Posted on: February 25, 2011 6:19 pm

Weekend Bubble Watch - Feb. 26 and 27

by Jerry Palm

There are great opportunities ahead for some teams on the bubble to make a strong statement that they belong in the NCAA.

Virginia Tech will try to play their way off the Seth Greenberg Memorial Bubble when they host Duke on Saturday.  The Hokies could really use a quality win, but unfortunately, the ACC doesn't provide a lot of chances for those.  You have to take advantage of the ones that present themselves.

Baylor's hopes are fading fast, but they can resurrect them with a win over Texas A&M, which would complete the season sweep of the Aggies.  The Bears are coming off a home loss to Texas Tech, so perhaps that is asking too much.

Kansas State
hopes to continue its run of good play when it hosts Missouri.   The Wildcats have breathed some life into their tournament hopes by winning five of six, including that blowout of Kansas.   A win over the Tigers would be its second over a top 50 RPI opponent.

Michigan visits Minnesota in a crucial game for both teams.  Michigan needs to beat quality teams, or at least other contenders, to pump up its tournament profile.  The Gophers just need to stop the bleeding.  They have lost six of eight since the injury to star Al Nolen.

UCLA not only has a chance to pick up a quality win when it hosts Arizona on Saturday, but the Bruins can also pull within a game of first place in the Pac 10.  UCLA's tournament resume is missing quality wins away from home.  That can't be fixed on Saturday, but every good win helps.

Alabama travels to Ole Miss, the only other top 100 RPI team in the SEC West.  The Tide cannot afford to be caught looking ahead to Tuesday night's battle at Florida.   The Rebels tournament at-large hopes appear to be dashed, but they can still play spoiler here.

Also on Saturday, St. Mary's hosts Portland.   The last time they met was also right after the Gaels played Gonzaga, and St. Mary's had a let down after a big win and got beat.   Now, they have to keep from hanging their heads after a tough loss and letting Gonzaga beat them twice.  If St. Mary's is going to hold out hope for an at-large bid, they cannot afford to lose to Portland.

Dayton has a chance to add a little zip to an otherwise bland tournament profile when they host rival Xavier in the A-10.  So far, the Flyers biggest win is over George Mason at home, and if that's all they have on selection weekend, that probably won't be enough.

And finally, Michigan State can all but punch its ticket when it hosts Purdue on Sunday.  They can also make a statement that they are back to being the Spartans we are used to seeing.

Posted on: January 18, 2011 2:14 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2011 3:29 pm

January 18 Bracket - Changes at the Top

by Jerry Palm

A new bracket is available again this morning.

There is a change at the top.  Losses by Duke and Syracuse have dropped them down from the top line.  They have been replaced by Pitt, which beat the Orange on Monday, and San Diego State.

There is actually a case for Syracuse to keep that fourth spot.  Certainly, its loss to Pittsburgh is better than the Panthers' loss to Tennessee in Pittsburgh (but not on their home floor).  The Orange were also without their leading scorer, Kris Joseph, which is something the committee would consider.  However, Pitt has a better collection of wins (4 top 20 teams), so for now, the Panthers rate a slight edge.

Arizona cracked the top 25 of the coaches poll this week because of a gaudy record and a name program, but the Wildcats have only just barely cracked the bottom of my bracket.  They have only three top 100 wins, all at home against teams not a threat to make the bracket as at-large teams.  They also managed to lose to one of the worst teams in a major conference, Oregon State.  It's a very similar profile to Florida State's, despite a big RPI difference.  FSU is 67th and Arizona is 28th.  The biggest difference is that the Seminoles played a handful of 200-250 RPI teams, while Arizona played several in the 150-200 range.  Those two are bracketed to play each other in the First Four.

Purdue and Washington are teams that are not living up to their rankings.  The Boilers lost twice on the road last week, although they did manage to pick up a their first top 50 RPI win of the season.  Valparaiso, which Purdue beat back in December, has crawled up to 49th.  Purdue was competitive in both losses at Minnesota and West Virginia, but it's about time for the Boilers to start racking up quality wins.

Fortunately for them, they're in the Big Ten, where they get a chance at quality wins pretty much ever week.  Washington isn't as lucky.  Although the Pac 10 isn't quite as bad as it was a year ago, there is still only two top 50 RPI teams, the Huskies and Arizona.  Also, Washington didn't pick up any quality non-conference wins (Portland at home is the best), which means it's tougher to build a case for a good seed, or if things go a little badly, selection.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com