posted 03/29/14 at 3:44am
on Looking ahead to the Sweet 16
posted by All White Kit
Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 1:27pm EDT
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(Note: There were some disparities between the RPI being calculated on the statistical database maintained at nc-soccer.com and the NCAA’s official release. It has come to our attention from the NCAA that bonus/penalty adjustments have been altered this season to only count for a team’s games against non-conference opponents. Additionally, the range at which penalty adjustments have been applied has been modified by the NCAA as well. The braintrust is aware of these changes and are currently working to finalize adjustments to ensure the continued accuracy of the database. This edition of Bubble Watch uses those preliminary adjustments which should be reasonably accurate at the moment, but please be aware that this edition of the Watch may perhaps be slightly less accurate than in other weeks while we finalize those tweaks.)
Bubble Tier C – Boston University, Hartford
The bubble’s a bit of a lonelier place in the America East this week. Maine goes bye-bye after a one point weekend that featured a dismal draw to UMBC after a 2-0 loss to Boston University. Stony Brook took a similar tumble off the bubble after a resounding 4-1 defeat to Albany on Thursday, though they did save a little face with a 2-1 win against Binghamton on Sunday. Hartford won both of their league games this weekend, but the calibre of opposition has still dragged them to the brink of falling off the bubble. For all of Boston University’s struggles this season, the Terriers still look the cream of the crop in the America East and took down Maine and Vermont to go top of the league, with a showdown against Hartford on October 11 likely to decide the league title. That won’t do much for their bubble hopes though, with the Terriers likely to slip out thanks to the low RPIs of their conference brethren.
Bubble Tier B – Dayton, Charlotte, UMass, Butler
Bubble Tier C – La Salle, Fordham, St. Joseph’s
Dayton? Back on the bubble? Well, stranger things have happened, and the Flyers have at least got themselves back in the equation with a five match winning streak. They’re still likely to pay the price for their rather light non-conference schedule though with no real quality wins. If they keep winning and get high enough in the RPI, they could sneak in with an at-large bid, but more than likely, they’ll need the A10′s auto bid. Old rivals Charlotte also made a winning start to league play, topping VCU and Richmond, raising hopes that the 49ers could again compete for honors in the league after a down season last year. UMass had a weekend of contrasting fortunes, with a 4-0 beatdown at the hands of Dayton being offset just a tiny bit by a win over Xavier. The rest of the league schedule is pretty hospitable though, meaning UMass could make up a little ground over the next few weeks. Butler played just once this weekend in an uninspiring draw with Saint Louis, pushing them closer to dropping down a tier in the RPI. La Salle didn’t put a foot wrong this weekend, winning both of their league matches, but the quality of opposition drops them down a tier despite running their winning streak to five matches. The same story with Fordham, who gets pushed down to the bottom tier despite two multiple goal wins in A10 play this past weekend. Saint Joseph’s is a rather surprising addition to the bottom tier of the bubble considering they had just one game over they weekend, a 1-0 win over Temple. That’s still better than VCU, who tumbled all the way off the Watch after a loss to Charlotte, and Saint Louis, who drop out after a draw against Butler.
Lock – Florida State, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Boston College, Duke, Virginia
Bubble Tier A – Maryland, Virginia Tech
Bubble Tier B – Clemson
Bubble Tier C – Miami (FL)
Well, there’s intrigue in the ACC…just not on the bubble. Joining Florida State, North Carolina, and Boston College as locks right now are Wake Forest, who destroyed Clemson on Sunday, Duke, who battered them on Thursday, and Virginia, who dropped a game against Maryland on Thursday but rebounded to beat Duke on Sunday, propping them up into lock status in the process. Maryland and Virginia Tech may technically still be on the bubble, but nobody believes they aren’t extremely safe at the moment. The win over Virginia will certainly boost the Terps’ claims for a national seed, while Virginia Tech did their own national seed hopes a lot of good by beating Maryland on Sunday after having dropped the previous two league games. The chance to match last year’s nine bids is rapidly slipping away though. Miami (FL) is looking increasingly like a one-hit wonder this season and have done nothing to convince as of late. The Hurricanes are rapidly slipping out of bubble contention and could be all but cooked in a few weeks time should they not manage to upset one of the Virginia schools. Clemson may still technically be on the bubble, even on the second tier, but they probably just want a respite from the pain at this point, having lost four of their five ACC games by three goals or more. Fortunately, they should have a chance to avoid an 0-fer with games against Miami (FL) and NC State at home.
Bubble Tier B – Florida Gulf Coast
Bubble Tier C – East Tennessee State
Florida Gulf Coast may have lost a host of starters from last year’s squad, but the Eagles have still shown themselves to be the A-Sun’s team to beat with a 4-0-0 record after two weeks of play. The Eagles shutout both Lipscomb and Northern Kentucky at home to extend their winning streak and put themselves firmly in control of the title race with a five point lead over their next closest challengers, though those title rivals do have a game in hand. The team thought to be FGCU’s closest rivals before the season, East Tennessee State, lost further ground over the weekend with a surprising defeat at Mercer, their second defeat of the league season. It likely means the Bucs’ days on the Watch are numbered, and more importantly, could be the end of their title hopes as well.
Bubble Tier A – Baylor
Bubble Tier B – West Virginia, Kansas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Texas
Bubble Tier C – TCU, Oklahoma, Iowa State
Breathe a little easier Baylor supporters, your club’s NCAA Tournament hopes look considerably rosier than they did a week ago. The Bears’ win over Kansas has propelled them up the RPI rankings and extended their unbeaten run to nine games. Four wins will probably do it from this point out, but Baylor will likely be aiming for more and a potential league title given their success so far. Typical to form, West Virginia has come on as of late, now having won five in a row with an unbeaten run of eight games. The Mountaineers took care of business against TCU and probably just need to win four of five going forward with many of the league’s lesser teams to come on the schedule. It gets more interesting from there. A split for Kansas keeps them above water right now, but they’re clearly lacking in big results and need to win most of their games down the stretch to feel comfortable. Texas Tech beat Oklahoma and Iowa State to avoid a plunge in the RPI, but they’re far from safe right now and might need to beat two of the Baylor/Kansas/Oklahoma State trifecta while avoiding a bad loss along the way. Oklahoma State’s bubble life probably flashed before their eyes against Oklahoma on Sunday night, but they survived with a point and their hopes intact. Their win over Memphis suddenly looks useful, but they likely need to win four or all five of their remaining regular season games now. Texas was idle this weekend but would have to make a Herculean effort over the final six regular season games to get themselves back in the picture. Two losses drops TCU a tier, while Oklahoma, who have now gone winless in seven, and Iowa State, who lost both games this weekend and are now 0-3-0 in the league, and could soon follow them out the trap door.
Bubble Tier A – Notre Dame, Georgetown
Bubble Tier B – Marquette, Louisville, Rutgers, UConn
Bubble Tier C – Providence, Syracuse, South Florida, St. John’s (NY), Villanova, DePaul
The bubble in the Big East is probably going to get cleared out emphatically over the next week or two, which shouldn’t be a shock considering how weak the conference is after the first few clubs. Notre Dame and Georgetown aren’t technically locks yet, but the duo don’t look like losing to too many of their brethren, meaning they can probably start making NCAA Tournament plans. The big question for both is whether they can rise any higher in the rankings. This is an area where being in a weaker conference works against the two, as opposing RPIs probably aren’t going to help either’s cause. The head-to-head matchup that is pending could decide much. After them? It could get ugly. Marquette should be fine in theory if they keep winning, but they really are at a disadvantage by not playing either of the league’s top two clubs. If they just win out, they should be fine, even if they lose their opening game in the Big East Tournament. Anything less could create headaches if they make an early exit, as their profile is pretty weak on quality wins. Louisville looks to be in deep trouble right now. The Cardinals have won just two of their last six and lost what could be a big match against Marquette. The real damage may have been done against South Florida with their draw though. They almost assuredly have to take four of their next five, including beating Rutgers. Upsetting Georgetown this Sunday would be a big boost for their cause. Rutgers has absolutely imploded. Five losses from six in the league have basically thrown them into freefall. They have to qualify for the Big East Tournament, and that entails going on a big streak down the stretch. The Scarlet Knights are actually still in decent RPI shape and have a win over Ohio State in their back pocket. They might not have to beat Notre Dame this Sunday, but they really need to win the other four games left in their regular season. UConn’s essentially on their ninth life at the moment. They’ve blown both big opportunities to make up ground in league play and may have to run the table for the rest of league play, while also winning a game or two in the Big East Tournament. If they are on the bubble though, they stand a good chance of making it in thanks to a draw with Santa Clara. Syracuse has had an impressive run in the league, going 4-1-1, but it’s probably too little too late with just four regular season games remaining. South Florida needed a win against Louisville to keep themselves in the second bubble tier and didn’t get it. DePaul’s hopes effectively ended with defeats to Louisville and UConn. Providence began league play promisingly, but three straight shutout defeats sent them plummeting before a slight recovery against DePaul. St. John’s (NY) began the league season in dreadful fashion but have recovered with two straight wins and could yet make the postseason. Villanova has been erratic in the league and could be on the outside looking in in the Big East Tournament with a hard run-in. Pittsburgh departs from the Watch after not winning in their past seven games, while Seton Hall gets bounced after their third and fourth straight losses in the league.
Bubble Tier C – Northern Colorado
Big Sky title favorites Northern Colorado continued their impressive start to the league season with their third straight clean sheet win this weekend, topping North Dakota, 3-0. The true test will come down the stretch though, as four of the club’s last six in the league are away from home.
Bubble Tier C – Campbell
The Big South continues to be an unpredictable place, with the club’s RPI standard bearer in non-conference play, Campbell, continuing to struggle in the league. For the second straight weekend, the Camels were only able to manage a split, beating Gardner-Webb but falling to Winthrop at home. Radford, who pounded the Camels in the league earlier, drops from the Watch but had a successful weekend, with two wins on the road to emerge as one of the league’s title contenders.
Lock – Penn State
Bubble Tier A – Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio State
Bubble Tier B – Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern
Bubble Tier C – Indiana, Nebraska
There’s been limited change in the Big Ten through this past weekend. Penn State is still marching along towards a #1 seed, and the movement behind them has been sparse. Michigan did draw with Iowa, but a win over Nebraska put them back on course to lock up an NCAA Tournament bid. Wisconsin is beginning to slide a bit, having won just one in the league, but the schedule eases up considerably in the second half of league season, and they should be just fine if they take care of business. Illinois moves up a line, but it’s hard to see how after just a win against Indiana before dropping points in a draw against Purdue. Ohio State has also descended into a bit of a funk with just one win in four, but the draw against Wisconsin was enough to keep them on this line for now. They’re also another team with a forgiving run-in and should be favored to win five of their remaining six regular season games. Iowa picked up a huge draw against Michigan but probably is kicking themselves by dropping points against Michigan State. With games against Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin remaining, the Hawkeyes have both room to grow and decline depending on whether they can pull an upset or two. Minnesota’s win against Wisconsin could make them come November, but they still need at least five more wins down the stretch, which should be doable given a pretty easy run-in. A win over Nebraska and draw with Iowa keeps Michigan State above water for now, but they really need an upset or two to get in the at-large conversation. A win over Northwestern and draw with Illinois keeps Purdue in similar straits, but like MSU, the Boilermakers still need more to justify a spot in the field. Northwestern is hanging out on this line for now but is now 0-5-0 in the league and looks to be just about done as far as the postseason is concerned. Indiana was able to stop a four game losing streak in the league by beating Northwestern but still has much of the league’s best to come, while Nebraska’s days on the bubble could be just about over after one win in five, including two losses on the road this past weekend.
Bubble Tier A – Long Beach State
Bubble Tier B – UC Irvine, Cal State Northridge
Bubble Tier C – Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly
A spanner got thrown in the works by Cal State Fullerton on Sunday, who upset Long Beach State to throw the Big West title race into disarray. The loss drops the 49ers from lock status for the moment, though with wins over Baylor and Michigan, it’s going to take much more to put LBSU in any kind of bubble trouble, though the odds of claiming a national seed went down with the loss. UC Irvine continues to make an interesting case for themselves. The Anteaters are doing what’s necessary and picked up two big wins on the road to open up league play. UCI’s win over Auburn is also starting to mean something, with the Tigers’ upturn in form. Irvine still has to get to .500, but they’ll have a great shot at an at-large bid if they get there. Cal State Northridge are basically in the same situation but probably have an even better case with a win over Michigan and draws against Tennessee and Portland. The Matadors made a winning start in the league and should be in the field if they get on the bubble and are at .500. Cal State Fullerton have essentially got a stay of execution thanks to their win over LBSU, but they’re still three games under .500 and may have to run the table to be in contention for an at-large bid. Cal Poly may be the surprise of the league season thus far with two wins to open up league play but still have to face the league’s top contenders. Winless weekends see UC Santa Barbara, Hawaii, and Pacific all depart from the Watch.
Bubble Tier B – UNC Wilmington, William & Mary, Hofstra
Bubble Tier C – Drexel
It’s looking less and less likely that anybody from the CAA is going to be able to hold on for an at-large bid come season’s end. UNC Wilmington began league season as one of the likely title favorites but has been in stuttering form, losing two games at home to Hofstra and Delaware. The Seahawks now may be more concerned with securing qualification to the CAA Tournament. William & Mary won both games on the road this past weekend to go to 3-0-0 in the league, but their CAA brethren’s lack of quality RPI is taking its toll. The match against UNC Wilmington on Thursday is a biggie, and the Tribe have to win that to stand a prayer of a chance for an at-large bid. They may have to run the table at any rate. Hofstra looks like a league title contender as well, with three wins from three to open up conference play. They’ve got a win over Ohio State in the back pocket, but too many slips in the middle of the season has likely limited their hopes to the auto bid. A loss to UNC Wilmington has pushed Drexel to the brink, though the Dragons still look in good shape for the CAA Tournament. George Mason exits the Watch after a 1-1-0 weekend, despite getting their first win in the league.
Lock – UCF
Bubble Tier A – Memphis
Bubble Tier B – Colorado College, SMU, Rice
Bubble Tier C – East Carolina, Houston, Tulsa
Two wins at home are enough to bump UCF up to the lock line, though the Golden Knights need to keep winning if they’re to be in with a chance at a national seed. Memphis also won both of their league games over the weekend and continue to be in a solid position for the NCAA Tournament. Their win over UCF should be enough to give them the benefit of the doubt, even if they have a slip or two along the way. Colorado College looks like one of this season’s most interesting cases. A win over Denver and draw with Utah have given the Tigers a great case, but a slip-up to SMU this past weekend was not what they needed. They have some real dogs left on the schedule that will probably drag their RPI down a bit. If they can beat either Memphis or UCF (who they get at home), and run the table against the other four teams, they should be in good shape. SMU’s hopes have dimmed considerably after just one win in four league games, and they really needed to beat Colorado College. The Mustangs need to pull off an upset or two down the stretch while having a strong C-USA Tournament. Rice had come on strong as of late, but it looks like too little too late, especially with the loss to UCF. If they run the table the rest of the way, they might have a glimmer of hope though. Hanging on the edge are East Carolina, who went 1-1-0 this past weekend with a defeat to Memphis, Houston, who are now winless in three league games, and Tulsa, whose win over UTEP on Sunday was their first of the league season. Marshall bids farewell to the watch after their 7-1 drubbing to Memphis on Sunday.
Bubble Tier B – Dartmouth, Princeton, Harvard
It might be a case of opportunity lost for the Ivy League after this weekend. Dartmouth might have had a good case for themselves had they beaten racked up the wins in the league and beaten Pepperdine on Monday. As it is, the Big Green lost to Princeton in the league, dimming their hopes considerably. With no big wins to their record, the auto bid looks the only path for Datmouth into the NCAA Tournament. Princeton look like one of the top contenders for that bid that comes with the league title after winning their second game in the league over the Big Green and have now won four straight. Harvard recovered from their shock defeat to Penn in the league opener to top Yale, but had also drawn with Central Connecticut State in mid-week, torpedoing their RPI. Their October 20 meeting with Princeton in the league could be decisive for both clubs. Brown had surprised many by being as high as they were in the RPI but are now 0-2-0 in the league after a loss to Columbia and are gone from the Watch.
Bubble Tier A – Central Michigan
Bubble Tier C – Miami (OH)
Oh, Central Michigan. The Chippewas seemed to be set up so well towards locking up an NCAA Tournament berth in due time, but defeat to Eastern Michigan has complicated matters a bit. With a decent position in the RPI and wins over West Virginia and Dayton to go with a draw against Marquette, CMU is still well positioned, but they really can’t afford too many more slips, especially in a league like the MAC, where their opposition are so low in the RPI. They may have to scramble a bit to win the league as well. Miami (OH) is just about hanging on on the bubble, but the Redhawks have gotten out to a flyer in the league, winning their first four MAC games.
Lock – San Diego State
Bubble Tier B – New Mexico
Bubble Tier C – UNLV, Fresno State, Wyoming
San Diego State had just one game this weekend, beating Nevada in their league opener. The Aztecs still look in good shape for a potential national seed and can further their case Sunday against Portland at Merlo. Win there, and SDSU could potentially even dream about a possible #2 seed, and perhaps hosting rights if they get past the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Winning the league probably isn’t going to be a picnic though, especially with New Mexico having found their form. The Lobos beat Boise State this weekend to win their fourth straight by clean sheet. The Lobos don’t have enough on their profile for an at-large bid, but they could well steal some Mountain West silverware from SDSU given their current form. UNLV slips a level on the bubble after drawing their league opener with Wyoming, which has also left the Cowgirls on the brink of exiting the Watch. Somewhat surprisingly, Fresno State pops back onto the Watch for a week after their win against Air Force in their league opener. That could be attributed to a game against Santa Clara that, even though it ended in defeat, propped up their strength of schedule a bit.
Bubble Tier C – St. Francis (PA)
NEC frontrunners St. Francis (PA) may have not had the firepower to topple big names in non-conference season, but they have continued their winning ways in the league to creep onto the back end of the bubble for a week. The Red Flash has now won four in a row in NEC play, all by clean sheet. SFPA meets up with fellow unbeaten NEC side Monmouth on October 21.
Bubble Tier C – Jacksonville State
I questioned whether JSU was going to have staying power in the OVC title race last weekend in the Watch. Well, the Gamecocks certainly are making a good case for themselves. The perennial OVC underachievers won two more games at home this past weekend to run their league record to 3-0-0 and eclipsed the ten-win mark for the first time in nearly a decade. A spot in the postseason certainly looks to be in sight for the Gamecocks, and JSU could still emerge as potential shock league champions if they can keep up their tremendous form.
Lock – Stanford, UCLA
Bubble Tier A – Washington, Washington State, Oregon State, Utah
Bubble Tier B – Cal, Arizona State, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon
Bubble Tier C – USC
The status quo has been maintained at the top of the league, while there’s been some notable shuffling behind. Stanford took care of business with two more wins at home in the league to run their Pac-12 record to 3-0-0. This upcoming weekend will be an interesting test, as it’s the club’s first true road games since early in the season against Penn State. UCLA also continues to march on, with wins against Arizona and Arizona State to continue to put themselves in a great position for a #1 seed. Washington looks like the league’s clear #3 in the RPI right now, but they’ll need to do better in conference games after just one win in three. They get five of the final eight at home though, which should help their cause. Washington State solidified their position with a weekend split but should be kicking themselves after blowing it against Utah. They get six of their final eight at home, which should help them edge closer to lock status if they can hold serve. Oregon State didn’t really budge much in the rankings, even going up a level technically thanks to the strength of schedule boost from playing Stanford. The loss at Cal hurts though and puts a little more pressure on them down the stretch, though they still look fine. Utah suddenly looks to be in a position of strength after two wins at home over the Washington clubs. The Utes really need to make the most out of this string of games though, as they finish with five straight on the road. Cal held serve at home against the Oregon schools to pick up a huge two wins after dropping the league opener to Arizona. They aren’t out of the woods by any stretch, but beating Oregon State was a necessary boost to their hopes. Arizona State has some decent results, but the Sun Devils are also fighting to get to .500, which may in the end be their biggest concern. Colorado is definitely beginning to fade, with just one point from their first three league games. The Buffs still have Stanford and UCLA to come as well, meaning they don’t face an easy road. Arizona hasn’t been able to follow up the win over Cal with much of anything. Their draw with USC does keep them above water for the moment, but the Wildcats, like their state rivals, have to worry about getting to .500. Oregon has just a draw from their first three league games and doesn’t look long for the bubble despite looking competitive at the very least. USC’s long, maddening flirtation with the bubble looks to be just about over. The Trojans’ NCAA Tournament hopes look to have finally melted under the desert sun in Arizona with a loss and a draw pushing USC’s at-large bid hopes to the brink.
Bubble Tier C – Colgate, Navy
Navy’s superbly impressive season continued in earnest this past weekend with two more clean sheet victories to take their winning streak to a whopping thirteen matches. The Midshipmen haven’t beaten a single team in the uRPI Top 150 in that time span though, which explains why, despite their gaudy record, they aren’t long for the bubble. It might matter not in the end though if the club can win the Patriot League Tournament. Closest contenders Colgate made a winning start to the league season by pounding Bucknell on the road on Saturday. It broke a string of three games without a win for the exciting but unpredictable Raiders. The league title will likely be decided on October 12 when Colgate hosts Navy. Army, who drop out of the Watch this week, made a stuttering start to their league campaign after a surprising loss to Holy Cross.
Lock – Texas A&M, Florida, Missouri
Bubble Tier A – Tennessee, Kentucky
Bubble Tier B – Ole Miss, Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Arkansas
Bubble Tier C – Mississippi State, South Carolina
Things are beginning to clear up in the SEC, albeit, just a bit. Missouri’s defeat to Tennessee sees them slip a bit in the rankings but not enough to drop out of lock status. A win and a draw is good enough for Texas A&M to be promoted to lock status as well, though their odds of achieving a high national seed took a hit with the draw to Kentucky. Two wins by Florida runs their winning streak to five games and sees them viewed as a lock right now as well. Tennessee doesn’t get lock status at the moment thanks to their shock defeat to Arkansas, but the Lady Vols’ win over Missouri means it’s basically a matter of a time until they join the above trio. After a weekend sweep in league play a few weeks ago, Kentucky has promptly won just one of four, though they did draw against Texas A&M. Defeats to Arkansas and Alabama have taken a toll though, with a tough stretch coming up. Too many more blows could see them back onto the bubble. Two losses by Ole Miss make it four in five now, and the Rebels get demoted a line as a result. There’s not much in the way of quality results right now, and the Rebels face a critical stretch against some of the league’s weaker sides, meaning they need to start winning. Auburn’s yearly Houdini act looks to be coming together again after three wins in four have seen them climb steadily up the rankings. The run-in is very agreeable also, meaning the Tigers might yet roar in the NCAA Tournament despite an auspicious start. Alabama really helped its cause with the win over Kentucky, but that’s been their best result all season, and they have a brutal run-in with games against Texas A&M, Missouri, and Florida to come. LSU kept itself above water for now with a four-point weekend, but they’ve won just one of six and have to be hoping they can get in range for their win against Memphis to matter. Vanderbilt has also won just one of six, but they have a trump card of their own in the draw against Tennessee. The Dores also have one of the weirdest records in the nation this year, with more draws than wins or losses, including four in the league! Georgia has won just one of eight and doesn’t look long for the bubble. There’s a good chance either Ole Miss or South Carolina could put a final nail into their at-large coffin this upcoming weekend. Arkansas was able to breathe a little life into their slim hopes with a shock win at Tennessee but still needs to win most of their remaining games to stand a chance. It’s almost assuredly game over for both defending league champions South Carolina, who haven’t won in six SEC games, and Mississippi State, who also haven’t won in the league this season while also having not scored in the past three defeats.
Bubble Tier C – Samford, UNC Greensboro
Samford may have dropped points in a draw with fellow title contenders Furman this past Thursday, but the Bulldogs still like the early title favorites in the SoCon. The offense is clicking, though the defense has proven to be a bit leaky, with the club having kept just one clean sheet in the past seven games. Another title rival, UNC Greensboro recovered well from a rocky opening weekend that featured a loss to Western Carolina. The Spartans managed two wins this past weekend, and the meeting between UNCG and Samford on October 19 in Birmingham could decide the league. Furman, who had started the season so brightly, has faded a bit, with just two wins from their first four league matches. The Paladins desperately need to beat Greensboro in their next match to stay in the title hunt.
Bubble Tier B – Stephen F. Austin
After getting pounded by Baylor a few weeks ago, Stephen F. Austin recovered, as expected, to win their first two games in the league. The Ladyjacks are probably going to breeze their way towards a league title, though they know full well the dangers of not being able to close the deal in the conference tournament. Should they prevail there, they could be an intriguing foe for many a club in the Big Dance.
Bubble Tier C – Oakland
Leaders in the RPI in the Summit League by roughly a country mile, Oakland evened their record for the season to 3-3-3 with a win against Nebraska-Omaha in the league opener. The Golden Grizzlies won’t be on the Watch must longer, but they still look the class of the Summit League and will be comfortable favorites to capture silverware again.
Bubble Tier B – North Texas, Middle Tennessee State
Bubble Tier C – Florida International
Another week of Sun Belt play’s brought a little bit more separation between the league’s top teams. First off, Western Kentucky bids farewell to the Watch after getting picked off on the road by fellow league title contender Florida International. FIU suffered a setback of their own on Friday, falling to defeat at the hands of title rivals Middle Tennessee State. At this stage, MTSU and North Texas look to be the pick of the league, with both clubs having won their first four Sun Belt matches. Both are high enough in the RPI to likely hang around on the bubble for another few weeks, though neither is likely to be a factor in the at-large race when all is said and done, despite North Texas having a draw with Baylor. The league title will likely be decided on October 18, when MTSU heads to Denton to take on the Mean Green in the penultimate match of the regular season for both.
Lock – BYU, Santa Clara
Bubble Tier A – Portland, Pepperdine
Bubble Tier B – San Diego, Loyola Marymount
Little changed for BYU over the past week. The Cougars racked up their ninth straight win and their third straight 1-0 triumph against Utah Valley. UVU’s woeful RPI didn’t do the Cougars many favors in their hunt for a high national seed, but they should get a big chance to state their case this week against Santa Clara. The Broncos themselves have been making dramatic strides upwards in the RPI as of late and gained more ground with a win against Fresno State that was enough to push it into lock territory. Behind them, Portland continues to be in good shape, though their claim for a national seed is beginning to erode. Defeat to Denver and a draw with Cal State Northridge has seen the Pilots slip a bit, though they should get a grand chance to breathe life into their national seed hopes against San Diego State on Sunday. Pepperdine had been craving a big win to get them safely into the the upper reaches of the RPI and probably got it with the upset of Boston College on the road on Saturday. The Waves also got some insurance from their win over Dartmouth on Monday and are probably going to be safely in the field if they avoid a collapse down the stretch. San Diego’s still above water in the RPI at the moment and won their league opener, but they’re still two games under .500 and have plenty of ground to make up. Of course, their win over Texas A&M would make them a very viable at-large candidate if on the bubble, so they could creep into the picture with a strong league season. Loyola Marymount has a better record but a worse RPI, meaning they probably have to run the table or come close to it if they want in the picture, though they also have a big result, specifically, the draw against UCLA in Westwood. Despite a win against Nevada to snap a four game losing skid, Gonzaga departs from this week’s Watch, along with a sliding St. Mary’s (CA), whose winless streak hit three games with a draw against Cal State Bakersfield.
Bubble Tier A – Denver
Bubble Tier C – Louisiana Tech, Utah State, Seattle
Denver’s still in a pretty good position to make it into the Big Dance, but they probably used up a lot of their cushion in a draw against Utah State. The Aggies aren’t a bad club by any means, but dropping points did just enough to chip away at Denver’s RPI a bit. The only silver lining is that the draw came against one of the league’s better teams. Against one of the clubs in the bottom half of the league, there’d probably be some real concern. The Pioneers will probably be the only WAC club left on the bubble next week. Louisiana Tech might just be able to hang around if they beat Denver in their league opener, but with the Bulldogs having not won against a team ranked higher than #188 in the uRPI, it’s a questionable proposition to say the least. Utah State’s draw against Denver was their second against an at-large bid contender, their other against Washington, and the Aggies have also beaten Utah. Too many slips elsewhere though, including a draw in the league opener to woeful New Mexico State, means USU is not long for the bubble. Seattle faces an impending departure as well, despite a four point weekend in the league. The win against Texas State was fine, but a draw against UTSA saw the Redhawks’ RPI sink them in the rankings.
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