The college basketball world is focused on Duke-North Carolina on Thursday night, but there are some bubble teams looking to avoid losses and stay in the at-large mix. Moreover, one bubble team is hoping for a marquee win to really enhance its résumé.
BYU: This was a game the Cougars needed to win. After four consecutive losses in December, BYU has won 11 of its last 14 games -- highlighted by Thursday's home victory against Gonzaga. The Cougars now have another marquee victory to add to the ledger, joining top-50 wins Texas and Stanford. BYU's computer numbers are very solid, including a non-conference SOS ranked No. 6 in the country. The four sub-100 losses are a huge negative, but the Cougars are now 7-6 against the top 100. In the final two games of the league season, they can't slip up against Portland and San Diego.
Memphis: The Tigers were in fine shape either way, as they sit in the 6-8 range in most brackets. But a loss to Rutgers would have been terrible and could have dropped them a few seed lines. Memphis should continue padding its win total against Temple and Houston in the next two games, before a tough finishing stretch against Louisville, Cincinnati and SMU. The Tigers are just 3-6 against the top 50 – getting a couple of those big wins down the stretch will help their seeding.
Stanford: After Arizona and UCLA, the Pac-12 is pretty crowded when it comes to seeding and NCAA tournament teams. But the Cardinal keep pushing forward in that group, beating USC on Thursday to make it four wins in five games. They are also 8-3 in their last 11 games, sitting around a 10-seed in most projected brackets. But now comes the tough part. UCLA comes to visit this weekend, and then there is the Arizona road swing next week. Stanford has to come up with some quality wins; the Cardinal have four top-50 wins but are 5-8 against the top 100.
Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles were in fourth-place in Conference-USA heading into the night, but they beat UTSA to snap a two-game losing streak and stay within striking distance of the regular-season title. Southern Miss has a solid RPI of 40, but the strength of schedule is poor and the actual meat of the resume isn't great. Their best win is over North Dakota State, and they have three sub-100 losses. Would running the table to the conference title game get consideration?
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers suddenly appeared on the bubble after winning at Michigan State over the weekend, and there was no letdown on Thursday, as they handled Penn State. Nebraska has now won four in a row and seven of its last nine, with games against Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern and Indiana coming up. All those are winnable games. They have two top-20 wins over Ohio State and Michigan State, but the three sub-100 losses are a trouble spot.
Georgetown: The Hoyas are the big losers of the night, going to New Jersey and suffering a terrible loss to Seton Hall. Given how tight the pecking order is between the bubble teams in the Big East, it's a loss Georgetown couldn't afford -- especially since the Hoyas were coming off a blowout loss at St. John's last weekend. There are three very good wins, with Michigan State, VCU and Kansas State, but they have now been swept by Seton Hall and also have a sub-200 loss to Northeastern. They are 5-8 against the top 100. It doesn't get any easier for Georgetown, either. The final four games for the Hoyas: vs. Xavier, at Marquette, vs. Creighton, at Villanova. The opportunities to improve their resume are there -- but so is the opportunity to be completely out of the mix in two weeks.
Gonzaga: I still expect the Bulldogs to make the NCAA tournament, but the loss to BYU makes you look closer at the resume. And it doesn't exactly jump off the page. Gonzaga has an RPI in the 20s, but it is now 1-3 against the top 50. Six wins in the 51-100 range look good, but the final three games of the regular season are all on the road -- a couple more slip-ups for the Bulldogs, and they could be in trouble.
Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs were among three teams tied at the top of Conference-USA heading into Thursday, but they lost at East Carolina -- which will also hurt their at-large hopes. The resume just isn't there. The RPI will likely be in the 80s tomorrow, and the SOS is terrible. Moreover, Tech only has one top-50 victory, at Oklahoma in late December. If they run the table and get to the conference title game, maybe they have a chance. Short of that, and it might not be enough.
Saint Mary's: The Gaels barely even made this list in the first place, but they very likely won't be making any future appearances after losing at San Francisco on Thursday night. Saint Mary's is now 9-6 in the West Coast Conference, and there isn't close to enough on the resume. The Gaels have five sub-100 losses, including a home defeat to Santa Clara last month. North Dakota State is the best win on the profile, and that's the only top-50 victory. Even running the table and losing in the WCC title game could leave them short.