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: College basketball power rankings: Gonzaga takes top spot
MARCH 6 DAILY MARCH MADNESS TRACKER AND BUBBLE WATCH
Time to get excited for Ohio State?
The Buckeyes are an NCAA Tournament lock, but they may have helped their seeding with a 67-58 win over Indiana. More than the seeding, should we start to buy Ohio State as capable of making a deep run? There was a lot to like in this game: Ohio State held Indiana to 39.6 percent shooting from the field and a season-low 58 points. The Buckeyes kept IU’s Victor Oladipo from taking a shot from the field in the first half, and they continued to get nice contributions from their secondary scorers with Aaron Craft scoring 15 and Shannon Scott scoring eight off the bench.
Related: Experts debate Indiana's MVP: Zeller or Oladipo?
Ryan Kelly no one-hit wonder
The Duke forward tore through Miami for 32 points Saturday, but it was fair to ask how he could sustain that level of play down the stretch. His second game back from his return from a foot injury was another effective outing. Kelly scored 18 points with nine rebounds and five assists in an 85-57 win over overmatched Virginia Tech. Keep Duke in the national title conversation.
Related: Kelly leads key stats of the week
Ugly finish for St. John’s
By the time a skirmish broke out in the St. John’s-Notre Dame game, the Red Storm already faced a blow to their NCAA Tournament hopes with a 66-40 loss to the Irish. With three consecutive losses and a 2-6 stretch, the Red Storm’s Tourney hopes are all but gone. Making matters worse, Sir’Dominic Pointer will be suspended for the regular season finale against Marquette after being ejected in the fracas with Notre Dame’s Cameron Biedscheid. Pointer averages 6.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. St. John’s had already lost D’Angelo Harrison (17.8 ppg) to a suspension for the end of the season. St. John's can start planning for the NIT.
Ole Miss still clinging to the bubble
The damage to the Rebels’ NCAA Tournament hopes may be done after losing to two of the SEC’s worst teams -- Mississippi State and South Carolina -- but at least a run in the league tourney could be meaningful. Ole Miss defeated Alabama 87-83 in a virtual elimination game for at-large hopes. Alabama fell behind early before narrowing the deficit to one possession in the final seconds. Alabama and Ole Miss have identical SEC records at 11-6, and they’re separated by two spots in the RPI. That said, Ole Miss has the head-to-head win and one more top-50 win than the Tide (Missouri in Oxford).
Boise State lets one slip away
The Broncos are looking like an strong at-large candidate, but Boise State let a key win slip away in a 68-64 loss at UNLV. The Broncos led by 10 with 9:17 to go and then by 6 at the 5:01 mark before the Rebels finished the game on an 18-8 run. The Broncos still have a top-50 RPI and three top-50 wins to make them a strong at-large candidate, especially if they can defeat San Diego State in the regular-season finale.
The first March upset
Conference tournaments started Tuesday with the first notable upset. Longwood, in its first season in the Big South and sixth in Division I, defeated UNC Asheville 87-72. UNC Asheville, seeded No. 3 from the South division, had won the last two Big South Tournament titles and last year’s regular season title. Meanwhile, Longwood improved to 8-24.
Conference tournaments continue
Keep printing brackets: The Atlantic Sun, Northeast, Patriot, Ohio Valley and West Coast tournaments start today.
KEY WEDNESDAY GAMES
All Times Eastern
North Carolina at Maryland (7 p.m., ESPN)
The Tar Heels are 6-1 with guard P.J. Hairston in the starting lineup, including the last six games and the Dec. 29 win over UNLV. That smaller lineup will go up against Maryland and seven-footer Alex Len before facing Duke in the regular season finale. This is a chance for a huge finish for the Heels.
Georgetown at Villanova (7 p.m., ESPN2)
The pattern for Villanova has been a big win or two followed by a puzzling loss -- the Wildcats beat Louisville and Syracuse and lost to Providence a week later, then they beat Marquette and lost to Seton Hall. Those losses to Providence and Seton Hall could keep ‘Nova out of the tournament field as the Wildcats teeter on the bubble. Both CBS’ Jerry Palm and ESPN’s Joe Lunardi have Villanova in the First Four in their bracket projections, which means Jay Wright’s team has little room for error. With a finish against Villanova on the road and Syracuse at home, Georgetown’s hopes to win the Big East regular season title are in range.
Oklahoma State at Iowa State (7 p.m., ESPNU)
Iowa State may be in the field right now, but it’s getting dicey for the Cyclones. Iowa State took Kansas in overtime on Feb. 25 and then lost 86-69 to Oklahoma over the weekend. The Cyclones haven’t defeated a projected NCAA Tournament team since defeating Oklahoma at home on Feb. 4. Beating Oklahoma State (12-4) in the Big 12 would be boon to the Cyclones' resume.
Saint Louis at Xavier (9 p.m., local TV only)
The Billikens may be an NCAA Tournament lock, but winning the Atlantic 10 regular season would be huge for seeding and important for a program that hasn’t won a conference title since 1971. It won’t be easy for Saint Louis, which finishes at Xavier and at home against La Salle. The Billikens have a one-game lead on VCU and two-game lead on La Salle. Meanwhile, Xavier is a few rungs down on the NCAA Tournament bubble after losing to UMass on Saturday, but the Musketeers have opportunities with Saint Louis, Butler and the A-10 Tournament on the horizon. Xavier has defeated Butler, La Salle, Memphis and Temple at home, but its best win away from Cincinnati is over St. Bonaventure.
BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED AT-LARGE LOCKS (36)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (3): Butler, Saint Louis, VCU
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (6): Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big Ten (7): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Pac-12 (5): 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: 15 teams