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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

2011 March Madness Bubble Watch

James Santelli, Jessica Benson |
March 8, 2011 | 4:02 p.m. PST

Staff Writers

The Huskies are in good shape to grab a tournament bid. (Creative Commons/Dave Sizer)
The Huskies are in good shape to grab a tournament bid. (Creative Commons/Dave Sizer)
Major conference tournaments begin Tuesday in men's college basketball.

With Selection Sunday looming, Neon Tommy college basketball writers James Santelli and Jessica Benson take a look at the teams on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Who's in? Who's out? And who's nervously biting their nails in the conference room Sunday?

Take a look.

Looking good:

Florida State
20-9, (10-5)
RPI: 48
Signature wins: Duke, Boston College

FSU only has one "bad" loss, a defeat at Auburn that came off a long break. Otherwise, the Seminoles posted a good record in the ACC. A January win over then-No. 1 Duke puts them safely in the field. - James Santelli

20-10 (11-7)
RPI: 45
Signature wins: Arizona, UCLA (twice)

Despite a suspect 5-6 road record, including losses at Oregon and Oregon State, Washington has a strong perception nationally. The third-best offensive team in the country shouldn't have too much to worry about come Selection Sunday. - JS

18-13 (9-9)
RPI: 67
Signature wins: Notre Dame, Syracuse

The Golden Eagles are likely to be the 11th of 11 Big East teams in the tournament field, a conference where their 13 losses don't look so bad. Marquette has shown to be a strong team even in those defeats, with losses of five points or less to teams like Duke, Gonzaga, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Villanova and Louisville, and no losses to any team below 100 RPI. - JS

24-7 (13-3)
RPI: 54
Signature wins: Purdue, Virginia Commonwealth

Though the committee is claiming that they will put less stock this year into a how a team finished, one has to take notice of Richmond's strong late-season surge. The Spiders have gone 11-2 in their last 13 games and a win over Temple in the Atlantic 10 tournament can only help their case. - JS

On the fringe:

22-9 (10-6)
RPI: 38
Signature wins: Gonzaga, UAB (twice)

Memphis could erase any doubt surrounding them by simply playing their way into an automatic bid this week. Conference-USA is weak this year, and the Tigers have earned a bye and are placed on UAB's side of the bracket in the conference tournament. If they leave things to chance, a 3-6 road record could sink them. - JS

20-10 (9-7)
RPI: 55
Signature wins: Florida State, Virginia Tech

Clemson is one of the most polarizing teams on the bubble right now, with 33 of the Bracket Project's 78 online brackets placing the Tigers in the field. Ken Pom ranks Clemson as having the 12th-best defense in the country, making them a tough potential matchup for tournament teams. The Tigers are lined up to face fellow bubble team Boston College in the ACC quarterfinals, in what could be an ad-hoc NCAA Tournament elimination game for both sides. - JS

19-12 (9-9)
RPI: 53
Signature wins: Michigan State (twice), Minnesota

The Wolverines' 8-3 finish, coupled with a ninth-ranked strength of schedule, may save them from being left out of the field. Michigan could easily be in now had they beaten Syracuse, Ohio State or Kansas, all of whom defeated the Maize and Blue in overtime or by four points or less. - JS

20-10 (9-7)
RPI: 39
Signature wins: Kentucky, Tennessee

With all 10 of the Bulldogs' losses coming to teams in the RPI top 100, Georgia has no flaw that pops out. They also boast a strong 7-4 road record on their resume. As long as they don't fall to Auburn in the SEC tournament they should be in. - JS

22-9, (13-5)
RPI: 39
Signature wins: N/A

While there is no certainty for the Butler Bulldogs, there is a strong possibility they will make it into the tournament, giving them a chance to repeat their impressive run in last year’s tournament.  With a win over Cleveland State in the tournament semi-finals on Saturday, it seems the Bulldogs have a good opportunity for an at-large bid. - Jessica Benson

22-9, (8-8)
RPI: 34
Signature wins: Illinois, Kansas St.

With three consecutive losses leading into the Big 12 tournament, Missouri has left their position in the NAA tournament in jeopardy.  The Tigers came close to beating KU this weekend, but their loss means they remain on the bubble. - JB

Utah State
27-3, (15-1)
RPI: 17
Signature wins: Saint Mary’s

With 28 wins on record, the Aggies should enough to make it into this year’s pool, even if they don’t win the WAC tournament.  However, with just one signature win and a loss against Georgetown, it will come down to a close decision for the committee. - JB

Virginia Tech
19-10, (9-7)
RPI: 66
Signature wins: Duke

With a road loss to Clemson this weekend, the Hokies are back on the bubble after last week’s upset of No. 1 Duke. The loss to Clemson follows a loss to Boston College, which, combined, is enough to put Virginia Tech’s future in jeopardy. - JB

Bubble Burst:

18-12 (7-9)
RPI: 83
Signature wins: Texas A&M (twice), Nebraska

The Bears stood in good position for a while with a good strength of schedule, but lost five of their last six Big 12 games. Now they’re on the outside looking in. - JS

Washington State
19-11 (9-9)
RPI: 75
Signature wins: Washington (twice), Gonzaga

Wazzu has a chance to beat Washington for the third time this year in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tournament, but that may not be enough. The suspension of top scorer Klay Thompson may have prevented a quality home win over UCLA in the season finale. - JS

Central Florida
19-10 (6-10)
RPI: 56
Signature wins: Florida, UTEP

UCF had one of the strongest starts in the country, winning its first 14 games and ranking as high as 18th in the country. Then conference play came around, and the Knights went 5-9 in the months of January and February. Even a neutral site victory over Florida can't save Marcus Jordan's team now. - JS

17-13 (6-12)
RPI: 63
Signature wins: Purdue, North Carolina

Another team whose strong signature wins can't save them from a poor conference record. The Golden Gophers were also ranked as high as 18th in January, but went 1-9 in their last 10 games. - JS

Cleveland State
26-8, (13-5)
RPI: 43
Signature wins: N/A

After a three-point loss to Butler on Saturday, Cleveland Sate will need a miracle to pull off a tournament appearance.  With Indiana State’s automatic bid, teams like Missouri State and Wichita State may take preference in the eyes of the committee over the Vikings.

Colorado State
19-11, (9-7)
RPI: 43
Signature wins: UNLV

Without a solid showing in the Mountain West tournament, it seems the Rams of Colorado State won’t be making the tournament this year.  A big loss this weekend to San Diego State didn’t help an already weak record, and with no wins against top 25 teams, the Rams haven’t proven themselves a deserving team.


To reach James Santelli, click here. For Jessica Benson, click here.

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