The Madness is here as some conference tournaments are underway and the big boys start next week. We are less than two weeks from a bracket! Bubble Watch gets more intense as chances to impress get fewer and fewer.
Some teams in the last week have played themselves off the bubble and firmly in the field - San Diego State and Maryland come to mind, although the Terps need to avoid a collapse.
Others were practically playing out the string, but have come on strong and are playing meaningful games this week trying to sneak into the field. This includes Duke, Michigan State, and Georgia Tech.
Before we take a look at Tuesday’s slate, here’s a quick look at Monday’s winners and losers.
Colorado State (beat Air Force 74-44): The Rams broke open a three-point game at halftime with a strong second half en route to their 30-point win. With the win, Colorado State (16-4, 13-3, 40 NCAA NET) moved off The Last Four Bye category and solidly in the field. The Rams host New Mexico in their final regular-season game Wednesday.
Syracuse (beat UNC 72-70): The Orange (14-8, 8-7, 56 NCAA NET) lost their last two games (@ Duke and @ Georgia Tech) and disappeared from consideration. However, a home win over UNC keeps them on life support. They get Clemson at home Wednesday looking to add to their resume. They still don’t have a Quad 1 win, which they may need to win one or two of those games in the ACC Tournament if they want to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.
St. Louis (beat UMass 78-57): The Billikens (13-6, 6-4, 50th NCAA NET) will likely need to win the Atlantic-10 Tournament, or at least get to the final with a key win or two along the way, to earn an at-large bid, but they stayed alive with this win. Javonte Perkins, who just announced he will return next season, led the way with 16 points.
Western Kentucky (beat FIU 71-59): The Hilltoppers (17-5, 10-2, 74th NCAA NET) tried to claim a key resume-enhancing win against Houston last Thursday. It didn’t work. They rebounded nicely beating FIU twice in as many days. Charles Bassey had 22 points, 15 rebounds, and five blocks. He will need to carry the Hilltoppers to the Conference-USA crown to make the tournament. They will be dangerous if they get in because of Bassey.
Richmond (Lost to St. Joseph’s 76-73): The Spiders were a preseason top 25 team and won at Kentucky in November. But, this is March! This loss to the 4-14 Hawks all but eliminates them from at-large consideration. It’s now win the Atlantic 10 Tournament or bust for Richmond (13-7, 6-5, 54 NCAA NET).
UNC (lost to Syracuse 72-70): The Tar Heels all but sealed their bid with Saturday’s win against Florida State. But, then they lost to Syracuse Monday night. Seeded 10th in the latest Joe Lunardi Bracketology, Coach Roy Williams' squad would help themselves with a regular-season-ending win over Duke Saturday at home.
As a friendly reminder, the games are broken down into three 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.
Indiana vs Michigan State - 8 pm Big 10 Network
Talk about two teams going in opposite directions. Indiana was a virtual lock a few weeks ago. Michigan State wasn’t anywhere near Joe Lunardi’s radar. The Hoosiers are still among The Last Four In, while MSU is now First Four out. A Sparty win and those categories may flip-flop. Oh, by the way, Michigan State gets two more resume-enhancing opportunities this week before the conference tournament with a home and home against rival Michigan. Opportunity is knocking for Sparty!
Duke vs Georgia Tech - 8 pm ACCN
Duke and Georgia Tech are both in The Next Four category. That makes this a bubblicious matchup. The winner keeps at-large hopes alive. The loser likely needs to run the table in the ACC Tournament.
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.
There are no games in this category Tuesday night.
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.
Boise State vs Fresno State - 7 pm CBSS
The Broncos (18-6, 14-4, 35 NCAA NET) find themselves in The Last Four Byes category. This would be considered a bad loss to a 10-10 Fresno State squad.
Xavier vs Georgetown - 7 pm FS1
The Musketeers were a seven-seed just a few weeks ago. Now they are in The Last Four Bye category. Three losses in four games in late February will do that. They righted the ship with a Quad 1, resume-enhancing win over Creighton Saturday. Xavier faces Georgetown and Marquette on the road this week before the Big East Tournament.
Ole Miss vs Kentucky - 9 pm SECN
Ole Miss won four in a row to enter Bubble Watch, including wins over Tennessee and Missouri to give the Rebels three Quad 1 wins. Then, they lost to last-place Vanderbilt on Saturday. A win over Kentucky is paramount to avoid the Wildcat's postseason fate - win the SEC Tournament.