As Selection Sunday approaches, you'll hear so much about the S curve, RPI numbers, SOS, and seeds that you'll begin to think teams are clamoring for spots in a math tournament. Rest assured though, we are here to simplify things for you. The S Curve is what the selection committee will use to place teams into their seeds. Teams that fall around the bottom of the curve are on the proverbial bubble.
What that means is that every team is cheering for the teams around them to lose. The more bubble teams lose, the better the remaining teams look. Right now, there are several teams queuing up for the spot that Xavier wants. Here, then, is what needs to happen to them.
Northwestern: The Wildcats stumble in at 6-6 in their last 12. They've played a brutal schedule and won five games against top 100 (RPI) opponents and one against a top 25 opponent. Northwestern drew Minnesota on Thursday to open the Big 10 tournament. A loss and their bubble hopes are dashed.
Update: 1-10 in RPI top 100 games and yet another choke job should doom the Wildcats. Only some other teams completely folding will save them now.
Seton Hall: The Pirates have a very similar resume to the Musketeers. Three RPI top 50 wins and seven RPI top 100 wins stand them in good stead. Seton Hall should beat Providence to start the Big East tournament. One more win after that, and they should be in.
Update: Seton Hall needed to beat Louisville to lock up a spot, but they didn't. The computer numbers (RPI: 50, SoS: 61) aren't great and the Pirates 3-8 top 50 record isn't brilliant. This should be the first of the big bubble losers.
Texas: A top 25 win and two more top 50 wins look good for the Longhorns, but things are bleak after that. 11 wins for Texas game against sub 150 teams, which leaves an 8-12 mark against the top 50. If Iowa State beats Texas in the Big 12 tournament, Longhorns are out. If the Cyclones falter, Texas is in easily.
Update: Iowa State took an 11 point lead after the half, but couldn't hold off a Longhorns team that was clearly very well aware how much they needed a win. Good on the Longhorns, they handled their business and should get in.
Tennessee: Four top 50 wins and and a hot finish have UT in a good place. One more win in the SEC tournament (against Ole Miss on Friday), where they have a bye, and they should be in. Xavier needs this team to lose.
South Florida: The Bulls are playing reasonably well down the stretch and have caught enough attention for most prognosticators to give them a spot. USF must avoid an early Big East tournament loss.
Update: The Bulls played one of the most sublimely awful ten minute stretches of basketball anyone has ever seen to lose to Notre Dame. Jawanza Poland will always be remembered for his missed layup, missed free throw, idiotic foul 33 seconds that should cost South Florida a spot.
VCU: Two RPI spots below Xavier and with only one Top 50 win, the Rams should need the auto bid to get in. Unfortunately, most people aren't seeing it that way. Both teams in the CAA final will likely be in, but pull for Drexel.
Update: Auto bid
Drexel: A 25-1 since Dec 10th has the Dragons well positioned against VCU in the CAA final. Their numbers aren't great, so they need to handle business or be ready to sweat it out.
Update: The Dragons did not handle business against the Rams. Soft top 100 wins (VCU, Cleveland St., Princeton, and GMU), combined with some awful losses (Norfolk St?) and an RPI of 65 means something ridiculous would have to happen for the Dragons to get in.
Oregon: The Ducks are an interesting quandry for the committee. They have an RPI of 49, but no top 50 wins. Five top 100 wins will help, but advancing to the Pac-12 semis is almost a must in such a weak conference.
Update: A choke job against the Buffalo of Colorado and a very weak PAC-12 should pretty much do it for the Ducks.
NC State: The Wolfpack are another dangerous team. They have two top 50 wins, five top 100 and and RPI of 56. NC State drew Boston College in the first round of the ACC tournament. A loss there dooms the only tolerable North Carolina team, that win and one more and they are firmly in the conversation.
Update: The Wolfpack got the first of the wins they needed by beating Boston College. Given the fact the Eagles are a train wreck, that didn't matter much. The Friday matchup against Virginia does. NC State has work left to do, but winning today would be a big step toward safety.
So, if you are feeling spiteful, those are the teams you want to lose. Keep an eye on this and the Chalk Watch and we'll let you know what happens, when it happens.