Another new No. 1
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.