Poppin' Bubbles: Oregon and Tennessee are the big winners
Saturday has several teams facing chances to pick up marquee wins.
The last weekend of the regular season is here, and bubble teams are officially running out of time to improve their resumes. Fortunately, several of those teams on the cutline are facing some of the best teams in the country -- which gives them a chance to notch an always-needed marquee win.
Oregon: The Ducks will be dancing. Six straight wins put Oregon in good position for the NCAA Tournament, but they officially punched their ticket by beating Arizona on Saturday afternoon. The Ducks are 22-8 heading into the Pac-12 tournament, 10-8 in the league -- a heckuva turnaround from their 3-8 start exactly one month ago. Their RPI and SOS numbers are very solid, plus they now have wins over Arizona, UCLA, and are 10-7 against the top 100. They could easily survive a loss in the Pac-12 tournament.
Tennessee: The Volunteers are playing themselves into the tournament. They have won four in a row, with the last three games coming by an average of 31 points. On Saturday, they picked up a key win over Missouri -- a fellow bubble team. It's not a sure-fire lock of a resume, but the SOS is very good, the RPI is in the 40s, and they do have a blowout win over Virginia up their sleeve. Tennessee is 7-7 against the top 100, but there are also four sub-100 losses. The Volunteers do have some work to do in the SEC tournament -- will one win do the job? They will likely get Arkansas in the quarterfinals.
California: That was an absolute must-win for the Golden Bears, who beat Colorado by one for their first win in four games. A loss would have left them some distance from the field entering the Pac-12 tournament. However, a win gets them back on the right track and gives them some momentum. It was their fourth top-50 win, although their top-100 record is only 7-11. They still have work to do in the Pac-12 tournament, as the computer numbers aren't great and they are last in the bubble pecking order of the conference.
Gonzaga: Had the Bulldogs lost to Santa Clara in the WCC quarterfinals on Saturday, it would have been a very, very long eight days until Selection Sunday. The resume just isn't convincing enough just yet. A run to the WCC title game would probably be enough, and coming back in the second half against Santa Clara and winning on David Stockton's last-second layup means that it is still possible. The RPI is in the 20s, although the SOS is nearing the 100 mark. The biggest negative on the resume is the lack of quality wins -- they have just one top-50 win, and that's over bubble team BYU. They are 8-4 against the top 100, but have two sub-100 losses. It's certainly not the resume of a tournament lock, so they need to avoid a loss for one more game.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers basically saved their season in the final seconds against Clemson. It looked like a sure loss, but Josh Newkirk stole the ball and knocked in a buzzer-beater to send the game into overtime -- and then Pittsburgh pulled away in the extra period. It was essentially a must-win for Pittsburgh, which had fallen to the cutline after losses in four of six games. The Panthers have just one top-50 win, but they have generally avoided bad losses and they have a solid record away from home. The non-conference SOS of 232 is not a plus, though.
BYU: The Cougars handled their business against Loyola Marymount in the WCC tournament, advancing to the semifinals. I think a win there could leave BYU in decent shape heading into Selection Sunday. They have great RPI and SOS numbers, with eight wins away from home. Wins over Gonzaga, Texas and Stanford are also solid, although four sub-100 losses give pause. The only way to feel confident for a bid is to win the automatic bid, but just getting to the championship game could get the job done. A win in the semifinals would push their top 100 record to 8-6, and combined with the computer numbers, the profile looks decent.
Dayton: The Flyers followed up their huge win at Saint Louis with a nice victory over Richmond. That's now wins in nine of their last 10 games heading into the Atlantic 10 tournament, and they could be in good shape right now. They have four top-30 wins, a 8-6 record against the top 100, a 9-5 record away from home, and an RPI in the 40s. They do have three sub-100 losses, which gives some pause when looking at the resume, but they probably only need another win to feel somewhat comfortable on Selection Sunday.
St. John's: It took two overtimes, but the Red Storm pulled out a necessary win over Marquette on the road. St. John's finishes the regular season with 20 wins, and a 10-8 record in the Big East. With that said, I still think the Red Storm need to make a run to the Big East tournament championship game -- and then hope for the best, because that might not even be enough. It's not out of the realm of possibility, though, as St. John's will be playing on its homecourt at Madison Square Garden. The Red Storm's computer numbers aren't that great, and the biggest negative on the resume is one: they have just one top-50 win on the season, over Creighton last month. They need more quality wins, badly.
Stanford: The Cardinal were mired in a three-game losing streak, falling from comfortably in the field to one of the last teams on the cutline. They needed to stop the bleeding -- and they escaped against Utah with a one-point win. It will at least solidify their standing in the NCAA Tournament heading into the Pac-12 tournament, meaning one more win next week could leave them pretty comfortable on Selection Sunday. They have four top-35 wins, including key victories over UCLA and Connecticut. They are just 7-10 against the top 100, but have only one sub-100 loss. They're not a lock just yet, but beating Utah helps to stabilize them.
West Virginia: Getting some questions about the Mountaineers, so I figured I would address their situation after beating Kansas. They have five top-50 wins, including three top-20 wins, but they are just 5-12 against the top 100 with two sub-100 losses. Throw in a very mediocre RPI and a terrible non-conference SOS, and West Virginia is NIT-bound. The quality wins are nice, but they don't have an NCAA Tournament resume.
Missouri: The Tigers had a chance to make an at-large statement on the road at Tennessee -- and they got absolutely steamrolled. And now they have a lot of work to do in the SEC tournament, where they will face Texas A&M in the opening round and then Florida in the quarterfinals. They will need at least both of those games to get back in the conversation. The win over UCLA is nice, but that's the only sure-fire NCAA Tournament team Missouri has defeated. They are 7-8 against the top 100 with two sub-100 losses.
Arkansas: After six straight wins, the Razorbacks were in good shape for the NCAA Tournament. A win at Alabama would have left them confident heading into the SEC tournament, but they didn't show up in Tuscaloosa and were run out of the gym immediately. In the SEC tournament, they will face the winner of Auburn and South Carolina, and then will face Tennessee in a huge bubble battle. The winner could have the edge on Selection Sunday, while the loser will have a long wait. The two wins over Kentucky have lost some of their luster, and they now have two sub-100 losses to go with an 8-8 top 100 record.
Colorado: The Buffaloes could have locked up a bid by beating California, but a one-point loss in overtime isn't crippling. In fact, they are probably fairly comfortable heading into the Pac-12 tournament. The biggest issue is the performance since Spencer Dinwiddie was lost for the season with an injury. They are just 7-7 without Dinwiddie, and the big wins over Kansas and Oregon came with their star point guard. With that said, they have a very good RPI and a top-15 SOS. More importantly, there are no bad losses to go with the five top-50 wins. One win the Pac-12 tournament could ensure a bid.
Green Bay: For the first time this season, we have to consider the Phoenix part of the bubble. They lost in the semifinals of the conference tournament to Milwaukee, and now face an eight-day wait until Selection Sunday. Have they done enough to get consideration? The RPI is along the lines of most bubble teams, as is the non-conference SOS. The win over Virginia is also a trump card when compared to most bubble teams. Overall, the resume isn't great. They are just 4-3 against the top 100, with three sub-100 losses. It's going to be a long wait until Selection Sunday.
Providence: It just wasn't going to happen. Winning at Creighton on Senior Night -- let alone Doug McDermott's Senior Night -- wasn't going to happen. It would have been a bid-clincher for the Friars, but now they have work to do in the Big East tournament. A run to the title game would likely be enough, as one win would leave them sweating on Selection Sunday. They have a marquee win over Creighton, but the next-best win is over fellow bubbler Xavier, and they are just 6-10 against the top 100. The computer numbers are fairly mediocre and they have a non-conference SOS of No. 165.
Georgetown: The Hoyas are going to be an interesting team on Selection Sunday. First, the good. Georgetown has five top-50 wins, including non-league victories over Michigan State, VCU and Kansas State, along with a marquee win against Creighton. The Hoyas have a top-20 SOS, too. And now the bad, especially after the blowout loss at Villanova on Saturday. There are three sub-100 losses, including a sub-200 loss to Northeastern. They are just 2-8 on the road, 5-10 away from home overall. And now they have 13 losses with an 8-10 Big East record. They will need to do some damage in the Big East tournament, which could include beating Creighton in the quarterfinals.
Utah: Because of their hideous non-conference SOS and poor computer profile, the Utes were barely a bubble team heading into the weekend. A win over Stanford could have brought them further into the conversation, but they suffered a one-point loss and now likely need to win the Pac-12 automatic bid to get to the NCAA Tournament. They are 2-8 away from home, have a non-conference SOS of 338, and have a sub-200 loss to Washington State. There are some quality wins, but it likely won't be enough.
Clemson: The Tigers could have played themselves into the discussion with a win at Pittsburgh and then a run to the ACC tournament championship game, but they lost in overtime and are likely NIT-bound now. The win over Duke is nice, but that's basically all there is on the resume. The computer numbers aren't good, they are 4-8 against the top 100, and have three sub-100 losses.
LSU: The Tigers had a pulse after winning at Vanderbilt earlier this week, but a loss at home to Georgia relegates them to the NIT. Even wins over Alabama and Kentucky in the SEC Tournament won't be enough to get them back into the conversation. They need the automatic bid. They are 4-9 against the top 100 and have three sub-100 losses, to go with subpar computer numbers.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are still in good shape despite losing at Iowa State, but a win in the Big 12 tournament will likely secure a bid. A win could have put them in position to wear home jerseys in the round of 64, but they are probably going to be happy on Selection Sunday nonetheless. They have five top-50 wins and have really stabilized since the return of Marcus Smart.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils are in a similar boat to Oklahoma State, although losing to Oregon State wasn't a good look. They have now lost four of their last six, but I still think they're fine for the NCAA Tournament. One more win in the Pac-12 tournament would lock things up, as they have wins over Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and Stanford -- plus an RPI in the 30s.
Iowa: Threw the Hawkeyes onto this list after some overnight thought. Their loss at home to Illinois was their fifth in six games, and while they will still likely get into the tournament, their resume isn't great. They have a non-conference SOS of 175, a 6-11 record against the top 100, and a 1-7 record against the top 25. There are four top-50 wins, including a victory against Michigan, and there are zero sub-100 losses. Their seed will be lower than most people think.
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