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The Bubble Fan’s Handbook: Friday, March 14

You know it's March. 

Daytime weekday basketball is being played.

Joe Lunardi is a constant presence on ESPN.

You're wondering which teams to root for so that your school, squarely on the bubble, can sneak into the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Situationally convenient cheering — any sports fan has to do it at some point, but never more pervasively (or more abruptly) than during Bubble Week.

Need some help? That's what we're here for. We'll do this again before Saturday's games, but for now, let's set the scene for Friday:

See that pleasant man in the photo at the beginning of this story, fan of (insert bubble team here)?

You're rooting hard for that man's team… unless you're a Florida State partisan. Virginia can clear Florida State off the bubble by disposing of the Seminoles in today's first ACC quarterfinal at noon Eastern time. If Florida State wins, the Noles would not become a lock, but they would indeed move to the good side of the bubble, with a very realistic chance of getting into the field due to a strong non-conference profile that includes wins over VCU and Massachusetts.

What other teams should you be rooting for, Bubble Fan?

Let's deal with some of the obvious cases first, and then we'll get to the trickier ones.

You want Florida to finish off Missouri's bubble existence in the SEC quarters.

You want South Carolina to pop a second bubble in 24 hours by beating Tennessee in the SEC quarters.

You want Wisconsin to plunge Minnesota into a long bubble purgatory in the Big Ten quarters.

You want North Carolina to beat Pittsburgh by 30 in the ACC quarters, forcing the selection committee to take a good, long look at a Panther squad that has very little meat on the bone in terms of its resume.

You want Ohio State to beat Nebraska in the Big Ten quarters — such a result might not push Nebraska to the NIT, but it would at least allow for the possibility.

Now, let's tackle the more nuanced examples of teams bubble fans should root for today.

There are several games on Friday's schedule that — while not involving bubble teams — can serve as a gateway for the creation of unexpected automatic bids that shrink the bubble. These are the scenarios that can creep up on a bubble fan and a bubble team.

The best such example of a non-bubble-team game with significant bubble implications is the SEC quarterfinal between LSU and Kentucky.

Look at the bottom half of the SEC bracket. You'll notice that with Georgia getting a double-bye into the quarterfinals as the third seed in the tournament, there aren't any bubble teams in that section of the bracket. There's only one surefire NCAA tournament team, Kentucky. Bubble teams might not like John Calipari, but it's undeniable that Coach Cal is a bubble team's best friend right now. If LSU beats Kentucky, one of three non-bubble teams — LSU, Ole Miss, or Georgia — will play for an automatic bid in the SEC final on Sunday. Kentucky needs to get to Sunday's final in order for non-SEC bubble team fans to enjoy lower levels of blood pressure.

Big Blue Nation and Bubble Nation will become one this evening. What a world, right?

Another game bubble fans will want to keep track of is the ACC quarterfinal between North Carolina State and Syracuse. N.C. State is not a bubble team, but the Wolfpack — with the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational T.J. Warren on the floor — can win the ACC Tournament and snare an autobid. Clemson, playing Duke in the night's last quarterfinal, isn't capable of going all the way, but N.C. State most certainly is. Bubble teams need to see the Pack get boxed up by the 2-3 zone and sent home.

Here's a fascinating little bubble scenario: Which team should bubblers root for in the hugely consequential Atlantic 10 quarterfinal between Dayton and Saint Joseph's? One team has to win, one team has to lose. The winner is likely in the field of 68, and the loser will probably go home. The question one has to answer is this: Which loser has more of a chance of still sneaking in the field? It's highly subjective, but the sense here is that it's Dayton. Both teams have a few bad losses, but Dayton did more out of conference while also winning on the road against A-10 regular season champion Saint Louis. Bubblers should lean ever so slightly toward Dayton as the team to cheer for.

Here's the other (and last) tournament bubble fans need to worry about late Friday night: The Mountain West Tournament will either create perfect order, perfect chaos, or something in between. The Mountain West has no bubble teams, but both UNLV and Boise State have made their way into the semifinals against the league's two heavyweights, San Diego State and New Mexico.

The situation is simple — and potentially terrifying — for bubble fans: If UNLV and Boise State both win tonight, they'll play for an automatic bid and will shrink the bubble by one spot even before taking the court in Saturday's final. A San Diego State-New Mexico final will guarantee a larger bubble on Selection Sunday. Getting at least one of those teams to the final will make it likely that the bubble will not shrink.

There's your bubble fan cheering guide for today. We'll do this all over again tomorrow morning.

 

 

Matt Zemek

About Matt Zemek

Matt Zemek is the managing editor of The Student Section, covering college football and basketball with associate editors Terry Johnson and Bart Doan. Mr. Zemek is also Bloguin's lead tennis writer, covering the major tournaments in 2014. He contributes to Crossover Chronicles and other Bloguin sites.

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