Bracketology Implications: What To Know On Thursday
Major Bubble Games
Cincinnati (19-8, 9-5) vs #17 Louisville (21-6)
While Louisville is firmly in the field, these are two teams with schizophrenic personalities. On any given night, either one can look awful or great. Cincinnati can't afford an off night here. Sure, they've had some head-scratching losses, but if they were to add Louisville to a resume that includes wins over Georgetown, Notre Dame, and Seton Hall, they'd be tough to keep out. In the Big East, you get many arrows to hit the bulls-eye, and luckily Cincy (though far from a great team) has hit the target enough to stay in contention.
Arkansas (17-10, 5-7) vs Alabama (17-9, 6-6)
For Arkansas, a loss simply eliminates them from contention. But with their wins over Michigan & Vandy, a 9-7 SEC finish would make them somewhat viable as a bubble team. Alabama showed they can still win even without Green & Mitchell. Green won't play against Arkansas either, but I wouldn't count them out. Considering all the problems the program has faced, a win would be huge for the Tide's tourney hopes.
Gonzaga (21-5, 11-3) vs BYU (23-6, 11-3)
In my latest NCAA Tourney projection, Gonzaga was a #6 seed, and BYU a #10. However, it would be crazy to say that BYU is a lock. The Cougars have some nice wins on the season (Gonzaga at home, Nevada on a neutral court, LMU on the road), but their season does not wow you. In fact, BYU is just 1-4 against RPI Top 50 teams, and a loss to Gonzaga would make that 1-5. The committee focuses on "big" wins, and BYU could use another to solidify their spot in the field.
Arizona (19-9, 10-5) vs USC (6-21, 1-13)
Arizona is riding the bubble. I have them out in my latest projection, and a win wouldn't change a thing.. but a loss to lowly USC would be devastating.
Louisiana-Monroe (2-25, 1-13) vs Middle Tennessee (24-4, 13-1)
MTSU gets little respect nationally, but they're certainly on the committee's radar. With a Top 40 RPI, and 4 wins over fringe tourney teams, their resume is bubble-worthy. A big win over ULM is a must.
Secondary Bubble Games
Colorado (18-8, 10-4) vs Stanford (18-9, 8-7)
Stanford's earlier win over Colorado St is the Pac-12's lone non-conference Top 50 win. Were they to win their 3 remaining league games, they have a better tournament resume than most of the other Pac-12 contenders like Oregon & Colorado. The Buffs have the far superior RPI (72nd), but a very weak non-conference resume in which their best win was by 2 points at home over mediocre Georgia. Still, you can't count out any of the Pac-12 teams contending for the conference title.
Not Really Bubble Games: Not Really Bubble Team in Bold
Kennesaw St (3-26, 0-16) vs Belmont (22-7, 14-2)
Earlier in the season, Belmont was a trendy mid-major at-large pick. A couple hiccups against Miami OH and Lipscomb took the luster off the Bears. But they've won 9 in a row and deserve a look. Will they make the dance? No. But they're no worse than many of the bubble teams actually being discussed.
Loyola Marymount (18-10, 10-4) vs San Diego (11-16, 6-8)
LMU has been soaring up the RPI charts in recent weeks after beating Saint Mary's and then Valpo in BracketBusters. An earlier win over Saint Louis looks good too. Assuming LMU tops San Diego and then Santa Clara to close the regular season, a 12-4 WCC record is pretty damn solid. Like Belmont, they won't get a look, but perhaps they really should.
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