Bubble Watch Update: Which Teams Helped, Hurt Their NCAA Prospects
At this time of year, any meaningful bubble result can tilt the picture, but what happens when you get three days of midweek mayhem? There were a few clear winners this week, in large part because there were so many other surprising losers. With just nine days before Selection Sunday, here’s a quick update on what happened this week around the cutline and why the results mattered.
Helped Their At-Large Hopes
Colorado (20-9, 10-7 Pac-12; RPI: 24, SOS: 16)
Even after losing Andre Roberson for the time being to a viral issue, the Buffaloes crushed Oregon Thursday night, showing the committee that they can win without him, if needed. That will be part of the determination should Roberson not return to play before the NCAA tournament.
Iowa State (20-10, 10-7 Big 12; RPI: 51, SOS: 55)
The Cyclones were badly in need of a stabilizing win and they got it in style, routing Oklahoma State at home to feel a bit more secure in their bubble positioning.
Mississippi (22-8, 11-6 SEC; RPI: 57, SOS: 131
The Rebels staved off Alabama for a must-win on Tuesday, but still have significant work to do to bolster a very thin paper profile.
North Carolina (21-8, 12-5 ACC; RPI: 19, SOS: 14)
The smallball Tar Heels continued their late surge, handling bubble team Maryland comfortably on the road. The Heels look poised not only to make the NCAAs, but get a better seed than expected.
San Diego State (19-8, 9-6 Mountain West; RPI: 31, SOS: 26)
Got a home win over Air Force that it really needed to have going to Boise State and then possibly facing the Broncos again in the Mountain West quarterfinals.
Villanova (18-12, 10-8 Big East; RPI: 52; SOS: 21)
The Wells Fargo Center strikes again as the Wildcats claimed their third top-five win of the season in that building. With all the other bubble craziness around them, the Wildcats may be one of the week’s biggest positional winners.
Hurt Their At-Large Hopes
Alabama (18-11, 11-6 SEC; RPI: 65, SOS: 82)
The Tide fell at Ole Miss on Tuesday, a narrow defeat that may have the rare ability to hurt both teams. The whole SEC bubble picture is a mess. The tournament bracket will be an enormous factor.
Arkansas (18-12, 9-8 SEC; RPI: 84, SOS: 77)
Yeah, that 30-point loss at Missouri probably isn’t going to help the ol’ bubble position.
Boise State (18-9, 8-7 MWC; RPI: 42, SOS: 59)
The Broncos got a bit homered by the refs at UNLV Tuesday night and couldn’t hang on to a 10-point second-half lead. That wasn’t a must-win game for the Broncos, but home to San Diego State on Saturday may be closer to one. If Boise State can get that one to finish 9-7, they’ll be pretty well positioned to hang on to an NCAA bid. One win in Vegas would certainly help matters.
California (20-10, 12-6 Pac-12; RPI: 49, SOS: 32)
Cal should be OK to make the field of 68, you’d think, but the home effort against arch rival Stanford was pretty poor. With an RPI hovering around 50, they shouldn’t be too cavalier about the Pac-12 quarters.
Kentucky (20-10, 11-6 SEC; RPI: 54, SOS: 72)
The Wildcats have now lost all three road games since Nerlens Noel was injured, and haven’t been close in any of them. That’s not a great argument to make for the committee, which has to judge this team’s capabilities sans Noel on a small sample of games. If the Cats can’t beat Florida at home in the season finale, things will star to look very difficult for them.
Louisiana Tech (25-4, 16-1 WAC; RPI: 47, SOS: 201)
The Bulldogs couldn’t handle the first leg of their season-ending road test, losing at New Mexico State, and their thin at-large hopes get even thinner. They need to win at Denver on Saturday to avoid sharing the league title with the Pioneers and basically eliminating their safety net ahead of the WAC tourney. There just aren’t enough quality wins here to lose two more WAC games with that schedule strength.
Maryland (20-10, 8-9 ACC; RPI: 86, SOS: 107)
The Terps are about out of rope after losing at home to North Carolina. They finish the season at Virginia. A loss there and they clearly are auto-bid or bust. They may be anyway even with a win.
Massachusetts (18-10, 8-7 A-10; RPI: 55, SOS: 64)
The Minutemen were a sneaky at-large hopeful. I had them as the fifth team out on Tuesday. They needed to beat Butler at home Thursday night, though, and couldn’t do it. Their remaining game at Rhode Island doesn’t help them, so a couple rounds of A-10 tourney (at minimum) are needed.
Minnesota (20-10, 8-9 Big Ten; RPI: 20, SOS: 2)
The Gophers shouldn’t be in any danger of not making the NCAAs, but the seed will take a hit with a sloppy loss at Nebraska.
Southern Miss (20-8, 11-4 CUSA; RPI: 39, SOS: 96)
Ate a disappointing loss at Marshall and can’t have any real at-large hopes at this point, despite an RPI in the high 30s. The Golden Eagles have one top-90 win, over Denver.
Virginia (20-10, 10-7 ACC; RPI: 73, SOS: 123)
The Cavaliers became Michael Snaer’s latest victim and lost a crucial game in Tallahassee Thursday night. Losers of four of their last six now, they face a massive home game with Maryland to close out the regular season and then will need to do some work in the ACC tournament to make the NCAAs. There are too many bad losses now to solely blame Jontel Evans’ absence for earlier gaffes.