Bubble Banter: UCLA headlines a big night for the Pac-12 bubble teams

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Thursday night.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

UCLA (RPI: 57, KenPom: 57, NBC seed: First four out): UCLA landed what is easily their biggest win of the season on Thursday night, as they went into the McKale Center and knocked off No. 13 Arizona in the only matchup that the two Pac-12 powerhouses are going to play this season. For a team on the outside of the bubble picture at the start of the day, I cannot overstate the importance of this win. It’s only UCLA’s second Quadrant 1 win of the season, with the other being an underwhelming Kentucky team. This doesn’t probably doesn’t guarantee the Bruins a trip to the NCAA tournament, but it sure will get them closer to the right side of the bubble.

ARIZONA STATE (RPI: 39, KenPom: 29, NBC seed: 8): The slide may have ended for Arizona State, as the Sun Devils came back late to beat USC at home. I don’t think that Arizona State is actually in danger of missing the NCAA tournament yet, but they might have been with a loss considering their next two games were against UCLA and Arizona.

LOUISVILLE (RPI: 43, KenPom: 37, NBC seed: 9): The Cardinals won a game they couldn’t afford to lose, beating Georgia Tech at home by 23 points. The Cards biggest issue right now is that they just don’t have enough good wins. They only have one Quadrant 1 win and two Quadrant 2 wins. Five of their last six games are Quadrant 1 opponents, and three of them — North Carolina, at Duke, Virginia — are elite wins. They’ll have chances to get it done.

HOUSTON (RPI: 38, KenPom: 35, NBC seed: Play-in game): Houston added another Quadrant 2 win to their profile on Thursday night, as they knocked off SMU at home. The Cougars have a gaudy record, a 3-2 mark against Quadrant 1 teams and a 6-4 record against the top two Quadrants. The biggest issue right now: How did this team lose to Drexel?

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 22, KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 12): With just one Quadrant 1 win to their name and a loss to a Quadrant 3 team already this season, the Blue Raiders can probably not afford another regular season loss if they want an at-large bid. They beat Rice (319) on Thursday.

WESTERN KENTUCKY (RPI: 51, KenPom: 56, NBC seed: Out): At this point, Western Kentucky’s at-large hopes seem dim at best. Yes, they beat Purdue, but wins over SMU and at Old Dominion are no longer Quadrant 1 wins. Throw in five Quadrant 3 losses, and yikes. They must win out — including at Middle Tennessee State — and lose to Middle in the Conference USA tournament if they want an at-large.

LOSERS

SMU (RPI: 71, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: First four out): It’s time to start getting a little worried about SMU’s chances of getting into the NCAA tournament. They’ve now lost two in a row, three of their last four and six of their last nine games this week. If we’re being fair, those last two losses came without Shake Milton. But in a league where just three Quadrant 1 games remain for a team that only has two Quadrant 1 wins and three Quadrant 2 wins, that’s a concern. SMU is 7-9 against non-Quadrant 4 teams.

WASHINGTON (RPI: 33, KenPom: 89, NBC seed: 10): Fresh off of a weekend where they swept the Arizona schools, Washington tripped down to Oregon on Thursday night and promptly gotten taken behind the woodshed to the tune of a 25-point beating. This is only a Quadrant 2 loss for the Huskies, one that might become a Quadrant 1 loss if the Ducks make a late run this season, but that’s not what Mike Hopkins needed, not when there are no more Quadrant 1 games left on the schedule.

USC (RPI: 44, KenPom: 45, NBC seed: 11): USC whiffed on landing their third Quadrant 1 win of the season on Thursday night, as they went into Tempe and blew a late lead against Arizona State. The Trojans would have been tied for first place in the Pac-12 with a game at Arizona. The Trojans are probably on the right side of the bubble right now — losing at a top 50 team doesn’t hurt — but there is one glaring hole on their résumé: They lost to Princeton (178) on a neutral. That’s a Quadrant 4 loss. This would have helped a lot.