BYU bubble watch — March 12

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The Universe will be updating a BYU bubble watch every day leading up to Selection Sunday on March 15. (Twitter)
The Universe will be updating a BYU bubble watch every day leading up to Selection Sunday on March 15. (Twitter)

Championship week is upon us. A few conferences have already held their tournaments, but the majority of schools, including the big-name ones, are competing for automatic tournament bids starting today. Bubble-team fans across the nation hope their team can make a good run and possibly score an upset or two. They’ll also be tuning in to cheer against all other bubblers as well as potential bid-thieves.

BYU is in a pretty good position, having made it to the WCC tournament final on Tuesday. A neutral-court loss to Gonzaga doesn’t hurt the Cougars, and they’re clearly playing their best basketball of the season at the right time. Still, they would feel safer if some bubble teams lose this week.

Here’s your 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.

Safely in

Cincinnati (22-9, 13-5 AAC)

Last game: March 8 — W 77-65 vs. Memphis

Next game: March 13 — AAC quarterfinal vs. 6 UConn/11 USF

The Bearcats roll into the American tournament, having won five in a row following a three-game losing streak in early February. Sweeping league leader SMU in the regular season will be good enough to get them in, regardless of what happens this week.

Davidson (23-6, 14-4 A-10)

Last game: March 7 — W 107-78 at Duquesne

Next game: March 13 — A-10 quarterfinal vs. 8 Massachusetts/9 La Salle

Davidson wrapped up the regular season A-10 crown Saturday by blowing out Duquesne. They’ll go into the conference tournament on a nine-game winning streak.

Colorado State (26-5, 13-5 MWC)

Last game: March 7 — W 75-70 at Utah State

Next game: March 12 — MWC quarterfinal vs. 6 Fresno 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 State and San Diego State). The perfect non-conference schedule is a plus, but CSU would benefit from a few wins in the Mountain West tourney.

Last four byes

LSU (22-9, 11-7 SEC)

Last game: March 7 — W 81-78 at No. 18 Arkansas

Next game: March 13 — SEC quarterfinal vs. 5 Texas A&M/13 Auburn

LSU took advantage of its last regular-season chance for a quality win with an impressive game against the Razorbacks. The Tigers might be in even with a loss in the SEC quarterfinal, but a win makes them a lock.

Ole Miss (20-11, 11-7 SEC)

Last game: March 7 — L 86-77 vs. Vanderbilt

Next game: March 12 — SEC second round vs. 11 South Carolina

The Rebels were feeling really good a few days ago. They had a solid resume that included an overtime loss to No. 1 Kentucky and two top-25 wins. They had just been upgraded to a “lock” in Eamonn Brennan’s ESPN Bubble Watch. Then they lost at home to Vanderbilt, dropping their third out of the last four and returning to the bubble conversation. Ole Miss is still in good shape, but to feel safe, it can’t have another bad loss.

Oklahoma State (18-12, 8-10 Big 12)

Last game: March 7 — L 81-72 at No. 20 West Virginia

Next game: March 12 — Big 12 quarterfinal vs. No. 15 Oklahoma

The Cowboys have more quality wins this season than most other bubble teams combined. They beat Kansas and swept Baylor but have gone 1-5 in their last six games, including losses to Big 12 bottom-feeders TCU and Texas Tech. Winning this year’s third installment of Bedlam on Thursday would probably lock them into the tourney.

Purdue celebrates a home win with fans. The Boilermakers are in a good position, but they’d love more wins to lock them into the NCAA tournament. (Twitter)

Purdue (20-11, 12-6 Big Ten)

Last game: March 7 — W 63-58 vs. Illinois

Next game: March 13 — Big Ten quarterfinal vs. 5 Iowa/13 Penn State

Purdue is virtually a lock for the tournament, which could be both good and bad for the Cougars. On one hand, the Boilermakers getting in shrinks the bubble ever-so-slightly. On the other, it raises the quality of BYU’s non-conference schedule. It’s a true win-win (or lose-lose) situation, depending on how you look at it.

 

 

Last four in

Bryan Pearson
The Cougar bench celebrates during BYU’s win in Spokane. The March 1 upset over Gonzaga significantly improved its at-large resume. (Bryan Pearson)

BYU (25-9, 13-5 WCC)

Last game: March 10 — L 91-75 WCC final vs. No. 7 Gonzaga

As we mentioned above, the Cougars have done the work they needed to do to get into the Big Dance. After BYU lost to Pepperdine for the second time on Feb. 5, NCAA tournament hopes in Provo were basically dashed. But the Cougars then rattled off eight straight, including a huge upset of then-No. 3 Gonzaga, before falling to the Zags in the WCC final. There’s just no way the committee keeps the triple-double king and a top-25 all-time NCAA scorer out of their signature tournament.

Texas (20-12, 8-10 Big 12)

Last game: March 11 — W 65-53 Big 12 first round vs. 10 Texas Tech

Next game: March 12 — Big 12 quarterfinal vs. 2 Iowa St.

Texas avoided what would have been a devastating loss to the Red Raiders in the opening round of the Big 12 tourney, and now it has another chance at a quality opponent. A win over the Cyclones would be a big boost to the Longhorns’ resume. A loss would keep them on the edge of their seat for the next three days.

Temple (20-9, 11-5 AAC)

Last game: March 7 — W 75-63 vs. UConn

Next game: March 13 — American quarterfinal vs. 5 Memphis

Great non-conference scheduling significantly improved the Owls’ chances of dancing. Temple may very well ride its Dec. 22 25-point win over No. 10 Kansas all the way to Dayton despite a few AAC slip-ups.

Texas guard Isaiah Taylor sinks a game-winning shot in the Longhorns’ much-needed upset of Baylor. (Twitter)

Indiana (19-12, 9-9 Big Ten)

Last game: March 7 — L 74-72 vs. Michigan State

Next game: March 12 — Big Ten second round vs. 10 Northwestern

Yogi Ferrell had a free throw to tie the game and complete the Hoosiers’ comeback against the Spartans. Instead of potentially beating a tournament team in overtime, Indiana ended its regular season losing eight of its final 12 games, including the last three in a row. It’ll try to take revenge for one of those losses against the Wildcats on Thursday.

First four out

Miami (FL) (20-11, 10-8 ACC)

Last game: March 11 — W 59-49 ACC second round vs. 14 Virginia Tech

Next game: March 12 — ACC quarterfinal vs. No. 11 Notre Dame

Miami is yet another team that has stayed on the bubble by virtue of not losing to bad teams; it hasn’t beaten a good team since its Jan. 13 win over Duke. Luckily for the team, the ACC tournament has plenty of teams that would qualify as quality wins; the ‘Canes will just have to capitalize.

Old Dominion (22-6, 11-5 C-USA)

Last game: March 7 — W – 75-52 vs. Western Kentucky

Next game: March 12 — C-USA quarterfinal vs. 6 Middle Tennessee

The only thing hurting Old Dominion is its less-than-stellar record in a mid-major conference. It does have big non-conference wins over VCU, LSU and Richmond, and its 22-game 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. It might have to win the conference tournament to get in.

Tulsa (21-9, 14-4 AAC)

Last game: March 8 — L 67-62 at #22 SMU

Next game: March 13 — AAC quarterfinal vs. 7 Tulane/10 Houston

Going into Sunday’s championship-deciding game against the Mustangs, Tulsa faced the same situation BYU did before stunning Gonzaga in Spokane. This one didn’t go the way of the underdog, however, and now Tulsa needs to at least get through to the American tournament final. Honestly, that might not even be enough.

Texas A&M (20-10, 11-7 SEC)

Last game: March 7 — L 61-60 vs. Alabama

Next game: March 12 — SEC second round vs. 13 Auburn

We said the Aggies couldn’t look past the Tide, and what did they do? Ending the season by losing to Florida and Alabama drops A&M pretty far. Luckily for the team, there’s still time to get back on the right side of the bubble if it can get out of its slump.

The ‘Canes’ win over Pitt keeps them on the bubble for the time being. (Twitter)

Next four out

UCLA (19-12, 11-7 Pac-12)

Last game: March 4 — W 85-74 vs. USC

Next game: March 12 — Pac-12 Quarterfinal vs.12 USC

The Bruins have finished their regular-season schedule, which means the only shot they have to improve their resume will be in the PAC-12 tournament. Barring an upset over Arizona in the semifinals, UCLA is destined to be biting its nails until Selection Sunday.

Illinois (19-11, 9-8 Big Ten)

Last game: March 7 — L at Purdue

Next game: March 12 — Big Ten second round vs. 9 Michigan

The Fighting Illini had a chance to help themselves on more counts than one with a game against fellow-bubbler Purdue on Saturday but weren’t able to seal the deal. Now they’ll need a quarterfinal upset of No. 6 Wisconsin on Friday to put them back in the at-large conversation.

Murray State (27-5, 16-0 OVC)

Last game: March 7 — L 88-87 Ohio Valley Championship vs. Belmont

When Taylor Barnette sank his miraculous, game-winning 3-pointer to win the OVC title, he also sank the Racers’ NCAA tournament dreams. Murray State had a disappointing non-conference schedule, and its conference just isn’t strong enough to deserve another bid. It’ll have to try again next year.

Iona (26-8, 17-3 MAAC)

Last game: March 9 — L 79-69 Metro Atlantic Championship vs. Manhattan

Here we have another case of a regular-season champion from a lesser conference losing its tournament final. Iona, like Murray State, simply doesn’t have a resume that deserves at-large consideration. The Gaels’ only shot at dancing was stolen by the Jaspers Monday night.

Bubble burst

Richmond (19-12, 12-6 A-10)

Last game: March 7 — W 67-51 vs. Saint Louis

Next game: March 13 — A-10 quarterfinal vs. TBD

Richmond has far too many bad losses, and apart from a 2OT victory over VCU, its best wins are against other bubble teams. Richmond’s bubble has all but popped at this point, which is a shame, because nobody in the country has a better mascot than the Spiders.

Oregon’s win over Stanford put the Ducks safely into the tournament while pushing the Cardinals farther down the bubble list. (Twitter)

Stanford (18-12, 9-9 Pac-12)

Last game: March 11 — W 71-69 Pac-12 first round vs. 11 Washington

Next game: March 12 – Pac-12 quarterfinal vs. No. 17 Utah

Winning in Tucson on senior night was always a tall order for the Cardinals, but that’s what they needed to stay in the bubble conversation. It would take at least a pair of upsets over Utah and Oregon for Stanford to become relevant again, but the way it’s been playing lately, that’s highly unlikely.

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