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College Basketball "Bubble" Update - Bring on Conference Tournament Week!
College Basketball "Bubble" Update - Bring On Conference Tournament Week! Happy Sunday everyone! We have reached the final day of the college basketball regular season. It's been a long ride, but now the real fun is about to begin. In fact, it already has. Last night Murray State took care of Belmont behind 36 big points from sophomore sensation Ja Morant. The Racers became the first team to punch their ticket to the 2019 NCAA tournament with the 12-point victory. That left Belmont firmly on the "bubble" and hoping that conference tournament- game outcomes break in their favor this coming week. I believe the Bruins are in for now, but they could definitely use some help going forward since they are done playing and other fellow "bubble" teams still have opportunities ahead of them this week. Two teams that certainly helped Belmont, and the likes of Indiana and Ohio State amongst others were the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Texas Longhorns. The Tide were at Arkansas in a game that looked very much like a must-win heading in for Bama to feel good about their prospects ahead of the SEC tournament. Instead? They fell 82-70 and are now on very shaky ground. This is a team that has lost 3 straight and went just 2-6 overall in their last 8. The two wins coming in that time frame? Vanderbilt & South Carolina - a pair of teams that aren't anywhere remotely close to the "bubble". Now the Tide need to knock-off Ole Miss, who should be in as somewhere around a 9-seed. A loss would end the Tide's at-large hopes. Defeat the Rebels and then upset Kentucky and that will be enough. Beat Ole Miss and lose to Kentucky? Well that will make for a very nervous Selection Sunday for coach Avery Johnson and co. It has rendered Thursday's game a must-win at any rate. Meanwhile, the Longhorns welcomed TCU to town in a game that was the equivalent of a must-win for both teams. Texas was unable to get it done at home, and with the loss, made it a sweep at the hands of the Horned Frogs. For TCU, it meant they avoided the dreaded 6-12 conference record. The win keeps TCU in the field, and has now left the Longhorns with an absolute must-win game against Kansas to open the Big XII tournament. Lose that one and they will finish at just .500 (16-16). Obviously that would be unheard of territory for an at-large bid and would end any realistic chance of getting in. Both Alabama and Texas now face must-wins just to stay in the conversation. Clemson was one of those fellow "bubble" foes able to take advantage of the lackluster showings by the Tide and Horns. They took care of business at-home against Syracuse, and in the process picked up another win against a team expected to be in the NCAA tournament. That moved the Tigers into "last four in" territory and leaves them with a big opening game against fellow "bubble" foe N.C. State to open the ACC tourny. A win in that one should secure a spot for Clemson. A loss wouldnt necessarily be a death sentence, but it would make Selection Sunday a lot more nerve-racking. In the Big TEN, Indiana took care of business earlier today and knocked off Rutgers in a game they obviously needed to win. That puts the Hoosiers at 8-12 in the Big TEN and 17-14 overall heading into the conference tournament. Indiana may have 14 losses, but none are actually considered "bad". Combine that with a sweep of Michigan State, home win over Wisconsin, and a very high-quality non-conference slate, highlighted by a win over Marquette, and the Hoosiers are firmly on the cut-line. An opening round game with Ohio State in the Big TEN tourny could very well be an elimination game. Meanwhile, Iowa seemed as though they were going to finish the season on a high-note and escape with a much-needed win at Nebraska. But alas, the Hawkeyes' defense went MIA down the stretch as they surrendered 50 second half-points to the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. Nebraska went on to win in OT. The loss made it 4 straight for Iowa, and 5 of 6 down the stretch overall. Included in those losses? A 14-point loss at home to Rutgers, a 20-point loss at Ohio State and a 20-point loss at Wisconsin. While the Hawkeyes'overall resume still appears plenty strong enough for an at-large bid, they have tumbled down the seed-line from a 6 all the way down to around 10 territory after today's setback. Lose in the opening game of the Big TEN tournament to a lesser opponent, and that would mean 5 straight losses to close out the season. That would make it unnecessary close for Iowa come Selection Sunday. Lastly, that brings us to Ohio State. What a Sunday it was for the Buckeyes. First, they looked lost and struggled to score the ball for most of the game against Wisconsin and found themselves trailing by 23 in the second half. Then the Buckeyes exploded down the stretch and went on an epic run to completely erase the huge deficit and actually had a chance to win it in the closing seconds, but came up short and ultimately fell in overtime. The fact that OSU managed to erase that big a deficit against a quality opponent without their best scorer was a positive heading into the Big TEN tournament. The Buckeyes needed a win, but the ferocious rally at least keeps them hanging around. A win or possibly two are now needed in the Big TEN tournament for the Buckeyes to get in, but if Sunday's second half was any indication, this team appears capable of doing it. Without further ado, here is how the "bubble" sits following the conclusion of the regular season on Sunday: [ I've included each teams' record, along with updated "NET" & RPI ratings ] "SHOULD BE SAFE": -------------------------------- 10 UTAH STATE (15-3, 25-6) (30/33) Baring an early exit from the Mountain West tournament, the Aggies should be safely in the field. Especially after the "bubble" retracted a hair over the weekend. 10 IOWA (10-10, 21-10) (43/48) Despite the current four-game skid, the Hawkeyes still have a very solid resume to go along with favorable metrics. It should be enough to still be in, but a loss to a lesser opponent in the opening round of the Big TEN tourny has opened the door for potential unnecessary worries come Selection Sunday. 10 MINNESOTA (9-11, 19-12) (56/43) Richard Pittino's boys should be in following their win over Purdue on Monday night. Win one in the Big TEN tournament this week, and the Golden Gophers should be a lock. 10 ARIZONA STATE (12-6, 21-9) (67/37) While the not-so-flattering "NET" continues to weigh down the Sun Devils, they still have some impressive non-conference wins that should have them in the field. The Pac-12 doesn't offer much for quality wins however, but plenty in the way of potential "bad" losses, so ASU still needs to be careful this week. Advance to the Pac-12 title game, and the Sun Devils' should be in no matter the outcome. "LAST FOUR BYES": -------------------------------- 11 N.C. STATE (9-9, 21-10) (32/103) A big one awaits to open the ACC tourny against fellow "bubble" foe Clemson for the Wolfpack. Win that one and I believe they are in, lose and N.C. State will very much be right on the cut-line come next Sunday. 11 ST. JOHN'S (8-10, 20-11) (66/52) The Red Storm join Iowa as a team that has went from comfortably in mid-seed range territory (6-7) to now at the backend of the bracket. Three straight losses, all to teams not projected to make the tournament (Xavier twice, @ DePaul), and Chris Mullins' team now finds themselves on very shaky ground. A "NET" of just 66 is not helping either. 11 TEMPLE (13-5, 23-8) (49/30) The Owls picked up a big win yesterday over UCF and are looking better and better by the moment. With favorable "NET" & RPI ratings, as long as the Owls avoid a bad loss in the AAC tournament, they should sneak in. 11 FLORIDA (9-9, 17-14) (34/70) Yesterday's loss at Kentucky made it three straight losses to close the season for the Gators. Included in those losses was a home set-back to Georgia, who came into the game at just 1-14 in the SEC. Now the Gators must win against Arkansas in the SEC tourny, or face being an extremely hard sell as at-large. "LAST FOUR IN": --------------------------- 12 TCU (7-11, 19-12) (48/44) The Horned Frogs went into Austin and got a huge win yesterday to help give the resume a massive boost. The victory most likely will keep TCU in, but a victory in the Big XII tournament should seel a bid for the Horned Frogs. 12 CLEMSON (9-9, 19-12) (35/50) Congratulations to the Tigers, they have played themselves into the "last four in" following yesterday's home win over Syracuse. Now go beat N.C. State to open the ACC tourny and secure a bid. A loss? Well that will make it a very nerve-racking wait. 12 BELMONT (16-2, 26-5) (45/40) The Bruins came up short last night against Murray State in the Ohio Valley title game, but still find themselves firmly on the "bubble". They can thank very solid metric numbers - a NET of 45 & RPI of 40 for their current positioning. The problem? The Bruins are done playing, while most of the fellow "bubble" squads will have opportunities this week. Depending on how the games unfold, Belmont could very well feel safer or more uneasy come a week from today. 12 FURMAN (13-5, 25-6) (41/56) The Paladins are playing in the Southern conference tournament at the moment, where a victory today will pair them with Wofford in the title game. Win today and have a good showing against the Terriers, and they just might sneak-in thanks to that early season win @ Villanova. Of course, just taking down Wofford and securing the Southern's automatic bid would be the preferred way in. "FIRST FOUR OUT": -------------------------------- INDIANA (8-12, 17-14) (55/84) The Hoosiers took care of business of against Rutgers to close out the season and now head into the Big TEN tournament with a sweep of Michigan State, home win over Wisconsin, and non-conference wins over Marquette & Louisville in their back pocket. As it stands, Indiana will meet Ohio State in their opening game of the Big TEN tournament, which appears to now be an elimination game. OHIO STATE (8-12, 18-13) (52/66) The Buckeyes' ferocious second half rally keeps them the second team out even after coming up short in OT against Wisconsin earlier today. Its simple now for OSU, win against Indiana in the Big TEN tourny, and you might still punch your ticket, lose and you are done. TEXAS (8-10, 16-15) (39/60) The Longhorns must now take-down Kansas in their opening game of the Big XII tournament. A loss and they are definitely done, but a victory and we will re-evaluate the Horns. But for now, 16-15 just isn't good enough, even if you do have non-conference wins over UNC & Purdue. ALABAMA (8-10, 17-14) (58/62) The Crimson Tide now find themselves in must-win territory as well heading into the SEC tournament. An opening round draw with Ole Miss is a perfect opportunity for the Tide to pickup a quality win and get back in good standing on the "bubble". A loss - and that "bubble" will burst. "NEXT FOUR OUT": -------------------------------- LIPSCOMB (14-2, 25-7) (42/64) The Bisons came up short today on their home court in the Atlantic Sun Title game against Liberty and now find themselves on the "bubble". A solid "NET" of 42 may not be enough to overcome a resume consisting of just a win at TCU, one at home over Vermont, and one at Liberty. That being said, they did share the Atlantic Sun regular season title with Liberty, and that non-conference win on TCU's floor looks pretty good. CREIGHTON (9-9, 18-13) (54/51) The Blue Jays may have a chance to still work their way in if they can win a couple at the Big East tournament. There is still a chance for Creighton. DAVIDSON (14-4, 23-8) (69/42) A weaker "NET" will undoubtedly hold this team back, but Davidson could still sneak-in if they can get to the A-10 Title game and have other "bubble" results go their way. XAVIER (9-9, 17-14) (71/81) It wasn't all that long ago that the X was sitting at just 3-8 in Big East play and 11-13 overall. A 6-1 close to the season, including a pair of wins over St. John's in their final three games have Xavier still clinging to hope. They need two wins at the very least in the Big East tournament and a lot of help, but stranger things have happened. "STILL HAVE A SHOT": -------------------------------------- GEORGETOWN (9-9, 19-12) (76, 78) The Hoyas victory over Marquette yesterday keeps them in the conversation, even after a blowout loss at DePaul in the prior outing. Still, metric numbers in the high 70s are tough to get past, leaving them an uphill climb to a bid. OREGON (10-8, 19-12) (59/69) Welcome to the "bubble" Oregon! Your victory at Washington to close out the season was the best opportunity the Pac-12 afforded you all season long for a "marque" win and you took advantage. That victory pushed the Ducks over .500 in conference play for the year and decent metric ratings have them at least on the fringes. Basically a run to the Pac 12 title game is needed, and even then, it might not be enough. Well boys and girls, there you have it. The "bubble" picture is as clear as it's going to get heading into conference tournament week, after a big regular-season closing weekend of action. As always, thanks for your support, and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Here we go, March Madness is officially on! The first four bids have already been awarded. Make sure to check back for continuing NCAA tournament coverage! And of course - happy reading & writing!