It’s been a weird week for college basketball teams residing on the dreaded “bubble.” Seems like hardly anybody whose NCAA bid is in doubt has come bursting from the gate in their conference tournaments – except for Maryland, which, because of an 86 RPI and a 3-9 record against the top 100, I didn’t even list in Thursday’s rundown of bubble teams in the Times.
But now the Terps, after a shocker Friday over Duke in the ACC tournament, have to be regarded as a threat to storm the field. Exemplifying the weirdness of this season, Maryland has beaten Duke twice and yet is figured as no better than 50-50 to make it.
Elsewhere, here are the results so far of the teams I projected as being on the bubble earlier this week. As a group, they haven’t exactly stormed the gates of the selection committee.
ACC – Virginia. Tony Bennett’s team looked terrible in a Friday loss to NC State, losing 75-56. If you buy the theory that the selection committee sometimes looks at a team’s opening game in a conference tournament and thinks, “Show us you deserve it,” this wasn’t much of a recommendation.
Atlantic-10 – Fourth-seeded LaSalle fell to Butler by 11 and Xavier bowed out of contention in the first round with a one-point loss to St. Joe’s. Temple lost against UMass, but the Owls appear to stand the best chance of the three anyway.
Big East – Villanova and Cincinnati got convincing first-game victories over St. John’s and Providence, respectively, but then fell heavily in their second games. Both should be in good shape Sunday, however.
Big 12 – Iowa State came from behind to beat Oklahoma but then got throttled by Kansas. Iowa State should be good, and Joe Lunardi has Oklahoma in the field, but it shouldn’t get too comfortable. Mercurial Baylor, naturally, fell way behind Oklahoma State in what was a possible statement game, then lost a cliffhanger and looks to have little shot.
Big Ten – Iowa could have made it with an upset of Michigan State Friday night but lost a close one after leading most of the way. Minnesota, which has disappeared down the stretch, lost to fellow bubble team Illinois, so the Illini look safe despite being handled by Indiana Friday, while the Gophers shouldn’t feel exactly solid. Nor should Iowa.
Conference USA – Second-seeded Southern Miss has a couple of double-digit wins and has reached the final against Memphis. But the league is so weak, USM may need to win the title anyway.
Mountain West – Boise State needed a statement win against San Diego State on opening night and didn’t get it. It’s probably a nervous wreck this weekend, and rightly so.
Pac-12 – There really wasn’t a bubble team in the league, but Arizona State had a shot if it could make a long run. Alas, it fell short in another heartbreak against UCLA, so it’s NIT-bound.
Southeastern – What’s up with this league? In a battle of bubble-riders, Alabama beat Tennessee Friday, and the Vols are in some trouble. But ‘Bama may still need to beat Florida Saturday to make it. Then defending national champ Kentucky lost to Vanderbilt, a 16-16 team that twice early this season, scored 33 points. That has to make Big Blue Nation squirm, after the conventional wisdom had the Wildcats in following their late victory over Florida. Friday night, Ole Miss came back to beat Missouri, which should get the Rebels in.
WAC – Louisiana Tech, which had started 16-0 in conference play, then lost its final two, fell to Texas-San Antonio — an 8-21 team with a 284 RPI — in its opening game for a third straight loss. Be very afraid, Tech.