Teams traditionally play their way into the NCAA tournament during championship week, but this year those on the bubble seem to be playing their way out.
Among the bubble carnage on Thursday: Arizona State fell to Stanford, Memphis lost to Houston and Alabama-Birmingham got embarrassed by Southern Miss.
The number of open spots in the tournament stands at seven with Notre Dame safely in the field after a sixth straight win. Florida and Illinois are among a handful of teams that can shrink it further on Friday with at-large sealing victories
Last Five In, First Five Out
61. Illinois (18-12, 10-8, RPI: 75) Although it's hard to imagine a team with victories over Clemson, Vanderbilt, Michigan State and Wisconsin not making the field, Illinois is in jeopardy as a result of its bloated RPI and poor finish. The Illini have to avenge Sunday's loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten quarterfinals, or they should be very nervous on Selection Sunday.
62. Washington (22-9, 11-7, RPI: 50): The Huskies finished a game behind Arizona State in the Pac-10 standings, but victories over Cal and Texas A&M are more impressive than anything on the Sun Devils' resume. A Pac-10 title game appearance is a must for Washington, especially now that the semifinal opponent is Stanford and not Arizona State.
63. San Diego State (21-8, 11-5, RPI: 36): The Aztecs survive Colorado State's upset bid to set up a crucial semifinal against Mountain West champ New Mexico. A win would put the Aztecs solidly in the field, while a loss would make things dicey on Selection Sunday.
64. Georgia Tech (19-11, 7-9, RPI: 44): Can a team that finished below .500 in the ACC and lost eight of nine road conference games make the NCAA tournament? This season, absolutely. The Yellowjackets' win over North Carolina on Thursday keeps them in position to make the field, but a quarterfinal victory over Maryland would make them a lock.
65. Seton Hall (19-12, 9-9, RPI: 54): Seton Hall's loss to Notre Dame on Wednesday night felt like a killer, but losses from other bubble teams have at least temporarily elevated the Pirates back into the field. Although the Pirates haven't lost to a single team outside the top 75 in the RPI this season, outside of a win over Pittsburgh, their best wins are Louisville and Cornell.
------- CUT LINE --------
66. Mississippi (21-9, 9-7, RPI: 56): It took a late surge to get to 9-7 in the SEC for Mississippi to give itself a chance to make the NCAA tournament. Non-conference wins over Kansas State and UTEP will help the Rebels' cause, but without a quarterfinal victory over Tennessee this week, Ole Miss is probably NIT-bound.
67. Rhode Island (22-8, 9-7, RPI 41): Hard to believe Rhode Island is in this position after dropping five of seven to end the regular season, but the Rams have snuck up on the cut line thanks to the failures of their bubble peers. A win over St. Louis on Friday is a must, but Rhode Island may still need an appearance in the title game to steal a bid.
68. Dayton (20-12, 8-8, RPI 49): The Flyers have a virtually identical profile to Rhode Island, right down to the five losses in seven games to end the regular season. Consequently, Dayton is in a similar position in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals: A win over Xavier on Friday would help, but it may take an appearance in the title game to crash the Big Dance.
69. Mississippi State (21-10, 9-7, RPI: 68): No bubble team endured a more damaging week last week than the Bulldogs, who lost at Auburn and then got torched at home by Tennessee. The Bulldogs face a must-win SEC quarterfinal against fellow bubble team Florida and then depending on how other bubble teams fare, they may still need one more win after that.
70. William & Mary (21-10, 12-6, RPI: 58): Before you scoff at William & Mary's chances, consider that the Tribe has three wins as good as anyone above them: at Maryland, at Wake Forest and Richmond. That may not be enough to overcome a slew of bad losses in conference play or a BracketBuster meltdown at Iona, but the Tribe's profile is interesting enough to warrant a second look.
Thursday's Bubble Recap
• Georgia Tech 62, North Carolina 58 — Tech narrowly avoided the upset and could lock up a bid against Maryland on Friday.
• West Virginia 54, Cincinnati 51 — DaSean Butler probably condemned the Bearcats to the NIT.
• Stanford 70, Arizona State 61 — So long, Sun Devils. What a listless performance considering the stakes.
• Washington 59, Oregon State 52 — Huskies trailed by 13 at one point but survived.
• Florida 78, Auburn 69 — The Gators are likely going to make it, but one more win and it's a slam dunk.
• Houston 66, Memphis 65 — Elliot Williams no-showed in the biggest game of the season, and Memphis couldn't recover.
• Southern Miss 58, UAB 44 — In the worst kind of one-two punch for Conference USA, Memphis and UAB both go home early.
• San Diego State 72, Colorado State 71 — Huge sigh of relief for the Aztecs after surviving this one.
Friday's Bubble Look-Ahead
• San Diego State vs. New Mexico — Win and in for the Aztecs, or lose and sweat it out on Sunday.
• Washington vs. Stanford — That the opponent is Stanford and not Arizona State doesn't change that this is must-win for the Huskies.
• Illinois vs. Wisconsin — This is essentially a play-in game for Illinois against the team that beat the Illini to close the regular season.
• Tennessee vs. Ole Miss — Ditto for Ole Miss. Do-or-die here.
• Georgia Tech vs. Maryland — Yellowjackets lost on a buzzer beater to Maryland a few weeks ago.
• Rhode Island vs. St. Louis — Can the Rams shake their late-season doldrums?
• Dayton vs. Xavier — Preseason Atlantic 10 champs seeking to atone for disappointing conference season.
• Florida vs. Mississippi State — A should-win for the Gators, a must-win for the Bulldogs.