Conversation about the “bubble” will dominate college basketball for the next 3 1/2 weeks. Though at times it will encroach on becoming overkill, it’s pretty hard to ignore at the moment, and unfortunately for a number of teams that’s not a good thing.
Last week we saw losses seemingly by clusters among a number of potential at-large candidates from otherwise expected one-bid leagues (see: Arkansas-Little Rock, Saint Mary’s, San Diego State, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Valparaiso). Turning the page to this week has shown us, though, that the fence is an equal opportunity locale, an uncomfortable place for bigger brand names as well.
Tuesday night saw Michigan do something it hasn’t this year: lose to a team ranked below it in the power rankings. In fact, the Wolverines entered the night 16-0 against teams below them in the RPI before taking a 76-66 loss at Ohio State.
Looking at this result one way, one could write this off as a loss on the road in a rivalry game. On the other hand: Louisiana Tech and Texas-Arlington won at the Buckeyes. Is it too much to ask a purported NCAA at-large team to do so as well?
Vanderbilt somehow entered the evening in some mock brackets despite a middling 15-10 record, a 2-7 road record and a 3-7 mark against the RPI top 50. One assumes the Commodores should be out tomorrow, likely for good after a 75-74 loss at the buzzer at Mississippi State (No. 175 on your RPI sheet entering the night), a game in which Vandy led by 17 in the second half.
Pittsburgh won, but it took two overtimes at home against 10-16 Wake Forest for the Panthers to finally pull out a 101-96 victory. A loss might’ve been a critical blow, so give Pitt credit for pulling this out. Still, if one has watched them play over the last month and a half, it’s hard to say the Panthers have an NCAA Tournament look to them.
Finally, Florida also pulled out a narrow victory, coming back to edge a decent Georgia team 57-53 on the road to improve to 17-9. The Gators would appear safe for now, but by no means are a lock and now close the regular season with a difficult schedule. Florida needs to apologize to no one for winning on the road in any fashion, but the narrowness of this one may not bode well for upcoming trips to South Carolina and LSU and a home date with Kentucky.
Does anybody pass the “eye test” right now? If anything, the results of the last week may be leading this year’s selection committee to try to find a way to shoehorn UCLA into this year’s field again yet.
We’re seeing exactly why teams on the bubble are, in fact, bubble teams. Inconsistency and underwhelming performances are exactly why their chances for the NCAAs are iffy and we’ll continue to see more of this. In the meantime, we’ll continue to keep the search out for teams playing their way into the field, not playing their way out.
- One team that did help itself considerably on Tuesday was Butler, which pulled away from Creighton for an 88-75 win at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Kelan Martin scored 21 and added eight rebounds as the Bulldogs improved to 18-8 and are now back to even at 7-7 in the Big East.
- Texas completed the regular season sweep of West Virginia with an 85-78 win at home. Later, Baylor outlasted Iowa State 100-91 in overtime to also clinch a series sweep, this despite Rico Gathers missing the game as he continues to recover from illness. Just another night in the Big 12
- A stunning result in the SEC as hapless Missouri rose up and surprised South Carolina 72-67. Credit the Tigers for a nice win, while the Gamecocks may have had a little hangover after their flogging by Kentucky on Saturday, and if this doesn’t get their attention, little else will.
- News from Mizzou: junior guard Wes Clark has been dismissed from the program due to failure to meet academic expectations, per a school release. Clark started the Tigers’ first 25 games this year and averaged 9.8 points per game.
- Finally, the most unlikely outstanding game of the night saw Youngstown State’s Penguins nip Illinois-Chicago 92-91 in double overtime as Matt Donlan scored the winning points with a tip-in with 1.2 seconds left in the second overtime. YSU won despite UIC freshman Dikembe Dixson racking up 40 points and 17 rebounds in a massive performance.
Tonight’s Menu: A loaded schedule
- We get our first meeting of the season between Duke and North Carolina (9 p.m. EST, ESPN). As always, throw out the record books, but it is notable that the Blue Devils are starting to round into form and more-than capable of winning at the Smith Center.
- A huge game in the Atlantic 10, as Dayton goes to Saint Joseph’s (6 p.m., CBSSN). The Hawks could really, really use this as a signature win, while the Flyers are used to games like this.
- How much great hoops can Philadelphia hold at one time? Just an hour later, a big-time Big 5 tilt tips with top-ranked Villanova at rival Temple (7 p.m., ESPN2). What goes for the Hawks about this being a golden opportunity also goes for the Owls.
- Syracuse continues to try to build its NCAA case when it travels to Louisville (7 p.m., ESPN).
- A rematch of the America East’s best rivalry right now as Stony Brook is at Albany. The Seawolves won the first matchup and have run off 18 straight wins, but looked vulnerable in a one-point win over New Hampshire last time out.
- Providence is at Xavier (7 p.m., FS1), with the Friars looking to recapture some of that magic from earlier in the season. Also in the Big East, Seton Hall goes to Georgetown (9 p.m., FS1).
- Alabama continues to be a pleasant surprise, but the Crimson Tide could outgrow that cuteness if they can win at LSU.
- Huge opportunity for Texas Tech, which looks to continue its late surge when it hosts Oklahoma (9 p.m., ESPNU).
- The battle for Arizona bragging rights is reprised with Arizona State at Arizona (9 p.m., ESPN2).
Have a great Wednesday.