NCAA – 2017 Bubble Watch v2.0

(Updated through Wednesday’s matches)

Farewell To…

Houston (AAC), Saint Joseph’s (A10), Syracuse (ACC), Iowa (Big Ten), Long Beach State (Big West), UC Irvine (Big West), UAB (C-USA), Belmont (OVC), Navy (Patriot), Kentucky (SEC), Gonzaga (WCC)

Hello To…

Kansas (Big 12), North Texas (C-USA), Columbia (Ivy)

America East

DANGER – New Hampshire

With just one game last week, New Hampshire downed Hartford to take a big step towards a league title. With two final games this weekend against teams sixth and ninth in the table, the Wildcats are heavy favorites to get to glory, even as they might drop off the Bubble Watch next week.

AAC

LOCK – UCF
BUBBLE – Cincinnati, South Florida, Memphis
DANGER – SMU

UCF continues to blaze a path through the rest of the nation, with a 4-0 win at LSU being the latest in a growing set of accomplishments. The Knights didn’t have a league game this past week but get their last three at home, including a likely title decider against South Florida on the final day of the regular season. Cincinnati’s hopes for a national seed are fading a bit without any big wins, especially after a draw with Memphis at home, but they remain on pace to comfortably make the field. South Florida’s growing into a position of strength on the bubble, as they don’t have any bad losses and are picking up wins when so many other bubble teams aren’t. They’ve won four in a row now, including two on the road against SMU & Houston last week. Memphis’s draw against Cincinnati definitely helped their cause out, but they’re still a side without a marquee win, meaning they really can’t afford a bad loss against Tulsa next week or in the AAC Tournament.

SMU have been immensely disappointing after last season’s big bounce upward, and barring them running the table in their final three AAC matches, they would appear to be just about done as an NCAA at-large hopeful.

Atlantic 10

BUBBLE – Saint Louis
DANGER – La Salle

Saint Louis might have dropped out of the A10 title race, but the Billikens remain in the frame for an at-large bid. The 14-1-2 record certainly helps in the RPI, but a win at Murray State may be more meaningful. The key, in addition to avoiding losses down the stretch, might be the 3-0 win against Vanderbilt on opening weekend. If VU can move into the RPI Top 50, that would give SLU two wins against RPI Top 50 teams, which would add more weight to their claims.

La Salle’s lack of RPI Top 50 results remains its downfall in at-large hopes. But they probably aren’t going to need it if they keep up their current form, which has seen the Explorers win their first eight in the A10.

ACC

LOCK – North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Notre Dame, Wake Forest
BUBBLE – Virginia, Clemson, Virginia Tech, NC State, Boston College
DANGER – Louisville

North Carolina & Duke march on. The Heels destroyed Boston College on the road, while Duke had little trouble in their last home game of the regular season against Miami (FL). Both remain on track for a co-ACC title and a #1 seed. Florida State’s up and down season continued last week, as they scored a huge win at Florida in a make-up game to close out non-conference play, but saw some of that momentum sucked away with a loss a few days later at Wake Forest. Their hopes of a seed probably rose a little but not by bunches. Notre Dame also saw their seed hopes take a bit of a blow with a befuddling home defeat to Virginia Tech, that means they’ve won just two of their last six. The aforementioned Wake Forest’s win against Florida State is another piece for their resume, and the Demon Deacons could be a dark horse for a high seed if they can make an ACC Tournament run.

At this point, Virginia’s probably a lock in all but name only, though the draw with Clemson probably keeps them up in the air officially for another week. The Tigers aren’t out of the woods yet, but that draw with UVA does probably put them much closer to safety at this point as other teams around them keep losing. Virginia Tech was a club without an RPI Top 50 win but with strong draws, which put them in last year’s exact situation, but they changed that definitively with a win at Notre Dame. The Hokies are probably on the right side of the bubble now but probably needs two more wins to feel truly safe. Safety is definitely not with NC State right now, as the Wolfpack have one RPI Top 50 win, that coming over #45 Boston College. The bad news is the rest of the regular season schedule doesn’t offer up a big chance for a statement making win either. BC’s also sweating right now, though the win against Wake Forest gives them a little breathing room. Two wins down the stretch would probably do it for them.

Louisville’s teetering on the edge with a difficult run in. That gives them a chance to make up some ground, but realistically, they probably need at least two wins to stay in the bubble picture.

Atlantic Sun

BUBBLE – Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Gulf Coast’s loss to Lipscomb on Tuesday wasn’t a knockout blow for their at-large hopes, but they probably now need to at least get to the A-Sun Tournament final, which would involve, in all likelihood, two more wins. Anything less could leave the Eagles in a bad spot going into Selection Monday.

Big 12

LOCK – West Virginia, Texas
BUBBLE – Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU
DANGER – Texas Tech, Kansas

West Virginia looks to be in the box seat for a Big 12 title after Texas has faltered a bit these past few weeks, but do they have a resume for a #1 seed? It looks iffy at the moment, though the early win over Penn State could gain weight down the stretch. Texas has now won just one of their last four, which has sent their RPI on a bit of a tumble. If they can get it back together down the stretch, a national seed should still be within their grasp, but a top two seed looks to be a big ask.

Oklahoma State has won the past month by not losing, having won five of their six Big 12 matches. That’s enough to have seen their RPI steadily rise to get them above the bubble. But the reality is OSU hasn’t beaten a team in the RPI Top 50 to this point, meaning that they really need to avoid slipping up against Kansas State and Kansas at home this week. It’s not looking great for other contenders. Baylor’s putting up wins, but they aren’t doing it over anyone of real consequence in RPI Terms. They still have zero wins against the RPI Top 65, meaning they need to beat Texas this week and then get hot during the Big 12 Tournament. TCU’s profile isn’t much better, even though they drew with Texas. They also lack big wins and may need to run the table to boost up their resume.

Texas Tech looks just about done after losing their last four and going winless in their last five. Kansas gets a brief revival onto the bubble with their win over Texas. But they’ll probably need to run the table to stay in contention after a dreadful middle portion of their season.

Big East

BUBBLE – Marquette, Georgetown, Butler, Providence
DANGER – Xavier

There’s an ever pervading sense of doom around the league right now, as it looks more likely than ever that it’ll be a single bid league. Butler has the best shot at an at-large nod thanks to their win at Texas A&M and draw at Notre Dame, but they keep dropping valuable points in league play which gnaws away at their case. Providence might be the stealth contender with wins against Arkansas, Marquette, and Georgetown, but it’s still not a great case. Georgetown has a great draw with Rutgers but dropped their match against the Friars last week, leaving them in a world of hurt at the moment. Marquette has a nice number at RPI #44 but very little meat on the bones of their resume right now. Xavier has done admirably to hang around this long, but with no wins in three, their days appear numbered on the Watch.

Big Ten

LOCK – Penn State, Rutgers, Ohio State
BUBBLE – Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska
DANGER – Purdue, Maryland

The odds of a Big Ten team ending up with a high national seed continue to decrease. Penn State’s draw against Rutgers won’t hurt their number too much, but PSU needs to make up some ground to get back in the picture for the top two lines. Ohio State looked well positioned, but a loss at Rutgers chewed up a lot of their momentum, though they still control their league destiny in their hands. As you might expect, those two results really helped Rutgers’ resume, and a strong finish could see them back in the national seed picture.

There’s a logjam behind that trio. Wisconsin split an away weekend last week and are clinging for dear life to their win at Virginia but may need more if UVA doesn’t break upwards in the RPI. Northwestern were one of the weekend’s big winners, beating Minnesota and Wisconsin, which could be crucial for head-to-head comparisons on Selection Monday. Michigan might have one of the weirdest profiles on memory, with a 5-5-6 record. They dare not lose to Illinois this weekend, but the real money game might be next Wednesday at Rutgers, as they need that result on multiple fronts. Minnesota are still in the Big Ten title picture but also on the bubble, despite a win at Rutgers and draw against Notre Dame. You’d think they’re in solid shape, but they still want to win to leave no doubt. A draw at Iowa in a midweek makeup wasn’t what the doctor ordered for Nebraska, and they may need two wins in their last two to regain momentum.

Purdue’s season may well have ended with a controversial 3-2 loss to Nebraska last week, but that only extended a losing streak which has now hit four matches. They get Penn State away next, a daunting task for a side that looks like it may be out of gas. A match against a Maryland side hanging doggedly onto the end of the bubble follows, but the Terms are likely goners after zero wins in seven matches.

Colonial

BUBBLE – Hofstra, Drexel, Northeastern

One goal down, one to go for Hofstra, who wrapped up a league title with their ninth straight win on Sunday. The Pride don’t have significant results despite a great RPI number though, so they miss out on the auto bid at their own peril. Drexel and Northeastern remain alive in the RPI for technical purposes and will be looking to play spoiler at the CAA Tournament, though their at-large odds are effectively nil.

Conference USA

BUBBLE – Rice
DANGER – North Texas

Rice keeps rolling forward, winning their only match last weekend to stay perfect in the league. They finish with three on the road though, with the regular season finale against North Texas looming large. The Mean Green’s win over UAB helps ease them back onto the bubble technically, but they haven’t beaten anyone else in the RPI Top 100, meaning their stay here is likely a short one.

Ivy

LOCK – Princeton
DANGER – Columbia, Yale

The Lions of Columbia aren’t getting any fruit baskets from bubble teams this offseason. Said teams’ worst nightmare became a reality last weekend, when Princeton lost their grip on the Ivy League title, falling to Tracey Bartholomew’s side, 2-0, despite home advantage. That defeat probably puts paid to Princeton’s hope of anything greater than a #4 seed nationally, though it’d be stunning if they failed to get an at-large bid at this point.

It would take an unbelievable choke for Columbia to not win the league and auto bid right now, as the Lions have a three point lead and head-to-head tiebreaker against Princeton, with a five point lead on everyone else in the Ivy. They won’t get an at-large bid, but the Lions wouldn’t be in the running if they drop points down the stretch anyway. Yale is hanging on, and they’ve beaten Hofstra, though it’s not going to keep them on the Watch for much longer. They’ll get a chance to make a statement in the league when they visit Columbia on the twenty-eighth of October.

MAAC

BUBBLE – Monmouth

Monmouth wrapped up another MAAC title with a win against Fairfield on Wednesday. The focus turns to Disney World, where they’ll look to do the double with three more wins in the MAAC Tournament to punch another ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Mountain West

DANGER – San Jose State, UNLV

San Jose State won the head-to-head showdown of these two Mountain West powerhouses last week, establishing a four point cushion on top of the league, making them title favorites with two of three at home to close out the regular season. Both are threat at the Mountain West Tournament, but neither are realistic at-large contenders.

Ohio Valley

BUBBLE – Murray State

The Racers are going to cause some severe anxiety if they don’t win the auto bid in the OVC. MSU won two more games last week and are currently #26 in the RPI, which would normally put it in frame for an at-large bid based on number alone. But their profile is empty of big results, and Princeton didn’t get in at #31 last season without big results either. The conclusion? The Racers don’t want to leave it up to chance.

Pac-12

LOCK – Stanford, UCLA, Cal, Arizona
BUBBLE – USC, Washington, Colorado, Utah, Washington State
DANGER – Arizona State

Nothing’s changed for either Stanford or UCLA, who won their matches this past weekend and are on a collision course for the league title next week. The Bruins need every RPI scrap they can get though, having dropped to #12, which harms their chances for a #1 or maybe even a #2 seed. Cal has now won three straight, while Arizona is also benefitting from their earlier draw with UCLA and so many others on the bubble failing, meaning the Wildcats are likely locked in at this point.

USC’s profile is good but not great, but their move into lock status seems inevitable if they can just grab a couple more wins, while a big run down the stretch could push them back into a seed. Washington might be looking over their shoulder suddenly, as their big win against Florida isn’t so big anymore, while the Huskies have no other RPI Top 100 wins besides the triumph over the Gators. They’re safe for now, but they need to finish strong. There looks to be little hope of a seventh bid. Colorado probably blew its last opportunities with three straight losses to California Pac-12 clubs and has just one more shot at an RPI Top 50 win, against Arizona on Sunday. Utah is now two games under .500 and may be more concerned with avoiding the Pac-12 basement. And Washington State saw their hopes go up in smoke with a loss to Oregon State. They could get in the mix if they pull a few upsets down the stretch, but that looks unlikely.

Arizona State is still technically alive and on the tail end of the bubble…but they’re also four games under .500 and just one loss away from being automatically ineligible per NCAA rules.

SEC

LOCK – South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Auburn
BUBBLE – Florida, Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Vanderbilt

On paper, South Carolina’s resume is absurd. They now have twelve wins against the RPI Top 100 and nine against the RPI Top 50. They look destined for a #1 seed and might have the highest adjusted RPI finish since we began keeping records. Tennessee drubbed Georgia and remains in the mix for a national seed, though the odds of a high seed look a bit dampened with the lack of a true marquee win. With wins over Pepperdine and Florida, Texas A&M is boosting their case for a top two seed but may need to win out and go a long way in Orange Beach to keep moving up. Auburn is a stealth seed candidate with wins over Texas A&M and Florida, but having just seven wins could hurt their case a bit.

Florida is the rare team bumped down from “lock” status. The decision to reschedule the Florida State game was a risk in the RPI, and UF got burned with back-to-back losses after losing to FSU and Auburn. The rest of the profile looks strong, but hopes of a top two seed are on ice for the moment. Alabama also looks lock bound, as long as they don’t fall during the stretch. Given the Tide’s erratic form in the SEC though, that’s not guaranteed. Ole Miss has a nice number but very little in the impressive win department, though they’re still probably reasonably safe. Not safe? LSU. The Tigers have won just one of eight and have seen their defense give up a flood of goals in the league. And they get Texas A&M and Auburn next. It’s just as shaky with the league’s other hopefuls. Mississippi State also has one win in eight and has lost three in a row. Arkansas has clutch away wins at Auburn and LSU but are still fighting a lack of non-conference wins of consequence. And back-to-back 3-0 losses to the league’s elite took away another two chances for Vanderbilt to make the statement win it so desperately needs. Fortunately for the Dores, they get three more shots against Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Auburn.

WCC

LOCK – Pepperdine
BUBBLE – Santa Clara
DANGER – Loyola Marymount

Pepperdine will all but wrap up a league title if they can take care of business on the road this week against BYU and San Diego. The Waves really need the wins though if they want a national seed, as the WCC doesn’t look like much this year. Pepperdine’s best win is over Santa Clara, so their profile is going to get some scrutiny if the can’t pile up victories.

Santa Clara might be in the same unenviable position that Princeton was in last season. The Broncos are currently towing the line on the bubble but have nothing but downside left on the schedule, with two opponents out of the RPI Top 200 and the best ranked team being BYU at #87. SCU has no wins against anyone with an RPI higher than Washington State’s #59. Their best draw is against #47 Michigan. If some of those results don’t get better, SCU’s going to be a particularly divisive case for the Selection Committee.

Loyola Marymount’s essentially crashed and burned with the shocking home loss to Portland. Their best win is against RPI #51 Utah. They also have a sagging RPI number and lost both matches to the league’s other two NCAA contenders, Pepperdine and Santa Clara. In short? They’re cooked.

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