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Insider

Where UW, Northwestern now stand

Northwestern may have lost its grip on an NCAA at-large bid. AP Photo/Michael Conroy

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)

The Full S-curve

*conference leader (teams)

Add the current AQs to the "solid" at-large candidates (current tournament odds at 90 percent or better), and there are now 49 teams in the field. Add in the remaining automatic qualifiers yet to be decided, and that's eight more spots. All told, 57 of the 68 spots are accounted for, with 11 still up for grabs among current "bubble" teams.

The bubble (22 teams for 11 spots)

IN (11, in S-curve order):

38-Saint Louis, 40-West Virginia, 42-Colorado St., 44-South Florida, 45-BYU, 47-Texas, 48-Xavier, 49-Washington, 50-Mississippi St., 51-Drexel, 52-Seton Hall

OUT (11, in S-curve order)

69-Tennessee, 70-Oregon, 71-Northwestern, 72-NC State, 73-Miami, 74-Iona, 75-Arizona, 76-Saint Joseph's, 77-Dayton, 78-Marshall, 79-Ole Miss

Conference breakdown

• Big East (10)

• Big Ten (6)

• Big 12 (6)

• SEC (5)

• ACC (4)

• Mountain West (4)

• Atlantic 10 (3)

• West Coast (3)

• CAA (2)

• Conference USA (2)

• Missouri Valley (2)

• Pac-12 (2)

NCAA automatic qualifiers (15)

• UNC Asheville (Big South)

• Murray State (OVC)

• Belmont (Atlantic Sun)

• Creighton (Missouri Valley)

• VCU (Colonial)

• Loyola-Maryland (MAAC)

• Davidson (SoCon)

• Saint Mary's (WCC)

• Harvard (Ivy League)

• Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)

• Detroit (Horizon League)

• South Dakota State (Summit)

• Long Island (NEC)

• Lehigh (Patriot League)

• Montana (Big Sky)

NIT AQs (8)*

• Drexel (CAA)

• Iona (MAAC)

• Oral Roberts (Summit)

• Middle Tennessee (Sun Belt)

• Valparaiso (Horizon)

• Bucknell (Patriot)

• Savannah State (MEAC)

• Texas-Arlington (MEAC)

* if not selected at-large

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