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Bubble Watch: Michigan State, LSU, Texas A&M and Ole Miss Face Critical Week

Author:
Tom Izzo

Tom Izzo

The bubble watch is on.

Selection Sunday is less than five weeks away and the bracket is starting to take shape.

We’re pretty sure we know the teams in contention for the No. 1 seeds and teams that are safely in, which of course leaves the bubble — all the teams that have done some good things and some bad things through the first three months of the season.

For better or worse, most of those teams can get off the bubble, either solidifying their Tournament credentials or playing their way out.

Here’s a look at the 10 teams under the most pressure this week.

All RPI and schedule strength figures are from CBSSports and Jerry Palm.

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LSU (17-6, 6-4 SEC)

This week: Kentucky (Tuesday), at Tennessee (Saturday)

The good: LSU is 4-2 against the RPI top 50, including true road wins over West Virginia and Ole Miss.

The bad: The Tigers have lost to sub-150 RPI teams in Auburn, Missouri and Mississippi State.

The bubble: Handing Kentucky its first loss of the season would solidify LSU’s status in the field, but that road trip to Tennessee may be the more important game given LSU’s lapses in games it should win.

Seton Hall (15-8, 5-6 Big East)

This week: Georgetown (Tuesday), at Providence (Saturday) 

The good: Seton Hall is one of two teams to beat Villanova this season.

The bad: The Pirates have been swept by DePaul and Butler.

The bubble: Seton Hall is 3-6 since its overtime upset of Villanova on Jan. 3. The next four games are brutal with Georgetown at home and Providence, Villanova and St. John’s on the road next week. Not a good situation for a team already trending the wrong way.

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Michigan State (15-8, 6-4 Big Ten)

This week: at Northwestern (Tuesday), Ohio State (Saturday)

The good: KenPom likes Michigan State better than the RPI, ranking the Spartans at No. 28 (compared to No. 52 in the RPI).

The bad: Michigan State is 0-4 against the RPI top 30.

The bubble: Saturday’s home loss to Illinois puts Michigan State onto the bubble. The Spartans can’t (and probably won’t) lose to Northwestern. Facing RPI No. 35 Ohio State in East Lansing will be critical.

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Texas A&M (16-6, 7-3 SEC)

This week: Georgia (Wednesday), Florida (Saturday)

The good: Texas A&M is 7-3 in the SEC. 

The bad: The Aggies don’t have a top 50 RPI win.

The bubble: Second place in the SEC won’t be enough to guarantee an NCAA Tournament berth. The next three games against RPI No. 24 Georgia, No. 67 Florida and No. 51 LSU — all at home — are huge for the Aggies’ hopes.

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NC State (14-10, 5-6 ACC)

This week: Virginia (Wednesday), at Louisville (Saturday)

The good: The Wolfpack rank 11th in strength of schedule and defeated RPI No. 4 Duke on Jan. 11.

The bad: After a loss to Wake Forest a week ago, NC State is already up to double-digit losses. The Wolfpack haven't won back-to-back games since early December.

The bubble: For NC State to stay in the discussion, the Wolfpack may need to split the week against top 15 opponents. NC State will face Virginia in its first game without guard Justin Anderson.

St. John’s (15-8, 4-6 Big East)

This week: DePaul (Wednesday), at Xavier (Saturday)

The good: The Red Storm are ranked No. 50 in the RPI and No. 27 in strength of schedule. St. John’s swept Providence for its two top-50 wins.

The bad: Providence may be the only NCAA at-large team St. John’s has defeated this season.

The bubble: A home loss to DePaul would be devastating. Road wins over Xavier on Saturday and/or Georgetown on Tuesday would put St. John’s back on the right track.

The Mountain West

This week: Wyoming at San Diego State (Wednesday), Colorado State at San Diego State (Saturday)

The good: Colorado State (20-4, 7-4 MW) has the best RPI in the Mountain West plus a home win already over San Diego State. Wyoming (19-5, 8-3 MW) completed a season sweep of Colorado State last week.

The bad: Neither team has a top-75 non-conference win.

The bubble: If Mountain West at-large bids go through San Diego State, this will be the key week.

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Ole Miss (16-7, 7-3 SEC)

This week: at Florida (Thursday), Arkansas (Saturday)

The good: The Rebels are No. 39 in RPI and 3-3 against the top 50.

The bad: Ole Miss has home losses to Western Kentucky, TCU and Charleston Southern.

The bubble: Splitting the week would maintain the status quo. Two wins would further solidify the Rebels’ chances. Ole Miss already has wins against each of these teams this season.

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Purdue (15-9, 7-4 Big Ten)

This week: at Rutgers (Thursday), Nebraska (Sunday) 

The good: The Boilermakers have three top 40 wins (Indiana, Ohio State and Iowa).

The bad: All of those wins were at home. So were bad losses to Gardner-Webb and North Florida.

The bubble: The Boilers are hanging on, but they’ll lose their grip if they don’t go 2-0 this week.

Illinois (16-8, 6-5 Big Ten)

This week: Michigan (Thursday), at Wisconsin (Sunday)

The good: Defeating Michigan State on the road was a signature moment, but Illinois had already picked up two top 20 wins before Jan. 7 (Baylor on a neutral court, Maryland).

The bad: Illinois has lost five games to teams ranked between Nos. 50-100.

The bubble: Asking Illinois to beat Wisconsin in Madison may be too much to ask, but the Illini need to beat Michigan to avoid a season sweep to the Wolverines.