Did Villanova and Iowa State secure spots in the field? Is Miami fading?
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.
MARCH 7 DAILY MARCH MADNESS TRACKER AND BUBBLE WATCH
Miami won’t be a No. 1 seed
What happened to Miami? Barring a handful of dominoes, the Hurricanes may be eliminated from a No. 1 seed by losing to Georgia Tech 71-69 on Wednesday. At the same time, is it time to start worrying about what Miami can do in the postseason? The Hurricanes lost by only 3 on the road at Duke five days ago, but Miami has lost three of four, including defeats to Wake Forest (5-12 in the ACC) and Georgia Tech (6-11).
Villanova adds another marquee win
With a 67-57 win over Georgetown on Wednesday, Villanova has a win over the top three teams in the Big East standings (the Hoyas, Villanova and Marquette) plus another over Syracuse -- all at home. The Wildcats’ problematic resume includes losses to RPI No. 261 Columbia, RPI No. 114 Seton Hall and a season sweep to RPI No. 79 Providence. Villanova iced a win over the Hoyas on free throws to give it a strong case to enter the field. The Wildcats entered the day projected to land in the First Four, but they may be a candidate for the proper field of 64 ... if they can avoid a first-round loss in the Big East Tournament.
Iowa State making a case
The Cyclones still have something left in the tank after a devastating overtime loss to Kansas (in which Iowa State lost a four-point lead with 23 seconds to go in regulation) and then an 86-69 loss to Oklahoma during the weekend. On Wednesday, Iowa State withstood a late Oklahoma State push as an 11-point lead evaporated to two points in the second half in the 87-76 win. The Cyclones can’t afford to lose to West Virginia or early in the Big 12 Tournament, but their resume, which now includes three top-30 wins, might be enough.
Maryland done for an at-large bid
The Terrapins may have erased any doubts about their at-large hopes with a 79-68 loss at home to North Carolina on Wednesday. They’ll try to be a spoiler for Virginia on Sunday, but it’s ACC Tournament or bust for Maryland. Meanwhile, North Carolina clinched a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament. the one-time bubble team is 6-1 since going to a four-guard lineup.
Really, UCLA? Really, Minnesota?
The Bruins and Gophers may be safely in the field, but both lost to teams with losing records Wednesday. UCLA lost to Washington State 73-61, the Bruins first loss in Pullman since 1993. Earlier, Minnesota lost 53-51 to Nebraska. Minnesota’s second- and third-leading scorers Rodney Williams and Austin Hollins went scoreless.
Related: Experts debate Indiana's MVP: Zeller or Oladipo?
Meanwhile, in the Bay Area...
Cal took its first loss since Feb. 7 when it lost 83-70 to rival Stanford, but that wasn’t the most notable development. A shoving match late in the game resulted in the ejections of three assistant coaches, Charles Payne and Mark Madsen from Stanford and Greg Gottlieb from Cal. No punches were thrown, thanks in part to the three assistants breaking up the skirmish. But NCAA rules forbid anyone but a head coach from leaving the bench to break up a potential fight.
KEY THURSDAY GAMES
All Times Eastern
Kentucky at Georgia (7 p.m., ESPN)
The Wildcats remain a bubble team heading into the final regular season games. At this point, Kentucky has to avoid a second consecutive loss to a non-Tournament team after losing to Arkansas 73-60 Saturday. Georgia won’t be a pushover. The Bulldogs defeated surging (at the time) Tennessee 78-68 during the weekend. Since Kentucky’s disastrous loss to Tennessee in its first game without Nerlens Noel, forward Willie Cauley-Stein is averaging 13 points on 71 percent shooting with 8.8 rebounds in the last four games.
Virginia at Florida State (7 p.m., ESPN2)
What is going on with Virginia’s resume? Last week, the Cavaliers beat Duke 73-68 and then lost 53-52 to Boston College. To stay on the right side of the bubble, Virginia probably can’t afford to lose at Florida State (RPI No. 94) and at home to Maryland (RPI No. 84) to round out the regular season.
Butler at UMass (7 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
UMass has put together a nice resume this season, with an RPI just outside of the top 50 (but ranked 82nd on kenpom.com). The Minutemen have few top 50 wins, but a 7-7 record against the top 100. A defeat of Butler, which lost back-to-back games to Saint Louis and VCU, would make UMass one of the top teams to watch in the conference tournaments.
Wisconsin at Michigan State (9 p.m., ESPN)
A game for seeding purposes -- both in the NCAA and Big Ten tournaments -- and perhaps how you should pick either for your bracket. The Badgers and Spartans are tied for fourth in the Big Ten at 11-5, and the top four teams receiving a bye in the conference tourney. Wisconsin finishes at Penn State, and Michigan State finishes at home against Northwestern. Barring an upset in the regular season finale, the winner of this game will get a bye while the loser will face the last-place Nittany Lions in the Big Ten Tournament opener. It’s worth mentioning Michigan State has lost three in a row while Wisconsin is coming off a puzzling 69-56 loss at home to Purdue.
Oregon at Colorado (9 p.m., ESPN2)
Wednesday’s losses by UCLA to Washington State and Cal to Stanford mean a holding pattern atop the Pac-12. The Ducks can take a one-game lead in the win column by defeating Colorado on the road. The Buffaloes have a strong NCAA resume to begin with, but a win over the Ducks would seal a winning season in the conference.
BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED AT-LARGE LOCKS (35)
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 (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, 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: 16 teams
All 2013 NCAA Tournament Coverage