WeAreDePaul.com Bubble Report - 2/13/06

As we enter Mid-February, Mike Adam looks at the RPI and the major conference races in College Hoops.

Am I a bad person for not caring if Michelle Kwan competed in the Olympics or not? The coverage over the past 48 hours of her withdrawal from competition rivaled that of Brett Favre's latest, "Hmm, I think I might lean toward a decision about retiring or not", and I didn't feel one bit of emotion either way.

The United States had one of their best medal counts ever in the 2002 Winter Olympics, and now I see why. All the X-Games events have now become Olympics events. At the risk of sounding like an old-timer, what the hell is snowboarding doing in the Olympics? In the AP story on Shaun White's gold medal winning run, you find this sentence: "With AC/DC's "Back In Black" blaring over the sound system, White practically touched the sky on his first jump, soaring about 25 feet over the edge of the pipe." I'm sure this is what the Greeks envisioned – a sport where AC/DC could be prominently used.

Poor sportsmanship award of the week to the women's hockey team from Canada, who have beaten Italy 16-0 and Russia 12-0 in their first two games at the Olympics. In the game against the Italians, Canada scored seven times in the third period. I believe the Canadian coach is a brother to that guy in New York who let his high school player score 113 points in a girls' game.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled college basketball analysis.

BIG EAST Scores

West Virginia 69, Georgetown 56. Anybody who doesn't think West Virginia (17-5, 9-1, RPI: 18 ) is a serious Final Four contender should take a gander at this score. Georgetown (17-5, 8-3, RPI: 25) came roaring into this game on a seven-game winning streak, and the Pittsnogles outscored the Hoyas 40-19 in the second half to seize control. Chief Pittsnogle himself, Kevin, scored 25 points in the victory.

Rutgers 91, Marquette 84. The Scarlet Knights (13-10, 4-7, RPI: 75) have now stung Seton Hall, Louisville and the Golden Gold (15-8, 6-5, RPI: 36) at the RAC this year. This win was a nice one to keep them in the chase to Madison Square Garden. Marquette, meanwhile, isn't out of the bubble woods just yet, although they have a chance to make a strong statement with two upcoming home games against Georgetown and the Wannstedts.

Connecticut 99, Seton Hall 57. Despite this result, Seton Hall (15-7, 6-4, RPI: 33) remains firmly in the bubble chase. The score does beg the question, though – has a team ever made the NCAA Tournament in a season in which they lost TWICE by 40 points or more? Remember the pasting Duke gave the Pirates earlier this year?

Pittsburgh 89, Cincinnati 69. There are four teams who are on my "watch list" right now because they've suffered personnel losses in the middle of the season that could have adverse impacts on their NCAA Tournament chances: Indiana, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Cincinnati (15-9, 5-6, RPI: 32). The Bearcats have seven losses in their last nine games, six of which have been by nine points or more. It's really going to take a swift, strong turnaround for them not to drop into the NIT.

Syracuse 75, St. John's 60. The Red Storm (10-12, 3-8, RPI: 120) couldn't have come at a better time on the schedule for the Orange (17-7, 5-5, RPI: 27). With West Virginia, Georgetown and Villanova still on the schedule, the question for Syracuse is whether 8-8 in the conference will be good enough for NCAA inclusion. My gut says "yes", but that could just be indigestion.

Louisville 57, South Florida 54. This victory for the Cardinals (16-8, 4-7, RPI: 65) makes them feel a little better about a trip to New York, but save their home victory against Cincinnati, it's hard to classify any effort they've had in BIG EAST play as "impressive". South Florida (6-17, 0-10, RPI: 230) is in serious danger of spending its inaugural season in the conference winless. A home-and-home against Rutgers may be their best chance to steal one.

ACC Scores of Bubble Relevance

Duke 96, Maryland 88. Another "watch list" school, Maryland (14-8, 5-5, RPI: 41) has been in free-fall of late, losing four of five. Generally, their overall and conference records would have generated a better RPI rank, but this is a down year for the ACC compared to its usual lofty standards.

North Carolina 80, Miami (FL) 70. Every single chance Miami (14-10, 6-5, RPI: 82) gets to make a statement, they blow it. This team is going to end up somewhere around 13 losses, and that's going to be way too many for NCAA inclusion. On the plus side, the movie version of "Miami Vice" is due to be released soon. But Colin Farrell as Sonny Crockett? Come on.

Virginia 81, Virginia Tech 77 (OT). The Cavaliers (12-9, 6-5, RPI: 56) stay in the chase by virtue of being less worse than the teams against whom they've been playing lately. The middle of the ACC is such a jumbled mess – conference standings aren't even coming close to mirroring order of RPI rankings. It should make for good theater at the conference tournament.

Big 10 Scores of Bubble Relevance

Iowa 70, Indiana 67. Indiana (13-8, 5-5, RPI: 35) is another of the four schools on that "watch list", as they've been careening out of control since D. J. White's injury. Four of their last six games are on the road, and they may put themselves in a position where they'll have to do a little damage in Indianapolis to ensure a spot in the Big Dance.

Purdue 84, Michigan 70. My, how things change. When Michigan (16-6, 6-5, RPI: 31) was busy hammering Wisconsin a couple weeks ago, I was sure they were a "lock". Three consecutive losses later, I'm not so sure. They have a home game against Minnesota, which falls in the "must win" category, since they finish the season with this gauntlet: @ Michigan State, vs. Illinois, @ Ohio State, vs. Indiana.

Wisconsin 82, Penn State 62. Another of the "watch list" schools since their two academic suspensions, Wisconsin (17-7, 7-4, RPI: 16) picks up a win that nestles themselves above both Indiana and Michigan in the conference standings and the RPI ranks. NCAA Tournament inclusion for them is secure for another week.

SEC Scores of Bubble Relevance

Vanderbilt 84, Kentucky 81. Don't slide the Wildcats (15-9, 5-5, RPI: 44) into that "lock" category just yet. Vanderbilt (13-8, 4-6, RPI: 58 ) now owns an improbable season sweep over Kentucky, which can't help but look like a blemish on their NCAA Tournament resume.

Alabama 64, Mississippi 50. A determined Crimson Tide (14-8, 7-3, RPI: 42) is taking care of business in conference and earning their Dance ticket with each victory.

Big XII Scores of Bubble Relevance

Kansas 88, Iowa State 75. The Jayhawks (16-6, 8-2, RPI: 43), as I think we all suspected, got their act together in time to make a charge at the NCAAs, and they're pretty much in at this point. Iowa State (13-9, 4-6, RPI: 63) is really disappointing in conference after a solid out-of-conference showing.

Colorado 66, Texas Tech 64. The way things stand, Colorado (16-5, 6-4, RPI: 49) is the fourth-best NCAA Tournament option from the Big XII right now, which isn't saying much for the conference as a whole. The conference is so desperate for credibility that Ron Franklin was going over Nebraska's tournament "resume" on ESPN on Saturday, despite having an RPI rank around 107 at the time.

Pac-10 Scores of Bubble Relevance

Washington 70, UCLA 67. The Huskies (18-5, 7-5, RPI: 40) take the heat off themselves from a bubble perspective by sweeping the southern California schools this weekend. But don't stumble next weekend in Oregon.

Gonzaga 80, Stanford 76. Here was a chance for the Cardinal (12-9, 8-4, RPI: 76) to make a statement about their NCAA Tournament chances. While they played the Bulldogs tough, they didn't get it done. Stanford is really going to bear watching down the stretch. The RPI rank is putrid right now for a bubble team, yet if they beat the teams they should and lose to the teams they should down the stretch, they'll end up 11-7 in conference. Will their early-season losses be too much for them to overcome? Or will the Committee put more credence in how they finished the season?

Missouri Valley Scores of Bubble Relevance

Missouri State 66, Northern Iowa 63. Would you look at this? We're back at a four-way tie for first with three games to play. Missouri State (16-7, 9-6, RPI: 26) scored the biggest win of the day by going to Northern Iowa (19-5, 11-4, RPI: 17) and beating the Panthers in their home gym. Could this really happen – five teams from the Missouri Valley in the NCAA Tournament? The RPI ranks say so at the moment.

Southern Illinois 74, Creighton 67. Perhaps this is a not-so-subtle reminder that the Salukis (18-6, 11-4, RPI: 24) are a force with which to be reckoned, especially since this game was in Omaha? The Blue Jays (17-6, 11-4, RPI: 30) now actually have the fifth-best RPI rank in the conference.

Wichita State 77, Indiana State 58. The Shockers (19-6, 11-4, RPI: 22) are on a serious roll right now. Not only do they have all the requisite numbers for NCAA Tournament inclusion, but all six of their losses are against schools currently in the RPI Top 30. There's not a bad loss to be found anywhere on their resume. While I still think Northern Iowa-Bucknell will be the best "Bracket Buster" game, George Mason vs. Wichita State is shaping up to be an awfully good one, as well.

Other Scores of Bubble Relevance

Bucknell 57, Holy Cross 52. As I mentioned that I might have to use a foreign language to describe Bucknell's (19-3, 11-0, RPI: 39) continuous winning, demonlove e-mailed me an Italian phrase. Of course, while the phrase had the word "Bucknell" in it, it did also have the name "Drake Diener", so I doubt if it was as simple as the Italian version of "Bucknell won again". Three more conference victories, and the Bison run the table in conference. And if they do, and win the conference tournament, I could see their seed as high as a #10 in the NCAAs.

George Mason 65, Towson 53. The Patriots (19-5, 13-2, RPI: 28 ) can be considered accidental tourists on the road to the NCAAs this year. While most of the other mid-major bubble teams this year warranting at-large consideration did so last year, too, George Mason finished the season 16-13 in 2004-2005. The only worry is that they really don't have a "wow" out-of-conference victory, so how much more work in conference do they have to do to secure an at-large bid?

UNC-Wilmington 69, Georgia State 57. Although Georgia State isn't the most challenging road opponent (now 3-12 in conference), UNC-W (19-7, 12-3, RPI: 45) will take every win they can get as they try to hang around the bubble. They stay in second place in a very competitive Colonial Athletic Association.

UAB 72, East Carolina 64. The Blazers (16-5, 7-2, RPI: 48 ) are trying, but playing the albatross that is East Carolina didn't help matters any for them. The remaining schedule holds four games against teams with sub-200 RPI ranks and a home game with Memphis. Will an 11-3 conference record be enough, especially if they can't get past UTEP in the standings?

Utah 67, San Diego State 65. Well, so much for filling up the San Diego State (14-7, 9-2, RPI: 60) bandwagon. A .500 Utah squad heads to California and knocks off the top team in the conference. The Mountain West is shaping up to be a one-bid conference.

Air Force 62, Wyoming 61. That's a collective sigh of relief coming from Colorado Springs, as the Falcons (17-5, 7-4, RPI: 46) squeak by a mediocre Cowboy squad. When people speak positively about Air Force's bubble candidacy, they mention two wins over ACC teams (Miami, Georgia Tech). In fact, that's good enough for Jay Bilas to make them a #2-seed. However, I just can't overlook that "0", as in zero wins over the RPI Top 50.

New Mexico State 83, Utah State 77. This is a damaging loss for the Aggies (15-6, 7-4, RPI: 53) since it came at home to a middle-of-the-pack New Mexico State team. They've sunk back into a tie for third place in a conference which is going to be stretching it to get two bids.

Let's go, Demons.

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