WeAreDePaul.com Bubble Report - 2/20/06

WeAreDePaul.com's Mike Adam looks at the weekend's events in College Hoops.

Saturday night was officially information overload for me. With dozens of meaningful results going on all across the country, I missed a good majority of them as they were happening, as Saturday was Little Brother Extraordinaire Shondell's 14th birthday. After I dropped him off at his house around 6 pm, I checked the messages on my cell phone. The first one was from BBD, who started by telling me, "Wait until you hear about the Bucknell-Northern Iowa finish…" I couldn't get home fast enough that night to start digesting and analyzing scores (to which some of the drivers on 90/94 might attest). For those of you who were able to soak in Saturday's action to the fullest, I'm jealous - but only to a point. A full Saturday with Shondell and his little brother Malik can be more entertaining than most college basketball games. Luckily, I've had Sunday to recover, so here's hoping for some coherent analysis as I frantically punch away at the keyboard.

BIG EAST Scores

Connecticut 81, West Virginia 75. There's really no need for me to add any analysis here, especially since I didn't see the game. A national championship contender beat a Final Four contender on the road. That's about all the storyline I can muster here.

Villanova 75, Georgetown 65. I know the Hoyas (17-7, 8-5, RPI: 28 ) have played three challenging opponents in a row, but have they hit a wall? Might be interesting to watch if they struggle with any of their remaining three opponents: Rutgers, Syracuse or South Florida.

Marquette 84, Pittsburgh 82. The Golden Gold (17-8, 8-5, RPI: 21) locked up their spot in the Dance with this win. The Wannstedts (20-4, 9-4, RPI: 6) are just jockeying for seeding in the BIG EAST and NCAA Tournaments at this point. This loss certainly didn't help things.

Syracuse 79, Louisville 66. If Louisville (16-9, 4-8, RPI: 67) had even a glimmer of hope to make the NCAAs as an at-large, it's gone now. Syracuse (18-8, 6-6, RPI: 32) made their par putt here, and while their RPI is in a decent position right now, the Orange are 1-8 against the RPI Top 50, and 17-0 against everyone outside it. Give them credit for not taking a "bad" loss, but this does not qualify to me as an "impressive" resume.

Notre Dame 102, Seton Hall 91. Seton Hall (16-8, 7-5, RPI: 44) is impossible to get a read on right now between losing to #1 teams by 40, beating legitimate tournament teams like West Virginia and North Carolina State impressively, and then going out and losing to Notre Dame (13-10, 4-8, RPI: 86). If you asked me if the Hall was "in" or "out" of the Dance right now, I'd have to flip a coin.

Rutgers 65, South Florida 51. With this win, the Scarlet Knights (14-11, 5-8, RPI: 87) are slightly above the morass of teams at 4-8, 4-9 and 3-9 trying to qualify for the conference tournament. For South Florida (6-19, 0-12, RPI: 236), the season can't end soon enough.

ACC Scores of Bubble Relevance

Maryland 87, Georgia Tech 84 (OT). Typical Maryland (15-9, 6-6, RPI: 45). They're like the roommate you had in college who seemed constantly on the precipice of failing out of school, then somehow did just enough in the two weeks prior to finals to stay off academic probation. Maybe you were that roommate, in which case you're nodding at my analogy right now. Anyway, does a bubble win get any less impressive than this? You beat the next-to-worst team in conference at home by three points in overtime. Congratulations on that. Maryland is going to get into the Tournament, and they're going to be Exhibit "A" for this year's soft bubble. I don't think they're worthy, but they finish conference season with a very mediocre group of teams, save for their trip to the Dean Dome.

Florida State 76, Virginia 62. The ACC is getting four or five teams, maximum, depending on what Maryland does. This game is indicative of the mediocrity once you get past Duke, UNC, NC State and Boston College. It's as if the other teams in the conference think the RPI number to shoot for is 60, since about five teams from this conference have spent three weeks hovering around it. Florida State (16-7, 6-6, RPI: 60) isn't going anywhere because they have one of the ten worst non-conference schedules in the country. Virginia (13-10, 6-6, RPI: 72) isn't going anywhere because we wouldn't even be talking about them except for their win over North Carolina. Enjoy the NIT, both of you.

Big 10 Scores of Bubble Relevance

Michigan State 90, Michigan 71. I don't think the Spartans (18-7, 7-5, RPI: 8 ) are quite ready to relinquish the mantle of "Best Team in the State" just yet. Despite the loss, Michigan (17-7, 7-6, RPI: 31) still seems safe for NCAA inclusion. This week could change that, though, with games versus Illinois and at Ohio State.

Illinois 70, Indiana 58. That's five straight losses for the Hoosiers (13-10, 5-7, RPI: 43). Barring winning out in the regular season and winning at least one game in the conference tournament, they're looking at an NIT bid. At the rate they're going, they may get to be one of the first under .500 teams in that tournament.

SEC Scores of Bubble Relevance

Alabama 92, Tennessee 79. After their hiccup earlier in the week at South Carolina, Alabama (14-9, 8-4, RPI: 38 ) was in need of a big win, and this certainly counts. I think they're going to end up around 18 wins when they're all said and done, which will be enough for NCAA inclusion. It might be the lowest win total of any at-large team, but their out-of-conference schedule was very challenging, and they won enough of them to keep people off their backs.

Kentucky 79, South Carolina 66. The soap opera that is Kentucky (17-9, 7-5, RPI: 39) basketball continues, as today finds them on a high note. The Wildcats are like a prizefighter who is constantly one punch away from taking a devastating blow, yet seems to be able to sidestep it every time. As for South Carolina (13-11, 5-7, RPI: 58 ), the RPI rank is still within striking distance, but you really needed this one to put more credibility in your resume. And you didn't get it.

Arkansas 85, Florida 81 (OT). As much as I don't want to, I think this score warrants Arkansas (17-8, 6-6, RPI: 57) to stay in the bubble conversation. But it's my humble opinion that this score shows more of Florida's vulnerability (they're only 5-4 in their last nine games) than Arkansas's strength. Keep that in mind when you're filling out your brackets.

Big XII Scores of Bubble Relevance

Kansas State 72, Colorado 60. I'm sorry – this conference is just awful this year. They are a Longhorn off-night away from not sending a single team to the Sweet Sixteen. Colorado (17-6, 7-5, RPI: 47) is going to continue to hang its hat on beating Oklahoma, but that's really their entire resume right now. In other years, that sort of resume would be laughable. With many power conference teams struggling right now, though, it might be just good enough. Some teams are going to get into the NCAAs by being better than the nearest competitors considered for their slot. Others are going to get in for being less bad than the nearest competitors for their slot.

Kansas 79, Missouri 46. Ah, there's the Missouri we know and love. I'm sure a few of the candidates for their head coaching job took notice of this score. Although Kansas (18-6, 10-2, RPI: 41) doesn't necessarily have a safe RPI rank right now, the Selection Committee will likely override it with the rationale that "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk" has won 16 of 18.

Pac-10 Scores of Bubble Relevance

Arizona State 65, California 64 (2 OT). Oh, boy – here's a problem for the Bears (16-7, 10-4, RPI: 65). This is about as bad a loss as California could have taken at this point in the season – a home loss against possibly the worst team in the conference. Someone in the Pac-10, whether it be Cal or someone else, is going to present a monster dilemma for the Committee. The RPI ranks are not matching the conference records. Cal is tied for first place in the Pac-10, but the Selection Committee would be setting a precedent if they dipped as low as Cal is right now to take a team from the at-large pool.

Arizona 76, Stanford 72. It gets easier every day to build a case against Stanford's (13-10, 9-5, RPI: 88 ) NCAA Tournament inclusion. If they even want to stay on the fringes of this conversation, they have to win at Washington on Thursday.

Other Scores of Bubble Relevance

Northern Iowa 65, Bucknell 61 (2 OT). I really think this result confirms that both teams are at-large worthy. Northern Iowa (20-6, 11-5, RPI: 22) picked up their seventh RPI Top 50 win of the season, which is more than all but seven schools. Bucknell (20-4, 12-0, RPI: 40) showed that they can go out-of-conference against an NCAA Tournament team and hang right with them on the road. I know the Selection Committee tries to steer clear of first-round rematches, but I think I would really enjoy seeing a #6-#11 pairing of these two teams.

George Mason 70, Wichita State 67. Wow. With this win, the Patriots (21-5, 14-2, RPI: 19) have zoomed into the RPI Top 20. So either the RPI is a sham, or George Mason is the best mid-major lock on the board right now (depending on how you classify Gonzaga) in a season where the mid-majors are going to storm the Tournament. Even with the loss, the Shockers (20-7, 12-4, RPI: 24) should win the Missouri Valley regular season outright given their last two games against Drake and Illinois State, which would ensure their NCAA inclusion.

Louisiana Tech 54, Southern Illinois 51. This score fits none of my preconceived notions about either of these teams or their conferences, so if it's all the same to you, I'd like to just switch the final score and make writing this blurb easier. If you look at the RPI literally, this result took SIU (18-8, 11-5, RPI: 36) from comfortably "in" to squarely on the bubble. I don't feel like one loss should do that, but such is the plight of the mid-majors, who have less room for error. The Salukis host Northern Iowa on the last day of the regular season, which all of a sudden became a very important game for SIU. On the other side, give the nod to Louisiana Tech (16-10, 9-4, RPI: 62) for winning at a very hostile environment. They're probably going to come up short for an at-large selection, but this win could boost their confidence for the WAC Tournament.

Missouri State 72, Wisconsin-Milwaukee 63. As Neil Funk would say, "kaboom!" The team who has appeared to be sitting on the Missouri Valley cut line is making the issue moot. Missouri State (18-7, 10-6, RPI: 26) didn't trail in this game after the 15:30 mark in the first half, asserting control over a good UWM (17-8, 11-5, RPI: 54) team in Milwaukee. The Bears are making a very strong case for NCAA inclusion down the stretch, as they've won six of seven.

Creighton 67, Fresno State 62. Creighton (18-7, 11-5, RPI: 30) absolutely had to have this one, and they got it. Coming up on Saturday: Creighton at Missouri State in an immense game for at-large consideration.

Bradley 77, Tennessee Tech 62. There's no way the Valley gets SIX teams, but if I'm going to include teams floating around an RPI rank around the Top 50, Bradley (16-9, 9-7, RPI: 51) has to be included for now. Their at-large chances are hanging by the slimmest of threads, and it pretty much all hinges on winning at Northern Iowa on Wednesday.

Hofstra 76, Siena 62. So why has Hofstra (19-5, 11-4, RPI: 46) all of a sudden shown up for the first time on the Report with just a couple weeks to play in the season? Well, because should they finish the season 14-4 in conference, it would take a win over George Mason to do it. Combine those two stats with an RPI rank that would likely end in the Top 40 should this scenario play out, and we have ourselves a team worth bubble discussion.

UAB 87, Southern Mississippi 50. Did you know that Southern Mississippi has beaten three non-Division I teams this year? What are three non-Division I schools doing on a Division I team's schedule? I suspect the Larry Eustachy era is currently being timed with a stopwatch. UAB (18-5, 8-3, RPI: 53) wins again, but is it going to matter in the grand scheme of things? It's better than losing, obviously, but I really see that loss at UTEP as a huge anchor right now.

Air Force 52, Utah 51. The Falcons (19-5, 9-4, RPI: 49) continue to live on the edge, as they've played a couple of games now against middling teams that came down to one or two possessions. They're still just 0-1 against the Top 50, though.

Utah State 66, Northwestern State 63. The Aggies (17-6, 8-4, RPI: 50) survived their "Bracket Buster" match-up at home against a Northwestern State squad who has played everyone tough this year.

San Diego State 83, TCU 71. TCU is turning out to be quite the RPI killer, win or lose (mostly lose). SDSU (16-7, 11-2, RPI: 59) saw its RPI plummet to third-best in the conference after beating the Horned Frogs at home.

Interesting Game of Note

Oregon 67, Washington State 37. For those of you who thought DePaul-St. John's was ugly, I submit this game to you. At 12:27 to go in the first half, the score was 1-1. The AP story has one of those "the last time" statistics in it that I found funny: "Washington State's point total was its lowest since a 50-30 loss to UCLA on Feb. 9." Wow, it's been a whole ten days since they were held under 40 points?

Let's go, Demons.

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