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: Key stats from March 4-10
MARCH 11 DAILY MARCH MADNESS TRACKER AND BUBBLE WATCH
SEC teams clinging to hope
Alabama, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Tennessee could audition for roles as monsters in bad horror movies. Just when their NCAA Tournament hopes appear to be dead, they keep coming back. Alabama lost back-to-back games to Florida and Ole Miss, but got a midcourt desperation shot from Trevor Releford to avoid a loss to Georgia. The Bulldogs defeated Tennessee and Kentucky in the last week and half, but the Volunteers and Wildcats turned around to defeat the SEC’s top two teams (Missouri and Florida, respectively). After losing to SEC bottom feeders South Carolina and Mississippi State in a span of two weeks, Ole Miss won a head-to-head meeting with Alabama and defeated LSU on the road. Here’s a look at their resumes heading into the SEC Tournament:
at Miss. State
Baylor not done yet
Baylor headed into its regular-season finale against Kansas riding a 1-5 streak that damaged the Bears’ NCAA hopes. An 81-58 win over the Jayhawks on Saturday alone won’t get Baylor into the field, but at least it hints at what Baylor can do when it plays to its potential. The Bears (3-10 against the top 50, ranked No. 62 in the RPI) open the Big 12 Tournament against Oklahoma State.
Big Ten bubble watch
Only a week or so ago, the Big Ten looked like it established clear tiers between the NCAA teams and the NIT teams. It remains to be seen if that has changed with Minnesota's recent struggles. At the very least, Minnesota’s seeding has taken a hit in the last week. The same team that defeated Indiana on Feb. 26 lost at Nebraska and at Purdue last week. The Gophers still have an 11-8 record against the top 100, which is a better mark than Iowa, for example. The Hawkeyes finished a game ahead of Minnesota in the Big Ten standings, but Iowa is 5-8 against the top 100. The difference in strength of schedule contributes to Minnesota’s RPI in the top 25 and Iowa’s at 75.
What’s going on in the Mountain West?
Saturday was drama-filled for the Mountain West with three of the four games potentially impacting the field. New Mexico started the day with a reasonable case for a No. 1 seed, but the Lobos lost 89-88 on the road to Air Force. Boise State further strengthened its case for an at-large with a 69-65 win over San Diego State to improve its record to 4-6 against the top 50. The Broncos’ signature win this season was on the road against Missouri Valley regular season and tournament champion Creighton on Nov. 28. The most puzzling result, however, was UNLV’s loss at home to Fresno State. The Bulldogs are 11-18 this season and 5-11 in the Mountain West, two of those wins coming against UNLV.
Temple picks up key win
Since a loss to RPI No. 219 Duquesne on Valentine’s Day, Temple has been fighting to stay in the field. The Owls ended its regular season with an 84-76 win over VCU that should be a a boost to their at-large hopes. Since the Duquesne loss, Temple has won seven in a row, including five top-100 wins (at UMass, La Salle, at Charlotte, Detroit and VCU). Fran Dunphy’s team earned the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and will catch either UMass or George Washington after a bye.
No guarantees in the Pac-12
UCLA clinched an outright Pac-12 title with a little help from Oregon, which lost to Colorado (without Andre Roberson) and Utah (which finished 5-13 in the league). A puzzling Saturday in the Pac-12 may hint at a wild conference tournament. For starters, Washington State started the week with two league wins but defeated the conference champion (UCLA) and then the hottest team in the league (USC). Colorado also found time to lose at home to Oregon State (4-14 in the league).
Cincinnati dodges one
The Bearcats have been on a slide to the NCAA bubble but avoided a problematic loss by defeating USF 61-53. The Bearcats needed overtime to defeat the 12-18 Bulls. Now, Cincinnati opens the Big East Tournament against a Providence team that defeated the Bearcats on Feb. 6 in addition to beating Villanova twice and Notre Dame.
KEY MONDAY GAMES
All Times Eastern
FIU vs. Western Kentucky (7 p.m., ESPN)
Sun Belt Championship
Davidson vs. Charleston (7 p.m., ESPN)
Northeastern vs. James Madison (7 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
Saint Mary’s vs. Gonzaga (9 p.m., ESPN)
West Coast Championship
Iona vs. Manhattan (9 p.m., ESPN)
BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED LOCKS (39)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (3): Butler, Saint Louis, VCU
Atlantic Sun (1): Florida Gulf Coast*
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (6): Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big South (1): Liberty*
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Ivy (1): Harvard*
Missouri Valley (1): Creighton*
Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Ohio Valley (1): Belmont*
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
West Coast (1): Gonzaga
*clinched NCAA Tournament bid
ONE-BID LEAGUES (15)
America East, Big Sky, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, SWAC, WAC
Note: Conference USA and the Sun Belt likely will be one-bid leagues if their proejcted champions win their conference tournaments.
THE BUBBLE: 14 teams
All 2013 NCAA Tournament Coverage