An­other new No. 1

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS - Scott Glee­son and Shelby Mast @Scot­tMGlee­son, @Brack­etWAG

Kansas takes over the top spot in the poll, and four tour­na­ment bub­ble teams get a closer look,

Much of the chatter re­gard­ing NCAA tour­na­ment bub­ble teams af­ter Se­lec­tion Sun­day con­cerns which teams are per­ceived to be snubbed.

Some teams, on the other hand, get lucky.

Last year, for in­stance, Tulsa was the big­gest head-scratcher among teams the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee put into the field of 68.

Here’s a look at some wild­card teams that could ex­pe­ri­ence a sim­i­lar fate in two weeks.

GE­OR­GIA The Bull­dogs’ sea­son theme has been al­most there, namely in over­time losses to Florida and Ken­tucky. Had Ge­or­gia (16-12, 8-8) won one of those, its ré­sumé would be hard to turn away. With­out a mar­quee vic­tory, Mark Fox’s team is in the thick of the bub­ble race.

A top-25 strength of sched­ule bodes well for an at-large bid, as do wins against the other bor­der­line South­east­ern Con­fer­ence teams — Ten­nessee, Mis­sis­sippi and Alabama — they’re com­pet­ing against.

Will the com­mit­tee no­tice or ig­nore how much Ge­or­gia looked like a tour­na­ment team against the Ga­tors and the Wildcats? Or will it see a lack of big wins and a dam­ag­ing loss to Oak­land?


This might be one of the tough­est teams to as­sess for the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee, which has been unim­pressed with the Big Ten. What makes the Illini’s at-large path so in­ter­est­ing is how the weak bub­ble and the sea­son’s de­vel­op­ment are es­sen­tially paving the way for them to reach the tour­na­ment.

Ten­nessee’s loss Sun­day, for in­stance, el­e­vated Illi­nois (16-12, 7-9) in USA TO­DAY Sports’ brack­e­tol­ogy as one of the last teams in. And what ap­peared to be a bad loss to Winthrop in Novem­ber has turned into a top-75 loss. With no ugly losses and two wins against North­west­ern, a team it’s com­pet­ing with for a bid, it’s eas­ier to look past the num­ber of losses.

Also fac­tor in Wis­con­sin’s slide, which hurts teams that beat the Badgers (such as North­west­ern), and some­thing as small as BYU de­feat­ing Gon­zaga on Satur­day. Illi­nois beat BYU and has a nice win against Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth to along with a top-20 strength of sched­ule.

WAKE FOR­EST The De­mon Dea­cons (16-12, 7-9) have a much bet­ter record in the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence than bub­ble teams Clem­son and Pitts­burgh. But un­like those teams, they don’t re­ally have any sig­na­ture vic­to­ries, although a win against Mi­ami (Fla.) is look­ing bet­ter as the Hur­ri­canes surge.

And, sim­i­lar to Ge­or­gia, some near-up­set losses will be hard to look past. A top-20 non-con­fer­ence strength of sched­ule also is im­pres­sive. A home game Wed­nes­day against Louisville is a per­fect op­por­tu­nity for Wake For­est to en­hance its cre­den­tials. RHODE IS­LAND The Rams’ at-large hopes ap­peared shot af­ter a one-point loss to Day­ton and a bad loss to Ford­ham. But Dan Hur­ley’s team, win­ner of seven of its last nine, has shown re­siliency and jumped back into the mix af­ter Satur­day’s 10-point win vs. VCU. That gives Rhode Is­land (19-9, 11-5) two mar­quee wins, the other coming against Cincin­nati.

Thanks to a weak bub­ble this year, Rhode Is­land — sport­ing a Rat­ing Per­cent­age In­dex of 42 — has a le­git­i­mate chance to squeak in if it can win its last two reg­u­lar-sea­son games and make a deep run in the At­lantic 10 tour­na­ment. Team records in paren­the­ses are against Divi­sion I op­po­nents only.


Guard J.J. Fra­zier is the sec­ond-lead­ing scorer at 18.1 points per game for Ge­or­gia, which closes its reg­u­lar sea­son this week with games against Auburn and at Arkansas.


Kip­per Ni­chols, left, and Illi­nois have beaten North­west­ern twice, which bodes well for their NCAA bid chances.

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