The Tigers are, at best, scratching at the door of the NCAA’s dance hall. With four regular season games left before the Conference USA tournament, Memphis (20-7) must win either C-USA’s regular-season or tournament crown to reach the Big Dance a fifth straight year.
The Tigers are currently 61st in the RPI rankings, but remember that several automatic bids will go to conference-tourney winners ranked lower than 61 in the RPI. Memphis won’t be able to climb the rankings much in their next two games, at Houston (148 in the RPI) and home against Southern Miss (111). The biggest game left on the Tigers’ schedule is at UAB on March 3rd. The Blazers are currently 31st in the RPI.
What chances does Memphis have for winning a fifth straight C-USA regular-season title? They’re growing slim. The Tigers are the equivalent of two games behind front-running UTEP, having lost to the Miners on January 20th. Should Memphis win its four remaining games, UTEP will have to lose twice for the Tigers to finish on top. The Miners play at Southern Miss Wednesday, then host Rice, visit Marshall, and host UAB. Not sure I see two upsets among those four games. UTEP’s RPI ranking: 53.
This should make for a compelling C-USA tournament, as it will essentially be an extension of the NCAAs. If the Tigers can win — and keep winning — they’ll be in. One slip, and the NIT awaits.