BUBBLE BANTER: Thursday’s Winners and Losers

(AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)
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WINNERS

Syracuse (14-8, KenPom: 33, RPI: 42) was the bigger winner on Thursday, picking up their third top 50 win when they knocked off Notre Dame in Syracuse. The Orange now own wins over Texas A&M and at Duke, as well as knocking off UConn, St. Bonaventure and Wake Forest, the latter on the road.

In fact, when you look at the entirety of the Syracuse profile, they’re not in a bad spot. They’re 6-7 against the top 100 and they still have five games left against the RPI to 50, including visits to North Carolina and Louisville. Those are tough games, but a loss there wouldn’t hurt them and a win could be the difference between the NIT and avoiding the play-in games. The problem? That pesky loss to St. John’s, which is currently a sub-200 loss. That’s a black mark on their profile that isn’t going to be going away.

  • Cincinnati (16-6, KenPom: 30, RPI: 57) picked up a win that could scoot them onto the right side of the bubble on Thursday, winning at UConn. The Bearcats now have two top 50 wins, two more top 100 wins and no bad losses. But they don’t have much depth in their profile, which means every game like this is that much more important for them.
  • Washington (14-6, KenPom: 84, RPI: 53) is a fascinating team. They’ve beaten Texas, USC and Colorado but they’ve lost to Oakland and UC-Santa Barbara. They’re leading the Pac-12 despite having one of the youngest rosters in the country, and they make just be the most entertaining team in the sport. Here’s the crazy part: the Huskies have been outscored by 10 points in league play. I’m not convinced they can keep this up, but I will surely be watching.

LOSERS

Last night, UCLA (12-9, KenPom: 67, RPI: 59) fell at home to Washington, pitting them at 12-9 overall and 3-5 in the Pac-12. Now, conference standing means less than nothing in regards to the NCAA tournament, particularly in leagues that don’t plat a double round-robin, but it is a good reference point for how wild the Pac-12 has been. UCLA in ninth in the league and still in a pretty good spot for a tournament bid.

They have the two wins over Wildcats, Arizona and Kentucky, and their worst loss in name — Monmouth — has actually proven to be less of a black eye on their profile than Washington, Washington State or Wake Forest. There are plenty of good wins available in this conference, the key for the Bruins is simple: get them. A 7-3 finish in the league pit UCLA at 13 losses on Selection Sunday, assuming they don’t win the automatic bid. Will that be enough to get in?

  • UConn (14-6, KenPom: 32, RPI: 73) has been a pretty disappointing team this season, but they still seem to be destined for the NCAA tournament. They have no bad losses, even after losing to Cincinnati last night, and a pair of quality wins against Michigan and at Texas.
  • Oregon State (12-7, KenPom: 83, RPI: 54) took a pretty bad loss on the road on Thursday at Arizona State, meaning they’ve now lost five of their last seven games. The Beavers are in a bit of a tough spot at the moment in regards to their tournament profile, but they have three really good wins (Oregon, Cal, USC), no bad losses and nine of their last ten games come against RPI top 60 teams.
  • Gonzaga (16-5, KenPom: 40, RPI: 80) beat Santa Clara on Thursday night, a win that mattered because it wasn’t a loss. The Zags don’t have much at the top of their résumé — wins over UConn, Washington and Tennessee are all in the 50-100 range — but they also don’t have any RPI sub-75 losses. Gonzaga had a chance to get a marquee win at SMU next month. They need that win.
  • George Washington (15-5, KenPom: 79, RPI: 46) absorbed a double-overtime loss at home to Richmond, the third sub-100 loss for the Colonials this season compared to just one top 50 RPI win. Beating Virginia is a nice anchor for their résumé, but this group badly needs some depth there. After a game at George Mason on Sunday, the Colonials have a three-game stretch where they get Davidson at home, VCU on the road and St. Joseph’s at home. They need to win at least two of those.