Posted on: February 22, 2012 8:30 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 12:40 am

Poppin' Bubbles: Avoiding bad losses is key

Wyoming saw its bubble burst with an overtime loss at San Diego State. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

Tuesday was a prove-it day for bubble teams, as seven of them played ranked teams and another two had to pass road tests. Only three teams out of that group came out victorious. Wednesday is another huge night for bubblers, but in a different ways. Only a few have a chance to get statement wins, but nearly a dozen teams have to avoid bad losses. With so many different things at stake, we’ve expanded our categories too. 

Note: This page will be updated throughout the night, with bubble discussion and analysis. 

Status quo

Purdue: The Boilermakers didn’t suffer the same fate as Illinois over the weekend, throttling Nebraska out of the gate en route to an 83-65 win. The win moves the Boilermakers to 8-7 in the Big Ten heading into their final stretch against Michigan, Penn State and Indiana. If Purdue can get one of the two road games (Michigan, Indiana), it will feel awfully comfortable heading into the conference tournament.

Memphis: The Tigers suffered a really bad loss at home over the weekend to UTEP, so they could not afford to lose another questionable game. That wasn't a problem, as Memphis handled East Carolina with ease in the second half. The Tigers also took over first place in the league standings after Southern Miss' loss, but their Selection Sunday fate will be decided down the stretch. They have road trips to Marshall and Tulsa sandwiched around a home against UCF. The Tigers need to prove themselves in those three games.

Iowa State: Heading into a very difficult three-game stretch to finish the season, the Cyclones needed to beat Texas Tech on Wednesday to get to 10 wins in the Big 12. It wasn't as easy as expected, but they still dominated the final 10 minutes en route to an 18-point win. With road games at Kansas State and Missouri and a home date with Baylor still on the docket, Iowa State will have chances to seal its bid. One win would make the Cyclones feel pretty good.

Hurt itself

West Virginia
: The Mountaineers hung with Notre Dame for a half, but the Fighting Irish came out of the break with a bang and simply ran away with the game. The loss is West Virginia's sixth defeat in eight games, and drops them to 7-8 in the conference. On Friday, Marquette comes to Morgantown in a game that would really solidify the Mountaineers' at-large hopes. If they drop that one, they need to win the final two games of the regular season and then do some damage in the league tourney.

Southern Miss: Things are getting dicey for the Golden Eagles. They survived a loss to Houston over the weekend and remained in pretty good shape, but Wednesday's double-overtime loss to UTEP (by the way, when did the Miners become such a giant-killer?) moves them into suspect territory. They are now tied for second-place with Tulsa in the standings and have three sub-100 losses. Southern Miss has to survive its next two games -- Rice and SMU -- before the season finale against Marshall. The Golden Eagles are still in, but nowhere near as safe. 

South Florida: Despite a gaudy Big East record, the biggest knock on the Bulls is their lack of good wins and their soft conference schedule. They jumped out to a double-digit lead at Syracuse, but couldn't make plays late in the game and fell short. They are now 10-5 in the league with three games left. They have Cincinnati, Louisville and West Virginia remaining -- two of them coming at home -- so there are still chances. Right now, though, one good win over Seton Hall isn't getting it done.

Saint Joseph's: The Hawks were one of the final teams out of the bracket this week, but that will change next week after their loss at home to Richmond, which came into Wednesday with an RPI nearing 150. Unless the Hawks beat Temple and St. Bonaventure to finish the season and then get a couple quality wins in the Atlantic 10 tournament, Phil Martelli's club won't have a happy Selection Sunday.

Minnesota: Farewell, at-large hopes. The Golden Gophers have now lost four in a row and six of their last eight, and suffering a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State. Tubby Smith's troops had the game in their grasp, but completely malfunctioned in the last three and a half minutes and will now be relegated to the NIT. Barring a crazy run the rest of the season, Minnesota is done. 

UCF: The talk of the Knights as an at-large team seemed to be jumping the gun a little bit in the past couple weeks, and Wednesday's horrible second-half loss to Rice pushes them further out of the field. They now drop to a fourth-place tie in the league standings, and still have to go to Memphis in next-to-last game of the season. 14 of their 17 wins are sub-100. 

Still alive

The Flyers made it into several brackets this week on the basis of their seven top-100 wins and victories over Temple and Saint Louis. However, they are only one questionable loss from falling from the picture. They survived on Wednesday, going on the road and beating Duquesne. They still probably need to win their final three regular-season games.

The Thundering Herd shook off a double-digit first half deficit to dominate Houston in the second half. It is their third straight win, and with chances sitll remaining against Memphis and Southern Miss, Marshall has the opportunity to play itself into the league title -- and at-large -- race.

Drexel: The Dragons still have plenty of work to do to move into consideration for an at-large berth, but the Dragons stayed alive with a win over James Madison. An outright regular-season title could really help their profile, so they need to win at Old Dominion on Saturday and also hope George Mason drops one to VCU.

VCU: Like Drexel, VCU just needs to keep winning and hope quantity of wins is enough for the Selection Committee. The Rams survived a trip to UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday night, and now get a shot at co-league leader George Mason this weekend. A win there and a Drexel loss to Old Dominion would give the Rams a share of the regular-season title.

LSU: The Tigers popped on the radar in the past week, and they kept their winning ways going with a victory over Georgia on Wednesday. That's now four straight victories for the Tigers, leaving them 7-6 in the SEC -- good enough for fourth in the conference standings. If they can win out in the regular season, LSU will have an interesting at-large case. It owns wins over Marquette, Alabama and Mississippi State.

Bubble Popped

The Cowboys looked like they were about to revive their at-large hopes by leading at San Diego State for most of the game. However, the Aztecs tied it late and then dominated the overtime period. Wyoming is now 4-7 in the Mountain West and in sixth place. Their at-large hopes are likely gone. 

Ole Miss:
The Rebels have completely fallen off since getting some serious consideration a couple weeks back. Their 13-point loss at Tennessee on Wednesday night was their third in a row, and fifth in their last six games. Barring an amazing run to -- at least -- the SEC title game, no NCAA for them. 

La Salle: If the Explorers could have won out and then done damage in the conference tournament, they had a chance. Their overtime loss to Temple on Wednesday ends their at-large hopes.  

George Mason: The Patriots can still win a share of the CAA title with a win over VCU this weekend and a Drexel loss, but their loss at Northeastern on Wednesday night ruins their at-large hopes. Despite their 14 CAA wins, they have just two top-100 wins and four sub-100 losses. 

Posted on: February 21, 2012 9:05 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 12:07 am

Poppin' Bubbles: Big chances for marquee wins

Northwestern had a chance to solidify its resume against Michigan. Instead, the Wildcats fell in overtime. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

This week is void of bubble-bubble battles for the most part, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any important games for those teams on the fence. Tuesday’s slate features seven bubble teams facing ranked teams, while two other bubblers are on the road and another team or two need to solidify their resumes by avoiding a bad loss. Simply put, this is a monster night for bubble squads.

Note: This page will be updated throughout the night, with bubble discussion and analysis. 


Seton Hall:
 The first of what could be several big bubble wins tonight. The Pirates came out with intensity and energy, and never let up en route to a 73-55 win over Georgetown. The win gives the Pirates a marquee win on which to hang their hat, a win that they desperately needed. Prior to tonight, the best wins for Seton Hall were over Connecticut and West Virginia. Moreover, the victory improves Seton Hall to .500 in the Big East, with a home game vs. Rutgers and a road trip to DePaul remaining. The Pirates are feeling confident right now.

Kansas State:
And it's time to lock the Wildcats up. After winning at Baylor to put themselves in good position, Kansas State went into Columbia and handed Missouri its first home loss of the season, 78-68. It also punches the Wildcats' ticket to the NCAA tournament. They now have two wins over Missouri and a win over Baylor, as well as victories over Long Beach State, Alabama and Texas. The two losses to Oklahoma look strange, but that will only matter for seeding now. Kansas State is in. 

Colorado State: The Rams are certainly alive on the NCAA bubble, after taking down a red-hot New Mexico team. Combined with their win over Wyoming on Saturday, Colorado State is back above .500 in the Mountain West, and the Rams' computer profile is only going to get better. Coming into the night, the RPI was 30 and the SOS was 13 -- that will improve after the win over the Lobos. This gives Colorado State two good wins on the resume, with the other coming against San Diego State. The biggest problems right now are the 2-8 road record and the three sub-100 losses. However, with games against UNLV and SDSU coming up, the Rams have chances. Win one, and they could be in good shape.


Northwestern: Oh, so close. The Wildcats -- in perhaps the biggest game in program history -- had chances to beat Michigan in regulation, but fell short. The Wolverines dominated the overtime en route to a win over Northwestern. The loss is heartbreaking for the Wildcats, which was one of the last teams in the field this week and really could have helped their resume with another marquee win. Moreover, instead of moving to .500 in the Big Ten, Northwestern drops to 6-9. Bill Carmody's club still has to travel to Penn State and Iowa, as well as play host to Ohio State. The Wildcats might need a win over the Buckeyes to look attractive to the Committee. Wins over Michigan State and Seton Hall might not be enough.

Mississippi State: It was a heck of an effort from Mississippi State on Tuesday night against Kentucky, but the Bulldogs simply couldn't make enough plays at either end of the floor in the second half. While they played well, it's now four losses in a row for Rick Stansbury and co. A couple of weeks ago, Mississippi State was looking like a potential Sweet 16 team and a No. 6 seed or so. Now, their at-large hopes could hinge on a road trip to fellow bubbler Alabama this weekend. They're now 6-7 against the top 100 and 6-7 in the SEC. Rodney Hood's injury could be something to watch as well. 

So much for taking advantage of the momentum the Musketeers built after the overtime win over Dayton. Xavier went into Amherst on Tuesday night and never seemed overly competitive against Massachusetts, losing 80-73. A win would have helped the Musketeers feel more confident; instead, they're back in trouble. The best win remains over Vanderbilt, although the victories against fellow bubble teams Purdue, Cincinnati, Dayton and Saint Joseph's could potentially help on Selection Sunday. A win at Saint Louis next week would be nice.

North Carolina State: Last week, North Carolina State was on the verge of really solidifying its at-large profile, leading by 20 at Duke. After a loss to North Carolina on Tuesday, the Wolfpack have lost three in a row and are really struggling. They needed a marquee win for their profile -- the best wins right now are over Miami (Fl.) and Texas -- and they struck out all three times in the past week. NC State now needs to win its final three games of the regular season and then pick up a big win over someone in the ACC tournament.

Miami (Fl.): The Hurricanes had stayed in the field by simply avoiding losses to non-NCAA teams. That ended on Tuesday, as the Hurricanes blew a second-half lead and lost to Maryland in the final minutes, 75-70. Turnovers by Durand Scott and Shane Larkin could come back to haunt them come Selection Sunday. Miami is only 1-6 against the top 50 of the RPI, and it only has one truly "good" win -- at Duke on Super Bowl Sunday. The Hurricanes host Florida State and then travel to North Carolina State next week in a huge bubble battle. Miami likely needs to win both.

Illinois: If you didn't think the Fighting Illini threw in the towel during their miserable blowout loss at Nebraska over the weekend, Tuesday night's loss to Ohio State should have done the trick. The Buckeyes got out to a 28-8 lead and never looked back, getting revenge for an earlier loss with a blowout win. Illinois is now essentially lifeless in terms of the NCAA tournament. The Illini have lost nine of its last 10 games and are five games below .500 in the Big Ten.
Posted on: February 18, 2012 2:12 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 1:11 am

Poppin' Bubbles: Winners and Losers

Kansas State might have been the biggest winner of the day, getting a marquee road win at Baylor. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

While BracketBusters is getting most of the attention this weekend, it’s also a BubbleBurster type of weekend. According to most projected brackets, there are still 10-12 spots that could go to any number of teams. Of course, most of those teams are in action today. There are bubble battles and chances for marquee wins across the board, so keep it locked here for all your bubble action.

Note: This page will be updated all day, with bubble discussion and analysis.


New Mexico:
The win at San Diego State might have vaulted the Lobos into a more comfortable position -- but Saturday's victory over UNLV locks it up. Moreover, New Mexico has the inside track to a regular-season title in the Mountain West after knocking off the SDSU and UNLV in a matter of days. This is a team that can do some damage in March. The Lobos have Drew Gordon on the inside, plenty of shooters on the perimeter, a 10-deep rotation and they play really good defense. 

Kansas State: I wrote last week that Kansas State needed to get one its "big three" games: Kansas, Baylor and Missouri. On Saturday, the Wildcats went into Waco and came out with a huge resume-boosting win over Baylor. They now own wins over Missouri and Baylor, along with decent scalps against Alabama, Texas and Long Beach State. Moreover, today's win will likely vault Kansas State into the top 50 of the RPI, where it's a lot more comfortable. At 7-7 in the Big 12, the Wildcats are in much better shape than they were this morning. Really, really good win.

Miami: The Hurricanes were one of the last teams in the bracket this week, and they couldn't afford to lose to Wake Forest at home. They obliged, pulling away in the second half for a 74-56 win. At 7-5 in the ACC, they continue to inch ahead of North Carolina State in the ACC argument, despite losing to the Wolfpack. The win over Duke remains the only top 50 win for the Hurricanes, but it's not a bad trump card come Selection Sunday. They need to beat Maryland on the road next week, then comes two tough ones vs. Florida State and at NC State. 

Alabama ended its two-game losing streak and stayed in the field by beating Tennessee. (US Presswire)

Alabama: The Crimson Tide will remain an interesting case as long as they're not at full strength. With that said, though, they stayed in relatively comfortable position even without their studs. On Saturday, they welcomed in a hot Tennessee team and dominated the second half to win, 62-50. Alabama only has one marquee win -- over Wichita State -- but its victory over Purdue helps in bubble comparisons. If the Crimson Tide can go 3-1 down the stretch, they will finish above .500 in the SEC and be in pretty good shape. 

Iowa State: It wasn't of the same caliber as Kansas State, but the Cyclones handled their business on Saturday in a 80-69 win over Oklahoma at home. Interestingly, with the win and Baylor's loss, the two teams are now tied for third-place in the Big 12 at 9-5. The win over Kansas a few weeks ago really helps matters, although only three top-100 wins and the lack of road victories remain trouble spots. The three-game stretch to finish the season -- at Kansas State, at Missouri, vs. Baylor -- will decide their fate. 

Washington: What the Pac-12 has been looking for all season is some separation at the top of the league standings. Washington's win over Arizona on Saturday provides some. If California wins this weekend, both teams will have a two-game lead on the rest of the conference -- exactly what the conference needs. In terms of the Huskies' at-large hopes, the victory now gives them a season sweep of Arizona, which is basically the only thing boosting up Washington's resume at this point. Washington now has three road games to finish the season, but the Huskies needed this one. 

Cincinnati: Despite the Bearcats' horrendous computer profile, they're still in at-large consideration thanks to their quality wins. They picked up a monster bubble victory on Saturday, getting off to a hot start against Seton Hall and holding off the Pirates down the stretch. Cincinnati had already beaten Georgetown, Notre Dame and Connecticut, and Saturday's win puts them at 5-5 against teams ranked in the top 100. The bad losses are certainly bringing the profile down, but 9-5 in the Big East keeps the Bearcats in the mix for now. Big chance at home against Louisville next week.

Saint Louis: Isn't it about time we consider the Billikens a step ahead of the bubble? The win over Fordham wasn't profile-boosting by any stretch, but Saint Louis is now 10-3 in the Atlantic-10, with a top-25 RPI. They only have one top-50 win, over Saint Joseph's, but they've also beaten fellow bubblers Washington, Xavier and Dayton. They're 6-5 against the top 100 and have zero bad losses. Barring a collapse, the Billikens will make the Dance.

Saint Joseph's: The Hawks kept their at-large hopes alive by going into Washington D.C. and beating George Washington, 73-66. They don't have an eye-popping at-large profile, but they do own a win over Creighton and also defeated Dayton (and a rapidly-improving Drexel team). For now, the Hawks are on the outside looking in, but 8-5 in the A-10 looks solid. Next Saturday's home game against Temple will be huge for their Selection Sunday chances.

Northwestern: The Wildcats had a couple of road losses heading into the weekend, but they bounced back nicely with a double-digit victory over Minnesota. The win separates them somewhat from Illinois and Minnesota, putting them at 6-8 in the Big Ten. There is still plenty of work to be done, though, as Northwestern sits at 2-8 vs. the top 50. The Wildcats get both Michigan and Ohio State at home down the stretch, so there are chances to add to their marquee win category, which currently includes Michigan State. 

With Saturday's win over Santa Clara, the Cougars have now won five in a row and improved to 11-3 in the West Coast Conference. As other bubble teams around BYU start to lose, the Cougars' profile looks better and better. They are 10-3 away from home, and they have a top-20 RPI win over Gonzaga. On Thursday, BYU heads to Spokane in a huge game against Gonzaga -- the Bulldogs could be playing for a chance to share the league title, while BYU would lock up a bid with a win. If the Cougars lose that one, we will reassess. 

UCF: Despite their loss to Southern Miss during the week, the Knights have quietly played themselves back into the at-large picture. They kept those hopes alive with a 64-55 win over East Carolina on Saturday. UCF still sits at just fourth in Conference-USA, so it needs to break into the top three to have a better chance, but wins over fellow bubblers Memphis and Connecticut are decent. Two sub-100 losses do hurt, though. A road game at Memphis on Feb. 28 could be a make-or-break contest.

Xavier: This was a must-win for Xavier, which could have dropped to fifth in the A-10 pecking order with a loss at home to Dayton. However, Tu Holloway came through in the clutch and the Musketeers got an overtime win over the Flyers. The Musketeers are third in the Atlantic-10, and it gives them another nice bubble win, to add to Saint Joseph's, Cincinnati and Purdue. Throw in a victory over Vanderbilt, and Xavier could be in decent shape right now. Road games at Massachusetts and Saint Louis in the final four games make things interesting.

Colorado State: In what boiled down to a Mountain West elimination game, the Rams knocked off Wyoming, avenging a 16-point loss earlier this season. They get back to .500 in the conference and win for only the third time in their last eight games. However, the upcoming three-game stretch will decide their fate: vs. New Mexico, at San Diego State, vs. UNLV. If they can get wins in two of those three, the Rams could be an interesting case heading into the conference tournament. 

California: The Golden Bears kept pace with Washington in the Pac-12 standings, rolling in the second half over Oregon State. Cal still has the best overall profile in the conference, with good computer numbers and a 7-4 record against the top-100. They do face three road games to finish the season, though, and getting separation at the top of the league is important to getting an at-large bid. 

Connecticut is in serious bubble trouble after losing nine of its last 13 contests. (US Presswire)


Connecticut: The Huskies dominated DePaul during the week, but missed out on a chance to solidify their at-large standing against Marquette. The Huskies got down early and never got closer than four in the second half en route to a 79-64 loss. They now drop to 6-8 in the Big East and 5-6 against teams ranked in the top 50. However, there’s no one marquee win that puts the Huskies over the top. Florida State, Notre Dame and Harvard are good – but Marquette would have been a huge profile-booster. UConn is in serious trouble heading into the final four games – they might need to beat Syracuse next weekend.

Illinois: The Fighting Illini have officially packed it in. After not pulling a win out earlier in the week against Purdue, Illinois went into Nebraska and just got destroyed. The Cornhuskers went on a 31-4 run that ended up being a 52-12 stretch. The final was 80-57, and that wasn't even indicative of how bad Illinois played in the final 20 minutes. Bruce Weber sounded defeated after the loss to Purdue; one can only imagine how he feels now. The Fighting Illini still have really good wins over Michigan State, Ohio State and Gonzaga, but they are now 5-9 in the Big Ten and have lost eight of their last nine games. Barring a 3-1 finish with games against Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan, Illinois is finished.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have officially entered a danger zone. A week and a half ago, it looked like Mississippi State was primed to rattle off some victories and cement itself into the dance -- now, it has lost three in a row after the latest setback to Auburn on Saturday. After being considered in good shape for much of the season, a closer look reveals that the Bulldogs are in serious trouble. There's the win at Vanderbilt, a couple of nice wins against West Virginia and Alabama, but not much else. They're now 6-6 in the SEC, 4-6 away from home and have two sub-100 losses. This week is enormous: home vs. Kentucky, and at Alabama. 

North Carolina State: After blowing a 20-point lead to Duke on Thursday, the Wolfpack were one of the last teams considered for projected brackets on Friday. They needed to bounce back and get a quality win against Florida State on Saturday. That didn't happen. Florida State took command early in the first half and never looked back, hammering NC State, 76-62. The Wolfpack's resume doesn't have too many good wins, with Texas and Miami (Fl.) leading the way. A win today (or Thursday) would have boosted the profile. Now, this week's game at home against North Carolina amounts to a must-win.

Memphis: Despite not having an overwhelming resume, the Tigers avoided the "real" bubble by beating the teams they were supposed to beat and not suffering bad losses. Well, they suffered a bad loss on Saturday, falling 60-58 to UTEP at home. It was the Miners' first road victory of the season. Taking a closer look at Memphis' resume, and the loss could be trouble. UTEP was ranked No. 183 in the RPI heading into Saturday, and gives Memphis its first true bad loss of the season. Combine it with a 2-6 record vs. the top 50, and Memphis is far from a lock at this point.  

Arizona: The Wildcats had plenty of at-large momentum in recent weeks, moving past Washington in the bubble pecking order. However, they needed to knock off the Huskies on the road on Saturday -- but they fell short, 79-70. Arizona drops to fourth-place in the Pac-12 at this point, and its resume is still based off one win: at California. The Wildcats need more beef to the profile, meaning a trip to the Pac-12 championship game might be necessary. 

Seton Hall: Even though the Pirates' had a six-game losing streak earlier in the Big East season, their resume was still better than many bubblers. In a huge bubble battle against Cincinnati on Saturday, though, they fell short. Seton Hall drops to 7-8 in the Big East, heading into next week's game against Georgetown. If the Pirates beat the Hoyas, they're back in good shape. However, the four good wins -- Connecticut, West Virginia, Saint Joseph's, Dayton -- aren't exactly "marquee." 

Minnesota couldn't get past Northwestern, and now faces a difficult path to an NCAA bid. (AP)

Minnesota: The Golden Gophers had a golden opportunity to boost their at-large profile on Saturday, but they couldn't stop Northwestern's outside shooting and lost, 64-53. It was Minnesota's third straight loss and dropped the Gophers to 5-9 in Big Ten play. What makes it worse is the next three games: vs. Michigan State, vs. Indiana, at Wisconsin. Minnesota might need to sweep those three -- or at least nab two of three -- to have a chance again. They're 2-6 vs. the top-50, with a road win at Indiana highlighting the resume. 

With Kansas State and Iowa State winning today, the last thing Texas needed was a loss to Oklahoma State. So the Longhorns went to Stillwater and lost to Oklahoma State, 90-78, as Keiton Page dropped 40 points for the Cowboys. The loss drops Texas to 7-7 in the Big 12, with some separation between itself and the two teams tied for third place. Texas is only 3-8 against the top-100, but wins over Temple, Kansas State and Iowa State are pretty good. The Longhorns face Baylor at home next week; that has become a must-win for Rick Barnes' troops.

Ole Miss: The Rebels needed to bounce back from getting destroyed by Vanderbilt earlier in the week. Playing Kentucky wasn't the answer. They hung with the top-ranked Wildcats for a half, but Kentucky just steamrolled in the second half en route to a 77-62 win. Ole Miss is now just 1-7 against top-50 teams, with the best wins coming over Miami (Fl.) and Mississippi State. The Rebels are ninth place in the SEC and 3-10 vs. the top 100. That doesn't get it done. 

Arkansas: The Razorbacks' homecourt dominance was enough to keep them in the at-large conversation, but that's no longer the case. Florida absolutely annihilated Arkansas today in a 98-68 victory, despite freshman B.J. Young going for 31 points in the loss. The Razorbacks drop to 5-7 in the SEC and are still 0-8 away from home. With losses in five of their last seven games, and four sub-100 losses, Arkansas has a long way to go to get back in the at-large hunt. It was fun while it lasted. 

Wyoming: If the Cowboys could have swept Colorado State, they would still be in the mix for a fourth at-large coming out of the Mountain West. However, they lost by eight, and now sit at 4-6 in the conference. Moreover, they still have road games at San Diego and UNLV remaining. Anything short of an unbeaten run to the league title game won't be enough. 

The Flyers' plethora of decent wins had kept them hanging around the last few spots in the bracket for a couple of weeks now. A win at Xavier would have certainly boosted their profile heading down the stretch. Kevin Dillard and co. couldn't pull it out in overtime, though, and now are in big trouble. Saint Joseph's might have passed them in the pecking order, and they certainly did in the standings. Dayton is now eighth in the league table, and the bad computer numbers don't help. Wins over Temple, Saint Louis and Alabama only get you so far.

Southern Miss:
 This was a bad day for Conference-USA. Southern Miss could have taken control of the conference, as Memphis lost at home to UTEP earlier in the day. So the Golden Eagles went out and lost to Houston. Going into the weekend, Southern Miss should have felt pretty confident about its at-large hopes. It has a great RPI and wins over Memphis and Colorado State. Looking closer, though, the wins aren't great and losses to Houston and UAB are bringing the resume down. They need a regular-season title. 

Long Beach State: If the 49ers lose in the Big West conference tournament, their loss late to Creighton could be the game that keeps them out. To be clear, they do deserve a bid. But what will the Selection Committee see? The team that dominated the Big West? Or the one that missed out on several chances in the non-conference season? There's really only one good win on the resume, Xavier, as the victory over Pittsburgh doesn't look as good as it used to. With the way the 49ers are handling their league, though, this will be a moot point. 

Posted on: March 13, 2011 10:36 am

Poppin' Bubbles: The day has finally arrived

Posted by Jeff Borzello

We’re now just hours away from the announcement of the NCAA tournament field. There will be no more talk of bubbles, RPIs, quality wins, locks and all of the other catch phrases that have populated our vernacular over the past couple of months. With that said, we’re not done with the bubble just yet. There are still a handful of bids up for grabs that were affected by yesterday’s results and could change with today’s games.

Moving Up:

Richmond: The Spiders likely clinched an at-large bid by beating Temple in the semifinals; they have won eight in a row and don’t have many bad losses.

Memphis: The Tigers don’t need to worry about the bubble anymore, as they won the Conference-USA championship with a furious comeback late in the game.

Utah State: Another team who doesn’t need to sweat on Selection Sunday, the Aggies could be headed for the 8/9 game in the NCAA tournament.

Helping themselves:

Penn State: The Nittany Lions have enhanced their profile more than any other bubble team this week, beating Wisconsin and now Michigan State.

Hurting themselves:

Clemson: The Tigers had a chance to potentially lock up a bid, but they blew a late lead against North Carolina and then lost in overtime. Zero top-50 wins.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies couldn’t get a second win over Duke, so they will once again be on the cutline later today. Seth Greenberg should have his gripes ready.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide were blown out by Kentucky, so they will have to hope back-to-back wins over Georgia are enough for the committee.


Harvard: The Crimson were seconds away from winning the Ivy League playoff, but Princeton’s buzzer-beater likely relegated them to the NIT. Not enough meat on the profile.

Sunday’s bubble games to watch:

Richmond vs. Dayton: Richmond has likely wrapped up a bid, so the bubblers will be rooting heavily for the Spiders to win the Atlantic 10 title. If Dayton wins, some of those final teams will be sweating even more.

Penn State vs. Ohio State: Penn State could complete an improbably Big Ten tournament run by beating the top-seeded Buckeyes. The Nittany Lions might have done enough already, but a loss leaves them on the fence.

Photo: US Presswire

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: March 12, 2011 5:57 am
Edited on: March 12, 2011 6:00 am

Poppin' Bubbles: At-large picture gains clarity

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Friday was one of the most exciting days of college basketball in recent memory – including NCAA tournament days. At every turn, there was a buzzer-beater, an upset, a fantastic finish or a bubble battle. Sometimes, there was all four in one game. In terms of the bubble, Friday actually saw several teams do their best to play themselves into the at-large picture, which was a nice change of pace. Will Saturday further clarify the bubble scene?

Moving up:

Michigan State: The Spartans locked up a bid with their blowout win over Purdue in the Big Ten quarters. Are they ready for their annual March run?

Michigan: The Wolverines inched closer to clinching an invitation after their comeback victory over Illinois. A win over Ohio State would do the trick.

Helping themselves:

Clemson: The Tigers still don’t have a very attractive profile, but they clearly surpassed Boston College with a dominant performance on Friday.

Virginia Tech: If Tech hears its name called on Selection Sunday, it will look to Derwin Kitchen’s late buzzer-beater on Friday night. That could be the difference between the NCAA and NIT.

Alabama: Another beneficiary of a buzzer-beater that wasn’t. The Crimson Tide seemed to lose on a banked 3-pointer by Georgia, but Mark Fox had called a timeout. Alabama went on to beat UGA in overtime; the Tide passes the Bulldogs.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions certainly don’t look pretty, but that’s not what matters. They inched past Wisconsin on Friday, earning a chance to clinch a bid against Michigan State.

Richmond: Again, the Spiders did what they needed to do: avoid a bad loss against Rhode Island. Now, they can avenge the 20-point drubbing they took at the hands of Temple last month. A win and they’re in.

Utah State: The Aggies couldn’t lose before the conference title game, and they managed to escape against No. 8 seed San Jose State. They will face Boise State in the final.

Memphis: Another team that simply keeps winning, the Tigers handled East Carolina to reach the championship game against UTEP. Can Memphis overcome a loss?

Saint Mary’s: The Gaels didn’t really “help” themselves with their win over Weber State, but they kept their hopes alive by not losing. It will be a long two days for Saint Mary’s.

Hurting themselves:

Illinois: The Fighting Illini are probably in the NCAA tournament no matter what, but there are certainly reasons to leave them out after their late loss to Michigan.

Boston College: The Eagles are likely headed to the NIT after their blowout loss against Clemson. They are probably behind the Tigers and Virginia Tech now.

Georgia: The Bulldogs still might have the resume to get a bid, but they didn’t do themselves any favors by losing to fellow bubbler Alabama twice in a week.

USC: Without head coach Kevin O’Neill, the Trojans missed a chance to improve their resume against Arizona, losing by five. It will be difficult for them to get a bid.


New Mexico: The Lobos’ only shot at an at-large was to beat BYU for a third time and then hope and pray. Well, they didn’t beat BYU and too many other bubble teams won.

Saturday’s bubble games to watch:

Clemson vs. North Carolina: The Tigers put themselves in good position by blowing out Boston College. Now, they can really lock up a bid by beating a Tar Heels team that looked vulnerable on Friday. 

Virginia Tech vs. Duke: A second win over the Blue Devils would certainly get the job done for the Hokies. As it stands, Tech is right on the cutline for a bid.

Richmond vs. Temple: The Spiders have a chance to relax on Selection Sunday with a win over the Owls. Moreover, the other semifinal is between Dayton and Saint Joseph’s, so they would be the favorite in the title game as well.

Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Wolverines took a major step forward by coming back and beating Illinois – can they take a Sharpie to their name by beating the Buckeyes? They gave Ohio State trouble back in early February.

Michigan State vs. Penn State: This game now matters far more for Penn State than it does the Spartans. The Nittany Lions got the win they needed over Wisconsin; one more should do the trick.

Memphis vs. UTEP: If Memphis wins, it gets the automatic bid from Conference-USA. With a loss, the Tigers still might be in okay shape but it will be very, very close.

Alabama vs. Kentucky: Contrary to some opinions, Alabama didn’t lock up a bid by beating Georgia. The Crimson Tide boosted their profile, but a victory over the Wildcats would make it official.

Utah State vs. Boise State: Given the way the bubble has shaped up this season, the Aggies are more than likely getting a bid, win or lose. In that case, bubble teams will be rooting heavily for Utah State.

Harvard vs. Princeton: The Crimson have a gaudy RPI and a win over Boston College – that is enough to be in the conversation this season. A win, though, and Harvard gets the automatic bid.

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Bubble
Posted on: March 11, 2011 10:15 am

Poppin' Bubbles: Calm before the storm

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Another day of conference tournaments, another day of flux for teams on the bubble. Despite all the bubble action, it was almost like the calm before the storm. Friday is going to be jam-packed with bubble battles, pseudo play-in games, and de facto elimination games. We will have a far better idea of who’s in and who’s out come Saturday morning.

Moving up:

Tennessee: The Volunteers were likely a lock either way, but their win over Arkansas eliminated all doubts. The Vols simply have too many good victories.

Washington: The door is wide open for the Huskies to reach the Pac-10 title game, after beating Washington State and locking up a bid. A semifinal win over Oregon will just improve their confidence.

Colorado: The Buffaloes don’t have a flawless profile, but three wins over Kansas State and six top-50 victories leave them in good shape. A win over Kansas would obviously officially punch their ticket.

Helping themselves:

Boston College: The Eagles dominated Wake Forest for the second time in a week, setting up a quarterfinal game against fellow bubbler Clemson. That's likely a must-win.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies snapped their two-game losing streak by handling Georgia Tech fairly easily, but now they need to beat a Florida State team that could have Chris Singleton back.

Georgia: The Bulldogs did what they had to do, destroying Auburn and advancing to the quarterfinals to face Alabama. They might get in with a loss, but a victory would give them some breathing room.

Michigan State: The Spartans were thisclose to being relegated to the NIT, escaping Iowa with a late run. That would have been the Spartans’ second loss to the Hawkeyes.

USC: The Trojans have a collection of good wins, and they will have a chance to play themselves into the tournament with a semifinal match-up against Arizona. USC defeated California in the quarterfinals.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions still have a long way to go, but beating Indiana was a start. They will face Wisconsin in the quarterfinals – that is a must-win for Penn State, which needs to reach the title game.

Memphis: The Tigers became a little bit more interesting on Thursday, holding off Southern Miss late and advancing to the semifinals. Moreover, top seed UAB was knocked out by East Carolina, opening the door for Memphis to reach the title game.


UAB: The Blazers didn’t have a great profile, but their Conference-USA regular-season title was a trump card. Getting knocked out in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament by East Carolina makes them far less attractive. A gaudy RPI only goes so far when there’s no meat to the profile.

Colorado State: The Rams needed to make a run to the title game to give themselves any chance at an at-large bid. They didn’t get out of the quarterfinals, though, losing a hard-fought battle with New Mexico

Washington State: Klay Thompson had 43 points, but that wasn’t enough for the Cougars against Washington. Thompson will have to continue his stellar play in the NIT.

Friday’s bubble games to watch:

Boston College vs. Clemson: A de facto play-in game. Right now, I have Boston College as one of the “last four in” and Clemson one of the “last four out.” Only one will get an NCAA bid.

Florida State vs. Virginia Tech: A must-win for the Hokies, who don’t have the profile depth to withstand another loss. Florida State will get a chance to impress with the return of Chris Singleton.

Illinois vs. Michigan: Big-time bubble game. Illinois is probably in the dance, but Michigan needs to win in order to get a bid. The Fighting Illini are in better position to overcome a loss, but neither team wants to toy with that.

Georgia vs. Alabama: A rematch of last weekend’s Crimson Tide victory. Georgia is in better shape than Alabama right now, but another loss to the Tide would flip the, um, tide. It’s doubtful that both teams get bids.

Michigan State vs. Purdue: Michigan State avoided a bad loss against Iowa to stay in the picture, but a win over the Boilermakers would lock up a bid. The Spartans might get in either way.

Penn State vs. Wisconsin: An absolute must-win for the Nittany Lions, who need to make a run to the conference title game. Most of Penn State’s best wins are at home; a neutral-site one would be a nice addition.

Richmond vs. Rhode Island: The Spiders have done a great job avoiding bad losses, meaning that a berth in the semifinals could be enough for a bid. A loss to URI and Richmond will be sweating.

USC vs. Arizona: The Trojans are playing their best basketball of the season right now, and a win over top-seeded Arizona could be their ticket. A loss will probably send them to the NIT.

Utah State vs. San Jose State: Given the soft bubble, the Aggies might be able to survive a loss in the semifinals. But a win over upstart No. 8 seed SJSU would likely clinch a bid.

Memphis vs. East Carolina: The door opened up for Memphis to make a run to the conference title game, although the Tigers don’t get a third opportunity to knock off UAB. Will one more win get a bid?

Colorado vs. Kansas: Although Colorado is in pretty good shape after beating Kansas State, the Buffaloes can end all doubt and questions with a win over the Jayhawks.

New Mexico vs. BYU: The Lobos are making a late run for a bid, and a title game appearance might not even be enough. With that said, a third win over BYU would be a tremendous trump card over most at-large possibilities.

Washington vs. Oregon: A win here would give Washington an appearance in the Pac-10 title game. Even with a loss, though, I think the Huskies are safe. 

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 10, 2011 11:03 am
Edited on: March 10, 2011 12:27 pm

Poppin' Bubbles: Picture starts to clear up

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Wednesday marked the first day in a five-day stretch where the bubble and at-large picture will change on a near-hourly basis. With the BCS-conferences kicking off their league tournaments, several teams face must-win situations and others need to search for a marquee victory. This is the last impression many bubble teams will get to make on the committee – they need to take advantage. By the time Saturday afternoon rolls around, many of the fringe bubble teams will have weeded themselves out, while at least two or three bubblers will become locks after a couple of wins. Take a look at the winners and losers of Wednesday, as well as what games matter the most for Thursday.


Marquette: The Golden Eagles punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament, beating West Virginia and becoming the 11th lock from the Big East. They now have five top-25 wins on their resume, improving to 20-13 overall. Without any sub-100 losses and an improving computer profile, Marquette has a chance to pass Villanova on the S-curve with a win over Louisville today.

Colorado: The Buffaloes couldn’t afford another bad loss – and they barely escaped Iowa State, needing late-game heroics from Alec Burks to get the win. The victory doesn’t improve Colorado’s profile; it simply doesn’t ruin it. With a third game coming up today against Kansas State, the Buffs can punch their ticket. As it stands right now, Colorado would be in. It has five top-50 wins and wins in five of its last seven.

Missouri: Because of the soft bubble, the Tigers were likely locked into the NCAA tournament regardless of their Big 12 tournament performance. However, they avoided some serious stress on Selection Sunday by hanging on to beat Texas Tech. Had Missouri lost to the Red Raiders, the terrible road record and lack of big wins would have been analyzed more closely.


Nebraska: The Cornhuskers needed to make a run to the Big 12 title game in order to have a chance; they didn’t even get out of the first round. A turnover by Lance Jeter on the final possession against Oklahoma State will relegate Nebraska to the NIT. A poor finish and a terrible non-conference resume will be too much to overcome.

Baylor: Without Perry Jones, not too many people expected the Bears to make the requisite run they needed to get an at-large bid. But getting blown by Oklahoma was a surprise. Baylor can now settle the debate of the most disappointing team in the country – at least Michigan State has a chance of making the NCAA tournament.

Thursday’s bubble games to watch:

Boston College vs. Wake Forest: The Eagles are fourth in the ACC pecking order right now; a loss here would send them packing. A win sets up a potential play-in game against Clemson.

Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech: After last week’s disaster of a performance, the Hokies need to win two games in the ACC tournament. A win over the Yellow Jackets will pit Tech against Florida State.

Michigan State vs. Iowa: The Spartans have already lost to the Hawkeyes once, although they did enact some revenge with a blowout win late in the season. Michigan State obviously needs to win this one to set up a quarterfinal match-up against Purdue.

Penn State vs. Indiana: The Nittany Lions have some good wins, but 13 losses is an eyesore. A run to the title game might be necessary – it starts against the Hoosiers, and could continue in the quarterfinals against Wisconsin.

Colorado vs. Kansas State: Colorado avoided a bad loss against Iowa State, and now could lock up a bid with a third victory over Kansas State. A loss here and the Buffaloes could be in trouble.

Memphis vs. Southern Miss: The Tigers probably have the best at-large profile in the conference, but they finished two games out of first place. They need to knock off a very good Southern Miss team, and then also likely beat UAB in the semis to have any semblance of a chance.

UAB vs. East Carolina: The Blazers don’t have a tremendous profile in terms of wins, but they did win Conference-USA outright and have very nice computer numbers. A run to the title game could get them consideration – a victory over East Carolina is a must.

Colorado State vs. New Mexico: Neither team has much of a case at this point, but if one were to reach the championship game, we can revisit their profiles. The loser is done.

USC vs. California: The Trojans stayed on the bubble with a win last weekend at Washington, but will need to pick up two wins in the Pac-10 tournament. A victory over the Golden Bears will likely bring a date with top-seeded Arizona.

Washington vs. Washington State: This could be a monster game. Washington needs a win to truly feel comfortable about its at-large hopes, while Washington State could get right back into the hunt with a big win over the Huskies.

Georgia vs. Auburn: The Bulldogs lost to Alabama in the season finale, but need to beat Auburn in order to gain a rematch with the Crimson Tide in the quarterfinals. That contest will be a de facto play-in game, but Georgia needs to get there first.

Tennessee vs. Arkansas: Given the terrible bubble, the Volunteers simply have too many good wins not to get a bid. A win here would end all doubt, though.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 8, 2011 7:07 am

Poppin' bubbles: Waiting begins for SMC, VCU

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Monday’s action was expected to clarify the bubble picture, but it might have made it more crowded at the cut line.

Neither Saint Mary’s nor VCU got the result it desired on Monday, with each team losing in its respective conference championship game. The Gaels floundered late against Gonzaga, falling 75-63 in a game that was closer than the score indicated. Meanwhile, VCU went down by as many as 18 points in the second half to Old Dominion, before making a 26-9 run to cut the lead to one. The Monarchs wouldn’t let the Rams get any closer, though, pulling away down the stretch.

Although VCU is finished with its games and Saint Mary’s has a meaningless game against Weber State, the sweating has just begun. Both will be sitting, waiting and watching while other bubble teams have chances to solidify their standing.

At this point, Saint Mary’s could be in trouble. The Gaels have lost four of six to end the season, including an awful loss at San Diego and a Bracket Busters defeat to Utah State. They do face Weber State on Friday in a game that will do nothing for their profile. With the recent swoon, the Gaels’ profile doesn’t look overly impressive. They have a win over St. John’s in the season opener and a road victory at Gonzaga – and that’s it. A neutral-court victory against Big West champ Long Beach State is the team’s third-best victory. Saint Mary’s struck out in its other top-50 opportunities.

Despite the loss, Virginia Commonwealth’s profile actually got better in my eyes. The Rams have three top-50 wins, including victories over UCLA, Old Dominion and George Mason. They have eight top-100 wins, with a road win at Wichita State added to the mix. VCU is also 12-7 away from home. On the downside, the Rams lost their final four CAA games of the regular season, including three home contests. They also have six losses in the Colonial and three sub-150 losses, which could stand out to the committee. When compared to other bubblers, the Rams' resume stands up pretty well.

Right now, VCU has a better profile than Saint Mary’s – which certainly doesn’t bode well for the Gaels. The Rams might be in at this point, but as BCS-conference bubble teams play their league tournaments, they stand a good chance of getting passed by other clubs.

Needless to say, the next five days will be torture for VCU and Saint Mary’s – and the light at the end of the tunnel could fade as the week progresses.

Photo: US Presswire 

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Category: NCAAB
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