It’s fair to say that neither Syracuse nor Pittsburgh is safely in the Field of 68, which makes Wednesday’s early tip at the ACC tournament worth following. Although the Panthers won both regular season meetings against the Orange, the loser will be nervously awaiting their fate on Selection Sunday.
It’s especially timely given what we’ve seen thus far in Championship Week. As potential bubble slots disappear, the value of every win increases.
Additional bubble action on Wednesday (March 9) ..
- Washington (vs. Stanford) – The Huskies need a lengthy stay to get back in the conversation; they may need to win the Pac-12 tourney.
- Georgia Tech (vs. Clemson) – First game of the ACC tourney for the Yellow Jackets who are back in the mix after winning 5 of 6 down the stretch.
- USC (vs. UCLA) – Beating their rival may not be required, but it would certainly help ease the Trojans’ nerves. USC has lost 6 of 8 games, and a poor record away from home could become an issue.
- Oregon State (vs. Arizona State) – While overall power numbers help the Beavers, they have not beaten a tournament team away from home. Losing to ASU a second time might not be the best message to leave the Committee.
Although likely above the bubble, it would still be nice to see Texas Tech beat TCU (Big 12) and Colorado beat Washington State (Pac 12). A lot could still change between now and Saturday night.
If you’re a fan of American fare – basketball fare – then it’s an important night on the NCAA hardwood. Four of the league’s teams sit along the bubble’s cutline as we wind down the regular season. Here’s a quick peek at games worth tracking tonight in advance of Friday’s bracket update:
Temple (vs. Memphis) – For a couple of weeks, the Owls have maintained their perch atop the American Conference standings. Whether their resume is strong enough to hold up on the at-large board is very much in question. Losing at home to Memphis would make that answer easier – in the wrong way.
Connecticut (at SMU) – The home loss to Houston adds a little more importance to this one for the Huskies. A season sweep of the Mustangs would be a nice get.
Cincinnati at Houston – For a group that’s been hovering around the First Four, the Bearcats want to keep their momentum going. As for the Cougars, their profile is much more iffy. Beating UConn and Cincinnati in back-to-back games would create some additional interest at the league tourney. Read more…
Of all the bubble results on Saturday, Florida’s loss at LSU is one of the most notable. And it’s not because losing to a wildly inconsistent group from Baton Rouge is particularly bad. In between their pile of head-wrangling losses to middling teams, this is a Tigers’ team that has won at Vanderbilt and beaten Kentucky and Texas AM. LSU can be pretty good – we just don’t see that team enough. The Gators problem is a serious lack of quality wins, as a 2-9 record against Top 50 RPI teams indicates. And one of those wins is against Saint Joseph’s in November. Since then, Florida has beaten exactly one (1) team – West Virginia at home – that would be an at-large team in the Field today. Their remaining Top 100 wins are Georgia and Ole Miss twice and the aforementioned LSU outfit at home. If there’s a remedy, it’s a visit from Kentucky this coming week before a trip to Missouri. The Gators really need to win both of those ahead of the SEC tournament.
Elsewhere, it was a pretty good day for bubble teams along the cutline. Vanderbilt helped itself the most by beating Kentucky in Nashville. We’ll see if they can keep building on a three-game winning streak. Alabama and Cincinnati won the games they had to (Auburn, East Carolina) …. On the outside looking in … VCU, St. Bonaventure, and Butler all put victories on the slate, with VCU taking down fellow-bubbler George Washington. And Gonzaga won at BYU – keeping their at-large hopes in tact.
Sunday’s Bubble Action
Illinois – The Illini take on Michigan in the 8/9 game at the B10 tourney in Chicago. It’s a must win. We’ll see if the home crowd can push the Illini into a matchup with top-seed Wisconsin on Friday.
Indiana – A loss to Northwestern would really put the squeeze on IU’s NCAA hopes. The Hoosiers have lost three straight and four of five games, and haven’t beaten an NCAA team since a home victory over Maryland in late January.
Oklahoma State – The Cowboys have lost five of six games to create a bit of uncertainty. A host of good wins is countered by a growing number of losses. The good news: losing to Oklahoma would be a “good” loss. But would it be one “good” loss to many? A victory should seal an NCAA invitation.
Texas – The Longhorns took care of business against Texas Tech on Wednesday. Next up is Iowa State. Losing to the Cyclones a third time could create further issues for a team who’s major stumbling block is too many “good” losses (and not enough wins). Read more…
Missouri Valley regular-season champion Wichita State and runner-up Northern Iowa cleared the rest of the MVC by five full games in the standings. Both the Shockers and Panthers will be Dancing when the NCAA tournament pairings are announced on March 15. For that reason, bubble teams will be paying attention to Arch Madness, which begins Thursday in St. Louis.
If either of the favorites loses, it’ll open the door for a potential bid thief – a Valley team that could claim the league’s automatic bid and thus remove one of the “bubble” spots available to someone else. Which teams might create such havoc? The most likely candidates are Illinois State, Evansville, or Indiana State.
Illinois State owns a victory over Old Dominion and swept Evansville in the regular season; the teams meet again Thursday in the 4/5 quarterfinal matchup. ISU lost its pair of meetings with both WSU and UNI, but every game was close with the exception of its away game at Northern Iowa. Read more…
By now you know that the lower half of the bracket is wide open. The bubble? Well, it’s wide open, too. There are some highly questionable profiles near the cutline, and that may not change. Written off for the NIT at the end of its non-conference season, UCLA is among the teams back in the at-large picture. Same for Boise State, riding an eight-game winning streak in Mountain West play. And what about the ACC … no league is stronger at the top, but there’s a steep decline once you exit the upper tier.
There are some big-time programs currently on the outside looking in – including aforementioned UCLA, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, and Pittsburgh. There are also traditionally strong leagues – such as the Atlantic 10 – that could put just two teams into the field. Read more…
Welcome to the Revolving Door – otherwise known as this year’s NCAA tournament bubble. Teams come and go, enter and leave. It reminds one of Black Friday shoppers, moving in and out of stores at a brisk pace. They’re in search of a victory with the right shape and size. Finding those gifts can be elusive, and in the bustle of the moment, they stumble. Between Monday and today, a variety of teams passed through the bracket. A few others had the opportunity and missed the gate. If it gives you a better idea, most teams seeded on the 8-line or lower are a part of the bubble; to varying degrees. Buckle up, another weekend awaits.
What we do have is stability at the top of the bracket. Kentucky may have used up another of its lives this week, but the Cats survived at Florida. In search of a perfect season, it’s a good thing UK has nine. Virginia, Gonzaga, and Duke remain entrenched as top seeds – with Kansas, Wisconsin, Villanova, and Arizona next in line.
There will be 68 teams announced on Selection Sunday. That much we know. Which 68? We have a pretty good idea about 15 to 20 at this point. After that? There’s a lot of uncertainty. It’s shaping up to be a wild Championship Week – one in which the Selection Committee may use (or need) results to separate teams with similar profiles.