LAS VEGAS — The BYU men’s basketball team’s road upset over Gonzaga on Feb. 28 gave it a much-needed boost to its March Madness resume, but the Cougars still remain firmly on the bracket bubble, according to most experts. That means there’s still work for them to do in the WCC Tournament, and they’ll also be watching how other bubble teams fare in their final regular season games and conference tournaments.
Here we’ll have a daily update on the teams BYU is competing with for an at-large NCAA Tournament berth. We’ve included the 16 teams surrounding the “cut line” according to ESPN’s bracketology expert Joe Lunardi, as well as any teams who were recently on the bubble but have since made their case for selection or fallen off.
Davidson (21-6, 12-4 A-10)
Last game: March 5 – W 82-55 vs. VCU
Next game: March 7 at Duquesne
The Wildcats have steadily crept up the bubble list over the past few weeks with eight consecutive wins. Last night’s thrashing of perennial favorite VCU makes them a virtual lock for the tournament, provided they don’t lay an egg before Selection Sunday.
Last four byes
Cincinnati (20-9, 11-5 AAC)
Last game: March 4 – W 56-47 at Tulsa
Next game: March 8 vs. Memphis
The Bearcats are back on a roll, having won four in a row following a three-game losing streak in early February. Sweeping league leader SMU in the regular season might be good enough to get them in, but they must be wary of their final opponent Memphis, to whom they lost earlier this year.
Colorado State (25-5, 12-5 MWC)
Last game: March 4 – W 78-62 at Nevada
Next game: March 7 at Utah State
The Rams are the epitome of a true bubble team. Their one bad loss (at New Mexico) is canceled out by two good wins (Boise St. and San Diego St.). They head into the Spectrum hoping to avoid a devastating upset to an Aggie team that has won seven of its last eight.
Texas A&M (20-9, 11-6 SEC)
Last game: March 3 – L 66-62 at Florida
Next game: March 7 vs. Alabama
The Aggies haven’t had many quality wins this season, but they also haven’t had any bad losses. They should roll into the SEC quarterfinals for a chance to score a few more good wins, but they can’t overlook ninth-place ‘Bama, which beat them by 21 in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 4, in their regular season finale.
LSU (21-9, 10-7 SEC)
Last game: March 4 – L 78-63 vs. Tennessee
Next game: March 7 at #18 Arkansas
The Tigers certainly would have vaulted off the bubble had they won last month’s thriller against No. 1 Kentucky. Losing to the Volunteers at home obviously wasn’t good for their resume, but they have a shot at another top-25 team on Saturday.
Last four in
Purdue (19-11, 11-6 Big Ten)
Last game: March 4 – L 72-66 at Michigan St.
Next game: March 7 vs. Illinois
Purdue is an interesting situation in relation to BYU’s tournament chances. A loss to Indiana would leave the Boilermakers with a three-game losing streak to end the season, possibly dropping them further down the bubble and helping the Cougars rise up. On the other hand, BYU lost to Purdue in November, so a win would boost the Cougars’ strength of schedule. It’s a true win-win (or lose-lose) position, depending on how you look at it.
Indiana (19-11, 9-8 Big Ten)
Last game: March 3 – L 77-63 vs. Iowa
Next game: March 7 vs. Michigan State
The fact that Purdue swept the Hoosiers in the regular season is probably worse than receiving their first bad loss at Northwestern last week. Saturday’s match-up against the tournament-bound Spartans could be crucial for Indiana.
BYU (23-8, 13-5 WCC)
Last game: Feb. 28 – W 73-70 at #3 Gonzaga
Next game: March 7 – WCC tournament quarterfinal vs. 7 Santa Clara/10 LMU
The national consensus seems to be that the Cougars still need to make the WCC Tournament championship in order to secure an at-large spot. That would mean beating St. Mary’s or Portland in the semifinal on Monday, neither of which is a sure thing.
Temple (20-9, 11-5 AAC)
Last game: March 5 – W 70-56 at East Carolina
Next game: March 7 vs. Connecticut
Great non-conference scheduling significantly improved the Owls’ chances of dancing. Temple may very well ride its Dec. 22 25-point win over #10 Kansas all the way to Dayton despite a few AAC slip-ups.
First four out
Texas (18-12, 7-10 Big 12)
Last game: March 2 – W 61-59 vs. #14 Baylor
Next game: March 7 vs. Kansas St.
The Longhorns’ upset of Baylor on Monday gave them a sigh of relief after having missed on their last seven chances against top-20 teams. Texas still needs a victory against the Wildcats and an upset or two in the Big 12 tournament to keep their tourney hopes alive.
Tulsa (21-8, 14-3 AAC)
Last game: March 4 – L 56-47 vs. Cincinnati
Next game: March 8 at #22 SMU
The Golden Hurricane is one of those scary bubble teams that could easily win its conference tournament and take away an at-large bid. Sunday’s showdown in Dallas is for the top seed in the American, and the Mustangs are already a lock for the Big Dance no matter what happens next week. Cougar fans need to cheer against Tulsa, at least in the AAC tourney.
UCLA (19-12, 11-7 Pac-12)
Last game: March 4 – W 85-74 vs. USC
Next game: March 12 – Pac-12 Quarterfinal vs. TBD
The Bruins have finished their regular season schedule, which means the only shot they have to improve their resume is in the PAC-12 tournament. Barring an upset over Arizona in the semifinals, UCLA is destined to be biting their nails until Selection Sunday.
Miami (FL) (19-11, 9-8 ACC)
Last game: March 4 – W 67-63 at Pittsburgh
Next game: March 7 at Virginia Tech
Miami is yet another team that has stayed on the bubble by virtue of not losing to bad teams, although it hasn’t beaten a good team since its Jan. 13 win over Duke. A loss to the bottom-feeding Hokies would effectively end its tournament conversation, but it would have to wait for the ACC tourney to try to improve it.
Next four out
Illinois (19-11, 9-8 Big Ten)
Last game: March 4 – W 69-57 vs. Nebraska
Next game: March 7 at Purdue
The Fighting Illini have an excellent chance to help themselves with a game against fellow-bubbler Purdue on Saturday. They would still need to perform well in the Big Ten tourney, but a win over the Boilermakers would go a long way for Illinois.
Stanford (18-10, 9-7 Pac-12)
Last game: March 5 – L 67-62 at Arizona State
Next game: March 7 at #5 Arizona
Stanford has been doing exactly the opposite of what the selection committee wants to see from a tournament team — playing its worst basketball in February. Like Purdue, BYU played Stanford this season and therefore benefits from a Cardinal win or loss. Unlike Purdue, the Cougars won that matchup, so a Stanford win is probably more beneficial.
Old Dominion (22-6, 11-5 C-USA)
Last game: March 5 – W 67-50 vs. Marshall
Next game: March 7 vs. Western Kentucky
The only thing hurting Old Dominion is its less-than-stellar record in a mid-major conference. It has big non-conference wins over VCU, LSU and Richmond, and its win-total is higher than most other teams’ on this list. Unfortunately for the Monarchs, Conference USA is probably not strong enough to deserve more than its one automatic bid.
Richmond (18-12, 11-6 A-10)
Last game: March 4 – W 56-53 at Massachusetts
Next game: March 7 vs. Saint Louis
The last team on the bubble is a little like the last player selected in the NFL draft — irrelevant. Richmond has far too many bad losses, and apart from a 2OT victory over VCU, it’s best wins are against other bubble teams. It’s highly possible that Richmond’s bubble will pop before the end of the week, which is a shame, because nobody in the country has a better mascot than the Spiders.