|17 DAYS, 17 BUBBLE TEAMS
February 23, 2006
Cortney, SCS.com Staff Writer
Selection Sunday, the most glorious of days, looms on the horizon. In just seventeen
days, the bracket for the national championship will be set (except for that pesky
play-in game), and offices across the country will be sent into a pooling frenzy akin
to Caddy Day at the Bushwood County Club pool (from 1:00 pm to 1:15 pm, of course).
With exactly seventeen days to go, let us look at seventeen teams fighting for their lives.
Alabama, Syracuse, Michigan, and Cal can rest easy for now, but they could easily
slip back onto the Bubble with a bad close to the season. Nevada, Bucknell, George
Mason, and Western Kentucky get a reprieve because they are leading their conferences.
Cincinnati (17-9, 22 RPI)
That robust RPI makes UC look pretty safe, but this team is still trying to show
that it is NCAA worthy without the injured Armein Kirkland. The Bearcats have home
games with Villanova and West Virginia sandwiched around a trip to Seton Hall left.
They must have one of those three and may need two.
Arizona (16-10, 18 RPI)
Great RPI and SOS, but the Cats lack quality wins. They have three games at home
to finish, so they should be fine if they hold serve in at least two of them. Zona
looks pretty safe barring a collapse, but the season finale against Washington would
seal the deal.
UAB (18-5, 53 RPI)
No great wins, but no bad losses makes the Blazers one of the most vanilla teams
out there. They host Memphis next Thursday and a win there would all but lock them
Bradley (17-9, 41 RPI)
Last night's destruction of Northern Iowa at the UNI Dome puts Bradley on the good
side of the Bubble for now. They need to take care of Drake at home and make a
good run in the MVC tourney to feel comfortable.
UNC-Wilmington (20-7, 37 RPI)
The Seahawks are 11-2 in their last thirteen games including a split with red hot
George Mason. A strong CAA Tournament showing would make UNCW very viable on Selection
Arkansas (18-8, 55 RPI)
The Hogs have made great strides in the last week, but they badly need a road win
(1-5). They have games at Tennessee and at Georgia remaining. UA is in right
now, but they cannot afford to lose two more road games and flame out in the SEC
Air Force (20-5, 43 RPI)
With no Top 50 wins and two sub-100 losses, the Falcons should not be this attractive
as an at-large team. But, with so many other teams taking steps backward, the AFA is
in if today were Selection Sunday.
Seton Hall (16-9, 52 RPI)
The Pirates looked safely in just a week ago after beating West Virginia, but they've
now lost three of four and are rapidly heading in the wrong direction. They must
right the ship quickly to stay in the bracket.
Florida State (17-7, 58 RPI)
Like AFA, the Noles should not be competing for a bid with their profile, but they
have won 4 of 5 including last night's win over fellow Bubble Boy Maryland. They
are winning while others are losing, and that makes them a factor.
Maryland (15-10, 48 RPI)
The Terps are 1-6 on the road, 4-6 in their last ten, and 4-10 against the Top 100
RPI. Although they have not lost to any bad teams, that is too many shortcomings
to ignore at this point. They need a strong finish.
Colorado (17-7, 50 RPI)
Since the win over Oklahoma, the Buffs have let themselves relax and took two losses
on the chin at Kansas State and Nebraska. That kind of behavior as a bubble team
cannot be overlooked.
Indiana (14-10, 44 RPI)
What once looked like a vibrant, protected seed-caliber team is now on its death
bed. The Hoosiers got by Penn State last night, but they need a monster finish
to get back into the bracket.
Utah State (17-6, 49 RPI)
Recent sweep by New Mexico State really hurt the Aggies. Five sub-100 RPI losses
is probably too much to overcome. They need NMSU to finish strong, and USU needs
to win out to the conference tourney finals.
Hofstra (20-5, 46 RPI)
That's right, I said Hofstra. The Pride have won eight of nine and could be a
second CAA team if they make a monster run in the CAA. However, a lack of quality
wins likely will keep them on the outskirts of Bubbleland. Their best non-conference
win was at St. John's, and they only possess one RPI Top 50 win overall (UNCW).
Texas A&M (17-7, 71 RPI)
The Aggies are now tied for fourth in the Big XII, and they have won four in a row.
One of those was over fellow Bubbler Colorado. A&M is still a long shot at
this point, but they get Texas in College Station next Wednesday. A win there could
make them interesting.
Stanford (13-10, 87 RPI)
I include the Cardinal to show how unfavorably they compare to other Bubble teams.
They have a bad record, a bad RPI, one quality win, and a host of horrible losses.
The only thing they have going for them is a decent record against a down Pac-10.
They need a tremendous run at the end to get close.
Southern Illinois (18-10, 45 RPI)
The Salukis had a rough start (losses to Monmouth and D-II AK-Anchorage), a strong
middle, and are tailing off late (2-5 in their last seven with a loss to Evansville).
A weak finish and double-digit losses will not get it done. They need to pick up
in the waning games. They host UNI on Saturday and that is a must-win for SIU.
Of course, there are a few more teams with slim hopes that could be included, but
teams like Virginia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, BYU, Old Dominion, LA Tech, Miami-FL,
and Houston have a lot of teams to leapfrog. Maybe some of those can make a run
and get on the final Bubble breakdown in two weeks just before Selection Sunday.
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