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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

February 21, 2012 at 9:00 PM

Life on the bubble: Lately, a mixed bag

If you’re a Washington basketball fan doing some late-season scoreboard-watching, the results are apt to drive you crazy: One game, it’s a “bubble” team losing and hurting its chances of crashing the tournament. The next, it’s somebody coming out of nowhere and posting a big victory sure to catch the eyes of the basketball committee in two weeks.

Example: Monday night, Texas, struggling this year under Rick Barnes, blew a double-digit lead against Baylor and lost to fall to 17-11. I don’t see the Longhorns making it this year.

But a couple of hours earlier, that was balanced by Shabazz Napier and Connecticut. The defending champion Huskies, who have lurched throughout February and are themselves a questionmark for the tournament, beat Villanova on Napier’s 30-footer in overtime, 73-70, so they’re now 17-10 and still viable. They’re also an undistinguished 7-8 in the Big East.

Tuesday night brought all sorts of such madness that down the road could affect a Washington or Arizona or Oregon. The night was rife with tournament implication.

North Carolina State, which last week came undone and lost a season-making game at Duke, lost to North Carolina, which means the Wolfpack is now 18-10 and listing.

About then, Seton Hall (19-9) was bombing eighth-ranked Georgetown, 73-55, which makes the Pirates that much more attractive.

But the Big Ten results were much more positive for the Pac-12 hopefuls. Illinois? Kiss off the Illini, who are falling apart at the seams. They lost at Ohio State — no big surprise there — to fall to 16-12 and 5-10 in the Big Ten. Along with them is a team just about everybody roots for, Northwestern, because the Wildcats have never been to the NCAAs. They lost to Michigan at home in overtime in what would have been a game-changer, and at 16-11 and 6-9, I think they’re on the outside looking in, at least for now.

That could also describe Mississippi State, which led most of the way against Kentucky, but caved at the finish in Starkville, falling to 19-9 and 6-7 in the SEC.

In the Missouri Valley, Creighton might have saved its season by rescuing a home victory, 93-92, over a 14-14 Evansville team that was led by swingman Colt Ryan’s 43 points. Creighton has a healthy 28 RPI, but this one no doubt would have damaged the Blue Jays, who improve to 24-5.

On the other hand, Xavier, thought once to be one of Gonzaga’s most important victims, looks headed to a lesser tournament. The Musketeers got thumped at UMass, 80-73, and are now 17-10. There’s nothing much to suggest they’re going to turn around a season that swung on the ugly Dec. 10 fight with Cincinnati.

In the Big 12, Kansas State buffed its credentials by beating Missouri on the road, and I can’t see the Wildcats being left out now, not after a second win over Mizzou — and a victory the other day at Baylor. Given those three wins, it’s a little amazing to think the Wildcats are only 8-7 in the conference (19-8 overall).

Finally, in the last important game of the night, Colorado State hung on to defeat No. 18 New Mexico to move to 17-9 and 6-5 in the Mountain West. The Rams had a 30 RPI entering this one, so they bear watching as a possible fourth from the MWC if they finish strongly.

A person could drive themselves a little crazy trying to deconstruct it all, and there’s a whole lot still to come. Best prescription, of course: Keep winning yourself and forget everybody else.

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