(Through October 13th’s matches…)
Bubble – Memphis, South Florida, SMU, UCF
Memphis is probably safe despite taking a tumble in the RPI, but it’s not exactly a sure thing. There’s a ton of downside left in the regular season schedule with Houston and Tulsa likely to drag their RPI down, even if the Tigers win. And they better win, because there’s not much in the way of great wins on their schedule other wise, with the win at South Florida their best on the season.
USF is coming off their bye week, meaning they have five matches left, none of which are against anyone in the RPI Top 70. The Bulls had two shots at big non-conference wins and lost both, against Florida and Texas Tech, a partial explanation as to why they’re so far down in the RPI right now. They should be able to sweep through the remaining AAC schedule save for the rivalry against UCF. If they stumble though, it could put their at-large hopes in danger, an unthinkable proposition given how much talent returned coming into the season.
SMU and UCF’s hopes are hanging by a thread. SMU wasn’t in a great position to begin with given how their non-conference schedule hasn’t exactly panned out for them. Losing to UConn crushed their RPI, and they’ve won just one of five. UCF does have a big win against Florida if they can manage to get back onto the bubble. But that looks iffy given that four of their last five are against some of the league’s lesser lights. Running the table heading into the AAC Tournament would help, but the Knights may need the auto bid.
Bubble – Saint Louis, La Salle
Despite looking to be the cream of the crop in the A10 again this season, Saint Louis isn’t going to be contending for an at-large bid in all likelihood. They had three chances at RPI Top 50 wins and lost them all, though by narrow margins. The Billikens have just one win over and RPI Top 100 team, achieved last time out against La Salle. The Explorers are hanging onto the tail end of the bubble despite being 7-6-1, but other than a win against Florida Gulf Coast, their bubble profile isn’t great.
Lock – Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia, Duke, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Louisville
Bubble – NC State, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Boston College
Obviously a lot to unpack. Let’s divide it into tiers:
#1 Seed Candidates – Florida State looked to be in a good position for a top seed, but that eroded a bit with the loss to Virginia. They now have losses to Virginia, USC, and UCLA, which could be crucial during seeding. The results they get against North Carolina and Duke could be vital for any #1 hopes. North Carolina has a lot of solid results in their favor but are hurt by not playing Virginia in the regular season while also having a head-to-head loss against Arkansas. They may need to run the table to be totally secure for a #1. Virginia’s odd in that they have three draws, including a big blemish against Wake Forest. But the head-to-head win against FSU helps, and so is being unbeaten. It’s difficult to envision the league not getting at least one #1 seed, and it’ll come from these three.
Other Seed Candidates – The next group probably has limited hopes for a #1 seed but will be aiming for a #2 and hosting rights on the second weekend of the NCAAs. Duke’s win against Clemson was big, but they also have a ton of draws on their resume which weighs their case down a bit. Clemson is beginning to slide, having lost four of five and needs to run the table considering they’re going to take a huge RPI hit with the lesser lights of the league coming up. Virginia Tech is in a bit of the same boat, having gone winless in five, but the schedule should lighten up a little bit. Louisville is the true dark horse, with big matches still remaining, but their non-conference RPI may ultimately do them in.
Should Be Safe, But… – NC State has a great RPI to go with a pretty middling record. That RPI will likely come down a bit in the next few weeks given the opposition, but beating Pittsburgh and Syracuse would put them at 8-4-4 and clear of the .500 cutline. As long as they avoid a shock defeat against the two aforementioned opponents, they should be fine. There’s little glamorous about Notre Dame’s resume, though the win at Michigan looks better and better. There’s very little downside left on their schedule though, and a few upsets might get them in national seed territory.
Legitimate Danger – Wake Forest is creaking at 5-5-4 and are currently winless in ACC play and in their last eight overall. The match at Syracuse should have been a gimme but ended in defeat, while the Demon Deacons also somehow drew with Boston College despite having tons of chances. Realistically speaking, they need one upset, at least, to keep their hopes alive given the .500 cutline. Boston College doesn’t have that worry, but their RPI is tanking thanks to their awful non-conference RPI. They get a murderous run-in in the ACC, with North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Virginia, and Clemson. Their resume is paper thin right now, with zero RPI Top 50 wins, so they need an upset. Or more.
Bubble – Florida Gulf Coast
The Eagles look to be headed towards another Atlantic Sun title, but they’ve had more formidable squads in the past, as evidenced by their up and down non-conference season. The’ve failed to multiple goal defeats to the two RPI Top 50 teams they’ve played, Florida and Michigan, but still have some nice wins against Ball State and Creighton. That won’t be enough for an at-large bid though.
Lock – Kansas, Texas Tech
Bubble – Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma, TCU
I highly doubt that anyone would’ve had Kansas and Texas Tech as the two locks for this league right now, but here we are. The Jayhawks have managed to get past their loss against DePaul, though they missed a chance at a “big” win against Texas Tech on Sunday. There’s not a lot of upside left on the schedule though, so they may need to keep winning to get a national seed. Texas Tech has one befuddling loss on the season (to New Mexico) but has been steady since. However, their non-conference RPI isn’t great, and they have even less upside left on the schedule than Kansas.
The rest of the usual suspects in the Big 12 right now range from “getting more confident” to “seriously sweating” in terms of their at-large hopes. Oklahoma State have won three in a row in the league after a rough start and will be hoping that Penn State continues to improve to make that non-conference win look better. West Virginia is beginning to stabilize in the RPI after looking to be in serious danger, as most of their losses have come against top teams. Their big wins category is looking pretty vacant right now though, so they really need something against Oklahoma State and/or Kansas.
Things get seriously shaky after that. Baylor may not even make it to .500 at just 6-4-3 right now, with their win against West Virginia their first over and RPI Top 50 team all season. Texas looked to be one of the teams to beat in the Big 12 after winning their first three but have lost back-to-back against West Virginia and Oklahoma State. They may need three wins in four to truly feel confident going into the Big 12 Tournament. Oklahoma has a huge win in their back pocket against Arkansas from the beginning of the season but have struggled for traction since, eating some potentially fatal losses to Creighton and SMU. TCU might be the mystery team, as their RPI has submarined in recent weeks. A truly dreadful non-conference RPI is a big culprit, but a 2-1-1 start in league play hasn’t been enough to boost them. The Horned Frogs may need three wins at the very least to start to rebound up the ladder, but they might need more with zero RPI Top 50 wins to their name right now. Continue reading