Utah State, riding an 11-game win streak and with an RPI in the low to mid-30s, is firmly on the NCAA bubble.
Which is exactly why the Aggies’ game tonight against Wichita State is so vital.
A loss to the Shockers will pop Utah State’s at-large bubble. A win will provide an extra layer of legitimacy to USU’s at-large candidacy and likely improve the seeding USU gets if, in fact, they do earn a spot in the 65-team celebration of basketball.
According to cbssports.com, Utah State currently has an RPI of 34. In a logical world, that should translate into an at-large bid and/or a seeding of 9 or 10.
A win on BracketBuster weekend would most likely move the Aggies up to to high 20s in the RPI because Wichita State brings an RPI in the 50s to the Spectrum. Though a win is far from assured, having a victory over another top 75 program would be a nice boost to the strength of schedule and, therefore, a nice boost to the RPI.
Friday night saw Utah State’s case helped out a little as Old Dominion (RPI 42) and William & Mary (RPI 48) both lost and fell in the rankings. Today, Siena (RPI 31) plays Butler (RPI 21) in a game that will also see someone fall a little closer to the edge of the bubble.
If Utah State is to win, the Aggies’ RPI will be solid. Its strength of schedule will be better than just about any other bubble team and it will have a 12-game winning streak as USU heads to Hawaii for its final road game of the season.
A regular season WAC title used to be more than enough to get a team an at-large bid. The perception of the conference, however, has dropped in the last couple of years even though RPIs have remained fairly good. That’s why USU simply can not, and is not, assuming it is a lock.
They’ve been there, done that and been burned before.
But if USU can win out — and that includes tonight’s ESPN2 game against the Shockers — the Aggies could have an RPI of about 20-25 heading into the WAC tourney.
If, and it’s just an if, USU advances to the title game and then loses, they’ll have a record of 27-8 with an RPI still in the high-20 to low-30 range.
That would remove all suspense if the Aggies were in the Pac 10. But they’re not.
So winning tonight, winning next week in Hawaii and closing out the regular season with a pair of home wins almost seems imperative.
As Aggie fans have learned the hard way, there is no sure thing when it comes to the NCAA selection committee.