And then there were three! Last week there were four teams in Conference USA that were trying to improve their resumes for at large bids to the NCAA tournament. That list is now down to three. Memphis did lose at Rice, but for now they are still alive. UTEP however, is not, after losing games on the road at Southern Miss, and at home against UCF. The three teams that are left still have a great shot, and chances are whoever finishes out the strongest between these three will likely receive an at large bid. Here is this week's Conference USA Bubble Watch.
1.) UAB Blazers (19-7, 9-4) RPI: 32, SOS: 43, Last 10: 7-3, Pomeroy: 57, Sagarin: 53
If we were doing a blind resume test, the Blazers would have to be put in the field. Their RPI and SOS numbers are great. Their computer numbers as well. The only problem with the Blazers resume is the fact that have no "good" wins. They are 7-6 versus the top 100, but are 0-5 versus the top 50. That will certainly hamper their at large chances a bit. They do still have one top 50 game left, a road game at Southern Miss next Wednesday. A win there will surely go a long way.
OUTLOOK: The Blazers resume does look good, but they are lacking in quality wins. However, the bubble is extremely weak this year, and with teams from power conferences continuing to drop games, the Blazers should be in barring a complete breakdown in the conference tourney. If the tournament started today, they would be one of the last four teams in the tournament.
2.) Memphis Tigers (21-7, 9-4) RPI: 37, SOS: 59, Last 10: 7-3, Pomeroy: 88, Sagarin: 67
Every time the Tigers seem to be on track to start dominating their competition, they show just how young they are. The loss at Rice Saturday was a perfect example of that. Even with the loss, the Tigers should have enough on their resume to get them in the tournament. They are 9-5 versus the top 100, including 4-3 versus the top 50. Memphis pulled a clean sweep of the other two teams on this list, and that in itself should be enough to get them an at large over the others.
OUTLOOK: The RPI and SOS numbers are great, and their record versus the top 100, and top 50 are much better than any other team on the bubble. Throw in their reputation, and bam you've got an NCAA tournament team. If they hadn't lost Saturday they would probably be a lock for the tourney, but with it they'll need to at least reach the conference tourney semis to be in. If the tournament started today, the Tigers would be safely in.
3.) Southern Miss Golden Eagles (18-6, 9-4) RPI: 41, SOS: 108, Last 10: 7-3, Pomeroy: 64, Sagarin: 57
The Golden Eagles have done a good job building up their resume. They have gotten their RPI to NCAA tournament level, but their SOS is a little suspect. They are 6-5 versus the top 100, and 1-3 versus the top 50. A win over Memphis would've gone a long way, but a sweep of UAB will at least give them the nod over the Blazers. The two square off next week in Hattiesburg, and the winner of that one will have a nice top 50 win to hang their hat on.
OUTLOOK: The Golden Eagles are an extremely talented team, and if not for some inconsistency mid-season they could be in complete control of the conference. At this point they have not done enough to garner an at large bid, but winning their last three, and getting to the conference tourney championship may be enough to get them in. If the tourney started today, they are bordering the first four out/next four out.
Its a shame to be doing this piece without the Miners being a part of it. They are surely good enough to be on this list, but their play as of late has put their fate in the hands of the conference tournament. Thank God its in our backyard. Overall Conference USA still has a great shot at sending two to three teams to the big dance. Which two or three still remains to be seen. We are only two and a half weeks from selection Sunday, so every game is becoming more and more important. Note to anyone who wants to be in the NCAA tournament: handle business in the conference tournament, and don't leave it up to the committee.