What seemed like an easy field of 65 to make just a few short days ago suddenly won't include some of the teams we thought it might as a result of bids stolen by Houston and New Mexico State and late surges by Minnesota and Mississippi State.
Only hours before the brackets are released on Sunday at 6 p.m. EST, I still see seven teams with a realistic case to earn one of the three remaining at-large bids. Minnesota and Mississippi State can each claim one of them with victories in the Big Ten and SEC title games respectively, but here's a look at the bubble picture as it stands right now:
Who's in and Who's out?
63. Utah State (27-7, 14-2, RPI: 26): Until a surprising upset at the hands of New Mexico State in Saturday night's WAC title game, Utah State appeared to be cruising toward an automatic bid. Now the Aggies have to hope that a No. 31 RPI, non-conference wins over BYU and Wichita State and 17 straight wins prior to Saturday's loss are enough to prevent them from slipping out of the field.
64. Minnesota (21-12, 9-9, RPI: 65): The Gophers have come from nowhere to move within a victory over Ohio State of claiming the Big Ten's automatic bid, but they have a decent shot at an at-large even with a close loss. Upsets of Michigan State and Purdue in the Big Ten tournament give the Gophers wins over Butler, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois and the Spartans and Boilers, perhaps enough to offset some bad conference losses and a sky-high RPI.
65. Illinois (19-14, 10-8, RPI: 72): Had Illinois managed to take down Ohio State in Saturday's Big Ten semifinal instead of losing in double overtime, it probably would have solified the Illini's bid. Illinois boasts top-50 RPI victories over Clemson, Vanderbilt, Michigan State and Wisconsin (twice), but a bloated RPI and a poor regular season finish make the Illini one of this year's most intriguing bubble teams.
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66. Virginia Tech (23-7, 10-6, RPI: 56): Virginia Tech's gaudy record belies a profile that has some holes. Yes, the Hokies went 10-6 in the ACC, but because their non-conference strength of schedule was among the nation's worst and they lost to Miami in the first round of the conference tournament, they'll have to sweat it out until the Selection Show.
67. Florida (21-12, 9-7, RPI: 51):What already seemed like a costly loss for Florida on Friday against fellow bubble hopeful Mississippi State only looks worse now because of some of the rapidly shrinking number of available at-large bids. Can wins over Michigan State and Tennessee outweigh 12 losses, including four in the Gators' last five games? Maybe, but it's probably more likely that Billy Donovan's bunch is NIT-bound for the third straight year.
68. Mississippi State (23-10, 9-7, RPI: 63): The Bulldogs won the SEC tournament to sneak into the field last year, and it may take a win over Kentucky in Sunday's title game to get in this season. Although defeating Florida and Vandderbilt this week has helped Mississippi State's case, that still only gives the Rebels two top-50 RPI victories and doesn't erase losses to Auburn, Rider and Western Kentucky.
69. Seton Hall (19-12, 9-9, RPI: 61): Seton Hall's loss to Notre Dame on Wednesday night felt like a killer, but losses from other bubble teams have kept the Pirates in contention for an at-large. 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.
Saturday's Bubble Recap:
• Minnesota 69, Purdue 42: Minnesota's 37-11 halftime lead strengthened its case, whether Purdue is injured or not.
• Ohio State 88, Illinois 81, 2OT: If Illinois doesn't hear its name called today, it will regret not getting a shot off on its final possession of regulation and the first overtime.
• Temple 57, Rhode Island 44: This loss coupled with the results from the rest of the nation will serve as the staggering Rams' knockout blow.
• Mississippi State 62, Vanderbilt: This win puts the Bulldogs in the conversation, but they likely need the automatic bid more than Minnesota.
• Washington 79, Cal 75: It's a good thing the Huskies won this game because without the automatic bid, they might have been NIT-bound.
Sunday's Bubble Look-Ahead:
• Minnesota vs. Ohio State: Can the Gophers take advantage of short-handed Ohio State's fatigue coming off double overtime?
• Mississippi State vs. Kentucky: Folkes in Champaigne, Blacksburg and Gainesville will be rooting hard for the Wildcats.
- Mississippi State
- Ohio State
- Michigan State