Weekend Bubble Overview

As the last weekend of regular season competition arrives, the overall bubble picture is still cloudy for the dozen-plus teams that are fighting for a handful of spots. Yet, while the big picture is muddled, clarity can be found on an individual level. In specific cases, certain bubble teams face defining moments.

West Virginia, for instance, is fully and finally out of the at-large chase if it can't beat Kansas.

Florida State might not be fully and finally out of the at-large chase, but it would lose its best chance at making the tournament if it can't beat reeling Syracuse.

Nebraska will still be on the middle of the bubble if it loses to Wisconsin, but if the Huskers can beat Bo Ryan's boys, they will almost surely be dancing for the seventh time in school history.

Let's continue with the survey of the regular season conference finales that will double as bubble games:

St. John's at Marquette: All of the teams in the Big East's bubble traffic jam (the Johnnies, Xavier, Providence, and Georgetown) have work left to do. In this group, Xavier might only need one more win. St. John's certainly needs at least two more wins. Your move, Red Storm.

Baylor at Kansas State: Baylor's place in the field seems very solid at this point, but a win on the road would lock up a bid. Kansas State, though, is playing a home game, which means Kansas State is probably going to win.

Georgetown at Villanova: Georgetown, having just defeated Creighton, secured a major bubble poker chip. If it can beat the newly-crowned Big East champion on the road, it is probably good to go and would need just one win in the Big East Tournament to feel reasonably comfortable on Selection Sunday. If Georgetown loses, of course, two wins in the Big East Tournament might be needed. 

Oklahoma State at Iowa State: Is Oklahoma State a lock? That point can be debated… unless the Cowboys win here in Hilton Coliseum against the Cyclones.

Utah at Stanford: This might be the epicenter of BubbleWorld on Saturday. Stanford — due to its win at Connecticut in December and a much stronger non-conference schedule — is still currently ahead of Utah in the pecking order. The Cardinal would take a huge step toward the field of 68 if they win here. However, if Utah wins, the Utes — based on two solid road wins to accompany their stack of top-50 RPI wins at home — would have a resume that is on par with Stanford's. Given that Utah is still on the bad side of the bubble (albeit not by much), a win by Utah would probably put both the Utes and Cardinal on the middle of the bubble heading into the Pac-12 Tournament. Each team would face a must-win situation in its first-round game and would then have a chance to play its way into the field in the quarterfinals.

A simple summary: Stanford creates a much less complicated bubble picture with a win. A Utah victory would throw the Pac-12 bubble picture into a state of chaos.

Colorado at California: Bay Area Bubble Madness continues. California has that win over Arizona as its big bubble trump card, but as long as the Golden Bears keep hemorrhaging in a manner similar to Stanford, that one win loses its power. Is California out with a loss? No, not quite — Cal could get hot in the Pac-12 Tournament, make a run to the semis or final, and still have a chance at an at-large bid. However, the Golden Bears would not want to explore that scenario; they would like to make their lives so much easier and tuck away this win against a Colorado team that's probably in the field.

Arizona at Oregon: If the Ducks win here, they're in. Period.

Pittsburgh at Clemson: Pittsburgh needs to win at least two games before March 16 to feel somewhat comfortable, three games to feel very comfortable. Clemson? The Tigers have to win this game and then do something special in the ACC Tournament — let's put it that way.

Missouri at Tennessee: This is as close to a true two-way "play-out" game as you'll find on Saturday. Pressure, anyone?

Arkansas at Alabama: Arkansas, following the win over Kentucky, has begun to play like the team Woo Pig Sooie Nation expected to see when Mike Anderson came aboard. If the Hogs slap around Alabama by 20 points, you'll know that a transformation has been cemented in Fayetteville. That said, a win by any margin here is valuable for the Razorbacks, simply because a loss would be devastating. Playing in the SEC, the Hogs don't often face the kinds of games in which they'll improve their resume, but they will face the kinds of games that, if lost, will destroy it. This is one of them.

Indiana at Michigan: If Indiana doesn't win here, it must make the Big Ten Tournament final to have any remote chance of making the field as an at-large team.

Richmond at Dayton: If the Flyers can back up their monster win over Saint Louis with a win here, they should be in very good shape entering the Atlantic 10 Tournament. They might be in with a win here, but if not, they'd merely have to avoid losing their first A-10 tourney game to feel safe.

Providence at Creighton: If you asked most bubble experts about Providence, you'd probably get the following answer: The Friars need at least two more wins, one of them owning a measure of appreciable quality. Well, here's your quality-win opportunity, Providence.


Wisconsin at Nebraska and Syracuse at Florida State, mentioned above

La Salle at Saint Joseph's: The Hawks should be good to go, but avoiding a bad loss here would remove any remaining degree of anxiety in Philadelphia.

Penn State at Minnesota: The Golden Gophers don't figure to lose this game… and they better not.




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 the editor of Crossover Chronicles, covering the NBA. He is also Bloguin's lead tennis writer, covering the major tournaments. He contributes to other Bloguin sites, such as The AP Party.

Weekend Bubble Overview

As the month of March arrives, so does a constant flood of bubble talk. What does the weekend hold in store for the bubble? We'll go through the full list of games with bubble implications, and we'll start with a 10 p.m. Eastern game that is more important than you might first think.

Gonzaga and Saint Mary's have forged one of the better and more spirited rivalries in college basketball over the past several years in the West Coast Conference, whose acronym — WCC — can be jokingly referred to as the "Widely Catholic Conference," given the proliferation of Catholic schools in that league.

In past seasons — particularly 2010 and 2012 — the Zags and Gaels fielded strong teams, but this season, both programs have declined. Saint Mary's has to win the WCC Tournament to make the field of 68, and while Gonzaga is still more likely to make the field than not, coach Mark Few's team can't be entirely certain of a tournament invite if it fails to win the WCC tourney.

That's why this game at Saint Mary's is so important for one of the brand-name mid-tier conference programs in the sport.

If Gonzaga doesn't win the WCC Tournament, that obviously means the Zags' resume will take a hit. Unless the Bulldogs lose to BYU and only BYU, their resume will noticeably decline. If Gonzaga loses to BYU in a close WCC final, the school that defined Cinderella for college basketball fans in the late 1990s and early 2000s should probably still make the field.

But… this is where Saturday's game against Saint Mary's comes into play.

If Gonzaga loses this game, it will probably fall to the 11 line on the seeding chart. That's dangerously close to the cut line. Another loss in the WCC Tournament would leave the Zags vulnerable to tournament exclusion or First Four relegation if they lose to a non-BYU foe in their league tournament. GU needs to beat Saint Mary's if it wants a sweat-free Selection Sunday afternoon in Spokane, Wash.

On to the other bubble games for the weekend, with the bubble team highlighted. Game listings will be accompanied by a brief clarifying note:

LSU at Florida — If the Tigers lose here, their at-large candidacy is fully and finally over.

Kansas at Oklahoma State — The Cowboys can either play their way into the field or make subsequent games must-wins.

Creighton at Xavier — The Musketeers can basically punch their ticket with a win.

Minnesota at Michigan — The Golden Gophers would punch their ticket with a win. They would not be severely wounded by a loss.

Vanderbilt at Tennessee — With Arkansas now a foremost competitor in the SEC bubble chase, the Volunteers simply can't afford a stumble of any kind.

TCU at West Virginia — The Mountaineers would be on life support if they lost this game.

Texas Tech at Baylor — The Bears are looking better and better, but a loss to Texas Tech would cause problems.

Mississippi State at Missouri — The Tigers can't slip up between now and the SEC Tournament semifinals.

Pittsburgh at Notre Dame — The Panthers might want to avoid a bad loss just to be safe.

Saint Joseph's at St. Bonaventure — Just keep taking care of business, Phil Martelli, and your team should be fine on Selection Sunday.

Georgia at Arkansas — The Razorbacks are now at the center of the bubble discussion. This is a hugely important bubble game on Saturday, something that wasn't anticipated when the week began.

Green Bay at Detroit — If the Phoenix want to retain any slight hope of an at-large bid, they must pile up wins, including this one against Detroit.

BYU at San Diego — The Cougars have solidified their resume over the past few weeks; they still don't have a large margin for error, however.

Oregon at USC — The Ducks avoided losing to a depleted UCLA squad. A loss here would be disastrous.

Northwestern at Nebraska — The Huskers can't afford to lose this game, period.

California at Arizona State — The Golden Bears aren't a lock just yet. Winning this game would alleviate some pressure heading into a closing stretch against Colorado and Utah, followed by the Pac-12 Tournament.


Marquette at Villanova — The Golden Eagles get their last chance to change the bubble conversation.

DePaul at St. John's — If the Johnnies lose this game, they're just about done as an at-large candidate.

Maryland at Clemson — The loser has very little hope of becoming an at-large team; the winner does little more than keep a tiny flame of hope flickering.

Georgia Tech at Florida State — The Seminoles are now the ACC's best bet for a sixth team in the field of 68. If they lose this game, however, they'd take a huge hit that could be overcome only by a win over Syracuse and a deep ACC Tournament run.

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 the editor of Crossover Chronicles, covering the NBA. He is also Bloguin's lead tennis writer, covering the major tournaments. He contributes to other Bloguin sites, such as The AP Party.