The last week of the regular season is here, with the Big Ten and some smaller conferences already moving on to their tournaments. The bubble action will pick up over the last few weeks, with the implications of every game easy to see now that Selection Sunday is within sight.
It will be business as usual for the Bubble Watch this week. Next week, we’ll update the Bubble Watch every day, giving you the lay of the land as conference tournaments change the complexion of the field of 68 with every passing hour. As for this week, we’ll kick off the Bubble Watch with a look at the five biggest bubble games through Thursday. We don’t want to project too far ahead, because what looks like a big bubble game over the weekend might not be depending on what happens the next three days.
Florida at Alabama
Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Florida may be a bit of a disappointment this season, but for reasons we’ll go over later, it is at no risk of missing out on the dance. Alabama is headed in the right direction, too, but could remove all doubt with a win over the Gators. The Crimson Tide cruised to an 18-point victory in Gainesville the first time these teams met.
Oklahoma at Baylor
Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Oklahoma is safer than a lot of bracket prognosticators seem to think, especially after last weekend’s win over Kansas State. This is more about Baylor having the opportunity for another big coup at home. The Sooners beat the Bears in a 98-96 thriller the first time these teams played.
Kansas State at TCU
Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU
The Horned Frogs are all but assured a bid to the dance, while the Wildcats still need another win or two before they can feel safe. A win at TCU would do wonders for their at-large candidacy heading into the Big 12 tournament. They beat the Horned Frogs, 73-68, at home last month.
Texas A&M at Georgia
Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Georgia is still a faint blip on the at-large radar, thanks to wins over Tennessee, Florida and LSU over the last two weeks. They could strengthen their signal by defending homecourt with the Aggies in town on Wednesday. This will be the first meeting of the season between the two.
No. 1 Virginia at Louisville
Thursday, 8 p.m., ACC Network
Louisville will almost certainly be on the bubble on Selection Sunday. The one way the Cardinals can play themselves off the bubble, in a good way, is by securing at least one signature victory the next two weeks. I’d say the No. 1 team in the country would qualify.
Arizona, Auburn, Cincinnati, Clemson, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Purdue, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Villanova, Virginia, West Virginia, Wichita State, Xavier
Spots remaining: 24
68 total spots — 22 locks — 22 single-bid conference automatic qualifiers = 24
Teams that are all but guaranteed to secure a spot in the field of 68.
TCU (20-9, RPI: 19, SOS: 12, Q1 record: 4-7)
The Horned Frogs had a nice week, picking up wins over Iowa State and Baylor. A trip to the big dance will end a 20-season NCAA tournament drought—and they are nearly there. The Horned Frogs host Kansas State and visit Texas Tech to end the regular season.
Houston (22-6, RPI: 20, SOS: 93, Q1 record: 6-2)
The Cougars suffered a surprising loss at Memphis last week, but we can give them a pass on it after they took down Cincinnati and Temple. They’re a near-lock for their first NCAA tournament berth since 2010, likely needing to do no more than play out the string. It would take two bad losses to put them in even remote jeopardy on Selection Sunday.
Texas A&M (18-11, RPI: 26, SOS: 10, Q1 record: 5-7)
The Aggies ran their losing streak to three games before snapping it with a win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. Pushing to Aggies into the next section would be an overreaction to their recent results. Their resumé still includes wins over Auburn (on the road), Kentucky and West Virginia. They’re not done working just yet, but it would take another few losses for them to be in real danger.
Florida (18-11, RPI: 58, SOS: 38, Q1 record: 8-4)
Even I’m surprised that Florida is in this section, and I’m the one who conceives and writes the Bubble Watch. Here’s the thing, though. The Selection Committee isn’t going to make a big deal out of its new quadrant system, and then leave a team that has eight Q1 wins out of the field. A couple of Florida’s Q1 wins could fall to Q2 (at Georgia, at South Carolina), but the other six are locked into the top quadrant, including W’s over Auburn, Cincinnati and Kentucky. This is a tournament team.
Safer Than Most
Teams that are standing on solid ground and looking strong heading into March.
NC State (20-9, RPI: 48, SOS: 58, Q1 record: 5-6)
The Wolfpack have won four straight games, including an impressive 20-point win over Florida State at home on Sunday. They could even be in the group above this, thanks primarily to wins over Duke, North Carolina, Clemson and Arizona, all of which are trending for a top-four seed in the tournament. So long as the Wolfpack avoid disaster the rest of the way, they’ll have a drama-free Selection Sunday. In fact, if they take care of business against Georgia Tech and Louisville this week, we’ll consider them a lock going into the ACC tournament.
Creighton (19-9, RPI: 33, SOS: 39, Q1 record: 2-7)
One surefire way to raise your profile is to go out and beat one of the best teams in the country. That’s what the Bluejays did over the weekend, knocking off Villanova at home. Their resumé was already strong and a win like that essentially puts them over the hump. They may have just two Q1 wins, but their worst loss of the season, by RPI, was at Marquette, and some of their Q2 victims include Butler, Providence and UCLA. The win over Villanova all but took away the last shred of lingering doubt for the Bluejays’ tourney hopes. They host DePaul and visit Marquette this week.
Arizona State (19-9, RPI: 42, SOS: 69, Q1 record: 4-4)
The Sun Devils have lost three straight games—while they aren’t yet in serious trouble, they need to get back in the win column as soon as possible. They have what should be an easy week to wrap up the regular season, staying home for games with Cal and Stanford. If the Sun Devils are the relatively safe tournament team they’ve appeared to be for most of the season, neither of those opponents should be a problem. A loss in either game could set them up for disaster in the Pac-12 tournament, but if they win both, they’ll be trending toward lock status going into the postseason.
Virginia Tech (21-9, RPI: 47, SOS: 74, Q1 record: 5-5)
Virginia Tech is as good as in after upending Duke on Monday. The Hokies now own wins over the Blue Devils, North Carolina, Clemson and Virginia, otherwise known as the top four teams in the ACC. Those will easily more than counterbalance their less-than-ideal RPI and strength of schedule.
Alabama (17-12, RPI: 41, SOS: 8, Q1 record: 5-6)
Alabama’s record may not scream “safer than most” but you can’t strip nuance out of a team’s resumé. The Crimson Tide own wins over Auburn, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Florida. They have a combined 11 Q1 and Q2 wins, more than every team profiled in the Bubble Watch other than Florida. They do have three sub-100 losses, but that’s not a reason to knock them out of the field. That’s why they’re down in this section, rather than among either the locks or solid selections. A split with Florida and Texas A&M this week should be enough to put them in the field. If they lose both and go out early in the SEC tournament, however, they will be a nervous bunch on Selection Sunday.
Seton Hall (20-9, RPI: 21, SOS: 34, Q1 record: 4-6)
The Pirates have handled themselves well over the last few weeks, winning three straight games against DePaul, Providence and St. John’s. They’ll spend this entire week at home, hosting Villanova and Butler. They don’t necessarily need either game, though they will be favored against the Bulldogs. One win should be enough to have them on safe ground, no matter what happens in the Big East tournament. But they can still climb up the seed list, especially if they beat Villanova on Wednesday.
Butler (19-10, RPI: 35, SOS: 20, Q1 record: 3-8)
The Bulldogs have all but eliminated what little doubt surrounded their at-large candidacy with wins over Providence and Creighton in their last two games. They won those by a combined 38 points, once again displaying their firepower by scoring 93 against Creighton. They hit the road for the final week of the regular season, visiting St. John’s and Seton Hall. A loss to the Red Storm could get them into trouble, but—like most of the teams in this section—they’ve already done enough to earn an at-large bid. At this point, all they need to do is avoid damaging their resumé and they’ll hear their names called on Selection Sunday.
Arkansas (20-9, RPI: 30, SOS: 54, Q1 record: 5-7)
Arkansas lost to Kentucky and won at Alabama last week, which has to be considered a net-positive result for that pair of games. If they beat Auburn on Tuesday, they’ll jump at least one section, if not all the way up to the lock category. They end the regular season with a trip to Missouri on Saturday. The Razorbacks would have to lose both of those games and then suffer an ugly loss in the SEC tournament to end up in the NIT, but even that might not be enough to knock them out of the field of 68.
Nevada (25-5, RPI: 15, SOS: 57, Q1 record: 2-2)
I hate to sound like a broken record with Nevada, but the knock against their at-large candidacy has been clear for the entire season. They have just two Q1 wins, and only one of those was against a likely at-large team in Rhode Island. Add in bad losses to UNLV and San Francisco, and there’s simply no margin for error for the Wolf Pack. They spend this entire week on the road, visiting the same Runnin’ Rebels that already beat them in Reno, as well as San Diego State. If they lose either game, they will need to win the Mountain West tournament to have a worry-free Selection Sunday. If they win both, however, they can likely still get into the dance as an at-large team.
Florida State (19-9, RPI: 51, SOS: 88, Q1 record: 5-5)
The Seminoles lost their only game last week, surrendering 92 points to NC State in a 20-point loss. That put some of the weaknesses on display, most notably that their preference to play fast on offense can work against them thanks largely to their deficiencies on the defensive end. And yet, this team owns wins over North Carolina, Clemson, Florida, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Miami and Louisville. It will take at least two bad losses to put their at-large hopes in the balance. They visit Clemson and host Boston College this week. Win either game and they won’t have any reason for concern.
Saint Mary’s (27-4, RPI: 38, SOS: 184, Q1 record: 1-1)
The West Coast Conference tournament kicks off on Thursday. Saint Mary’s will play its first game on Friday, playing the winner of Santa Clara and Pepperdine. If the Gaels advance to the conference championship, they’ll be a lock for the dance. Lose at any point before that, however, and Selection Sunday could be a jittery day for them. They could probably afford a loss to BYU, their likely opponent in the conference semifinals, but they wouldn’t want to tempt fate with just one Q1 win and an unsightly strength of schedule. The Gaels also own losses to San Francisco and Washington State, both of which are outside the top 150 in RPI. The only excusable team for them to lose to in the WCC tournament is Gonzaga.
Missouri (18-11, RPI: 43, SOS: 26, Q1 record: 6-7)
Missouri is on Michael Porter Jr. watch, with the prized freshman possibly set to return this week. The Tigers could desperately use him after losing three straight games, with a particularly damaging reversal at home against a Mississippi team that is nowhere near the at-large picture. The Tigers are still on solid ground thanks to those six Q1 wins, including victories against Kentucky and Tennessee, but things could get interesting, in a bad way, if they lose this week. The Tigers visit Vanderbilt and host Arkansas this week. If they go 2-0, the SEC tournament is moot, as far as their at-large candidacy is concerned. If they go 1-1, they’ll be in good shape, but would likely want at least one meaningful win. If they go 0-2, they’ll need to make a run in the conference tourney.
True Bubble Teams
Teams that are undoubtedly part of the bubble picture.
Kansas State (20-9, RPI: 63, SOS: 101, Q1 record: 3-8, Q2 record: 6-0, sub-100 losses: 0)
Kansas State beat Texas at home and lost at Oklahoma last week, which is certainly a net-positive week for a team in its position. Their best wins don’t jump off the page, with their three Q1 victories coming against TCU, Texas and Baylor, but they’ve done an admirable job avoiding bad losses. Eight of their nine losses came to teams that will get at-large bids, with the ninth at the hands of Tulsa. I may be calling the Wildcats the first true bubble team, but they’re largely in the same spot as the lowest-ranked teams in the previous section. If they simply avoid would-be damaging losses, they’re going to hear their names called on Selection Sunday. They visit TCU and host Baylor to wrap up the regular season.
Providence (18-11, RPI: 44, SOS: 21, Q1 record: 3-7, Q2 record: 5-1, sub-100 losses: 3)
The Friars lost at home to Seton Hall last week, a game that could have solidified their at-large resumé. Still, they’re the only team in the country to beat both Villanova and Xavier, and they also own wins against Butler and Creighton. The three losses to teams outside the top 100 in RPI hurt and reduce the margin for error, but if Selection Sunday were last weekend, the Friars would have been relatively safe. They have opportunities to both bolster their case and get into danger this week. They can do the former if they manage to upset Xavier in Cincinnati on Wednesday. They can fall into the latter by failing to protect their homecourt against St. John’s on Saturday. The worst they could do the rest of the season and still make the tournament is to beat St. John’s and lose to a tourney-bound team in the Big East tournament. That would almost certainly be enough.
Texas (17-13, RPI: 57, SOS: 17, Q1 record: 5-10, Q2 record: 3-3, sub-100 losses: 1)
Things are getting a little too interesting for the Longhorns after losing five of their last seven games. They have one more opportunity to add a big win to their resumé on Saturday when they host West Virginia. If they lose that game, they’ll head into the Big 12 tournament needing to do some damage. Should they lose to the Mountaineers, they’d likely get Oklahoma State in the first round of the conference tourney. That would force them to win a game just to get to the point where they could play for a meaningful win. There’s a lot at stake for the Longhorns this weekend.
Miami (20-8, RPI: 31, SOS: 56, Q1 record: 4-5, Q2 record: 2-2, sub-100 losses: 2)
Miami beat Notre Dame and Boston College last week, but neither of those games did much for its at-large candidacy. The Hurricanes have two chances for resumé-builders this week with games against North Carolina and Virginia Tech. A 20-win team from the ACC is typically safely into the field, but they just don’t have the quality of wins we typically see from such a team. Their four Q1 victories came against Middle Tennessee State, NC State, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, and they also beat Louisville and Florida State. That’s a nice foundation of victories, but none of those is a signature win. Like Providence, they would have been a non-controversial selection if the season ended last week, but there’s still time for them to fall on the wrong side of the bubble. They’ll be in solid shape heading into the ACC tournament if they split their games this week, all the better if the win comes against North Carolina. If they lose both, though, they’ll need to do some real damage in the conference tourney to get an invite. Assuming a loss to the Tar Heels, the regular-season finale against Virginia Tech could make or break the Hurricanes season.
Syracuse (18-11, RPI: 46, SOS: 17, Q1 record: 2-7, Q2 record: 4-2, sub-100 losses: 2)
There’s no shame in losing to North Carolina and Duke, as Syracuse did last week, but the fact remains that the Orange are still in search of a signature victory. Without one, they’ll have to hope the Selection Committee chooses them over the likes of Louisville, UCLA, USC, Baylor and St. Bonaventure—and there’s not a whole lot differentiating those teams. If that feels like a crapshoot, it’s because it sort of is. Syracuse has one more opportunity for a signature victory in the regular season, hosting Clemson on Saturday. The Orange will first need to take care of business against Boston College on Wednesday.
UCLA (19-10, RPI; 56, SOS: 70, Q1 record: 3-6, Q2 record: 3-2, sub-100 losses: 1)
The Bruins lost at Utah and Colorado last week, but they are still one of the last four teams in the field in our most recent Bracket Watch. Out of all the inputs and stats that contribute to a team’s at-large resumé, the most important one for a bubble team is its best wins. Put simply, who can you beat? Well, UCLA has proved it can beat Kentucky and Arizona, which is about as good a pair of wins that the Committee is going to find in this neighborhood of the seed list. The Bruins can’t simply rest on those laurels, especially with teams like Baylor, Washington and LSU all owning wins over tournament locks, too. But they’re at least in good position heading into the final week of the regular season. Their game against USC on Saturday will have the feel of a de facto elimination game, though there is still room in the field of 68 for both Los Angeles teams.
St. Bonaventure (22-6, RPI: 22, SOS: 83, Q1 record: 4-2, Q2 record: 4-2, sub-100 losses: 3)
The Bonnies have eight Q1 and Q2 wins combined, as many as or more than every other true bubble team other than Kansas State, but just two of those came against teams in the at-large picture (Rhode Island, Syracuse). If the Bonnies beat Davidson on Tuesday, they’ll be locked into the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament. If they go on to lose to Rhode Island in the conference championship, it will be hard for the Selection Committee to shut them out. A loss at any point before that, though, including to Davidson or Saint Louis this week, will have them sweating through a tense Selection Sunday.
Baylor (16-12, RPI: 64, SOS: 20, Q1 record: 4-10, Q2 record: 2-2, sub-100 losses: 1)
Baylor dropped games to West Virginia and TCU last week, keeping the Bears squarely on the bubble heading into the last week of the regular season. We have them as one of the last four teams in the field, thanks primarily to wins over Kansas and Texas Tech. Like UCLA, they have passed the “Who can you beat?” test. Also like UCLA, they haven’t done enough to get into the field simply by avoiding bad losses. They have great opportunities to strengthen their resumé this week, hosting Oklahoma on Tuesday and visiting Kansas State on Saturday. A win in either game would be huge, while two wins could have them close to a lock going into the Big 12 tournament.
USC (21-9, RPI: 28, SOS: 45, Q1 record: 4-5, Q2 record: 4-3, sub-100 losses: 1)
The SI.com Bracket Watch has USC just on the outside looking in at the tournament field, where most of our counterparts have them on the other side of the bubble. Why do we come down harsher on the Trojans? Their four Q1 wins came against Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State, Utah and Oregon. It’s entirely possible the Trojans have zero wins against eventual at-large teams and that’s not a realistic path to the big dance. The Trojans may have a strong record and RPI, but they still need to make some noise in the Pac-12 tournament. The importance of beating UCLA this week cannot be overstated. That would lock the Trojans into the No. 2 seed, giving them an easily navigable path to the Pac-12 championship game. If they get there, they should get into the dance, win or lose.
Louisville (19-10, RPI: 39, SOS: 32, Q1 record: 3-8, Q2 record: 2-2, sub-100 losses: 0)
Thanks to their RPI, strength of schedule and lack of bad losses, the Cardinals are in prime position to vault in front of their fellow bubblers. To do so, however, they need to add at least one big win to their resumé. Despite the positives of their case, it’s hard to overlook the fact that their best win of the season came at Florida State. They’ve lost every time they’ve stepped up in weight class, going 0-8 against teams inside the top 35 in RPI. They end the season with a couple of great opportunities, hosting Virginia on Thursday and visiting NC State on Saturday. Even if they can’t spring the upset on the Cavaliers, a win in Raleigh would become their best of the season. If they do that and add one meaningful win before the ACC tournament, they could end up just on the right side of the bubble.
Washington (19-10, RPI: 51, SOS: 44, Q1 record: 3-5, Q2 record: 2-3, sub-100 losses: 1)
The Huskies are in solid shape for a team that we have placed just on the wrong side of the bubble, thanks to wins over Kansas and Arizona. There won’t be many teams in the bubble discussion that can show off wins of that caliber and that gives the Huskies a key point of differentiation. So, what’s the formula for them to get into the field? First, they need to take care of business against Oregon State and Oregon this week. It’s too early to tell where that would land them in the Pac-12 tournament, but that might not matter. Arizona is the only team in the Pac-12 guaranteed to raise an opponent’s profile. In that vein, the Huskies would be better off as the No. 4 or 5 seed in the conference, rather than the No. 2 or 3.
LSU (16-12, RPI: 81, SOS: 52, Q1 record: 6-6, Q2 record: 2-5, sub-100 losses: 2)
The country’s most interesting bubble team stayed weird last week, beating Vanderbilt and losing to Georgia. Not only do they have more Q1 wins than Duke, Michigan State, Clemson and Cincinnati, but all six of them are against certain or likely tournament teams. At the same time, the Committee isn’t going to just gloss over losses to Vanderbilt—the Tigers fell to the Commodores in their first meeting of the season—and Stephen F. Austin. In short, the Tigers resumé may already be strong enough in terms of quality of wins, but it cannot afford one more damaging loss. Neither of their remaining opponents in the regular season—South Carolina and Mississippi State—is a pushover, but given where the Tigers stand they have to win those games.
Marquette (17-12, RPI: 62, SOS: 28, Q1 record: 4-7, Q2 record: 3-4, sub-100 losses: 1)
If Marquette ultimately misses out on the dance, it might look back in horror at last Saturday’s loss to DePaul. The Golden Eagles were headed in the right direction before that game after road victories over Seton Hall and Creighton. The loss to the Blue Demons, however, wiped out nearly all that goodwill. There’s still time for them to win their way into the big dance, but they’re going to need at least two big wins the rest of the way. After beating Georgetown on Monday, they end their regular season against Creighton on Saturday. A win there—and one more meaningful one in the Big East tournament—will give them a shot at an at-large bid.
Utah (18-10, RPI: 55, SOS: 64, Q1 record: 3-6, Q2 record: 3-3, sub-100 losses: 1)
Utah split games at home with UCLA and USC last week. While it wasn’t a bad week, the Utes aren’t in a position to be dropping any games that could be described, even remotely, as resumé-building. As we discussed with respect to Washington, the big problem for Pac-12 bubble teams is there aren’t many opportunities to make significant gains in the conference tournament. Utah is comfortably behind the likes of Syracuse, Baylor and Louisville. Are they really going to jump in front of those teams by beating Oregon, Stanford or UCLA? Probably not. In other words, unless the Utes beat Arizona, they’re going to need some help from their brethren on the bubble.
Mississippi State (20-8, RPI: 61, SOS: 125, Q1 record: 3-6, Q2 record: 4-2, sub-100 losses: 2)
The Bulldogs remain in the thick of things after wins over Texas A&M and South Carolina last week. Their home game with Tennessee on Tuesday could determine what they need to do the rest of the season. A win there sets them up to play for an at-large bid. A loss likely forces them to win the SEC tournament, or, at the very least, to do significant damage next week.
Georgia (16-12, RPI: 70, SOS: 62, Q1 record: 4-8, Q2 record: 4-2, sub-100 losses, 3)
Georgia woke up over the last two weeks, notching victories over Florida, Tennessee and LSU. The Bulldogs stay in this section because of their remaining schedule. If they can find a way to beat both Texas A&M and Tennessee this week, they’ll have six Q1 victories heading into the SEC tournament. At that point, they’d have themselves in position to bully their way into the field with another win or two in the conference tourney.
On the Fringe
Teams that are still alive, but are in immediate danger of falling out of at-large contention.
Temple (16-12, RPI: 40, SOS: 7, Q1 record: 3-8, Q2 record: 5-0, sub-100 losses: 3)
The three sub-100 losses could be too much for Temple to overcome, even with victories over Auburn, Clemson and Wichita State. They likely need to beat two of Cincinnati, Wichita State and Houston in the AAC tournament as the starting point for a possible at-large bid. They’d also need to take care of business against Connecticut and Tulsa this week.
Oklahoma State (16-13, RPI: 102, SOS: 73, Q1 record: 3-11, Q2 record: 3-2, sub-100 losses: 0)
We can’t take the Cowboys off the board yet, not when they have wins over Kansas, West Virginia and Texas Tech, and one more game remaining with the Jayhawks. If they lose that one, or fall at Iowa State on Tuesday, they’ll be out of at-large contention. For the time being, they’re hanging on by a thread.
Nebraska (22-9, RPI: 59, SOS: 120, Q1 record: 1-5, Q2 record: 2-3, sub-100 losses: 1)
Nebraska wrapped up its regular season with wins over Indiana and Penn State last week. The Cornhuskers are the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament, which means a likely date with Michigan in the conference quarterfinals. They’ll need to win that game, hope that Michigan State beats the Wisconsin-Maryland winner, and then knock off the Spartans to have any shot for an at-large bid.
Penn State (19-12, RPI: 84, SOS: 81, Q1 record: 2-7, Q2 record: 2-2, sub-100 losses: 4)
The Nittany Lions likely don’t have any hope of an at-large bid, but if we’re wrong about that, then they have to run through Northwestern, Ohio State and Purdue in the Big Ten tournament to get into the dance. That is highly unlikely and even that wouldn’t be a guarantee to get them into the field.
Oregon (19-10, RPI: 72, SOS: 72, Q1 record: 2-5, Q2 record: 4-3, sub-100 losses: 2)
Oregon, too, is hanging onto a sliver of hope for an at-large bid. They’ll first have to sweep the state of Washington this week. That is so unlikely that, for the time being, we’ll stop there. If they manage to beat both the Cougars and Huskies, we’ll touch on their situation in full next week.
Loyola-Chicago (24-5, RPI: 32, SOS: 142, Q1 record: 1-1, Q2 record: 2-2, sub-100 losses: 4)
I still think the Ramblers have no hope for an at-large bid. I have been wrong before, however, and the Bubble Watch is all about inclusion of any team with a non-zero chance to get an invite from the Committee. The Ramblers polished off their Missouri Valley regular season championship with a win over Illinois State last weekend. Despite a strong non-conference win at Florida, they almost certainly need the automatic bid to get to the dance. Any loss before the conference championship will eliminate the little hope they do have of an at-large bid.
Middle Tennessee State (22-5, RPI: 24, SOS: 86, Q1 record: 3-3, Q2 record: 1-1, sub-100 losses: 1)
The Blue Raiders are in the same position as Loyola, dominating their conference so thoroughly that they’re at least a blip on the at-large radar. They do have three Q1 wins, but those came against Western Kentucky, Murray State and Old Dominion. Like Loyola, the earliest they can lose and still get into the dance is their conference championship game. They also have two more regular season games to navigate, hosting Western Kentucky and Marshall this week.