March Starts Monday and Bubble Watch Teams Finding It Difficult to Win Games
To show you how tough life can be for college basketball teams in the proverbial Bubble Watch category, the biggest winner from Saturday’s slate of games may have been a team that wasn’t even under consideration for a bid as recently as last week and didn’t play today - that’s your Michigan State Spartans.
Of the games today we highlighted, only six teams were victorious. The best win arguably came from North Carolina, who may have elevated themselves off the Bubble Watch with its home win over Florida State.
The worst loss may be a tie between Indiana and Stanford, who both may be playing themself out of the tournament. There’s still time left, but the chances to impress the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee are dwindling to a precious few.
Let’s take a deeper dive into today’s action.
UNC (beat Florida State 78-70): FSU led 41-29 at halftime, only to see the Tar Heels rally for a key Quad 1 win. UNC (15-8, 9-5) has now won 10 of their last 13 games and can all but clinch a bid, if they haven't already, with a win at Syracuse on Monday night. The win happened to be Roy Williams' 900th career win.
Louisville (beat Duke 80-73 in OT): The Cardinals (13-5, 8-4) improved their resume, which had fallen into The Last Four Bye category in Joe Lunardi’s latest ESPN Bracketology with this impressive road win over a surging Duke squad. Carlik Jones scored seven of his team-high 25 points in the extra session.
UConn (beat Marquette 80-62): The Huskies (12-6, 9-6) got a combined 45 points from the backcourt tandem of James Bouknight (24) and RJ Cole (21). UConn is now 8-2 in games Bouknight plays, with the losses coming to ranked teams Creighton and Villanova.
Xavier (beat Creighton 77-69): The Musketeers (13-5, 6-5) had fallen into The Last Four In category with losses in three of their last four games. A resume-enhancing win over Creighton will aid their cause. Paul Scruggs had 23 points for Xavier.
Colorado State (beat Air Force 72-49): Lunardi’s Last Team In, Colorado State (15-4, 12-3) pounded Air Force in their first game since February 6th and will look to add another win in the two-game series on Monday night.
Georgia Tech (beat Syracuse 84-77): The lone member in the winner’s circle who wasn’t in the field entering the day was Georgia Tech (13-8, 9-6). With several ahead of them losing on Saturday, the Ramblin Wreck may move into First Four Out in the next Bracketology release. Moses Wright had 31 points and 16 rebounds for Josh Pastner’s team, who have now won four in a row at the right time of the year. Georgia Tech hosts Duke Tuesday in what is a huge Bubble Watch encounter.
Indiana (lost to Michigan 73-57): Indiana is reeling at the worst possible time. Losers of four of their last five, Indiana falls to 12-12 on the season (7-10 in the Big 10). They do have resume-enhancing opportunities to climb back into consideration with games at Michigan State and at Purdue.
Duke (lost to Louisville 80-73 in OT): Matthew Hurt’s career-best 37-point outburst wasn’t enough as Duke’s four-game winning streak came to an abrupt end. Duke (11-9, 9-7) plays at Georgia Tech and UNC to close the regular season. Coach K’s squad may need to win both to feel better about their chances heading into the ACC Tournament.
Syracuse (lost to Georgia Tech 84-77): The Orange (13-8, 7-7) slipped further down the pecking order with their second-straight loss. They do return home to host UNC and Clemson next week, providing Coach Boeheim’s squad a chance at their first Quad 1 win of the season.
Minnesota (lost to Nebraska 78-74): Marcus Carr scored 41 points, the most in a Big 10 game this season, but it wasn’t enough as a short-handed Golden Gophers lost to last-place Nebraska. Minnesota (13-12, 6-12), which was The First Team Out, lost to second-to-last place Northwestern earlier in the week. That’s trending in the wrong direction as the calendar flips to March.
Stanford (lost to Oregon State 73-62): Stanford (14-11, 9-9) was also shorthanded and played without leading scorer Oscar da Silva. The Cardinal were swept at home by the Oregon schools this weekend. They get a huge resume-enhancing opportunity when they close the regular season at USC Tuesday night.
Ole Miss (lost to Vanderbilt 75-70): Ole Miss had reached Next Four Out status, but a loss at last-place Vanderbilt, who was without its two best players, is a tough outcome to overcome. The Rebels (13-10, 8-8) return home to host Kentucky and Vanderbilt this week.
We now enter the teams who lost Saturday but were firmly in the field of 68 in the latest Lunardi Bracketology.
Boise State (lost to San Diego State 62-58): Boise State (18-6, 14-5) had a chance to help its resume against San Diego State, who was seeded eighth in the latest bracket and had won eight in a row heading into this two-game set. Unfortunately for Boise State, the Aztecs win streak is now 10 games after a pair of wins in 48 hours, including an OT affair Thursday night.
VCU (Lost to Davidson 65-57): Firmly in the field as a 10-seed (Last Four Bye Category), VCU (17-6, 10-4) fell to Davidson and lost out on a chance to tie St. Bonaventure for co-champs in the Atlantic 10’s regular season. They will next play in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament as the two seed. The 57 points scored today by VCU was their second-lowest total of the season.
Drake (lost to Bradley 67-61): Drake suffered the same scenario as VCU. A loss in their finale costing them a chance to tie Loyola for the regular-season crown. Drake (24-3, 15-3) will also enter its conference tournament as the two seed. They were an 11-seed in the latest Bracketology.
Sunday’s slate features only three games with Bubble Watch implications: Maryland/Michigan State (2 pm CBS), FIU/Western Kentucky (3 pm ESPN+), and Nevada/Utah State (7 pm FS1).
Our next Bubble Watch report will be Tuesday morning. We will dissect, poke, and prod all the teams we have featured here for the last two weeks. We will add some teams to the list (Michigan State and Xavier) while eliminating a few as well, who very well may need to win their conference tournament to earn their March Madness Invite (Syracuse, Stanford), or have played themselves solidly into the field and off the Bubble Watch (UNC, Louisville).