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Life on the Bubble: Friday Viewing Guide

Michigan State’s win over Penn State has the Spartans on the right side of the bubble and very nearly off it entirely.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Michigan State vs Penn State Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday’s rundown said a win over Penn State would be just about enough, and we got it. Of the original list of 28 bubble teams, in my opinion, six are done playing and would be behind us for certain even if we lose to Minnesota, and another five would be their conference’s only bid if they win out and can’t catch us if they don’t. Three more are done and would be close calls in the worst case, but I’ve added a couple more long shots who pulled off upsets yesterday.

At this point, I think the only way MSU could possibly miss the tournament is if every bubble team makes a big run and there are multiple surprise auto-bids, and even that might not do it. I’ve left us (and a couple of others in similar positions) in the “good shape” column out of an abundance of caution; after all, I look at things like “mid-80s RPI, NCSOS around 200, 2-11 road/neutral” and think “NIT 6 seed”, but apparently a number of pundits think that’s an NCAA resume, and if they’re right, logic may not have much to do with the rest of the picks.

Today’s table (with the addition of Indiana and TCU, there are now 30 teams on it fighting for 14 at-large bids plus with potential for five one-bid conference auto-bids as well):

Bubble Summary 3/10/17

Conference Tickets punched In good shape On the fence Work to do Long shots
Conference Tickets punched In good shape On the fence Work to do Long shots
Big Ten Northwestern & Michigan State Illinois & Iowa Indiana
ACC Miami Wake Forest Syracuse & Clemson
Big XII Oklahoma State Kansas State TCU
Pac-12 USC California
SEC Vanderbilt Georgia
Big East Seton Hall Xavier & Marquette Providence
American Houston
A-10 VCU Rhode Island
MVC Illinois State
MAAC Monmouth
Mtn West Nevada
CUSA Middle Tenn
Sun Belt UT-Arlington
Am East Vermont
Ivy Princeton

Here’s what happened Thursday and what’s on tap for Friday (rooting interests in bold):

Big Ten

Second Round (Thursday)

#8 Michigan 75, #9 Illinois 55
#5 Michigan State 78, #13 Penn State 51
#10 Indiana 95, #7 Iowa 73
#6 Northwestern 83, #14 Rutgers 61

No real drama today. Illinois and Iowa are done after blowout losses; both of them are near the fringe but needed to gain a little ground on some other candidates to get in. MSU and Northwestern didn’t actually gain much of anything, except for avoiding bad losses; however, given the number of teams falling by the wayside that’s very likely to be enough. Both would like one more win to feel absolutely secure but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where either one misses out. Indiana’s still pretty far to the fringe; they would have 15 losses if they’re in need of an at-large bid and their schedule doesn’t stand out as difficult enough to excuse that.

Quarterfinals (Friday)

#8 Michigan vs. #1 Purdue - noon, ESPN
This doesn’t really matter much. Michigan should stay on the right side of the top-50 cutoff line regardless. If we get past Minnesota, we’re playing for seeding only at that point; Michigan would be a less awful matchup but also a bit more damaging to our seed if we lose to them.

#5 Michigan State vs. #4 Minnesota - approx. 2:30, ESPN
Obvious, again. Win this and everything else on the page is moot.

#10 Indiana vs. #2 Wisconsin - 6:30, BTN
Knock out a potential bid thief.

#6 Northwestern vs. #3 Maryland - approx. 9:00, BTN
If we lose to Minnesota, an extra top 50 win would be nice, and the most likely way to get that is for Northwestern to move up into that range. If we win, that extra top 50 win might provide a small seed boost (though that may not actually be to our advantage if it pushes us to the 8-9 line).


There’s nothing bubble-relevant here anymore. Duke did beat Louisville, which is a slight bonus for our strength of schedule, but other than the possible SOS benefits from them, nothing here is likely to impact us in any way. The semifinals will be on ESPN at 7:00 and 9:30.


Quarterfinals (Thursday)

#4 Iowa State 92, #5 Oklahoma State 83
#8 TCU 85, #1 Kansas 82
#2 West Virginia 63, #10 Texas 53
#6 Kansas State 70, #3 Baylor 64

Oklahoma State is probably in anyway, but beating Iowa State would have punched their ticket for sure. TCU still has a lot of ground to make up (they, like Indiana, would be at 15 losses if they do not win the auto-bid) but beating Kansas is a good start. Kansas State’s win over Baylor is big for their chances, although not enough to guarantee a spot yet.

Semifinals (Friday)

#8 TCU vs. #4 Iowa State - 7:00, ESPN2
Knock out the potential bid thief.

#2 West Virginia vs. #6 Kansas State - approx. 9:30, ESPN2
Kansas State may have done enough yesterday, but beating West Virginia would make certain of it.


Quarterfinals (Thursday)

#1 Oregon 80, #8 Arizona State 57
#5 California 78, #4 Utah 75
#2 Arizona 92, #7 Colorado 78
#3 UCLA 76, #6 USC 74

Beating Utah doesn’t solve Cal’s lack of good wins, but given the number of early flameouts by ACC and Big Ten bubble teams, even that should help some. They’re close to the cut line now. USC missed an opportunity to end all doubt about their bid, but they seem fairly likely to make it anyway.

Semifinals (Friday)

#5 California vs. #1 Oregon - 9:00, Pac-12 Network
Cal might be in anyway, but they’re definitely in if they beat the Ducks.

#2 Arizona vs. #3 UCLA - approx. 11:30, ESPN
SOS boost would be nice, but this isn’t likely to matter much.


Second Round (Thursday)

#8 Georgia 59, #9 Tennessee 57
#5 Alabama 75, #12 Mississippi State 55
#7 Vanderbilt 66, #10 Texas A&M 41
#6 Ole Miss 86, #14 Missouri 74

They may not have been facing high-quality opponents, but the entire SEC bubble won on Thursday, which is more than a lot of others can say. The sheer number of losses for all of them mean that none should feel all that safe (Alabama and Ole Miss, in particular, have a lot of work to do thanks to weaker schedules), but they still have chances to improve their profiles, which is more than many others can say.

Quarterfinals (Friday)

#8 Georgia vs. #1 Kentucky - 1:00, SEC Network
#5 Alabama vs. #4 South Carolina - approx. 3:30, SEC Network
#7 Vanderbilt vs. #2 Florida - 7:00, SEC Network
#6 Ole Miss vs. #3 Arkansas - approx. 9:30, SEC Network

All of the top four seeds are locks. None of the other four are. Vanderbilt and Georgia might sneak in without a Friday win, but they’re very likely to make it if they get one. Alabama and Ole Miss definitely need wins Friday to have a shot.

Big East

Quarterfinals (Thursday)

#1 Villanova 108, #8 St. John’s 67
#5 Seton Hall 82, #4 Marquette 76
#7 Xavier 62, #2 Butler 57
#6 Creighton 70, #3 Providence 58

Seton Hall should feel pretty safe now; Marquette will probably be okay too thanks to their big stack of quality wins. Xavier getting a win over somebody other than DePaul is a big help in terms of keeping the committee from completely discounting their pre-injury resume. Providence’s missed opportunity will leave them right around the cut line and needing to hope things break well around the rest of the bubble.

Semifinals (Friday)

#5 Seton Hall vs. #1 Villanova - 6:30, FS1
Seton Hall’s ticket is probably punched but we might be able to overtake them on seeding if we beat Minnesota.

#7 Xavier vs. #6 Creighton - approx. 9:00, FS1
Creighton is already safe with room to spare; Xavier is in pretty good shape but much less certain.


First Round (Thursday)

#9 East Carolina 80, #8 Temple 69
#7 Tulsa 66, #10 Tulane 60
#6 UConn 77, #11 South Florida 66

Nothing really relevant in the opening round.

Quarterfinals (Friday)

#9 East Carolina vs. #1 SMU - noon, ESPN2
Remove a potential bid thief.

#5 Memphis vs. #4 Central Florida - approx. 2:30, ESPN2
UCF probably can’t make the tournament without the auto-bid, but they’re far closer than Memphis is.

#7 Tulsa vs. #2 Cincinnati - 7:00, ESPNU
No bid thieves.

#6 UConn vs. #3 Houston - approx. 9:30, ESPNU
Houston’s at-large chances are not great, but they exist. UConn has to win the auto-bid to have any hope.

Atlantic 10

Second Round (Thursday)

#9 Davidson 82, #8 La Salle 73
#5 St. Bonaventure 73, #12 UMass 60
#7 George Mason 82, #10 Fordham 71 (OT)
#6 George Washington 53, #11 St. Louis 46

These results were probably good news for A-10 bubble teams. St. Bonaventure advancing gives Rhode Island an opportunity for a halfway decent win in the quarterfinals, which might be enough, and George Mason taking down Fordham eliminates the threat of a disastrously bad loss for VCU.

Quarterfinals (Friday)

#9 Davidson vs. #1 Dayton - noon, NBCSN
No bid thieves.

#5 St. Bonaventure vs. #4 Rhode Island - approx. 2:30, NBCSN
Rhode Island might need a win here to make the cut (and certainly can’t pass us without one). St. Bonaventure needs the auto-bid.

#7 George Mason vs. #2 VCU - 7:00, NBCSN
VCU’s already practically a lock just because they’re not facing a potential horrible loss. Eliminate the potential bid thief.

#6 George Washington vs. #3 Richmond - approx. 9:30, NBCSN
Neither team has much of a chance without the auto-bid.

One-Bid Conferences

Nevada and MTSU advanced without much difficulty, but after our win over Penn State these don’t matter very much to us anymore. If they win out, their conferences will not take up any at-large bids. If they lose, they won’t be ahead of MSU in the selection order.

If MSU beats Minnesota, there will be no further updates on this because it won’t matter for us. If we lose, I’ll do an update if it looks even remotely possible for us to end up in danger, but that would require a lot of other games to go poorly for us as well.