Tourney-bound: Temple (23-5), Xavier (20-7), Richmond (22-6)
They've got work to do: Rhode Island, Charlotte, Dayton, Saint Louis
Rhode Island (20-6, 8-5, RPI: 28)
• Marquee wins: Oklahoma State
• Bad losses: None
• Remaining schedule: @ Saint Bonaventure; Charlotte; @ UMass
• Outlook: I was there for the win over Okie State in Uncasville, Conn., on Jan. 2. Then I thought URI would be a lock by now. Problem is, the Rams are not learning from history whatsoever. This is a team that's gotten off to strong starts in recent years, only to just miss out because of too many bad losses in conference. Well, we aren't seeing those, but Jim Baron's team is tip-toeing dangerously close yet again; it's lost three of its last four. The game next Wednesday against Charlotte is the only scheduled between the two teams. Elimination game? No, only because the A10 tournament will offer a final chance, but the loser of that will be in trouble.
Charlotte (19-8, 9-4, RPI: 55)
• Marquee wins: @ Louisville; @ Richmond; Temple
• Bad losses: Duquesne
• Remaining schedule: @ George Washington; @ Rhode Island; Richmond
• Outlook: It was only two and a half weeks ago that Charlotte was 8-1, all alone atop the A10. Like URI, the 49ers have fallen on hard times. That win over Louisville didn't have much value but has since turned into quite the ace in the hole. Doesn't matter though; a win over URI or against Richmond (which would mean a season sweep) has to happen for this team to keep hope alive. If it loses both (but beats GW), then I'm thinking an A10 title game appearance will be obligatory.
Dayton (18-9, 7-6, RPI: 43)
• Marquee wins: Georgia Tech; Xavier
• Bad losses: @ St. Joe's; @ Duquesne
• Remaining schedule: UMass; @ Richmond; Saint Louis
• Outlook: It's lost three of four. Five of nine. Six of 10. The preseason choice to win this league has dropped like a rock. The RPI is only halfway credible because of how much weight this conference carries this season. The Flyers need to win out in the regular season and get two more in Atlantic City. Brian Gregory's team is a poor man's Georgia Tech, which UD defeated this year. You see all that talent a lack of utilization of it.
Saint Louis (18-9, 9-4, RPI: 90)
• Marquee wins: Richmond; Dayton; Rhode Island
• Bad losses: @ Bowling Green; @ Missouri State; George Washington; @ Georgia
• Remaining schedule: Duquesne; Temple; @ Dayton
• Outlook: Oh, I know the RPI isn't the best formula, but no way a team that can't crack 80 gets an at-large. It would take winning out until the A10 title game, and that still may not be enough. But considering this team only has freshman and sophomores, just getting to 9-4 in this league is pretty remarkable.