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College Hoops Barometer: Bubble Watch

Jesse Siegel

Jesse Siegel

Siegel covers college football, college basketball and minor league baseball for RotoWire. He was named College Sports Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Welcome to the Second Edition of the Bubble Watch, courtesy of the College Hoops Barometer. We've had an extra week of games, an extra week of analysis. What have we learned? The Bubble is more crowded than ever. We'll try not to repeat teams from last week's article, but inevitably some teams just can't find their way off of the dividing line. However, this season has been so wild that it may just be possible to revaluate the entire bubble in just one week.

Who is close to seeing their dreams collapse, and who could sneak into the Big Dance?

Let's see how many alternatives there are for the word "madness" in this week's College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

Temple -
The Owls' win on Sunday against Virginia Commonwealth punctuated a seven-game winning streak to end the regular season. Star guard Khalif Wyatt scored 30 points against the Rams to give Temple the crucial victory. The triumph pushed Temple's record to 23-8 overall, as well as 11-5 in the A-10. Victories over Saint Louis and Syracuse only add to the Owls' resume. A bad loss to Duquesne (1-15 in conference) looms large, but should not disqualify the Owls on its own from NCAA Tournament play. Assuming they don't lose their first game in the Atlantic 10 tourney, the Owls have done enough to gain entry into the big dance.

Iowa -
The Hawkeyes' inclusion here does not mean they are a lock to get into the Field of 68. Rather, they have simply improved their stock through a combination of big wins and the fall of other potential bubble squads. Playing in the Big Ten helps their supporters, though the overall Strength of Schedule still sits at just 99. Iowa has won six of its last eight conference tilts, with one of those losses coming to Indiana. They also beat likely tournament teams in Illinois and Minnesota over that span. At 20-11 overall and 9-9 in conference, the Hawkeyes are on the cusp. Two wins in the conference tourney may be necessary to secure a bid.

Memphis -
The Tigers get penalized for playing in a weak conference, but one may find it interesting to know that overall their Strength of Schedule sits at 20, and their RPI is 16. Likewise, an undefeated campaign in Conference USA still cannot be ignored. Memphis has a rather bland resume, though that may not be a bad thing. Despite having no big wins, they have also suffered zero devastating losses. If consistency is the name of the game, then the Tigers should be good enough at 27-4 to get into the tourney.

California -
A seven-game winning streak toward the end of the regular season should give the Bears a major boost. Over that stretch, Cal beat Arizona and Oregon. Two losses to Stanford won't aid their cause, but the Cardinal have emerged as a bubble team themselves. Cal has not lost to a team with a losing record; a Strength of Schedule at 85 hurts, but an RPI of 37 will help. Cal split with Colorado (see below), but has a better conference record and has been playing better than the Buffs heading into the tournament. As a result, they get the slight nod over their fellow Pac-12 foe.

CHECK STATUS

Tennessee -
With eight wins over their last nine contests, the Vols may have just played their way into the NCAA Tournament. They beat Florida, Mizzou and Kentucky over that span, though did lose at Georgia in their one blemish. Tennessee's only big non-conference wins came against Wichita State and Xavier, though, and an RPI of 86 isn't going to thrill the selection committee. An overall Strength of Schedule at 35 is solid, but a non-conference schedule ranked 135 is not aesthetically pleasing. The Vols have passed the so-called "Eye Test" lately, but their overall resume still makes them a question mark heading into Selection Sunday.

Boise State -
The Broncos also have surged lately, winning five of their last six games, including a victory over San Diego State. Boise State has also beaten Creighton this season. Nevada and Utah are the only two bad losses for the Broncos, who sit at 21-9 overall and 9-7 in the extremely competitive Mountain West. Can five teams from this conference get in? A non-conference SOS of 297 hurts, as does an overall RPI of 173. The Broncos likely will have to make a run, and get some help, to go dancing.

Colorado -
The Buffs are the epitome of a team on the fence. They are 20-10 overall, but just 10-8 in the conference. They did beat Arizona once and Oregon twice, but the Pac-12 isn't exactly the Big Ten. Otherwise, their biggest win of the season came against fellow bubble squad Baylor. Strength of Schedule (71) and RPI (62) also have them right on the fringe of March Madness eligibility. The Buffaloes may need to make a push at the Pac-12 Championship to firmly entrench themselves in the Tournament.

Oregon -
The Pac-12 is all over this list, and that isn't necessarily a good thing. The Ducks stormed out of the gate to 18-2 but sputtered thereafter. Can a 5-6 finish undo the Ducks season? It's not likely, but a first-round exit in the Pac-12 Tournament could make Oregon sweat. Oregon has wins over UNLV, Arizona and UCLA, but dropped two games to the team just above them on this list (Colorado), and lost the regular-season finale to a 13-17 Utah squad. The Ducks still look like they have enough to squeak by, but nothing is a given in this topsy-turvy season.

DOWNGRADE

Providence -
With all the mayhem taking place this season, even the Friars have emerged as a fringe squad. Providence is 17-13 overall, 9-9 in the Big East. The problem for the Friars is that they suffered some brutal losses at the beginning of the season, with defeats to Penn State, UMass, BC, Brown and DePaul. They did find a way to beat Villanova twice, and Cincinnati and Notre Dame fell to the Friars at home as well. However, an RPI rank of 84, along with a 265 non-conference SOS (and 8-4 record in those games), should leave Providence on the outside looking in come tourney time.

Arizona State -
The Sun Devils picked the wrong time to get cold. ASU has dropped its last four contests, plunging it to 9-9 in the Pac-12 and 20-11 overall. The Sun Devils started the season 14-2, but have stalled since. Even still, their biggest win in the non-conference portion of the schedule came against Arkansas. They have beaten the above-mentioned Buffaloes twice, as well as Cal and UCLA once, but otherwise have a very mediocre resume. ASU still has some work to do if they are to gain tournament access.

Ole Miss -
The Rebels have had a similar season to the Sun Devils. Ole Miss started 17-2, but then dropped six of the following 10 games. However, Mississippi won its last two regular season contests to push its record to 23-8 overall, with a 12-6 SEC conference record. On the downside, the best win for the Rebels came against Missouri, and they lost to Indiana State, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and South Carolina. An RPI of 56 and a Strength of Schedule of 130 won't help them much either. At this point, Ole Miss is just on the outside looking in, and will need a run in SEC Tournament to change the committee's mind.

Xavier -
The Musketeers have a rollercoaster of a resume. Xavier has nice wins against Saint Louis and Memphis, but horrible losses at home against Wofford and Pacific. A 9-7 record in the A-10 might spell doom for the Musketeers, along with an RPI of 79. At 17-13, they simply may not have enough muscle to get it done. Losses to Wake Forest and Vanderbilt also will not bode well when the committee evaluates the Musketeers. In sum, Xavier may only be here because of just how many teams have been inconsistent over the course of the 2012-2013 campaign.

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