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Bracketology: In/Out for College Basketball's Top Bubble Teams

With college football and the Super Bowl seeming like just days ago (it has now been nearly two weeks since the Patriots stifled Russell Wilson and Seattle for their fourth title), it has overshadowed the fact that March Madness is fast approaching, now just a month away. For many teams, like Kentucky, Virginia, Wisconsin, etc., they will not have to worry about playing in March, no matter what happens in the month between now and then. But, for others, now is the most important part of their seasons. Every single game could mean the difference between playing in the Big Dance or sitting at home watching it on TV. Which of the sports' biggest bubble teams appear destined to make some noise in March, and which appear destined for the NIT (or worse)?

Will Cummings and Temple
Temple Owls 18-7, 9-3 conference (American Athletic)
RPI: 34 SOS: 56 Big Win: vs. Cincinnati, February 10th

Fran Dunphy's first season leading the Owls in the new look American Athletic Conference was by all standards a complete disaster. A program that had perennial success in the Atlantic 10, the Owls limped to a 9-22 overall record, and a 4-14 conference mark. But, this year they have looked great, going 18-7, 9-3 in the conference (3rd as of right now), even with some injuries. Despite having little offensive threats beyond sharpshooting guard Will Cummings, Temple has been strong all year and does have some solid wins. An overtime victory against UConn adds a nice win to their resume, and getting vengeance against Cincinnati this past Tuesday really helped. Though, the thing helping the Owls' case the most, is the fact they have no bad losses. Outside of a two-point loss to St. Josephs early on the year, all of their losses have been to likely tournament teams, and strong tourney teams at that. While Dunphy's club has a tough stretch ending February (face the two teams in front of them inside the conference, Tulsa and SMU) they appear to be in very good position to get back to the tourney.
Verdict: In

Miami Hurricanes 15-9, 5-6 conference (ACC)
RPI: 64 SOS: 52 Big Win: @ Duke, January 13th

The Hurricanes have been one of those weird teams that is so tough to get a read on this whole season, and if the season ended today, it would probably be a toss up whether they would be dancing or not. An exciting win over Florida, who was ranked No. 8 at the time, has lost most it's luster, but beating Duke in Durham and dropping 90 on them still is a huge win. The 'Canes also have wins over Syracuse, Illinois and pushed Virginia to double overtime before losing. Though, there have been some bad, bad losses. They lost by nearly 30 points to Eastern Kentucky, lost by 20 to an underwhelming Georgia Tech team and were downed earlier this week by Wake Forest, dropping them to a sub-500 conference record. Miami is an extremely talented team, led by two Big 12 transfers, explosive Kansas State transplant Angel Rodriguez and Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan, and their schedule isn't terrible down the stretch. Though, their bad losses are so weak it overshadows a pretty decent strength of schedule and that big win over Duke.
Verdict: Out

Seton Hall Pirates 15-9, 5-7 conference (Big East)
RPI: 68 SOS: 76 Big Win: vs. Villanova, January 3rd

Through the first half of the season, Seton Hall was one of the nation's biggest surprises. Behind electric guards Sterling Gibbs and Isaiah Whitehead, the Pirates got off to a fast start, going 12-2 with victories against Top 25 teams in Villanova and St. John's to begin conference play. But, they have fallen apart lately, losing six of eight, with their lone wins coming against struggling Marquette and at home against Xavier. They sit at 15-9 at the moment but 5-7 inside the Big East is not very impressive to the committee, despite the fact the conference has been much improved this season. Sure, the win over Villanova was nice, but St. John's is now a bubble team, and adding in a weak SOS, Seton Hall appears to be on the outside looking in now.
Verdict: Out

Boise State Broncos 18-6, 8-3 conference (Mountain West)
RPI: 39 SOS: 91 Biggest Win: vs. San Diego State, February 8th

One of college basketball's stronger conferences over the past few years, the Mountain West has a legit shot to only put in two teams into the field, especially if Boise State misses out (San Diego State and Colorado State appear to be relative locks). The Broncos resume on paper is rather underwhelming. Their only two wins over Top 50 teams were inside the conference, against those two other likely tourney squads, Colorado State and SDSU, and they have a number of bad losses, including losses to Utah State, Wyoming and Loyola (Illinois). But, a recent hot streak, winning their last eight games, has put them in prime position to possibly get into the tournament and bumped them to an 18-6 overall record. While their weak SOS and bad losses could haunt them, they have a very nice schedule along the rest of the regular season to possibly run the table. If they do, the Mountain West will almost certainly be a three-bid league.
Verdict: In

Purdue Boilermakers 16-9, 8-4 conference (Big Ten)
RPI: 69 SOS: 78 Biggest Win: vs. Ohio State, February 4th

Although the Big Ten has been done this year, mainly because of the struggles of the two Michigan schools, it is still a tough conference to win in and Matt Painter has done a great job keeping Purdue in tournament contention. The Boilermakers have a relative decent resume, a strong conference record with wins over Ohio State and Indiana to boot, and with no terrible losses outside of a bad performance against Gardner-Webb that wrapped up non-conference play. Unfortunately, their non-conference slate could hold them back. Outside of Notre Dame, the Boilermakers played a very soft slate of teams, and the Irish appear like they may be the only team in their non-conference schedule to make the NCAA Tournament. Their weak non-conference schedule puts them at a 78 SOS, very low for a team from a notable conference like the Big Ten. The Boilermakers aren't out of it yet though, an early March slate will be tough (Ohio State, Michigan State and Illinois, all likely tourney teams) but it could also greatly boost Purdue's resume.
Verdict: Out

UCLA Bruins 15-10, 7-5 conference (Pac-12)
RPI: 42 SOS: 18 Biggest Win: vs. Utah, January 29th

From November to early January, the Bruins appeared dead in the water. UCLA was sitting at 8-7 and had embarrassed on countless occasions. They were dominated by Kentucky and Gonzaga, but even more alarming were losses to Alabama and Colorado. Though, mid-January, few teams have been as scary as the Bruins, whose win over Oregon State this week bumps them to a 15-10 mark overall. The Bruins avenged a loss earlier in the year to Utah (in which they lost by over 30 and scored just 39) by upsetting the Utes in late January. UCLA got a big win later by beating Stanford, who appears to be firmly in the tournament, and they have an opportunity to get a huge win in a week's time, when they get seventh-ranked Arizona. Their brutal non-conference slate has helped them gain an RPI of 42 and an SOS of 18, two numbers usually reserved for tournament teams. While Steve Alford still has a ton of pressure on him, the Bruins appear to have figured things out, and would likely barely sneak into the field if the regular season ended today.
Verdict: In

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