Last night, the Texas Longhorns took a massive step forward in their hunt for a 14th-consecutive NCAA bid, knocking off Iowa State in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals. The win was the fourth for Texas against the RPI Top 50, and sets up a third meeting with 2-seed Missouri. When the day started, Texas simply needed to beat Iowa State to stay in the discussion. But with carnage reigning across Bubble Nation, that win not only kept the Horns in the NCAA discussion, but might have also put them in the field for good.
Washington, the Pac-12 regular season champion, went down to Oregon State in the quarterfinals of the league tournament. As we discussed in yesterday’s Burnt Orange Bubble Watch, this year’s Pac-12 has the profile of a middle-tier mid-major conference. If Cal were to win the league tournament, it wouldn’t be a stretch to give the Pac-12 only one bid. With their loss to the Beavers, the Huskies will now certainly be sweating on Selection Sunday.
Texas found additional help in the Big 10 tournament, where Minnesota knocked off Northwestern in overtime. The Wildcats have never made an NCAA tournament, despite being incredibly close over the last few years. This season looks like another round of the same sad story, as the loss gives Northwestern a 1-10 record against the RPI Top 50 and a 5-12 mark against the RPI Top 100. Even in a season with an incredibly soft bubble, that profile just doesn’t pass the smell test.
While the Longhorns were taking care of Iowa State in the nightcap, Mississippi State was completing an epic choke job in New Orleans. The Bulldogs had lost five straight in late February before righting the ship with two wins to wrap up the regular season. While they were definitely sliding down the S-curve, the team was still safely in the field and just needed a win or two in the SEC tournament to feel more confident. Instead, Mississippi State lost to a pretty terrible Georgia team, and now must wait for the verdict on Selection Sunday.
As the calendar turned to Friday on the East Coast, Oregon was also laying an egg of their own in the Pac-12 tournament. A last-second three-pointer was off the mark from Devoe Joseph — brother of former Horn Cory Joseph — and the Ducks lost to Colorado in the quarterfinals. Oregon had slowly climbed into the bubble picture over the last two weeks, but now look to have already removed themselves from consideration. The Ducks finished the season with an 0-5 mark against the RPI Top 50 and went 5-8 against the Top 100.
Although Texas might be safely in the field at this point, a little more mayhem on the bubble would only solidify the team’s standing. Here’s a rundown of the important games today:
N.C. State vs. Virginia (1 P.M. CT, ESPN2)
The Wolfpack took care of business against Boston College on Thursday, setting up a big-win opportunity against Virginia this afternoon. N.C. State currently has three RPI Top 50 wins (Texas, Miami twice) and five against the RPI Top 100. With so many losses elsewhere on the bubble, a victory over the Cavaliers could be enough to squeak the Wolfpack into the field. A loss, on the other hand, would likely send them to the NIT.
St. Joseph’s vs. St. Bonaventure (1:30 P.M. CT, syndicated in A-10 markets)
The Hawks won their opening-round match-up against Charlotte on Tuesday, and have enjoyed watching the bubble meltdowns as they waited for today’s A-10 quarterfinals. St. Joe’s is 4-6 against the RPI Top 50 and 6-9 against the Top 100. Losses to American and Richmond are ugly stains on an otherwise-good profile, so the Hawks will need to pick up some big wins in Atlantic City this weekend. A victory here could give them an opportunity to log another signature win against Temple in the A-10 semis.
Central Florida vs. Memphis (5:30 P.M. CT, CBS College Sports)
The Golden Knights are still a fringe bubble team at best, but now find themselves two wins away from an NCAA tournament berth. An upset win over Memphis this evening would give UCF a 3-5 mark against the RPI Top 50 and push them to 4-6 against the Top 100. That isn’t overly impressive, but might be enough to get them involved in some discussions. For fans of other bubble teams, the thought of UCF possibly winning the C-USA auto-bid is also cause for concern. If a team that is barely in the bubble discussion wins a conference tourney, you can be sure that another bubble squad is getting squeezed out.
Tennessee vs. Ole Miss (6:30 P.M. CT, ESPN Full Court/ESPN3)
The Volunteers have been waiting for their SEC quarterfinal all week, licking their chops as other NCAA contenders have stumbled down the stretch. The Vols are 4-7 against the RPI Top 50, 7-10 against the Top 100, and have been a completely different team since adding Jarnell Stokes on January 14th. Tennessee is 10-5 since the freshman made his debut against Kentucky, and the team is riding a four-game winning streak heading into the SEC tourney. The Selection Committee considers injuries and suspensions when debating a team’s profile, so the Volunteers could likely punch their NCAA ticket with a win or two in New Orleans this weekend.
Miami vs. Florida State (8 P.M. CT, ESPN2)
Like fellow ACC bubbler N.C. State, Miami simply earned the win it had to have in yesterday’s first-round action, knocking off Georgia Tech in an ugly game. The Hurricanes are one of Lunardi’s First Four Out, but have just a 2-7 mark against the RPI Top 50 and are 3-10 against the Top 100. Their road win against Duke is definitely one to hang their hats on, but the lack of total quality wins could hurt in head-to-head comparisons. Win this one against the Seminoles, and the Hurricanes should get a shot at a second big win over Duke.
Arizona vs. Oregon State (8 P.M. CT, FSN)
Arizona shouldn’t be in consideration for an NCAA bid at this point, but it’s been that kind of year on the bubble. Of course, the Wildcats could end all speculation and simply win their next two games to earn the league’s auto-bid to the NCAA tournament. The ‘Cats are only 1-3 against the RPI Top 50 and 5-8 against the Top 100, with two of those wins coming against teams ranked in the upper nineties (Stanford at No. 95, Valparaiso at No. 99). Fans of bubble teams should be pulling for another Oregon State upset and a Cal victory in the finale.
Xavier vs. Dayton (8:00 P.M. CT, syndicated in A-10 markets)
In what could amount to a bubble elimination game, A-10 rivals Xavier and Dayton will put their seasons on the line in Atlantic City. The Flyers have a very interesting profile, as they own four RPI Top 50 wins, but also have a pair of head-scratching losses to Miami of Ohio and Rhode Island. Xavier, meanwhile, has just two Top 50 wins, but seven against the Top 100. A win in this game won’t guarantee anything for either team, but the loser can likely shelve those NCAA dreams.
Colorado State vs. San Diego State (8:00 P.M. CT, CBS Sports)
Colorado State is in a similar situation to Texas, albeit a slightly better one. The Rams had three RPI Top 50 wins against the Mountain West’s best teams, but all came at home. A road win against Air Force in the season finale and a neutral-site win against TCU yesterday have served to bolster the road/neutral record, while losses around the country have only solidified Colorado State’s standing. At this point, it’s hard to find enough teams with profiles good enough to justify leaving CSU out. Of course, a win over the Aztecs in tonight’s semifinal would certainly lock things up.
Long Beach State vs. Cal-Irvine (8:30 P.M. CT, ESPNU in Big 12 Network markets)
Bubble fans across the country are rooting hard for LBSU this week, as the 49ers would be an interesting at-large candidate if they fall short in the Big West tournament. Thanks to the Big West’s re-seeding of teams in the conference tournament, that outcome is incredibly unlikely. Tonight, the 49ers are facing the league’s 7-seed in Cal-Irvine, just a day after dispatching of 8-seed UC-Davis.
Long Beach State was considered an NCAA lock for much of the season, but an inexplicable loss to Cal State Fullerton in the season finale has muddied the picture. The 49ers have just one RPI Top 50 win, which came against Xavier. A loss by the Musketeers in the A-10 quarters could knock them right out of that group, however, which would leave LBSU with zero Top 50 wins on the profile. It doesn’t look like the 49ers could absorb a Big West tourney loss and still make the field, but other bubble teams don’t want to have to test this theory. Bubble Nation is firmly in LBSU’s corner this weekend.
Colorado vs. Cal (10:30 P.M. CT, FSN)
As mentioned above, fans of bubble teams need Cal to win the Pac-12 tournament. If that happens, the Pac-12 could be limited to just one bid on Selection Sunday, opening the door for other at-large candidates.