By Alex Solsma
1 ) Michigan State (14-10, 6-6 Big Ten) RPI: 49 SOS: 8
I did not think that Michigan State, a team that was in the Final Four last year and was preseason #2, would be a team fighting to get into the tournament late in the season. This week Michigan State has to play at Ohio State (RPI #3) on Tuesday and hosts Illinois on Saturday. Michigan State can’t afford many more losses after dropping games to Michigan, Penn State, Illinois, and Iowa.
2 ) Kansas State (16-9, 4-6 Big 12) RPI: 40 SOS: 17
#1 Kansas comes into Manhattan on Monday. It is not a must win game to get into the tournament, but getting that win would drastically help their cause. Beating Oklahoma on Saturday will be a must win.
3 ) Georgia (17-7, 6-4 SEC) RPI: 41 SOS: 40
Georgia gets Vanderbilt at home on Wednesday and then goes to Rocky Top to play Tennessee on Saturday. Huge week for Georgia. If they drop both games, they won’t have many more opportunities to pick up signature wins in the weak SEC.
4 ) Cincinnati (19-6, 6-6) RPI: 55 SOS: 108
You wouldn’t think that a Big East team with a 19-6 record would be on the bubble, but Cincy had arguably the worst out of conference schedule of any major conference program. Their only big wins came against Xavier and St. John’s, but those are not really jaw-dropping wins. If they want to be taken seriously, they have to beat one of the big boys in the Big East. They can do that this Wednesday when they host Louisville (RPI #24). They also can’t look past a road trip to Providence on Saturday. Villanova and Louisville have already came up with L’s at the Dunkin Donuts Center this season.
5 ) Virginia Tech (16-7, 6-4 ACC) RPI: 66 SOS: 98
VA Tech makes their yearly appearance on the bubble watch. They could have used a win at Boston College last week, but they have a big week this week because they face fellow bubble team Maryland in Blacksburg and they have a tricky road game at UVA on Saturday.
6 ) Maryland (16-9, 5-5 ACC) RPI: 89 SOS: 81
Maryland is on the wrong side of the bubble this week due to their weak RPI. This week they have to travel to VA Tech and they host NC State on Sunday. Win both and they can work their way back into the tourney discussion.
7 ) Boston College (16-9, 6-5 ACC) RPI: 43 SOS: 21
Other than the win versus Texas A&M, Boston College does not have many impressive wins. They can change that on Tuesday if they can beat North Carolina (RPI #11) They need to beat Miami on Saturday (who they lost to earlier in the season) and finish out the season with wins at UVA, Virginia Tech, and Wake. They can’t lose too many more games to earn a bid.
8 ) Marquette (15-10, 6-6 Big East) RPI: 57 SOS: 31
If teams got bonus points for really close losses, Marquette might have already eclipsed the bubble. They lost by 5 points or less to teams like Duke, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Gonzaga. Quality wins versus West Virginia, Syracuse, and Notre Dame are keeping them on the bubble. This week they very winnable have home games versus St. John’s and Seton Hall to keep their hopes alive.
9 ) St. John’s (15-9, 7-5 Big East) RPI: 17 SOS:1
Purely looking at their RPI and strength of schedule, St. John’s would seem like a lock for the tourney, but they have had their struggles along the way. They have some of the most impressive wins in the country, since they beat Duke, Georgetown, UCONN, West Virginia, Notre Dame and Cincinnati. With all due respect to Fordham and St. Bonaventure, those are AWFUL losses. This week they have a big road game at Marquette and they host Pitt (RPI #6) at the Garden on Saturday. Barring some more shocking losses, this team should be dancing in March.
10 ) Illinois (16-9, 6-6 Big Ten) RPI: 39 SOS: 22
The last few years, Illinois has been notorious for winning big games and then having head-scratching losses. They get an improved Michigan team in Campaign on Tuesday and then have a monster game in East Lansing on Saturday against fellow bubble team Michigan State.