Virginia's bizarre resume gets a boost, Gonzaga has case for No. 1 seed, plus a weekend preview
Now that the calendar has turned to March, fans of bubble teams may be refreshing web sites of their favorite bracketologists.
As college basketball’s regular season and conference tournament season nears a close, Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the key developments through the week. Each day brings key developments for the NCAA Tournament, so in this space, we’ll update which teams look to be in the field, which might be playing themselves out as well as the key games of the day.
Related: Conference-by-conference Tourney projections and bubble watch
MARCH 1 NCAA TOURNAMENT TRACKER AND BUBBLE WATCH
Virginia seals a bid?
The question for sometime has been what would Virginia need to do to overcome a handful of really bad losses. The Cavaliers’ loss to Old Dominion early in the season would be one of the worst for an NCAA at-large teams and that doesn’t get to a home loss to Delaware, a road loss to George Mason and ACC road losses to Wake Forest, Clemson and Georgia Tech. Well, defeating Duke at home might be the game that clinches the NCAA Tournament for Virginia. The Blue Devils entered Thursday ranked No. 1 in the RPI, but Mike Krzyzewski spent most of the evening in a foul mood. With a 73-68 win over Duke, Virginia has top-30 wins over Duke, NC State, North Carolina and Wisconsin, the latter on the road.
Gonzaga’s case for a No. 1 seed.
Gonzaga already had momentum for a No. 1 seed, but in the last week Duke lost to Virginia, Michigan lost to Penn State, Indiana lost to Minnesota, Florida lost to Tennessee, Miami lost to Wake Forest, and Michigan State lost twice. Gonzaga, though, keeps winning. The Zags defeated BYU 70-65 on Thursday with one game left before the West Coast Conference Tournament. Not a bad week for Gonzaga’s seeding hopes.
Temple survives a scare.
The Owls may have played themselves into the field int the last two weeks with a four-game winning streak, but they had to survive a non-conference scare Thursday night. Khalif Wyatt scored 12 of the last 14 points to defeat Detroit 83-78. Defeating Detroit (RPI No. 61) won’t make-or-break a Tournament bid for Temple, but it’s better to have an extra top-100 win on the resume.
Related: Roundtable debate: Who are the top five point guards?
Deshaun Thomas in a supporting role.
Thomas remains Ohio State’s top scorer, but Thad Matta has to be pleased others besides Thomas have led the way. Only seven times all season a Buckeye other than Thomas has led Ohio State in scoring, and two of those were in back-to-back games. Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 24 points as Ohio State had to sweat through a 63-53 win over Northwestern. Thomas scored 19. Against Michigan State on Sunday, Aaron Craft led Ohio State in scoring with 21 points.
Big East maneuverings.
News reports from SI.com and ESPN on Thursday afternoon indicated the Catholic Seven could break off from the Big East as soon as next season and could add Butler and Xavier from the Atlantic 10 immediately. Creighton, Dayton and Saint Louis could be realistic targets at a later date if the league expands to 12.
Just for fun, let’s look at what that league would be this season. Here’s a look at the new 12-team league with projected NCAA Tournament seedings from Jerry Palm’s latest bracket.
WEEKEND ON TAP
All times Eastern
Louisville at Syracuse (noon, CBS)
When these two teams first met on Jan. 19, no one would have projected Georgetown to be the Big East’s most likely team to be a No. 1 seed, but here we are. The Cardinals are still in the mix for a regular season conference title, sitting a game behind the Hoyas. Syracuse is still in the mix, but this likely is a must win before the Orange visit D.C. in the regular season finale.
Alabama at Florida (noon, ESPN)
The Tide simply have too many bad losses (Dayton, Mercer, Tulane, LSU) to be a strong at-large candidate. A win in Gainesville would set up for a more meaningful SEC Tournament for Bama.
Butler at VCU (noon, ESPN2)
VCU is getting close to wrapping up an NCAA Tournament bid. A win over Butler may do it. If the Bulldogs can defeat VCU in Richmond, where the Rams haven't lost in Atlantic 10 play, it could be a further boon to the seeding of a team that has defeated Marquette, North Carolina, Indiana, Gonzaga and Temple.
Tennessee at Georgia (1:30, SEC Network)
Want to be in the Tournament, Tennessee? Take care of business by beating Georgia on the road. The Vols’ last road trip was a quadruple overtime win over Texas A&M.
Iowa State at Oklahoma (1:30 p.m., Big 12 Network)
The Cyclones lost in devastating fashion to Kansas. Iowa State may be in the field, but Fred Hoiberg’s team can erase doubts by winning in Norman.
Wichita State at Creighton (2 p.m., ESPN2)
We’re starting to wonder how many bids the Missouri Valley could get. Wichita State and Creighton once looked like locks, but the Shockers lost to Evansville twice and Southern Illinois. Meanwhile, Creighton has lost four of seven. The winner of the MVC regular season finale may sleep a little easier about its at-large prospects.
Connecticut at Cincinnati (2 pm., Big East Network)
After losing five of the last six, Cincinnati has played itself on the bubble. The Bearcats have to find some way to stop this slide or risk being left out of the field.
Kentucky at Arkansas (4 p.m., CBS)
Athlon put the Wildcats back in the field this week. A game at Fayetteville is a great chance to prove the Wildcats can compete without Nerlens Noel. Florida and Missouri lost at Arkansas, so a Kentucky win would be a statement. Arkansas is on the bubble, but its dismal road record is holding back the Hogs. The Razorbacks need to win this game to set up a key game at Missouri on Tuesday.
Miami at Duke (6 p.m., ESPN)
After Miami lost to Wake Forest, Duke missed an opportunity to make up ground for a regular season ACC title by losing at Virginia on Thursday. Miami clinched at least a share of the regular season title with the Blue Devils’ loss.
Kansas State at Baylor (7 p.m., ESPN2)
Baylor’s big statements that it belongs in the field were a home win over Oklahoma State on Jan. 21 and a road win at Kentucky on Dec. 1. Do the Bears have anything more to show us?
St. John’s at Providence (8 p.m., Big East Network)
The Red Storm are trying to get into the Tournament picture. Providence has been a tough out this season, defeating Villanova twice plus Cincinnati and Notre Dame.
Arizona at UCLA (9 p.m., ESPN)
The Pac-12 title is up for grabs, but Oregon and Cal are also in the mix with the two preseason favorites. Arizona may not be in danger of losing a Tournament bid, but Arizona has something to prove after losing by 11 to USC on Wednesday.
Villanova at Pittsburgh (noon, Big East Network)
The Wildcats ensured no one would feel sorry for them if they miss the field when they lost to Seton Hall. Villanova can prove it belongs by finishing well against Pitt and Georgetown -- or it can go to the Big East Tournament riding a three-game losing streak.
Michigan State at Michigan (4 p.m., CBS)
Did Michigan play itself out of a No. 1 seed by losing to Penn State on Wednesday? Maybe. Michigan State is still in the mix. Trey Burke’s rebound from a six-turnover effort against the Nittany Lions is another key storyline.
BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED AT-LARGE LOCKS (32)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (2): Butler, Saint Louis
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (6): Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Mountain West (3): Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV
Pac-12 (4): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
West Coast (1): Gonzaga
ONE-BID LEAGUES (17)
America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, SWAC
Note: Conference USA, the Ohio Valley, the Sun Belt and the WAC likely will be one-bid leagues if their proejcted champions win their conference tournaments.
THE BUBBLE: 19 teams