Remember the past few updates when I've said the Connecticut Huskies had a long way to go before they fell out of the bracket? Well, on the proverbial road to the Final Four, the Huskies seem to have the car in reverse, the pedal to the floor and the Grand Canyon looming in the rearview mirror.
The defending national champs missed two opportunities to break out of their funk with an impressive win, losing to Louisville and Syracuse on the road. Now a Wednesday night win against DePaul is a must-have if the Huskies want to stay out of the danger zone. UConn still has a top-20 RPI, but a home loss to the No. 180 team could really hurt that standing.
Connecticut is not alone in terms of recent struggles. West Virginia lost close games -- but still lost -- to Louisville and Pitt and now hits the road to face its "Backyard" rival, as well as Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Alabama is reeling as well, dropping two straight and trying to cope with the suspension of two of its best players (JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell). The bubble is a soft one, but none of these teams can lose "winnable" games and feel too good about their chances from here out.
Now let's take a look at Wednesday's S-Curve update:
The S curve
This is where teams would fall if Selection Sunday was Feb. 15. Remember, the curve flows left to right, then right to left, then back again as you read down the chart. Teams with an asterisk currently lead their conference and project to receive an automatic bid, per the rules of Bracketology.
GREEN: Teams with tourney odds of 75 percent or better through games of Feb. 15.
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)
The Full S-Curve
*conference leader (teams)
Take our "solid" at-large candidates (current Tournament Odds at 75 percent or better) and you have 33 teams in the field. Add in the remaining automatic qualifiers and that's another 20 spots. All told, we have 53 of the 68 spots accounted for, with only 15 up for grabs among current bubble teams.
The bubble (34 teams for 15 spots)
IN (15, in S-Curve order):
34-Connecticut, 35-West Virginia, 36-Alabama, 38-Iowa State, 40-Purdue, 41-BYU, 42-Arizona, 43-Illinois, 44-Texas, 45-Kansas State, 46-Seton Hall, 48-Cincinnati, 49-North Carolina State, 50-Miami (FL), 51-Xavier
OUT (19, in S-Curve order)
69-Washington, 70-Minnesota, 71-Northwestern, 72-Wyoming, 73-Colorado State, 74-Central Florida, 75-Oregon, 76-Colorado, 77-Saint Joseph's, 78-Dayton, 79-Stanford, 80-Arkansas, 81-Ole Miss, 82-Missouri State, 83-VCU, 84-Massachusetts, 85-South Florida, 86-New Mexico State, 87-South Dakota State
While the Big East retains its nine bids, the Big Ten drops from eight to seven, but Minnesota and Northwestern lurk right below the cut line. The ACC is experiencing a bit of a push, now up to six teams, which ties it with the Big 12. Five teams from the SEC still reside in the bracket, while the A-10, MWC and WCC each seat three. C-USA, the Pac-12 and MVC round out our multi-bid conferences.
It's odd that we have so many bubble teams with similar profiles from the same conference. My advice to these teams? Don't lose to your doppelganger. Seton Hall/Cincinnati (Feb. 18), Arizona/Washington (Feb. 18), Minnesota/Northwestern (Feb. 18) and North Carolina State/Miami (Feb. 29) will all have to struggle for Selection Sunday supremacy with their alter egos in the days ahead.
And since we started with a look at teams falling back to the pack, let's close by noting another in good position to rise. The Texas Longhorns have played much better of late, winning four in a row with a pair of prime Big Win opportunities ahead when the Horns battle Baylor in Austin (Feb. 20) and face Kansas in the Phog (March 3) to close the season. Despite a less than stellar start, I think Texas will ultimately find itself on the right side of the bubble come Selection Sunday.