NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch - March 9 Update
“Movin’ on Up”
Connecticut (20-13, 8-10)
After reaching a top-five spot in the polls before Big East play, the Huskies rolled over and died once conference play started. Part of this was the inability to find an emotional leader and part was a young team being thrown into the fray with coach Jim Calhoun sidelined due to suspension. They never completely righted the ship, but the Huskies’ early-season wins remain impressive and considering their track record for late-season runs, the committee likely has confidence that the Huskies are back and ready to compete on a national stage.
North Carolina State (22-11, 9-7)
The Wolfpack have no grotesque non-conference losses, and have been consistent in beating the teams they should in the ACC. In fact, only four of the team’s losses came to teams that were not ranked at the time they faced the Wolfpack. In addition, NC State
USF (20-13, 12-6)
Thirteen losses is not a pretty mark on any record. Yet, the Bulls have played well in February and March when it mattered most. Despite a defeat to 23nd-ranked Notre Dame in an overtime defensive slugfest, the Bulls played better as the season progressed, and the committee should take notice. Plus, that late-February victory over Cincinnati is looking a lot shinier on USF’s resume after the Bearcats handed 2nd-ranked Syracuse their second loss all season in the Big East Semifinals today
Xavier (21-11, 10-6)
By no means a lock, the Musketeers nonetheless strongly helped their case tonight by eking out a victory in a de-facto elimination game against Dayton. Next up is Saint Louis, and if Tu Holloway and company can knock off the suddenly-flailing Bilikens, then a victory in the Atlantic 10 title game will improve seeding, but will not be necessary for a tourney bid.
“Only Time Will Tell”
Colorado State (20-11, 8-6)
Welcome to bubble purgatory, Rams. Colorado State has a top-20 RPI and strength of schedule and finished the regular season
Mississippi State (21-11, 8-8)
It’s been a tale of two SEC seasons for the Bulldogs. The talent-rich roster (Dee Bost and Arnett Moultrie will be in the NBA soon and Renardo Sidney has the talent if he can remain consistent) started out 6-3 in conference. Since then, they’ve gone 2-6, losing 5 in a row to less-than-superb SEC rivals, and bowed out in the first round of the SEC Tourney against 11th-in-confference Georgia. The Bulldogs’ early-season success will definitely be the reason if for their inclusion if they sneak in, but at this point the Bulldogs will be in Starkville all weekend rooting against any bid stealers in the conference tournaments this tournament, especially in the Pac-12 and Atlantic-10.
Tennessee (18-14, 10-6)
The anti-Mississippi State, Tennessee rebounded from a sub-.500 record at the end of February to finish 10-6 in the SEC. Alas, the Volunteers becoming victims of an overtime heartbreaker to Ole Miss, after banking an incredible three at the end of regulation to tie the Rebels, looks to put their shots in serious jeopardy. Despite what they say publicly, the NCAA bid committee should take into account the Volunteers’ late ride to the No. 2 seed in the SEC tournament. Still, the Volunteers could have capped their final surge with a bang rather a fizzle, and will have no scapegoats if they fall short.
Texas (20-13, 9-9)
Dayton (20-12, 9-7)
The Flyers, with their multitude of ugly losses and an unimpressive conference record, needed to defeat Xavier tonight in order to have a shot if they fell short later in the Atlantic 10 tournament. After blowing a 10-point lead at halftime, the Flyers missed a game-winning jumper, one which will likely relegate them to the NIT or beyond.
Miami (19-12, 9-7)
The Hurricanes didn’t ruin themselves Thursday night and thrashed Georgia Tech. Additionally, the Canes’ have quality wins at Duke and against Florida State. Still, the Hurricanes have been walking upon a trapeze on the bubble these past few weeks. They needed a road win against North Carolina State and fell four points short. Their situation tonight was similar: beat rival Florida State and you’re likely in. The Hurricanes could not complete the mission, and it seems as if Selection Sunday is going to be a glum time in Coral Gables.
Northwestern (18-13, 8-10)
Here we thought the Purple people would be punching their first ever ticket to the dance. Losing in the first round to unimposing
Only Cal and Arizona remain in Pac-12 tournament of the four at-large contenders. Oregon desperately needed at least a semifinal appearance to show the big gurus of their prowess, and lost after a questionable buzzer-beating three-pointer missed miserably. Even worse, the only team in depleted Pac-12 they failed to beat was the only team currently worthy of an at-large bid: California.
In regards to the confounding Washington Huskies, a thrilling but inexcusable loss to mediocre Oregon State stings worse than the Ducks’ defeat. Why? A regular season conference champion from a major conference has never missed the NCAA tournament, but that is all the Huskies have in their favor. Their best wins include Oregon (at home), UC-Santa Barbara, and a road victory against Arizona. Those would be impressive wins for your average Big Sky squad, but for a team with two first-round picks on the team in Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross, those resume “highlights” will illustrate why a disappointing season for a disappointing team will not end in the Big Dance.
As for Arizona, their resume was unimpressive going into their final regular season against in-state rival Arizona State. And then
Seton Hall (20-12, 8-10)
I said earlier this week that the Pirates needed a victory in the second round of the Big East tourney against Louisville to have a shot on being on the right side of the bubble. They fought hard, but playing hard does not win games alone. Big East play is always brutal, and it looks like the talent-thin Pirates will not quite make it out with a tournament bid in their hands
UCF (22-10, 10-6)
The Golden Knights, also known as “the team Michael Jordan’s kid, Marcus, plays for”, had put together a decent resume. They made it to the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament early in the season, did not lose to any C-USA doormats during the season, with three of those conference losses being to top dogs Memphis and Southern Miss. Still, their resume was not filled with impressive victories, and the C-USA got pretty ugly in the bottom half of the league. Going into the C-USA Semis, the squad needed to defeat or play Memphis close to have a snowball’s chance at an at-large bid. Instead, the team face-planted, looking like a high school squad in an 83-52 loss. Say hello to the NIT Young Jordan.