(*Updated Saturday, March 12th, 11:30 AM*)
Well, we’ve made it this far. Through all of the trials and tribulations of this crazy year, we’ve reached the final week of the season with a legitimate chance at making the NCAA tournament. We have a little work left to do of our own, but from here on out, pretty much every game has bubble implications. Whether it’s rooting against teams looking to steal bids or for upsets of bubble teams, every game counts. The Bracket Project currently has us projected as the second team out with 34 ballots out of a possible 85.
This is one of my favorite sports weeks of the year, second only behind the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The basketball world is about to go nuts for the next seven days. There will be a dozen games each night and almost every single one will have both NCAA Tournament implications and bubble implications. As such, I’m going to eschew the team-by-team format I used before and give you a breakdown of each conference tournament, letting you know whom to root for to win and whom to root for to lose. Throughout the week I’ll update this post with winners and losers, new game information, and movement on the bubble.
Note: Many of these games will be available on ESPN3, even if I have not noted them as such. I’m working off of ESPN’s scores page, but it does not list some games that I know for certain will be on ESPN3.
Locks: Xavier Musketeers, Temple Owls
Bubble: Richmond Spiders (23-7, 13-3, projected 11 seed)
(*Update 03/12*) Richmond is close to a lock now, after making the A-10 semifinals. With Xavier's loss, we really need Temple to win this tournament.
(*Update 03/09*) No bubble teams played Tuesday night. The A-10 tournament resumes Friday. Richmond moved down to an 11 seed.
The Spiders are looking relatively safe after winning 11 of their final 13 games with losses only to tournament teams Xavier and Temple. The only thing holding them back is a lack of quality wins outside their Thanksgiving-weekend upset of Purdue.
Rooting Interest: Root for Xavier or Temple to win the entire tournament and against Richmond in their first game Friday night. If Xavier or Temple get knocked out early, the Spiders would be preferable to anybody else winning, since they are very close to lock status anyway.
Semifinals: St. Joseph's vs. Dayton (Sat 12:00, CBS CS), Richmond vs. Temple (Sat 2:30, CBS CS)
Locks: North Carolina, Duke
Bubble: Florida State Seminoles (projected 9 seed), Virginia Tech Hokies (19-10, 9-7, projected 12 seed), Boston College Eagles (19-11, 9-7, projected 12 seed), Clemson Tigers (20-10, 9-7, projected 12 seed)
(*Update 03/12*) Fucking Virginia Tech. At least BC got bombed.
(*Update 03/11*) BC and VT won as expected, which means we could really use a win by Florida State today.
It has been chaos in the ACC the last two weeks. Florida State seemed like a lock until falling to Maryland and UNC in the past week. Virginia Tech seemed like a lock after beating Duke, but losing to BC and Clemson in back-to-back games to close out the regular season has them riding the bubble’s edge again. I thought BC was done after losing 7 out of 10 including a nine-point home loss to Miami, but they’ve feasted on weaklings and the Hokies to get back in the mix. Clemson improved its standing in the last week by not getting destroyed by Duke and beating Virginia Tech. The ACC’s bubble has been crazy and, frankly, all of these teams could use at least one more win, none more so than BC and VT, since they were unable to earn first-round byes. The Eagles have a rematch with Wake, whom they just destroyed by 16 and the Hokies drew Georgia Tech. The good news is that, even if BC and VT win, they’ll play Clemson and Florida State, respectively, in the quarterfinals, which could make for two de facto NCAA Tournament play-in games.
Rooting Interest – Root for UNC or Duke to win the whole tournament and for these four teams to fall out early. It’s guaranteed that only two can make it to the tournament semifinals, but a run by any to the final would likely separate them from the rest of the bubble riff-raff.
Semifinals: Clemson vs. North Carolina (Sat 12:00, ESPN), Virginia Tech vs. Duke (Sat 2:00, ESPN)
Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Missouri
Bubble: Colorado Buffaloes (19-12, 8-8, currently First Four Out)
(*Update 03/12*) Colorado was finally knocked out, setting up a KU-UT final.
(*Update 03/11*) Colorado beat Kansas State for the third time this year. That doesn't make them a lock, but it does guarantee that Bama has to beat Georgia in order to make the NCAA tournament this year. Colorado moved to First Four Out
(*Update 03/10*) Colorado narrowly avoided losing to Iowa State while Nebraska and Baylor removed themselves from bubble consideration.
(*Update 03/08*) Colorado has moved up to a 12 seed.
Colorado did itself a real favor by beating Nebraska this weekend. I’m not sure how that makes up for losing to Iowa State but, then again, I’m not an expert. I think the Buffaloes have been helped most by the resurgence of Kansas State, whom they’ve beaten twice this year.
Rooting Interest – Pull for any of the locks to win the tournament. Colorado is staring down Kansas State in the second round while Baylor drew Texas: not unwinnable games.
Final: Kansas vs. Texas (Sat 5:00, ESPN)
Locks: UCONN, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Louisville, Cincinnati, Syracuse, St. John’s, Villanova
Bubble: Marquette Golden Eagles (18-13, 9-9, currently seeded 10)
(*Update 03/11*) Marquette finally lost, but it came a little too late. The Big East is almost guaranteed to have 11 teams in the NCAA field.
(*Update 03/10*) Marquette is probably a lock now after beating West Virginia last night.
(*Update 03/09*) Villanova's first-round loss isn't enough to move them to the bubble yet. Marquette won, unfortunately.
Marquette’s chances took a big hit when they lost by 13 to Seton Hall on Saturday. The Eagles still need one more good win (West Virginia in the second round) to feel safe.
Rooting Interest – With 10 locks and four double-byes, it is very unlikely there will be a bid-stealer in the Big East. An opening round loss by Marquette would be awesome, though.
Final: UCONN vs. Louisville (Sat 8:00, ESPN)
Locks: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois
Bubble: Michigan State Spartans (17-13, 9-9, currently seeded 12), Michigan Wolverines (19-12, 9-9, currently seeded 12)
(*Update 03/12*) Fucking Sparty. Fucking Michigan. Both are probably locks now and Penn State is back on the bubble even after that ugly-ass game against Wisconsin.
(*Update 03/11*) Sparty narrowly avoided a killer loss to Iowa. We could really use one of these teas losing.
(*Update 03/09*) Michigan moved up to an 11 seed.
(*Update 03/08*) Michigan State moved down to a 12 seed.
Wow. I’ve never seen a tumble as big as Minnesota’s and, if they make the NCAA Tournament as the ninth-best Big Ten team over Alabama, I’m going to be pissed. Michigan somehow turned a victory over the Spartans into an appearance in the bracket (even though our win over Georgia was not given the same respect). My gut tells me both the Wolverines and the Spartans will go dancing, but we can at least hope for some losses before then.
Rooting Interest – As usual, root for the locks, all of whom have first-round byes. Illinois draws Michigan in the second round, so that’s a huge game. If the Illini win and we can beat Georgia, I like our chances against the Wolverines.
Semifinals: Michigan vs. Ohio State (Sat 12:40, CBS), Michigan State vs. Penn State (Sat 3:05, CBS)
Locks: George Mason, Old Dominion
Bubble: VCU Rams (23-10, 12-6, currently First Four Out)
(*Update 03/08*) Old Dominion pulled off the win Monday night, preserving an at-large bid for the bubble teams. VCU could still get it, but it will be tough. VCU has moved up to the First Four Out.
Champion: Old Dominion Monarchs
(*Update 03/12*) UTEP and Memphis will face off in the C-USA final.
(*Update 03/11*) Devastating loss for the Tide, as UAB's defeat moves Memphis back into the bracket. I'm not sure how long UAB will stay there with them, though.
Only Alabama lost more ground last week than Memphis, who got blown out at Rice, at UTEP, and lost at East Carolina. They struggled with last-place Tulane this weekend, before coming back in the last five minutes and winning by five. I hope that they’ve played themselves out of an at-large bid, but I’m not entirely sure. Meanwhile, UTEP, by virtue of its recent losses to UCF and and ECU, and Southern Miss, after losing to UCF and Tulsa, have played their ways off of the bubble.
Rooting Interest – With UAB winning the regular season title and sitting in the best bubble position, they’re the team to root for. Pull for Memphis to lose early.
Final: UTEP vs. Memphis (Sat 11:00, CBS)
Bubble: Butler Bulldogs (22-9, 13-5, currently seeded 11), Cleveland State Vikings (26-8, 13-5, currently Next Four Out)
(*Update 03/10*) The losses by Nebraska and Butler moved Cleveland State up to the Next Four Out.
(*Update 03/09*) Butler won the Horizon League automatic bid, rendering this a one-bid conference.
(*Update 03/08*) Butler moved up to an 11 seed and Cleveland State moved Out.
Champion: Butler Bulldogs
Bubble: Missouri State Bears (25-8, 15-3, currently First Four Out)
(*Update 03/08*) Missouri State moved down to First Four Out.
Champion: Indiana State Sycamores
Locks: BYU, San Diego State, UNLV
Bubble: Colorado State Rams (19-11, 9-7, currently Out)
(*Update 03/12*) Chalk again sets up an SDSU-BYU final.
(*Update 03/11*) Chalk for the most part, though the Rams' loss should knock them out for good.
For the past two weeks the Rams have been desperately trying to notch one good win. They’ve failed at each opportunity. They’ll likely need to win the Mountain West tournament in order to make the field now.
Rooting Interest – Root against the Rams and hope that BYU, SDSU, or UNLV wins the tournament.
Final: San Diego State vs. BYU (Sat 6:00)
Locks: Arizona, Washington, UCLA
Bubble: Washington State Cougars (19-11, 9-9, currently Out), USC Trojans (18-13, 10-8, Currently Next Four Out)
(*Update 03/12*) USC lost, hopefully keeping them out of the tourney.
(*Update 03/11*) USC advances, but Wazzou falls to Washington
The Cougars are a late addition to the bubble, having come on lately by beating USC and Washington. Unfortunately, they couldn’t finish the season with a home win against UCLA, falling in overtime 58-54. They’ll likely need two wins against tournament teams to put themselves into the picture.
Rooting Interest – Wazzou opens the Big Ten tournament with Washington, so let’s hope the Huskies can squash their hopes quickly.
Final: Arizona vs. Washington (Sat 5:00, CBS)
Locks: Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee
(*Update 03/12*) Roll Tide!
(*Update 03/11*) Chalk in the first round as the higher seeds all advance.
A lot of ink has been spilled and voices rendered hoarse over the current states of Georgia and Alabama after the Tide’s win on Saturday. Digger Phelps emphatically argued on GameDay Sunday morning that Bama should be in regardless of our performance in the SEC Tournament. Still, you have to figure we need at least one more win to feel comfortable. Tennessee is probably safe if only for their ludicrously good wins and who knows where Georgia is. Some people have them out but I’ve seen them seeded as high as ninth even after losing on Saturday.
Rooting Interest – Obviously, we root for Bama to win it all and end any doubt about our bubble status. Barring that, root for Georgia to beat Auburn and, should the SEC tournament champion not be the Tide, one of the locks to win it.
Semifinals: Alabama vs. Kentucky (Sat 12:00, ABC), Florida vs. Vanderbilt (Sat 2:30, ABC)
(*Update 03/09*) Oakland won the Summit League Tuesday night.
(*Update 03/08*) Oakland won Monday night, setting up a Conference Final with Oral Roberts Tuesday.
Champion: Oakland Grizzlies
Bubble: Saint Mary’s Gaels (23-7, 11-3, currently seeded 12), Gonzaga Bulldogs (22-9, 11-3, currently seeded 10)
(*Update 03/09*) Gonzaga moved up to a 10 seed, Saint Mary's fell to a 12 seed.
(*Update 03/08*) Gonzaga earned the at-large bid Monday night, leaving Saint Mary's on the bubble.
Champion: Gonzaga Bulldogs
Lock: Utah State
(*Update 03/12*) Utah State squeaked by in the semifinals. We need them to finish this off.
(*Update 03/11*) No real games of interest yesterday but we still need Utah State to win.
These are always the most dangerous conferences. The WAC is a one-bid league with a tournament lock, so if Utah State loses, some bubble team will be left home. The Aggies have been a dominating force this season, racking up a 15-1 conference record and a 28-3 overall mark, earning a double-bye as the conference’s top seed, so they’ll only need to win two games to get the automatic bid.
Rooting Interest – Utah State all the way, no ifs, ands, or buts.
Final: Utah State vs. Boise State (Sat 9:00, ESPN2)
The following conferences have no potential at-large selections and will send only one team to the NCAA tournament.
Final: Stony Brook vs. Boston U. (Sat 11:00, ESPN2)
Champion: Belmont Bruins
(*Update 03/10*) Northern Colorado won the Big Sky's automatic bid Wednesday night.
(*Update 03/09*) Montana and Northern Colorado won on Tuesday to advance to Wednesday's final.
Champion: Northern Colorado Bears
Champion: UNC-Asheville Bulldogs
(*Update 03/12*) Long Beach State and Long Beach State won Friday to make the final.
finals: UC-Santa Barbara vs. Long Beach State (Sat 7:00, ESPN2)
(*Update 03/09*) Princeton defeated Penn Tuesday night to setup a one-game playoff with Harvard.
"Play-In": Princeton vs. Harvard (Sat 3:00, ESPN3)
(*Update 03/08*) St. Peter's earned the at-large bid over Iona.
Champion: Saint Peter's Peacocks
(*Update 03/12*) Akron and Kent State advanced to Saturday's final.
(*Update 03/09*) Ohio, Akron, Bowling Green, and Buffalo all advanced to Thursday's quarterfinals.
Final: Akron vs. Kent State (Sat 5:00, ESPN2)
(*Update 03/12*) Morgan State and Hampton advanced to Saturday's final.
(*Update 03/09*) Maryland-East Shore and South Carolina State won Tuesday night.
Final: Morgan State vs. Hampton (Sat 1:00, ESPN2)
(*Update 03/10*) Long Island won the Northeast's automatic bid in overtime Wednesday night.
Champion: Long Island Blackbirds
Champion: Morehead State Eagles
Champion: Bucknell Bison
(*Update 03/08*) Wofford won the at-large bid over College of Charleston.
Champion: Wofford Terriers
(*Update 03/11*) UT-San Antonio and McNeese State both won Thursday to advance to Saturday's final.
Final: Texas-San Antonio vs. McNeese State (Sat 3:00, ESPN2)
(*Update 03/12*) Grambling State and Alabama State advanced to Saturday's final.
Final: Grambling State vs. Alabama State (Sat 7:30, ESPNU)
(*Update 03/09*) Little Rock hit a buzzer beater to win the Sun Belt tournament.
(*Update 03/08*) North Texas and Little Rock won Monday night to advance to the Sun Belt finals.
Champion: Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans