Bracketology Bubble Watch: Indiana, Michigan square off as each needs win to help NCAA Tournament resume
The Wolverines, Hoosiers and five other teams on the bubble are in action Sunday
As is typical any given weekend, most of the bubble teams were in action on Saturday; however, there are certainly some important games ahead on Sunday as well. Those include a battle in the Big Ten and a couple of teams on the road in the AAC.
Before we get to that, let's have a look at Saturday's winners and losers as we draw closer to the 2020 NCAA Tournament and Selection Sunday. You can also take a look at my updated bracketology projection.
Georgetown won 73-66 at Butler: The Hoyas picked up a huge win at Hinkle Fieldhouse over the Bulldogs to move to 15-10 on the season. That is Georgetown's first win away from home against a likely tournament team this season. Georgetown is now 5-9 vs. Quadrant 1 but just 10-10 vs Quadrants 1-3. The Hoyas' schedule down the stretch of the season is treacherous and the first two games – vs. Providence, at DePaul -- are important to take some pressure off the remaining four.
Mississippi State won 78-77 at Arkansas: A last-second tip in gave the Bulldogs a big road win over another bubble team and a sweep of the season series. They are out of games that can help them in the regular season, though. A home-and-home with fellow bubbler South Carolina are the only games that can help in any way before the SEC Tournament.
Since the injury to guard Isaiah Joe, the Razorbacks have lost four straight games, and they were not playing all that great before his injury. They are just 2-7 in the last month. Two of the losses without Joe were in overtime, and this one came on a tip-in in the final second. It's been one gut punch after another. Arkansas needs to start punching back.
Richmond won 77-59 vs. VCU: This game was never in doubt as the Spiders jumped on VCU early and ran away with it. Richmond now has a split of the season series with the Rams. The Spiders' best wins remain at Rhode Island and against Wisconsin on a neutral court. The rest of the regular season will be about avoiding bad losses.
All VCU can hang its hat on right now is a home win over LSU. The loss to Richmond drops the Rams to just 2-7 vs. Quadrants 1-2. That does not include the home loss to George Mason earlier this week. VCU gets Dayton at home on Tuesday. That feels like a must-win.
SMU won 73-72 (OT) vs. Houston: We welcome SMU to the bubble after defeating AAC leader Houston on Saturday. It is still a steep climb for the Mustangs, which are trying to overcome a nonconference strength of schedule that ranks around 300. SMU has been left out for a poor nonconference schedule strength before, so this is familiar territory.
Texas lost 81-52 at Iowa State: Even playing without Jericho Sims, this is a disaster. After all, the Cyclones are near the bottom of the league standings and lost likely first-round NBA Draft choice Tyrese Haliburton for the season earlier this week. The Longhorns need Sims back and soon if they are going to make any kind of a run for a tournament spot. They were already in trouble with him.
Purdue lost 68-52 at Ohio State: After a brief hiatus, road Purdue is back. That is not a good thing for the Boilermakers, who have generally been roadkill, especially in conference play. They were never a threat against the Buckeyes. Purdue sits at 14-12, which means winning at least four more games just to get a serious discussion from the committee. That will require at least one win away from Mackey Arena.
Northern Iowa lost 82-73 (OT) at Loyola-Chicago: This is a tough loss for the Panthers, but it comes to the second highest rated team in the MVC. Still, if UNI is to be an at-large team, it needs to win out the regular season now.
Bubble teams in action on Sunday
|Indiana at Michigan||1 p.m. (CBS)||Indiana is just 1-5 on the road this season and has four of its next five away from Assembly Hall. That is a problem since the Hoosiers' win over Iowa this week stopped a four-game losing streak. Picking up a win in at least one of those games is crucial for IU.|
|Michigan vs. Indiana||1 p.m. (CBS)||Michigan got G Isaiah Livers back from injury against Michigan State last week, and the Wolverines look like their old selves again. Their old selves are the only team to beat Gonzaga this season and a much better team than the one that went 3-6 in Big Ten play while he was out. Michigan does have a tough remaining schedule, so this game is important.|
|Cincinnati at East Carolina||12 p.m. (CBSSN)||The Bearcats have been playing better lately and need to continue to do so because of three bad losses during nonconference play. They certainly cannot afford a fourth bad loss.|
|Arizona State at California||6 p.m. (ESPNU)||ASU is looking for a sweep of the Bay Area road trip. The Sun Devils have won six of seven to play themselves onto the bottom of the bracket, but a loss today would be their worst of the season so far. Road or not, beating the 11th place Bears is important.|
|Wichita State vs. Tulane||2 p.m. (CBSSN)||The last-place Green Wave visit Wichita State, which has lost twice at home already this season. They are all but done as an NCAA Tournament contender with a loss to Tulane.|
|Memphis at UConn||3 p.m. (ESPN)||The Tigers are stinging from losses at home to South Florida and at Cincinnati last week. Memphis does not have much of a margin for error left if it intends to play in the NCAA Tournament.|
|NC State at Boston College||6 p.m. (ACCN)||NC State has wins over fellow bubblers Wisconsin (at home) and Virginia (on the road), but it is the losses to non-contenders that stand out. The Wolfpack were swept by Georgia Tech, lost at Virginia Tech, and Clemson and is one of just two teams North Carolina defeated in its last 12 games. That was at home. Needless to say, adding a loss at BC to that list is not recommended. NC State gets a chance at statement wins after today.|
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