Bracketology Implications: Saturday's 18 Bubble Games
#16 Southern Miss (22-6, 9-4) vs Rice (16-12, 7-6)
While mid-majors often get snubbed from the tourney, top 20 RPI teams do not get snubbed. Southern Miss fans felt the world collapsing after their loss to UTEP, but all is not lost. The Eagles don't just need a win, they need a blow out win to get back on track and finish the season strong.
#23 UCONN (17-10, 7-8) vs Syracuse (28-1, 15-1)
If there's ever a time for UCONN to break out of their slump, Saturday is the day. A win over #1 RPI Syracuse would erase two months of struggles and give the Huskies a resume that the committee couldn't ignore. A loss wouldn't eliminate UCONN, but it would mean they'd need to win their final two games.
#24 Colorado St (17-9, 6-5) at San Diego St (21-6, 7-5)
If San Diego St had fallen to Wyoming the other night, its conceivable they too would be on the bubble. But assuming SDSU is safe, the focus is on Colorado St. The Rams biggest problem is their lack of road success. All of their good wins in non-conference and MWC play have come at home. This is their last chance for a big road win, so they better bring their A+ game.
#26 Memphis (20-8, 10-3) at #52 Marshall (17-10, 8-5)
One of two games today between two bubble teams. Memphis seems like a lock with their good RPI, but look closer and you realize they still have work to do. After all, they haven't beaten a ranked team and a win at Miami is their best road win. Just as Memphis isn't completely in the field, Marshall isn't completely out. The Herd looked like a tourney team earlier in the year before fading with a couple out of character losses. But they can go out in style with a win today and by beating Southern Miss to close the regular season. This is a must win for Marshall.
#29 Alabama (18-9, 7-6) vs #60 Mississippi St (19-9, 6-7)
Anthony Grant gained a lot of respect by leading his team to back to back wins despite all the turmoil surrounding the program. A win over Mississippi St would not only lead to more respect, but a virtual lock on a tourney bid. Had Mississippi St finished strong against Kentucky, they too may have locked up a tourney bid. Instead, they're fighting for their postseason life.
#32 Seton Hall (19-8, 8-8) vs Rutgers (12-16, 4-11)
The key to Seton Hall's success this season has been taking care of business at home. Yes, they have two home losses, but they won all the home games they were supposed to. This is another game they're supposed to and have to win.
#42 Middle Tennessee (25-4, 14-1) at Western Kentucky (10-18, 6-9)
This is MTSU's last regular season, and considering how solid they've been, it would be a shame if they slipped up now. A loss would 100% eliminate them from at-large contention, but a win doesn't really change anything unfortunately. MTSU simply has to hope that the committee philosophically favors dominant mid-majors over .500 power conference teams for once.
#45 Oral Roberts (25-5, 16-1) at Southern Utah (13-15, 8-9)
Earlier in the season, ORU lost by 7 to both Gonzaga and WVU on the road. If they had won just one of those games, I think they'd be considered tournament locks. As it is, they probably have slim hopes despite being an extremely dangerous team that deserves a serious look. ORU can't slip up now.
#50 Purdue (18-10, 8-7) at Michigan (21-7, 11-4)
Purdue has a wide range of Tournament possibilities, they could be left out of the field or easily earn a single-digit seed. With the exception of a blowout loss at Michigan St, the Boilers have been very competitive on the road, winning the games they should and pushing the likes of Ohio St to the brink. I'd go so far as to say that if Purdue wins here, they'd lock up a bid.
#54 Washington (19-6, 12-3) at Washington St (14-13, 6-9)
The best thing you can say about the Huskies is that they don't have any bad losses. Granted, with the exception of perhaps a road win at Arizona, its not like they have any great wins either. So Washington's tourney hopes bank on their ability to beat mediocre teams like WSU.
#55 Xavier (17-10, 8-5) vs Richmond (15-14, 6-8)
Richmond just put a major dent into St. Joseph's at-large hopes, and they can be a major pest once again here. Xavier can't seem to put two good games together and you never know how they'll play in a given day.
#57 Nevada (22-5, 10-1) at Fresno St (13-16, 3-8)
While the BracketBusters loss to Iona probably sealed Nevada's fate, the Pack have gotten media love and their RPI is bubble-worthy. Anything less than a 3-0 finish to their WAC schedule will officially end their at-large dreams.
#62 NC State (18-10, 7-6) at Clemson (14-13, 6-7)
NC State has ridden the ACC roller coaster.. losing 3 straight to top teams after having won 3 straight against bad teams. Usually, 7-6 in the ACC is good enough for a bid, but rarely does the ACC have so many teams below 125 in the RPI. Clemson is one of those weak teams, but yet they are favored by 5 at home. A sign of how little the smart money respect NC State.
#63 LSU (17-10, 7-6) at Ole Miss (15-12, 5-8)
After a couple early season losses to Coastal Carolina and South Alabama, LSU was left for dead. But the Tigers have won 4 straight to move over .500 in SEC play and their RPI isn't half bad. The reality is that the SEC isn't that great, and only one of their 7 league wins is over a .500 team. The other reality is that LSU hasn't beaten a top 100 RPI team away from home. A win over Ole Miss would fill that major resume gap.
#64 UCF (19-8, 8-5) vs UTEP (14-13, 7-6)
UCF needs to win their remaining three games to give the committee reason to take them seriously. Yes, the Knights beat UCONN and Memphis, but they have a few weak losses to offset that. UTEP has beaten Memphis and Southern Miss, and are the CUSA's new giant-killers. If UTEP wins again, they will kill off UCF's tourney hopes.
#69 VCU (24-6, 14-3) vs George Mason (23-7, 14-3)
George Mason's loss at Northeastern eliminated them from at-large contention. The best they can do is win the CAA or hope for an NIT invite. They can also play spoiler to VCU's hopes, as a Rams home loss would probably eliminate them from contention as well.
#70 Arizona (20-9, 11-5) vs UCLA (16-12, 9-6)
Arizona has a similar resume to the likes of Belmont, Davidson, and VCU; mid-majors that have little shot at at-large bids. But they do have historical cachet, and a couple "almost" losses to Florida and San Diego St that can fool the committee. Another thing Arizona has on its side is a lack of bad losses.. a road loss to UCLA being their worst. A second loss to UCLA would be devastating.
#81 Drexel (24-5, 15-2) at Old Dominion (19-11, 13-4)
Drexel hasn't lost since January 2nd at Georgia St, and they can't afford to slip up now. Considering how many games Drexel has won in a row and their sudden Top 25 hype, you'd think they be heavy favorites here. But they're actually 2 point dogs. Considering Drexel got lucky with scheduling and didn't face VCU or GMU on the road, this is their toughest league game of the season.
#101 Tennessee (15-13, 7-6) at South Carolina (10-17, 2-11)
While the committee talks about at looking at the totality of a team's season, history shows that they're overly infatuated with "big" wins and recent wins. Both play into the Vols favor as they're playing better basketball now and have 3 top 30 RPI wins. Their big flaw is a lack of road wins. Sadly, a win at South Carolina would double their road win total.