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Battle Of The Bubble: Penn State Vs. Big East

As Penn State prepares to take on Michigan, it's no secret the Nittany Lions are precariously positioned for the NCAA Tournament. At 12-9 overall, ESPN's Joe Lunardi has them in the Dance facing Missouri State in a play-in game for a No. 12 seed, but they're in the "Last Four In" category, meaning they could be in or out depending upon which way the wind blows on a given day. The best thing the Lions can do is take care of business and win the rest of their games.

With that in mind, as outside observers, we can turn our attention somewhat to to Big East Conference, where much of Penn State's biggest competition on the bubble resides. Right now, Lunardi has that conference sending an absurd 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament. It would be great for Penn State if that number could get whittled down to eight or nine in the next few weeks.

The following is a look at the teams you need to be rooting against in the Big East if you're a Penn State fan. Lunardi has four or five of them heading to the NCAA Tournament at the moment. If that can change, it'll be good news for the Lions.

Cincinnati (18-5, 5-5)

The Bearcats aren't truly on the bubble yet with only five losses, but they've lost four of six and don't really have any signature wins. They did beat Xavier in early January and own a win against bubblicious St. John's, but that's really it. They have two games remaining against Georgetown, one against Connecticut and one against Louisville. If the chalk can hold in those games and the Bearcats can drop a couple more, they'll be skating on very thin ice.

RPI: 40 SOS: 121

West Virginia (15-7, 6-4)

The Mountaineers represented the Big East in the Final Four last season and if the season ended today, they'd be sitting pretty for a bid. Unfortunately for West Virginia, they have a lot of work to do if it's going to hold on the rest of the way. The Mountaineers have two games left with No. 4 Pitt, one with No. 17 Syracuse, one with No. 8 Notre Dame, one with No. 17 Connecticut and one with No. 13 Louisville. If the big dogs take care of business, they could take a team safely in the field and kick it out by Selection Sunday. Note: Leading scorer Casey Mitchell has been suspended indefinitely by coach Bob Huggins, so that could derail the Mountaineers, who lost to No. 12 Villanova Saturday in Philadelphia, 66-50.

RPI: 13 SOS: 5

Marquette (14-9, 5-5)

Unlike Cincinnati and West Virginia, Marquette's record isn't so hot at the moment. Fortunately for the Golden Eagles, they have quite a few nice wins to hang their hats on as they've taken down Notre Dame and Syracuse in the last couple of weeks as well as West Virginia early in conference play. With only only two ranked teams, Connecticut and Georgetown, left on the schedule, Marquette could very well post a strong finish and be on the good side of the bubble. If you're a Penn State fan, start rooting for a collapse.

RPI: 62 SOS: 28

St. John's (13-9, 5-5)

St. John's, coached by former ESPN analyst Steve Lavin, is the media's darling this season, and unfortunately for Penn State, has also accomplished a fair amount to this point. The Red Storm has already victimized Notre Dame and Georgetown, but most importantly No. 3 Duke in Madison Square Garden last weekend. Fortunately for the Lions, there are also some terrible losses to Fordham and St. Bonaventure rolled in there, and neither team is remotely close to as good as Penn State's worst loss, Maine. St. John's has Connecticut, Pitt and Villanova left on its schedule.

RPI: 20 SOS: 2

Providence (14-10, 3-8)

The Friars are probably the least likely of the Big East's bubble teams to survive until March as they already have double digit losses. They do, however, own wins over Louisville and Villanova and have a manageable schedule the rest of the way with only Notre Dame and the same Louisville team they already beat left on the docket among ranked opponents.

RPI: 96 SOS: 69