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Bubble Banter: Seven bubble teams play on the road on Wednesday night

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Here is the latest NBC Sports Bracket Projection.

WINNERS

UCF (NET: 34, SOS: 78): The finally did it. It took until February 27th to get it done, but the Knights have a Q1 win — and it came on the road against South Florida (72), of all teams. They are going to have three more chances in the regular season to add Q1 wins — at Houston (4), Cincinnati (25), at Temple (56) — and for my money, they need to get two to feel comfortable heading into the AAC tournament. One might be enough if that one is a win over the Cougars.

CLEMSON (NET: 43, SOS: 31): The Tigers smoked a Pitt team that has been reeling for the last month, which is important because, as things currently stand, the Tigers are sitting as one of the teams in the play-in game in many bracket projections. Clemson has a massive chance to land a difference-making win on Saturday as they host North Carolina (8).

AUBURN (NET: 24, SOS: 21): Auburn has such a head-scratching resume. They’re 18-9 overall and they have really strong computer numbers, but those numbers aren’t really backed up by wins. They beat Washington (29) at home in November, but that win is a loss or two from the Huskies away from not being a Q1 win anymore. They won at Texas A&M (69), and that win is a loss or two away from not being a Q1 win anymore. They beat Florida (31) at home. That’s it. This is the perfect example of a resume being floated by a lack of bad losses, and that’s what made Wednesday’s win over Georgia so important.

FLORIDA (NET: 31, SOS: 35): The Gators moved to 17-11 on the season and 9-6 in the SEC with a win at Vanderbilt (129) on Wednesday night. And here’s the thing about Florida: They only have two losses that are outside Q1 (Butler on a neutral and South Carolina at home) but they are just 3-9 against Q1 competition. One of those three, however, one is a win at LSU (13) which is about as good as you’ll find anywhere on the bubble. If they can get past Georgia at home without trouble, their last week of the season features a visit from those Tigers and a trip to Lexington to take on Kentucky (5). I think they probably need to get two of those if they want to be comfortable.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 74, SOS: 85): The Hoyas kept the dream of an at-large bid alive by picking off DePaul at home on Wednesday. They are now 17-11 overall and 7-8 in the Big East with wins over Villanova (28), at Saint John’s (48) and at Butler (52). Overall, they are 7-9 against Q1 and Q2 opponents with a pair of Q3 losses, but the biggest hurdle they are going to face is a non-conference SOS of 250. I think the Hoyas need to win out — Seton Hall (64), DePaul (110), at Marquette (18) — to have a chance.

LOSERS

DAVIDSON (NET: 67, SOS: 111): Davidson’s dream of an at-large bid died on Wednesday. They lost at La Salle (210), their fourth Q3 loss of the season to go along with an 0-2 record in Q1 games.

TEXAS (NET: 37, SOS: 10): Texas blew a 19 point lead in regulation and a six point lead in overtime to find a way to lose at Baylor (35) on Wednesday night. The Longhorns are going to be the most fascinating bubble team come Selection Sunday. As it stands, they are still fairly comfortably in the field in most bracket projections, climbing as high as the No. 9 seed line in some. That is mostly a function of two things: Their SOS — which ranks top 10 nationally — of which the by-product is a number of “good” losses. Texas is 4-8 against Q1 opponents and 8-11 overall in Q1 and Q2 games. But more telling is this: They beat North Carolina (8) on a neutral. They beat Purdue (12) and Kansas (17) at home. They have a 20 point win at Kansas State (27). Those are four really, really good wins, better than anything else that is at the bottom of the bubble.

And the question, then, that you have to task yourself if pretty simple: Would you rather see Texas or a team like Georgetown, who will also have a stockpile of losses to their name, in the field? Would you rather see the Longhorns or someone like UCF, whose best win on the season is South Florida? This is what life on the bubble is in 2019.

Bracketology: Kentucky returns to top line

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Kentucky began its bracket journey last October as the projected No. 1 seed in the South Region.  As March nears, the Wildcats return to the top line, holding the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region.  For context, UK has lost just twice since the start of 2019, by a combined four points.

Duke continues as the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Virginia and Gonzaga.  Tennessee, North Carolina, Michigan State and Michigan remain in the top-seed discussion.  All eight have a lot at stake these next three weeks.

The cutline is equally compelling.  Will some early contenders make late runs to regain a look?  Will teams like Texas, Minnesota, and Ohio State hold on?  Will this be the year we see an at-large bid or two granted to deserving mid-majors?  The Madness is about to begin.

BRACKET UPDATE: February 25, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Temple vs. Alabama
MIDWEST REGION UCF vs. Utah State
EAST REGION ST. FRANCIS (PA) vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION PRAIRIE VIEW vs. RIDER

EAST Washington, DC   SOUTH – Louisville                           
Columbia Columbus
1) DUKE 1) Virginia
16) ST. FRANCIS / NORFOLK ST 16) SAM HOUSTON ST
8) Ole Miss 8) St. John’s
9) Oklahoma 9) TCU
Salt Lake City San Jose
5) Iowa 5) Maryland
12) Temple / Alabama 12) BELMONT
4) Kansas 4) KANSAS STATE
13) OLD DOMINION 13) VERMONT
Jacksonville Hartford
6) Louisville 6) Virginia Tech
11) Arizona State 11) Texas
3) LSU 3) Purdue
14) YALE 14) TEXAS STATE
Des Moines Columbia
7) BUFFALO 7) Villanova
10) VCU 10) Ohio State
2) Michigan 2) Tennessee
15) LOYOLA-CHICAGO 15) WRIGHT STATE
MIDWEST – Kansas City WEST – Anaheim
Columbus Salt Lake City
1) KENTUCKY 1) GONZAGA
16) BUCKNELL 16) PR VIEW / RIDER
8) Baylor 8) WOFFORD
9) Syracuse 9) Auburn
San Jose Tulsa
5) Florida State 5) NEVADA
12) UCF / Utah State 12) LIPSCOMB
4) Wisconsin 4) Texas Tech
13) UC-IRVINE 13) NEW MEXICO ST
Hartford Tulsa
6) Iowa State 6) Mississippi State
11) Minnesota 11) Seton Hall
3) MARQUETTE 3) HOUSTON
14) HOFSTRA 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Jacksonville Des Moines
7) Cincinnati 7) WASHINGTON
10) Florida 10) NC State
2) North Carolina 2) MICHIGAN STATE
15) RADFORD 15) MONTANA

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Texas Temple Butler Dayton
Minnesota Alabama Clemson UNC-Greensboro
Arizona State UCF Georgetown Davidson
Seton Hall Utah State Furman Murray State

TOP SEED LINE: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Virginia, Gonzaga, and Kentucky

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (8): DUKE, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Syracuse, NC State

Big 10 (8): MICHIGAN STATE, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa, Ohio State, Minnesota

BIG 12 (8): KANSAS STATE, Texas Tech, Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma, Texas

SEC (8): KENTUCKY, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Florida, Alabama

Big East (4): MARQUETTE, Villanova, St. John’s, Seton Hall

American (4): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, Temple, UCF

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State

Southern (1): WOFFORD

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Rider (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Wright State (HORIZON), Sam Houston State (SLND), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), St. Francis (PA) (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Bracketing principles: read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com.

Bubble Banter: Nebraska’s fortunes have changed thanks to better Big Ten

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Here is the most recent bracket NBC Sports bracket projection.

There is no better example in college basketball of the importance of non-conference play for a league and the value that performance brings to a team than Nebraska.

A year ago, the Cornhuskers entered Selection Sunday with a 22-10 record and a 13-5 mark in the Big Ten and barely got a sniff of life on the bubble. That was a direct result of just how weird the Big Ten was that season. The conference had four teams that were good enough to be top five seeds on Selection Sunday — Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan — and a bunch of nothing beyond that. To put it into perspective, prior to last season, there had never been a team with 12 Big Ten wins to get left out of the NCAA tournament and there have only been two teams in the history of the conference to win 11 games and be relegated to the NIT. Hell, the only time that any power conference team won 13 league games and missed the NCAA tournament was when it happened to Washington and Oregon in 2012. Washington won the league title but the conference was worse than it is this year, so they got left out.

Nebraska? They went 13-5 in conference play and they were a No. 5 seed in the NIT.

How?

Unbalanced scheduling meant that Nebraska only got one game against each of those top four teams — three of which came on the road — and they won the one game they got at home by 20 points over the same Michigan team that reached the national title game. They, like the much of rest of the conference, whiffed on all of their chances to land big wins outside of league play, and when they lost at Illinois late in the season, it was more or less the end of the road.

This year, Nebraska is sitting at 5-10 in league play with a 15-11 record overall, and … they’re one of our Next Four Teams Out?

How is that possible?

It’s simple: The Big Ten cleaned up in non-conference play, meaning that everyone in the league except for Rutgers is ranked in the top 80 of the NET. If Illinois (77) and Northwestern (78) find a way to get into the top 75, it would mean that 13 of the 14 teams in the conference would be Q1 wins if you beat them on the road. Yes, Nebraska lost seven games in a row, but five of those seven losses were Q1 losses and the other team were Q2.

They’re 15-11 on the season but they don’t have a single bad loss to their name. What they’re missing are those high-end wins, and that’s where things get really interesting. The final five games on Nebraska’s schedule — including Tuesday night’s trip to Penn State (70) — are Q1 games. They close the season against Purdue (12), at Michigan (8), at Michigan State (7) and Iowa (28). Let’s say they finish the season 3-2 and pick up a win at a depleted Michigan State team in the process. Suddenly, they would be sitting at 18-13 on the season. The committee would not factor in that 8-12 record in the Big Ten or that there was a seven-game losing streak in the middle of the year.

Instead, they would look at a team that is 5-10 in Q1 games and 10-13 against Q1 and Q2 opponents with a win in East Lansing in their back pocket.

I look at bubble profiles every single day this time of year.

And that resume? I think it probably gets them into the tournament.

What a time to be alive.

WINNERS

BAYLOR (NET: 36, SOS: 36): The night’s biggest bubble winner was undoubtedly Baylor as the Bears slowed down a recent slide with a monstrous Big 12 road win at No. 19 Iowa State. Sweeping the Cyclones for the regular season, Baylor earned another all-important Q1 win to put them at a respectable 4-6 against that group. Also 7-1 against Q2 teams, the Bears have a lot of quality wins despite all of the injuries they’ve sustained during the season. Already projected as a No. 9 seed before this victory, Baylor put themselves in position to lock-in an at-large bid with Tuesday’s win. With five Big 12 regular-season games left, the Bears have three winnable home games (West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma State) while still getting two more opportunities at Q1 road wins at Kansas State and Kansas.

VCU (NET: 42, SOS: 33): A blowout home win for VCU over Atlantic 10 rival Rhode Island gives them another Q3 win. Much like some of the others on this bubble list tonight, the Rams just needed to avoid a damaging loss more than this win actually helps. Riding a seven-game winning streak, VCU’s remaining schedule doesn’t give them a lot of opportunities for quality wins. Saint Louis and a road game at George Mason could be tough, but both of those wins wouldn’t mean much based on NET. But as long as the Rams continue to win the games they should, they’re trending in a positive direction.

BUFFALO (NET: 24, SOS: 77): Putting up 114 points in a blowout win over Ohio, the Bulls avoided a harmful Q4 loss to one of the MAC’s worst teams. While this game won’t do much of anything to enhance Buffalo’s at-large credibility, the Bulls have to be pleased by how they played on Tuesday — regardless of competition. Five MAC regular season games remain for Buffalo, with a rematch at home against Bowling Green (a team that beat Buffalo on Feb. 1) on March 8 as the game that matters most. As long as Buffalo wins out the regular season, they should safely get into the field even with a MAC Tournament loss.

LOSERS

NEBRASKA (NET: 38, SOS: 81): So, of course, after all of that, what does Nebraska do? They go on the road and get blown out by Big Ten bottomfeeder Penn State during an embarrassing 95-71 loss. It’s only a Q1 loss (for now, as Penn State is hovering close to No. 75 in NET), but at this point in the season, the Huskers can’t be hurting themselves by no-showing in a must-win game. As noted above, Nebraska still has ample opportunities to play great teams and earn quality wins. But this might very well be the loss that puts the Huskers in the NIT for the second straight year.

ALABAMA (NET: 50, SOS: 20): An underwhelming profile got that much worse for the Crimson Tide with an SEC road loss at Texas A&M. Barely in our current projected field as a No. 11 seed, Alabama getting swept by Texas A&M could ultimately be the thing that keeps them out of the field. Now riding a three-game losing streak, the Q2 loss on Tuesday drops the Tide to 5-3 in that quadrant as they remain 3-6 against Q1 teams. With two Q3 losses (4-2 overall) also on the books, Alabama probably needs one (or two) more quality wins to feel safe about getting into the field. They’ll get those chances with upcoming games against LSU, Auburn and on the road at Arkansas. But given the way the Crimson Tide are playing lately, another quality win is definitely not a given.

CLEMSON (NET: 41, SOS: 32): Sitting as the top team in “First Four Out” status entering Tuesday night, Clemson didn’t help its cause by losing at home to No. 16 Florida State. Now a miserable 1-8 against Q1 teams, the Tigers are in the midst of a three-game losing streak as they continue their bizarre season of highs and lows. At this point, Clemson will welcome the upcoming ACC games against Boston College and Pitt as they try to figure things out and get on the right track. March home games against North Carolina and Syracuse are looking crucial for Clemson now after this latest stretch.

DAVIDSON (NET: 67, SOS: 128): Suffering its second Q3 loss in 10 days, Davidson lost at home to Dayton in Atlantic 10 play. With no Q1 wins (0-2) and just a 3-1 mark against Q2 teams, the Wildcats already didn’t have enough to get into the field as an at-large. Now, dropping to a very mediocre 6-4 mark against Q3 teams, it would be surprising to see Davidson even listed among bubble teams after this loss. We’re now looking at an autobid or bust scenario for Bob McKillop’s team.

 

Bracketology: Virginia marches South as Tennessee drops; Kentucky a 2-seed

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With a coveted spot atop the South Region in play, Virginia benefited from Tennessee’s loss at Kentucky on Saturday night.  By a narrow margin, UVA moved to No. 2 on the Seed List, dropping Tennessee to No. 3 overall.  As a result, the Cavaliers march South as the No. 1 seed in the Louisville region, bumping the Volunteers to the Midwest.

Kentucky stays put as the top two-seed, which leaves an interesting question: Would the Committee place UK in the South Region opposite Virginia knowing the potential advantage it could give the Wildcats in an Elite Eight matchup in Louisville?

That type of scenario has worked out differently over the years.  The other option, given bracketing guidelines, would be for the Committee to slot Kentucky in the West Region, opposite Gonzaga, pairing No. 4 and No. 5 on the seed list together.  For now, UK stays South.  Let’s see how things shake out the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, the ragged cutline continues to ebb and flow.  Wait a couple of days; it’s likely to change.

UPDATED: February 18, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Utah State vs. UCF
MIDWEST REGION Butler vs. Temple
EAST REGION ST. FRANCIS (PA) vs. CANISIUS
MIDWEST REGION NORFOLK ST vs. PRAIRIE VIEW

EAST Washington, DC   SOUTH – Louisville                      
Columbia Columbia
1) DUKE 1) Virginia
16) ST. FRANCIS / CANISIUS 16) BUCKNELL
8) BUFFALO 8) Auburn
9) Seton Hall 9) Minnesota
San Jose Salt Lake City
5) Wisconsin 5) Texas Tech
12) Utah State / UCF 12) LIPSCOMB
4) Iowa State 4) VILLANOVA
13) VERMONT 13) OLD DOMINION
Des Moines Tulsa
6) Virginia Tech 6) Maryland
11) VCU 11) Arizona State
3) Marquette 3) HOUSTON
14) YALE 14) UC-IRVINE
Des Moines Columbus
7) Mississippi State 7) St. John’s
10) TCU 10) NC State
2) Michigan 2) Kentucky
15) LOYOLA-CHICAGO 15) RADFORD
WEST – Anaheim MIDWEST – Kansas City
Salt Lake City Jacksonville
1) GONZAGA 1) TENNESSEE
16) SAM HOUSTON 16) NORFOLK ST / PR VIEW
8) WOFFORD 8) WASHINGTON
9) Baylor 9) Syracuse
San Jose Hartford
5) Louisville 5) KANSAS STATE
12) BELMONT 12) Butler / Temple
4) NEVADA 4) Purdue
13) NEW MEXICO ST 13) HOFSTRA
Hartford Tulsa
6) Florida State 6) Iowa
11) Oklahoma 11) Alabama
3) LSU 3) Kansas
14) TEXAS STATE 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Columbus Jacksonville
7) Cincinnati 7) Ole Miss
10) Texas 10) Ohio State
2) MICHIGAN STATE 2) North Carolina
15) MONTANA 15) NORTHERN KENTUCKY

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Texas Temple Clemson Davidson
Alabama UCF Florida Fresno State
Oklahoma Butler Furman Georgetown
Arizona State Utah State Nebraska UNC-Greensboro

TOP SEED LINE: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Virginia, Tennessee, and Gonzaga

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (8): DUKE, Virginia, North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, NC State

Big 10 (8): MICHIGAN STATE, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio State

BIG 12 (7): KANSAS STATE, Kansas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Texas

SEC (7): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Alabama

Big East (5): VILLANOVA, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Butler

American (4): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, UCF, Temple

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State

Southern (1): WOFFORD

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Canisius (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Sam Houston (SLND), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), St. Francis (PA) (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Bracketology: Happy Valentine’s Day for Duke, LSU

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Since it’s Valentine’s Day, we’ll sweep the epic crumbles of futility – otherwise known as this year’s bubble – under the proverbial rug and try not to look.

Instead, we’ll send Happy Heart greetings to the Duke Blue Devils and LSU Tigers, both of whom celebrated huge road wins in the Commonwealth on Tuesday.  For their efforts, Duke remains the No. 1 overall seed in today’s bracket.  LSU rises to No. 12 on the seed list, good for the final No. 3 seed.

As for those crumbles, today’s cutline decisions included serious consideration for teams like Oklahoma, Indiana, Butler, and Florida, all of whom have significant resume issues. There are no clear answers, especially with regards to how the Selection Committee will use the NCAA’s new NET ratings.  The good news for those four, and others, is we still have games to play.

BRACKET UPDATE: February 14, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
WEST REGION Clemson vs. Arizona State
MIDWEST REGION UNC Greensboro vs. Utah State
EAST REGION Norfolk State vs. Quinnipiac
MIDWEST REGION Robert Morris vs. Prairie View

EAST Washington, DC   SOUTH – Louisville                       
Columbia Columbia
1) DUKE 1) TENNESSEE
16) QUINNIPIAC / NORFOLK ST 16) BUCKNELL
8) BUFFALO 8) Baylor
9) Alabama 9) Syracuse
San Jose Salt Lake City
5) Wisconsin 5) KANSAS STATE
12) LIPSCOMB 12) BELMONT
4) Iowa State 4) VILLANOVA
13) VERMONT 13) OLD DOMINION
Des Moines Tulsa
6) Florida State 6) Maryland
11) UCF 11) Texas
3) Marquette 3) HOUSTON
14) YALE 14) UC-IRVINE
Hartford Jacksonville
7) Mississippi State 7) Ohio State
10) NC State 10) Seton Hall
2) Michigan 2) North Carolina
15) LOYOLA-CHICAGO 15) RADFORD
WEST – Anaheim MIDWEST – Kansas City
Salt Lake City Hartford
1) GONZAGA 1) Virginia
16) SAM HOUSTON 16) ROB MORRIS / PR VIEW
8) St. John’s 8) WASHINGTON
9) Auburn 9) TCU
San Jose Des Moines
5) Louisville 5) Texas Tech
12) Clemson / Arizona State 12) NC-Greensboro / Utah State
4) NEVADA 4) Purdue
13) NEW MEXICO ST 13) HOFSTRA
Jacksonville Tulsa
6) Virginia Tech 6) Iowa
11) Temple 11) VCU
3) LSU 3) Kansas
14) NORTHERN KENTUCKY 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Columbus Columbus
7) Ole Miss 7) Cincinnati
10) WOFFORD 10) Minnesota
2) MICHIGAN STATE 2) Kentucky
15) MONTANA 15) TEXAS STATE

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Minnesota Clemson Oklahoma Arkansas
Texas Arizona State Indiana Georgetown
UCF UNC-Greensboro Butler Fresno State
Temple Utah State Florida Davidson

TOP SEED LINE: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Tennessee, Virginia, and Gonzaga

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (9): DUKE, Virginia, North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, NC State, Clemson

Big 10 (8): MICHIGAN STATE, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio State, Minnesota

BIG 12 (7): KANSAS STATE, Kansas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Texas

SEC (7): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Alabama

Big East (4): VILLANOVA, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall

American (4): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, UCF, Temple

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State

Southern (2): WOFFORD, UNC-Greensboro

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Quinnipiac (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Sam Houston (SLND), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Robert Morris (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Bubble Banter: Biggest winners and losers

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January has come to a close, which means that it is officially time for Bubble Banter to make its glorious return. 

Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:

  • This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played. 
  • I’ll update them best that I can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning. 
  • If you see something I missed, if you have an issue with a team I left out or if you want to congratulate me on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit me up here: @RobDauster.
  • The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below.
  • On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Buffalo, Baylor, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arizona State, Ohio State, St. John’s.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

TCU (NET: 40, SOS: 31): TCU is the biggest bubble winner of the day, as they went into Hilton Coliseum and landed their first Q1 win of the season, knocking off Iowa State (13), 92-83. With the win, TCU is now 17-6 on the season and 5-5 in Big 12 play, but until this win, there really wasn’t much of note on their resume. They were 0-5 against Q1 opponents. That’s why they were in one of the play-in games entering the day. That will change with this win.

CLEMSON (NET: 43, SOS: 33): If it’s not TCU, then the Tigers are probably the biggest bubble winners of the weekend, as they landed a home win over Virginia Tech (10), their first Q1 win of the season. Everything else on their resume looks good. They don’t have any bad losses and their computer numbers look good, but entering today they were 0-6 against Q1 opponents and 3-2 in Q2 games. They needed quality wins. They got one on Saturday.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 78, SOS: 85): Good luck trying to explain Arizona State. After losing by 20 points to Washington State on Thursday night, the Sun Devils turned around and handed Washington their first loss in conference play on Saturday. Arizona State now has a Q3 loss and two Q4 losses, but they also have four Q1 wins — Kansas (18), Washington (25), Mississippi State (27) and Utah State (33). They’re certainly a tournament team right now, but where they fit in the bracket is tough to figure out.

VCU (NET: 48, SOS: 24): The Rams are probably the only hope for the Atlantic 10 to get two bids to the NCAA tournament at this point, and they certainly didn’t hurt their chances on Saturday. St. Bonaventure is down this year but Olean is always a tough place to play … and VCU bulldozed the Bonnies. A win at Texas and the win over Temple on a neutral are the two wins that are really bolstering this resume.

N.C. STATE (NET: 34, SOS: 237): The Wolfpack picked up a win at Pittsburgh on Saturday, which is notable if only because it’s a game that they probably couldn’t afford to lose. Their profile is marginal based on wins — they are 1-6 in Q1 games with a Q3 loss at Wake Forest — and the fact that they played a non-conference schedule that ranks 352nd is going to be a deal-breaker.

SYRACUSE (NET: 49, SOS: 27): Syracuse got a win over Boston College at home on Saturday, which helps them because a loss would have really hurt. The Orange do have a bit of a weird profile, but the truth is this: Their bad losses don’t look as bad as they did at the time, and their win at Duke might end up being the best win in college basketball come Selection Sunday.

TEXAS (NET: 38, SOS: 3): Texas improved to 6-5 in the Big 12 with a win at West Virginia on Saturday. They are now 14-10 on the season, a solid record against one of the best schedules in the country. They do have a couple of bad Q3 home losses, but they’ve beaten North Carolina (8) on a neutral, Purdue (11) and Kansas (18) at home and Kansas State (30) on the road. They’re in a good spot, and with their next four games all winnable — Kansas State (30), Oklahoma State (76), at Oklahoma (36), at Baylor (32) — they can keep improving on that resume.

SETON HALL (NET: 66, SOS: 28): The Pirates found a way to beat Creighton (55) at home on Saturday, but they are not in a great spot. They are 2-5 against Q1 and 6-2 against Q2 with two Q3 losses. That’s about par for the course for bubble teams. The differentiator is their neutral court win over Kentucky (5).

UCF (NET: 46, SOS: 91): The Knights won at SMU on Sunday, adding another Q1 win to their profile. They are now 4-2 against Q2 opponents, but they still have not beaten a Q2 team in two tries. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — this is the profile of a mid-major program right now. With two games left against Cincinnati and a trip to Houston, UCF will have three shots are an elite Q1 in, and I think they probably want to get two to really feel good about their chances on the bubble.

BELMONT (NET: 62, SOS: 145): The Bruins won their seventh straight on Saturday, beating Morehead State on the road. With a sweep of Lipscomb, a win at UCLA and a win at Murray State, Belmont has an interesting profile, but with three Q3 road losses already this season, I don’t think they can take another loss that isn’t in the OVC tournament and have a real shot at an at-large.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 31, SOS: 206): Lipscomb took care of business at home against Jacksonville, setting up what should be their toughest test between now and an Atlantic Sun regular season title: a home date with Liberty (58). This will be their last chance in the regular season to add to their Q2 win total. As it stands, they are 4-4 against Q1 and Q2 opponents, with a win at TCU and a win at SMU.

WOFFORD (NET: 29, SOS: 126): Wofford smoked Western Carolina. If they win out during the regular season, they should be an at-large team.

BUTLER (NET: 57, SOS: 26): The Bulldogs kept themselves in the bubble conversation as they landed their second Q1 win of the season at Georgetown (72). This is hardly a difference-maker, as the Hoyas are one losing streak away from falling outside the top 75 and off the Q1 line, but this does had some depth to Butler’s profile. Their at-large bid will be determined by games at St. John’s, at Villanova and at Marquette in the last month of the season.

LOSERS

DAVIDSON (NET: 59, SOS: 108): The Wildcats can just about put their at-large hopes on ice after they went into Amherst and lost to a bad UMass team (224) that was playing without Luwane Pipkins, who is their best player and one of the most dangerous scorers in the Atlantic 10. Davidson does not have a Q1 win, they will not play another Q1 game the rest of the regular season and they now have two Q3 losses and a Q4 loss to their name.

INDIANA (NET: 47, SOS: 35): The Hoosiers have now lost back-to-back home games since they went into East Lansing and beat Michigan State, and I think we’ve finally reached the point where we have to stop overlooking Indiana’s good wins. On Sunday, they lost at home to Ohio State, dropping to 13-11 overall and 4-9 in the Big Ten. They do have four Q1 wins — including at Michigan State (8), Louisville (15) and Marquette (21) — but they are now 4-8 against Q1 with three more Q2 losses. This is precisely the kind of resume that should be overlooked in order to get a mid-major team like Wofford or Lipscomb in to the tournament.

ARIZONA (NET: 70, SOS: 57): The Wildcats seemed to be well on the wrong side of the bubble entering Saturday, and that was before they took on a 14-point home loss to Washington State (197). The Wildcats now are just 1-4 against Q2 and 2-5 against Q2 with a 14 point Q4 loss. They play four of their last seven games on the road, they have just one more potential Q1 win on their schedule — at Oregon (71). Arizona is auto-bid or bust.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 35, SOS: 12): The Sooners have seen their season go off the rails. After entering league play with an 11-1 record, the Sooners have now lost four in a row to drop to 3-8 in the Big 12. At this point, the Sooners are not a tournament team.

CREIGHTON (NET: 55, SOS: 8): For the seventh time in their last ten games, the Bluejays took a loss, this time coming at Seton Hall. They are now 12-11 on the season, 4-7 in the Big East and 2-9 against Q1 opponents. Those two Q1 wins are Clemson (43) on a neutral and at Georgetown (72).

UTAH STATE (NET: 33, SOS: 122): Utah State’s seven-game winning streak came to an end in San Diego on Saturday night, as the Aggies lost to San Diego State. This is their second Q3 loss on the season, and combined with just a 3-4 record against Q1 and Q2 opponents and no wins better Saint Mary’s (45) on a neutral floor, it’s going to be a big ask to get an at-large if they don’t beat Nevada on March 2nd. Even with a win in that game, they might not have enough.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 40, SOS: 47): I wasn’t going to write about the Johnnies here because they entered the day as a No. 9 seed, but getting whipped at home by a bad Providence team earns a mention. St. John’s has a weird profile. They have five Q1 wins — including a sweep of Marquette — but with home losses to Georgetown, DePaul and now Providence, nothing is given. And it is worth noting that the DePaul loss came without Shamorie Ponds while today’s loss came with Mustapha Heron out of the lineup.

NEBRASKA (NET: 36, SOS: 99): The Cornhuskers lost their seventh straight on Saturday night, falling at Purdue. Maybe I’m late on this, but it’s time to take them out of consideration until something changes.

FLORIDA (NET: 42, SOS: 47): After the Gators knocked off Ole Miss ten days ago, we said that their NCAA tournament bid can be earned during a three-game stretch where they played Kentucky, at Auburn and at Tennessee. After getting blown out in Knoxville, the Gators went 0-3 in that stretch and 12-11 overall and 1-9 in Q1 games. That’s not ideal.

ARKANSAS (NET: 60, SOS: 36): The Razorbacks fell at South Carolina on Saturday, which certainly isn’t a killer for them, but when you are firmly on the bubble — as Arkansas is — any chance to land a Q2 win is going to help. The Razorbacks have just a single Q1 win, at LSU last Saturday.

TEMPLE (NET: 50, SOS: 42): The Owls lost at Tulsa on Saturday by 18 points, a result that sounds worse than it looks on a resume — the Golden Hurricane are a top 100 team, so this is a Q2 loss. Temple has just one Q1 win (Houston at home) but they are 6-6 against Q1 and Q2 opponents. They’ve also lost to Penn (88) at home. The biggest issue for the Owls at this point is the lack of quality opponents left on their schedule.