By Andy Glockner
Tuesday night's upset of No. 1 Pitt was a huge win for Providence, but let's not get too carried away by the impact of one game on the Friars' overall profile. The bubble concerns they had entering that game are nowhere near fully rectified.
With all the talk about how great the Big East is (or is said to be), people will look at the Friars' 9-7 league mark and assume they're all but in. What that record doesn't show is that, including Pitt, only two of those nine league wins are against RPI Top 50 teams, and that the average RPI of Providence's Big East wins before Tuesday was 115. (Philly.com's Soft Pretzel Logic blog has a nice breakdown of a number of conferences in that region by overall win/loss quality.)
When you mix in a nonconference schedule where the Friars went 1-4 against teams in the RPI Top 100 (a one-point win over in-state rival Rhode Island), Providence is just 5-11 overall in that category this season (2-7 against the Top 50). That is Providence's peer group when it comes to at-large possibilities, not the teams outside the Top 100 against which the Friars are 12-0.
Now all of that doesn't mean that Providence won't be one of the 34 best at-large candidates two weeks from Sunday. The latest SI.com bracket, published prior to the Pitt upset, had the Friars in the conversation and had Cincinnati -- a team Providence has swept -- in the tournament as a 12-seed. Given that positioning, there's a reasonable chance Providence could be in Monday's updated bracket (which will have BYU properly back in a Thursday/Saturday subregional).
That said, as we all know the bubble tightens up during championship week, when upsets in smaller conferences and runs from major-conference teams change the picture daily. The win over Pitt was vital to Providence's at-large hopes, but with ample reports coming out of recent mock selection meetings stating that the committee will be looking hard at the quality of your wins, the Friars have a good deal of work left to do if they want to make the only bracket that matters -- the one the NCAA releases on March 15.
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Last week, Jodie Meeks interrupted your regularly scheduled Bubble Games to Watch. There's no such distraction this week ...
Friday, February 27
Siena at Niagara (MAAC)
Saturday, February 28
Temple at Dayton (A-10)
Texas at Oklahoma State (Big 12)
Notre Dame at Connecticut (Big East)
Ohio State at Purdue (Big Ten)
Cleveland State at Butler (Horizon)
Illinois State at Creighton (MVC)
Utah at BYU (MWC)
Arizona at Washington (Pac-10)
LSU at Kentucky (SEC)
Sunday, March 1
Maryland at NC State (ACC)
Rhode Island at Duquesne (A-10)
Cincinnati at Syracuse (Big East)
Tennessee at Florida (SEC)
By Andy Glockner