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February 23, 2006

SCS.comSelection 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 up.

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 Sunday.

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 Tourney.

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.

 > Talk about it in The College Corner...

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