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.