The final week of the regular season brings a little more clarity, but just a little. Far fewer true bubble teams really exist, though. At this point, about 30 teams are either in, or practically in as at-larges if necessary. Not all of them will require that, since some of those teams will claim the automatic bids from their conference. As I look at the teams right now, I really see four tiers. The first is the top twelve or so teams, still competing for a #1 seed. Then there is a large group of teams that could fall anywhere between a 4 and 9 seed depending on how the conference tourneys go, but all of them are in the field. Some could drop seed position as well, but I feel these teams are generally safe.
The last tier is those teams that have to add multiple huge results just to get in the discussion. I see some of those teams showing up on First Four Outs elsewhere, but I’m not seeing it with teams like St. John’s or Massachusetts or Charlotte or Arizona State. Arkansas also has work to do to get in the mix with the other SEC bubble teams (at Missouri is a must).
Then we have the true bubble teams, where results this week will swing fortunes. I have twelve that I am going to highlight here, starting with the 31st team on my at-large S-curve (once I remove the auto bid projections like Middle Tennessee, Memphis, Belmont, etc.).
BOISE STATE (20-8, RPI 44, Wins Above Median At-Large (WAMAL) 41). Boise State has navigated through the easier part of their schedule, and then beat Colorado State at home. I have them in now as a result.
This Week: at UNLV, vs. San Diego State
What They Need to Do: The good news is no more potential for bad losses. The bad news is that they can’t go winless down the stretch. Split with two other tournament teams this week, and I think they are in before they get to Vegas, where they will likely rematch with the Aztecs. Lose both, and they’ll need to reach the semis.
LA SALLE (20-7, RPI 39, WAMAL 52). The Explorers have won six of their last seven, with the only loss coming to Temple.
This Week: vs. George Washington, at St. Louis
What They Need to Do: Not take a bad loss to GW at home. A win at St. Louis would be icing on the cake, and insure their spot in the field. They have not clinched the bye yet in the A-10 tourney, so that is important to avoid the potential of a bad loss. Going 1-1 this week, then a loss to Butler/Temple would have them sweating, but I think in with a opening round game.
TEMPLE (21-8, RPI 42, WAMAL 46). Temple has also righted things, winning five straight to move to the positive side of the ledger.
This Week: at Fordham, vs. VCU
What They Need to Do: Like La Salle, avoid a bad loss. A win over VCU at home would likewise put the Owls in. Split, and they likely just need to avoid a loss to the 12 seed if they don’t get a bye in the A-10 tourney.
KENTUCKY (20-9, RPI 51, WAMAL 54). The up and down Cats have a huge week. You know the committee will be watching.
This Week: at Georgia, vs. Florida
What They Need to Do: Beat Georgia, particularly coming off a road loss at Arkansas. A win over Florida would almost lock up a bid. Playing competitively in that game at home is probably vital to show the committee they deserve consideration over others on this list.
IOWA STATE (19-10, RPI 53, WAMAL 49). What a horrid week for the Cyclones, and now they are sitting right on the border.
This Week: vs. Oklahoma State, at West Virginia
What They Need to Do: Win both. Get a quality win over Oklahoma State, then avoid the loss at West Virginia. Anything less, and they slip below other teams and will need good results in the Big XII tourney.
SOUTHERN MISS (22-7, RPI 36, WAMAL 53). That RPI has them in the discussion, but the results are bereft of quality wins (0-4 vs. at-large type teams).
This Week: at Marshall, vs. Central Florida
What They Need to Do: Can’t lose. They are vulnerable to being jumped by multiple teams who can add big results, and may need to win the conference tourney anyway to hold ground.
VIRGINIA (20-9, RPI 60, WAMAL 59). Great win over Duke, given back by loss at Boston College.
This Week: at Florida State, vs. Maryland
What They Need to Do: A split puts them on the wrong side, needing results in the ACC tournament. Win both, and Virginia might be able to survive a quarterfinal loss to someone like NC State and still get in.
VILLANOVA (18-12, RPI 55, WAMAL 60). Almost got a big win at Pittsburgh on Sunday, but lost in overtime.
This Week: vs. Georgetown
What They Need to Do: It comes down to beating Georgetown at home. A loss there means they will need to advance to at least the semifinals of the Big East.
TENNESSEE (17-11, RPI 56, WAMAL 62). The six game win streak came crashing down in Athens, and with it, the position in the field for now.
This Week: at Auburn, vs. Missouri
What They Need to Do: Win. Consecutive losses to Auburn and Georgia would sink them. A win over Missouri would boost them past the teams directly in front of them.
MISSISSIPPI (21-8, RPI 58, WAMAL 57). Two dreadful road losses in recent weeks have the Rebels in major trouble.
This Week: vs. Alabama, at LSU
What They Need to Do: The Alabama game is a key swing game. Neither may make it, but the loser is in major trouble before the SEC tournament begins. The last road win was at Auburn when Marshall Henderson pissed off the crowd. Since then, the fans have gotten their revenge, and this team must win at LSU as well.
IOWA (18-11, RPI 86, WAMAL 43). Most have given up hope on Iowa because of the bad RPI. They have striking similarities to two other poor RPI teams that got at-larges. Marquette 2011 and NC State 2005 both played in the #1 conference and finished around .500, but had weak non-conference wins against D-I bottom feeders pulling the RPI numbers down.
This Week: vs. Illinois, vs. Nebraska
What They Need to Do: Win at home to get to 9-9 in the Big Ten. A win over Illinois would put them at 4-8 against NCAA at-large teams heading to Chicago, certainly within the range of other selections. It has to start tonight against Illinois.
ALABAMA (19-10, RPI 59, WAMAL 58). Yes, the Tide are 11-5 in conference. They also only played Missouri and Florida once each, the only two that could have given them defining wins.
This Week: at Mississippi, vs. Georgia
What They Need to Do: Must win game at Ole Miss for Alabama, as it would be their best win of the year, taking into account opponent and location, as the best road win to date is at Vanderbilt.