NCAA Tournament bubble watch: Wake Forest still in, passes test vs. BC

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The major conference tournaments start Tuesday with the ACC tournament in New York. 

The committee does not overemphasize what happens in the conference tournaments, but it is an opportunity for teams to pick up quality wins on a neutral court, and there are definitely some teams that need that.  

The ACC in particular has a couple of teams close to the cut line of the bracket that could use one of those big wins. One of those is the only bubble team playing Tuesday, but it’s not looking at a big win.

Wake Forest 92, Boston College Eagles 78

The Demon Deacons survived comfortably and advanced in the ACC tournament on Tuesday, avoiding what could have been the kind of loss that sent them to the NIT. They move on to play Virginia Tech, a team they beat on the road in their regular-season finale. That is an opportunity to improve on Wake’s 3-9 record against the RPI top 50.

Probably in

The Rams have been pretty good at home, but they have a couple of bad losses away from home, including a loss at Fordham Rams and a blowout to Illinois. They fought back to make the game at Dayton Flyers close but could not get over the hump. It would help if VCU could beat Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

Arkansas was in serious trouble following a loss at Missouri Tigers and a big home loss to Vanderbilt. The Hogs have come back to life though with a win at South Carolina Gamecocks , their first over a likely tournament team, as part of a stretch of six wins in seven games. Arkansas should be OK if it can avoid a bad loss at this point.

The Friars finished the season winning six straight to put themselves into the bracket. If they can avoid a fourth bad loss, they will likely stay there.

Marquette has some good wins, but a lot of losses. The Golden Eagles didn’t play a very good non-conference schedule and are paying for that a little bit now as well. Marquette finished well though and is one win away from getting off this list.

On the fence

We welcome Xavier to the bubble, although now that I say that, nobody that once appeared to be comfortably in wants to be welcomed here. The Musketeers are tanking. They lost six in a row to fall to 18-12 but stopped that skid at DePaul Blue Demons . They get the Blue Demons to open the Big East tournament. They need the same result.

URI has now has four top-100 wins after a much-needed win over VCU at home. Now, the Rams need to avoid giving that away, which they tried to do against Davidson Wildcats . URI already has two bad losses at home and nothing but potential bad losses left on its schedule until deep into the conference tournament.

The Spartans picked up a big victory over Wisconsin Badgers and have now won four out of five. However, all four wins came at home. Their past two road games -- at Purdue Boilermakers and Michigan Wolverines -- they lost by a combined 47 points. They were more competitive at Illinois and Maryland Terrapins  but still fell short. The Spartans might not survive a three-game losing streak at the end of the season.

The Bears have just four top-100 wins, including one at Southern California Trojans , and a questionable loss to San Diego State Aztecs . They need to add to the quality win count, but that will not be possible until the conference tournament. They are coming off a dismal road trip during which they lost at Utah Utes and Colorado Buffaloes .

The Wildcats beat Texas Tech Red Raiders for their first two-game winning streak in over a month. KSU does not really need quality wins, but its prospects would be a lot brighter if it could repeat its upset of Baylor Bears in the Big 12 tournament.

Probably out

The Redbirds won a share of the Missouri Valley regular-season title, which in most years would mean they did enough to earn an at-large bid if they needed one. That is not the case this season, with the league at its lowest point in over a decade. ISU has only two top-100 wins, which usually is not enough. It also has a couple bad losses, including a real clunker at Murray State Racers .

Nevada is one of the co-leaders of the Mountain West and has five top-100 wins, but has not beaten a sure tournament team. In fact, it has played only one and got blown out at Saint Mary’s. The Wolf Pack already have a handful of bad losses, and that might be too many, so obviously, they cannot take another one. They swept Boise State Broncos , which could be helpful if they are competing for one at-large bid.

In 2013, the Raiders became one of the least deserving teams to ever receive an at-large bid when they got one with just one RPI top-100 win. They are already in better shape now, with four to their name. Two of them are over other non-major conference leaders, but none over likely at-large teams. They also have a home loss to Tennessee State Tigers and a real clunker at UTEP. There is little margin for error playing a C-USA schedule.

Teams are usually on the bubble because I think they have some shot at an at-large bid. Vanderbilt Commodores does not really meet that standard. The Commodores are trying to become the first team to get an at-large bid with 15 losses. They definitely have some nice wins, including a sweep of Florida Gators , but if they don’t beat the Gators again in the SEC tournament, the Commodores won’t even be four games above .500. Historically speaking, that is the minimum mark to get an at-large bid.

The Illini have some nice, if not great wins, but a mediocre record against better competition. Their best wins are a sweep of Northwestern Wildcats and they pounded VCU. However, they are just 17-13 overall after a loss to Rutgers Scarlet Knights . They will have to do some work at the Big Ten tournament.

The Orange are back, but not the lock that the TV announcers declared after the big win over Duke Blue Devils . They are able to beat anyone at home, but the tournament is not played on home courts and Syracuse is just 2-10 away from the Carrier Dome after getting blown out at Louisville. Even with wins over Duke, Florida State Seminoles and Virginia Cavaliers , they have an RPI in the high 70s. That is not a good sign. Syracuse has hope again, but is far from a lock, even if it did end the season with a win over Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets .

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Jerry Palm started writing about sports on the Internet right after Al Gore invented it. He was the first to bring RPI out in the open and is one of the pioneers of predicting the March Madness bracket.... Full Bio

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