While no teams were able to move to lock status on Tuesday night, Providence, Seton Hall, and Georgia Tech all held serve at home, while Vanderbilt missed a golden opportunity by blowing a huge lead at Kentucky.
This will provide a snapshot into the current state of locks and bubble teams for each conference, which I’ll plan to update after each night’s games.
Locks: Duke, Florida State, Louisville, Miami (FL), North Carolina, Notre Dame, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Clemson (14-14) – A laundry list of narrow misses has the Tigers at 14-14 on the season with a profile featuring a handful of good but not great wins. Home dates with NC State and Boston College this week won’t move the needle, so a deep ACC Tournament run is a must.
Georgia Tech (16-13) – Tuesday’s win over Pitt keeps the Jackets in the conversation despite an RPI hovering around 90th. They boast four Top 25 RPI wins, but those are offset by an ugly non-conference strength of schedule and a 2-9 road record, which means they need to find a way to win at Syracuse this weekend.
Syracuse (17-13) – Normally wins over the likes of Duke, Virginia, and Florida State would make you a lock, but Syracuse has a trio of sub-100 losses and an ugly 2-10 mark in road and neutral games. Their lone remaining game comes at home against fellow bubbler Georgia Tech.
Wake Forest (16-12) – The Demon Deacons are just 1-9 against the RPI Top 50, and that lack of quality wins overshadows solid KenPom numbers and an impressive non-conference strength of schedule. They have a chance to change that against Louisville and Virginia Tech this week.
Locks: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma State, West Virginia
Kansas State (17-12) – The Wildcats have three terrific wins against West Virginia at home and on the road against Baylor and Oklahoma State. Unfortunately they’ve done very little else, just got blown out by 30 at Oklahoma, and have an awful non-conference strength of schedule.
TCU (16-12) – Jamie Dixon’s club is just 2-10 against the RPI Top 50 and has just three wins over at-large caliber teams. The Horned Frogs have lost five straight heading into must-win games this week against Kansas State and at Oklahoma.
Locks: Butler, Creighton, Villanova
Marquette (17-11) – A home win over Villanova carries some serious weight, which is great news given Marquette’s ugly non-conference strength of schedule. The Golden Eagles have five Top 50 wins, but are a game below .500 against the Top 200, which suggests a split in games at Xavier and home against Creighton this week is a must.
Providence (19-11) – The good news is the Friars have six Top 50 wins. The bad news is they’ve lost to St. John’s, DePaul, and Boston College, although a 10-8 mark against the Top 100 helps to offset those blemishes. They took care of business at home against St. John’s on Tuesday and need to do the same at DePaul in the regular season finale.
Seton Hall (19-10) – Three top 50 wins are nice, but each of those game against teams missing key players. The Pirates have just one sub-100 loss and are 11-10 against the RPI Top 200, which is more than some bubble teams can claim. They managed to hold off Georgetown on Tuesday night and wrap up the regular season at Butler.
Xavier (18-11) – The Musketeers’ RPI is solid, and they have just one sub-100 loss, but injuries have played a significant factor in their current five-game losing streak. I think one more win moves them to a lock with games this week at home against Marquette and a trip to DePaul.
Locks: Maryland, Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin
Illinois (16-12) – Even a few weeks ago I would not have expected to still be talking about the Illini, but here we are. A recent sweep of Northwestern gives them four wins against at-large hopefuls and nine Top 100 wins. Wednesday’s home date with Michigan State is essentially a must-win game.
Michigan (19-10) – The Wolverines boast 11 Top 100 victories and have no sub-100 losses, which leaves them close to a lock heading into a pair of road games at Northwestern and at Nebraska this week.
Michigan State (18-11) – One more win moves Sparty to lock status in my eyes with road games at Illinois and Maryland on tap this week. MSU has six solid wins, but a home loss to Northeastern complicates things a bit.
Northwestern (20-9) – Much like the aforementioned Michigan schools, Northwestern is a win away from moving onto the lock list. Home dates with Michigan and Purdue won’t make that easy but provide opportunities to improve upon their three Top 50 wins and 9-9 mark against the Top 100.
Locks: Arizona, Oregon, UCLA
California (19-9) – The Bears are 10-6 in the Pac-12, but they have just one Top 50 win, which came against fellow bubbler USC by a single point. They missed a golden opportunity to knock off Oregon last week, which puts a ton of pressure on this week’s road trip to Utah and Colorado.
USC (21-8) – A pair of Top 20 wins over UCLA and SMU are keeping the Trojans alive for now, but there isn’t much else on their profile. Taking care of business against the Washington schools this week won’t move the needle much, but they can’t really afford another loss either.
Locks: Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina
Arkansas (22-7) – The Hogs are nearing lock status, but sub-100 losses to Mississippi State and Missouri have them still on the bubble for now. A 10-5 mark against the Top 100 helps, and a split of this week’s games at Florida and home against Georgia would be enough to lock up a bid.
Georgia (16-12) – Selfishly I’d love to see J.J. Frazier get the Bulldogs to the tournament, but that seems like a long shot thanks to a 1-7 mark against the Top 50 and no wins over surefire at-large teams. They need to sweep this week’s games against Auburn and at Arkansas to truly be in the conversation.
Tennessee (14-14) – The Vols have a home win over Kentucky, but they are four games under .500 against the RPI Top 200. Even a good non-conference strength of schedule doesn’t offset that, which means they need wins over LSU and Alabama this week as well as a deep SEC Tournament run.
Vanderbilt (16-14) – Vandy jumped out to a big lead at Rupp Arena against Kentucky but couldn’t hold on for what could have been a critical victory. The Commodores boast the nation’s toughest non-conference schedule, which coupled with four Top 40 wins gives them a compelling case. That said, a 20-point loss at Mizzou, as well as the 14 total losses are potential issues, which makes this weekend’s game against Florida essentially a must-win.
Locks: Cincinnati, SMU
Houston (20-8) – Thursday’s trip to Cincinnati is huge for the Cougars, whose best wins have come against Rhode Island and Vermont. Three sub-100 losses leave no margin for error at this point.
Rhode Island (19-9) – Saturday’s win over VCU gave URI a much-needed quality win. The Rams now boast a pair of Top 25 victories, but they are just 4-7 against the Top 100 with two sub-100 losses. They need to hold serve this week with games at Saint Joseph’s and home against Davidson.
VCU (23-6) – A win at Rhode Island on Saturday would have made the Rams a lock, and a win at Dayton this week would do the same. Either way, VCU is in decent shape with a pair of Top 50 wins and a 7-4 mark against the Top 100.
Locks: Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
Illinois State (24-5) – The Redbirds finished 17-1 in the MVC, but they have just one Top 50 win and are 2-3 against the Top 100. A sub-200 loss at Murray State certainly doesn’t help matters, which means a run to the Valley Finals is a must.
Middle Tennessee (24-4) – If not for a loss at sub-200 UTEP, the Blue Raiders would be close to a lock thanks to a 4-1 mark against the Top 100 and a great non-conference strength of schedule. They should finish C-USA play at 17-1 after winnable games this week against FAU and FIU. If they can get to the finals, I give them a solid chance.
Nevada (23-6) – On paper the six Top 100 wins look nice, but a sweep of Boise State accounts for their only victories over Top 80 teams. In the end I don’t think the resume is strong enough to get an at-large, but I suppose winning out until the MWC Finals could make things interesting.
UNC-Wilmington (24-5) – There isn’t a Top 50 (or even a Top 60) win among those 24 victories, which means the Seahawks have slim at-large hopes even if they make the finals of the CAA Tournament.
UT-Arlington (20-6) – A pair of sub-200 losses may prove too much to overcome, even though one of them came with star Kevin Hervey sidelined. UTA’s road win at Saint Mary’s keeps them in the mix for now, but they can’t lose again until the Sun Belt Finals at best.
Wichita State (26-4) – The Shockers missed opportunities for quality wins in the Battle 4 Atlantis but have no losses to teams outside of the Top 50. They have just one Top 50 win but are hovering around the Top 10 on KenPom, which suggests they are probably safe so long as they make the MVC Finals.
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