NCAA Tournament picture is clearer after weekend
The NCAA Tournament bubble got a little clearer for the Atlantic 10 over the weekend. Xavier topped Richmond in double-overtime and joined Temple in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, but the only thing that game affected was the seeding for the A-10 Tournament.
Three of the four teams left on the bubble have lost games against teams they should’ve beaten, while Saint Louis continues to make a case for being in the NCAA Tournament.
At this point, none of the bubble teams look particularly appealing. As late as last week, it looked like five teams could make the tournament, but Rhode Island, Charlotte and Dayton have all been struggling, which makes the possibility unlikely.
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has three teams going to the Big Dance, but the NCAA selection committee will choose a fourth if any of the teams can impress during the last two games of the season or the conference tournament.
Here is a look at the four teams on the bubble in order of highest RPI.
Rhode Island (20-7, 8-6 A-10, RPI: 37)
In one month, the Rams went from an unbeatable team to one that is on the verge of collapsing. Despite going through their non-conference schedule with one loss, the A-10 schedule has been a different story.
In February, URI went on a three-game losing streak before pounding Fordham, the worst team in the conference.
However, a loss to St. Bonaventure really hurt its chances of an at-large bid and URI needs to win both of its games against the 49ers and Massachusetts to deserve a shot. The non-conference win against Oklahoma State should help a little bit, but the Rams have a long way to go if they want to earn an at-large bid.
Dayton (19-9, 8-6 A-10, RPI: 41)
The Flyers should’ve been a shoo-in for the NCAA Tournament, but they have not helped themselves much, with the exception of a 28-point win over UMass.
Dayton did fairly well during the non-conference schedule, but losses to Duquesne and Saint Joseph’s made its job pretty difficult going into the final stretch. Its last two games are against Richmond and a hot Billikens team.
If the Flyers don’t make it in, it will be their loss to the Dukes that pretty much ended their season. When you’re trying to make a case for making a 65-team tournament and don’t come from a Bowl Championship Series conference, dropping to a team that has a record below .500 isn’t going to do much good.
Charlotte (19-9, 9-5 A-10, RPI: 62)
The 49ers are done.
Getting blown out by Dayton and losing to the likes of Duquesne and George Washington isn’t going to get Charlotte anywhere. Beating the Owls might’ve been good enough to offset the loss to the Flyers and even a 42-point drubbing by Duke earlier in the season.
However, there are only so many games a team can lose against teams it should beat or get taken out of against quality opponents before it becomes better suited for the National Invitation Tournament.
According to ESPN, 15 of Charlotte’s 19 wins came against teams with an RPI no higher than No. 119. This year was certainly an improvement compared to years past, but not enough.
Saint Louis (19-9, 10-4, RPI: 87)
SLU is the only bubble team that hasn’t had any bad losses in February. It lost to George Washington by five points and scored just 36 points against Richmond, but has since won seven of its last eight games.
The only loss in that stretch was to Xavier by two points. The Billikens now have a chance to make themselves look very good in front of the selection committee at the end of the season.
Their final opponents are No. 16 Temple and on the road against Dayton. Slamming the door on the Flyers’ chances of making it past the A-10 Tournament on their home floor certainly wouldn’t hurt.
So far, the youngest team in the nation has looked the most composed out of the A-10 bubble teams. If it keeps that composure, the selection committee will have no choice but to ignore the No. 87 RPI.
Adam Miller is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.