Bubble Banter: Arizona State and Oklahoma out, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State in?

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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 Saturday.

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

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 84, KenPom: 41, NBC seed: First four out): The Cowboys got what they needed: A win over Oklahoma that will give them a shot at getting a three-game sweep over Kansas on the season. And should I mention that Udoka Azubuike, who starts at center for Kansas, is out with a sprained MCL? As of today, Oklahoma State has five Quadrant 1 wins and a 10-13 record against the top two Quadrants with no bad losses. The biggest issue on their résumé is that their RPI isn’t pretty. They’ll be in the conversation even with a loss on Thursday, and a win probably gets them in.

NOTRE DAME (RPI: 71, KenPom: 33, NBC seed: Next four out): I don’t know where it came from, but Notre Dame was down by 20 points in the second half against Virginia Tech and came back to win in the second round of the ACC tournament, putting them into a position to seriously challenge for an NCAA tournament bid. At this point, I still think that the Irish are on the outside looking in. But they get Duke tomorrow in the the ACC quarterfinals, and if they win that game — Clemson is a top 15 team in the RPI — then I think they’ll probably get a bid. At the very least, I think that they would have done enough to prove they are a top 30 team in the country with their entire roster healthy, and to me, that’s enough to get in.

TEXAS (RPI: 46, KenPom: 39, NBC seed: 10): Texas got past Iowa State, which is probably what they needed to do to really feel comfortable about their at-large chances. The Longhorns are 8-13 against the top two Quadrants and they don’t have a bad loss to their name. The problem is that their best wins are TCU and Texas Tech at home, Butler on a neutral and Alabama and Oklahoma on the road. I think they’re probably in regardless of what happens on Thursday, but their life will be much less stressful if they can find a way to dispatch Texas Tech.

LOUISVILLE (RPI: 37, KenPom: 34, NBC seed: Next four out): Louisville didn’t earn an NCAA tournament bid on Wednesday afternoon when they beat Florida State, but they did put themselves into a position where they can win and get themselves in on Thursday. They play Virginia in the quarterfinals. If they beat Virginia, they will be in the NCAA tournament. Should I tell Louisville fans that they’d be in right now if they didn’t blow a four-point lead with 0.9 seconds left?

MARQUETTE (RPI: 55, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: Last four in): Marquette did what they needed to do on Wednesday night: They beat DePaul. Now they’ll advance to take on Villanova in the quarterfinals on Thursday. The way that I see it, they have to win that game to get in.

LOSERS

ARIZONA STATE (RPI: 65, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: 10): Arizona State lost in their Pac-12 12 tournament opener, meaning that the Sun Devils have gone from being college basketball’s last remaining unbeaten team to having to sweat out the final week before Selection Sunday. ASU is now 20-11 on the season and 8-11 against Pac-12 opponents after Wednesday’s loss. The Fighting Bobby Hurleys have just three Quadrant 1 wins and an 8-9 record against the top two Quadrants with two Quadrant 3 losses, but they have happen to have the best pair of wins of any team in the country, beating Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse and knocking off Xavier on a neutral court. And it is those two wins that will likely ensure that ASU will be in the tournament when the bracket is released in 96 hours, but the idea that it is anything close to a guarantee — which is what you would expect from a team ranked No. 3 in the country on Dec. 30th — is wrong.

OKLAHOMA (RPI: 46, KenPom: 57, NBC seed: 9): The slide continued into the postseason for the Sooners, as they lost to their in-state rivals in the first round of the Big 12 tournament on Wednesday night. All told, Oklahoma has now lost eight of their last ten and 11 of their last 15 games. They are 18-13 on the season and finished with an 8-11 record against Big 12 foes. And here’s the crazy part: they are probably still in the tournament. They beat Kansas at home. They beat Texas Tech at home. They swept TCU, won at Wichita State and beat USC on a “neutral” court in Los Angeles. Throw in the fact that they don’t have any losses outside the top two Quadrants and I find it very hard to believe this team will be on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday.

SYRACUSE (RPI: 38, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: Last four in): The Orange are in a really bad spot right now. Their résumé currently looks like this: Three Quadrant 1 wins (Clemson, at Miami, at Louisville) and a 6-11 record against the top two Quadrants with a pair of Quadrant 3 losses (at Georgia Tech, at Wake Forest). In a vacuum, that would probably put them right on the cut-line. The problem? All of the teams around them — Baylor, USC, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Notre Dame, Marquette, Alabama, UCLA — still have games to play, and they aren’t all going to lose.

WASHINGTON (RPI: 67, KenPom: 97, NBC seed: First four out): Washington needed to beat Oregon State in their Pac-12 tournament opener. They did not beat Oregon State in their Pac-12 tournament opener. With four Quadrant 1 wins — including Arizona and at Kansas — and a 6-9 record against the top two Quadrants, the Huskies aren’t that far away from some of the other bubble teams. Their issue? This loss to Oregon State is their third Quadrant 3 loss. It’s going to be a long, long four days until Selection Sunday, but it’s hard to see the Huskies getting in at this point.

N.C. STATE (RPI: 64, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: 8): I’ve seen some discussion about N.C. State’s chances as a bubble team, and I don’t quite understand why. The Wolfpack have five Quadrant 1 wins and an 8-9 record against the top two Quadrants, but more importantly they’ve beaten Duke, won at North Carolina, took down Clemson and beat Arizona on a neutral. They should be fine.

FLORIDA STATE (RPI: 52, KenPom: 36, NBC seed: 9): The Seminoles lost their ACC tournament opener to Louisville, but they, like N.C. State, should still be safe. They have six Quadrant 1 wins — including North Carolina and Clemson — and a 7-10 record against the top two quadrants with just a single Quadrant 3 loss. If there is a concern, it’s that their non-conference SOS is a train-wreck, but that shouldn’t keep them out.