We start week two of Bubble Watch here on aarontorresonline.com. Here are some news and notes as we head into this last week of February:
We welcome Duke and Ole Miss to Bubble Watch status! Duke officially has entered The Next Four Out discussion after their win over Virginia Saturday improved their resume. The Blue Devils sit 56th in the NCAA NET Rankings with two Quad 1 wins. They can double that this week with wins over Syracuse (check) and Louisville Saturday.;
Ole Miss had won four in a row, including key Quad 1 wins over Tennessee and Missouri, before falling to state rival Mississippi State on Saturday. They can stay here with wins over Missouri and Vanderbilt this week.;
St. Louis has a HUGE week starting with a trip to Richmond to play Atlantic-1o leader VCU tonight, before hosting Richmond on Friday. The Billikens need a pair of wins to solidify their resume (48th in NCAA NET).;
Minnesota has lost three in a row and six of their last eight games. That’s no way to impress the Selection Committee. They are still one of The Last Four Teams In according to ESPN Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology. They sit 60th in the NET Rankings and have four Quad 1 wins (and 10 losses thanks to the prowess of the Big 10). The schedule makers did them a favor as the Gophers play Northwestern and Nebraska this week. But, only if they win.;
UNC has gotten creative with its scheduling in this crazy Covid-19 season. Last week, they hosted Northeastern on short notice. This week, it’s Marquette who is headed to the Dean Dome. They did meet in the 1977 national title game. UNC is hoping for a different result.;
Speaking of picking up games on the fly - let’s give major props to both Houston and Western Kentucky. They just scheduled a game for Thursday. It’s a win-win for Western Kentucky. They sit 72nd in the NET Rankings and a win would give them a third Quad 1 win. For Houston, it’s a lose-lose proposition so I give them credit for agreeing to the game.;
Seton Hall and St. John’s both lost this past weekend to Georgetown and DePaul respectively. The Pirates and Red Storm play only once this week. Seton Hall plays Butler Wednesday, while St. John’s tries to sweep Villanova tonight. Both have the weekend off (for now…).;
Here are the Bubble Watch games to pay attention to Tuesday, February 23, 2021:
Don’t forget the categories…
Bubblicious - Two bubble teams squaring off in an ultra-important game. These could feature teams inside the latest Bracketology predictions or those outside them. Or both. Either way, it’s teams who have not played themselves into LOCK status just yet.
There are no games that fit this category tonight.
Resume Enhancing - A bubble team taking on a team right now that is solidly in the field of 68, creating a chance for a quality win to improve a team’s resume.
St. Louis vs VCU - 6 pm CBSS
VCU is tied for the regular-season lead in the Atlantic 10 with a 9-3 conference mark. They are seeded eighth in Lunardi’s latest Bracketology, which affords St. Louis an opportunity to add a second Quad 1 win to its resume. The Billikens should be hungry after a disappointing 76-53 loss at Dayton in their last outing.
Georgia Tech vs Virginia Tech - 7 pm ACCN
Georgia Tech isn’t on the radar for an NCAA Tournament berth yet, but this game gives them an opportunity to enter the discussion. Georgia Tech is 51st in the latest NCAA NET Rankings and potentially gets the Hokies (31st in the NET) at the right time. Virginia Tech hasn’t played since an 80-76 win at Miami on February 6. Ironically, Georgia Tech pasted that same Hurricane squad on Saturday.
St. John's vs Villanova - 8 pm CBSS
Following a brutal loss to Depaul this past weekend, the Red Storm need another impressive win. The schedule makers did them a favor as Villanova is next in line on the Main Line in Philadelphia. St. John's won the first matchup. A sweep of the Wildcats would look impressive come Selection Sunday.
Ole Miss vs Missouri - 9 pm SECN
Another team that could use a sweep is the Ole Miss Rebels. They just beat Missouri 80-59 on February 10, 2021. Mississippi had won four in a row to enter Bubble Watch and adding another Quad 1 win to improve its NET Ranking of 62 would help its cause.
Bubble Games - These games pit a team on the Bubble playing a non-Bubble team, who can ill-afford a conceived “bad” loss. The “bubble” team is listed first.
Richmond vs UMass - 6 pm ESPN+
The good news - Richmond is even in the loss column for the lead in the Atlantic 10. The bad news - the Spiders have fallen off the Bracketology radar of some. They sport a 5-3 Atlantic 10 record but are far behind in games played due to a trio of Covid-19 pauses. St. Bonaventure and VCU are tied with 9-3 records in conference play.
UConn vs Georgetown - 9 pm FS1
The Huskies had a golden opportunity to increase their stock and add a Quad 1 win but lost 68-60 to Villanova Saturday. They can ill-afford a slip-up here against Georgetown. The Hoyas have won four of six, including wins over Seton Hall and Creighton.
Winners and Losers from Monday’s Bubble Watch Games
Duke (beat Syracuse 85-71): The Blue Devils are now 6-0 with Jalen Johnson and have won four games in a row for the first time this season. Maybe Jim Boeheim was right. Duke helped prove that theory with the beat down of the Orange Monday night. Duke gets another resume-enhancing opportunity against Louisville Saturday.
Drake (beat Evansville 74-63): Drake learned they would be without starting point guard Roman Penn for the rest of the season with a broken foot earlier Monday. That hangover lasted through halftime, as they trailed Evansville 35-31. Drake’s Joseph Yesufu provided the elixir by scoring 40 points. He had 32 in a Sunday game between the same two teams. Despite being down two starters, Drake is now 23-2 on the season.
Syracuse (lost to Duke 85-71): The Orange fell behind big for the second straight game. Unlike Saturday when they rallied to beat Notre Dame, there was no comeback this time. Missed opportunity by Syracuse.
Oregon (lost to USC 72-58): The Ducks fell behind 17-1 and never really threatened Pac-12 leader USC Monday night. Oregon has climbed as high as a nine-seed in the latest ESPN Bracketology so the loss won’t hurt that much. It does set up a huge game against Stanford (The Last Team In) on Thursday night.