HATTIESBURG — Many have already begun to discount Southern Miss for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, but head coach Donnie Tyndall believes his squad is on the bubble headed into the final two games of the regular season.
The Golden Eagles are 22-7 and 11-3 headed into Tuesday's road game at Marshall, a team they demolished 102-46 on Jan. 23 in Hattiesburg.
Tyndall does have a handful of experts backing him up, including the most prominent bracketologist of them all, ESPN's Joe Lunardi.
In Lunardi's most recent bracket, he includes USM among the last four teams out of the 68-team field.
USM also has a strong RPI ranking of 34th in the official NCAA poll released today.
The biggest knock against Southern Miss is it has no victories over top 50 RPI teams. It is 3-1 against teams ranked from 50-100.
However, Tyndall believes his team is very much in the mix for an at-large bid.
"I think we've got to win the next two games and probably the first two in the conference tournament," Tyndall said. "Maybe one would be enough. But when you look at teams across america, there are a lot of things they take into consideration. One of them is are you willing to go on the road. We had 13 non-conference Div. I games and went on the road for 10 of them. We had the third most road wins in all of college basketball with nine. That's a large consideration. Did you go on the road and did you win the road?"
Tyndall goes on to address the schedule USM played, which ranks 91st overall according to WarrenNolan.com.
"You talk about going to Wichita State, to Arizona, to Georgia State, to Morehead State," he said. "I know I'm missing some, but we played a very challenging schedule. They'll say we had no top 50 wins, but we didn't play any top 50 programs in our house outside of Memphis. Another thing is when you look at the teams we lost to - we lost seven games to six teams that are going to have 20-plus wins at the end of the season. We've been beat by quality teams and I'm not smart enough to figure all that out. But I think if they have the eye test, which is supposed to be a part of it as well. Most people in America would say we're one of the best 68 teams in the country. So we'll see."
The best RPI victory of the season for USM is No. 65 Denver on Nov. 27 in Hattiesburg.