Friday was a near-perfect day for Bubble Nation.
Almost every result improved the odds (or at the very least, did not reduce the odds) that teams such as Nebraska, BYU, California, Tennessee will make their way into the field of 68. None of those teams are locks — that's not what a lock is — but their odds are better. With just over 32 hours to go until the announcement of the brackets, bubble teams just need a few more games to go their way.
Who is that handsome devil in the photo above? He's the man who can prevent the Providence Friars from securing an automatic bid in the Big East Tournament championship game tonight in New York. Creighton's Doug McDermott isn't just a Sports Illustrated cover boy. He's now a superhero tasked with defending truth, justice, and the Bubble Nation way (to the NCAA tournament).
What other teams and players must bubble teams root for today, carrying into tomorrow? The envelope, please:
There's only one particularly complicated bubble-cheering scenario to consider today. Before getting to that, however, let's quickly identify the more obvious bubble situations today:
In the ACC's second semifinal (approximately 3:30 p.m. Eastern time), Bubble Nation needs Duke (yes, Duke — the Blue Devils are going to be loved today, if only for the sake of expediency) to ruin the autobid and fringe-bubble pursuits of seventh-seeded North Carolina State. If the Wolfpack make Sunday's final, bubble teams will need to root for Pittsburgh or Virginia against T.J. Warren and Company.
In the SEC's second semifinal (also at roughly 3:30), Bubble Nation needs Kentucky — which came through for bubble teams last night against LSU — to win one more game against autobid-minded Georgia. Bubble teams would also benefit if Florida can not merely beat Tennessee, but hammer the Vols by a big margin, in the first SEC semifinal. Tennessee appears to be in the field, but a blowout loss to Florida would certainly leave the Vols' case far short of being "airtight" on Selection Sunday. At any rate, bubble teams want a Kentucky-Florida championship game on Sunday, so that one of those two teams can potentially limit the SEC to only two at-large bids. Tennessee will probably make it three; Georgia cannot be allowed (from a bubble fan's perspective) to make the total rise to four.
Because Friday was so good for the bubble, there's only one more game to consider. There are no bubble worries in the Big Ten semifinals, the Pac-12 final, the Mountain West final, The American final, or the Big 12 final. The only other game to examine is the first Atlantic 10 semifinal between Saint Bonaventure and Saint Joseph's.
Here's the detail to pay attention to in Bonnies-Hawks: Saint Joseph's is very likely in the field after beating Dayton in a bubble battleground blue-plate special on Friday in Brooklyn. However, Saint Joe's figured to play Saint Louis, not Bonaventure, in the semis. The Bonnies are a decent team, but they don't carry the RPI/numerical heft of Saint Louis. Would Saint Joseph's fall toward the bubble in the event of a loss? Probably not… but the Hawks would take a small step down the ladder instead of maintaining their currently solid position.
The question bubble teams must ask themselves is this: "Should we root for Saint Joseph's to lose and thereby immerse itself in a bit of bubble intrigue, OR should we root for Saint Joseph's to win so that Saint Bonaventure can't get an autobid on Sunday afternoon?"
This is a question worth asking. Yet, in the end, the cost-benefit analysis for bubble teams points to Saint Joseph's being included in the field even with a loss to the Bonnies. Bubble teams should root for, not against, Saint Joe's. Clearing an autobid team off the deck is the more important and valuable consideration at this time.