NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams – 02/12/07
The official BracketBuster event is this coming weekend, but we saw an unofficial elimination game in the Missouri Valley Conference on Saturday. The Bears of Missouri State went into Cedar Falls and knocked off Northern Iowa, taking the Panthers out of contention for an at-large bid, and virtually assuring themselves of their own invitation to the Big Dance. MoState is on a five-game winning streak, and even a split of the next two games (SIU, Winthrop, both at home) would probably be good enough on Selection Sunday. An 11-7 Valley team that’s beaten Wisconsin would be awfully tough to leave home, and a 12-6 team would be impossible.
Stan Heath’s Razorbacks have slid to 4-6 in the SEC following a loss at LSU on Saturday. Their RPI, which was in the 20’s at the start of SEC play, has also slid, all the way down to 39. The Hogs do have one of the best non-conference portfolios of any bubble team (neutral-court wins over Southern Illinois and West Virginia, and a home win over Oral Roberts), so an 8-8 conference finish would probably be enough.
Staying in the South for a bit, we roll on over to Tuscaloosa, where fellow SEC West member Alabama is at 5-5 following a very damaging loss at Ole Miss over the weekend. To say the Tide is a lock, as Dick Vitale did during Saturday’s Florida-Kentucky telecast, is nothing short of ludicrous. Alabama’s only win over a projected at-large team is a controversial two-pointer over Georgia at home. ‘Bama’s season comes down to the next three games: at Florida, home to Kentucky, and at Tennessee. Alabama’s non-conference profile is decent, but not as strong as Arkansas’, and a 9-7 SEC mark would be an excellent idea.
The Monarchs have been at the back of every bracketographer’s mind since their early-season win at Georgetown. They’re certainly pressing closer and closer to the front after thrashing VCU at home this weekend. The win was ODU’s seventh in a row, a streak which also included a win at Drexel. A looming home date with Hofstra on Tuesday is huge, as ODU is just a game back of the conference lead. A 15-3 CAA regular-season champion with a non-conference win as good as Old Dominion’s would really give the Committee something to think about on Selection Sunday.
Who would have guessed we’d see the Red Raiders on this list? Just two weeks ago, they were one of the hottest teams in the country, knocking off Kansas and Texas A&M in consecutive games. But Tech’s recent five-game slide is exactly why I don’t like to use the term “lock” until next week. TTU lost to Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska before coming within inches of a major road win in Stillwater on Saturday. Now Bobby Knight’s team faces the daunting task of going 4-2 in its final six regular-season games, just to get back to .500 in Big XII play—a record which will be critical for its at-large chances.