Where UW, Northwestern now stand 

March, 9, 2012

Dave Sobolewski, Austin HollinsAP Photo/Michael ConroyNorthwestern may have lost its grip on an NCAA at-large bid.
Rule No. 1 when you're on the bubble: Don't lose.

It's a simple enough concept, but wins eluded several teams that badly needed them on Thursday, none more so than the Northwestern Wildcats.

Thursday's loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers was precisely what the Wildcats needed to avoid. Now their résumé is complete, and it flaunts just one top-50 RPI win. Although it was an impressive one -- Michigan State -- a sub-.500 record in the Big Ten does not argue in the Wildcats' favor.

The loss drops Northwestern to No. 71 on my S-curve, which puts them among my First Four Out.

The S-curve

Two other violators of rule No. 1: the Washington Huskies and Mississippi State Bulldogs. Both teams now reside in the Last Four In, which would put them into the first-round games in Dayton. More notable than that, however, is the intriguing case Washington presents the selection committee.

The Huskies have precisely zero wins against the RPI top 50, nor have they beaten anyone worthy of an NCAA tournament at-large bid (and Arizona is the only opponent still with a chance to improve its stock). What's more, their RPI is a less-than-sexy No. 69.

So why are they still in the field? Simple: They're the Pac-12 regular-season champs, and no regular-season champion from a power conference has ever missed the NCAA tournament. The First Four games would be a great compromise for the committee where they could reward Washington with a bid while punishing their profile by forcing the Huskies to play an extra game.

The news wasn't all negative for bubble teams Thursday, however, as the Texas Longhorns toppled Iowa State to move up the S-curve.

ALL CAPS: Regular-season champion (NIT auto-bid if needed) or highest remaining seed

Bold: NCAA automatic qualifier

GREEN: Teams with tourney odds of 90 percent or better through games of March 8.

YELLOW: "Last four in" (will play March 13-14 in Dayton, Ohio)

GOLD: Lowest four auto-bids (will play March 13-14 in Dayton, Ohio)

RED: "First four out" (teams 69-72 on the S curve)

PURPLE: "Next four out" (teams 73-76 on the S curve)