Iowa's bubble breakdown: One week to go

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Saturday provided a mixed day of results for NCAA tournament bubble teams.

In conference tournament play, the results were positive. Belmont survived against Murray State 70-68 in overtime to claim the Ohio Valley championship. Belmont earned the OVC's automatic bid with the win and would have competed for an at-large spot with a loss.

The top Missouri Valley Conference teams -- Creighton and Wichita State -- each won semifinal match-ups on Saturday to qualify for the MVC championship. Both would have qualified as at-large squads so their wins eliminated the chance of a MVC tournament upset taking away a bubble spot.

But for the bubble teams themselves, there was little separation. Of the 19 teams considered on the NCAA tournament bubble, 16 competed on Saturday. Only four bubble teams -- Providence, La Salle, Arizona State, Xavier -- lost their games. All five SEC bubble teams (Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss, Arkansas) won their games. Kentucky beat regular-season champion Florida, while Tennessee topped Missouri -- the only other SEC team considered an NCAA tournament lock. Alabama hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to win its game against Georgia.

Baylor blew out Kansas to give itself a great argument entering the Big 12 tournament. Iowa won for the sixth time in eight games. The Hawkeyes have a mixed resume, posting a below-average RPI of 72 but ranking 31 by Pomeroy (points scored and allowed per possession).

Here's how the teams stack up entering the final week of play before NCAA tournament selections are official next Sunday:



  • UConn 63, Providence (bubble team) 59
  • Ole Miss (bubble team) 81, at LSU 67
  • St. Louis 78, La Salle (bubble team) 54
  • Iowa State (bubble team) 83,West Virginia 74
  • Arkansas (bubble team) 73, Texas A&M 62
  • Boise State (bubble team) 69, San Diego State 65
  • Alabama (bubble team) 61, Georgia 58
  •  Tennessee (bubble team) 64, Missouri (probably in) 62
  • Arizona 73, Arizona State (bubble team) 58
  • Baylor (bubble team) 81, Kansas 58
  • Butler 67, Xavier (bubble team) 62
  • Southern Miss (bubble team) 70, Central Florida 62
  • Iowa 74 (bubble team), Nebraska 60
  • St. Mary's 69 (bubble team), San Diego 66
  • Cincinnati 61 (bubble team), South Florida 53


  • Virginia Commonwealth at Temple
  • Maryland at Virginia


  • St. Mary's vs. Gonzaga, WCC championship game. If Gonzaga loses, it walks into an at-large bid. A St. Mary's loss keeps it in competition for an at-large bid.
  • Sun Belt championship game. If Middle Tennessee State doesn't win, it will compete for an at-large bid

NCAA BUBBLE PROJECTIONS (19 teams for eight spots)

  • GREAT SHAPE: Cincinnati, Kentucky, Iowa State, Temple
  • COMPETITORS: Boise State, St. Mary's, Tennessee, Iowa, Baylor, Alabama, Ole Miss, Virginia, Maryland
  • ROUGH SHAPE: La Salle, Arizona State, Xavier, Arkansas, Providence, Southern Miss


VIRGINIA 20-10, 10-7 ACC

  • RPI: 71; Strength-of-schedule: 133
  • Record vs. top-100: 7-3 (2-2 vs. top-25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Duke, North Carolina State, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Maryland, North Carolina
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Clemson, Old Dominion, Wake Forest, Boston College, Delaware, George Mason, Florida State
  • Looking ahead: vs. Maryland (today)
  • The latest: The upper hand on an at-large spot could come down to today's Virginia-Maryland game. A loss won't eliminate the Cavaliers, but it would force Virginia to win a few games in the ACC tournament.

MARYLAND 20-9, 8-9 ACC

  • RPI: 78; Strength-of-schedule: 133
  • Record vs. top-100: 3-8 (1-4 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Duke, North Carolina State
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Kentucky, Florida State (twice), Boston College, Georgia Tech
  • Looking ahead: at Virginia (today)
  • The latest: A loss at Virginia all but eliminates the Terrapins barring an ACC tournament title appearance. The Terrapins seem outside the tournament right now.


  • RPI: 46; Strength-of-schedule: 26
  • Record vs. top-100: 8-10 (1-4 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Marquette, Pittsburgh, Xavier, Oregon, Alabama, Iowa State, Villanova, UConn
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Providence, St. John’s
  • Looking ahead: Big East Tournament (Providence)
  • The latest: The Bearcats don’t have a loss to a team with a losing record and have played a competitive schedule. Cincinnati should get in with little difficulty.


  • RPI: 82; Strength-of-schedule: 59
  • Record vs. top-100: 5-8 (0-5 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Villanova (twice)
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): DePaul, Brown, Penn State, UMass, Cincinnati
  • Looking ahead: Big East Tournament (Cincinnati)
  • The latest: The early losses were horrific and although there are some decent wins as of late, the overall record and resume will keep Providence out of the NCAA tournament. Only a deep run in the Big East Tournament -- the Friars open with Cincinnati -- will get Providence back in the conversation.

IOWA 20-11, 9-9 BIG TEN

  • RPI: 72; Strength-of-schedule: 114
  • Record vs. top-100: 6-9 (1-6 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Iowa State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Purdue
  • Looking ahead: Big Ten Tournament
  • The latest: The lack of a big road win coupled with a subpar non-conference schedule means Iowa must do some work in the Big Ten tournament. A defining second-round league tournament win gets the Hawkeyes in the conversation. A semifinal victory probably gets them in.

IOWA STATE 21-10, 11-7 BIG 12

  • RPI: 47; Strength-of-schedule: 63
  • Record vs. top-100: 7-8 (2-5 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Baylor (twice), Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Iowa, Cincinnati, Texas Tech, Texas
  • Looking ahead: Big 12 Tournament
  • The latest: Iowa State appears almost a lock, although a near-collapse at West Virginia on Saturday could have turned some heads. Bottom line is a win against Oklahoma makes the Cyclones automatic.

BAYLOR 18-13, 9-9 BIG 12

  • RPI: 61; Strength-of-schedule: 22
  • Record vs. top-100: 5-10 (2-5 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Kansas
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): College of Charleston, Northwestern, Iowa State (twice), Texas
  • Looking ahead: Big 12 Tournament
  • The latest: No team helped itself more on Saturday than Baylor, which dominated Kansas by 23 points. Baylor clearly is in the conversation.

ARIZONA STATE 20-11, 9-9 PAC-12

  • RPI: 90; Strength-of-schedule: 124
  • Record vs. top-100: 5-9 (0-2 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Arkansas, Colorado (twice), UCLA, California
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): USC, Utah, DePaul, Washington (twice)
  • Looking ahead: Pac-12 Tournament
  • The latest: Barring a deep run in the Pac-12 Tournament, the Sun Devils just don't have a better resume than any other team on this list.

KENTUCKY 21-9, 12-6 SEC

  • RPI: 50; Strength-of-schedule: 66
  • Record vs. top-100: 7-9 (1-3 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Missouri, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Maryland, Florida
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Baylor, Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee
  • Looking ahead: SEC tournament
  • The latest: Kentucky's inconsistent season was perfectly defined with a 10-point loss at Georgia followed by a win against SEC regular-season champ Florida. The Wildcats look like a low-level NCAA team barring an SEC tournament loss to the Arkansas-Vanderbilt winner.

TENNESSEE 19-11, 11-7 SEC

  • RPI: 54; Strength-of-schedule: 35
  • Record vs. top-100: 9-9 (1-2 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Florida, Kentucky, Alabama, Xavier, Wichita State, Missouri
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Kentucky, Alabama, Ole Miss (twice), Georgia (twice), Arkansas, Virginia
  • Looking ahead: SEC tournament
  • The latest: The Volunteers won nine of their last 12, including wins against Florida and Missouri. An SEC tournament win against South Carolina-Mississippi State probably gets Tennessee in the NCAA; two wins makes it automatic (second-day opponent is Alabama).

OLE MISS 23-8, 12-6 SEC

  • RPI: 56; Strength-of-schedule: 150
  • Record vs. top-100: 7-6 (0-2)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Alabama, Tennessee (twice), Arkansas, Missouri
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Mississippi State, Indiana State, Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas A&M
  • Looking ahead: SEC tournament
  • Prognosis: Like the rest of the SEC, Ole Miss’ fate could come down to the conference tournament. A Friday loss (likely Missouri) means a probable NIT spot.

ALABAMA 20-11, 12-6 SEC

  • RPI: 60; Strength-of-schedule: 89
  • Record vs. top-100: 7-7 (0-1)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Villanova
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Ole Miss, Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, Mercer, Tulane, Dayton, Cincinnati
  • Looking ahead: SEC tournament
  • Prognosis: Alabama beat Georgia by three points on an amazing half-court buzzer-beater to keep its NCAA hopes alive. But the Crimson Tide ’s resume is weaker most of its fellow SEC bubble competitors so it must win a couple head-to-head battles in the SEC tournament, like against Friday's probably opponent, Tennessee.

ARKANSAS 19-12, 10-8 SEC

  • RPI: 75; Strength-of-schedule: 82
  • Record vs. top-100: 6-10 (2-3 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Alabama, South Carolina, LSU, Arizona State
  • Looking ahead: SEC tournament
  • Prognosis: Arkansas just too many losses to mediocre or comparable opponents, coupled with three defeats in the last five. A 30-point road loss at Missouri on Tuesday probably sealed its postseason fate barring at least three wins in the SEC tournament.

BOISE STATE 21-9, 9-7 Mountain West

  • RPI: 37; Strength-of-schedule: 70
  • Record vs. top-100: 8-7 (2-5 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Colorado State, UNLV, Creighton, San Diego State
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Nevada, Air Force, Utah
  • Looking ahead: vs. San Diego State (Mountain West Tournament)
  • Prognosis: Boise State took out San Diego State on Saturday to pad its NCAA resume. The Broncos have a nice middle-of-the-road resume with a couple decent wins and a few regrettable losses. One more win probably gets Boise State in the NCAA while two likely clinches it.

LA SALLE 21-8, 11-5 Atlantic-10

  • RPI: 38; Strength-of-schedule: 87
  • Record vs. top-100: 5-7 (1-2 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Villanova, Butler, VCU
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Temple, UMass, Xavier, Central Connecticut, Bucknell
  • Looking ahead: A-10 tournament (George Washington)
  • The latest: A 24-point loss at St. Louis hurts the Explorers' chances of staying in the conversation. La Salle might need at least two or three A-10 tournament wins to gain consideration.

XAVIER 17-13, 9-7 Atlantic-10

  • RPI: 81; Strength-of-schedule: 53
  • Record vs. top-100: 5-7 (1-1 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): St. Louis, La Salle, Temple, Memphis, Butler
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): UMass, Dayton, Tennessee, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Charlotte, St. Joseph’s, Wofford, Vanderbilt, Pacific, Wake Forest
  • Looking ahead: A-10 tournament
  • Prognosis: Xavier lost at Butler and now must advance deep in the A-10 tournament to have any shot. The Muskateers have the perfect NIT resume.

TEMPLE 22-8, 10-5 Atlantic-10

  • RPI: 43; Strength-of-schedule: 77
  • Record vs. top-100: 9-5 (1-2 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Villanova, Syracuse, La Salle, St. Louis
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Canisius, Xavier, Duquesne, St. Joseph’s, St. Bonaventure,
  • Looking ahead: vs. VCU (today)
  • Prognosis: Of the A-10 bubble teams, Temple has the best resume. There are a few concerning losses, but the Owls have won six straight games and have nine top-100 wins.

ST. MARY’S 27-5, 14-2, West Coast Conference

  • RPI: 32; Strength-of-schedule: 127
  • Record vs. top-100: 6-3 (0-2 vs. top-25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): Creighton
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Northern Iowa, Pacific, Georgia Tech
  • Looking ahead: vs. Gonzaga, WCC Tournament
  • Prognosis: Other than a win against Creighton, it’s a pretty nondescript campaign for the Gaels. There are more losses to non-NCAA tournament teams than wins against solid competition. While they are competitive for an at-large spot, a win against Gonzaga or the WCC title (one and the same) might be the only way to avoid another NCAA heartbreak.

SOUTHERN MISS 23-8, 12-4 Conference USA

  • RPI: 42; Strength-of-schedule: 87
  • Record vs. top-100: 3-6 (0-3 vs. top 25)
  • Good wins (includes bubble teams): None
  • Bad losses (includes bubble teams): Marshall, Central Florida, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State
  • Looking ahead): C-USA tournament
  • Prognosis: Southern Miss has a nice record but offers little else compared to the high-major teams who have played — and beaten — competitive teams in and out of conference play. It should take a Conference USA tournament title to clinch an NCAA berth.


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