Three of the consensus projected No. 1 seeds lost on Saturday, when Kansas took down Baylor, Gonzaga fell at BYU, and UNLV upset San Diego State. However, the teams on the top line are so far ahead of everyone else that those three schools are still there today. The only change is that the Jayhawks overtook the overall No. 1 spot from the Bears. Things are much more interesting around the bubble, though.
Teams will be broken down into three categories:
• “Wallflowers” are bubble teams. Everyone wants to get into the Big Dance, but not all of them have the guts to ask someone out on the dance floor.
• A school in the middle is “On the Way.”
• And elite teams that are safely in are “Dancing.”
Last four in: Providence, Richmond, Virginia, Indiana
First four out: Arkansas, NC State, Cincinnati, Georgetown
Next four out: Oklahoma, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, VCU
Let’s break things down by conference.
Dancing: Duke (2 seed), Florida State (3), Louisville (3)
Wallflowers: Virginia (12), NC State (2nd team out), Notre Dame (7th team out)
Virginia has won four straight games to climb into the field as the second-to-last team in. The Cavaliers’ 51 NET and 207 nonconference strength of schedule are still concerns, but they’re 3-3 in Q1 games, including a signature victory over Florida State, and 6-3 against Q2. The Wahoos’ remaining road contests at Virginia Tech and Miami are close to must-wins because they’re against non-NCAA Tournament competition and then they’ll have two home opportunities to really enhance their team sheet against Duke and Louisville.
There’s no shame in losing to Florida State, even at home, but NC State’s margin for error is so thin right now that its 67-61 setback vs the Seminoles on Saturday was enough to slide the Wolfpack to second team out. A 53 NET and a trio of Q3 losses to Georgia Tech (home), North Carolina (home) and Boston College (road) are just enough to keep them on the outside. North Carolina State has to win its three remaining Q2/3 games against North Carolina, Pitt and Wake Forest, and it may even need to beat Duke again.
Notre Dame did what it needed to do last week to keep its faint hopes alive. The Irish took down North Carolina and Miami at home, but with a 310 nonconference schedule strength and a 3-9 record in Q1/2 games, they’ll have to do more. That probably means winning out against BC (away), Wake (away), Florida State (home) and Virginia Tech (home).
Dancing: Kansas (1), Baylor (1), West Virginia (5)
On the Way: Texas Tech (7)
Wallflowers: Oklahoma (5th team out)
West Virginia drops a couple seed lines following an overtime loss at TCU on Saturday, but the Mountaineers are in no danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. They are 5-6 in Q1, 10-8 when you add Q2 and don’t have any Q3 or Q4 losses.
Losing back-to-back games against Kansas and Baylor is excusable, but following that up with another setback at Oklahoma State is less so. Yes, it’s a rivalry game and yes, it’s technically a Q1 loss, but being blown out by 17 against a team nowhere near the bubble is a bad look for Oklahoma. The Sooners drop to 5-9 away from home and 3-9 in Q1.
Dancing: Creighton (2), Villanova (2), Seton Hall (3), Butler (6)
On the Way: Marquette (7)
Wallflowers: Xavier (11), Providence (12), Georgetown (4th team out)
Creighton is absolutely on fire. The Bluejays have won five in a row with victories over Seton Hall (away), Marquette (away) and Butler (home). They now have four high-end Q1 victories, a 9-6 record overall in the top quadrant and a NET that has soared to ninth.
Meanwhile, the wheels have just about fallen off for the Bulldogs. Butler has lost three in a row and eight of 12, but with an 8-7 mark in Q1, it’s in no danger of missing the Big Dance. There are a couple get-right home games coming up against DePaul and St. John’s.
Xavier is holding steady after a win at St. John’s and a home loss against Villanova. The Red Storm victory actually counts as the Musketeers’ third Q1 win, but that one and an earlier victory at DePaul are barely within the top 75, so if those slipped down to Q2, Xavier would have just one top-quadrant triumph. The Musketeers must beat the Blue Demons in Cincinnati on Tuesday before two huge road bubble contests at Georgetown and Providence.
The Friars are in the field following three straight Q1 wins over Seton Hall (home), Georgetown (away) and Marquette (home). Providence’s SEVEN Quadrant 1 victories are the envy of all bubble teams, but four bad losses to Charleston (neutral), Penn (home), Northwestern (away) and Long Beach State (neutral) are dragging down the team sheet.
Oh, Georgetown. The Hoyas were sitting pretty after winning at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Feb. 15, but they followed that up with consecutive losses to Providence (home) and DePaul (away) to tumble out of the field. A sub-.500 mark (9-12) against Q1/2 is not good, but plenty of opportunities remain with trips to Marquette and Creighton, as well as home games against Xavier and Villanova.
Dancing: Maryland (4), Michigan (5), Michigan State (6), Penn State (6)
On the Way: Iowa (7), Ohio State (7), Purdue (8), Wisconsin (8), Illinois (9)
Wallflowers: Rutgers (10), Indiana (12)
Remember when Michigan started 7-0 with a win over Gonzaga? Well, that team is back. The Wolverines have reeled off five in a row with victories over Michigan State (home), Indiana (home), Rutgers (away) and Purdue (away) to give them five high-end Q1 wins, a total only exceeded by Kansas and Baylor’s six.
Things are getting very interesting for Rutgers. Following back-to-back losses to Michigan (the Scarlet Knights’ first setback at The RAC this season) and Wisconsin, they have dropped to a 10 seed. The 1-9 road/neutral record remains an issue, as does the 0-7 mark in high-end Q1 games. However, RU does still have four wins over likely at-large teams (Seton Hall, Penn State, Wisconsin and Illinois), as well as three more over bubble teams (Purdue, Minnesota, Indiana). Rutgers’ final three regular-season games against Penn State (away), Maryland (home) and Purdue (away) hold plenty of intrigue.
I’m not as bullish on Indiana as most. I do have IU in the field following consecutive wins over Minnesota (away) and Penn State (home), but as my last team in. The Hoosiers’ 52 NET and 2-6 record in road/neutral games are cause for concern.
Purdue and Minnesota are out of consideration due to a lack of a winning record. Texas had a ton of Q1 wins last year, but missed the field due to a .500 overall mark. The Boilermakers are in better shape with a 36 NET, but four straight losses have dropped them to 14-14. They’ll probably need to win out against Indiana (home), Iowa (away) and Rutgers (home). The Gophers, meanwhile, avoided complete disaster with a win at Northwestern on Sunday, but they’re still just 13-13 with a 42 NET. They finish up against Maryland (home), Wisconsin (away), Indiana (away) and Nebraska (home). Minnesota has to go at least 3-1.
Dancing: Colorado (4)
On the Way: Arizona State (8)
Wallflowers: Stanford (10), USC (11)
After a loss at Washington State on Jan. 29, Arizona State was 12-8 and nowhere near the bubble conversation. All the Sun Devils have done since then is win seven in a row with victories over USC (home), Stanford (away) and Oregon (home) to climb into first place and near lock-status in the NCAA Tournament.
Stanford is going to be an interesting case on Selection Sunday. The Cardinal got a much-needed sweep in Washington to climb back to 31st in the NET. That’s about the best thing they have going for them, because aside from a win over Oregon on Feb. 1, there isn’t a lot of meat on the team sheet.
USC is barely hanging on following consecutive losses at Colorado and Utah. The good news is the Trojans are still 8-7 away from home and 8-8 in Q1/2 games.
Dancing: Kentucky (4), Auburn (5)
On the Way: LSU (8), Florida (9)
Wallflowers: Alabama (11), Arkansas (1st team out), Mississippi State (6th team out)
The computer loves Alabama. The Crimson Tide are just 15-12 overall with a 2-6 Q1 mark, but they’re still 40th in the NET and 36th at Sagarin. Right now, that’s keeping them in the field, but they have two huge games coming up at Mississippi State and at home against South Carolina before closing with a pair of must-wins against Vandy and Mizzou.
Arkansas snapped a five-game slide with a win over Missouri on Saturday. The Razorbacks are still 45th in the NET with very good strength of schedule numbers (25 overall, 11 nonconference), and their win at Alabama is barely hanging on to high-end Q1 status with the Tide at 40 in the NET. No Q3/4 losses is a plus, but Arkansas needs wins fast.
Mississippi State’s loss at Texas A&M on Saturday has brought the Bulldogs to the brink of complete elimination from the bubble picture. They sit at 57 in the NET, with a 2-6 mark in Q1, 5-8 against Q1/2 and a pair of Q3 losses to Louisiana Tech (home) and New Mexico State (neutral).
Dancing: Gonzaga (1), San Diego State (1), Dayton (2), BYU (5)
On the Way: Houston (7), Saint Mary’s (8), ETSU (9), Northern Iowa (9)
Wallflowers: Rhode Island (10), Utah State (10), Wichita State (11), Richmond (12), Cincinnati (3rd team out), VCU (8th team out)
There’s a very good chance East Tennessee State and Northern Iowa make the NCAA Tournament even if they don’t win their conferences’ automatic bids. That’s because both sit in the top 50 of the NET (ETSU 39, UNI 46), they each have good road/neutral records (ETSU 10-3, UNI 8-5), they both have a high-end road Q1 win (ETSU at LSU, UNI at Colorado) and they’re each at or above .500 in Q1 and Q1/2.
Rhode Island was in good shape until a two-point overtime loss at Davidson on Saturday. The good news is the Rams still have good computer numbers (37 NET, 54 SOS, 38 NC SOS) and wins over fellow bubble teams VCU (twice), Alabama and Providence.
Utah State is following the first rule of being a bubble team in February: win. The Aggies have reeled off five in a row and are now 38 in the NET. Neutral Q1 victories over LSU and Florida also help.
A three-point loss at Cincinnati on Sunday isn’t the worse thing in the world for Wichita State, but it is a missed opportunity to get the Shockers more safely into the field. WSU has a must-win at home against Temple on Thursday followed by two very tricky road games at SMU and Memphis.
Richmond was feeling good after a five-game winning streak that included a blowout of VCU, but then the Spiders went and lost at Saint Bonaventure on Saturday. That’s just a Q2 loss, so it’s not terrible, but they probably can’t afford any more of those.
Cincinnati did something unique Sunday. It played a game that ended in regulation. Following four straight overtime contests, the Bearcats edged Wichita State by three to pull themselves closer to the field. Another enormous opportunity awaits at Houston on March 1.
VCU’s NCAA Tournament chances are on life support following a fourth-straight loss at Saint Louis on Friday. The Rams have to win out to have any shot.
12 – Liberty, Yale
13 – Akron, Vermont, SFA, North Texas
14 – Belmont, UC Irvine, Hofstra, Colgate
15 – South Dakota State, New Mexico State, Wright State, Montana
16 – Little Rock, Radford, Saint Francis (PA), Prairie View A&M, Saint Peter’s, NC A&T