Bubble Wrap 2014: Field of NCC tournament hopefuls narrows as regular-season draws to close (Week 2)

Contributor
March 5, 2014 - 1:09pm
Heading into conference tournaments, a total of 38 teams -- some of them new to the picture -- remain on the bubble when it comes to their hopes for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. But with 29 of the 32 at-large Tournament bids already accounted for by teams with records good enough to make them "locks," that leaves only a handful of invitations available for the bubbles to grapple over. (Image courtesy istockphoto.com)

Heading into conference tournaments, a total of 38 teams -- some of them new to the picture -- remain on the bubble when it comes to their hopes for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. But with 29 of the 32 at-large Tournament bids already accounted for by teams with records good enough to make them "locks," that leaves only a handful of invitations available for the bubbles to grapple over. (Image courtesy istockphoto.com)

As always, the size of the field of "dreams" -- i.e., the teams whose body of work has created a reasonable expectation, or at least something more solid that a wildly frivolous hope, of receiving an at-large bid to the 2014 Division I Women's Basketball Tournament -- has grown smaller but much more clear as the regular-season drew to a close in all but a handful of conferences.

Analysis of bubble teams for the NCAA Tournament can be easily found for the men's side, but for several years the only comprehensive look at the women's side has been found here at Full Court. When last we checked in with our annual "Bubble Wrap," Full Court bracketologist Jim Carson had identified 25 teams, spread over eight conferences who had already locked up their bids for berths in this year's NCAA Tournament. Based on their body of work to date, these teams should be dancing later this month whether or not they can reel in their conference tournament championship. (Click here for more on what the Full Court "Bubble Wrap" is and for a refresher on the distinction between and among automatic bids, at-large "locks," and "teams on the bubble," as well as for a look at Jim's initial 2014 analysis.) Using a relatively wide net for his first foray into this year's field, he identified an additional 46 teams, spread over 19 conference, who had a legitimate hope for an at-large bid but still had work to do -- i.e., teams "on the bubble."

This week, with the regular-season behind most teams and conference playoffs just starting to get under way, four former bubble teams -- Syracuse, DePaul, Michigan State and Texas -- got the job done and joined the ranks of the locks. In a somewhat unusual turn of events, however, one former lock -- St. John's -- all but collapsed down the stretch, and was therefor demoted to bubble status, with DePaul taking the Johnnies' place as the Big East's lone lock. That leaves us now with a total of 29 locks, still spread over the same eight conferences, who, failing a total debacle, have sewn up their invitations to the Big Dance, even if things don't go their way in their league tournaments.

But the converse is also true: Some bubbles faltered in the final days of the regular-season and have fallen off the bubble. Such teams will now need the tournament championship under their belts if they hope to be dancing later this month. In some cases, the former bubble's argument for the at-large bid had already been recognized as weak, and the team in question simply did not do anything sufficiently impressive to shore up its case. In other situations, the former bubble stumbled badly, shooting itself in the foot, in the days since our initial wrap and can no longer realistically be considered to be "on the bubble."

In either case, apart from the former bubbles that were promoted to locks, we saw seven former bubbles drop out of the at-large picture entirely: Indiana (Big Ten), East Carolina (Conference USA); Hampton (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference); Wichita State (Missouri Valley Conference); Washington State (PAC-12); Navy (Patriot League); and Mississippi State (Southeastern Conference). Three of those teams -- Hampton, Wichita State and Navy -- came from conferences that had no locks and no other bubbles, thereby taking their leagues out of the at-large bid picture along with them.

Here, again, however, we witnessed an anomaly: Three teams who had not previously done enough even to be considered on the bubble under the generous definitions we used to make our initial cut, scored signature wins over the last few weeks of the season. While their cases might not be as strong as those of some other bubbles both inside and outside their leagues, we have added those three teams -- South Florida (American), George Washington (Atlantic 10) and Marquette (Big East) -- to the list of bubbles in this report. Putting it all together, we are now down to 38 teams in 11 conferences that are still on the bubble.

In theory at least, with only 32 at-large bids to the tournament available (the rest are reserved for conference tournament champions, plus one for the regular-season champs of the Ivy League, which does not have a tournament), and 29 of those invitations already accounted for by teams now considered to be locks, simple math would tell you that leaves just three potential bids for those 38 remaining bubble teams to contend for. However, experience tells us that by next week, at least some of those 29 at-large locks will nail down the automatics by winning their conference tournament championships, freeing up their at-large bid for one of the bubbles. So for now, just as we did in our last wrap, we'll add eight at-large bids back into the pot (one for each of the conferences that has one or more locks), and say that the the 39 bubble teams still standing are contending for as many as 11 outstanding at-large bids.

Those numbers tell you there will inevitably be a lot of teams who have put together solid seasons who nonetheless will be sitting home watching the NCAA Tournament on TV. Below, Jim takes a brief snapshot of each of these teams and what they have on their résumés.

THE AMERICAN CONFERENCE
LOCKS
UCONN LOUISVILLE
UCONN

31-0/18-0 (RPI e)
LOUISVILLE

28-3/16-2 (RPI 7)
THE AMERICAN CONFERENCE BUBBLES
Rutgers RUTGERS
CONFERENCE American
RECORDS  
OVERALL 21-8
CONFERENCE ONLY 12-6
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 45
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 91
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 10-5
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 6-3
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 1-5
BEST WINS Georgia (61-58)
WORST LOSSES @Massachusetts (63-64); @Memphis (73-74, OT)
REMAINING GAMES SMU in AAC quarterfinal.

Outlook: The 1-5 mark against the Top 50 is a little misleading, because the Knights are now 6-1 against teams in the Top 51-90 range, with the best wins in that group being over Georgia and Princeton. The five other losses are by four points against LSU (65-69) and by significantly largers margins in home-and-homes against UConn (64-94, 35-72) and Louisville (71-80, 58-73). The Knights should be okay, if they avoid a loss to a worse-seeded team at Mohegan Sun in this week's inaugural AAC Tournament.

Rutgers SOUTH FLORIDA
CONFERENCE American
RECORDS  
OVERALL 18-11
CONFERENCE ONLY 13-5
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 68
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 44
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 8-5
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 7-2
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 1-6
BEST WINS @Rutgers (60-51)
WORST LOSSES Clemson (63-68); @ Charleston (64-71)
REMAINING GAMES Temple in AAC quarterfinal.

Outlook: It doesn't happen often, especially this late in the season, but South Florida managed to move itself from pretty much out of the running onto the bubble by picking up its first win against a Top-50 team in its season finale @Rutgers. Still, theirs is a rather slender hope, despite the win. USF lost to Maryland (70-78), Oklahoma State (56-75) and Middle Tennessee (62-68) -- two of those losses by single digits -- and the best win before Monday night @Rutgers was over Stetson (72-68), so the Bulls' only chances for big wins were in the league. As expected USF didn't do much against the top two (losses by eight, 28, 20 and 25), and they lost their other regular-season game against Rutgers (53-66) at home in late December. On a brighter note: The win @Rutgers did keep USF away from UConn's half of the AAC tourney bracket.

ATLANTIC 10 CONFERENCE
LOCKS
Dayton
DAYTON

21-6/14-2 (RPI 19)
ATLANTIC 10 CONFERENCE BUBBLES
St. Bonaventure ST. BONAVENTURE
CONFERENCE A10
RECORDS
OVERALL 22-9
CONFERENCE ONLY 11-5
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 59
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 118
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 11-7
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 6-3
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 1-4
BEST WINS Saint Joseph’s (73-67)
WORST LOSSES Toledo (62-64); @St. Louis (65-72)
REMAINING GAMES LaSalle or St. Louis in A-10 quarterfinal

Outlook:The Bonnies beat SJU and Fordham and that's about it, and they don't get return trip to Dayton. Only two out-of-conference wins came against anyone in the Top 100 (and both of those opponents rank in the 90s). The out-of-conference statement chances quickly went away as the Bonnies were blown out @North Carolina State (47-70) and @UConn (39-88). They now find themselves on the opposite side of the A-10 tournament bracket from Dayton, so the only chance for a meaningful win would be in the final (and if they get that, they won't need to worry about being on the bubble).

Fordham FORDHAM
CONFERENCE A10
RECORDS
OVERALL 22-7
CONFERENCE ONLY 11-5
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 54
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 128
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 8-6
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 5-3
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 1-2
BEST WINS Saint Joseph's (58-53); Harvard (66-44)
WORST LOSSES @Hofstra (64-77); @Richmond (77-78)
REMAINING GAMES Duquesne or Rhode Island in A-10 tournament second round

Outlook: This looks a lot like Bonaventure's profile, doesn't it? The best win of the season came in the regular-season finale against Saint Joseph's. Beyond that, there are only three Top-100 wins, and Fordham lost by 17 @Penn State (61-78). The Rams would meet the Bonnies in the A-10 semifinal if the seeds hold, so they, too, might as well consider the automatic as the only chance.

George Washington GEORGE WASHINGTON
CONFERENCE A10
RECORDS
OVERALL 20-9
CONFERENCE ONLY 11-5
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 82
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 102
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 6-6
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 6-2
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 3-4
BEST WINS California (75-72); @Saint Joseph's (74-67); Dayton (88-79)
WORST LOSSES @Georgetown (57-78); Towson (67-68); LaSalle (68-77)
REMAINING GAMES Saint Joseph's or the winner of George Mason v. Massachusetts in the A-10 quarterfinal

Outlook: Another late addition to the ranks of bubbles, GW's chances had previously been considered too bleak to include them due to losses to opponents whose own prospects were less than glowing. But coming on strong down the stretch, the Colonials beat the recently-locked Flyers (88-79) in the regular-season finale to enter the picture and tied for second in the conference standings. That picture remains really fuzzy, however. The Colonials own more strong wins than any other A-10 bubble, but also more question marks (Towson?). The one bright spot is a shot at Dayton in the league semifinal rather than the final, but the Colonials still have to be considered at-large longshots.

Saint Joseph’s SAINT JOSEPH'S
CONFERENCE A10
RECORDS
OVERALL 21-8
CONFERENCE ONLY 10-6
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 17
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 25
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 11-5
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 5-3
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 1-3
BEST WINS Dayton (75-63)
WORST LOSSES @Virginia Commonwealth (69-73); Saint Louis (65-69)
REMAINING GAMES George Mason or Massachusetts in A-10 tournament second round

Outlook: This is all about the schedule, which is really impressive. There were no out-of-conference opponents below 170 RPI, and the Hawks have plenty of sneaky-solid wins -- @Wichita State (81-73), @Princeton (74-65), @Quinnipiac (84-69) , @Temple (73-53), @Villanova (63-60), @FGCU (76-64). Saint Joe's didn't help its case as the regular-season wound down, however. In the past two weeks, the Hawks got blown out @Dayton (56-80) and lost at home to Fordham (53-58), putting them in shaky territory. Despite the RPI, this team doesn't want an early loss in Richmond.

ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE
LOCKS
Notre Duke
NOTRE DAME

29-0/16-0 (RPI 1)
DUKE

235-5/12-4 (RPI 4)
Maryland North Carolina State
MARYLAND

24-5/12-4 (RPI 15)
NORTH CAROLINA STATE

24-6/11-5 (RPI 17)
North Carolina Syracuse
NORTH CAROLINA

22-8/10-6 (RPI 29)
SYRACUSE

21-8/10-6 (RPI 21)
ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE BUBBLES
Georgia Tech GEORGIA TECH
CONFERENCE ACC
RECORDS  
OVERALL 19-10
CONFERENCE ONLY 9-7
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 40
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 34
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 7-7
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 6-2
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 2-9
BEST WINS North Carolina (94-91)
WORST LOSSES Clemson (79-80, OT)
REMAINING GAMES Virginia Tech or Boston College in ACC Tournament second round



Outlook: Since the Clemson loss, Tech has turned it around with the North Carolina win, as well as three others against mid-pack teams. The Jackets should have done enough to feel safe, and one win in Greensboro should seal a bid.

Florida State FLORIDA STATE
CONFERENCE ACC
RECORDS  
OVERALL 19-10
CONFERENCE ONLY 7-9
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 42
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 36
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 9-5
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 4-5
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 2-4
BEST WINS @Syracuse (83-59)
WORST LOSSES @Wake Forest (54-78)
REMAINING GAMES Miami in ACC Tournament second round

Outlook: In addition to the victory over new lock Syracuse, the Seminoles enjoyed a few sneaky-good out-of-conference wins -- @Florida (76-68) and Stetson (79-49), for example -- plus a really good one over Michigan State (60-58). But last week's home loss to fellow bubbler Georgia Tech (78-86) makes things shaky. That 7-9 league mark includes a 3-8 record against T100 league teams. In addition to looking bad, that conference record cost the 'Noles the bye, so FSU won't get the luxury of playing a quarterfinal against a tournament opponent coming off a game the previous day.

ATLANTIC SUN CONFERENCE
LOCKS
The Atlantic Sun Conference Currently Has No Locks
ATLANTIC SUN CONFERENCE BUBBLES
Stetson STETSON
CONFERENCE Atlantic Sun
RECORDS  
OVERALL 24-5
CONFERENCE ONLY 16-1
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 57
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 209
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 11-5
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 9-0
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 0-2
BEST WINS No wins over Top-100 opponents
WORST LOSSES @North Carolina A&T (68-73)
REMAINING GAMES Florida Gulf Coast (3/8)

Outlook: Um, no. Stetson's two toughest out-of-conference games were @Oklahoma (60-78) and @Florida State (49-79), and neither loss was close. The Hatters' loss @FGCU (56-72) wasn't that close either.

Florida Gulf Coast University FLORIDA GULF COAST
CONFERENCE Atlantic Sun
RECORDS  
OVERALL 22-7
CONFERENCE ONLY 16-1
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 73
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 151
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 9-5
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 8-1
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 1-4
BEST WINS n.South Dakota State (84-59))
WORST LOSSES @Northern Kentucky (43-63)
REMAINING GAMES @Stetson (3/8)

Outlook: In addition to their home win over conference rival Stetson (72-56), the Eagles also beat South Dakota State (84-59) and USF (60-55) in preconference play and had a tougher overall out-of-conference slate, marked by losses to Saint Joseph's (64-76) , n. Stanford (59-83) and @LSU (46-69). Still, just as with the Hatters, the record is simply not enough for anything other than an automatic. The A-Sun season finale in DeLand later this week should be a barnburner though.

BIG EAST CONFERENCE
LOCKS
DePaul
DE PAUL

23-6/14-3 (RPI 32)
BIG EAST CONFERENCE BUBBLES
St. John’s ST. JOHN'S
CONFERENCE BIG EAST
RECORDS  
OVERALL 20-9
CONFERENCE ONLY 13-5
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 32
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 27
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 8-5
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 4-4
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 2-1
BEST WINS n.Texas A&M (72-70)
WORST LOSSES Drexel (55-62); @Xavier (65-70); @Georgetown (57-60)
REMAINING GAMES Seton Hall or Providence in Big East quarterfinal

Outlook: St. John's was basically a lock two weeks ago, but that didn't contemplate the prospect of four straight losses -- @Georgetown (57-60), @Creighton (62-65), Marquette (61-74), DePaul (65-80). That late-season collapse put the Red Storm in some jeopardy, though they finished out on a better note, winning @Providence (63-42) Monday. The Johnnies scored some respectable out-of-conference wins, defeating Iona (78-48) and Harvard (81-76), and 12-5 in this league still looks pretty good, but it's not a lock any more. Speaking of locks, DePaul found that safe status after winning @SJU.

Creighton CREIGHTON
CONFERENCE BIG EAST
RECORDS  
OVERALL 18-11
CONFERENCE ONLY 12-5
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 53
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 59
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 6-10
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 5-3
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 5-5
BEST WINS n.Oregon State (70-62); Minnesota 63-52); St. John’s (65-62)
WORST LOSSES @Drake (55-62); @Kansas (66-74); Clemson (52-56)
REMAINING GAMES Butler (3/4)

Outlook: After losing badly to the Johnnies (48-67) on the road earlier in the season, the Bluejays beat St. John’s, 65-62, a little more than a week ago in what may have a must-win game. But then they saw their four-game winning streak end with a loss @Marquette (71-73). Creighton did quite a bit out of conference, but could have done more, and now it needs a win or two in the Big East tournament to burnish its profile./p>

Villanova VILLANOVA
CONFERENCE BIG EAST
RECORDS  
OVERALL 21-7
CONFERENCE ONLY 11-6
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 52
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 100
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 13-3
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 7-2
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 0-4
BEST WINS Creighton (68-54)
WORST LOSSES Seton Hall (56-64
REMAINING GAMES Marquette (3/4)

Outlook: ‘Nova also owns wins over Penn (55-54) and @Temple (59-58), but those and two Big East wins are the only Top-100 victories. The Wildcats played only two home games before New Year's (c'mon, they could only get one home game among all the other Philly schools?), but a three-point loss to Saint Joseph's (60-63) was the only marquee out-of-conference game. 'Nova needs to stick around Chicago for at least a few days.

Marquette MARQUETTE
CONFERENCE BIG EAST
RECORDS  
OVERALL 20-8
CONFERENCE ONLY 11-6
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 92
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 124
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 9-3
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 6-3
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 4-3
BEST WINS @St. John's (74-61); DePaul (80-74)
WORST LOSSES Wisconsin (60-62); Butler (70-74); @Seton Hall (86-90, OT)
REMAINING GAMES @Villanova (3/4)

Outlook: Marquette creeps into the picture with its strong wins in the past two weeks. Aside from the pair of conference wins noted above, the Golden Eagles picked up a pair of Top-100 victories over Central Michigan (84-72) and @Vanderbilt (82-77). On the downside, however, Duke was the only other Top-100 opponent this season, and Marquette lost that one, 61-78. Still, Marquette could get the useful wins it needs by reaching the Big East final, so we now consider the Eagles to be on the bubble.

BIG TEN CONFERENCE
LOCKS
Penn State
PENN STATE

20-5/11-2 (RPI 9)
Michigan State Nebraska
MICHIGAN STATE

21-8/13-3 (RPI 31)
NEBRASKA

22-6/12-4 (RPI 29)
Iowa Purdue
IOWA

23-7/11-5 (RPI 23)
PURDUE

21-7/11-5 (RPI 8)
BIG TEN CONFERENCE BUBBLES
Minnesota MINNESOTA
CONFERENCE Big Ten
RECORDS  
OVERALL 19-11
CONFERENCE ONLY 8-8
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 38
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 19
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 6-7
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 6-2
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 1-8
BEST WINS n.Chattanooga (63-62)
WORST LOSSES @Hawaii (71-77, OT)
REMAINING GAMES Wisconsin in B1G first round


Outlook: The Gophers just didn’t do enough in out-of-conference play with losses to UCLA (55-58) and @Creighton (52-63), despite wins over Navy (62-55) and Auburn (67-54). Inside the league, Minnesota missed opportunities against Purdue (42-63) and @Michigan State (61-75); they didn't beat any team higher in the B1G standings and the losses began piling up. Minnesota could really use a quarterfinal upset over Nebraska.

Michigan MICHIGAN
CONFERENCE Big Ten
RECORDS  
OVERALL 17-12
CONFERENCE ONLY 8-8
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 95
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 70
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 10-4
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 3-5
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 1-10
BEST WINS @Purdue (65-49)
WORST LOSSES Xavier (75-79, OT)
REMAINING GAMES Indiana in B1G quarterfinal

Outlook: There just aren't enough wins here. The Wolverines' most notable out-of-conference win was @Virginia (73-53), and there was a close neutral-site loss to LSU (62-64) and larger ones at home to Notre Dame (64-86) and n.Bowling Green (52-63). Michigan would get Michigan State in the B1G quarterfinal, and that could be a chance to make a statement if the Wolverines get that far. As far as the rest of the B1G bubble crop, Indiana needed to accomplish something big down the stretch to overcome its lack of Top-100 out-of-conference accomplishments. The Hoosiers didn't get it done, and so have moved off the bubble.

BIG 12 CONFERENCE
LOCKS
West Virginia Baylor
WEST VIRGINIA

26-3/15-02 (RPI 20)
BAYLOR

25-4/15-2 (RPI 11)
Oklahoma State Texas
OKLAHOMA STATE

22-6/11-6 (RPI 27)
TEXAS

19-19/10-7 (RPI 26)
BIG 12 CONFERENCE BUBBLES
Iowa State IOWA STATE
CONFERENCE Big 12
RECORDS  
OVERALL 20-8
CONFERENCE ONLY 9-8
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 34
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 41
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 8-4
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 5-3
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 4-6
BEST WINS Iowa (83-70); Texas (81-64); Oklahoma State (86-69)
WORST LOSSES @Kansas State (74-80)
REMAINING GAMES Baylor (3/4)

Outlook: The Cyclones enjoyed as good a week as any bubble team could in late February, whooping newly locked Texas (81-64) and winning @Oklahoma State (86-69), another Big 12 lock. The Cyclones also previously won @Oklahoma (82-75, OT) and beat Auburn in Las Vegas (68-57), but Auburn and Iowa were ISU's only Top-100 out-of-conference opponents. Had they done a bit more out of conference, they would already have joined the ranks of the locks; as it is, they are really close to lock status.

Oklahoma OKLAHOMA
CONFERENCE Big 12
RECORDS  
OVERALL 18-13
CONFERENCE ONLY 9-9
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 47
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 9
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 4-8
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 5-5
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 4-10
BEST WINS Gonzaga (82-78); Oklahoma State (81-74); Texas (64-63)
WORST LOSSES @Kansas State (78-86)
REMAINING GAMES Oklahoma State or Texas in Big 12 quarterfinal.

Outlook: Oklahoma has also beaten Stetson (78-60), Wichita State (89-70) and Creighton (80-52), and though it finished in a loss (92-97, OT), the Sooners’ early season shootout with Louisville might go down as one of the more memorable games of the season. Having reached the 9-9 mark in conference play with wins over Texas (64-63) and Kansas (64-61) down the stretch, the Sooners should have no problem getting in.

COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION
LOCKS
The Colonial Athletic Association Currently Has No Locks
COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION BUBBLES
James Madison JAMES MADISON
CONFERENCE Colonial
RECORDS  
OVERALL 24-5
CONFERENCE ONLY 14-1
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 51
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 155
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 14-4
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 8-1
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 1-2
BEST WINS @St. John’s (64-51)
WORST LOSSES @Charleston (78-85); n.Wright State (77-79)
REMAINING GAMES @ Northeastern (3/5)

Outlook: Until the recent stumble @Charleston, James Madison's only other losses were to Vanderbilt (85-89, OT), @North Carolina (71-74), n. Mississippi State (52-65). Vandy won by just four points and UNC by three. Had either of those two games gone JMU's way, it could be lock time. Now with the one bad loss in CAA play, an at-large is shaky but still possible.

CONFERENCE USA
LOCKS
Conference USA Currently Has No Locks
CONFERENCE USA BUBBLES
Middle Tennessee State MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE
CONFERENCE C-USA
RECORDS  
OVERALL 25-4
CONFERENCE ONLY 14-1
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 21
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 84
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 14-2
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 8-1
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 2-3
BEST WINS UTEP (69-58)
WORST LOSSES @Arkansas (51-66)
REMAINING GAMES @Tulane (3/5)

Outlook: Had there been one standout win, instead of losses to Tennessee (57-67) and Kentucky (72-84), MTSU could be among the locks. As it stands the Blue Raiders, who won @Miami (61-55) and @South Florida (76-51) and beat South Dakota State (59-44) and n.Mississippi State (62-48), could probably afford one more loss without too much worry.

UTEP UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS – EL PASO
CONFERENCE C-USA
RECORDS  
OVERALL 22-5
CONFERENCE ONLY 12-3
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 41
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 112
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 7-4
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 7-1
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 1-3
BEST WINS Southern Mississippi (86-85, OT)
WORST LOSSES Charlotte (86-92; @North Texas (64-73)
REMAINING GAMES Florida Atlantic (3/5)

Outlook: The Miners were blown out by n.Georgia Tech (77-102) and @Texas A&M (58-74); they beat SMU (76-71) for their out-of-conference highlight. Then in late February, there was that horrible loss @North Texas. Ouch!

Southern Mississippi SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI
CONFERENCE C-USA
RECORDS  
OVERALL 23-5
CONFERENCE ONLY 12-3
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 37
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 108
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 6-4
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 9-0
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 1-1
BEST WINS MTSU (68-56)
WORST LOSSES Old Dominion (82-92)
REMAINING GAMES @North Texas (3/5)

Outlook: Southern Miss has the distinction of being the only league team to topple MTSU, and also beat East Carolina (82-80, OT). There aren't any other highlights (just two other Top-100 wins), and there isn't much chance to improve the numbers without meeting and beating Middle Tennessee in the C-USA tournament final (in which case, once again, the Rebels won't be worrying about whether they're a lock or a bubble). the remaining schedule. So with these profiles, and a three-game losing streak by former C-USA bubble East Carolina (22-6,10-5, RPI 74), the Blue Raiders are really the only league team with legitimate at-large hopes.

METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
LOCKS
The Metro Atlantic Conference Currently Has No Locks
METRO ATLANTIC CONFERENCE BUBBLES
Marist MARIST
CONFERENCE Metro Atlantic
RECORDS  
OVERALL 24-6
CONFERENCE ONLY 18-2
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 48
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 120
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 14-3
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 8-1
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 2-1
BEST WINS Bowling Green (74-60); Oklahoma (76-69)
WORST LOSSES @Albany (59-69)
REMAINING GAMES Niagara or Monmouth in MAAC quarterfinal

Outlook: The Red Foxes also won their rematch @Iona in the regular-season finale, so though Iona captured the regular-season conference championship, Marist's package may look a little more attractive. Marist lost to Kentucky (61-75) and @Ohio State (59-62) in its other games against big-conferences opponents. An at-large out of the MAAC is still a longshot, but Marist has done everything it could to make its case.

Iona IONA
CONFERENCE Metro Atlantic
RECORDS  
OVERALL 25-4
CONFERENCE ONLY 18-2
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 60
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 215
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 12-2
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 7-2
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 1-3
BEST WINS @Marist (73-71)
WORST LOSSES @Rider (90-92, OT)
REMAINING GAMES Manhattan or Siena in MAAC quarterfinal)

Outlook: Iona has five Top 51-100 wins – Pacific (83-70); @Navy (64-61) among them-- but nothing more eye-popping. The Gaels lost to Bowling Green by one (50-51) and @St. John's by a lot more (48-78). But as already noted, a MAAC at-large is remote at best, and the home loss to Marist didn't help any. Thus, despite an excellent season, Iona needs to go the distance at the tournament.

MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE
LOCKS
The Mid-American Conference Currently Has No Locks
MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE BUBBLES
Bowling Green BOWLING GREEN
CONFERENCE Mid-American
RECORDS  
OVERALL 25-3
CONFERENCE ONLY 15-1
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 30
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 150
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 14-3
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 8-0
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 1-3
BEST WINS Central Michigan (67-55); n.Iona (51-50); @Ohio State (64-52);
WORST LOSSES n.Marist (60-74)
REMAINING GAMES @Miami-Ohio (3/5); @Akron (3/8)

Outlook: Bowling Green would like to have its first game against Central Michigan back -- BGSU lost by three, 79-82, in overtime. BGSU also lost to Marist (60-74) on a neutral court as well as @Purdue (48-57). But the Falcons won their rematch with Central Michigan, 67-55, in mid-February, significantly boosting their shot at an at-large. The Falcons seem to be deserving of a bid, but the Selection Committee has left deserving mid-majors in the dust before without batting an eye.

Central Michigan CENTRAL MICHIGAN
CONFERENCE Mid-American
RECORDS  
OVERALL 19-9
CONFERENCE ONLY 15-1
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 33
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 58
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 9-9
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 7-1
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 2-7
BEST WINS Dayton (94-91)
WORST LOSSES @Marquette (72-84); n.Kansas (63-68)
REMAINING GAMES Western Michigan (3/5); @Eastern Michigan (3/8)

Outlook: The entire Central Michigan profile hangs on the Dayton and BGSU (82-79, OT) wins. But in both cases, CMU lost the rematch, losing badly @Dayton (89-102) and more recently falling @Bowling Green (55-67), leaving at-large hopes i trouble. Still, the Chippewas deserve some credit for having tested themselves against some of the nation’s best teams out-of-conference, losing @Kentucky (74-96), n.Duke (64-97), @Notre Dame (72-106) and @Purdue (97-109). There's still a chance for the loser of CMU-BGSU if the two teams meet in the MAC final.

PAC-12 CONFERENCE
LOCKS
Stanford
STANFORD

28-2/17-1

(RPI 2)
Cal Arizona State
CALIFORNIA

21-8/13-5 (RPI 22)
ARIZONA STATE

22-8/11-7 (RPI 26)
PAC-12 CONFERENCE BUBBLES
Oregon State OREGON STATE
CONFERENCE PAC-12
RECORDS  
OVERALL 21-9
CONFERENCE ONLY 13-5
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 35
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 42
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 7-8
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 9-0
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 2-6
BEST WINS Arizona State (66-43); USC (58-48)
WORST LOSSES @UCLA (63-66)
REMAINING GAMES Utah or Washington in PAC-12 quarterfinal

Outlook: Oregon State is riding a nine-game winning streak heading into the conference tournament; their last loss was by two at Arizona State (62-64) but that was avengaged in a big way last week with a 23-point home win (66-43). The Beavers played plenty of good out-of-conference teams n.Penn State (56-61), n.Florida (70-73), n.Creighton (62-70) -- but a three-point loss to the Gators was as close as they came to beating one. But they got the job done in conference play, and should be in good shape to make the Big Bracket, barring some strange bubble circumstances or a complete collapse in Seattle.

USC SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
CONFERENCE PAC-12
RECORDS  
OVERALL 18-2
CONFERENCE ONLY 11-7
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 50
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 29
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 10-6
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 4-4
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 2-8
BEST WINS @California (77-70)
WORST LOSSES @Cal State Northridge (64-65)
REMAINING GAMES Arizona in PAC-12 first round

Outlook: USC challenged itself in out-of-conference scheduling, but wasn't too close in losses to South Carolina (50-70), Iowa (65-78) and @Oklahoma State (51-82). The Trojans started the PAC-12 season well, sweeping their home-and-home against local rival UCLA (56-54; 68-54), beating conference lock @Cal (77-70) and recently giving Stanford all it could handle before succumbing to a 59-64 home loss. Still, Cal got its revenge at Galen Center (67-76), and despite splitting with the Beavers, winning 81-60 at home but falling 48-58 in Corvallis, it's hard to conceive of USC getting picked over Oregon State at this point.

Washington WASHINGTON
CONFERENCE PAC-12
RECORDS  
OVERALL 17-12
CONFERENCE ONLY 10-8
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 71
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 52
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 8-7
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 6-3
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 3-7
BEST WINS Stanford (87-82); @California (65-70)
WORST LOSSES Portland (77-91); @Oregon (85-101)
REMAINING GAMES Utah in PAC-12 first round

Outlook: Washington is the only PAC-12 team to beat Stanford and closed regular-season play well by winning @Cal. That's the best news on an otherwise unspectacular season. Wins @UCLA (70-58) and @USC (63-55) are the Huskies' only other Top-100 victories. On the other hand, the Huskies had plenty of out-of-conference chances at statements but came up blank with losses @St. Mary’s (81-91), @Texas A&M (68-74) and on a neutral court against n.DePaul (66-73).

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE
LOCKS
South Carolina Tennessee
SOUTH CAROLINA

26-3/14-2 (RPI 6)
TENNESSEE

25-5/13-3 (RPI 5)
Texas A&M Kentucky
TEXAS A&M

23-7/13-3 (RPI 11)
KENTUCKY

22-7/10-6 (RPI 12)
LSU Vanderbilt
LSU

18-11/7-9 (RPI 12)
VANDERBILT

18-11/7-9 (RPI 36)
SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE BUBBLES
Florida FLORIDA
CONFERENCE SEC
RECORDS  
OVERALL 18-11
CONFERENCE ONLY 8-8
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 65
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 51
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 6-7
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 3-5
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 5-7
BEST WINS St. John’s (72-68); @Kentucky (83-73); Kentucky (86-80); @Vanderbilt (73-68)
WORST LOSSES @Virginia Tech (59-71); n.Illinois State (64-68)
REMAINING GAMES Missouri or Mississippi State in SEC second round

Outlook: The RPI seems a little rough on the Gators, but they did play eight out-of-conference opponents outside the Top 200 (and lost to the Redbirds). A .500 mark in the SEC used to make a bid a given, but it's shaky here. A win over Kentucky in the quarters would likely guarantee a bid without having to get all the way through to the final.

Georgia GEORGIA
CONFERENCE SEC
RECORDS  
OVERALL 19-10
CONFERENCE ONLY 7-9
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 46
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 49
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 4-8
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 4-4
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 3-6
BEST WINS Kentucky (58-56)
WORST LOSSES @Alabama (66-69)
REMAINING GAMES Vanderbilt in SEC tournament second round

Outlook: The Bulldogs aren't completely out of the woods. Have they really only won four games away from Athens? (And two of those were in Atlanta, which is right down the road.) They did sweep the Gators (68-62, 67-58), but the other true road wins were @Georgia State (70-58) and @Belmont (81-50). Anyway, the path through the nearby Gwinnett Center where the tournament is being played just an hour down the road from Athens may be familiar, but it's not a relaxing place to be at tournament time when you really, really need a win, as the Dawgs do.

Auburn AUBURN
CONFERENCE SEC
RECORDS  
OVERALL 16-13
CONFERENCE ONLY 7-9
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 66
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 28
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 7-8
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 5-3
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 3-9
BEST WINS St. John’s (69-55); @Vanderbilt (68-62)
WORST LOSSES @Mississippi (71-73, OT); Missouri (58-68)
REMAINING GAMES Arkansas or Ole Miss in SEC tournament second round

Outlook: See Outlook Summary for Arkansas, below

Arkansas ARKANSAS
CONFERENCE SEC
RECORDS  
OVERALL 19-10
CONFERENCE ONLY 6-10
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 63
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 54
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 5-6
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 4-4
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 2-7
BEST WINS Middle Tennessee State (66-51); @LSU (57-53)
WORST LOSSES Mississippi State (50-54)
REMAINING GAMES Ole Miss in SEC tournament first round

Outlook: Now for the longshots, Auburn and Arkansas. Arkansas stayed in the picture with that @LSU win in the final week, while Auburn suffered its worst loss in that same time frame. Whichever team emerges from the prospective Tigers-Razorbacks faceoff in the SEC tournament second round (assuming Arkansas gets past Ole Miss in the opener) will have at the very least have to upset Texas A&M to stay in consideration. Sorry, Mississippi State (18-12, 5-11, RPI 94), but your last two weeks contained three losses -- @Alabama (64-72, OT); Kentucky (74-81, OT); and @Georgia (48-77) -- and the lone win down the stretch was a skin-of-the-teeth, overtime effort against an in-state rival and SEC cellar-dweller, Ole Miss (72-70, OT). That certainly wasn't the prescription for keeping your NCAA Tournament hopes alive, and dropped you out of bubble status.

SOUTHERN CONFERENCE
LOCKS
The Southern Conference Currently Has No Locks
SOUTHERN CONFERENCE BUBBLES
Chattanooga CHATTANOOGA
CONFERENCE Southern
RECORDS  
OVERALL 26-3
CONFERENCE ONLY 18-0
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 44
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 201
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 13-3
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 9-0
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 0-2
BEST WINS Auburn (80-52)
WORST LOSSES @Hawaii (55-60)
REMAINING GAMES Georgia Southern or Wofford in SoCon tournament quarterfinal

Outlook: OK, UTC's coach leaves for NC State and makes the Wolfpack better, but the Mocs might be better this year too. Forget the blowout @Tennessee (56-80); the Vols were looking to avenge last year’s embarrassment and weren't going to be stopped. Had Chattanooga enjoyed Thanksgiving weekend in Hawaii a bit more – they lost by one point to Minnesota (62-63) and by five to the hosts (55-60), before salvaging a two-point win over Colorado State (59-57) -- the Mocs would feel pretty safe. Now it's the usual nervous time for a SoCon team.

SUMMIT CONFERENCE
LOCKS
The Summmit Conference Currently Has No Locks
SUMMIT CONFERENCE BUBBLES
South Dakota State SOUTH DAKOTA STATE
CONFERENCE Summit
RECORDS  
OVERALL 22-8
CONFERENCE ONLY 13-1
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 43
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 90
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 8-8
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 7-1
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 2-3
BEST WINS Penn State (83-79)
WORST LOSSES @Arkansas-Little Rock (45-66); @IUPUI (66-76)
REMAINING GAMES South Dakota or Western Illinois in Summit semifinal

Outlook: The Jackrabbits were doing okay until dropping one to second-place IUPUI (66-76). SDSU also beat Central Michigan (87-82), but lost by five @Creighton (63-68) and by considerably larger margins to n. Stanford (60-80); n.FGCU (59-64);, @BYU (53-82); and @MTSU (44-59). Gotta think one more win in that group would have made SDSU feel more comfortable. Now they will have to take care of their business in Sioux Falls (where they rightfully get a bye to the semis) and can also root for Penn State.

WEST COAST CONFERENCE
LOCKS
Gonzaga
GONZAGA

26-4/16-2 (RPI 15)
WEST COAST CONFERENCE BUBBLES
BYU BRIGHAM YOUNG
CONFERENCE West Coast
RECORDS  
OVERALL 24-5
CONFERENCE ONLY 14-4
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 39
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 119
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 11-3
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 8-0
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 3-2
BEST WINS Gonzaga (62-52)
WORST LOSSES Utah (74-82, 2OT)
REMAINING GAMES Santa Clara or Pepperdine in WCC quarterfinal

Outlook: BYU leaped into consideration after beating the Zags and now needs to hold its ground. The Cougars also beat South Dakota State (81-53) and Washington State (80-73) and won @Creighton (52-51), though they lost to Pacific (74-82, OT). In short; there are no wins over real out-of-conference powerhouses, but the Cougars do have some respectable results to point to. BYU should feel safe with a trip to the WCC final, which would likely mean winning a rematch with Pacific in the semis.

Saint Mary's SAINT MARY'S
CONFERENCE West Coast
RECORDS  
OVERALL 21-8
CONFERENCE ONLY 11-7
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 55
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 104
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 8-6
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 4-4
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 4-3
BEST WINS Gonzaga (79-78, OT)
WORST LOSSES @Sacramento State (92-94); @Loyola Marymount (74-76, OT); Santa Clara (83-89)
REMAINING GAMES San Diego in WCC quarterfinal

Outlook: Here's the other WCC team that beat the Zags (79-78, OT), although those ugly losses @LMU (74-76, OT) and against Santa Clara are more of a black mark than anything on BYU’s record. SMC scheduled similarly, winning at home against Washington (91-81) and Alabama (86-76), as well as @USC (71-55). It will likely take another win over Gonzaga in the WCC tournament semis to sway the Selection Committee.

San Diego SAN DIEGO
CONFERENCE West Coast
RECORDS  
OVERALL 22-7
CONFERENCE ONLY 11-7
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX 49
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE 114
ON THE ROAD OR IN NEUTRAL VENUES 8-6
SINCE FEBRUARY 1 4-4
AGAINST TOP-50 OPPONENTS 2-3
BEST WINS Arizona State (61-53)
WORST LOSSES @Portland (51-72); @San Francisco (74-78)
REMAINING GAMES Saint Mary's in WCC quarterfinal

Outlook: The Toreros have a better signature out-of-conference win than their fellow West Coast Conference bubbles, but they also lost twice -- and big -- to Gonzaga (50-79, 48-66). Their only other Top-100 out-of-conference opponent was Idaho (RPI 69), whom San Diego beat, 74-64, and San Diego couldn't avenge its home loss to BYU, dropping the regular-season finale in Provo, 58-71. They're in the same boat as Saint Mary's, which means the quarterfinal will effectively be an NCAA Tournament elimination game, and even then, the winner must still beat the Zags.

Follow how the remaining bubble teams fare with Full Court's extensive conference tournament coverage!

Notes: Records through Monday, March 3, 2014. RPI/SOS through Sunday, March 2, from realtimerpi.com. Only games against Division I teams are counted. Conferences not listed have no locks and no bubble teams.

Key: R/N: road-neutral record. FEB: record in February. n: Game played on neutral court.

Jim Carson is a Clemson graduate, who began analyzing bubble teams when his daughter played at his alma mater. He hopes some day to be able to include his Tigers on this list for the first time in about a decade.


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