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NCAA Tournament bubble teams make gains while Syracuse awaits final game

A lot of teams helped themselves on Wednesday night...

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange last played on Sunday, and while it’s great for the team to gain some rest before its final regular season matchup vs. Georgia Tech, it does make the other outcomes around college basketball all the more nerve-wracking.

SU currently sits on a crowded bubble, and one that is starting to sort itself out as conference tournament week looms. Which bubble foes helped themselves on Wednesday? And which ones tripped and fell?

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Northwestern Wildcats (21-9, 10-7)

Up against fellow Big Ten bubble team Michigan last night, Northwestern looked headed for overtime... until a Hail Mary pass set up a game-winning layup at the buzzer. Once securely in the field, the Wildcats’ boat had taken on some water. Beating the Wolverines should help keep things afloat.

USC Trojans (22-8, 9-8)

The Trojans have struggled against the best of the Pac-12 lately, but a 23-point win over Washington State is a cure for those problems. They don’t have a ton of resume-worthy wins, but USC has enough total victories to secure their place in the tournament.

Marquette Golden Eagles (18-11, 9-8)

Marquette could’ve used another standout win to help its case, and they got it on the road last night, winning 95-84 at Xavier. The Golden Eagles still might need one more given the resurgence of many teams around them. But their collection of quality wins is growing — that can only be a good thing.

Kansas State Wildcats (18-12, 7-10)

KSU’s freefall stops against the best team possible: faltering bubble squad TCU. It wasn’t an “elimination game” per se, but the Wildcats’ one-point road win would certainly be a differentiator between the two teams come Selection Sunday.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (17-12, 8-9)

Wake pulled off the biggest upset of the evening, beating the Louisville Cardinals by seven at home. They may still have some more work to do, but despite their head-to-head loss to Syracuse, the Deacons now own a win over a current top-10 team that the Orange have lost to twice.

Illinois Fighting Illini (18-12, 8-9)

Illinois doesn’t pick up the quality of win Wake did, but a three-point triumph over Michigan State only serves to help the Illini’s chances — while hurting (fellow bubble team) MSU’s. They’re another team that needs a couple more wins, probably. But Illinois is not as far off as they once were.

Rhode Island Rams (20-9, 12-5)

Rhody did what it was supposed to do last night, trouncing a bad St. Joseph’s team on the road. There’s little the Rams can do about their regular season resume anymore, but they can position themselves well in the A-10 Tournament and hope for an upset or two.

Georgia Bulldogs (18-12, 9-8)

Georgia clinched a .500 or better record in league play, which is critical — especially in the up-and-down SEC. The Bulldogs have had a lot of close calls with good teams, but those didn’t turn into wins. Beating teams they’re supposed to, like Auburn last night, is a good substitute for that right now, however.

Clemson Tigers (15-14, 5-12)

Are we still entertaining them as a bubble team? Maybe, if only because they’ve shown they can play vs. good teams, and if they make a run in the ACC Tournament, they’d potentially be in. The Tigers beat NC State by four last night, which is a step in the right direction.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

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Michigan State Spartans (18-12, 10-7)

The loss to Illinois hurts, thought not as much since MSU took down Wisconsin just a few days ago. Still, Sparty’s resume is devoid of its usual quality wins, and that’s resulted in a recent dip on the bubble. They’re in, but that spot’s looking less secure.

Michigan Wolverines (19-11, 9-8)

Heart-breaking losses don’t count less, so dropping a game to Northwestern is an extra punch in the gut. The Wolverines seem clear of the bubble right now, with a good collection of quality Big Ten and non-conference wins. But faltering down the stretch could bring that status into question.

TCU Horned Frogs (17-13, 6-11)

That’s six straight losses now for the Frogs, who haven’t won since the first week of February. TCU got fat on an easier non-conference schedule, and in Big 12 play, they just haven’t impressed. Losing to another bubble team (KSU) only exacerbates their problems. They’ll be hard-pressed to make the field without a conference tourney run.


Plenty more bubble action coming for Syracuse and its newfound opposition in the coming days. The Orange wrap up their season this Saturday vs. Georgia Tech.