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NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch - March 9 Update

Jacob Freedman |
March 9, 2012 | 10:07 p.m. PST

Staff Writer


The first half of the Huskies season should help them make it to the tournament. (MattBritt00 via Flickr)
The first half of the Huskies season should help them make it to the tournament. (MattBritt00 via Flickr)
The eagerly anticipated revealing of the bracket is less than 48 hours away. For the unlucky teams straddling the line between a NCAA bid and that bittersweet call from the NIT come Sunday, this weekend will be one of nervous anticipation. Denzel Washington once exclaimed “do what you gotta do so you can do what you wanna do.” Let’s take a look at the statuses of these teams hoping they’ve done enough to do what they want to do and make sports’ most exciting tournament. 

“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

Head coach Mark Gottfried has made the Wolfpack relevant again. (weltal327 via Flickr)
Head coach Mark Gottfried has made the Wolfpack relevant again. (weltal327 via Flickr)
got a crucial victory over Virginia today in the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals. They face the 4th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels tomorrow, and if the Wolfpack can show they can run with one of the nation’s top squads, then it looks like they will sneak back into the tournament despite a four-game slide in mid-February.

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

The Rams' conference tourney loss may keep them from the big dance. (E.A. Sanabria via Flickr)
The Rams' conference tourney loss may keep them from the big dance. (E.A. Sanabria via Flickr)
strong. All they needed was a win in the Mountain West Semis to essentially lock up their bid. Instead, they went out and lost by double digits. Now, they need to hope this year’s committee loves crunching the numbers and smiles upon a mid-major squad that went only 8-6 in conference. It sure seems easier nowadays to be considered for an at-large bid, doesn’t it?

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)

The Longhorns are playing average basketball at the wrong time. (eschulz via Flickr)
The Longhorns are playing average basketball at the wrong time. (eschulz via Flickr)
Iowa State is no marquee victory, but Texas showed it could beat a team of NCAA caliber in a tournament setting.  Still, the Longhorns have no victories over ranked teams, and finished at .500 in conference. Tonight’s game against 5th-ranked Missouri was the perfect shot to escape the bubble completely, and the Longhorns instead put themselves right in the middle of the conversation over which teams are and are not worthy of at-large selection. The Longhorns have been consistent, but their consistent above-average play might not do the trick. 

“Free Fallin’”

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

The Wildcats haven't been able to seal the deal so far. (White and Blue Review via Flickr)
The Wildcats haven't been able to seal the deal so far. (White and Blue Review via Flickr)
Minnesota, after having their 8-10 conference record being defended by the fact that the Big Ten was the best conference in college basketball this year, hurts. A lot. Having only one really impressive win, vs. Michigan State, is not enough. Just like the Cubs, fans in Evanston can always look forward to next year. 

Pac-12 hopefuls

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

Without Williams, the Wildcats have been underwhelming. (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy)
Without Williams, the Wildcats have been underwhelming. (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy)
they lost. Now, following in the Pac-12 theme for this season, Arizona’s record is respectable but if inflated by a weak in-conference slate no out-of-conference wins against top-50, let alone ranked, teams. The victory over Oregon State doesn’t help much; a victory against either Colorado or Cal is all but required. 

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.


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