tournament win gets the Hawkeyes in the conversation. A semifinal victory probably gets them in.
IOWA STATE 20-10, 10-7 BIG 12
RPI: 51; Strength-of-schedule: 53
Record vs. top-100: 6-8 (2-5 vs. top 25)
Good wins: Baylor (twice), Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Bad losses: Iowa, Cincinnati, Texas Tech, Texas
Looking ahead: at West Virginia
Prognosis: Iowa State appears almost a lock, although a loss at West Virginia coupled with a first-round Big 12 tournament exit could cause committee to re-evaluate the Cyclones' status.
BAYLOR 17-13, 8-9 BIG 12
RPI: 67; Strength-of-schedule: 28
Record vs. top-100: 4-10 (0-6 vs. top 25)
Good wins: Kentucky, Oklahoma State
Bad losses: College of Charleston, Northwestern, Iowa State (twice), Texas
Looking ahead: vs. Kansas
Prognosis: Unless Baylor can upset Kansas and win a couple of Big 12 tournament games, the NIT is the likely bet. The Bears played some good teams, but didn't get enough quality wins to offset a few rough losses.
ARIZONA STATE 20-10, 9-8 PAC-12
RPI: 93; Strength-of-schedule: 134
Record vs. top-100: 6-8 (0-1 vs. top 25)
Good wins: Arkansas, Colorado (twice), UCLA, California
Bad losses: USC, Utah, DePaul, Washington (twice)
Looking ahead: at Arizona
Prognosis: The wins aren't strong enough to override losses at this point. Sun Devils need to win probably three more to get into heavy conversation.
KENTUCKY 20-9, 11-5 SEC
RPI: 53; Strength-of-schedule: 78
Record vs. top-100: 6-9 (0-3 vs. top 25)
Good wins: Missouri, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Maryland
Bad losses: Baylor, Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee
Looking ahead: at Georgia, vs. Florida
Prognosis: The defending champion Wildcats' resume is shockingly mediocre and the theme is similar with all the SEC bubble teams. It all could come down to a decent performance in the SEC tournament.
TENNESSEE 18-11, 10-7 SEC
RPI: 56; Strength-of-schedule: 48
Record vs. top-100: 6-9 (1-2 vs. top 25)
Good wins: Florida, Kentucky, Alabama, Xavier, Wichita State
Bad losses: Kentucky, Alabama, Ole Miss (twice), Georgia (twice), Arkansas, Virginia
Looking ahead: vs. Missouri
Prognosis: The Volunteers have played much better in the last month but outside of upsetting Florida and dominating a depleted Kentucky squad, their resume is ordinary. But 20 wins should get them in.
OLE MISS 22-8, 11-6 SEC
RPI: 57; Strength-of-schedule: 162
Record vs. top-100: 6-6 (0-2)
Good wins: Alabama, Tennessee (twice), Arkansas, Missouri
Bad losses: Mississippi State, Indiana State, Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas A&M
Looking ahead: at LSU
Prognosis: Like the rest of the SEC, Ole Miss' fate could come down to the SEC tournament. A quick exit likely means an NIT spot.
ALABAMA 19-11, 11-6 SEC
RPI: ; Strength-of-schedule:
Record vs. top-100:
Good wins: Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Villanova
Bad losses: Ole Miss, Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, Mercer, Tulane, Dayton, Cincinnati
Looking ahead: vs. Georgia
Prognosis: Alabama's resume is weaker than its SEC brethren so it must win a couple head-to-head battles in the SEC tournament.
ARKANSAS 18-12, 9-8 SEC
RPI: 76; Strength-of-schedule: 69
Record vs. top-100: 6-10 (2-3 vs. top 25)
Good wins: Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma
Bad losses: Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Alabama, South Carolina, LSU, Arizona State
Looking ahead: vs. Texas A&M
Prognosis: Arkansas just too many losses to mediocre or comparable opponents, coupled with three defeats in the last four. A 30-point road loss at Missouri probably sealed its postseason fate.
BOISE STATE 20-9, 8-7 Mountain West
RPI: 44; Strength-of-schedule: 81
Record vs. top-100: 7-7 (2-5 vs. top 25)
Good wins: Colorado State, UNLV, Creighton
Bad losses: Nevada, Air Force, Utah
Looking ahead: vs. San Diego State
Prognosis: Boise has a nice middle-of-the-road resume with a couple decent wins and a few regrettable losses. The difference in one more win vs. two could mean the difference between the NCAA and NIT.
LA SALLE 21-7, 11-4 Atlantic-10
RPI: 38; Strength-of-schedule: 98
Record vs. top-100: 5-6 (1-1 vs. top 25)
Good wins: Villanova, Butler, VCU
Bad losses: Temple, UMass, Xavier, Central Connecticut, Bucknell
Looking ahead: vs. St. Louis
Prognosis: A couple of nice conference wins but the non-conference losses could off-set those in the committee's mind. A win at conference leader St. Louis could cement the Explorers' NCAA bid. Otherwise La Salle might need at least two or three A-10 tournament wins to stay back in the conversation.
XAVIER 17-12, 9-6 Atlantic-10
RPI: 86; Strength-of-schedule: 71
Record vs. top-100: 5-7 (1-1 vs. top 25)
Good wins: St. Louis, La Salle, Temple, Memphis, Butler
Bad losses: UMass, Dayton, Tennessee, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Charlotte, St. Joseph's, Wofford, Vanderbilt, Pacific, Wake Forest
Looking ahead: at Butler
Prognosis: Barring a win at Butler and an A-10 run to the championship game, the Muskateers have the perfect NIT resume.
TEMPLE 22-8, 10-5 Atlantic-10
RPI: 41; Strength-of-schedule: 72
Record vs. top-100: 9-5 (1-2 vs. top 25)
Good wins: Villanova, Syracuse, La Salle, St. Louis
Bad losses: Canisius, Xavier, Duquesne, St. Joseph's, St. Bonaventure,
Looking ahead: vs. VCU
Prognosis: Of the A-10 bubble teams, Temple has the best resume. There are a few concerning losses, but the Owls have won six straight games and have nine top-100 wins.
ST. MARY'S 26-5, 14-2, West Coast Conference
RPI: 36; Strength-of-schedule: 127
Record vs. top-100: 6-3 (0-2 vs. top-25)
Good wins: Creighton
Bad losses: Northern Iowa, Pacific, Georgia Tech
Looking ahead: WCC Tournament
Prognosis: Other than a win against Creighton, it's a pretty nondescript campaign for the Gaels. There are more losses to non-NCAA tournament teams than wins against solid competition. A win against Gonzaga or the WCC title (likely one and the same) might be the only way to avoid another NCAA heartbreak.
SOUTHERN MISS 22-8, 11-4 Conference USA
RPI: 42; Strength-of-schedule: 87
Record vs. top-100: 3-6 (0-3 vs. top 25)
Good wins: None
Bad losses: Marshall, Central Florida, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State
Looking ahead: vs. Central Florida
Prognosis: Southern Miss has a nice record but offers little else compared to the high-major teams who have played and beaten competitive teams in and out of conference play. It should take a Conference USA tournament title to clinch an NCAA berth.
NCAA BUBBLE PROJECTIONS (top eight teams qualify)
IN: Cincinnati, Kentucky, Iowa State, Temple, Virginia, Tennessee, Boise State, Iowa
OUT: La Salle, St. Mary's, Baylor, Ole Miss, Alabama, Maryland, Arizona State, Xavier, Arkansas, Providence, Southern Miss
FIRST FOUR DAYTON, OHIO MARCH 20-21
12. Iowa vs. Tennessee
12. Virginia vs. Boise State
16. Princeton vs. Northeastern
16. Norfolk State vs. Niagara
MIDWEST REGION INDIANAPOLIS MARCH 29-31
1. Indiana vs. 16. Princeton/Northeastern, Dayton, Ohio (March 22)
8. UCLA vs. 9. Oklahoma, Dayton, Ohio (March 22)
5. Virginia Commonwealth vs. 12. Virginia-Boise State, Austin, Texas (March 22)
4. Marquette vs. 13. Bucknell, Austin, Texas (March 22)
3. Kansas State vs. 14. South Dakota State, Kansas City (March 22)
6. Wisconsin vs. 11. Louisiana Tech, Kansas City (March 22)
7. Wichita State vs. 10 Temple, Lexington, Ky., (March 21)
2. Louisville vs. 15. Southern, Lexington, Ky. (March 21)
SOUTH REGION ARLINGTON, TEXAS MARCH 29-31
1. Kansas vs. 16. Gardner-Webb, Kansas City (March 22)
8. North Carolina State vs. 9. Illinois, Kansas City (March 22)
5. St. Louis vs. 12. San Diego State, San Jose (March 21)
4. Syracuse vs. 13. Belmont, San Jose (March 21)
3. Michigan State vs. 14. Akron, Auburn Hills, Mich. (March 21)
6. Notre Dame vs. 11. Middle Tennessee State, Auburn Hills, Mich. (March 21)
7. Memphis vs. 10. Missouri, Lexington, Ky., (March 21)
2. Miami vs. 15. Mercer, Lexington, Ky., (March 21)
EAST REGION WASHINGTON, D.C. MARCH 28-30
1. Duke vs. 16. Norfolk State-Niagara, Philadelphia (March 22)
8. UNLV vs. 9. Colorado, Philadelphia (March 22)
5. Pittsburgh vs. 12. Iowa-Tennessee, Austin, Texas (March 22)
4. Oklahoma State vs. 13. Stephen F. Austin, Austin, Texas (March 22)
3. Ohio State vs. 14 Valparaiso, Dayton, Ohio (March 22)
6. Butler vs. 11. Iowa State, Dayton, Ohio (March 22)
7. Creighton vs. 10. California, Philadelphia (March 22)
2. Georgetown vs. 15. Stony Brook, Philadelphia (March 22)
WEST REGION LOS ANGELES MARCH 28-30
1. Gonzaga vs. 16. Long Beach State, San Jose, Calif. (March 21)
8. Colorado State vs. 9. Minnesota, San Jose, Calif. (March 21)
5. Arizona vs. 12. Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Utah (March 21)
4. Florida vs. 13. Davidson, Salt Lake City, Utah (March 21)
3. New Mexico vs. 14. Montana, Salt Lake City, Utah (March 21)
6. Oregon vs. 11. Villanova, Salt Lake City, Utah (March 21)
7. North Carolina vs. 10. Kentucky, Auburn Hills, Mich. (March 21)
2. Michigan vs. 15. Robert Morris, Auburn Hill, Mich. (March 21)
FINAL FOUR ATLANTA APRIL 6-8