We’re back with Bubble Watch ahead of a big weekend in college basketball. March 1st is only nine days away and the regular season is dwindling to a precious few games for teams to state their case to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.
Friday’s slate is light as you would expect. Look at it as the appetizer leading into a Saturday slate to feast on. Let’s dive in!
Before we look at Saturday and Sunday, let's take a look at Friday's winners and losers
Boise State (beat Utah State 81-77): After a few up-and-down weeks, Boise State has righted the ship, winning four straight including a sweep of fellow bubble team Utah State this weekend. With the back-to-back victories, the Broncos are in first place in the grueling Mountain West, a half-game up on Colorado State. They entered the weekend in "Last Four In" status according to Joe Lunardi but should be comfortably in the field come Monday.
Saint Louis (lost to Dayton 76-53): There is no other way to put it: Friday night's loss was devastating for the Billikens. Travis Ford's club entered the weekend in "First Four Out" status and couldn't afford to take a bad loss - and unfortunately, this ain't 2020, Obi Toppin ain't walking through that door, and this is indeed not good for Saint Louis. With just 15 total games on their schedule (thanks to a long Covid pause), an 11-4 record overall and not a lot of time left, this is one the Billikens simply needed to have.
Utah State (lost at Boise State 81-77): The Aggies played fellow bubble team Boise tough in a pair of back-to-back games Wednesday and Friday - but unfortunately came out on the wrong end of both with a pair of losses. With the losses Utah State is now a game back in the loss column in the race for the Mountain West regular season title, but more importantly will fall further down the bubble pecking order, as they entered Friday in "First Four Out" status. A split was really needed here for the Aggies.
Saturday, February 20, 2021
There are at least 18 games with Bubble Watch implications on Saturday’s slate of games. While none match a pair of Bubble teams against each other, there are four games that fit into the resume enhancing category. Here they are:
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.
UConn vs Villanova - 1 pm Fox
The Huskies are a First Four Team out squad according to Joe Lunardi, but James Bouknight has returned and a juicy resume builder opportunity awaits the Huskies on the road against Villanova.
Minnesota vs Illinois - 3:30 pm
Minnesota can’t win on the road. The good news is Illinois visits The Barn, where the Golden Gophers have already beaten Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan (their only loss to date), and Purdue. Illinois did win the first matchup 92-65.
UNC vs Louisville - 6 pm ESPN
The Tar Heels are one of the Last Four Byes and with Louisville entrenched as an 8-seed, it affords North Carolina a resume-enhancing opportunity in the Dean Dome.
Duke vs Virginia - 8 pm ESPN
Duke isn’t close to the bracket yet, but they have won two in a row and have a schedule filled with resume enhancer opportunities starting with the Virginia Saturday night at Cameron.
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.
Indiana vs MSU - 12 pm ESPN3
Indiana was a 10-seed in Lunardi’s latest Bracketology and they sit 42 in the NCAA NET rankings. As crazy as it is to type and state, a loss to MSU (92nd in the NET) would be a bad loss for Archie Miller’s squad.
Georgia Tech vs Miami - 12 pm ACCN
Ranked 62nd in the NCAA NET, the Ramblin Wreck have won only once on the road. They need a win at Miami.
SMU vs South Florida - 12 pm ESPNU
The Mustangs are in the Next Four Out category which means they just need to follow former Oakland Raider owner Al Davis’ mantra and ‘just win baby’. That starts with a win over 162 NET-ranked South Florida.
Richmond vs LaSalle - 2 pm ESPN+
Richmond lost at city-rival VCU on Wednesday and needs to start a winning streak against LaSalle, who is 180th in the NCAA NET.
Syracuse vs ND - 2 pm ACCN
Another Next Four Out team is Syracuse, which had its resume-enhancing opportunity against Louisville postponed during the week. They can ill-afford a loss to high-scoring Notre Dame at home.
VCU vs GMU - 2:30 pm NBCSN
VCU leads the Atlantic 10 and hasn’t lost in exactly a month (January 20 to St. Bonaventure). That shouldn’t change against 8-8 and 156th NET ranked George Mason.
Stanford vs WSU - 4 pm ESPNU
Stanford was literally Last Team In according to Lunardi. The Cardinal took care of cellar-dweller Washington Thursday, but have a tougher matchup Saturday against 13-10 Washington State.
LSU vs Auburn - 4 pm
LSU, like Syracuse, did not play during the week. The Tigers were firmly in the field as an 8-seed in Lunardi’s latest Bracketology and ranked 27th in the NET. A loss to Auburn at home won’t hurt too much, but a win Saturday and Tuesday over Georgia might take them off Bubble Watch.
Western Kentucky vs North Texas - 5 pm
The second game in as many days for the division leaders in Conference USA.
Seton Hall vs Georgetown - 5:30 pm CBSS
The Pirates were slated to play Garden State rival Rutgers from the Big 10 in a first-round game in ESPN’s latest Bracketology as a 10-seed. A win over pesky Georgetown will keep the Pirates in the field.
San Diego State at Fresno State - 7:30 pm CBSS
While Mountain West rivals Boise State and Utah State are battling for first place, it's the Aztecs that are the highest-ranked NET team at 25. Those three teams plus Colorado State all have three losses in league play heading into this weekend.
St. Johns vs DePaul - 7:30 pm
The Red Storm are stating their case for a bid having won seven of their last eight games, including a win that will resonate on Selection Sunday over Villanova. A loss to last-place DePaul will not help their cause.
Colorado State vs Nevada - 8:30 pm FS1
The Rams will look to maintain its position as one of Lunardi’s Last Four Teams In and its Mountain West standing in the first of a two-game set at Nevada. The second game is slated for Monday night.
Oregon vs Utah - 9 pm Pac12N
The Ducks, ranked 46th in the NET and seeded 10th in the latest Bracketology, can play themselves off the Bubble Watch with a big home weekend. They beat Colorado, who is firmly in the field, Thursday night and can cap off an important weekend with a win over 9-9 Utah.
Sunday’s Slate: Maryland/Rutgers, Penn State/Iowa, Wichita State/East Carolina, and Drake/Evansville.