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Bubble watch: Last chance to make impression

By Shannon Ryan Chicago Tribune (MCT) • Updated Mar 10, 2014 at 11:06 PM

A new No. 1 enters the projected bracket field after Syracuse lost its spot.

The Orange would be a No. 2 seed if the NCAA tournament started now after they lost four of six games. Villanova, a former Big East foe of Syracuse, takes its place.

The landscape could change even more with shake-ups in this week’s conference tournaments.

Only five days remain for bubble teams to furiously work on their resumes.

This is akin to frantically cleaning the house when you see a neighbor approaching your front door. These teams can’t hide dirty laundry in the closet, but they can scrub up their image if they fare well in their conference tournaments.

Selection Sunday will determine who is in and who is out of the NCAA tournament, but until then, here are our bubble teams to watch:

St. Joseph’s (21-9, RPI 34, SOS 60): The Hawks didn’t do themselves any favors by losing at George Washington last week. They could face Dayton, a fellow bubble team, in a must-win Atlantic-10 tournament third-round game.

Prediction: Out.

Florida State (18-12, RPI 58, SOS 54): The Seminoles missed a ticket-punching opportunity by losing to Syracuse, a strong team that lesser opponents have somehow taken down recently. They’ll face Maryland in the ACC tournament. That’s no easy task for a team that needs a few more victories.

Prediction: Out.

Stanford (19-11, RPI 47, SOS 17): The record isn’t great and a loss to Oregon State hurts, but five victories over top-50 teams help. The Cardinal’s strong RPI and strength of schedule could be the deciding factor when compared with other bubble teams.

Prediction: In.

Pittsburgh (23-8, RPI 53, SOS 86): The Panthers own one measly top-50 win (against Stanford). That doesn’t do much for their reputation. But without any glaring losses and a decent record, Pitt may look favorable in the bubble comparison.

Prediction: In.

Top four seeds

Florida, 29-2, RPI 3, SOS 23: The Gators punctuated a 23-game winning streak with a blowout against Kentucky to enter Selection Sunday as the nation’s most dominant team.

Arizona, 28-3, RPI 1, SOS 9: A loss to Oregon doesn’t overshadow the Wildcats’ body of work, a major point of emphasis for the selection committee.

Wichita State, 34-0, RPI 6, SOS 102: The Shockers tied UNLV for the NCAA record of best start to a season. How long can they keep it going?

Villanova, 28-3, RPI 4, SOS 18: If not for Creighton, the Wildcats would have only one loss — to Syracuse.

Records and statistics through Sunday.

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