This is the final bubble watch of the season. The customary bubble cheat sheet will be out after next Sunday.
New Hampshire (America East), SMU (AAC), La Salle (Atlantic 10), Louisville (ACC), Texas Tech (Big 12), Kansas (Big 12), Xavier (Big East), Nebraska (Big Ten), Maryland (Big Ten), North Texas (C-USA), Yale (Ivy), San Jose State (Mountain West), UNLV (Mountain West), Utah (Pac-12), Arizona State (Pac-12), Loyola Marymount (WCC)
LOCK – UCF
BUBBLE – South Florida, Memphis, Cincinnati
The Knights of UCF are still making a run at a #1 seed and have won every AAC match other than Cincinnati by multiple goals. Because of the AAC’s mid-level stature, they’re probably going to need to do the double and win the AAC Tournament too to realistically have a shot. They could still lose the league title to red hot South Florida though, who could themselves make a late run at a seed if they keep winning, having won six in a row.
Memphis are unbeaten in four after a rough run through Florida, but their overall profile is a bit shaky, meaning another slip-up could be fatal these final two weeks. The big news though is probably Cincinnati’s sudden fall. After five straight AAC wins, the Bearcats haven’t won in three and have tumbled down the RPI. They have just won RPI Top 40 win, that over South Florida and are largely riding on their early draw with UCF. It’s conceivable an early exit in the AAC Tournament could be fatal to their hopes.
BUBBLE – Saint Louis
Saint Louis now has two RPI Top 50 wins over Vanderbilt and Murray State despite not winning the A10. They didn’t win the A10 but also didn’t play league champs La Salle, making the A10 Tournament a tantalizing prospect. The Billikens aren’t totally sunk if they don’t win the auto bid, but the odds probably aren’t great. Saint Joseph’s is the first obstacle in their path in the A10 Tournament this weekend.
LOCK – North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia
BUBBLE – NC State, Wake Forest, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Boston College
Duke now has control of the ACC title race after North Carolina’s draw with Louisville, though that’s probably not enough to keep the Cards in the at-large picture. Even if UNC doesn’t won the league, they probably still have a pretty good case at a #1 seed overall in the NCAA Tournament. The trio of Florida State, Notre Dame, and Virginia aren’t likely to get high seeds in the Big Dance, though each remains in the mix for a seed overall if they get another win or two.
It’s much murkier than you might expect after that. Wake Forest has taken a tumble in the last month, winning just two of their last seven, though those wins came against Notre Dame and Florida State, meaning they should still be safe in their positioning, though hopes for a seed could be fading. NC State has helped their cause by mopping up against the lower tier of the ACC, but their lack of quality wins could yet prove fatal if they’re upset by Louisville in the regular season finale, which would send their RPI crashing. Clemson is another bubble hopeful that has wins over Auburn and Wake Forest, but they may need another win to totally feel safe.
Virginia Tech is going to be a controversial case, as they’re currently twelfth (!) in the ACC with just seven wins. One of those wins was at Notre Dame though, and the Hokies also have draws against fellow bubble teams Boston College, Wake Forest, and Clemson. Boston College is also just a game above .500 and has lost three straight (albeit to great competition). They have just one win over an RPI Top 50 team though (Wake Forest), which could be fatal for their case.
BUBBLE – Florida Gulf Coast
FGCU has just one RPI Top 50 win, but it’s a good one, at Arizona. The Eagles are probably in the at-large mix if they don’t win the A-Sun Tournament, but I wouldn’t be very optimistic about their chances.
LOCK – West Virginia, Texas
BUBBLE – Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU
The bubble in the Big 12 has cleared out in a big way, with just five teams likely in the running for at-large bids. West Virginia remains in the running for a #1 seed, though the past weekend’s draw with Texas Tech could dim those odds. Texas picked up a vital win at Baylor last weekend but may need a big run to get back in the mix for a crucial top two seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Oklahoma State could wrap up the Big 12 title with a draw against Texas this week, but the Cowgirls are going to be looking over their shoulder these final few weeks given that they have just one win against an RPI Top 50 team, that coming against #50 Baylor. OSU has a great draw at Texas A&M but could take a lot of stress off themselves by beating the Horns in Austin. Baylor hasn’t beaten anyone in the RPI Top 50 and is going to need to do some work in the Big 12 Tournament. Ditto with TCU, who does have a great draw at Texas but little else. The Baylor-TCU matchup on Friday looks like a bubble elimination game.
BUBBLE – Georgetown, Butler, Marquette, Providence
Georgetown and Butler’s likely Big East title decider produced no goals, which may or may not be a good thing for the duo’s NCAA hopes. The Hoyas could have used the win, which would have been their first over an RPI Top 50 team this year. Of the two, Georgetown clearly needs the auto bid more. Butler is probably in if they’re in the bubble zone thanks to results against Notre Dame and Texas A&M, but the inconsistent Bulldogs really need to avoid a bad result against Villanova at home this week.
Marquette and Providence’s hopes remain as they were, i.e. pretty slim. The Golden Eagles have no RPI Top 50 results, while Providence is a little better off with a win against Georgetown, but that by itself probably won’t be enough in the end.
LOCK – Penn State, Ohio State, Rutgers
BUBBLE – Wisconsin, Northwestern, Minnesota, Michigan, Purdue
Penn State and Ohio State remain in the frame for a Top Two seed in the NCAA Tournament, but both may need a deep run into the Big Ten Tournament to make that a reality, given some slip-ups through the season. Rutgers is a contender for a seed as well, though they probably still need a few wins to firm up their case.
It’s typically chaotic behind that trio. Wisconsin’s got a solid number, but their profile of big wins is pretty lightweight, with just one RPI Top 45 win on the docket, that being at Virginia. If they can’t beat Penn State in the regular season finale, an opening round loss in the Big Ten Tournament could be catastrophic. Northwestern has perhaps saved their season with three straight wins, including two in the RPI Top 50. With a previous win at Ohio State, the Wildcats should be just fine if they avoid defeat in their two next games (regular season finale + Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinal). Minnesota has a win at Rutgers…and that’s it for wins against the RPI Top 50. The regular season finale at Nebraska won’t help them in that regard, meaning the Gophers might need one win in the Big Ten Tournament.
Michigan and Purdue rest on the fringes. Michigan has won just one of their past six, that coming against lowly Illinois, with just six wins overall right now. They need to beat Rutgers to have a shot at the Big Ten Tournament, which would also give them their third RPI Top 50 win. If they don’t win on Wednesday, the Wolverines are probably toast. Purdue is pretty far down in the RPI food chain with just a win against Northwestern keeping them afloat in terms of big wins. The draw at Penn State helps, but Maryland’s not going to add much to their RPI. They probably need to win against the Terps and spring a surprise in the Big Ten Tournament to stay alive.
BUBBLE – Hofstra, Drexel, Northeastern
Hofstra enters the week at #30 in the RPI, with nobody ranked that high having not gotten an at-large bid since we began to track the data. The bad news is that a loss in the CAA Tournament semi-final will bounce them out of the Top 30 in all likelihood. Without an RPI Top 50 win, the Pride are probably in trouble if they don’t get the auto bid. Likewise, Drexel and Northeastern have done well to stay on the bubble but aren’t going to get an at-large.
BUBBLE – Rice
The Owls look absolutely dominant in C-USA and wrapped up the title with a game to spare. Beating North Texas in the regular season finale would still be big though, as it could move them up the RPI pecking order a little more. If the Owls don’t win C-USA’s auto bid, they’ll have to be above the bubble, as they don’t have a win against anyone better ranked than RPI #70 Louisiana Tech.
LOCK – Princeton
BUBBLE – Columbia
The biggest issue still to settle in the Ivy League is probably if Princeton gets a seed or not. The Tigers probably aren’t going to rise above #4 if they do get a seed, but there are mixed signals as to whether one will be coming their way. They’ve beaten two ACC teams on the road but aren’t going to win a league title barring a major Columbia collapse. It’s very hard to envision a team that doesn’t win a mid-major league getting a seed, even with the Tigers’ RPI.
BUBBLE – Monmouth
Monmouth won the MAAC by a whopping seven points and has a draw at Hofstra on their ledger but no wins over RPI Top 50 teams. They’ll be heavy favorites to do the double but almost assuredly aren’t getting an at-large bid.
BUBBLE – Murray State
At #26 in the RPI, Murray State is in a good position and can only take a maximum of one more loss going into the NCAA Tournament. The Racers’ best win though is over RPI #75 South Alabama, putting them in a delicate spot in a league without a bunch of high RPI teams. If they can stay in the top 30 without winning the auto bid, they might get a reprieve. I wouldn’t exactly count on it though.
LOCK – Stanford, UCLA, Cal, USC, Arizona
BUBBLE – Washington, Washington State, Colorado
UCLA’s loss to Washington State probably submarined it’s hopes for a #1 seed, though a winning finish to the season could prop them up on the #2 line. Stanford has racked up a ton of wins, the but the lack of other true RPI standouts in the Pac-12 could penalize them in their bid for a #1 seed, though winning the league with an unbeaten conference record could swing things in their favor. Cal, USC, and Arizona all are pretty safe and look good to host in the opening round but have serious work to do to get a national seed.
Washington are swooning again at just the wrong time, with just one win in their last six matches. They’ve beaten just one team in the RPI Top 45, Florida, and may be praying that that Florida team finishes hot, to make that win look better. More to the point, UW made need to win two of their final three to breathe easier. WSU made life much easier for themselves with a win over UCLA last week which wiped out the biggest negative on their resume, namely the lack of a marquee win. One more win might do it for WSU, though two probably are needed to be totally comfortable. It’s difficult to see where Colorado makes it into the field. The Buffs have just a single win over the RPI Top 50, that at Washington State. They don’t get another shot at one either, with three against the Oregon schools and Utah to close out the regular season.
LOCK – South Carolina, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss
BUBBLE – LSU, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Arkansas
South Carolina’s shock draw against Georgia puts real pressure on them going into Gainesville against Florida, as a slip could see them lose the SEC title to Texas A&M. A defeat would also open up some doubt about a #1 seed, though SC still looks to have done enough in the end. The Aggies probably need the league title and SEC Tournament title for a #1 seed, though they appear to be in good shape for a #2. Tennessee, Florida, and Auburn are all fighting for a national seed, though they don’t appear to be able to climb much higher than a #3. Alabama and Ole Miss appear safe but are probably playing to ensure they stay at home in the first round of the NCAAs.
Can the SEC put more than seven teams in? It’s questionable. There’s little proof that the NCAA takes into account late season form as a criteria for at-large’s, but if LSU doesn’t fit the bill of a team that should be penalized, who does? The Tigers have won just one league game, that against last place Georgia and have just one win against an RPI Top 50 team, that against #44 Cincinnati. The Tigers have many draws on their record, but that might not be enough if they can’t even make the SEC’s top ten. Mississippi State got a nice draw with Ole Miss this past weekend but don’t have any RPI Top 50 wins, meaning they need to upset Texas A&M this week or win a game in Orange Beach to have a realistic chance. Vanderbilt might be best positioned of the four hopefuls, having just beaten Tennessee, but they also have dropped three of four, albeit against the league’s best. A win over Auburn should lock up a bid, but a defeat could make things nervy. Arkansas stayed alive by beating Kentucky, but the Razorbacks are an unflattering #57 in the RPI. They have RPI Top 50 wins against Mississippi State, Auburn, and LSU though, so they might not be as far off as some might think, though at least one more win appears to be a must.
LOCK – Pepperdine
BUBBLE – Santa Clara
The WCC’s strategy of having most of the big guns scheduling heavy in non-conference play does not appear to have worked. At most, the league will be getting two teams into the NCAA Tournament, and a bad break could make Pepperdine the only representative. The Waves are rolling to a league title with three to close out the regular season against some of the conference’s less leading lights. Santa Clara has won four in a row, all on the road but has just a single RPI Top 50 win, that against #40 Washington State, which is also their only positive result against an RPI Top 50 team. If they take care of business down the stretch, they should be fine. But an upset loss in their last three could make for another unwelcome wait for the Broncos.