Poppin' Bubbles: Kentucky leads several teams boosting resumes
Bubble teams are running out of opportunities to boost their resume -- who will make a statement on Saturday?
Saturday is a huge day for bubble teams. Some teams are already in their conference tournaments, so they’re fighting for their lives. Meanwhile, it’s the last game of the regular season for everyone else -- so the chances to make statements are dangerously close to running out. Can any bubble team play itself into the tournament this weekend? Several teams have to avoid the bad losses that have seemingly plagued everyone this season.
Note: This post will be updated throughout the day with bubble discussion and analysis.
Kentucky: After losing at Arkansas and Georgia, the Wildcats faced a desperate situation on Saturday: beat Florida. Things looked dire down the stretch in the second half, but an 11-0 run to end the game gave Kentucky the marquee victory it needed. For now, that might put the Wildcats into the dance -- although they also likely need a victory in the SEC tournament to feel secure. They now have two top-30 wins, with Florida adding to Missouri -- and both came without Nerlens Noel. The computer numbers aren't great, but one more win might get the job done.
|Boise State likely punched its ticket. (USATSI)|
Boise State: The Broncos are likely headed to the dance after holding off San Diego State at home on Saturday. The win over the Aztecs now gives Boise wins over Creighton, UNLV, Colorado State -- and SDSU. They have won five of their last six to end the season, finishing 9-7 in the Mountain West. The non-conference SOS isn't good, but the RPI numbers are solid and the good wins outweigh the bad losses. The Broncos were on the right side of the bubble heading into the day, and this only cements their spot. They will likely face San Diego State again in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
Tennessee: The Volunteers helped their resume as much as anyone not named Kentucky on Saturday, finishing strong and knocking off Missouri down the stretch. They have now won eight of their last nine games to end the season, with the lone loss coming last weekend at Georgia. Tennessee has good wins over Florida, Wichita State and now Missouri, not to mention victories over Kentucky, Alabama, Xavier and Massachusetts. The lone bad losses came at the hands of Georgia. The Volunteers are on the right side of the bubble right now, but they still probably need another win in the SEC tournament.
Saint Mary's: For most of the Gaels' semifinal matchup against San Diego, it looked like Matthew Dellavedova and Co. would have a long eight days until Selection Sunday. However, a Dellavedova 3-pointer sent the game into overtime, and SMC hung on to win in the extra session. Now that sets up what we've all wanted to see: a third go-round between the Gaels and Gonzaga. Can Saint Mary's get into the tournament with a third loss to the Bulldogs? They have 27 wins and only lost two league games, but they've beaten just one NCAA tournament team (Creighton) and have two sub-100 losses. The schedule is mediocre and 22 of their 27 wins are against teams 100 or below. Will the sheer quantity of victories (and road/neutral victories) get the job done? Of course, a win over Gonzaga would render this argument meaningless.
Memphis: The Tigers are in the field, but they deserve a special mention for going undefeated in Conference USA. Sure, the league is way down, but going unbeaten is still a difficult task. How high of a seed can Memphis get on Selection Sunday?
Creighton: The Bluejays were basically in the same boat as Memphis, as they were likely in the tournament regardless of what happened on Saturday. But they absolutely destroyed Indiana State in the Missouri Valley semifinals, ending any dreams of the Sycamores stealing a bid. Creighton plays for the league's auto bid on Sunday.
Wichita State: The Shockers should feel pretty confident about their at-large chances after taking care of business against Illinois State on Saturday. They will now get a chance to win the automatic bid against Creighton on Sunday, but they are likely dancing either way. They are 8-4 against the top 100, with solid wins over VCU and Creighton -- as well as Southern Miss and Iowa. The three sub-100 losses put them in trouble, but it looks like Wichita will overcome it.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats were awfully close to having a disatrous loss at home to South Florida, but they came back late in the game and then pulled away in overtime. A loss there would have been horrible for their at-large hopes, putting them in serious peril of missing the NCAA tournament as an at-large team. However, a win over USF keeps them ahead of the bubble for the time being -- despite losing six of their last nine to end the season. They have five top-50 wins, as well as victories over Villanova, Alabama and Xavier -- to go with zero sub-100 losses. One win in New York City could do the trick.
Iowa State: The Cyclones really boosted their resume with a win over Oklahoma State earlier this week, but they have had trouble winning on the road this season. They needed to follow up the Cowboys' victory with a win at West Virginia -- and they did, jumping out to a big first-half lead and cruising. For now, Iowa State is in the dance, as it has wins over Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. With a bad loss to Texas Tech and a mediocre non-conference SOS, though, it needs to win at least one Big 12 tournament game.
|Baylor is right back in the mix. (USATSI)|
Baylor: The Bears were left for dead earlier in the week after losing at Texas, which marked their fifth loss in six games. Moreover, they were just 3-8 in their last 11 games. So, of course, on Saturday, Kansas came to town and Baylor pulled away down the stretch for an impressive win. Does it automatically put the Bears in the tournament? Not by any stretch. However, it does get them back in the conversation. They are only 2-10 against the top 50, and 5-10 against the top 100. Moreover, there are three bad losses. The Bears still have work to do.
Ole Miss: The Rebels are somehow still in the mix, despite losses at South Carolina and Mississippi State in the last three weeks. They have actually now won four of their last five games, after going on the road and handling LSU. A 23-8 overall record, including 12-6 in the SEC, is impressive, although there isn't much heft to the resume. They do have a win over Missouri, and sweeping Tennessee is a nice trump card in head-to-head comparisons. Those two aforementioned losses and bad computer numbers are troublesome.
Massachusetts: The Minutemen missed a golden opportunity to boost their resume during the week against Butler, but kept their hopes alive by beating Rhode Island on Saturday. It's not the type of win that catches the eye and puts them in the dance, but it doesn't eliminate them either. They are just 1-6 against the top 50, but they have seven wins in the 50-100 range. UMass needs to do some damage in the A-10 tournament.
Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders looked like they might fall victim to an early-round upset in the Sun Belt tournament, but they dominated the second half and cruised past Louisiana-Lafayette. That's 17 in a row for Middle Tennessee, which only lost one game in conference play. They have a great RPI and non-conference SOS, but they have just one win against teams in the top 99 of the RPI. It might be auto bid or bust for the Blue Raiders.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide were close to seeing their at-large hopes evaporate -- but then Trevor Releford hit a buzzer-beater from half-court to give Alabama a three-point win over Georgia. They had a 17-point lead earlier in the game, but allowed the Bulldogs to come all the way back and nearly knock the Tide off the bubble. As it stands, Alabama still has a ton of work to do, as the profile is relatively barren. They have zero top-50 wins and four sub-100 losses, so a run in the SEC tournament is certainly necessary. Victories over Villanova, Kentucky and Tennessee are solid, though.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes are quietly playing themselves into the bubble discussion, winning six of eight to end the season after dispatching of Nebraska on Saturday afternoon. They are 9-9 in the Big Ten with wins over Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa State -- but there are also two sub-100 losses, mediocre RPI numbers and a sub-300 non-conference SOS. With all that said, if Iowa can win a couple games in the Big Ten tournament, it will be squarely in the mix for a bid come Selection Sunday.
Arkansas: The script has been pretty simple all season (and last season) for the Razorbacks: get steamrolled on the road and win at home. They lost by 30 earlier this week against Missouri, but bounced back to beat Texas A&M. Barring a deep run in the SEC tournament (and that might not even be enough), the Razorbacks are NIT-bound.
Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles likely ended their chance at an at-large bid with their loss at Marshall earlier this week, but their RPI keeps them in the conversation. They beat UCF on Saturday to keep some semblance of hopes alive, but the lack of a top-50 win and a 4-8 record against the top 100 probably sends them to the NIT.
Belmont: The Bruins would have been an interesting at-large case had they lost to Murray State, but Kerron Johnson's pull-up in overtime gave Belmont the Ohio Valley automatic bid. They're dancing.
|Giannini and La Salle still have work to do. (USATSI)|
La Salle: The Explorers are still likely in the field as of today, but they missed a chance to cement their position at Saint Louis. They hung around for a little more than one half, but then got dominated over the final 15 minutes. There are sold wins over VCU, Butler and Villanova, and La Salle has pretty good RPI numbers -- despite a loss to Central Connecticut State earlier this season. The Explorers might not be able to afford an early loss in the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Oklahoma: After beating Iowa State last weekend, it looked like the Sooners were pretty safe to go to the NCAA tournament. They then beat West Virginia during the week, and everything looked good -- until Saturday, when they lost to TCU. That's the Horned Frogs' second win since the calendar turned to 2013 (although Oklahoma is in good company, as Kansas was the other win). Oklahoma is likely in OK shape, but the resume isn't all that inspiring. There are wins over Kansas, Oklahoma State and Iowa State, and that's about it. The computer numbers are solid, but they now have two sub-100 losses. One win in the Big 12 tournament would certainly seal things up.
Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs went into the week knowing they needed to beat both New Mexico State and Denver on the road in order to go into the WAC tournament with any at-large hopes. Well, they came out of the week 0-2 and now will need to win the automatic bid to get to the NCAA tournament. The 26-5 record is gaudy, but they only have one top-50 win and are just 3-4 against the top 100. Throw in the poor computer numbers, and they simply haven't done enough for a bid.
Arizona State: It's auto-bid or bust for the Sun Devils after getting blown out by Arizona on Saturday. They finished the regular season with four straight losses and a 3-7 record in their last 10 games. They have four top-50 wins, but the RPI is nearing 100 and the non-conference SOS is close to 300. Jahii Carson is a joy to watch, but Arizona State has to win the Pac-12 tournament in order for him to get to the NCAA tournament.
Providence: The Friars had played themselves into the bubble discussion with wins in seven of their last eight games, a stretch that included victories over Villanova, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. A victory at Connecticut on Saturday would have really vaulted them into the picture; alas, they lost in overtime to the Huskies and likely now need the automatic bid at Madison Square Garden to get to the tournament. A run to the title game and a close loss might not even be enough.
Minnesota: For now, the Golden Gophers are fairly comfortably in the field, but back-to-back losses at Nebraska and Purdue are concerning. If they lose their first game in the Big Ten tournament, where does that leave Minnesota? It will probably make the dance, but the seed is falling into dangerous territory.
San Diego State: The Aztecs are still in the tournament, but losing at Boise State on Saturday means that they have to face the Broncos again in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. They can probably eat a loss there, but it might drop them to fifth in the conference pecking order.
Colorado: The Buffaloes probably punched their ticket earlier in the week with a dominant win over Oregon, but losing to Oregon State (at home) on Saturday could make them sweat a little bit should they fall in the first game of the Pac-12 tournament. Terrific computer numbers and five top-50 wins keep them in good shape, though.
Xavier: The Musketeers were attempting to play themselves into the at-large discussion, but they needed to beat Butler in order to have a chance. They fell short late in the game, and now need to win the tournament in Brooklyn. There are five top-50 wins, which is very impressive, but the computer numbers are very poor and they also have five sub-100 losses. Whether they reach the tournament or not, it's still an impressive coaching job by Chris Mack.
St. John's: The Red Storm likely needed the automatic bid at next week's Big East tournament either way, but they fell at home against Marquette on Saturday. They finish the regular season at just 16-14 overall, and 8-10 in the league. The Johnnies have lost four in a row and seven of their last nine.
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