As we inch closer and closer to March, every game becomes almost monumental for bubble teams and as we witnessed this past week, a simple two-game losing streak can be the death knell for a few poor squads.
Here’s a look at the weekend’s survivors and casualties, by conference.
In my disgust for Rhode Island’s recent home loss to Fordham, I may have written off the Rams a bit early. Rhody put itself back in the mix with a 10-point win over VCU. The Rams are some damage in the A-10 tournament away from having a legit chance to dance.
Houston kept its slim, slim at-large hopes alive with a 72-71 win at Memphis, Sunday.
Syracuse seemingly got themselves in the tournament with last week’s huge win over Duke, but it would help their nerves to avoid blowouts on the road, like what happened to them at Louisville on Sunday. Cuse is guaranteed to be .500 in league play, which is big, but they still possess a very high R.P.I. in the 70’s and all of their big wins were in the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome and they are 2-8 on the road.
Georgia Tech, very much on the outside looking in, had a chance to enhance its resume on Sunday, but fell to Notre Dame in a typical close game between the two. Tech finishes with Pittsburgh and at Syracuse and will likely have to win both to have any realistic chance at the NCAA Tournament.
Most of the weekend’s casualties came from this ultra-competitive conference, as its inhabitants continue to eat their own. One of those casualties was TCU, who had an opportunity to get a huge win, but just missed, losing at home to West Virginia by one. TCU drops to 6-10 in conference, which is no bueno, and they have two tough Big 12 contests remaining, so the N.I.T. looks to be in their future.
Kansas State, who I had as an 11 seed one week ago, suddenly is on the far outside looking in with binoculars. K State lost for the fifth time in six games, this time by thirty points at 10-18 Oklahoma. That’s not exactly what the selection committee likes to see. They also don’t like 6-10 conference records or R.P.I.’s approaching 70. The Wildcats will not be dancing this season.
Seton Hall hangs on to its tenuous NCAA Tournament spot, after barely winning at DePaul on Saturday. The Hall is now 8-8 in conference play with dates versus Georgetown and at Butler remaining. 9-9 looks to be in the Pirates’ future.
Providence continued its surge with a monster home win versus fellow bubble mate, Marquette, on Saturday. The win puts the Friars right at the doorstep of the dance, at 8-8 in the Big East, with winnable games versus DePaul and at St. John’s remaining. Providence also brought its R.P.I. down to a respectable 52, which could do wonders.
Marquette, on the other hand, is suddenly in a dangerous position. The Golden Eagles are also 8-8 in conference, but they have tough games at Xavier and home versus Creighton on their schedule. They also have an R.P.I. of 72. It could be an uphill battle for Wojo and company.
Michigan has played itself off of the bubble, after (or before) its impressive home win over Purdue on Saturday.
Indiana, way on the outside looking in, may have put Northwestern in a dangerous situation, handing the Wildcats its fifth loss in its last seven games and dropping its R.P.I. to 50. Northwestern is 9-7 in the league, but has two tough games remaining, versus Michigan and Purdue. They would be wise to win one of those.
Some may have thought Michigan State was on the bubble, but those thoughts should be no more, after the Spartans beat struggling Wisconsin, Sunday.
Middle Tennessee State kept its under-the-radar at-large chances alive with a come-from-behind road victory over UAB. The Blue Raiders are now 26-4, including a 23-point win over Vanderbilt, and an R.P.I. in the high 20’s. It is very rare that a team with that high of an R.P.I. gets left out of the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully, as far as the teams from major conferences are concerned, MTSU will take care of business in the conference tournament.
Wichita State is not likely on the bubble, after winning twelve straight MVC games by an average of 23 points. They easily got their twelfth at Missouri State on Saturday. The Shockers have no great wins, but they have no bad losses either and with a solid R.P.I. at 40, they should be fine.
Illinois State is a legitimate bubble team. The Redbirds, like Wichita State, are 17-1 in the MVC, they have a win versus the Shockers, but unlike their conference mates, they have a few bad losses on their resume. ISU’s win at Northern Iowa to end the regular season, keeps them with an outside chance at an NCAA bid.
California’s 30-point blowout of Oregon State keeps the Golden Bears in a relatively safe position inside the bubble. But, they have two tough road tests remaining and might want to win a couple games in the Pac 12 tournament to pad their light resume.
USC may have put itself in some danger by losing at lowly Arizona State on Sunday. The Trojans are .500 in conference with two relatively easy games left on the schedule. USC should be fine, barring a collapse.
Tennessee looks to be another casualty of the weekend, after losing their second straight and fourth out of five games, this time at South Carolina by 27 points. The Vols dropped to 7-9 in the SEC and saw their R.P.I. dip into the mid 60’s. Tennessee will need to do major damage in the SEC tournament.
Vanderbilt continued its strong push towards an NCAA tournament berth with a 29-point win over Mississippi State. The Commodores have come out of nowhere, but a fourth ranked strength of schedule and impressive wins over Florida, Iowa State, Arkansas and South Carolina, puts Vandy in a strong position down the stretch.
Georgia kept its slim hopes alive with a win over LSU, while Arkansas remains reasonably comfortable after its win at Auburn.
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