bubbles

Weekend bubble guide: the biggest battlegrounds

The first weekend of March is the last weekend before Selection Sunday. It’s that time of year, so when you begin your Saturday and Sunday, you want to watch the games with maximum bubble implications.

We’re here to help. Let’s get right to it.

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SATURDAY, MARCH 5 – ALL TIMES EASTERN

VANDERBILT at TEXAS A&M – Noon, ESPN2 – Vanderbilt is very likely in the field, but a win here would make the Commodores a lock. Remember that if five or six unexpected automatic bids emerge, the at-large pool can shrink. “Almost a lock” is not the same as a lock. Vanderbilt has some margin for error, but removing all doubt is never a bad life strategy at this point in the season. You’ll see this theme in plenty of other bubble games below…

OHIO STATE at MICHIGAN STATE – Noon, ESPN – The Buckeyes must win, period, end of sentence. If they don’t, they’ll have to make the final of the Big Ten Tournament just to have a chance on Selection Sunday. Anything less wouldn’t be enough.

LSU at KENTUCKY – 2 p.m., CBS – The Tigers have to win in Rupp Arena to enter the SEC Tournament with legitimate at-large hopes. Unlike the Big Ten Tournament with Ohio State, LSU won’t have as many quality-win opportunities in the SEC. This is the last gasp for Ben Simmons… and Johnny Jones.

SYRACUSE at FLORIDA STATE – 2, ESPN2 – Syracuse is very likely in the field, but the Orange – like Vanderbilt – can remove every last ounce of anxiety from Selection Sunday by winning here. Florida State must win this game to carry a reasonable at-large resume into the ACC Tournament, where it will need to win at least two games to make its case. The Seminoles need at least three wins, if not four, to have a real shot on March 13 when the brackets are revealed.

PITTSBURGH at GEORGIA TECH – 2, ACC Network – Pittsburgh is in a Vanderbilt-Syracuse situation: almost assuredly in the field, but not a 100-percent lock. The Panthers can relieve pressure with a win here. Georgia Tech is either off the bubble or barely on the edge of it. The Yellow Jackets — like Florida State — simply have to win their game on Saturday. Here’s a reason which hasn’t yet been mentioned: RPI rating.

Florida State and Georgia Tech are fighting for the No. 10 seed in the ACC Tournament. You might think it doesn’t matter that much – 10 seed, 11 seed, what’s the difference?

ACC Tournament Logo 2016

Here’s the difference: In a 15-team conference, Louisville is ineligible for the tournament, leaving 14 teams. This means the first round will involve seeds 11 through 14. The 11 seed has to play Boston College in round one. That’s an RPI-killing game bubble teams simply have to avoid. The mere act of playing that game will drag down the profile. Getting a 10 seed means a possible game against Pittsburgh or Syracuse (or Virginia Tech or Clemson). Neither Georgia Tech nor Florida State can afford to play Boston College. That No. 10 seed matters more than you think.

CREIGHTON at XAVIER – 2:30, FOX – The Bluejays have to win to have any remote chance on Selection Sunday. Like Georgia Tech, they’re either off the bubble or on the bad edge of it.

MARQUETTE at BUTLER – 2:30, Fox Sports 1 – Butler is walking the tightrope, but a win over Seton Hall put the Bulldogs on the good side of the bubble. A loss here would complicate matters heading into the Big East Tournament. A win won’t punch a ticket, but it will offer a small measure of added stability, probably putting Butler in a position where one win in the Big East Tournament would solidify a spot in the field of 68.

KANSAS STATE at TEXAS TECH – 3, ESPNEWS – Texas Tech is in very good shape, but a loss here would mean that the Red Raiders would need to win one game in the Big 12 Tournament in order to have better than 50-50 odds of getting in. If Texas Tech loses here and then (hypothetically) loses to TCU in the Big 12 Tournament, the Red Raiders could be left outside the candy store. If they want less stress in their lives, they need to win this game.

GEORGE WASHINGTON at DAVIDSON – 3:30, NBC SN – The Atlantic 10 bubble picture is complicated and crowded. Any degree of leverage helps. George Washington won’t secure a bid with a win at Davidson, but it would certainly take a big step toward a bid.

Oregon_State_Game_Winner_CR.0.0

OREGON STATE at UCLA – 6:30, Pac-12 Network – Oregon State is squarely on the bubble, right near the cut line in many projected brackets. The Beavers simply need to collect wins. It’s reasonable to say they need at least two to remain in the middle of the conversation, and three if they want to feel optimistic about their odds on Selection Sunday. Grabbing this win would make their task at the Pac-12 Tournament less daunting.

VCU at DAYTON – 8, CBS SN – Virginia Commonwealth would punch its ticket with a win here. A loss would leave the Rams in need of at least one win in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

IOWA at MICHIGAN – 8, Big Ten Network – The Wolverines are very likely in the field, but a win here would punch their ticket.

SAINT BONAVENTURE at SAINT LOUIS – 8, Fox Sports Midwest – The Bonnies, very close to the cut line, can’t drop a game to one of the Atlantic 10’s weaker teams.

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SUNDAY, MARCH 6

SMU at CINCINNATI – Noon, CBS – While SMU plays its last game of the season, Cincinnati can punch its ticket with a win. The Bearcats really need this one; if they fail, they might have to make the final of the AAC Tournament to feel good on Selection Sunday (if they’re an at-large team).

UCF at CONNECTICUT – 2, ESPNU – UConn is still on the good side of the cut line, but not by much. A loss here would be very damaging. A win is valuable only the sense that it would represent the avoidance of a massive setback.

TEMPLE at TULANE – 2, ESPN3 – Temple can’t lose to one of The American’s lesser lights. This is very similar to UConn’s game against UCF.

Matt Zemek

About Matt Zemek

Matt Zemek is the managing editor of The Student Section, covering college football and basketball with associate editors Terry Johnson and Bart Doan. Mr. Zemek is the editor of Crossover Chronicles, covering the NBA. He is also Bloguin's lead tennis writer, covering the major tournaments. He contributes to other Bloguin sites, such as The AP Party.

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